Sony brings a compact, flagship smartphone to the US

Promotional image of cutting-edge smartphone.

Enlarge / The Sony Xperia 5 III, in green. (credit: Sony)

Sony is bringing a $1,000 flagship smartphone, the Xperia 5 III, to the US market. Calling the device “new,” however, is a bit of a stretch, as the phone was announced nine months ago.

As you’d expect from the price, the Xperia 5 III is a high-end flagship. It has a Snapdragon 888 SoC, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 4500 mAh battery, and a 6.1-inch, 120 Hz, 2520×1080 OLED display. There are three rear cameras—a 12 MP main camera, a 12 MP ultrawide, and a 12 MP 3x telephoto. At just 68 mm wide, the Xperia 5 III is one of the most compact Android phones on the market. It has a very tall 21:9 display, but in terms of width, it’s only 4 mm bigger than an iPhone 13 Mini. Although it ships with Android 11, an Android 12 update is due sometime soon.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#sony, #sony-xperia, #tech

Sony shows off an electric SUV and says company may start selling cars

Sony has followed 2020's Vision-S 01 sedan with this, the Vision-S 02. It's an electric SUV, and the company might well put it into production.

Enlarge / Sony has followed 2020’s Vision-S 01 sedan with this, the Vision-S 02. It’s an electric SUV, and the company might well put it into production. (credit: Sony)

In 2020, Sony surprised the world by unveiling an electric concept car at CES. Called the Vision-S, it was designed to showcase technology from across the breadth of the Japanese technology firm. January 2021 saw CES go entirely virtual for obvious reasons, but that didn’t stop Sony from showing off the Vision-S again. This time, it was a fleet of them, including footage of on-road testing in Austria.

CES in 2022 is mostly virtual—there might be people on the ground in Las Vegas, but I’m certainly not one of them—and Sony’s EV is back once again. And it has brought a friend: an SUV called the Vision-S 02. (This means the sedan is known as the Vision-S 01.)

The Vision-S 02 uses the same EV powertrain as the sedan, which should still mean a pair of 200 kW (268 hp) electric motors, one for each axle. Yet again, Sony has made extensive use of its sensor know-how to endow the Vision-S 02 with a mix of lidar and high-resolution, wide-dynamic-range CMOS optical sensors that give the car a 360-degree view of the world around it. The Vision-S uses that fused sensor data to inform drivers about their driving environment, alerting them to the presence of emergency vehicles and so on.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#battery-electric-car, #cars, #ces-2022, #sony, #sony-vision-s, #suv

Sony offers official PS5 faceplate colors after pushing out competition

The faceplate trailer you’ve been waiting for.

After decades of purely black consoles, the PS5 stood out upon release for its use of striking, white faceplates. Now, more than a year after release, Sony is announcing a line of replacement faceplates in black and four other colors, alongside matching colored DualSense controllers.

The console covers are listed for $55 on the PlayStation Direct shop and come in options fitted for both the standard console and the disc drive-free Digital Edition. Colored controller options are listed for $75, a small premium over the $70 white DualSense controller.

The new console covers, announced this morning, will arrive in 23 countries in two waves. “Midnight Black” and “Cosmic Red” colors will be released starting on January 21, 2022, and “Nova Pink,” “Galactic Purple,” and “Starlight Blue” will follow in the first half of 2022. Each console cover can be removed and replaced easily without tools, as outlined on the PlayStation site (and this old teardown video).

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#ars-shopping, #colors, #covers, #dualsense, #gaming-culture, #ps5, #sony

PS5 faceplate or IP violation? The law behind Dbrand’s “Darkplates”

PS5 faceplate or IP violation? The law behind Dbrand’s “Darkplates”

Enlarge

When gaming peripherals company Dbrand started selling its custom black PS5 faceplates in February, its website cheekily suggested that its efforts were “totally legal,” and it urged anyone who thought otherwise to “go ahead, sue us.” Now, sure enough, the company has been forced to change the design of its custom plates in response to legal threats from Sony.

Sony’s threats aren’t that surprising, especially considering that the company sent a cease-and-desist letter to console customization company The PlateStation last November. But the back-and-forth raises important legal questions about patent protections, brand confusion, and who actually controls the aftermarket for console parts.

Getting in shape

Sony’s “objection to dbrand’s Infringement of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC’s Intellectual Property” letter lays out a few problems that the console maker sees with the specific “Darkplate” design Dbrand had been selling before this week. Chief among them was the distinctive shape of the plates themselves, which closely matched those of the stock PS5 faceplates.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#design, #gaming-culture, #legal, #patent, #ps5, #sony

Ex-Sony exec opens up about efforts to bring PlayStation hits to PC

Ex-Sony exec opens up about efforts to bring PlayStation hits to PC

Enlarge (credit: Collage by Aurich Lawson)

Sony has a long history of keeping its first-party games behind the walled garden of console exclusivity.

So the company’s choice to bring its PS4 hit Horizon Zero Dawn to PC in August 2020 felt like a precedent-changing move away from that barrier to entry. It represented a seismic shift for a publisher protective of its wide array of console exclusives.

But as former CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Shawn Layden tells it, adopting a more open strategy for porting first-party titles to PC was actually an easy decision.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #god-of-war, #horizon-zero-dawn, #mlb-the-show, #nixxes, #pc, #pc-port, #playstation, #playstation-studios, #ps4, #ps5, #sony, #uncharted, #uncharted-4

Sony acquires its most prominent remaster studio, Bluepoint Games

Sony acquires its most prominent remaster studio, Bluepoint Games

Enlarge (credit: Play Station)

After months of speculation, it’s finally official: Sony is acquiring Demon’s Souls developer Bluepoint Games.

News of Bluepoint’s addition to the PlayStation Studios roster shouldn’t surprise many. The Austin-based studio turned heads with 2018’s Shadow of the Colossus remake before tackling its redux of FromSoftware’s Demon’s for the PS5. It has been a longtime independent collaborator with Sony, remastering critical favorites like Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, and Gravity Rush, and it has almost exclusively worked with PlayStation-branded properties. (Other than Metal Gear, Bluepoint’s only other third-party project was its 2014 port of Titanfall for the Xbox 360.)

A long history with Sony

Rumors that Sony would be buying the developer date back to the company’s acquisition of Returnal developer Housemarque in June. That’s when the PlayStation Japan Twitter account accidentally tweeted out a PlayStation Studios splash image that included key art from both Returnal and Demon’s Souls alongside other established Sony games. Naturally, the tweet was quickly deleted, but not before the image was saved.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#bluepoint-games, #demons-souls, #gaming-culture, #playstation, #ps5, #sony

PS4 consoles will still be playable long after PSN has died, thanks to this major update

A video game console smashes through a brick wall.

Enlarge / Sony’s latest PS4 system update fixes a problem with the internal battery which would have eventually caused all consoles to be bricked. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

PlayStation owners looking to preserve their PS4 libraries well into the future can breathe a sigh of relief, as the system’s latest firmware update reportedly fixes a time bomb found inside every console.

Recently confirmed via tests by Modern Vintage Gamer, an unforeseen perk of the PS4’s system software update version 9.00 appears to have nullified an authentication communication between the system’s internal clock and the PlayStation Network. This had been a security measure that, when failed on both sides, prevented any PS4 software, digital or physical, from playing at all. For anyone concerned about being able to play PS4 games (like, say, Hideo Kojima’s terrifying P.T., a delisted proof-of-concept demo for the cancelled Silent Hills) long after PSN support for the system has been shuttered, this is great news.

Connection problems

The problem is the PS4’s CMOS battery, which fits into the hardware’s motherboard and is used to internally track the date and time, even when there’s no power. If that battery is removed for replacement or just dies, the system can’t properly track the real-world calendar. This forces the PS4 to reconnect to PSN to establish the correct time—a routine check that happens every time you try to play a digital or physical game. So what happened, preupdate, if you had a dead-battery PS4 that isn’t connected to the Internet? That time check with PSN couldn’t be completed, meaning any games wouldn’t play.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#firmware, #game-preservation-update, #gaming-culture, #ps3, #ps4, #sony, #system-update

YouTube TV expands its live TV service with more Spanish-language networks

Google’s streaming TV service, YouTube TV, announced today it’s adding more Spanish-language networks to its base membership package and is preparing to launch an add-on package that will include even more Spanish-language content. Starting today, all subscribers will gain access to three new TV networks at no additional cost: Univision, UniMás, and Galavisión. These will join YouTube TV’s existing lineup of over 85 live TV channels, which today include top networks like Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and others, in addition to entertainment networks like those from Discovery and ViacomCBS.

The additions will bring to YouTube TV members a range of new Spanish-language content, including primetime series like “La Desalmada” and “Vencer El Pasado” arriving this fall, reality competition series “Nuestra Belleza Latina” on September 26, plus the 22nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards on November 18. The additions also bring sports programming like the Campeones Cup on September 29, and ongoing match-ups from Liga MX, UEFA Champions League, MLS, and the Mexican National Team, the company says.

Univision also noted that subscribers in top Hispanic markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, and others, will be able to access Univision and UniMás’ local news, weather, and other programming. Plus, YouTube TV will carry Univision’s video-on-demand content library at launch, and subscribers will be able to use their YouTube TV credentials to authenticate with the company’s “TV everywhere”-powered Univision app.

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of their new agreement, but the deal hasn’t come with a price increase. YouTube TV, however, has been steadily hiking prices since its debut. It increased the service’s pricing to $64.99 last summer, following the new additions of 14 ViacomCBS networks, for example. But last month, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said there would be no new price increases in the near-term.

While the new channels will reach all subscribers, YouTube TV also announced plans to introduce a new add-on package that will be available for an additional monthly cost. This will include other Spanish-language networks like Sony Cine, CNN Español, Discovery en Español, Estrella TV, Cinelatino, Fox Deportes, and others. YouTube TV is not yet sharing the full lineup nor the price of the add-on just yet, but said it would offer more details in the “coming months.”

The Spanish-language network Pantaya will also be offered in the weeks ahead for an additional $5.99 per month, providing access to Spanish-language movies and exclusive original series, all of which are on-demand.

“We are delighted to partner with YouTube TV to expand Univision’s robust portfolio of networks and stations to include YouTube TV,” said Hamed Nasseri, Univision Vice President, Content Distribution, in a statement. “Amid the popularity of streaming services as well as the growing influence of our Hispanic community, this is an important step to ensure that our audience has access to our leading Spanish-language news, sports, and entertainment wherever they consume content. We are excited for today’s launch and recognize YouTube TV’s continued commitment to serving our growing and influential Hispanic audience.”

YouTube TV is not the first streamer to cater to an audience looking for Spanish-language content. In 2018, Hulu added its own Spanish-language bundle called ‘Español,’ which now gives subscribers live programming from networks including ESPN Deportes, NBC Universo, CNN En Español, History Channel En Español, Discovery en Español, and Discovery Familia. Hulu, however, doesn’t carry Univision but does offer Telemundo. Fubo TV, meanwhile, offers Univision and Telemundo and provides an Español plan with dozens of Spanish-language channels.

If anything, YouTube TV had been behind in terms of catering to Spanish speakers until now, and this offering will make it more competitive with rival services.

 

#champions-league, #chicago, #companies, #dallas, #houston, #hulu, #la, #los-angeles, #mass-media, #media, #miami, #mls, #neal-mohan, #new-york, #partner, #services, #sony, #streaming-services, #telemundo, #television, #univision, #youtube, #youtube-tv

Gran Turismo 7, Spider-Man 2, KOTOR remake lead PlayStation 5 showcase

Sony broke a months-long game of silence today with a wide-ranging PS5 showcase, announcing two new Marvel games from Insomniac, a remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and a March release date for Gran Turismo 7, among other news. This is the first significant update from the publisher since it opted to skip multiple major industry events throughout 2021. The industry behemoth is now offering first glimpses of several games in production from PlayStation Studios and third-party developers.

Leading the charge was news that a remake of BioWare’s classic 2003 RPG Knights of the Old Republic—which many players consider the best Star Wars game ever made—is in development as a PS5-and-PC exclusive, at least at launch. Though only the briefest clip of what looked like a Sith knight was shown, we already know this is a joint project between Lucasfilm, Sony, and Aspyr Media, a studio known for porting classic Star Wars games to modern hardware. Without a release date yet, we wonder whether BioWare’s Old Republic MMO will still be in operation by the time this remake launches.

PlayStation Studios galore

Sony also had some first-party news to share with actual, PS5-only releases. Insomniac is expanding its vision of the Marvelverse in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, due out 2023, and, unexpectedly, a new game starring Wolverine.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #god-of-war, #gran-turismo-7, #insomniac, #marvel, #playstation, #ps5, #sony, #spider-man, #star-wars, #wolverine

New PS5 model is lighter, has a better screw

An unannounced PlayStation 5 hardware revision, first noticed in Australia by Press Start, brings two changes to Sony’s console. First, the new model, CFI-1102A, runs 0.6 pounds lighter compared to the original console, although Sony has given no indication about what has changed. Back in May, reports emerged that a new wireless module was planned, and that’s likely what is inside these tweaked consoles. The update applies to both the digital and disc versions.

Secondly, and most importantly, there’s a new screw for the console’s annoying and required base/stand. While the screw isn’t necessary when the system is placed in a horizontal position (there’s a small compartment to store the screw), anyone setting up a PS5 vertically needs the screw to keep the stand stable. The revised screw can be tightened by hand thanks to a new grip around the head. While that doesn’t make aligning the base/stand any easier, you no longer need a screwdriver to do the operation.

The console, which has been plagued by a scalper market since launch, remains in short supply. A quick glance at eBay auctions shows new PS5s still consistently running near $700–$900, well over the $400–$500 MSRP, depending on edition. Apps like StockInformer can alert those who are still trying to track one down—minus the reseller premium.

Read on Ars Technica | Comments

#gaming-culture, #playstation-5, #ps5, #sony

This Week in Apps: OnlyFans bans sexual content, SharePlay delayed, TikTok questioned over biometric data collection

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry continues to grow, with a record 218 billion downloads and $143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020. Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and suggestions about new apps and games to try, too.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters

Top Stories

OnlyFans to ban sexually explicit content

OnlyFans logo displayed on a phone screen and a website

(Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Creator platform OnlyFans is getting out of the porn business. The company announced this week it will begin to prohibit any “sexually explicit” content starting on October 1, 2021 — a decision it claimed would ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform. The news angered a number of impacted creators who weren’t notified ahead of time and who’ve come to rely on OnlyFans as their main source of income.

However, word is that OnlyFans was struggling to find outside investors, despite its sizable user base, due to the adult content it hosts. Some VC firms are prohibited from investing in adult content businesses, while others may be concerned over other matters — like how NSFW content could have limited interest from advertisers and brand partners. They may have also worried about OnlyFans’ ability to successfully restrict minors from using the app, in light of what appears to be soon-to-come increased regulations for online businesses. Plus, porn companies face a number of other issues, too. They have to continually ensure they’re not hosting illegal content like child sex abuse material, revenge porn or content from sex trafficking victims — the latter which has led to lawsuits at other large porn companies.

The news followed a big marketing push for OnlyFans’ porn-free (SFW) app, OFTV, which circulated alongside reports that the company was looking to raise funds at a $1 billion+ valuation. OnlyFans may not have technically needed the funding to operate its current business — it handled more than $2 billion in sales in 2020 and keeps 20%. Rather, the company may have seen there’s more opportunity to cater to the “SFW” creator community, now that it has big names like Bella Thorne, Cardi B, Tyga, Tyler Posey, Blac Chyna, Bhad Bhabie and others on board.

U.S. lawmakers demand info on TikTok’s plans for biometric data collection

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max

The TikTok logo is seen on an iPhone 11 Pro max. Image Credits: Nur Photo/Getty Images

U.S. lawmakers are challenging TikTok on its plans to collect biometric data from its users. TechCrunch first reported on TikTok’s updated privacy policy in June, where the company gave itself permission to collect biometric data in the U.S., including users’ “faceprints and voiceprints.” When reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

Earlier this month, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD) sent a letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, which said they were “alarmed” by the change, and demanded to know what information TikTok will be collecting and what it plans to do with the data. This wouldn’t be the first time TikTok got in trouble for excessive data collection. Earlier this year, the company paid out $92 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed TikTok had unlawfully collected users’ biometric data and shared it with third parties.

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Image Credits: Apple

  • ⭐ Apple told developers that some of the features it announced as coming in iOS 15 won’t be available at launch. This includes one of the highlights of the new OS, SharePlay, a feature that lets people share music, videos and their screen over FaceTime calls. Other features that will come in later releases include Wallet’s support for ID cards, the App Privacy report and others that have yet to make it to beta releases.
  • Apple walked back its controversial Safari changes with the iOS 15 beta 6 update. Apple’s original redesign had shown the address bar at the bottom of the screen, floating atop the page’s content. Now the tab bar will appear below the page’s content, offering access to its usual set of buttons as when it was at the top. Users can also turn off the bottom tab bar now and revert to the old, Single Tab option that puts the address bar back at the top as before.
  • In response to criticism over its new CSAM detection technology, Apple said the version of NeuralHash that was reverse-engineered by a developer, Asuhariet Ygvar, was a generic version, and not the complete version that will roll out later this year.
  • The Verge dug through over 800 documents from the Apple-Epic trial to find the best emails, which included dirt on a number of other companies like Netflix, Hulu, Sony, Google, Nintendo, Valve, Microsoft, Amazon and more. These offered details on things like Netflix’s secret arrangement to pay only 15% of revenue, how Microsoft also quietly offers a way for some companies to bypass its full cut, how Apple initially saw the Amazon Appstore as a threat and more.

Platforms: Google

  • A beta version of the Android Accessibility Suite app (12.0.0) which rolled out with the fourth Android beta release added something called “Camera Switches” to Switch Access, a toolset that lets you interact with your device without using the touchscreen. Camera Switches allows users to navigate their phone and use its features by making face gestures, like a smile, open mouth, raised eyebrows and more.
  • Google announced its Pixel 5a with 5G, the latest A-series Pixel phone, will arrive on August 27, offering IP67 water resistance, long-lasting Adaptive Battery, Pixel’s dual-camera system and more, for $449. The phone makes Google’s default Android experience available at a lower price point than the soon to arrive Pixel 6.
  • An unredacted complaint from the Apple-Epic trial revealed that Google had quietly paid developers hundreds of millions of dollars via a program known as “Project Hug,” (later “Apps and Games Velocity Program”) to keep their games on the Play Store. Epic alleges Google launched the program to keep developers from following its lead by moving their games outside the store.

Augmented Reality

  • Snap on Thursday announced it hired its first VP of Platform Partnerships to lead AR, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis (“KP”). The new exec will lead Snap’s efforts to onboard partners, including individual AR creators building via Lens Studio as well as large companies that incorporate Snapchat’s camera and AR technology (Camera Kit) into their apps. KP will join in September, and report to Ben Schwerin, SVP of Content and Partnerships.

Fintech

  • Crypto exchange Coinbase will enter the Japanese market through a new partnership with Japanese financial giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG). The company said it plans to launch other localized versions of its existing global services in the future.

Social

Image Credits: Facebook

  • Facebook launched a “test” of Facebook Reels in the U.S. on iOS and Android. The new feature brings the Reels experience to Facebook, allowing users to create and share short-form video content directly within the News Feed or within Facebook Groups. Instagram Reels creators can also now opt in to have their Reels featured on users’ News Feed. The company is heavily investing its its battle with TikTok, even pledging that some portion of its $1 billion creator fund will go toward Facebook Reels.
  • Twitter’s redesign of its website and app was met with a lot of backlash from users and accessibility experts alike. The company choices add more visual contrast between various elements and may have helped those with low vision. But for others, the contrast is causing strain and headaches. Experts believe accessibility isn’t a one-size fits all situation, and Twitter should have introduced tools that allowed people to adjust their settings to their own needs.
  • The pro-Trump Twitter alternative Gettr’s lack of moderation has allowed users to share child exploitation images, according to research from the Stanford Internet Observatory’s Cyber Policy Center.
  • Pinterest rolled out a new set of more inclusive search filters that allow people to find styles for different types of hair textures — like coily, curly, wavy, straight, as well as shaved or bald and protective styles. 

Photos

  • Photoshop for iPad gained new image correction tools, including the Healing Brush and Magic Wand, and added support for connecting an iPad to external monitors via HDMI or USB-C. The company also launched a Photoshop Beta program on the desktop.

Messaging

  • WhatsApp is being adopted by the Taliban to spread its message across Afghanistan, despite being on Facebook’s list of banned organizations. The company says it’s proactively removing Taliban content — but that may be difficult to do since WhatsApp’s E2E encryption means it can’t read people’s texts. This week, Facebook shut down a Taliban helpline in Kabul, which allowed civilians to report violence and looting, but some critics said this wasn’t actually helping local Afghans, as the group was now in effect governing the region.
  • WhatsApp is also testing a new feature that will show a large preview when sharing links, which some suspect may launch around the time when the app adds the ability to have the same account running on multiple devices.

Streaming & Entertainment

  • Netflix announced it’s adding spatial audio support on iPhone and iPad on iOS 14, joining other streamers like HBO Max, Disney+ and Peacock that have already pledged to support the new technology. The feature will be available to toggle on and off in the Control Center, when it arrives.
  • Blockchain-powered streaming music service Audius partnered with TikTok to allow artists to upload their songs using TikTok’s new SoundKit in just one click.
  • YouTube’s mobile app added new functionality that allows users to browse a video’s chapters, and jump into the chapter they want directly from the search page.
  • Spotify’s Anchor app now allows users in global markets to record “Music + Talk” podcasts, where users can combine spoken word recordings with any track from Spotify’s library of 70 million songs for a radio DJ-like experience.
  • Podcasters are complaining that Apple’s revamped Podcasts platform is not working well, reports The Verge. Podcasts Connect has been buggy, and sports a confusing interface that has led to serious user errors (like entire shows being archived). And listeners have complained about syncing problems and podcasts they already heard flooding their libraries.

Dating

  • Tinder announced a new feature that will allow users to voluntarily verify their identity on the platform, which will allow the company to cross-reference sex offender registry data. Previously, Tinder would only check this database when a user signed up for a paid subscription with a credit card.

Gaming

Image Source: The Pokémon Company

  • Pokémon Unite will come to iOS and Android on September 22, The Pokémon Company announced during a livestream this week. The strategic battle game first launched on Nintendo Switch in late July.
  • Developer Konami announced a new game, Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, which will come exclusively to Apple Arcade. The game is described as a “full-fledged side-scrolling action game,” featuring a roster of iconic characters from the classic game series. The company last year released another version of Castelvania on the App Store and Google Play.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle has now surpassed $3 billion in player spending since its 2015 debut, reported Sensor Tower. The game from Bandai Namco took 20 months to reach the figure after hitting the $2 billion milestone in 2019. The new landmark sees the game joining other top-grossers, including Clash Royale, Lineage M and others.
  • Sensor Tower’s mobile gaming advertising report revealed data on top ad networks in the mobile gaming market, and their market share. It also found puzzle games were among the top advertisers on gaming-focused networks like Chartboost, Unity, IronSource and Vungle. On less game-focused networks, mid-core games were top titles, like Call of Duty: Mobile and Top War. 

Image Credits: Sensor Tower

Health & Fitness

  • Apple is reportedly scaling back HealthHabit, an internal app for Apple employees that allowed them to track fitness goals, talk to clinicians and coaches at AC Wellness (a doctors’ group Apple works with) and manage hypertension. According to Insider, 50 employees had been tasked to work on the project.
  • Samsung launched a new product for Galaxy smartphones in partnership with healthcare nonprofit The Commons Project, that allows U.S. users to save a verifiable copy of their vaccination card in the Samsung Pay digital wallet.

Image Credits: Samsung

Adtech

Government & Policy

  • China cited 43 apps, including Tencent’s WeChat and an e-reader from Alibaba, for illegally transferring user data. The regulator said the apps had transferred users location data and contact list and harassed them with pop-up windows. The apps have until August 25 to make changes before being punished.

Security & Privacy

  • A VICE report reveals a fascinating story about a jailbreaking community member who had served as a double agent by spying for Apple’s security team. Andrey Shumeyko, whose online handles included JVHResearch and YRH04E, would advertise leaked apps, manuals and stolen devices on Twitter and Discord. He would then tell Apple things like which Apple employees were leaking confidential info, which reporters would talk to leakers, who sold stolen iPhone prototypes and more. Shumeyko decided to share his story because he felt Apple took advantage of him and didn’t compensate him for the work.

Funding and M&A

💰 South Korea’s GS Retail Co. Ltd will buy Delivery Hero’s food delivery app Yogiyo in a deal valued at 800 billion won ($685 million USD). Yogiyo is the second-largest food delivery app in South Korea, with a 25% market share.

💰 Gaming platform Roblox acquired a Discord rival, Guilded, which allows users to have text and voice conversations, organize communities around events and calendars and more. Deal terms were not disclosed. Guilded raised $10.2 million in venture funding. Roblox’s stock fell by 7% after the company reported earnings this week, after failing to meet Wall Street expectations.

💰 Travel app Hopper raised $175 million in a Series G round of funding led by GPI Capital, valuing the business at over $3.5 billion. The company raised a similar amount just last year, but is now benefiting from renewed growth in travel following COVID-19 vaccinations and lifting restrictions.

💰 Indian quiz app maker Zupee raised $30 million in a Series B round of funding led by Silicon Valley-based WestCap Group and Tomales Bay Capital. The round values the company at $500 million, up 5x from last year.

💰 Danggeun Market, the publisher of South Korea’s hyperlocal community app Karrot, raised $162 million in a Series D round of funding led by DST Global. The round values the business at $2.7 billion and will be used to help the company launch its own payments platform, Karrot Pay.

💰 Bangalore-based fintech app Smallcase raised $40 million in Series C funding round led by Faering Capital and Premji Invest, with participation from existing investors, as well as Amazon. The Robinhood-like app has over 3 million users who are transacting about $2.5 billion per year.

💰 Social listening app Earbuds raised $3 million in Series A funding led by Ecliptic Capital. Founded by NFL star Jason Fox, the app lets anyone share their favorite playlists, livestream music like a DJ or comment on others’ music picks.

💰 U.S. neobank app One raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Progressive Investment Company (the insurance giant’s investment arm), bringing its total raise to date to $66 million. The app offers all-in-one banking services and budgeting tools aimed at middle-income households who manage their finances on a weekly basis.

Public Markets

📈Indian travel booking app ixigo is looking to raise Rs 1,600 crore in its initial public offering, The Economic Times reported this week.

📉Trading app Robinhood disappointed in its first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded company, when it posted a net loss of $502 million, or $2.16 per share, larger than Wall Street forecasts. This overshadowed its beat on revenue ($565 million versus $521.8 million expected) and its more than doubling of MAUs to 21.3 million in Q2.  Also of note, the company said dogecoin made up 62% of its crypto revenue in Q2.

Downloads

Polycam (update)

Image Credits: Polycam

3D scanning software maker Polycam launched a new 3D capture tool, Photo Mode, that allows iPhone and iPad users to capture professional-quality 3D models with just an iPhone. While the app’s scanner before had required the use of the lidar sensor built into newer devices like the iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models, the new Photo Mode feature uses just an iPhone’s camera. The resulting 3D assets are ready to use in a variety of applications, including 3D art, gaming, AR/VR and e-commerce. Data export is available in over a dozen file formats, including .obj, .gtlf, .usdz and others. The app is a free download on the App Store, with in-app purchases available.

Jiobit (update)

Jiobit, the tracking dongle acquired by family safety and communication app Life360, this week partnered with emergency response service Noonlight to offer Jiobit Protect, a premium add-on that offers Jiobit users access to an SOS Mode and Alert Button that work with the Jiobit mobile app. SOS Mode can be triggered by a child’s caregiver when they detect — through notifications from the Jiobit app — that a loved one may be in danger. They can then reach Noonlight’s dispatcher who can facilitate a call to 911 and provide the exact location of the person wearing the Jiobit device, as well as share other details, like allergies or special needs, for example.

Tweets

When your app redesign goes wrong…

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Prominent App Store critic Kosta Eleftheriou shut down his FlickType iOS app this week after too many frustrations with App Review. He cited rejections that incorrectly argued that his app required more access than it did — something he had successfully appealed and overturned years ago. Attempted follow-ups with Apple were ignored, he said. 

Image Credits: Twitter.com

Anyone have app ideas?

#911, #ac-wellness, #ad-networks, #afghanistan, #alibaba, #amazon, #amy-klobuchar, #android, #app-store, #apple, #apple-arcade, #apps, #arkansas, #audius, #bandai-namco, #bangalore, #chartboost, #coinbase, #computing, #control-center, #danggeun-market, #delivery-hero, #disney, #dst-global, #e-commerce, #e-reader, #e2e-encryption, #ecliptic-capital, #epic, #facebook, #faering-capital, #food, #google, #gpi-capital, #guilded, #hbo, #hdmi, #healthcare, #instagram, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #ironsource, #itunes, #jason-fox, #john-thune, #kabul, #konami, #kosta-eleftheriou, #lens-studio, #microsoft, #mobile-app, #mobile-applications, #mobile-devices, #netflix, #nfl, #nintendo, #noonlight, #operating-systems, #pinterest, #play-store, #player, #pokemon-company, #roblox, #samsung, #sensor-tower, #silicon-valley, #smartphones, #snap, #snapchat, #software, #sony, #south-korea, #spotify, #svp, #taliban, #tc, #this-week-in-apps, #tiktok, #travel-app, #united-states, #wand

Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut: Reflections, both literal and physical

Ghost of Tsushima‘s Iki Island expansion, included in the new Director’s Cut version of the game, presents an even better narrative than what we saw in the base game. The Director’s Cut, which releases on August 20, also brings new armor sets, a director’s commentary, and a digital art book. The PlayStation 5 edition costs $69.99, and the PlayStation 4 version is $59.99—though you can upgrade a PS4 copy of the base game to the Director’s Cut for $19.99. (Note: A co-op multiplayer mode was not available in the prelaunch review code.)

The Iki content is separate from the stories and characters of the original game, which took place on the mainland. Ghost of Tsushima‘s protagonist, Jin, is still the main character, and as he travels to the island of Iki, he encounters an isolated people who resent outside influence, especially from samurai like him.

Jin is viewed with suspicion, even as the Mongols—the primary antagonists of Ghost of Tsushima—continue their raids on Iki’s outnumbered pirate population. The islanders’ distrust of outsiders is explained as the plot unfolds, and the new material explores themes ignored by the original game. The expansion focuses on Jin’s propensity for violence and gives thematic weight to the frequent battles that result in ludicrous body counts. Ghost of Tsushima retains its brutal gameplay, but the narrative forces players to consider the downside of cutting down anyone who looks at you funny.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #ghosts-of-tsushima, #playstation-5, #ps4, #ps5, #review, #sony

Low semiconductor supplies may not be the main reason for PS5 shortages

Snapping off the outer white panel on the PS5.

Enlarge (credit: Sony / Youtube)

In an earnings call last night, Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki said that despite worldwide semiconductor shortages, the company has “secured a number of chips that’s necessary to achieve” the company’s current production target of at least 14.8 million PlayStation 5 consoles in the current fiscal year (which ends in March 2022). “Regarding the supply of the semiconductors, we’re not concerned,” he said during a Q&A portion of the event.

That statement implies that Sony plans to make and ship at least 12.5 million PS5 units on top of the 10.1 million it shipped through the end of June (10 million of which had sold through to consumers by July 18). That production rate would only be about 4 percent faster than the roughly 44,000 units per day Sony shipped on average in the system’s first 7.5 months on the market. That’s despite a February statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment President Jim Ryan suggesting that supply chain improvements would mean “by the time we get to the second half of [2021], you’re going to be seeing really decent [PS5 production] numbers indeed.”

Are shortages here to stay?

The modest increase in PS5 production in the coming months likely won’t be enough to put a dent in widespread PS5 shortages, which are causing units of the system to sell out almost immediately when they hit retail shelves. But Totoki’s new statement suggests those shortages are driven more by intense demand than by Sony’s inability to secure the chips it feels it needs in the near term (and while scalpers certainly aren’t helping that situation, healthy demand from consumers seems to be driving the market in total).

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #ps5, #shortages, #sony

Putting the PS5’s 10 million sales in context

When Sony announced Monday that it had sold 10 million PlayStation 5 consoles to consumers, it trumpeted the system as “the fastest-selling console in Sony Interactive Entertainment history.” That statement certainly sounds impressive, but it lacks the specificity we need to judge just how impressive the PS5’s sales have been so far (despite component shortages that could make the system hard to find into next year).

To add more context to Sony’s announcement, we looked at how quickly some other recent consoles took to sell their first 10 million systems worldwide. While different launch dates and staggered international launches skew some of these comparisons, the data overall shows that the PS5 is selling as fast or faster than some of the most popular consoles of the recent past.

We also looked at newly revealed sales data for PS5 exclusives Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and compared their sales rates to similar early system-sellers on the Switch.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #microsoft, #nintendo, #ps5, #sales, #sony, #switch, #xbox

PS5 gets high-speed M.2 SSD storage support in new beta system software

New PlayStation 5 system software rolling out in beta today finally unlocks the long-promised ability to expand the system’s 667GB of usable internal storage, using M.2 SSDs that fit certain technical and physical requirements.

As listed on a new PlayStation support page, the new system software supports 22 mm-wide M.2 drives using the PCIe Gen 4 standard. Single- or double-sided drives with storage sizes ranging from 250GB to 4TB should work with the console.

Sony recommends that any PS5 expansion drive have a sequential read speed of at least 5500MB/s but warns that even then, “not all games are necessarily playable with the exact same performance provided by the PS5 console’s internal Ultra-High Speed SSD.” The company also recommends a heatsink (either built in or attached by the user) to aid with heat dissipation but warns that the heatsink should only rise 8 mm “above the board” to help ensure the entire housing can fit in the PS5’s 11.25 mm-high compartment.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#expansion, #gaming-culture, #m-2, #nvme, #playstation5, #ps5, #sony, #storage

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series

Sony has launched its first vlogging-specific mirrorless camera, the ZV-E10, that borrows a number of features from ZV-1 compact vlogging model. At the same time, it’s roughly based on the A5000 and A6000-series APS-C mirrorless cameras, with all the good (and bad) that entails.

The two biggest advantages of the ZV-E10 over the ZV-1 are the larger 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and interchangeable mirrorless mount. The latter feature opens Sony’s range of 60-plus E-mount lenses to vloggers, making the ZV-E10 much more versatile than the fixed-lens ZV-1. The larger sensor, meanwhile, will deliver improved light sensitivity and a shallower depth of field.

 

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The ZV-E10 uses the aging 24-megapixel APS-C sensor found in the A6100 and other recent Sony models. While that delivers sharp, downsampled 4K video at up to 30 fps (or 120 fps 1080p), it’s likely to have a serious amount of rolling shutter that’s not ideal for its intended purpose.

On the more positive side, it offers optical and active electronic image stabilization, just like the ZV-1. That should smooth out handheld shooting pretty well, though don’t expect miracles for walk-and-talk type vlogging — especially if rolling sensor wobble proves to be an issue.

Size-wise, the ZV-E10 is smaller than any of the A6000-series cameras at 343 grams and isn’t much larger and heavier than the ZV-1. It lacks an electronic viewfinder, but it’s Sony’s first APS-C mirrorless camera with a fully-articulating flip-out screen — a basic requirement on any vlogging camera these days.

Sony’s ZV-E10 brings interchangeable lenses to its vlogging camera series
Sony

The ZV-E10 comes with Sony’s latest phase-detect autofocus system, both for video and still shooting. That means you should get incredibly quick subject tracking, along with reliable eye, face and head detect autofocus. It also has an S&Q (slow & quick) feature that lets you record time-lapse and slow motion footage in-camera without the need for any post processing work.

It borrows several vlogging features directly from the ZV-1. The first is called “product showcase,” a setting that allows it to instantly focus away from your face and onto an object placed in front of the camera. That’s particularly handy for vloggers reviewing products, devices, etc.

The other is a bokeh switch that instantly sets the lowest f-stop available for lighting conditions. That way, you can have the background as defocused as possible, allowing your subject to stand out clearly.

The ZV-E10 has a built-in, high-quality three-way microphone (left, right and central channels) that’s designed to pick out your voice. That means you can vlog without the need to buy a microphone, though it still won’t match the quality and voice isolation of a dedicated shotgun or lapel mic. It also comes with a hotshoe-attached muff to help block wind noise, and if that’s not enough, a wind noise reduction setting. It also comes with a microphone input, though not a headphone output.

Finally, if you’re into live streaming, you can connect the ZV-E10 directly to a smartphone and stream directly to YouTube or other services — much as you can with Panasonic’s latest GH5-II. It will also work directly as a webcam, streaming both video and audio (not just video like other cameras) so you can take advantage of its high-quality microphone.

The ZV-E10 will be available in either black or white by the end of August and will cost $700 for the body, or $800 in a bundle including Sony’s 16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 power zoom lens.

This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#cameras, #column, #sony, #tc, #tceng

China Roundup: Kai-Fu Lee’s first Europe bet, WeRide buys a truck startup

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world.

Despite the geopolitical headwinds for foreign tech firms to enter China, many companies, especially those that find a dependable partner, are still forging ahead. For this week’s roundup, I’m including a conversation I had with Prophesee, a French vision technology startup, which recently got funding from Kai-Fu Lee and Xiaomi, along with the usual news digest.

Spotting opportunities in China

Like many companies working on futuristic, cutting-edge tech in Europe, Prophesee was a spinout from university research labs. Previously, I covered two such companies from Sweden: Imint, which improves smartphone video production through deep learning, and Dirac, an expert in sound optimization.

The three companies have two things in common: They are all in niche fields, and they have all found eager customers in China.

For Prophesee, they are production lines, automakers and smartphone companies in China looking for breakthroughs in perception technology, which will in turn improve how their robots respond to the environment. So it’s unsurprising that Xiaomi and Chinese chip-focused investment firm Inno-Chip backed Prophesee in its latest funding round, which was led by Sinovation Venture.

The funding size was undisclosed but TechCrunch learned it was in the range of “tens of million USD.” It was also the first investment that Kai-Fu Lee has made through Sinovation in Europe. As Prophesee CEO Luca Verre recalled:

I met Dr. Kai-Fu Lee three years ago during the World Economic Forum … and when I pitched to him about Prophesee, he got very intrigued. And then over the past three years, actually, we kept in touch and last year, given the growing traction we were having in China, particularly in the mobile and IoT industry, he decided to jump in. He said okay, it is now the right timing Prophesee becomes big.

The Paris-based company wasn’t actively seeking funding, but it believed having Chinese strategic investors could help it gain greater access to the complex market.

Rather than sending information collected by sensors and cameras to computing platforms, Prophesee fits that process inside a chip (fabricated by Sony) that mimics the human eyes, a technology that is built upon neuromorphic engineering.

The old method snaps a collection of fixed images so when information grows in volume, a tremendous amount of computing power is needed. In contrast, Prophesee’s sensors, which it describes as “event-based,” only pick up changes in the environment just as the photoreceptors in our eyes and can process information continuously and quickly.

Europe has been pioneering neuromorphic computing, but in recent years, Verre saw a surge in research coming from Chinese universities and tech firms, which reaffirmed his confidence in the market’s appetite.

We see Chinese OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), particularly Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo pushing the standard of quality of image quality to very, very high … They are very eager to adopt new technology to further differentiate in a way which is faster and more aggressive than Apple. Apple is a company with an attitude which to me looks more similar to Huawei. So maybe for some technology, it takes more time to see the technology mature and adopt, which is right very often but later. So I’m sure that Apple will come at certain point with some products integrating event-based technology. In fact, we see them moving. We see them filing patents in the space. I’m sure that will come, but maybe not the first.

Though China is striving for technological independence, Verre believed Prophesee’s addressable market is large enough — $20 billion by his estimate. Nonetheless, he admitted he’d be “naive to believe Prophesee will be the only one to capture” this opportunity.

WeRide bought a truck company

One of China’s most valuable robotaxi startups has just acquired an autonomous trucking company called MoonX. The size of the deal is undisclosed, but we know that MoonX raised “tens of millions RMB” 15 months ago in a Series A round.

While WeRide is focused on Level 4 self-driving technology, it is also finding new monetization avenues before its robotaxis can chauffeur people at scale. It’s done so by developing minibusses, and the MoonX acqui-hire, which brings the company’s founder and over 50 engineers to WeRide, will likely help diversify its revenue pool.

WeRide and MoonX have deep-rooted relationships. Their respective founders, Tony Han and Yang Qingxiong, worked side by side at Jingchi, which was later rebranded to WeRide. Han co-founded Jingchi and took the helm as CEO in March 2018 while Yang was assigned vice president of engineering. But Yang soon quit and started MoonX.

Han, a Baidu veteran, gave Yang a warm homecoming and put him in charge of the firm’s research institute and its new office in Shenzhen, home to MoonX. WeRide’s sprawling headquarters is just about an hour’s drive away in the adjacent city of Guangzhou.

AI surveillance giant Cloudwalk nears IPO

Cloudwalk belongs to a cohort of Chinese unicorns that flourished through the second half of the 2010s by selling computer vision technology to government agencies across China. Together, Cloudwalk and its rivals SenseTime, Megvii and Yitu were dubbed the “four AI dragons” for their fast ascending valuations and handsome funding rounds.

Of course, the term “AI dragon” is now a misnomer as AI application becomes so pervasive across industries. Investors soon realized these upstarts need to diversify revenue streams beyond smart city contracts, and they’ve been waiting anxiously for exits. Finally, here comes Cloudwalk, which will likely be the first in its cohort to go public.

Cloudwalk’s application to raise 3.75 billion yuan ($580 million) from an IPO on the Shanghai STAR board was approved this week, though it can still be months before it starts trading. The firm’s financials don’t look particularly rosy for investors, with net loss amounting to 720 million yuan in 2020.

Also in the news

  • Speaking of the torrent of news in autonomous driving, vehicle vision provider CalmCar said this week that it has raised $150 million in a Series C round. Founded by several overseas Chinese returnees in 2016, CalmCar uses deep learning to develop ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) used in automotive, industrial and surveillance scenarios. German auto parts maker ZF led the round.
  • Baby clothes direct-to-consumer brand PatPat said it has raised $510 million from Series C and D rounds. The D2C ecosystem leveraging China’s robust supply chains is increasingly gaining interest from venture capitalists. Brands like Shein, PatPat, Cider and Outer have all secured fundings from established VCs. Founded by three Carnegie Mellon grads, PatPat counts IDG Capital, General Atlantic, DST Global, GGV Capital, SIG China and Sequoia China among its investors.

#apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #carnegie-mellon, #china, #dst-global, #europe, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-atlantic, #ggv-capital, #idg-capital, #kai-fu-lee, #megvii, #paris, #perception, #self-driving-technology, #sensetime, #sequoia-china, #shein, #shenzhen, #sig-china, #smartphone, #smartphones, #sony, #sweden, #tc, #weride, #xiaomi

Sony buys Nixxes, propelling potential for prodigious PlayStation-to-PC ports

While you may not have heard of Nixxes, the developer has been behind some high-profile PC and console ports in the last 20 years.

While you may not have heard of Nixxes, the developer has been behind some high-profile PC and console ports in the last 20 years.

Just days after announcing the acquisition of Returnal developer Housemarque, Sony today revealed that Dutch studio Nixxes will be the next member of the growing PlayStation Studios family.

If the name Nixxes doesn’t ring a bell for most gamers, that’s because the studio hasn’t developed any original projects in its over-20-year history. Instead, Nixxes has primarily specialized in creating a variety of PC and console ports for games from the likes of Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics (both now Square Enix subsidiaries).

That makes Nixxes an especially intriguing acquisition for Sony, which has been slowly dipping an increasing number of toes into the PC gaming space in recent years. After Horizon: Zero Dawn hit the PC last year, Sony said in its annual report that it “will explore expanding our 1st party titles to the PC platform in order to promote further growth in our profitability.” Then, in May, Sony listed Uncharted 4 under the “more PC releases planned” section of an investor report, alongside the recent PC port of former PlayStation exclusive Days Gone.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #playstation, #ports, #sony

Goodbye CVs — As work went remote, companies flocked to a startup dumping CVs for skill tests

As companies scrambled to re-orient themselves last year during the pandemic, one thing was clear: the shift to remote working had come sooner than anyone expected. With this came a fundamental shift in how businesses would have to hire new talent. And the question was, were managers going to laboriously sift through CVs in a crisis situation, or would the need to hit the ground running fast force them towards assessing skills over CVs?

One startup decided to take advantage of the situation.

HR tech startup from The Netherland, TestGorilla, came up with a way of hiring people through short, skills-based tests, which had the added advantage of removing the unconscious bias brought about by snappy CVs which might help a very non-skilled person get ahead, and keep out skilled but less qualified recruits.

The startup says its bet paid off and 9 months later they claim to have garnered over 1,500 corporate clients, including the NHS, Sony, PepsiCo, and Bain & Company.

TestGorilla has now raised $10 million in a Seed funding round, led by SaaS-specialist VC, Notion Capital, Partech, Jeff Weiner´s Next Play Ventures, and Indeed co-founder Paul Forster, Peakon co-founder Phil Chambers, and Justworks co-founder Isaac Oates.

TechCrunch understands that the round was hotly contested, with the round closing in only two weeks after receiving multiple separate offers.

Launched by serial entrepreneur, Wouter Durville, and former Bain & Company Partner, Otto Verhage, TestGorilla remotely assesses cognitive abilities, soft skills, specific job skills, culture fit, motivation, and language proficiency. By replacing CV screening, it also aids the removal of unconscious biases in the hiring process.

Wouter Durville, Co-Founder of TestGorilla told me over a call: “We’re removing bias because we’re making hiring very data-driven. Instead of just looking at a CV and looking at the big brands mentioned or the picture version of the person or how connected you are to a person, we are saying, hey, use these tests and test for different things that predict job success like cognitive ability or personality to fit with your culture. Then based on all the data you can automatically sort to see all your candidates, from the best to the worst, then make a decision on who you will invite into your recruiting process.”

Jos White, General Partner at Notion Capital said: “This is a big deal! A super competitive round that almost every VC wanted to get into. They are literally upending the hiring process with a platform that is more democratic, more global and ultimately a much better predictor of job success. Companies are in a major war for talent and yet only armed with a penknife. TestGorilla can open up new talent pools, break down barriers and help candidates and companies find each other. We are leading the round but the angel investors are literally a who’s who of HRtech because they know that this company is the future of hiring and addresses so many of the challenges that companies are facing.”

#co-founder, #cvs, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #general-partner, #isaac-oates, #justworks, #nhs, #notion-capital, #private-equity, #recruitment, #serial-entrepreneur, #sony, #startup-company, #tc

Sony purchases Returnal developer Housemarque after successful PS5 debut

Sony has announced that it has acquired Finnish indie developer Housemarque just two months after the launch of Housemarque’s Returnal as one of the highest-profile exclusives on the young PlayStation 5 console.

Housemarque has a long history with Sony consoles, dating back to 2007’s Super Stardust HD on the then-new PlayStation 3 and running through PS4 launch standout Resogun. Housemarque is also the studio behind the 2017 PS4 twin-stick shooter Nex Machina, which Ars’ Sam Machkovech gave an honorable mention in his Games of the Year list at the time. The last Housemarque game on a non-Sony console was 2008’s little-remembered Golf: Tee it Up on the Xbox 360.

“It’s pretty hard to imagine a launch of a PlayStation platform without there being something from Housemarque,” Hermen Hulst, the head of PlayStation Studios, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The games they create are just so different from everything else we’ve got, so I love the diversity of the experiences that we’re able to offer.”

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#acquisition, #gaming-culture, #housemarque, #ps5, #purchase, #returnal, #sony

Psychedelic VR meditation startup Tripp raises $11 million Series A

As an increasing number of startups sell investors on mobile apps that help consumers prioritize well-being and mindfulness, other startups are looking for a more immersive take that allow users to fully disconnect from the world around them.

Tripp has been building immersive relaxation exercises that seek to blend some of the experiences users may find in guided meditation apps with more free-form experiences that allow users to unplug from their day and explore their thoughts inside a virtual reality headset while watching fractal shapes, glowing trees and planets whir past them.

As the name implies, there have been some efforts by the startup to create visuals and audio experiences that mimic the feelings people may have during a psychedelic trip — though doing so sans hallucinogens.

“Many people that will never feel comfortable taking a psychedelic, this is a low friction alternative that can deliver some of that experience in a more benign way,” CEO Nanea Reeves tells TechCrunch. “The idea is to take mindfulness structures and video game mechanics together to see if we can actually hack the way that you feel.”

The startup tells TechCrunch they’ve closed a $11 Million in funding led by Vine Ventures and Mayfield with participation from Integrated, among others. Tripp has raised some $15 million in total funding to date.

Image via Tripp

VR startups have largely struggled to earn investor fervor in recent years as major tech platforms have sunsetted their virtual reality efforts one-by-one leaving Facebook and Sony as the sole benefactors of a space that they are still struggling to monetize at times. While plenty of VR startups are continuing to see engagement, many investors which backed companies in the space five years ago have turned their attention to gaming and computer vision startups with more broad applications.

Reeves says that the pandemic has helped consumers dial into the importance of mindfulness and mental health awareness, something that has also pushed investors to get bolder in what projects in the space that they’re backing.

Tripp has apps on both the Oculus and PlayStation VR stores and subscription experiences that can be accessed for a $4.99 per month subscription.

The company provides a variety of guided experiences, but users can also use the company’s “Tripp composer” to build their own visual flows. Beyond customization, one of Tripp’s major sells is giving consumers deeper, quicker meditative experiences, claiming that users can get alleviate stress with sessions as short as 8 minutes inside their headset. The startup is also exploring the platform’s use in enterprise in-office wellness solutions. Tripp is currently in the midst of clinical trials to study the software platform’s effectiveness as a therapeutic device.

The company says that users have gone through over 2 million sessions inside the app so far.

#articles, #augmented-reality, #ceo, #components, #composer, #display-technology, #facebook, #major, #mayfield, #mixed-reality, #oculus, #playstation-vr, #software-platform, #sony, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #technology, #virtual-reality, #virtual-reality-headset

Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 headphones are down to a new low for Prime Day

sony wh-1000xm4

Enlarge / Sony’s WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Today is the start of Amazon’s Prime Day sales event, which means a ton of gadgets that may or may not be worth buying are currently on sale. We have a big curated roundup of the best deals we can find, but I wanted to give special mention to a couple of particularly notable deals on headphones we’ve reviewed positively: Sony’s noise-canceling WH-1000XM4 for $248 and Jabra’s true wireless Elite 75t earbuds for $100.

Both deals match the lowest prices we’ve tracked from major retailers. If you’d rather not give more money to Amazon, the Sony deal is available at other stores as well. In Sony’s case, the WH-1000XM4 have an MSRP of $350 but have recently averaged closer to $315 on Amazon. The Elite 75t, meanwhile, retail for $150 but have had a few dips to $130 over the last few months.

What you’re getting with the Sony WH-1000XM4

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#amazon-prime-day, #jabra, #noise-cancelling-headphones, #prime-day-2021, #sony, #tech, #true-wireless-earbuds, #wireless-headphones

E3 2021 catch up

If you’re like me, you spent the weekend longing for the mixed bag that is downtown Los Angeles during E3. I’ve got fond memories of fish tacos, The Last Bookstore, watching playoff basketball in garishly lit hotel lobbies and, of course, video game press conference after video game press conference.

For a second year in a row, the show’s gone all virtual, owing to…well, you know, that pesky virus that has defined the past year and a half of our lives. Last year’s show was canceled altogether (though a handful of companies still kept to the schedule). Show organizers simply didn’t think they would be able to pull together a digital event — and frankly, it’s probably for the best that they understood those limitations.

The 2021 event, which kicked off on Saturday, marks the first all-virtual version of the event. For the time being, it’s also the last. Mayor Eric Garcetti kicked off the show by announcing that E3 would return to the LA Convention Center in 2022.

Gaming had a banner 2020, and while growth has slowed, as parts of the world look forward to a post-pandemic life, things are still growing. Some well-timed numbers from NPD this morning point to a 3% year-over-year growth for May 2021, as spending on gaming rose to $4.5 billion. Year-to-date, things are up 17%.

The timing of last year’s canceled event was certainly unfortunate from a hardware standpoint. Console refreshes are massive events at E3. 2020 gave us the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Announcements were relegated to Sony and Microsoft’s own events. That meant the companies were able to draw things out — revealing small details, piece by piece, rather than saving everything for the big show. It’s a strategy that lends itself much better to virtual presentations and blog posts than it does big conventions.

Sony is sitting this one out, too. While it’s entirely possible the company will be holding a big, virtual State of Play event at some point this summer, it won’t be tied to E3. Still, some Sony execs like PlayStation Studios head Hermen Hulst used the opportunity congratulate Microsoft on “a great showcase” on Twitter. So that’s a nice thing.

Thus far, Microsoft is the only one of the big three to present at the event. Nintendo will be holding a Treehouse event tomorrow. The Switch Pro could be on tap for the event, with an upgraded OLED display and internals. That would likely also mean a bunch of upgraded content for the new version of the four-year-old console.

Microsoft, meanwhile, went big on games. Understandable, given the recent launch of the Series X. And, let’s face it, these virtual events are perfectly suited for playing a whole bunch of trailers. The company showcased 30 games (and a fridge) in all. Of those, 27 will be part of the Xbox Game Pass, in case you had any doubt about what the future of gaming on the Xbox will look like. The event was framed as a combination Xbox and Bethesda showcase, having acquired the publisher earlier this year.

“Our growing family of 23 studios is devoted to advancing the medium we all love,” the company writes, “so we were happy to share that now through the end of the year, you can look forward to back-to-back monthly releases coming to Xbox Game Pass on day one, led by a record five new titles from Xbox Game Studios this holiday, including Halo Infinite.”

Highlights include:

Halo Infinite got a trailer and some in-game multiplayer footage. The latest version of the beloved Xbox mainstay is arriving this holiday season.

Starfield will be arriving November 11 [deep breath] 2022. The expansive space title will be an Xbox exclusive at launch.

Forza Horizon 5 will arrive in November. The latest installment of the popular racing series is set in Mexico.

In a no-brainer crossover event, Sea of Thieves will be teaming up with Pirates of the Caribbean for gameplay featuring Captain Jack Sparrow and others.

Age of Empires IV got an extended trailer and release date: October 28.

Battlefield 2042 got its first gameplay, including a sweet new wing suit.

Microsoft’s Flight Simulator will be hitting the new Xboxes on July 27th, along with a Top Gun expansion pack. That’s in honor of Top Gun: Maverick, which is apparently still coming out at some point.

Square Enix also held its customary big showcase on Sunday. The publisher will be releasing a bunch of new Marvel titles. Highlights include:

The long-awaited Guardians of the Galaxy. The adventure title is set to launch this October.

Marvel’s Avenger, meanwhile, will be getting the Black Panther-themed expansion pack, War for Wakanda. That’s arriving in August.

It wouldn’t be a Square Enix event without a Final Fantasy spinoff, right? The perennial favorite RPG is birthing Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin, which arrives on a slew of different platforms next year.

Ubisoft, meanwhile, made waves on Saturday with a first look at the new Avatar adaptation, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Extraction is due out on September 16. Originally titled Rainbow Six: Quarantine, the name was changed for obvious reasons.

Capcom and Take-Two will showcase tonight, followed by Nintendo Direct and Bandai Namco tomorrow. On Thursday, EA is set to hold its own Play Live event. Meanwhile, here’s some video of that new Xbox fridge. Who said there wasn’t any new hardware?

 

#e3, #events, #gaming, #microsoft, #nintendo, #sony, #square-enix, #ubisoft

Sony sets a new standard with the WF-1000XM4 earbuds

It’s been just under two years since I reviewed the WF-1000XM3, and in that time, Sony’s earbuds never stopped being the reference point for high-end earbuds. Seriously, I reviewed a new pair like a month ago and still made the customary reference.

That’s a rarity in these days of the yearly upgrade cycle. And that goes double for the wireless earbud space. It already felt crowded when Sony entered it in earnest in mid-2019, and things have only gotten worse on that front. But the M3s were a breath of fresh air. With so many companies competing for the middle and low end of the spectrum, Sony dropped something truly premium.

Six months before the AirPods Pro arrived, the M3 hit the market with excellent sound and noise canceling. The latter has, of course, become standardized across the category, but when Sony brought it, it was nearly unheard of. In spite of the headphones’ warm reception, however, the company’s waited two years to deliver a proper follow-up. Understandable, I suppose. Improving on very good is difficult.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

I’m happy to report that the WF-1000XM4 is worth the wait. Sony’s great at high-end headphones, and these are no exception. The new buds represent an improvement over their predecessors in a number of ways. Unfortunately, they’re priced to match. If you thought the M3’s were steep at $230, I’ve got some bad news for you, friend. The new ones run an additional $50.

The upshot is that new headphones means a price drop on the older units. A quick search shows them for around $178 from a number of places, putting them more in line with standard earbud pricing. At $30 more than the AirPods Pro, Sony’s really leaning into the premium end of the spectrum. If anyone has the resources and scale to keeping pricing down, it’s Sony.

Are the WF-1000XM4s worth the price? It’s a fairly subjective question, of course. What I can definitely say is that they’re among the best-sounding pairs of earbuds you can buy. I’m still not convinced that anyone can truly duplicate the over-ear headphone experience in a pair of buds — the form factor is just too limited for now. But there are definitely advantages to going with buds — namely portability and on these unspeakably hot summer days, a chance to let your ears breathe.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Buds are, of course, better suited to fitness, as well. Though if you’re specifically looking for a pair to work out in, these probably shouldn’t be your first choice. I mean, they’re IPX4 water resistant, which is plenty good for sweat, but these are more of a long plane ride or sitting at your desk and really enjoying the hell out of a jazz record kind of earbuds.

In part, because they’re big. Granted, they’re a fair bit smaller than their predecessors, and moving from a paddle design to placing the components above the ear canal is a net benefit, but they’re still a bit too large for a long run. And while this is one of those things that vary dramatically from person to person, I found that the buds tended to cause ear pain after wearing them for extended stretches. I found the pressure relieved a bit when I swapped the medium foam tips for a small (I’m a medium in virtually all variety of earbud tips), though the small were much worse at forming a seal in my ears — a necessity to really take advantage of the active noise canceling. And even still, the eventual dull pain was not non-existent.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

It is also worth noting that I’ve had less than spectacular experiences with foam tips. They tend to be more prone to wear and tear than silicone and have a habit of getting a bit gnarly in the earwax department (look, this job isn’t always pretty). Though I understand why high-end manufacturers go this route, from a comfort perspective.

Also, hey, kudos to Sony for going with sustainable paper packaging. It’s not much to look at, but how often do you really look at the package your electronics came in? Anything that’s even slightly better for the planet is a net positive in my book. And besides, the charging case looks great.

It’s significantly smaller than the W3’s. These are a helluva lot more pocketable. It’s an understated matte black, albeit with a pretty loud white Sony logo on top. The magnets are strong and the buds snap into the case with authority — they’ll also attach to each other. A thin LED strip directly below the lid glows green or red, depending on charge. The case is wide enough to sit upright, so the USB-C port is located around the back — or you can charge it up wirelessly with a Qi pad.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Interestingly, the stated charging time is the same as the M3s, though the numbers have been shifted around. With the originals, you got six hours on the buds and another 18 from the case. Here it’s eight hours on the buds and 16 on the case. So, a full day, either way, but I certainly prefer the two added hours on the actual earbuds.

The buds themselves are a bit flashier than the case. The design features two intersecting circles, the upper most of which is designed to lie flush with the ear. The outside is accented with a metal microphone, with a second, flush microphone up top.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The sound of the buds is really excellent. It’s got the kind of instrument separation that opens up new details on familiar songs you missed with inferior buds. The default balance is terrific, as well. Sony doesn’t lean to heavily into the bass because it doesn’t have to. The headphones sound terrific across a wide range of music varieties, as well as podcasts.

The noise-canceling is, once again, industry leading. A simple tap on the left earbud cycles between ANC and ambient noise, and the difference is like night and day. I was really impressed by the sounds it was capable of blocking, including my extremely loud vegetable juicer. I was also impressed by the buds’ Bluetooth range.

With earbuds, it’s true that you often get what you pay for. That’s certainly the case here. Sony’s once again managed to set the bar for high-end buds with the WF-1000XM4.

 

#earbuds, #hardware, #reviews, #sony, #wf-1000xm4, #wireless-earbuds

Atomic-backed Jumpcut uses data to advance diversity in film

Jumpcut founder Kartik Hosanagar is a professor at the Wharton School, but about ten years ago, he spent his summer in an unlikely way: he wrote a screenplay. Set in India, his script garnered some interest from producers, but no one took the plunge to fund a film by a first-time Indian director.

Now, films featuring diverse casts are gaining traction – this year, Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color, and only the second woman ever, to win the Academy Award for Best Director. At the previous ceremony, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” became the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Still, according to a recent report from McKinsey & Company, Hollywood leaves $10 billion on the table each year due to the industry’s lack of diversity.

“How do you make a bet on underrepresented voices or underrepresented stories?” asked Hosanagar. “While there’s awareness, there’s no action, because nobody knows how to do it. So that’s what got me into Jumpcut. It’s this rare company where 20 years of my work on data science and entrepreneurship meets with who I am outside of my work.”

At Wharton, Hosanagar is the Faculty Lead for the AI for Business program. He was a founder of Yodle, which was acquired by web.com for $340 million in 2016. But for this next venture, he wanted to tackle Hollywood’s homogeneity hands-on by using his experience with data science to de-risk media projects from underrepresented creators.

“The vision is to create a more inclusive era of global content creation,” he said to TechCrunch.

Hosanagar started working on Jumpcut in 2019, but today, the Atomic-backed company launches out of stealth as the first data science-driven studio working to elevate underrepresented voices in film. Already the studio has 12 TV and film projects in the works with partners like 36-time Academy Award nominee Lawrence Bender (“Pulp Fiction,” “Good Will Hunting”), Emmy Award-winning producer Shelby Stone (“Bessie,” “The Chi”), and showrunner Scott Rosenbaum (“Chuck,” “The Shield”).

Jumpcut models itself after Y-Combinator in its approach, pairing emerging talent with buyers and producers. First, Jumpcut uses an algorithm to scan hundreds of thousands of videos from platforms like YouTube, Reddit, and Wattpad to find promising talent. The algorithm narrows down the extensive field to locate creators who are consistently finding new audiences and increasing their engagement. Then, the Jumpcut team – including advisors and veterans from Netflix, Buzzfeed, CBS, Sony, and WarnerMedia – identifies who to connect with.

In one example of the algorithm’s success, Hosanagar pointed to Anna Hopkins, an actress who has appeared on shows like “The Expanse” and “Shadowhunters.” Though Hopkins has found some success in front of the camera, she also wants to write.

“We discovered some of her short films, and the algorithm identified it because people had strong emotional reactions in the comments, like, ‘heartwarming but in a positive way,’ or ‘give me a tissue,’” Hosanagar explained. Since Hopkins isn’t publicly known as a writer, she assumed that Jumpcut found her through a television network she had pitched a script to, but that wasn’t the case. “We said, ‘no, our algorithms found you.’”

Once a creator is identified by Jumpcut, they can A/B test their ideas with audiences of over 100,000 potential viewers, which helps the company prove to funders through data science that these ideas can sell.

“The idea there is that we don’t wait for creators to get discovered by the traditional Hollywood agencies, because that requires the creators to have access to the top agents, and that again brings you back to the old boys club,” Hosanagar said. “We’re automating a lot of that process and discovering these people who are creating great stories that are resonating with audiences, not waiting for some Hollywood agency to discover them.”

Once the creators have an idea that tests well with a wide audience, they’re invited to Jumpcut Collective, an incubator program that helps artists develop an idea from a concept to a pitch in 6 weeks. Then, Jumpcut helps match projects with producing partners and buyers.

So far, Jumpcut has hosted three incubator programs. Out of the twelve Jumpcut projects currently underway, Hosanagar says that nine or ten of them came out of the incubator. One project, for example, is now being developed in partnership with Disney’s Asia Pacific Division.

Jumpcut isn’t disclosing the amount raised in this round of seed funding, but confirms that Atomic is the only investor in their seed round.

Hosanagar is joined on the project by Dilip Rajan, his former student and a former product manager at BuzzFeed, and Winnie Kemp, a former SVP of Originals at Super Deluxe and CBS. There, she developed and executive produced “Chambers,” the first show with a Native American lead, and “This Close,” the first show with deaf creators and cast. Most of their funding will go toward payroll, which includes engineers, data scientists, and product managers on the product side of the company, as well as development executives on the creative side, who run the incubator.

#actress, #advisors, #artificial-intelligence, #atomic, #buzzfeed, #chuck, #director, #disney, #executive, #founder, #funding, #hollywood, #india, #jumpcut, #media, #netflix, #producer, #product-manager, #sony, #startups, #svp, #tc, #warnermedia, #wattpad, #writer, #youtube

Record labels sue another ISP, demanding mass disconnections of Internet users

Illustration of a neon sign shaped like two musical notes.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Artur Debat)

The major record labels yesterday filed another lawsuit demanding that an Internet service provider terminate many more subscribers for alleged copyright violations.

Universal, Sony, and Warner sued Frontier Communications in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that the DSL and fiber ISP with 3.5 million subscribers “received hundreds of thousands of copyright infringement notices from copyright owners” but “provided known repeat infringers with continued access to and use of its network and failed to terminate the accounts of, or otherwise take any meaningful action against, those subscribers. In reality, Frontier operated its network as an attractive tool and safe haven for infringement.” Frontier “chose not to act on those notices and address the rampant infringement on its network,” the companies claimed.

Frontier said it “has terminated many customers about whom copyright owners have complained” and will fight the lawsuit.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cox, #frontier, #policy, #record-labels, #sony, #universal, #warner

Sony’s best-in-class noise-cancelling earbuds finally get a pricey upgrade

It’s been two years since Sony raised the bar for wireless earbuds. Six months before Apple upped its own game with the AirPods Pro, the WF-1000XM3 set a new standard for sound and active noise cancelation. Since then, few companies have been able to match – let alone surpass – their performance.

After several weeks’ worth of leaks, the electronics giant is back with the WF-1000XM4 – a pair of buds it claims will best both the sound quality and ANC of the originals. It’s a high bar with an equally lofty price tag. The pricing was steep with the originals at $230, and now it seems Sony is really leaning in here at $280.

The wireless earbud category was already feeling crowded in 2019, but that’s nothing compared to where we’re at in 2021. There are also plenty of sub-$50 options out (you can also pick up decent Sony earbuds for under $100). Rather than finding a way to drop the cost, however, Sony is looking to cement a place at the truly premium end of spectrum, at $30 more than even the AirPods Pro.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

That said, given how high the company set the bar with the M3s, I’m definitely looking forward to testing these things out (a pair just arrived, so more soon). The M4s could well make a great pair of travel headphones – when we start doing that more regularly. The company says the secret sauce here is the V1, a newly designed processor that both enhances the ANC and the sound quality on the buds.

“Specially developed by Sony, the newly designed Integrated Processor V1 takes the noise canceling performance of Sony’s acclaimed QN1e chip and goes even further,” the company writes. “With two noise sensing microphones on the surface of each earbud – one feed-forward and one feed-back – the headphones analyze ambient noise to provide highly accurate noise cancellation.”

There are beam-forming mics on board, as well, to capture sound directly from the speaker’s mouth and reduce unnecessary ambient noise. Interesting tidbit here, too, “The new bone-conduction sensor only picks up vibrations from the user’s voice, enabling even clearer speech when making calls.”

Image Credits: Brian Heater

There’s automatic wind noise reduction for when you’re outside, coupled with a new 6mm driver. The redesigned system promises richer bass and better sound with less distortion. Naturally, Sony has also brought over its High-Resolution Audio Wireless technology, capable of transmitting 3x the data of standard Bluetooth with up to 990 kbps, according to the company.

The buds support Sony’s 360 Reality Audio – clearly something more manufacturers are looking at for high-end headphones, as they take small steps toward augmented audio. That feature needs to be enabled in the Sony app and naturally only works with select services. Adaptive Sound Control, meanwhile, adjusts playback volume based on ambient noise.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

As mentioned above, I’ve got a pair sitting on my desk right now, and right off the bat, the charging case is significantly smaller than the M3, while still boasting a full 24 hours of life on a charge. The buds themselves get up to eight hours, which is around the industry standard for higher-end sets. Five minutes of charging the case should get you an hour of playback.

The shape has changed significantly from the M3. The long wings are now bulbous and sit above the ear canal. Curious to see whether this eases some of the pressure with long term use. The buds are rated IPX4 waterproof and work with both Google Assistant and Alexa. They’ll fast pair to Android devices and Windows 10 machines.

They’re available beginning today for $280.

#earbuds, #hardware, #sony

The WF-1000XM4 is Sony’s noise-canceling answer to the AirPods Pro

Sony on Tuesday announced its latest pair of noise-canceling wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM4.

This is the follow-up to the also-awkwardly-named WF-1000XM3 earbuds that Sony launched in 2019. Like that pair, the XM4 is aimed squarely at the premium end of the burgeoning true wireless market, with a loaded feature set packed into their diminutive frame.

Given that market, the XM4 is expensive: the earbuds are available to order today for $279.99. That puts them in line with competitors like the $279 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds but above other premium noise-canceling pairs like the $249 Apple AirPods Pro or $230 Jabra Elite 85t. For reference, the XM3 launched for $230.

Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#noise-cancelling-headphones, #sony, #sony-wf-1000xm4, #tech, #wireless-headphones

PlayStation users left out of Borderlands 3 cross-platform features

Borderlands 3 players on Xbox consoles, Windows, Stadia, and the Mac will soon be able to band together across platforms thanks to a coming cross-play update. But players on the PS4 and PS5 will be left out of that group and will be forced to play only with other users on the PlayStation Network.

Gearbox co-founder and CEO Randy Pitchford discussed the situation in a tweet Thursday morning, saying that “an update for Borderlands 3 has been prepared for release that includes full cross-play support across all platforms” but that “for certification, we have been required by the publisher [presumably Take Two] to remove cross-play support for PlayStation consoles.”

Sony, you may remember, consistently blocked cross-platform capabilities on PlayStation consoles for years before finally opening up its walled garden to cross-platform play in late 2018. Even after that, though, some developers publicly accused Sony of “playing favorites” regarding which specific games were allowed to use the feature.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#borderlands, #cross-platform, #gaming-culture, #gearbox, #playstation, #sony, #take-two

Sony lists PC version of Uncharted 4 in investor report

A PC port of 2016 PS4 exclusive Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be coming sometime in the future. That’s according to a Game & Network Services presentation made as part of Sony’s Investor Relations Day 2021. Uncharted 4 is listed in that presentation deck under the heading “more PC releases planned” alongside Days Gone, which launched on PC this month.

On the very same slide, Sony trumpeted the success of another recent PC port of a former PlayStation exclusive, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Despite some iffy performance issues at launch, that port had a 250 percent return on investment through March 2021, according to the presentation (i.e. it earned back its porting budget and an additional 2.5 times that amount). That’s not too surprising, considering previous reports that the PC port sold over 700,000 units in its launch month last August.

Last year, Sony said in a corporate report that it “will explore expanding our first-party titles to the PC platform, in order to promote further growth in our profitability.” And PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told GQ in February that more games would be coming to PC “to expose those great games to a wider audience and recognize the economics of game development… also, our ease of making [games] available to non-console owners has grown. So it’s a fairly straightforward decision for us to make.”

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#gaming-culture, #naughty-dog, #pc, #port, #sony, #uncharted, #uncharted-4

Google updates its cross-platform Flutter UI toolkit

Flutter, Google’s cross-platform UI toolkit for building mobile and desktop apps, is getting a small but important update at the company’s I/O conference today. Google also announced that Flutter now powers 200,000 apps in the Play Store alone, including popular apps from companies like WeChat, ByteDance, BMW, Grab and DiDi. Indeed, Google notes that 1 in 8 new apps in the Play Store are now Flutter apps.

The launch of Flutter 2.2 follows Google’s rollout of Flutter 2, which first added support for desktop and web apps in March, so it’s no surprise that this is a relatively minor release. In many ways, the update builds on top of the features the company introduced in version 2 and reliability and performance improvements.

Version 2.2 makes null safety the default for new projects, for example, to add protections against null reference exceptions. As for performance, web apps can now use background caching using service workers, for example, while Android apps can use deferred components and iOS apps get support for precompiled shaders to make first runs smoother.

Google also worked on streamlining the overall process of bringing Flutter apps to desktop platforms (Windows, macOS and Linux).

But as Google notes, a lot of the work right now is happening in the ecosystem. Google itself is introducing a new payment plugin for Flutter built in partnership with the Google Pay team and Google’s ads SDK for Flutter is getting support for adaptive banner formats. Meanwhile, Samsung is now porting Flutter to Tizen and Sony is leading an effort to bring it to embedded Linux. Adobe recently announced its XD to Flutter plugin for its design tool and Microsoft today launched the alpha of Flutter support for Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for Windows 10 in alpha.

#adobe, #alpha, #android, #bytedance, #caching, #chrome-os, #computing, #flutter, #google, #google-i-o-2021, #google-pay, #linux, #microsoft, #microsoft-windows, #operating-systems, #play-store, #samsung,