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Walmart’s AI-based store concept is open to the public

Walmart isn't going to let Amazon's AI-powered stores go unanswered, although it's not exactly cloning the concept. The big-box chain has unveiled a publicly accessible concept store, the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL for short), in Levittown, New York. The location uses computer vision and a vast array of cameras not to handle purchases, like Amazon Go does, but to help employees restock empty shelves and corral shopping carts. There are still checkout lines and floor staff, Walmart notes -- this is meant to minimize drudgery for workers and free them for tasks "humans can do best," like helping customers.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/walmart-ai-store-open/

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Snapchat will let you play as your Bitmoji in games

"Our vision is for gamers to open up their favorite game, regardless of what device it's on, and easily "scan and play" to bring their Bitmoji directly into the game. At the option to choose an avatar or character, gamers will be shown a Snapcode on screen, prompting them to scan the code via Snapchat to link the account and play as your own Bitmoji," wrote a Snapchat spokesman.

There's no word on which developers or games will choose to integrate Snapchat's Bitmoji avatars. There's currently support for Unity, Unreal and British VR gaming startup PlayCanvas already inside Snapchat. The Bitmoji for Games website tells players to stay tuned for more updates.

Opening up its features to video game developers is part of Snapchat's most recent attempt at integrating the gaming community. The app has struggled to increase user growth, and its venture into gaming could help it gain momentum. Earlier this month, Snapchat unveiled six new titles on its all-new gaming platform, including Bitmoji Party, which also integrates your Bitmoji avatar.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/snapchat-will-let-you-play-as-your-bitmoji-in-games/

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First laser radio paves the way for ultra-fast WiFi

The development builds upon previous advances made by the lab, which found it was possible to use an infrared frequency comb in lasers to generate terahertz wavelengths capable of moving data -- and do it at speeds hundreds of times faster than today's wireless internet services. The latest findings make it possible to extract and transmit wireless signals from the frequency comb, which was made possible by creating a rabbit ears-style antenna that could receive and decipher the information being transmitted by the laser. The first thing they sent: the song "Volare" by Dean Martin.

Harvard has been experimenting with terahertz lasers for more than a decade now, and while researchers note the latest development bodes well for the future of wireless communication, the actual use of terahertz communication is still a ways off. That said, lasers have proven to be a viable option for data transfer, and companies like Facebook and Google have experimented with delivering high-speed internet to underserved regions via lasers.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/harvard-laser-radio-frequency-transmitter-wifi/

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Epic Games throws down an ultimatum for Steam

This has given Epic an edge, and the company has lured a slew of high-profile developers away from Steam, complete with plans to launch their titles exclusively on the Epic Games Store. The list includes Super Meat Boy Forever, Metro: Exodus, The Division 2, Borderlands 3, Detroit: Become Human, Afterparty and the final season of Telltale's The Walking Dead. Many of these games will eventually hit Steam and other platforms, but they'll be exclusive to the Epic store for a long while first.

However, this could all change. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted a challenge to Steam on Wednesday night, and it reads as follows: "If Steam committed to a permanent 88% revenue share for all developers and publishers without major strings attached, Epic would hastily organize a retreat from exclusives (while honoring our partner commitments) and consider putting our own games on Steam."

Epic is the proprietor of Gears of War and, most notably in today's gaming climate, Fortnite, a title that has turned the company into a $15 billion business. Neither of these franchises are currently available on Steam.

Valve, the company behind Steam, has long been unchallenged in the digital marketplace and its revenue split is a testament to this fact. The company's 70/30 model has been the norm across the industry for at least a decade, and Valve hasn't been forced to update that figure until recently. Just before the Epic Games Store was announced, Valve revealed a new revenue ratio for Steam -- but it only affects a handful of ultra-successful developers.

Today on Steam, any game that makes more than $10 million earns developers 75 percent of its revenue, while titles that earn more than $50 million net its creators 80 percent of all subsequent earnings. Of course, this move doesn't do much to appease independent and mid-tier developers, who can earn 88 percent of all revenue on the Epic Games Store. Even the new Discord store offers a split of 90/10.

Steam is still a clear leader in digital distribution, offering more games than any other PC platform and serving as an entrenched, trusted service for millions of players worldwide. However, the Epic Games Store's existence has already pushed Valve to update its revenue-sharing policies, if only slightly, and Sweeney's challenge could look appealing as Steam attempts to stay on top.

"Such a move would be a glorious moment in the history of PC gaming, and would have a sweeping impact on other platforms for generations to come," Sweeney wrote in a follow-up tweet. "Then stores could go back to just being nice places to buy stuff, rather than the Game Developer IRS."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/steam-epic-games-store-revenue-share-sweeney-challenge/

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Respawn spaces out ‘Apex Legends’ content updates to avoid crunch

The statement is a not-so-subtle allusion to a recent Polygon exposé covering working conditions at Epic Games. Reportedly, Fortnite's rapid growth and near-constant updates have led to contractors and permanent employees working 70 to 100 hours per week. Epic claimed these examples are "incredibly rare" and that it wants to "immediately remedy" those situations, but anonymous employees disagreed -- they cited examples of staff being fired simply for refusing to work weekends. There's apparently intense pressure to work as long as possible, and Respawn clearly doesn't want that mindset to affect its team.

This more measured pace has an effect on Apex. Rather than see a flurry of updates, you're more likely to see "large, meaningful" releases that have a "lasting impact." You'll always get a new Battle Pass, a new character and a new gameplay element, McCoy said, but you won't see constant tweaks. He also emphasized that the company wasn't diverting resources from one game to support another. There are "entirely separate" teams for Apex and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, McCoy said, and the studio is "pushing out" future Titanfall games to properly support the Apex crowd.

Respawn is already providing a few clues as to what's coming next. It's tackling a problem where servers slow down near the start of a match, not to mention audio glitches and cheaters. You'll also find out more about season two at EA's Play event in June, including its new character, a new weapon and changes to the title's lone Kings Canyon map. There's plenty in the pipeline, then, even if it won't come at the same blistering pace as with Fortnite.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/apex-legends-update-pace-avoids-crunch/

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Wirecutter’s best deals: The Sonos One (Gen 1) drops to $150

Sonos One Smart Speaker (Gen 1)

Street price: $170; deal price: $150 w/ myBB membership (free)

The Sonos One is presently down to $150 for myBest Buy members (free to join, price reflects when logged in). Historically $180-$200, the street price has fallen to $170 in recent weeks (decline in street price started with the release of the Gen 2). This speaker, the most compact in the Sonos lineup, is available in black or white and is a great way to start a multiroom system or add to an existing Sonos setup. This model also supports voice-control if that feature appeals to you.

The Sonos One is the top pick in our guide to the best multiroom wireless speaker system. Wirecutter Senior Staff Writer Chris Heinonen wrote, "The Sonos system is the best multiroom wireless speaker system because it supports the most services, and has a wide selection of great-sounding speakers, great search features, and a well-organized app that runs on almost all major platforms. Sonos keeps its platform up to date by adding more services all the time, introducing new features like Trueplay room-correction technology, and updating its models. The Sonos user experience is the best of any of the multiroom wireless speaker systems currently available."

Corsair HS50 Gaming Headset

Street price: $48; deal price: $40

The budget pick in our guide to the best gaming headsets, the Corsair HS50 (PS4 Blue or Carbon Black) is back down to $40 from a street price around $48. This isn't the lowest price we've seen, but it's a solid discount if you don't want to spend more than $100 on a gaming headset. If you're willing to make some sacrifices for a sub-$50 price, this is a good time to buy.

The Corsair HS50 is the budget pick in our guide to the best gaming headsets. Wirecutter Staff Writer Thorin Klosowski wrote, "The Corsair HS50 is the best sounding, best built headset you can get for less than $50. It's not as adjustable and comfortable as our main pick, the construction doesn't feel as solid, and the sound isn't as detailed as the Cloud Alpha, but at half the price, we wouldn't expect it to be. Most of our testers found the HS50 comfortable for short periods but complained about warm ears after around an hour."

Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage-Door Controller

Street price: $80; deal price: $50

At $50, this is an impressive discount for the Chamberlain MyQ as compared to historical and competitor pricing. Usually $80, we posted this already affordable option when we saw it at $60 in November, but this is a new low. If you're looking to be able to control your garage-door with your smartphone, this is a great option at this price. This opener now also works with Amazon Key, allowing packages to be dropped in your garage if desired.

The Chamberlain MyQ is the top pick in our guide to the best smart garage-door controller. Jennifer Pattison Tuohy wrote, "The Chamberlain MyQ Garage (MYQ-G0301) is the leading smart garage-door controller available, largely due to the huge popularity of Chamberlain garage-door openers (and those sold by its professional install brand, LiftMaster). The MyQ was the first smart garage-door controller to be manufactured, and it's one of the simplest smart-home devices to install and set up. If you are looking for a way to control your garage door remotely and check on its status, and would like integration with major smart-home systems such as HomeKit, Wink, IFTTT, and Google, the MyQ Garage is the best option."

Vitchelo V800

Street price: $20; deal price: $14

If you need a headlamp for upcoming camping or hiking trips, we have a rare deal for you. The Vitchelo V800 is the budget pick, that's now even more affordable, from our guide to the best headlamp. All five colors of this headlamp are down to $14 from a street price of $20. It's got a bright, long-lasting light with separate buttons for the red and white LED settings that helped to make it or budget pick.

The Vitchelo V800 is the budget pick in our guide to the best headlamp. Wirecutter Senior Staff Writer Eve O'Neill wrote, "We can't overstate just how wonderful it is to have separate buttons for the red and white LED settings on a headlamp, and that's why, of all the very good budget options out there, we prefer the Vitchelo V800. And we gave it our stamp of approval for all the other usual reasons, too: Its bright, long-lasting light is superior to that of similar options in our test group, and it comes with a nice dose of weatherproofing as well as a warranty."

Because great deals don't just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we'll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go here.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/wirecutters-best-deals-sonos-one-gen-1-sale/

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‘Days Gone’ will get weekly challenges and Survival Mode in June

The Survival mode will challenge players by getting rid of Fast Travel and Survival Vision. Players will be forced to brave the post-apocalyptic wilderness of the Pacific Northwest without on-screen indicators or a mini-map. With the weekly updates, players can expect of battles and opportunities to earn in-game rewards.

From Resident Evil to Dying Light:The Following, the zombie survival genre is already pretty crowded. An early look indicates that Days Gone, while no doubt entertaining, isn't really a standout entry. Especially for veterans of the genre, the game's pretty straightforward progression could get a little repetitive. But a new difficulty mode and weekly updates may give the Days Gone some variety.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/days-gone-to-launch-free-DLC-june/

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Google makes it easier for employees to report harassment

She said the new site will provide employees with a simpler, clearer way for them to raise concerns. It's setting up a similar site for its vendors and temporary workforce, which should be ready in June.

Following a four-month trial period, the company is expanding its Support Person Program, which allows employees to bring a trusted coworker with them to discrimination and harassment investigations. It's also rolling out a program to provide employees with better care both during and after an investigation. In addition, Google has published its workplace policies -- including on harassment, discrimination, conduct and retaliation -- and shared an Investigations Practice Guide, which details what Googlers can expect while their concerns are addressed.

Google has also just internally published its annual report on misconduct investigations. This year's report includes an expanded section about sexual harassment investigations. Parker noted that she'll have regular meetings with Google executives and Alphabet's board of directors regarding harassment and misconduct.

Many Google employees have objected to how the company addresses sexual misconduct and harassment, with around 20,000 walking off the job in protest in November in what was known as the Google Walkout. Soon after, CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google would end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault, allowing accusors to take their cases to court. Earlier this week, Google Walkout organizers accused the company of retaliation against them over the protest.

When asked for comment on the latest policy changes, Google Walkout directed Engadget to a previous statement, in which leaders demanded more from the company. It said then that Google "must address issues of systemic racism and discrimination, including pay equity and rates of promotion, and not just sexual harassment alone. These forms of marginalization function together to police access to power and resources."

Update 4/25/2019 4:45 PM: Added the response from Google Walkout.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/google-harassment-reporting-website-policies/

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AI-analyzed tweets could help Europe track floods

The tool works in collaboration with Europe's Flood Awareness System (EFAS). When EFAS identifies areas with heightened flood risks, it triggers SMFR to begin collecting flood-related tweets from users in those areas. Gathering reliable information from Twitter is no easy task, especially considering that EFAS covers an area with more than 27 languages. That's where the team put AI to work. To start, the researchers trained SMFR to spot flood-related keywords in English, German, Spanish and French. In a test during floods in Calabria, Italy, last fall, the tool successfully gathered 14,347 tweets over three days, sorted them by relevance and provided geo-location data.

The Joint Research Center hopes EFAS might use the tweets alongside other flood data it collects, like satellite imagery. As the paper explains, we know social media can provide timely data during natural disasters, but less attention has been paid to how to integrate social media in a seamless, reliable way with other tools for disaster forecasting and monitoring. The Joint Research Center is not alone. Both Google and Facebook have committed to using AI to gather flood data. Together, all of these tools could give first responders a better picture of what they're heading into.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/european-commission-ai-twitter-flood-data/

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New York AG is investigating Facebook over email contact scraping

Facebook said the data collection was "unintentional," and it was linked to a discontinued verification method in which it asked new users for their email password (it's a bad idea to share that with anyone, to be clear). The social network reportedly used the information to refine its ad targeting processes and friend connections, though it didn't tell users it was collecting their contact lists. It has since ended the data collection practice and said it will delete the contacts.

The investigation will explore how the data collection happened, according to the New York Times, as well as whether the practice impacted more Facebook users beyond those who shared their email passwords.

"It is time Facebook is held accountable for how it handles consumers' personal information," Attorney General Letitia James said in a release. "Facebook has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of respect for consumers' information while at the same time profiting from mining that data. Facebook's announcement that it harvested 1.5 million users' email address books, potentially gaining access to contact information for hundreds of millions of individual consumers without their knowledge, is the latest demonstration that Facebook does not take seriously its role in protecting our personal information."

Facebook has had to contend with several privacy mishaps lately, including an incident last fall in which a breach exposed the accounts of around 30 million users. In March, it admitted its employees had access to hundreds of millions of Facebook users' passwords, which were stored in plain text. It said last week millions of Instagram passwords had been stored in a similar way.

The attorney general's investigation is the latest in a long line of recent legal problems for Facebook. Just today, Canada's privacy commissioner announced plans to take the company to federal court, claiming it had broken laws over its part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook is also expecting to pay up to $5 billion to settle a Federal Trade Commission fine.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2019/04/25/facebook-email-collection-investigation-privacy-new-york-attorney-general/

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