Categories
Security

The Plan to Finally Put An End to Digital Fingerprinting

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We have more tools to secure our identity online than ever before. You can ban cookies — the little pieces of information websites deposit in our browsers to identify us — block invasive trackers from tailing our machines, switch to incognito mode, opt out of cross-app tracking with Apple’s latest iOS update, or even go as far as to surf the web only through highly encrypted virtual private networks.

But there’s a tracking method that can still slip past these defenses and it’s growing in popularity: Fingerprinting.

The anatomy of a fingerprint

What makes fingerprinting so elusive and difficult to defend against is the fact that the data it exploits is essential to the web’s foundational functions.

Apps and websites look to collect all sorts of information from us (GPS coordinates, our personal details, etc.) that we pay attention to and usually have the option to keep to ourselves. But a cursory review of just about any tech company’s privacy policy will tell you that they also gather a range of other miscellaneous data that you don’t pay attention to and that you can’t easily stop them from tracking — such as what software your device runs on and to which network operator you subscribe.

“Fingerprinting is a threat to user privacy because it enables a nontransparent way for companies to track and identify users and devices.”

There’s a legitimate reason behind why companies need this data and why they can get it without even asking for your explicit permission. You see, all of us web users access the internet from a wide variety of different means, and in order to ensure that a website or app loads as intended for every user, no matter what browser or app or phone or computer they’re using, these sites need to know certain details about your method of access. But this seemingly innocuous data collection is also what powers fingerprinting.

Trackers stitch together your device’s properties like its display size, its operating system, your language preferences, and more to form your unique fingerprint. They match this pattern across sites and apps to identify you and target you with relevant ads.

Once a website captures your fingerprint, it’s possible for it to track you for up to 100 days — no matter how many safeguards you’ve put up on your browser.

Since all this takes place quietly in the background as you surf the internet, you can’t trace fingerprinting, nor is it possible for you to delete your fingerprints — like how you can in the case of third-party cookies. As your device’s fingerprint will always remain the same, this tracking method also can’t be limited through typical boundaries such as switching to a private window or clearing your browser’s cache.

“Fingerprinting is a threat to user privacy because it enables a nontransparent way for companies to track and identify users and devices,” says Patrick Jackson, the chief technology officer of Disconnect, a privacy app for iOS and Mac.

Finding a fix

There’s currently no great way to stop fingerprinting, but internet companies have started addressing the threat and looking for potential ways to deal with it. The Chromium-based browser Brave takes the most compelling shot at thwarting malicious fingerprinting that we’ve seen so far.

Brave’s solution is simple: Whenever a website requests the kind of data that could potentially enable fingerprinting, the browser obliges — but it also mixes in just enough noise or random information that it doesn’t end up crippling your web experience. This allows you to have a unique fingerprint for every session and every webpage. Therefore, trackers can no longer capture one single fingerprint of yours and match it across websites to follow you because your device will signal a different fingerprint every time.

In our tests, Brave was the only mainstream browser that passed the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Cover Your Tracks test, which determines how effectively your browser can protect against practices like fingerprinting.

Other browsers including Safari, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox have had limited success with their existing anti-fingerprinting mechanisms. Unlike Brave, which takes a more dynamic approach to tackle fingerprinting, these apps have a one-size-fits-all implementation that attempts to limit how much information your device’s data websites can access and relies on a list of known fingerprinting domains to block them.

Hitting a moving target

The reason these outdated efforts are no longer effective is that fingerprinting is a broad, evolving concept. It’s a practice that has gotten increasingly more complex with the internet’s advancements and that becomes more sophisticated every year.

Some trackers, for instance, force your browser to draw on an invisible canvas on a web age. When your computer does that, it releases information like its screen’s resolution. Similarly, trackers can determine your fingerprint by how your device processes acoustic signals when it plays an audio file online.

Benoit Baudry, a software technology professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, believes it’s hard to mitigate fingerprinting “since its boundaries are fuzzy and keep changing.”

“A cookie has one single, specific purpose: To identify a user,” Baudry adds. “Meanwhile, browser fingerprinting ‘repurposes’ technology that is meant for something else. This is why it is much more difficult to grasp than cookies: there is not one specific script, object, or packet to intercept.”

In addition to capitalizing on essential web data, the other aspect that prevents browser makers from outright banning fingerprinting is because it’s also employed for positive purposes like fraud detection. When websites detect a user is attempting to sign in from a new fingerprint (which essentially means a new machine), they request additional data for authentication to make sure the source isn’t malicious.

However, experts like Zubair Shafiq, an associate computer science professor at the University of California, Davis, argue fingerprinting is “overkill for fraud detection use cases.”.

Several companies are, at the moment, working toward this exact goal — including Google, which is actively researching ways to curb fingerprinting.

Fingerprinting has largely flown under the radar so far since advertisers and tracking firms have had reliable and direct channels to profile users. Now, as the web’s biggest gatekeepers, including Google and Apple, crack down on traditional tracking frameworks like cookies, fingerprinting has been pushed into the spotlight and, if its adoption goes widespread, it might end up being the most significant threat to our privacy ever. And that’s where it seems to be headed.

The presence of fingerprinting trackers has doubled in websites since 2014 and Disconnect’s Jackson also mentions that in anticipation of cookie and Apple’s cross-app tracking ban, companies are “collecting vast amounts of device data to either compute (and collect) a fingerprint on the device or doing the computation on their servers with the raw data.”

Pierre Laperdrix, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research who’s been studying fingerprinting for over a decade, believes it will always remain a whack-a-mole game for internet companies. All they can do is stay a step ahead of trackers.

“In my opinion,” Laperdrix said, “I don’t think we can completely put an end to fingerprinting without a reengineering of the way browsers and servers work.”

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

Huawei HarmonyOS will be coming to these phones next week

Wednesday will be a big day for Huawei and not because it’s announcing new phones. Actually, it might tease some new phones but the focus of its event will be on the software that will run on those phones. It will be HarmonyOS that will be taking center stage, figuratively and literally, and it will finally show to the world Huawei’s vision for a Google-less world. Of course, its success will depend on how many phones it will be available on and it seems that the company will be pushing it hard even on Huawei phones already out in the wild.

HarmonyOS is, of course, expected to be pre-installed in future Huawei devices. These include the still-absent Huawei P50 series as well as the recently rumored MatePad Pro 2. Those, however, will only be a fraction of the phones under Huawei’s command and it seems that the phone maker really wants to push its new OS to everyone.

According to a leak on Weibo, Huawei will be making HarmonyOS available on some existing phones as well. It includes the entire Huawei Mate 40 and P40 series as well as the older MatePad Pro. The foldable Huawei Mate X2 will also be updated and the mid-range Nova 8 and Nova 8 Pro will also be able to taste the new OS.

The leak says that these updates will be available on June 2, right on the day that Huawei debuts HarmonyOS for phones, a.k.a. HarmonyOS 2.0. More interestingly, the source says that phones are also being upgraded in offline stores, suggesting that any new phone from this list that you buy will be running HarmonyOS instead of Android.

That said, there’s still some confusion on whether HarmonyOS 2.0 isn’t just Android with a custom skin, something that Huawei strongly denies. We will at least finally get our answer after June 2, especially when Huawei’s Google-free OS starts rolling out to existing phones.

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Categories
AI

Vectra: 10 most common threats for Azure AD, Office 365 customers

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


Research on the most frequently seen malicious behavior in Azure Active Directory and Office 365 found that malicious activity often looks very similar to legitimate user activity, said Vectra AI, a threat detection and response company. Regardless of the size of the company, O365 Risky Exchange Operation, or attempts to manipulate Exchange was the most frequently seen behavior, Vectra said in the 2021 Q2 Spotlight Report, Vision and Visibility: Top 10 Threat Detections for Microsoft Azure AD and Office 365.

Top 10 most common threat detections in large companies

Above: Vectra.ai identified the top 10 most common activities suggesting security threats in large companies.

Image Credit: Vectra.ai

Research focusing on the top 10 threat detections in Azure AD and Office 365 environments identified the most common activities that can indicate a security threat:

  1. O365 Risky Exchange Operation: Attempts to manipulate Exchange to get access to data.
  2. Azure AD Suspicious Operation: Operations indicating attackers are escalating privileges and performing tasks which require administrator access after regular account takeovers.
  3. O365 Suspicious Download Activity: Account is downloading an unusual amount of objects, suggesting an attacker is using SharePoint or OneDrive to exfiltrate data.
  4. O365 Suspicious Sharing Activity: Account is sharing files and folders at a higher volume than usual, suggesting an attacker is using SharePoint to exfiltrate data or maintain access into the network.
  5. Azure AD Redundant Access Creation: Administrative privileges are being assigned to other entities, suggesting attackers are establishing multiple methods of maintaining access.
  6. O365 External Teams Access: An external account added to a team in O365, suggesting an attacker has added another account which they control.
  7. O365 Suspicious Power Automate Flow Creation: Automated workflows created with Microsoft Power Automate, suggesting the attacker is establishing persistence in the environment.
  8. O365 Suspicious Mail Forwarding: Mail forwarded to another account, suggesting attackers are collecting or exfiltrating data without needing to maintain persistence.
  9. O365 Unusual eDiscovery Search: User creating or updating an eDiscovery search, suggesting an attacker is performing reconnaissance to learn what else is accessible in the environment.
  10. O365 Suspicious Sharepoint Operation: Administrative SharePoint operations suggesting malicious actions.

Vectra calculated the relative frequency of threat detections that were triggered on its platform during a three-month span based on customer size (small, medium and large).Larger companies triggered fewer detections when compared to smaller companies — that may be because larger companies’ users and administrators perform Office 365 and Azure AD activity more consistently compared to smaller organizations.

Top 10 for threat detections for small and medium companies

Above: Small and medium companies had similar top 10 lists of potential malicious activities.

Image Credit: Vectra.ai

Medium and small companies have the same top 10 threat detections, and differed slightly from the breakdown of detection types found in large companies. For example, Office 365 DLL Hijacking, Office 365 Unusual Scripting Engine and Office 365 Suspicious eDiscovery Exfil were in the top 10 for large companies, but not in the top 10 for medium and small companies. Medium and small companies included Office 365 Suspicious SharePoint Operation, Office 365 Suspicious eDiscovery Search and Azure AD Suspicious Operation in

With 250 million active users, Office 365 has a big target on its back, as cybercriminals devote time and resources crafting attacks targeting the platforms large user base. Adversaries increasingly find that overtly malicious actions are unnecessary when existing services and access used throughout an organization can simply be co-opted, misused and abused.

In a recent Vectra survey of 1,000 security professionals, 71% said they had suffered an average of 7 account takeovers of authorized users over the last 12 months.

Read the full 2021 Q2 Spotlight Report, Vision and Visibility: Top 10 Threat Detections for Microsoft Azure AD and Office 365.

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Categories
Computing

We Can’t Believe How Cheap This 17-inch HP Laptop Is Now

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HP

You should never pass up an opportunity to upgrade your laptop, and with today’s Memorial Day sales, now’s a good time to make a purchase. There’s no shortage of options with this year’s Memorial Day laptop deals, including this offer from the HP Memorial Day sale that applies a $30 discount on the HP 17t, bringing the laptop’s price down to $480 from its original price of $510.

Like with Digital Trends’ best laptops of 2021, you won’t be frustrated by slowdowns and crashes when multitasking between several productivity apps with the HP 17t, as it’s powered by the 11th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and Intel UHD Graphics. You’ll also enjoy sufficient storage space for the software and files that you need, as the laptop is equipped with a 1TB HDD.

Whether you’re using the laptop for work or school, browsing websites, or watching streaming content, its 17.3-inch HD+ display will make sure that you see and appreciate all the colors and details on the screen. It also comes with the HP True Vision 720p HD webcam with integrated dual-array digital microphones, for participating in virtual meetings and attending online classes. Meanwhile, the HP 17t’s lift-hinge design helps in keeping you comfortable as it elevates the keyboard, for a more natural angle for typing on the keyboard.

The HP 17t weighs just over 5 pounds and is less than an inch thick, so it’s easy to carry around if you’ll need it while you’re on the go. If the laptop runs out of juice, you can quickly get it back up and running with the help of the HP Fast Charge technology, which refills up to 50% of the computer’s battery after just 45 minutes of charging.

If you don’t want Memorial Day to end without purchasing a reliable laptop that will be able to keep up with your daily activities, you should consider the HP 17t. The laptop’s currently available at $30 off, lowering its price to $480 from its original price of $510. There’s no telling when stocks will run out, so if you’re already looking forward to using the HP 17t for work or school, you should click that Buy Now button immediately.

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Two Point Hospital successor Two Point Campus leaked by Microsoft

If you enjoyed Two Point Hospital‘s silly take on building out and managing a hospital, then you’ll probably be pleased to learn that a follow-up game is in the works. Earlier today, a new game called Two Point Campus was leaked by none other than the Microsoft Store, suggesting that a reveal is imminent. As the name of the game implies, this time around we’ll be building a university, which isn’t often the focus of simulation games.

Two Point Campus has already managed to pique our interest, but unfortunately, someone at Microsoft realized the mistake and quickly pulled the listing from the Microsoft Store. The listing was first discovered by Twitter leaker h0X0d, while IGN managed to snag some details about the game before the listing disappeared.

As it turns out, it sounds like Two Point Campus will play similarly to Two Point Hospital, only with the focus shifted to creating a university that students want to attend. It sounds like the degrees students can pursue and the courses they can take will be absurd, just like the diseases in Two Point Hospital were. For example, students can apparently attend jousting classes if your university offers them, which certainly isn’t a class you’d expect to find at any actual school.

In any case, not only will you be managing a university in this new game, but you’ll also be making sure that your students’ needs are met. How you’ll do that is a bit of a nebulous concept at the moment, but it sounds like keeping students happy will be a major component of the game.

For now, however, we’re left waiting for an official reveal from the folks at Sega. Microsoft’s listing didn’t reveal a release date for Two Point Campus, but it did confirm that the game will be coming to Xbox consoles and PC. We’ll let you know when Sega officially reveals Two Point Campus, so stay tuned for more.

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Categories
Tech News

The Toybox 3D Printer lets kids create their own toys with a button press — and it’s under $300

TLDR: The Toybox 3D Printer Deluxe Bundle is a kid-friendly 3D printing kit that allows youngsters to bring all their toy ideas to life easily and safely, even without adult supervision.

Since the days of wide-eyed, open-mouthed awe while the first wave of 3D printers showed off the marvels they could create, most viewers had the same thought: Kids would go nuts with this. 

But while 3D printing technology has improved and advanced over the past few years, printers themselves have largely remained prohibitively expensive and just way too difficult for a child to master easily to bring all their super-awesome toy ideas and all the other fantastic constructs in their heads to life.

Thankfully, the Toybox 3D Printer Deluxe Bundle ($299.97 from TNW Deals) is that tech-slash-real world sweet spot kids and parents have been waiting for: an easy-to-use 3D printer that truly empowered kids and adults alike to make toys and other grand creations with the push of a button.

Unlike the delicate, intricate processes that govern other printers, the Toybox is kid friendly. Using the companion app, they pick from the ever-expanding toy catalog, then push the button to start the Toybox making their chosen toy, even without adult supervision. And this bundle comes with an assortment of 8 different non-toxic, biodegradable filament colors that serve as printer food, good for making as many as 300 different toys.

If they’re the creative type (and what kid isn’t?), the Toybox is also ready for a child to upload their own toy designs into the catalog and start turning those wild ideas into working real world toys. 

Meanwhile, this isn’t some generic assortment of toy boats and rings and army men either. Toybox recently signed a deal with Warner Bros. to bring in new creation options for items based on DC Comics, Cartoon Network, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and even more adult fare like stuff from Friends and Seinfeld.

With one-touch abilities, your kid can start creating their own Batman or Superman action figures, a Batcave computer, a Justice League disc launcher, and a whole bunch of fun toys that’ll keep children entertained and creating for days, weeks, months, and years.

Retailing for $469, this complete Toybox 3D Printer Deluxe Bundle is now enjoying a healthy Memorial Day Sale savings, bringing cost of the whole bundle down to just $299.97 for this week only. After the sale is over, the price goes back up…so get in on this offer now while you can.

Prices are subject to change.

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Categories
Tech News

Apple Watch Series 6 Review: Six months of Pandemic Intervention

You take your health for granted, right up to the point where a global pandemic makes it abundantly clear just how fragile we all are. I’ve not taught myself a new language during lockdown, or written a bestselling novel, but for the past six months the Apple Watch Series 6 on my wrist has chronicled what I feel may have been an altogether more meaningful achievement.

Apple’s smartwatch range now includes three models. Cheapest – and most limited – is the Series 3, from $199. Really, though, I think most people should at least stretch to the Apple Watch SE, from $279, which has a bigger display among other niceties.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is the current flagship, from $399 in GPS form, or from $499 with a baked-in cellular connection. Bear in mind you’ll need to add it to your data plan – which typically costs $5-10 per month – in order to use it apart from your iPhone. Personally, I’m rarely without my phone, so I’d probably stick with the GPS-only version. You could spend the difference on bands, which are still as easy as ever to switch between.

Honestly, I’d expected this Apple Watch Series 6 review to be, well, more of the same. Great notifications, streamlined design, and some extra health features compared to its predecessors, but overall with a focus on making my work life more efficient and effective. Don’t get me wrong; that’s been enough to warrant their place on my wrist for the past few years. What I hadn’t predicted was how the new Apple Watch would become an integral element in a new part of my day to day life.

With the pandemic temporarily ending work travel, it suddenly became ominously clear that perhaps 90-percent of my regular exercise had consisted of power-walking through airports. Without that – and sure, yes, with the arrival of middle-age and maybe a little comfort eating – shirts were getting tighter and waistbands snugger.

I’d already ordered a Peloton Bike before Apple Fitness+ launched, and since I’d opted for the (cheaper) model without direct Apple Watch synchronization the bike and the wearable weren’t on speaking terms. If I’d spent more on Peloton’s Bike+ then it could’ve linked directly to the Apple Watch and grabbed things like its heart rate readings; regardless of model, the Peloton iOS app synchronizes with Apple Health post-ride. Over six months where my health and, as important maybe, my perception of my health have been a focus, the two separate platforms have been instrumental.

The persistence of watchOS is a large part of that. There’s the watch’s sheer ubiquity: on my wrist when I wake up, and taken off only when I go to bed. I’m not using it for sleep tracking as, perversely, I tend to get a less restful night when I’m wearing a tracker. Even with non-contact sleep tracking, though, I’ve been left with the same uncertainty as to what exactly I’m meant to do with all that generated data.

The Apple Watch’s health rings, in contrast, need no explaining. They’ve been around since the first generation of the wearable, of course; with my own renewed focus on them, I feel like I’m finally arriving late to the party. Like discovering your new favorite show, when everyone else has already watched up to season 5.

Prior to Apple Watch Series 6, completing my rings – there are three, for general movement in calories, active exercise in minutes, and a count of standing time tracked per hour – was the weekend exception, not the daily rule. The semi-regular reminders from watchOS were a low-level guilt trip. “Your Move ring is usually much further along than this, Chris,” on Monday, twisting the sword after a morning glued to my laptop screen.

There is something about a pandemic, it turns out, to make you think more about health and fragility. When the Peloton arrived I had thirty days to decide whether to keep it or return it, and the Apple Watch proved the perfect way to hold me to my commitment to at least give regular exercise a proper shot.

At the same time, some of the Series 6’s unique talents like blood oxygen monitoring had taken on a new dimension when half the headlines are suddenly about a new, semi-mysterious respiratory infection. I’d already ordered an SpO2 meter – a little clip that fixes to your fingertip and claims to calculate your current saturation level of oxygen in your bloodstream – and now I could echo that with Apple Watch readings too. That the two typically concurred was reassuring; in my early days of post-exercise breathlessness, I could check to see if my lungs’ apparent struggle was from general unhealthiness rather than COVID-specificity.

None of this would’ve been sticky enough had the watch not been so firmly embedded into the rest of my day, of course. It’s hard, nearly impossible in fact, to argue with the idea that the Apple Watch provides the best smartwatch experience at the moment. To the point, indeed, that I know people who use an iPhone primarily because they want an Apple Watch, not the other way around.

As ever, it’s an adjunct to that smartphone, not a replacement. My wrist is a buzz of regular notifications; to actually do much in response to them I’m still pulling out my iPhone. I think of the Apple Watch as part of a triage system, minimizing phone distractions rather than removing them completely.

Siri remains, well, Siri for better or worse. I’ve found Apple’s assistant is more useful now that HomeKit, the company’s smart home platform, has spread and is compatible with more devices, since being able to trigger scenes with a voice command to my wrist makes living with connected lights, music, and shades more straightforward to navigate.

Battery life seems better than my old Apple Watch Series 5, though it’s worth noting that my stationary bike tracking isn’t placing demands on the wearable’s GPS sensor. Still, even when I’ve mixed things up and gone for extended hikes, I’ve never put the watch on its charger at the end of the day and had less than a quarter of its power still remaining. Usually there’s even more than that.

Apple Watch Series 6 Verdict

I’d always internally sneered at people excited at the idea of continuing a streak of activity on their Apple Watch. With my own now approaching 200 days, though, I’ve had the belated realization that such people aren’t just Pavlov’s dogs, in thrall to their wearable. Setting goals is hard, and sticking to them is harder, especially during a period where the rules and structure of daily life are somehow both strict and nebulous at the same time.

You may well be reading this and nodding, wondering why it took me so long to catch on myself. For you, the Apple Watch Series 6 offers a longer battery and useful, though not essential, blood oxygen monitoring. If you’re on a Series 4 or earlier, it’s worth the upgrade; if you already have a Series 5, I’d wait to see what the next-generation brings.

Though the Apple Watch SE remains my budget pick as an all-rounder, stepping up to the Series 6 does bring niceties like the always-on display, along with ECG and blood oxygen tracking, which I think are more than worth the extra outlay. If you’re like me, and you have plenty of good intentions but struggle with the consistency of implementation, then the Apple Watch is a well-rounded way to nudge you back on track.

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Categories
Game

E3 2021: 8 Games We Are Expecting to See at the Show

The E3 season has definitely snuck up on us. It feels like just yesterday we were all still bundled up in our winter clothes, and suddenly — bam! Now our days will be filled with refreshing livestreams of big game announcements. Until the event begins, we can only speculate as to what will be shown, which is a time-honored E3 tradition in its own right. So while we are waiting for the actual announcements, let’s ponder on the games we’re likely to see on the E3 floor … well, the digital one, that is.

Starfield

This one has been a long time coming. Starfield is Bethesda’s next big sci-fi game. The publisher announced Starfield at E3 2018, but there hasn’t been much new information about it since. Bethesda’s Todd Howard has stated that a good portion of the game is currently playable, but we have not seen anything new since the vague 2018 teaser trailer. It has been heavily hinted that Starfield will be a centerpiece for the Bethesda conference at this year’s E3, so it’s a safe bet that we will see at least something about this game during Microsoft and Bethesda’s joint showcase.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2

Speaking of games that only have one trailer, Breath of the Wild 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, will most likely get some love this year at E3. Earlier this year, Nintendo held a Nintendo Direct that talked about the Legend of Zelda’s 35th anniversary, but the company explicitly stated that It had no news about Breath of the Wild 2. Maybe that means Nintendo is saving it for E3 this year.

Elden Ring

The theme for these first three titles is clearly games that have only had a trailer announcement followed by at least a year of silence. Elden Ring is an upcoming action RPG from the minds of FromSoftware and George R. R. Martin — truly the peanut butter and chocolate combination of fantasy worlds. The trailer was released in 2019 and we have not heard anything official since, only whispers and rumors. This year’s E3 is the perfect time for FromSoftware to take the stage to give us more information about this wildly anticipated action roleplaying game.

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite Warthog

To give some context about Halo Infinite, we knew that it was in development since before the Xbox Series X and Series S had official names. Fortunately, unlike the first three games on this list, we have had more than just one trailer for Halo Infinite. Since 2018, we have learned the scope of the game and how it is going to be the last Halo game for 10 years. Don’t worry: The plan is for the title to get frequent updates, similar to Destiny. Originally planned as a launch title for the Xbox Series X, it still has no specific release date. Now, all we know is that it will be released later this year. Since there is still a bit of ambiguity, this year’s E3 is a perfect place to settle that matter and see some more gameplay.

Splatoon 3

Let us jump back to the world of Nintend and talk about Splatoon 3. Announced earlier this year, the third installment in the “kid-now/squid-now” paint series will be taking a bigger focus on single-player content. In the announcement trailer, we saw a vast ruined desert, a complete departure from the lively and colorful Inkopolis. Nintendo hooked us with the mystery of the single-player campaign; now it’s time for it to reel us in with some juicy multiplayer content at this year’s E3.

Dragon Age 4

It has been almost seven years since the last installment of the Dragon Age series. A myriad of unanswered questions were left for players to fixate on for far too long. We got a small teaser last year with an animated title trailer and news that the game will be removing the multiplayer mode and only focusing on single-player content. Fans are incredibly curious to see what the game will actually look lik, and E3 this year is a great place to do that.

Skull & Bones

This is another game that has seen little information and multiple delays, but it has still captured the hearts of many players who are drooling for some visceral ship-to-ship combat. Skull & Bones was announced at the Ubisoft press conference in 2017 with an eye-catching trailer that focused on everyone’s favorite part of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag (besides the sea shanties): Ship combat. Sadly, we didn’t hear much about the game after that save for  news of a delay. It was then pushed back one more time to late 2021. Well, it is now mid-2021 and we still don’t know too much about it. Hopefully, Ubisoft will spend at least some time in its press conference showing off more of that sweet ship battle gameplay.

Dragon Quest 12: The Flames of Fate

OK, hare me out. We know that the game was literally just announced a couple of days ago, and only as a title teaser. However, one could assume that Square Enix wanted to wait for E3 to show off more of the game. The 35th-anniversary stream and E3 happened to be very close to each other, so the timing would make sense. Square Enix will be presenting games at E3 this year, so this is in the realm of possibility. 

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

Asapp releases dataset to help develop better customer service AI

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


For call center applications, dialogue state tracking (DST) has historically served as a way to determine what a caller wants at a given point in a conversation. But in the real world, the work of a call center agent is much more complex than simply recognizing intents. Agents often have to look up knowledge base articles, review customer histories, and inspect account details all at the same time. Yet none of these aspects is accounted for in popular DST benchmarks. A more realistic environment might use a “dual constraint,” in which an agent needs to accommodate customer requests while considering company policies when taking actions.

In an effort to address this, AI research-driven customer experience company Asapp is releasing Action-Based Conversations Dataset (ABCD), a dataset designed to help develop task-oriented dialogue systems for customer service applications. ABCD contains more than 10,000 human-to-human labeled dialogues with 55 intents requiring sequences of actions constrained by company policies to accomplish tasks.

According to Asapp, ABCD differs from other datasets in that it asks call center agents to adhere to a set of policies. With the dataset, the company proposes two new tasks:

  • Action State Tracking (AST), which keeps track of dialogue state when an action has taken place during that turn.
  • Cascading Dialogue Success (CDS), a measure of an AI system’s ability to understand actions in context as a whole, which includes the context from other utterances.

AST ostensibly improves upon DST metrics by detecting intents from customer utterances while taking into account agent guidelines. For example, if a customer is entitled to a discount and requests 30% off, but the guidelines stipulate 15%, it would make 30% an apparantly reasonable — but ultimately flawed — choice. To measure a system’s ability to understand these situations, AST adopts overall accuracy as an evaluation metric.

Meanwhile, CDS aims to gauge a system’s skill at understanding actions in context. Whereas AST assumes an action occurs in the current turn, CDS first predicts the type of turn (e.g., utterances, actions, and endings) and then its subsequent details. When the turn is an utterance, the detail is to respond with the best sentence chosen from a list of possible sentences. When the turn is an action, the detail is to choose the appropriate values. And when the turn is an ending, the system should know to end the conversation, according to Asapp.

A CDS score is calculated on every turn, and the system is evaluated based on the percent of remaining steps correctly predicted, averaged across all available turns.

Improving customer experiences

The ubiquity of smartphones and messaging apps — and the constraints of the pandemic — have contributed to increased adoption of conversational technologies. Fifty-six percent of companies told Accenture in a survey that conversational bots and other experiences are driving disruption in their industry. And a Twilio study showed that 9 out of 10 consumers would like the option to use messaging to contact a business.

Even before the pandemic, autonomous agents were on the way to becoming the rule rather than the exception, partly because consumers prefer it that way. According to research published last year by Vonage subsidiary NewVoiceMedia, 25% of people prefer to have their queries handled by a chatbot or other self-service alternative. And Salesforce says roughly 69% of consumers choose chatbots for quick communication with brands.

Unlike other large open-domain dialogue datasets, which are typically built for more general chatbot entertainment purposes, ABCD focuses on increasing the count and diversity of actions and text within the domain of customer service. Call center contributors to the dataset were incentivized through cash bonuses, mimicking the service environments and realistic agent behavior, according to Asapp.

Rather than relying on datasets that expand upon an array of knowledge base lookup actions, ABCD presents a corpus for building more in-depth and task-oriented dialogue systems, Asapp says. The company expects that the dataset and new tasks will create opportunities for researchers to explore better and more reliable models for task-oriented dialogue systems.

“For customer service and call center applications, it is time for both the research community and industry to do better. Models relying on DST as a measure of success have little indication of performance in real-world scenarios, and discerning customer experience leaders should look to other indicators grounded in the conditions that actual call center agents face,” the company wrote in a press release. “We can’t wait to see what the community creates from this dataset. Our contribution to the field with this dataset is another major step to improving machine learning models in customer service.”

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Computing

This Asus Chromebook Is So Cheap We Thought It Was A Mistake

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If you need to buy a new laptop, you’ll likely come across a great offer from today’s Memorial Day sales. This year’s Memorial Day laptop deals cater to a variety of budget ranges, but if you want a machine that’s very cheap but reliable, you might want to move away from traditional laptops and go with a Chromebook. If you’re interested, the Asus C423 Chromebook is available from Walmart with a $30 discount, further lowering its price to $239 from its original price of $269.

The Asus C423 is powered by the dual-core Intel Celeron N3350 processor with 4GB of RAM ad 64GB of eMMC storage. The Chromebook features a 14-inch HD screen with 1366 x768 resolution, for a clear look at the documents that you’re working on and the websites that you’re browsing. Asus also promises up to 10 hours of battery life, which should be more than enough time for you to plug in the Chromebook to charge if you’re using it on the go.

The Asus C423 and its fellow Chromebooks are named as such because they’re powered by Google’s Chrome OS, which is basically the Chrome browser that’s reworked to function as an operating system. These computers heavily depend on web-based apps instead of software that needs to be installed. While this means that you need an internet connection to maximize Chromebooks, it also translates to low overhead, resulting in quick startups and snappy performance without needing high-end components.

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With the Asus C423, you can install Android apps from the Google Play Store to complement the Chrome OS native apps, for a complete suite of software for daily functions such as word processing, browsing social media and other websites, and checking emails. If these constitute most of your daily activities, then the Asus C423 may be your perfect companion.

Chromebooks are a cheaper alternative to traditional laptops, and if you think they’ll work out for you, you should take advantage of this Memorial Day deal for the Asus C423. Walmart is currently selling the Chromebook at $30 off, bringing its price down to an even more affordable $239, from its original price of $269. If you’re already looking forward to the benefits of owning a Chromebook, you shouldn’t hesitate on buying the Asus C423

We strive to help our readers find the best deals on quality products and services, and we choose what we cover carefully and independently. The prices, details, and availability of the products and deals in this post may be subject to change at anytime. Be sure to check that they are still in effect before making a purchase.

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