Categories
Game

Nintendo’s ‘Splatoon 3’ widgets put stats and stages on your phone screen

Nintendo’s approach to online gaming has sometimes been awkward (having to use your phone just to chat, for example), but it just took an important step forward. The Verge reports Nintendo has updated the Switch Online apps for Android and iOS with Splatoon 3 home screen widgets. You can quickly review your recent game stats, gaze at your screenshot album and check the stage schedule to see when a favorite game mode will come into the rotation.

You can only slightly customize the widgets, and some occupy more screen real estate than others. You’ll need to clear some room if you want the stage schedule, while the photo album is relatively small. iPhone owners can also forget about iOS 16 lock screen widgets.

You’ll need a Switch Online subscription to use these features, although that isn’t surprising when they’re tied to the Splatoon 3 multiplayer experience. When combined with the game’s matchmaking improvements over Splatoon 2, though, they indicate that Nintendo is getting the hang of internet gaming.

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Categories
Computing

Meta made DALL-E for video, and it’s both creepy and amazing

Meta unveiled a crazy artificial intelligence model that allows users to turn their typed descriptions into video. The system is called Make-A-Video and is the latest in a trend of AI generated content on the web.

The system accepts short descriptions like “a robot surfing a wave in the ocean” or “clown fish swimming through the coral reef” and dynamically generates a short GIF of the description. There are even three different styles of videos to choose from: surreal, realistic, and stylized.

An artist’s brush painting on a canvas close up

According to a Facebook post by Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, translating written text into video is much harder because of how video requires movement:

“It’s much harder to generate video than photos because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they’ll change over time. Make-A-Video solves this by adding a layer of unsupervised learning that enables the system to understand motion in the physical world and apply it to traditional text-to-image generation.”

A young couple walking in a heavy rain

Meta’s AI Research team wrote a paper describing how the system works and how it differs from current text-to-image (T2I) methods. Unlike other machine language models, Meta’s Text-to-Video (T2V) method doesn’t use pre-defined text-video pairs. For example, it doesn’t pair “man walking” with a video of an actual man walking.

If this sounds a lot like DALL-E, the popular T2I application, you wouldn’t be far off. Other T2I applications have rolled out since DALL-E gained popularity. TikTok released a filter in August called AI Greenscreen that generates painting style images based on the words you type.

A fluffy baby sloth with an orange knitted hat trying to figure out a laptop close up highly detailed studio lighting screen reflecting in its eye

AI-generated content has become quite buzzworthy within the last few years. Deepfake technology, machine learning techniques to replace a person’s face with another, is even used by visual effects studios for big budget shows like The Mandalorian.

In July, The Times mistakenly reported on a Ukrainian woman in the midst of the Russia-Ukraine war. The problem is she wasn’t real.

The threat of AI probably isn’t a real threat, but projects like DALL-E and Make-A-Video are fun explorations into some of the interesting possibilities.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Security

This dangerous hacking tool is now on the loose

A dangerous post-exploitation toolkit, first used for cybersecurity purposes, has now been cracked and leaked to hacking communities.

The toolkit is being shared across many different websites, and the potential repercussions could be huge now that it can fall into the hands of various threat actors.

Bleeping Computer

This could be bad. The post-exploitation toolkit in question, called Brute Ratel C4, was initially created by Chetan Nayak. Nayak is an ex-red teamer, meaning that his job included attempting to breach the securities of a given network, which was being actively defended by those on the blue team. Afterward, both teams discuss how it went and whether there are some security flaws to improve upon.

Brute Ratel was created for that exact purpose. It was made for “red teamers” to use, with the ultimate purpose of being able to execute commands remotely on a compromised network. This would then grant the attacker access to the rest of the network in an easier way.

Cobalt Strike is seen as a similar tool to Brute Ratel, and that tool has been heavily abused by ransomware gangs, which is why it’s fairly easy to detect. Brute Ratel has not been quite as widely spread up until now, and it has a licensing verification system that mostly kept the hackers at bay. Nayak is able to revoke the license of any company found to be fake or misusing the tool.

Unfortunately, that’s now a thing of the past, because a cracked version of the tool started to circulate. It was first uploaded to VirusTotal in its uncracked state, but a Russian group called Molecules was able to crack it and entirely remove the licensing requirement from it. This means that now, any potential hacker can get their hands on it if they know where to look.

Will Thomas, a cyber threat intelligence researcher, published a report on the cracked version of the tool. It has already spread to many English and Russian-speaking communities, including CryptBB, RAMP, BreachForums, Exploit[.]in, Xss[.]is, and Telegram and Discord groups.

Person typing on a computer keyboard.

“There are now multiple posts on multiple of the most populated cybercrime forums where data brokers, malware developers, initial access brokers, and ransomware affiliates all hang out,” said Thomas in the report. In a conversation with Bleeping Computer, Thomas said that the tool works and no longer requires a license key.

Thomas explained the potential dangers of the tech, saying, “One of the most concerning aspects of the BRC4 tool for many security experts is its ability to generate shellcode that is undetected by many EDR and AV products. This extended window of detection evasion can give threat actors enough time to establish initial access, begin lateral movement, and achieve persistence elsewhere.”

Knowing that this powerful tool is out there, in the hands of hackers who should never have gained access to it, is definitely scary. Let’s hope that antivirus software developers can tighten the defenses against Brute Ratel soon enough.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

How AI predicts hurricanes and answers calls for help in their aftermath

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Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in southwestern Florida yesterday with 150-mile-per-hour winds, knocking out power for millions of residents. The near-category 5 storm is being called one of the most powerful storms to strike the United States in decades. But officials say artificial intelligence (AI) is a new weapon in the fight to keep the lines of communication open during a disaster and also better predict the intensity of hurricanes in the future.

With emergency hotlines, hospitals and utility call centers being inundated with calls, speaking with a voicebot during a time fraught with anxiety and fear can help, said Sourabh Gupta, CEO of augmented voice intelligence platform Skit. (He added that Skit is not being used as an aid with Hurricane Ian.)

“Voice AI is capable of handling context-specific, effective conversations with customers, with no need for human intervention,’’ Gupta told VentureBeat. “In a sensitive or dangerous situation, voice AI can be used to provide customers with crucial information in real-time, answer questions and redirect the more complex calls to a human agent.”

Voice AI is faster and more efficient than the more traditional interactive voice response (IVR) technology at providing time-sensitive information and redirecting inbound calls to the right party, because it can handle a human-sounding, two-way interaction with customers, Gupta said.

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The digital voice agent also sounds natural and empathetic, Gupta said. “Because of the agility of the technology, new use cases and conversational flows can be easily added through the platform on an ongoing basis.”

Augmented voice intelligence platforms like Skit are designed to help businesses modernize their contact centers by automating and improving voice communications at scale. “By enabling preemptive, intelligent problem-solving and seamless live interactions, we help businesses across industries streamline their contact center operations, reduce costs and enhance customer experience,’’ Gupta said.

The platform can be easily integrated with other applications and offers detailed metrics and analytics, according to Gupta. It supports multilingual, natural-sounding conversations that can be hyper-personalized depending on the use case and customer, he added.

Skit’s digital voice agent “can handle an unlimited number of inbound calls simultaneously, eliminating wait times, which can be particularly frustrating at a time of need,’’ Gupta said. “By handling the most common customer queries, the digital voice agent boosts the contact center’s containment rate and reroutes the most complex calls to a human agent.”

This does not take away jobs, Gupta said. “The voice AI is designed to lighten the workload of customer service employees and augment their work, rather than take over their jobs entirely. We predict that AI will enhance existing products, help organizations and employees maximize productivity by improving accuracy, and simplify existing processes.”

Gupta claimed that voice AI will “advance customer service and customer experiences as a whole” and actually help create new types of jobs. 

“For instance, the Skit digital voice agent helps automate nonproductive calls, allowing the workforce to focus on more value-added tasks,’’ he said. This creates better opportunities for human agents to focus on more significant and diverse functions.

Using AI to stay ahead of the storm

Before there’s a weather emergency, AI is also used to develop forecasting models that can help more accurately predict when, where and how strongly hurricanes may strike. 

In 2021, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed a model to better predict hurricane intensity in both the near future and under future climate scenarios. The team used deep learning techniques to develop the model, which can, on average, more accurately predict hurricane intensity relative to models used at the national level — running on a commercial laptop, according to the PNNL.

The researchers fed information to algorithms that can detect relationships between hurricane behavior and climate factors like heat stored within the ocean, wind speed and air temperature, the PNNL said. The algorithms then form predictions about which path a storm may take, how strong it could become and how quickly it could intensify. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the intensity of hurricanes will rise, on average, by 1% to 10% in a warmer future, bringing with them greater destruction, according to models that project two degrees Celsius of global warming. So being able to predict where a hurricane will hit and how strong it will be could make all the difference in evacuating the right people at the right time.

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Categories
Game

‘Wild Hearts’ is EA’s answer to Monster Hunter

You’ll soon have an alternative if the Monster Hunter games are feeling a bit stale. EA and Dynasty Warriors creator Omega Force have introduced Wild Hearts, a feudal Japan-inspired twist on the beast slaying formula. You (and your friends, in co-op) take on giant creatures using not just the usual bows and swords, but gadgets you build on the spot. You can craft giant mines that explode when a monster draws near, or harpoons that hold these enemies in place.

Omega Force isn’t a stranger to the concept. It developed the monster-slaying Toukiden franchise in the 2010s. In that sense, the team is mainly refining an experience it has been developing for years.

Wild Hearts will arrive on February 17th, 2023 for PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC (via Epic Games Store, Origin and Steam). You’ll learn more about the gameplay in an “extended” debut on October 5th. It’s too soon to say if the game will be derivative or a fresh take, but it could serve as a welcome fix for Monster Hunter fans who’ve exhausted the most recent titles and are looking for more.

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Categories
Computing

Even Twitter wants to be like TikTok now

Is TikTok the new queen bee of social media? It appears so as even Twitter couldn’t resist copying TikTok. Twitter’s latest feature announcement seems to be yet another indication that the viral video app sensation is clearly the new leader among its peers. After all, TikTok is setting trends and its competitors are all following them.

On Thursday, Twitter announced two new video-focused features for its app and one of those features bears a strong resemblance to TikTok. That feature (known as the “immersive media viewer”) allows users to open videos in a vertical “full-screen mode” — just like TikTok — and continue to view more videos by swiping up (also just like TikTok).

Twitter, Inc.

Twitter’s blog post announcement said that the immersive media viewer feature is expected to be “available in the coming days” for users on Twitter for iOS who use Twitter in English.

The second new video-focused feature Twitter announced is a new video carousel that can be found in the Explore tab. Basically, it’s a section called “Videos for you” that displays a series of popular videos you may want to check out. This feature is available now for “people in select countries using Twitter in English on iOS and Android.”

(I did test out the new features on an Android device, and while the immersive media viewer didn’t seem to work (as expected) for videos featured in tweets, it did seem to work for me when I viewed videos in the new video carousel feature in the Explore screen. Via the video carousel, I was able to view some — but not all — videos in full-screen mode and I was able to swipe up to see more videos.)

Twitter is not the first social media platform to copy TikTok. Instagram is well-known for trying to do so — only to be met with quite the backlash. Facebook has also tried to catch up to TikTok’s success with its own take on video content, Facebook Reels. And YouTube is doing its best to have its creators start making their short-form video content for YouTube with its own version of TikTok videos called Shorts.

You would think Twitter would learn from Instagram’s mistakes. Especially since some of the backlash against Instagram’s TikTok-inspired changes found a home on the bird app itself, as those who wanted to complain about the changes took to Twitter to do so.

Editors’ Choice






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Categories
Computing

Save over $1,000 on gaming PC from Alienware clearance sale

Enter the world of PC gaming or upgrade from an outdated CPU with Dell’s offer for the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop. The powerful machine is yours for just $1,400 instead of its original price of $2,490, for savings of $1,090 that you can spend on gaming monitor deals and games to play. Alienware deals like this don’t happen often, and when they do, they get sold out quickly. It’s highly recommended that you finalize your purchase as soon as possible, while the discount is still online.

Why you should buy the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop

Alienware is a Dell-owned brand that’s focused on gaming products, and it’s making a name for itself with machines like the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop. It checks all the right boxes in Digital Trends’ guide on how to buy a gaming desktop with its AMD Ryzen 7 5800 processor and AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT graphics card, plus 16 GB of RAM that’s considered the best place to start for a gaming PC in our separate guide on how much RAM do you need. It’s also designed to make it easy if you eventually want to upgrade its components, which is one of the main benefits of a gaming desktop over other platforms.

The Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop features a 1TB SSD boot drive and a 1TB SATA for storage, with Windows 11 Home pre-installed so that you can start using it right away after hooking it up to the necessary peripherals. If you find yourself playing games for several hours, you don’t have to worry about overheating because the gaming PC comes with a thermal design that includes four 10mm copper heat pipes with integrated vapor chambers, a dual-axial fan, and an improved airflow pattern.

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a decent gaming computer because there are gaming PC deals like Dell’s $1,090 discount for the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop. You only have to pay $1,400, which is nearly half the machine’s original price of $2,490. We’re not sure how long the gaming PC’s stocks will last in this clearance sale though, so you better act fast if you don’t want to regret missing out on this offer for the Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 Gaming Desktop.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

Humans must have override power over military AI

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For years, U.S. defense officials and Washington think-tankers alike have debated whether the future of our military could — or should — look a little less human.

Already, the U.S. military has started to rely on technology that employs machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data — raising ethical questions along the way. While these technologies have countless beneficial applications, ranging from threat assessment to preparing troops for battle, they rightfully evoke concerns about a future in which Terminator-like machines take over.

But pitting man against machine misses the point. There’s room for both in our military future — as long as machines aid human decision-making, rather than replace it.

Military AI and machine learning are here

Machine learning technology, a type of AI that allows computer systems to process enormous data sets and “learn” to recognize patterns, has rapidly gained steam across many industries. The systems can comb through massive amounts of data from multiple sources and then make recommendations based on the patterns it senses — all in a matter of seconds.

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That makes AI and machine learning useful tools for humans who need to make well-thought-out decisions at a moment’s notice. Consider doctors, who may only have a few minutes with each patient but must make potentially life-altering diagnoses. Some hospitals are using AI and machine learning to identify heart disease and lung cancer before a patient ever shows symptoms.

The same goes for military leaders. When making a strategic choice that could have a human cost, officials must be able to process all the available data as quickly as possible to make the most informed decision.

AI is helping them do so. Some systems, for example, can take two-dimensional surveillance images and create a detailed, three-dimensional model of a space. That helps officials chart a safe path forward for their troops through a previously unexplored area.

A human thumbs-up

Whether in an emergency room or on the battlefield, these machine learning applications have one thing in common. They do not have the power to make an ultimate decision. In the end, it’s the doctor’s decision to make a diagnosis — and the officer’s decision to give an order.

Companies developing new military AI or machine learning technologies have a responsibility to help keep it that way. They can do so by outfitting their innovations with a few critical guardrails.

For one, humans must have the power to override AI at any point. Computer algorithms may be able to analyze piles of data and provide helpful recommendations for action. But machines can’t possibly grasp the complexity or novelty of the ever-changing factors influencing a strategic operation.

Only humans have the ability to think through the long-term consequences of military action. Therefore humans must be able to decline a machine’s recommendations.

Companies developing military AI should give users options to make decisions manually, without technological support; in a semi-automated fashion; or in a fully automated manner, with the ability to override. The goal should be to develop AI that complements — rather than eliminates the need for — uniquely human decision-making capabilities that enable troops to respond effectively to unforeseen circumstances.

A peaceful transfer of power

Military machine learning systems also need a clear chain of command. Most United States military technologies are developed by private firms that contract with the U.S. government. When the military receives those machines, it’s often forced to rely on the private firm for ongoing support and upkeep of the system.

That shouldn’t be the case. Companies in the defense industry should build AI systems and computer algorithms so that military officials can one day assume full control over the technology. That will ensure a smooth transition between the contractor and the military — and that the AI has a clear sense of goals free of any conflicts of interest.

To keep military costs low, AI systems and machine learning programs should be adaptable, upgradeable and easy to install across multiple applications. This will enable officials to move the technology from vehicle to vehicle and utilize the its analysis at a moment’s notice as well. It will also allow military personnel to develop more institutional knowledge about the system, enabling them to better understand and respond to the AI’s recommendations.

In the same vein, companies can continue working on algorithms that can explain why they made a certain recommendation — just as any human can. That technology could help to develop a better sense of trust in and more efficient oversight of AI systems.

Military decision-making doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. With the right guardrails, AI systems and machine learning algorithms can help commanders make the most informed decisions possible — and stave off a machine-controlled future in the process.

Kristin Robertson is president of Space and C2 Systems at Raytheon Intelligence & Space.

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Categories
Game

Valve ditches Steam’s Lunar New Year sale in favor of a spring edition

Over the last year, Valve has been more forthcoming about plans for its biggest Steam sales, including by . The company says the cadence will change starting in 2023. It will replace the Lunar New Year sale (which debuted in 2016) with the spring sale, which will run from March 16th to 23rd.

Valve said a spring sale was a popular request from developers and publishers, many of whom believed that the Lunar New Year edition (which typically took place in late January or early February) ran too close to the December holiday sale. “It will allow us to create more space between our four major seasonal sales and provide more opportunities throughout the year for developers to expand and execute their discounting calendar,” . “We think many publishers will still opt to discount games around the Lunar New Year holiday, using the custom discount tools. But we suspect customers will be better served by a little bit more time between the big Steam-wide seasonal sales.”

This makes sense, as the winter sale is arguably one of Steam’s two biggest events of the year, alongside the summer one. Spacing things out more could be helpful for developers and publishers (that said, there’s not much time between the autumn and winter editions). Moreover, this move will shorten what was a lengthy gap between the Lunar New Year and summer sales, which could be handy for those who receive a and don’t want to wait too long to pick up a ton of discounted games for it.

Meanwhile, Valve reiterated the dates for the next two major sales. The autumn edition will run from November 22nd to 29th, while the blockbuster winter sale will take place between December 22nd and January 5th.

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Categories
Computing

Logitech’s new Mac accessories are undeniably pretty

Logitech’s latest collection of Mac accessories includes two new mice as well as a mechanical keyboard option and a new color option in its K380 series. The new Mac peripherals are accompanied by an updated software option that is intended to be the customization suite for all of the brand’s products.

The several interesting options touch unique points for Mac users, from comfort, to fast charging, to interesting colors, and sustainability. Check out more details about Logitech’s new Mac accessory lineup.

MX Mechanical Mini Keyboard for Mac

The MX Mechanical Mini Keyboard for Mac is Logitech’s first mechanical keyboard optimized for Mac. The keyboard introduces to the mechanical form factor many features that are already popular on Logitech Mac accessories, including USB-C, C2C charging, and long battery life.

Additionally, the keyboard features smart backlighting, connectivity, and switching for up to three Apple devices, the ability to charge while working, and a myriad of customizations via the Logi Options+ app. The MX Mechanical Mini Keyboard for Mac sells for $150.

K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard for Mac (Blueberry)

The Blueberry color for the K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth for Mac is a new option added to the White and Rose color that has already been available. The K380 is known for being light, portable, minimalist, and wireless. It can also connect up to three other devices via Bluetooth simultaneously.

For example, the keyboard can connect to an iPhone, tablet, and PC at once and switch with the push of a button. The K380 also supports customizable F keys through Logitech’s new Logi Options+ app and can additionally support up to two years of battery life. The K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth for Mac in Blueberry sells for $40.

Lift Vertical Ergonomic Mouse for Mac

The Lift Vertical Ergonomic Mouse for Mac aims to blend well-formed ergonomics into a compact product that gives ideal functionality and productivity for Mac users, with really high attention to Apple-level design and user experience. Ergonomic options for Mac are an underrepresented category intended for users with medium to small hands. Logitech focused on ensuring that the mouse worked as perfectly as possible out of the box with features such as two-year battery life, quiet clicks, a silent and new silent magnetic smart wheel, and optimized Bluetooth connectivity for up to three devices.

Various features on the mouse can also be customized via the downloadable Logi Options+ app, which allows you to configure the accessory to your preference. The mouse was also made with 54% recycled plastic as part of Logitech’s sustainability measures. The Lift Vertical Ergonomic Mouse for Mac sells for $70.

MX Master 3S Mouse for Mac

The MX Master 3S Mouse for Mac is an upgraded model that comes in Space Gray and Tailgate color options to match the common Apple ecosystem. Despite being a mechanical mouse, it has gotten several technological advancements from its predecessor including higher sensitivity. The MX Master 3S has an 8,000 DPI sensor, in comparison to the 4,000 DPI sensor in the prior model, which can be useful for creatives or those who work with high-resolution screens. The mouse also features quiet clicks, with 90% quieter clicks than its predecessor to be exact, plus an ultra-fast scroll wheel.

Logitech MX Master 3S Mouse for Mac.Logitech MX Master 3S Mouse for Mac.

The shape of the mouse is intended for intuitive handling; however, the buttons are also customizable via the Logi Options+ app. It is powered by USB-C, allowing users to also charge the mouse while working. There is a quick-charge ability, which provides three hours of use in just a one-minute charge. The MX Master 3S Mouse for Mac sells for $100.

Logi Options+ app

The Logi Options+ app is the next generation of Logitech’s customization application that is launching alongside these products. The app was first released in May but has since been updated to be a singular platform-customization app for all Logitech products.

Logitech Logi Options+ app.

The downloadable app allows you to do things such as the battery life of connected products. You can customize the keys of keyboards and mice in a number of different ways, including setting F keys to various functions in one program, such as a browser, and to a completely different function in another program, such as Photoshop.

The MX Mechanical Mini, K380 (Blueberry), Lift Vertical Ergonomic, and MX Master 3S are all compatible with the Logi Options+ app out of the box and more Logitech accessories will gain compatibility at a later date.

Editors’ Choice




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