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Game

Windows 11 adds support for Auto HDR, VRR in windowed games

The Windows 11 2022 update is launching today, and while it’s a mostly behind-the-scenes update for most PCs, gamers have a few new features to look forward to. First up, Microsoft is adding support for Auto HDR, VRR (variable refresh rates) and better latency for windowed games. Previously, those were only features you could use in full-screen mode. The change should be a boon to streamers and anyone who wants to multitask while clearing their Halo Infinite dailies.

Controller Bar in the Windows 11 2022 update

Microsoft

And speaking of HDR, you can now tweak your monitor’s settings more easily with an improved HDR calibration tool. Auto HDR is also headed to more titles, which should be great news if you (literally) want to see older games in a new light. Less significantly, the Xbox Game Bar is being transformed into a new Windows Controller Bar, which will show your recently played games and launchers. You can access that by hitting the Xbox button on an Xbox controller (or a third-party equivalent).

While none of these are ground-breaking changes, they all go towards making Windows 11 a better environment for PC gamers. (Let’s just hope we get a more flexible way to install games from the Microsoft Store eventually.)

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Game

Fortnite’s new season adds chrome-powered abilities and Gwen from ‘Into the Spider-Verse’

With fall quickly approaching, Fortnite is ready to say goodbye to its summer-themed “Vibin” season. Dubbed Paradise, season four of chapter three introduces one of the most significant gameplay tweaks to the game since Epic made the Zero Build mode a permanent part of Fortnite’s rotation in March.

A new substance called Chrome is taking over the island, and you can use it to your advantage to gain a jump on other players. You can throw Chrome vials on walls to pass through them and at your feet to turn yourself into a blob that is faster and immune to fire and fall damage. As a Chrome blob, you also gain the ability to air dash, allowing you to close distance on your enemies quickly.

Chrome has changed the island too. You’ll find a new point of interest called the Herald’s Sanctum by the abandoned Sanctuary. Other locations, such as Condo Canyon, now float in the air as they try to find safety from the substance. Smaller gameplay tweaks include a buff to sniper rifles. Oh, and sliding into other players will now knock them back.

Of course, a new season also means a new battle pass, and this one comes with no shortage of cool skins. The obvious highlight is Spider-Gwen, but there’s also a nifty skater cat and what looks like a bear within a werewolf costume for players to unlock. Season four is available to play starting today.

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AI

Otter.ai adds AI-generated meeting summaries and new home feed

Otter.ai made its name as a slick, AI-powered transcription service. But as this type of automated transcription becomes more commonplace, the company is expanding its remit — adding a host of features, including AI-generated meeting summaries, with the aim of turning users’ Otter accounts into collaborative hubs for work.

The goal is to make Otter bigger than transcriptions and cater to the company’s growing number of enterprise customers. “A year ago, most of [our customers] were individuals, but more and more professionals are using it,” Otter.ai CEO Sam Liang told The Verge in an interview. “The new Otter makes it a one-stop for all your meeting contents and collaboration needs.”

When accessing accounts on the web, Otter users will now see a “home feed” that pulls together transcriptions and a calendar of upcoming meetings into a single overview. They’ll be able to jump into meetings directly from their calendar and use Otter integrations with services like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet to record and transcribe the audio.

The transcriptions can then be added to in various ways. The big new feature is AI-generated meeting summaries, which are supposed to highlight the most important moments in recordings. There’s also something Otter is calling “meeting gems.” These are parts of the transcript that have been highlighted by users, who can then tag in co-workers and add comments or tasks. Users can also now add screenshots to transcripts with a single click, making it easier to reference visual material discussed during meetings.

The most intriguing feature, though, is AI-generated meeting summaries. We haven’t been able to test this for ourselves, though even Liang admitted the tool was “far from perfect, but it’s a great start.”

The company’s software looks at a lot of different factors to decide what are the most relevant points from a meeting, says Liang. “We look at the topic words people use. We look at the speaker dynamics — who is talking and what topics they discuss […] and when did they change topic. It’s never just based on one signal — it’s always a combination.”

In a preview of the software we were shown via Zoom, the tool seemed to pick out when new topics of conversation were introduced and the speaker changed. It could potentially be a useful way to skip through relevant parts of a meeting, but it’s very unlikely the machine learning could match the knowledge of a human, who would know far more about the background and context of a meeting and its participants.

In addition to the summaries, Otter also offers a breakdown of who spends the most time in a meeting talking — a tool that could be useful when trying to balance collaboration in teams. Liang says there’s much more analysis that could be done, too (like sentiment analysis on the language used) that would let Otter expand far beyond its current space. “This is why I say Otter, potentially, has a bigger total addressable market than Zoom or other conferencing systems,” he says. “The conferencing systems just provide a way for people to talk to each other; they don’t really understand what they’re discussing.”

Other startups are already moving fast in this space, though. One called Poised promises to coach users on their presentation skills by transcribing meetings and analyzing things like their use of filler words and speaking speed. Another called Sembly offers similar AI-generated meeting summaries.

For Otter, though, the bigger threat is from juggernauts like Google and Microsoft, whose AI expertise would allow them to quickly create such features themselves and offer them to a far larger audience. (Indeed, they’re already ahead. Examples include Microsoft’s PowerPoint, which offers its own speech analysis and tips for presenters, and Google Docs, which uses AI to generate summaries and content pages.) When asked about this threat, Liang says that Otter will succeed for the reason so many startups do: it’s focused on a single product while tech giants are distracted by their sprawling interests.

“The question is: how obsessed are you?” he says. “Eric Yuan, the Zoom CEO, is, I bet, way more obsessed with video quality than the Google CEO. The Google CEO makes 99 percent of their money from Search and YouTube, so nothing else matters.”

For Otter, he says, that obsession is turning meeting transcripts into action plans. Now, the company itself has to follow through.

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Security

Apple Lockdown mode adds ‘extreme’ protection to your iPhone, iPad and Mac

Apple is taking steps to increase security for people like journalists, activists, and politicians with a new setting in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura called Lockdown Mode. This setting hardens an iPhone, iPad, or Mac’s defenses in ways that interrupt methods we’ve seen used to compromise devices for highly targeted attacks.

Lockdown Mode blocks many message attachment types, disables link previews, turns off certain web browsing technology by default, blocks invitations and FaceTime calls from unknown sources, locks down wired connections to computers or accessories while the device is locked, and disables the ability to add new configuration profiles or enroll in mobile device management (MDM).

These are the areas that we know can be vulnerable, as Google’s Project Zero team detailed how iPhones of people targeted by the Pegasus software could be compromised in a “zero-click” scenario by using a GIF to exploit iMessage in the background. Other attacks have repeatedly targeted MDM solutions or used malicious websites to exploit flaws in rendering, and Lockdown Mode closes those doors from the start.

Lockdown Mode screen in iOS 16

Lockdown Mode screen in iOS 16
Image: Apple

Apple calls it an “extreme, optional” level of protection that’s a clear response to the growing use of state-sponsored mercenary software like the Pegasus tool developed by NSO Group. Evidence of the software has been found on devices of journalists like Jamal Khashoggi. According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, Apple just released iOS 16 Developer Beta 3, which includes Lockdown Mode.

In past years, Apple had been criticized for not working with security researchers to find and close flaws in its platforms as much as other big tech companies before launching an iOS bug bounty program in 2016. It eventually expanded the program to cover other devices in 2019 while saying it would distribute special security research devices to outside researchers.

According to Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture, Ivan Krstić, “While the vast majority of users will never be the victims of highly targeted cyberattacks, we will work tirelessly to protect the small number of users who are. That includes continuing to design defenses specifically for these users, as well as supporting researchers and organizations around the world doing critically important work in exposing mercenary companies that create these digital attacks.”

While introducing the new operating systems at WWDC 2022 in June, Apple said its new Rapid Security Response feature will enable patches for security flaws that roll out faster and can take effect on a Mac without requiring a reboot. iOS 16 and macOS Ventura are also set to include support for new passkey technology that will help eliminate the use of passwords.

Other tech companies have made similar efforts in certain ways, like Google’s Advanced Protection Program for its accounts or the Super Duper Secure Mode Microsoft started testing in Edge last fall. Some small companies have also tried offering hardened devices running Android that promise protections against various vulnerabilities, but Lockdown Mode is a new level of security that will be available to millions of people once it launches with the new software updates later this year.

Even with these protections, finding vulnerabilities in the operating systems that control so many devices is a valuable endeavor, and Apple says it’s doubling the bounty for “qualifying findings” in Lockdown Mode to $2 million, which it says is the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry. Apple also says that any damages it’s awarded from a lawsuit filed last fall against NSO Group will be added to a $10 million grant to support organizations that “investigate, expose, and prevent highly targeted cyberattacks, including those created by private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”



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Game

‘Dune: Spice Wars’ early access adds multiplayer modes

Ever since we got our first look at during the , it has looked like one of the most promising videogame adaptions of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi series in a long time. If you’ve been playing the game in Steam early access, you can now look forward to fighting over Arrakis with your friends.

On Monday, developer Shiro Games the release of Spice Wars’ multiplayer update, allowing you and up to three other players to participate in 2v2 or free-for-all matches. If you can’t find enough friends or strangers to play with, the game will fill your match with computer opponents. As with the Spice Wars’ single-player component, you can tweak the difficulty of your AI foes and factors like map size, sandworm activity, and more.

Multiplayer support is the headline feature, but today’s update includes several other enhancements. Shiro has introduced additional in-game events and Landsraad resolutions that can change the course of your games. It has also added new regions to increase map diversity, and reworked building graphics, among other changes.

If you haven’t checked out Spice Wars yet, it’s currently . I’ve sunk about 30 hours into the game since it came out in early access back in April. So far, I can say Shiro has done a great job of creating an experience that feels authentic to the novels. 

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Game

PS5 update adds a TikTok-like editor to its game clips editor

Sony unveiled a new quick editing mode for PS5’s Share Factory Studio today that will allow users to create shortform gameplay videos with pre-set, Tik-Tok-like formats. In a , Sony explained the new editing feature — which it has deemed “Bits”— lets gamers choose a curated Bit style for their gameplay clip, or customize their footage even further with the “Quick Edit” mode. Players can expect new Bits styles to roll out every week. Bits themes will be based on special events, holidays, seasons and trending content.

“Our goal with Bits is to make it super easy and fun for PlayStation gamers to create and share short-form gameplay videos for sharing cool achievements, jokes, stunts, and any other type of eye-catching content,” the company in the official PlayStation blog.

For those who aren’t familiar, is PlayStation’s free editing app that lets players capture and edit gameplay footage right on their consoles and share to social media. The app is packed with advanced video and audio editing features, including support for HDR video and the ability to add animation, stickers, filters and voice effects. But for those who are overwhelmed by Share Factory Studio’s many options, Bits seems to be an easy way to churn out social media-friendly gameplay clips.

For a preview of what Bits looks like, check out the short trailer below.

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Computing

Vivaldi adds an email client and calendar into your browser

Vivaldi has just released an update introducing a number of useful features that are built into the browser itself.

Starting with today’s patch, the browser features a full-blown email client, as well as a calendar and feed reader. Should Vivaldi’s competition begin to worry?

Vivaldi is a smaller browser that many users may have not even heard of just yet. Seeing as the market is still dominated by Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari, some stat counters don’t even register Vivaldi and simply lump it in with other similar browsers. However, today’s update just might become the push that Vivaldi needed in order to gain a bit more interest from the internet at large.

Instead of utilizing separate email clients such as Microsoft Outlook or resorting to using Gmail and Google Calendar, Vivaldi users can now access all of these functionalities from within the browser. The feature, called Vivaldi Mail 1.0, sets out to do more than just be a built-in email client — which makes sense. After all, both Gmail and Outlook can be used through the browser, and accessing them is as easy as clicking a bookmark. That’s why Vivaldi seems eager to stand out a bit by making your emails easier to manage.

Perhaps the nicest feature provided by Vivaldi Mail is the fact that you can combine all of your email services into one, be it a Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo account. Vivaldi indexes all your emails, meaning that you can go back to them when you’re offline, and this applies even to emails you haven’t had the chance to open just yet. Vivaldi teases that it will automatically detect your mailing lists and mail threads, as well as give you the option to search through everything with ease.

Vivaldi also tackles an issue that many of us have, which is having too many email folders, resulting in a general sense of disorganization. The browser automatically sorts your mail into different views and folders. Each email can be placed in multiple views at once, so if several categories apply to one message, you’ll find it in the right folders.

Vivaldi

Users can swap between different views and toggle them on or off, so if you want to hide all the junk mail, you can. All of the views are visible by default, so you’ll likely want to go into the settings and disable a couple when you first set it up. The browser also provides configurable shortcuts that make it easier to compose a new email, reply to existing emails, and more.

Vivaldi’s calendar tool looks much the same as other calendars, but it lets you choose whether you want to use a local calendar or an online calendar. It can also be sorted into different views, allowing you to choose how much information you want to see per event. The built-in RSS feed also offers a range of customization options that should help you filter out the spam and keep the interesting news.

Today’s update certainly provides some interesting features, but will it be enough to truly put Vivaldi on the board? It might be, but Google and Microsoft can rest easy — their numbers are way too high for a smaller player like Vivaldi to quickly catch up. Be that as it may, this could be an interesting option for users who long for a more streamlined experience across many services.

Editors’ Choice




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Security

Google Chat adds warning banners to protect against phishing attacks

Google Chat has replaced Hangouts and will now display banners warning you against potential phishing and malware attacks coming from personal accounts, Google announced on Thursday. This tweak for Google Chat is the latest expansion of Google’s attempts to prevent phishing.

During its 2022 I/O developer conference, Google discussed several security measures it has implemented to enhance user safety, including warnings against potential security issues and recommendations to fix them. Google also laid out other plans for security measures, like expanded two-step verification, ad customization, and more data security.

Warning labels about suspicious links in Google Chat

Warning labels about suspicious links in Google Chat.
Image: Google

Google’s new warning banners first appeared in Gmail on Workspace accounts to point out attempts to lure someone with a link that could be used for malware, phishing, or ransomware. At the end of April, Google expanded the banners to Google Docs, warning users against suspected malicious files in several Google Workspace apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawing) no matter where they opened the link from.

This new feature is rolling out over the next couple of weeks, and it will be available for both personal Google accounts and for all Google Workspace customers.

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Game

‘Deathloop’ update adds much-needed accessibility options and a photo mode

Arcane Studios has released the third major update for Deathloop, which adds a slew of accessibility features. There’s now an accessibility category in the options menu that includes the previously introduced settings (some of which have been upgraded) in addition to the new ones.

Players will be able to adjust various gameplay elements, though some settings will be limited to the single-player mode — i.e., when you play as Colt and Julianna is controlled by AI rather than an invading human. These include slowing down the game speed, adjusting the number of reprises (or lives) you have and making the combat easier or harder. There are more user interface options as well, such as the ability to change the color, size and opacity of some text and graphical elements.

In addition, players will, at long last, be able to navigate menus using the directional buttons instead of having to use a cursor. What a concept! If you prefer to use a cursor through, you can now adjust its movement speed.

When Deathloop landed on PS5 and PC last September, it was widely acclaimed, with critics praising its well-constructed gameplay, art style, level design and story. However, accessibility advocates pointed out issues that made the game difficult for disabled players to enjoy, such as the text size, lack of a controller remapping option and low contrast. Hopefully, this update will address most, if not all, of their concerns.

“We are truly grateful to the players and the ally community who gave us so much feedback when Deathloop was released,” lead UI/UX designer Yoann Bazoge told the PlayStation Blog. “We took the time to read all of the accessibility reviews and watch the videos of players explaining why they couldn’t play Deathloop. We then worked on a document listing all of the feedback and drew up a roadmap of what the additions would be for Game Update 3.”

Meanwhile, Arcane has added another much-requested feature: photo mode. This will only be available in single-player mode and you’ll be able to use poses, filters and stickers. Players can switch between Colt and Julianna, and choose a different outfit or weapon to capture the exact shot they want.

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Security

FCC adds Kaspersky to its list of national security threats

The US Federal Communications Commission has added Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab to its list of entities that pose an “unacceptable risk to US national security,” according to a report from Bloomberg. This is the first time a Russian company has been added to the list, which is otherwise made up of Chinese companies, like Huawei and ZTE.

Businesses in the US are barred from using federal subsidies provided through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to purchase any products or services from the companies on the list. In addition to Kaspersky, the FCC also added China Telecom and China Mobile International USA to its list on Friday.

“I am pleased that our national security agencies agreed with my assessment that China Mobile and China Telecom appeared to meet the threshold necessary to add these entities to our list,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release (PDF). “Their addition, as well as Kaspersky Labs, will help secure our networks from threats posed by Chinese and Russian state backed entities seeking to engage in espionage and otherwise harm America’s interests.”

Kaspersky responded to the FCC’s move in a press release on its site, saying the agency’s decision was “made on political grounds” in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that the company “remains ready to cooperate with US government agencies to address the FCC’s and any other regulatory agency’s concerns.”

In 2017, Russian intelligence allegedly used Kaspersky’s antivirus software to steal classified documents from the National Security Agency — a claim denied by the Moscow-based company. Later that year, Former President Donald Trump signed a bill banning the use of Kaspersky products by federal agencies after accusing the company of having ties to the Kremlin.

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