Microsoft is testing a family plan for Xbox Game Pass

, Microsoft is starting to test an Game Pass Ultimate family plan in the wild. Xbox Insiders in Colombia and Ireland can try out the new offering, which allows them to to their plan, as long as they’re in the same country. Those folks will get access to all the benefits of Game Pass Ultimate, including a library of hundreds of titles for console, PC and cloud gaming.

If you’re in either country, you can buy the Xbox Game Pass – Insider Preview plan from the Microsoft Store, though enrolment is limited. If you’re already a Game Pass member, the time remaining on your subscription will be converted based on its monetary value. A month of Game Pass Ultimate is worth 18 days of the family plan. Parsing things out, that suggests the family plan would cost around $25 per month if Microsoft brings it to the US, or $5 per person.

You’ll need to wait for your membership to expire before moving to a different plan. People you want to invite onto a family plan will also need to cancel an existing Game Pass subscription or wait for it to run out. Alternatively, they can just create a new Microsoft account. It’s worth noting that folks with an plan aren’t eligible.

A family plan seems to make a lot of sense for Microsoft, which has positioned Game Pass at the heart of the Xbox business. This should help the company boost the service’s overall number of users, though it may come at the cost of losing some subscriptions in households with multiple Game Pass memberships or among groups of friends who split the price of a single plan.

Elsewhere, Nintendo has long offered a Switch Online family plan for both the standard and . Although Sony recently , it does not yet offer any multi-person plans.

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Xbox family app now lets parents set spending limits

You won’t have to worry about your kids going on a game shopping spree, at least if you’re part of a Windows or Xbox household. Microsoft has updated the Xbox Family Settings app with controls to manage your kids’ spending. You can set spending limits, and require that children ask permission to buy content when they don’t have the funds in their account. And if you’re wondering what your young ones bought, you can check their spending history.

Microsoft pitches this as a way not just to prevent out-of-control spending, but to reward good behavior. You can top up an account when your child finishes their chores, or reward them with money for Minecraft extras when they ace a test.

The refreshed Family Settings app is available now for Android and iOS. The spending tools aren’t exactly novel concepts, but they could make all the difference if you want to teach your kids better spending habits — or at least, save yourself from unpleasant credit card bills.

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Xbox Family Settings app can now manage kids’ spending

Gaming consoles like the Xbox are often considered to be a solitary machine for a solitary gamer, but that hasn’t been the case for the past years. Consoles have even become a means by which families spend time together at home or for kids to develop skills often associated with safe gaming. The latter is an important consideration for parents who want to give their kids access to consoles and the games available for them. The Xbox Family Settings app tries to make that task less of a chore, and its newest features promise to save parents money or prevent them from accidentally losing some.

IAPs and accidental game purchases aren’t just the banes of mobile gaming. Those can happen on any gaming platform, too, and on any age group. Xbox has provided parents and guardians with ways to monitor and manage a child’s use of the console, but parents still need more control and safeguards, especially when money is involved. The latest update to the parental control app for Android and iOS finally delivers that, allowing parents to monitor and limit spending on games.

Parents will be able to set limits on how much a child can spend when buying games or making in-app purchases. Of course, that presupposes that kids have a sort of “wallet” for buying those. The app does let parents add and view a child’s balance, allowing them to give kids a reward for good grades or chores well done.

In case their money does run out, kids can also ask their parents if they can buy a game. Parents can either buy it on their behalf or give them additional money for it. Of course, they can also deny the request.

Parents can also keep track of what their kids buy with the money given to them, in case they give them the trust and freedom to make their own purchases without having to ask every time. The app’s new features not only empower parents but also empower children to make their own decisions and earn the trust of their parents to further give them more freedom when it comes to their gaming choices.

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Tech News

Google Pixel 6 family release details leak a 5-year Pro pair

The Google Pixel 6 and the Google Pixel 6 XL (Pixel 6 Pro) were the subject of a data leak this afternoon before Google’s official release event. Both devices will be revealed by Google at the same time at an event where the final release date will be revealed. The same is true of the prices for both devices – along with the release price for the Google Pixel 5a, another device which had some significant data leakage today.

Both the Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro appeared in a report from FrontPageTech today with specifications in tow. This device set will be the first to come with a guaranteed 5 years of software updates, according to the same source: Jon Prosser. It’s likely these devices will be released in around October of the year 2021.

Google Pixel 6 specs

The Google Pixel 6 will look a whole lot like the Google Pixel 6 Pro, with the same unique industrial design – and a sort of bridge element that’ll include its full main camera array. This Google Pixel 6 will likely have a 6.4-inch AMOLED display, 8GB RAM inside, and two options for storage: 128GB and 256GB.

The Google Pixel 6 appeared in a leak today suggesting that the back-facing cameras would be 50MP and 12MP, the 50MP having a wide-angle lens, the 12MP camera having an ultra-wide angle lens. This device is reported to have an 8MP camera up front and a 4614mAh battery inside.

The Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro will launch with Android 12. Like most Google hero phones, these devices will act as the premiere destination for users looking to get the most feature-filled Google-designed software and hardware experience in an Android smartphone.

Google Pixel 6 Pro specs

The Google Pixel 6 Pro is tipped to roll with a 6.71-inch “Plastic OLED” display panel. This device is tipped to have a Google-designed processor, 12GB RAM, and three options for storage: 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. It’ll likely be released with more than one color casing option right out the gate.

SEE TOO: Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro: Everything we know so far

This Google Pixel 6 Pro device has three back-facing cameras, according to rumors appearing over the past several weeks. In the data leak today from Prosser, the three cameras appear to be 50MP (for a wide camera, the main camera), 48MP (with a telephoto lens), and 12MP (for an ultra-wide lens-toting camera). There’ll likely be a 12MP camera up front, and a 5000mAh battery inside.

Cross your fingers we’ll see these devices delivered with a friendly software experience this Fall with a price that does not break the bank. The report of a 5-year commitment from Google for software upgrades seems too good to be true – but it’s not impossible!

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Fortnite x Family Guy among crossovers teased in player survey

A new Fortnite survey indicates that Epic is exploring a huge number of potential collaborations with popular brands, television shows, celebrities, and more. The variation on the survey is huge, including oddball inclusions like animated show Family Guy, video game characters like Yoshi from Mario Bros., and even things like Monopoly (yes, the board game).

It’s not unusual for Epic to send surveys to players in order to gauge their interest in things like potential crossovers, new skins, and similar. For example, we previously saw a survey about a monthly subscription, only for Epic to later announce its Fortnite Crew bundle. This time around, the survey asks players to select pop-culture media, games, celebrities, athletes, and more that they’ve heard of.

Screenshots of the huge survey were posted by game data-miner HYPEX on Twitter (above), revealing the potential third-party IP that may come to the Fortinte universe in the future. There’s no clear pattern to the survey — it asks players, for example, whether they’d seen or heard of movies like Toy Story, Robocop, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Zoolander, The Hobbit, and more.

The same question is asked for a huge number of soccer clubs, comic book characters like Wonder Woman, Taskmaster, Green Arrow, and Green Lantern, video game characters like Pikachu, Snake, Aloy, Dante, and Joker, plus athletes like Mason Mount and Jarrett Culver.

Some of the entries on the survey have already appeared in the game, plus we’ve heard others through the ongoing Epic vs Apple court trial and via leaks. It’s hard to say how many of these brands and other entries may actually be up for consideration, however, and how many may simply be added to the list to keep the public from guessing what comes next.

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Tech News

The Google Assistant is adding new ways to corral your family

Google is adding new Assistant features and tweaking some existing ones to make them more user-friendly, including expanding its Broadcast system. The new Family Broadcast takes the existing functionality – where you can pipe your voice through multiple Google smart speakers and smart displays in the house, useful for announcing meals are ready or reminding people it’s time to leave – and enhances it for smartphones and replies.

So, you can now create a Google Family Group, consisting not only of smart displays like the Nest Hub and speakers like the Nest Audio, but also iPhone and Android smartphones. Saying “Hey Google, tell my family, it’s time for us to hit the road” will broadcast your message across all of those devices in one fell swoop.

Those who hear the broadcast, meanwhile, will be able to respond by voice too. You’ll be able to say “Hey Google, reply ‘I’ll need a little extra time to catch the cat,’” for example, or tap the reply button to bypass the Assistant wake-word.

Meanwhile, Family Bell reminders are also getting a new convenience feature. Added to the Assistant’s array of talents in November last year, Family Bell is basically a group alarm for reminders. Google pitches it as useful for notifying everyone when it’s time for home-schooling to start, or for group chores.

Soon, though, you’ll be able to say “stop” to end the Family Bell alert by voice. It’s a shortcut that the Assistant already works with for individual alarms and timers, that’s being extended to Family Bell in English to begin with. Google will also add the ability to have Family Bells sound across multiple home devices simultaneously, not just one.

For other languages, Family Bell will be extended to support French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Hindi, and Korean. That’s arriving in the coming weeks, Google says.

The updates come on the heels of new, behind-the-scenes changes Google has been making to its core Assistant technology. There are new pronunciation options, which allow users to correct names that the AI gets wrong, for example, along with better contextual understanding which the company says should improve how the Assistant handles things like timers and conversational queries that include multiple questions and responses.

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Microsoft unveils Azure Percept, a family of edge devices optimized for AI

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During its Microsoft Ignite 2021 conference this week, Microsoft unveiled Azure Percept, a platform of hardware and services aimed at simplifying the ways customers can use AI technologies at the edge. According to the company, the goal of the new offering is to give customers an end-to-end system, from the hardware to the AI and machine learning capabilities.

Edge computing is forecast to be a $6.72 billion market by 2022. Its growth will coincide with that of the deep learning chipset market, which some analysts predict will reach $66.3 billion by 2025. There’s a reason for these rosy projections — edge computing is expected to make up roughly three-quarters of the total global AI chipset business in the next six years.

The Azure Percept platform includes a development kit with a camera called Azure Percept Vision, as well as a “getting started” experience called Azure Percept Studio that guides customers through the AI lifecycle. Azure Percept Studio includes developing and training resources, as well as guidance on deploying proof-of-concept ideas.

AI at the edge

Azure Percept Vision and Azure Percept Audio, which ships separately from the development kit, connect to Azure services and come with embedded hardware-accelerated modules that enable speech and vision AI at the edge or during times when the device isn’t connected to the internet. The hardware in the Azure Percept development kit uses the industry standard 80/20 T-slot framing architecture, which Microsoft says will make it easier for customers to pilot new product ideas.

As customers work on their ideas with the Azure Percept development kit, they’ll have access to Azure AI Cognitive Services and Azure Machine Learning models, plus AI models available from the open source community designed to run on the edge, Microsoft says. In addition, Azure Percept devices will automatically connect to Azure IoT Hub, which helps enable communication with security protections between internet of things devices and the cloud.

Azure Percept competes with Google’s Coral, a collection of hardware kits and accessories intended to bolster AI development at the edge. And Amazon recently announced AWS Panorama Appliance, a plug-in appliance that connects to a network and identifies videos from existing cameras with computer vision models for manufacturing, retail, construction, and other industries.

But in addition to announcing first-party hardware, Microsoft says it’s working with third-party silicon and equipment manufacturers to build an ecosystem of devices to run on the Azure Percept platform. Moreover, the company says the Azure Percept team is currently working with select early customers to understand concerns around the responsible development and deployment of AI on devices, providing them with documentation and access to toolkits for their AI implementations.

“We’ve started with the two most common AI workloads, vision and voice [and] sight and sound, and we’ve given out that blueprint so that manufacturers can take the basics of what we’ve started,” Microsoft VP Roanne Sones said. “But they can envision it in any kind of responsible form factor to cover a pattern of the world.”

A continued investment

In 2018, Microsoft committed $5 billion to intelligent edge innovation by 2022  — an uptick from the $1.5 billion it spent prior to 2018 — and pledged to grow its IoT partner ecosystem to over 10,000. This investment has borne fruit in Azure IoT Central, a cloud service that enables customers to quickly provision and deploy IoT apps, and IoT Plug and Play, which provides devices that work with a range of off-the-shelf solutions. Microsoft’s investment has also bolstered Azure Sphere; Azure Security Center, its unified cloud and edge security suite; and Azure IoT Edge, which distributes cloud intelligence to run in isolation on IoT devices directly.

Microsoft has competition in Google’s Cloud IoT, a set of tools that connect, process, store, and analyze edge device data. Not to be outdone, Amazon Web Services’ IoT Device Management tracks, monitors, and manages fleets of devices running a range of operating systems and software. And Baidu’s OpenEdge offers a range of IoT edge computing boards and a cloud-based management suite to manage edge nodes, edge apps, and resources such as certification, password, and program code.

But the Seattle company has ramped up its buildout efforts, most recently with the acquisition of CyberX and Express Logic, a San Diego, California-based developer of real-time operating systems (RTOS) for IoT and edge devices powered by microcontroller units. Microsoft has also partnered with companies like DJI, SAP, PTC, Qualcomm, and Carnegie Mellon University for IoT and edge app development.


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