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Game

Xbox players can now start a game from a friend’s clip or screenshot

is an update that includes handy consoles and cloud gaming features. There’s a new way to hop into a game. When a friend shares a screenshot or game clip that catches your eye, you’ll be able to tap the play button on a computer or mobile device and fire up the game in a browser. 

For instance, if you’re on your phone and see a cool Forza Horizon 5 clip that your friend posted, you can start playing the game just by clicking the button. Given that this is a cloud gaming function, you’ll need an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership to use it.

Xbox’s take on the feature doesn’t seem quite as advanced as , however. The latter allows you to at the same point as someone else and experience a world just by clicking a link.

Xbox cloud gaming link

Microsoft

There’s another welcome feature that’s available on Xbox Series X/S starting today: noise suppression for party chats. Microsoft says it can keep sounds like controller clicks, your breathing and background noise out of your friends’ ears.

Noise suppression, which Xbox , will be enabled by default. If you want your pals to hear music you’re playing in the background, you can switch it off from the Parties and Chats options in the guide. Microsoft plans to bring the feature to more devices in the near future.

Xbox noise suppression toggle

Microsoft

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Game

Xbox Game Pass family plan leak hints at support for account sharing among friends

Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox Game Pass Ultimate could allow you to share the subscription with your friends. In a tweet spotted by , frequent Microsoft Store leaker Aggiornamenti Lumia that indicates the tier will carry a “Friends and Family” branding. This is something we thought the company was working towards. In the two regions where Microsoft is currently testing Game Pass Ultimate family plans, customers can share their subscription with , as long as they’re in the same country.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment. Before the start of testing, there were that the company would introduce a family plan. Allowing customers to share its most expensive subscription offering with people outside of their immediate family would make a lot of sense for Microsoft. Not only would the feature encourage more people to try the new tier, but it would also likely earn the company goodwill since the industry standard in recent months has been to .

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Game

Stadia lets you join a friend’s game without an invite

Google is gradually bringing more and more useful features to Stadia, many of which probably should have been available from the outset. It’s still ridiculous how long it took to add a search function to the store, for one thing. Shortly after the arrival of free trials for some more titles, Google is rolling out an option to join a friend’s game without an invite.

A support page spotted by 9to5Google notes that the option is available in select games, including Far Cry 6. You can switch it on by going to the privacy tab of the Stadia settings. In the Current Game section, there’s an option called Join your current game, which you can enable to let others join a multiplayer game without an invitation. You can set this to friends, your friends and their friends, all players or no one.

This is a welcome update that brings Stadia a little more in line with other gaming platforms. It could encourage groups of friends to pick up the same games since it’ll be a little easier for them to play together.

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Game

How to Add Cross-Platform Friends in Back 4 Blood

The team from Turtle Rock made such a strong first impression with the first Left 4 Dead that Valve brought the team under their wing to make the sequel, plus some great DLC. These games were the gold standard for cooperative zombie shooters until, well, that same team left to make Back 4 Blood. Taking advantage of the generations of improvements that have been made since Left 4 Dead 2, this modern game is still built around the simple concept of getting some friends together and shooting your way through hundreds and hundreds of zombies across a series of missions.

One thing Back 4 Blood takes advantage of that wasn’t even considered possible when the Left 4 Dead games were coming out was cross-platform support. Now it is easier than ever to play with friends regardless of whether they’re on Xbox, PlayStation, or PC. However, there isn’t a universal system for how cross-platform play works just yet, so actually joining up with your friends for the first time isn’t quite as straightforward as a simple button press. If you want to get the gang together for some zombie-slaying fun, here’s how to add cross-platform friends in Back 4 Blood.

Further reading

How to add cross-platform friends

Back 4 Blood is meant to be played with friends and is made to make it as easy as possible for you to join up with friends across all available platforms. That includes the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and PC. If you have friends you want to make lobbies with, you will need to add them as friends first.

To add a friend on a different platform, the process is identical to adding a friend if they were on the same platform within Back 4 Blood. You may remember that when you first launched the game, you were given a username just for this game that looks like your tag on Xbox or PlayStation with a few numbers tied to the end of it. This is essentially your cross-platform ID. Once in the game, first go to Fort Hope and open the Social section of the menu. Here, select the Add Friends option to bring up a search bar. Then you just need to type in your friend’s Back 4 Blood ID and find them and add them to your friends list.

Once they, or you if they end up adding your name, get a friend request, simply accept it and create a party to start playing with your squad of choice! Once they’re on your friends list, the process will be that easy going forward.

How to turn cross-platform play on or off

Matchmaking preferences in Back 4 Blood.

You can also turn cross-platform play on or off in general, allowing matchmaking to occur across all platforms as well. The game will give you this option right away when you first launch it, but if you want to access it again, the setting is a little buried. Again from the menu in Fort Hope, when selecting a mission, open up the Settings menu and hit Preferences. Here there is a toggle for crossplay, which is automatically set to enabled. If you would rather not play against PC players in PvP for example, then this is how you’d restrict matches you find to only be on your console.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Twitter tests Trusted Friends to limit who can see tweets

Twitter was designed around the idea of something like a public bulletin board where people can post short snippets the length of a normal SMS. It has definitely grown out of that shell quite a while back and has given birth to use cases and concerns that some users might have developed that went beyond the platform’s core functionality. It seems that Twitter is experimenting with a few features that give users a bit more control over their posts and replies to their posts but at the expense of a bit more mental overhead for those same users.

Twitter does offer some control over the privacy of tweets, but it’s an all-or-nothing situation. A post can either be public or protected, but nothing in between. According to TechCrunch, Twitter is experimenting with a Trusted Friends feature that will let users choose specific people who will be able to see tweets and no one else. Instagram users might be familiar with something similar in “Friends Only” Stories.

Another feature the social network is testing is Reply Language Prompts, basically reminders or nudges about the kind of language or words that a user doesn’t want to see in replies. Unfortunately, these don’t actually stop people from going against the poster’s request but just serve as a visual reminder and an implicit request to be nice.

Facets is the alias feature that was leaked just a few days ago. Rather than limiting who can see tweets, it would let followers keep tabs only on specific topics based on the aliases or facets that the user makes. This could help keep work tweets separate from personal tweets, at least for those that want to follow just specific aspects of a person’s Twitter timeline.

These are definitely powerful controls, but they do come with drawbacks for some uses. It could create a mental hurdle in trying to decide which facet a tweet should be posted in or whether it should be public or for friends only. That said, Twitter makes no promises any of these will become final features, but it will definitely be disappointing if they don’t.

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Security

Venmo now lets you make your friends list private

Venmo has added new privacy controls for friend lists following a jaw-dropping incident where BuzzFeed News was able to track down President Joe Biden’s Venmo account because of the app’s leaky privacy protocols. App researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered earlier on Friday that Venmo was working on the new controls.

“We’re consistently evolving and strengthening the Venmo platform for all of our customers. As part of these ongoing efforts, we are enhancing our in-app controls providing customers an option to select a public, friends-only, or private setting for their friends list,” a Venmo spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

To find the new controls, tap the hamburger icon while on the main feed, then tap “Settings,” “Privacy,” and then “Friends List.” The Friends List menu appeared for me and another Verge staffer while I was writing this article, so if it hasn’t rolled out to you just yet, sit tight.

In the new menu, you can pick if you want your friends list to be public, visible to friends, or private. You can also toggle whether or not you want to appear in others users’ friends list.

The new toggles fix a major privacy hole in Venmo that has been known for years: there previously was no way to keep your list of Venmo contacts private, meaning that you could see the contact list of any other user on the platform. The hole was bad enough that following a brief mention of Biden using Venmo in a recent New York Times profile, BuzzFeed News was able to track down the president’s account in less than 10 minutes. The publication also found the accounts for many in his inner circle.

While you’re in your privacy settings, I’d also recommend setting your Venmo feed to private.

Correction: Clarified that Venmo’s previous friend settings included a privacy flaw, not a security flaw.



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Tech News

Here are 5 bogus alien theories to disappoint your X-Files loving friends

A recent study claims to have found evidence for mushroom-like life forms on the surface of Mars. As it happens, these particular features are well known and were discovered by cameras aboard Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, shortly after it landed in 2004.

They are not, in fact, living organisms at all, but “haematite concretions” – small sphere-shaped pieces of the mineral haematite, and their exact origin is still debated by scientists. Haematite is a compound of iron and oxygen and is commercially important on Earth. The spherical rocks on Mars may have been created by the gradual accumulation of the material in slowly evaporating liquid water environments. They could also have been produced by volcanic activity.

Either way, mushrooms they are not. The area around Opportunity’s landing site is littered with them – they can be seen all over the surface and were also found buried beneath the soil and even embedded within rocks.

Fossilized worms

These space “mushrooms” were not the first claim of alien life. On August 7, 1996, the then US president Bill Clinton stood on the White House lawn and announced the possibility that scientists had discovered the ancient, fossilized remains of micro-organisms in a meteorite that had been recovered from Antarctica in 1984.

The meteorite, ALH 84001, is one of a handful of rocks we have from Mars. These were blasted off the surface of the planet by volcanic eruptions or meteorite impacts, drifted through space probably for millions of years, before ending up on Earth.

Categories
Security

Venmo shows who you’re friends with even if you’re Joe Biden

Venmo has a major privacy flaw that’s been well-known for years: there’s no way to keep your list of Venmo contacts private. That means you can see the contact list of any user on the platform, a flaw that’s so large that BuzzFeed News was able to track down President Joe Biden’s Venmo account in less than 10 minutes.

BuzzFeed News didn’t just find the president, though; the publication also discovered accounts for many people in Biden’s inner circle, and, because of the nature of this flaw, all of their contacts as well:

BuzzFeed News found nearly a dozen Biden family members and mapped out a social web that encompasses not only the first family, but a wide network of people around them, including the president’s children, grandchildren, senior White House officials, and all of their contacts on Venmo.

BuzzFeed News dug in after seeing a mention of Biden sending his grandchildren money over Venmo in a New York Times article published Friday. Biden’s transactions weren’t public (unlike Matt Gaetz’s, at one point), and all of Biden’s friends on Venmo were removed after BuzzFeed News contacted the White House for comment, the publication reported. (Venmo gives you the ability to remove contacts, but you have to do it manually.)

When asked for comment on the situation, Venmo provided the following statement:

The safety and privacy of all Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we take this responsibility very seriously. Customers always have the ability to make their transactions private and determine their own privacy settings in the app. We’re consistently evolving and strengthening the privacy measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a safe, secure place to send and spend money.

As of press time, Venmo has not replied to a question asking if the company plans to let people make their contact lists private, which could help prevent something like this from happening in the future.

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Game

Workout Virtually With Friends Thanks to FitXR’s Multiplayer

If you can’t make it to the gym, bring the gym to you — virtually. FitXR has now launched a multiplayer feature that lets users workout with and against friends. After all, there’s nothing like a bit of competition to keep you motivated. In addition to the new features, FitXR is launching a membership model that brings additional benefits to subscribers. All existing members will receive a free 90-day subscription, after which the subscription will be $10 per month.

One of the benefits of the new membership model is the addition of a new class each day. Every class is choreographed by a group of professional fitness instructors to keep them fun and effective. If you’re tired of the same style of Zumba classes and you aren’t quite ready to turn to Jazzercise, try one of the new daily classes.

The multiplayer feature lets up to seven different people workout together. Users are able to see one another, as well as chat before, during, and after the class to compare notes on the workout. If someone can’t make it to the session, they can take part in an on-demand class recorded from previous sessions. It’s like working out and time travel all in one.

FitXR is also launching new studios to join their existing lineup. In addition to the Box and Dance studio, FitXR is adding a HIIT studio in May. This studio will feature high-intensity interval training to provide a more well-rounded workout and help users lose weight more effectively. After all, who really wants to spend an hour per day on cardio?

Finally, FitXR is pumping up the volume by partnering with Warner Music’s U.K.-based dance label called FFRR. This partnership will introduce music to FitXR classes. Over time, FitXR plans to introduce new artists and songs to help users discover more music they enjoy while also motivating them to work harder in their classes.

FitXR is available on the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset. It’s an innovative way to keep up with that New Year’s resolution you set while remaining safe at home until the gyms open back up.

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Security

Signal is testing a payments feature that lets you send cryptocurrency to friends

Signal announced on Tuesday it’s now testing a new peer-to-peer payments system in the beta version of its apps. Appropriately called Signal Payments, the new feature right now supports only one protocol: the MobileCoin wallet and its companion cryptocurrency MOB. MobileCoin has a close relationship with Signal co-founder and CEO Moxie Marlinspike, who advised the company prior to its most recent round of funding announced last month.

“The first payments protocol we’ve added support for is a privacy focused payments network called MobileCoin, which has its own currency, MOB,” wrote Jun Harada, Signal’s head of growth and communication, in a blog post. “As always, our goal is to keep your data in your hands rather than ours; MobileCoin’s design means Signal does not have access to your balance, full transaction history, or funds. You can also transfer your funds at any time if you want to switch to another app or service.”

Image: Signal

The company says those interested in trying out the feature must live in the UK for now, and those who qualify can sign up for MobileCoin and access the feature through the Signal beta. “This is a beta feature in a beta build, but for those in the United Kingdom living life on the edge, please help us test and give feedback,” Harada writes.

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