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Game

You Gifted a Video Game Console Last Holiday. Now What?

Let’s say you were one of the lucky ones who actually did manage to get your loved one a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X last holiday season. First off, congratulations. That was no small feat and I’m sure you’re thanking your lucky stars for pulling it off considering how hard consoles have been to find this year. That does leave you with a tricky question, though: What do you buy this year?

You got to be a superhero last holiday, which means you have high expectations to fulfill. You’re probably not going to find a gaming gift as spectacular this year (thanks in no small part to the Steam Deck’s delay), but you can find plenty that are fun or, at the very least, practical. Here’s what to get the video game enthusiast in your life if they already have a shiny new console.

Accessories

The most immediate option is to get them accessories for whatever you bought them last year. Did you manage to get a PlayStation 5? Grab a DualSense controller charging dock. Buying for someone who already owns an Xbox Series X? Consider something like a Seagate hard drive to give their console some extra storage. The options are limitless here, as you can get pretty creative with third-party hardware. For example, if you know someone’s been using their Series X to play Forza Horizon 5, you could grab them a Logitech G923 wheel and pedal setup.

The easiest option is always controllers. That can be an easy way to give people a more custom gift that didn’t come with their original machine. For PS5 owners, Sony introduced two new colors for the DualSense this year that would add a splash of personality to anyone’s setup. Xbox owners have a few more options available. My personal favorite Xbox controller is Turtle Beach’s Recon, which comes with an onboard sound mixer — perfect for someone who uses voice chat a lot. You can also use Xbox’s Design Lab program to customize your own controller, allowing you to make a personalized gift.

Colt kicks an enemy in Deathloop.

Games

Games are always an easy win, too, so long as you know what your loved ones already own. For PlayStation users, Deathloop and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart are both hot commodities this year. Returnal is also a killer exclusive that went a bit under the radar, so that might be a good one to throw on your list.

It’s a little trickier to shop for Xbox owners, especially if they have Game Pass. That means they already have games like Microsoft Flight Simulator or Psychonauts 2. You can always go the third-party route and grab games like Battlefield 2042 that aren’t included with the service. And if your loved one somehow doesn’t have an Xbox Game Pass subscription, go ahead and toss a free month in their stocking.

A player holding a Razer Kishi.

A mobile controller

Just because your loved one has a console doesn’t mean they always play on their console. Today, many games can be played on just about any device thanks to advancements in streaming and the cloud. PS5 owners have remote play, which lets them stream a console game to their phone, while Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers instantly get access to Microsoft’s cloud selection of games. If you want to up someone’s portable gaming potential, a phone controller attachment is a good way to go.

You have a few great options here. I personally use Razer’s Kishi, which easily attaches to an iPhone or Android phone, turning it into a full handheld console. Many also swear by the Backbone, which is widely regarded as the best mobile controller out there. Either option will give the gamer in your life full control over their mobile games.

An Ocolus Quest 2 in purple lighting.

The VR option

If you want to go a little more outside the box, there’s always VR. It’s one of those pieces of tech that people might not buy for themselves, but would be happy to toy around with. While we wouldn’t recommend getting a PS VR with a new version right around the corner, there are a few other options that you could go with. Personally, I’d recommend the Oculus Quest 2. Meta’s lightweight device is a wireless headset that doesn’t need a computer connection at all. It’s cost-effective, making it feel like a big-ticket gift that doesn’t break the bank.

Of course, you could always go all-out and get something like the HTC Vive or Valve Index. These devices are beefier and more impressive in some ways. However, the Quest 2 is a more casual investment that anyone interested in VR will appreciate. You get bonus points if you can make grandma wear it at your holiday party.

An iiRcade arcade cabinet standing against a brick wall.

Go big with an arcade cabinet

Maybe this is all small potatoes for you. You were a hero last year and you just want to keep that momentum up at all costs. That’s a recipe for hubris, but I have a Hail Mary for you anyways. If you really want to wow someone, why not get them their own arcade machine? Plenty of companies make reproductions of classic cabinets that you can easily assemble and place in your home, no quarters needed. It’s a statement, but who doesn’t want their own arcade cabinet?

If you want to get someone a classic game they love, check out Arcade1Up, which has machines based on classic games like Ms. Pac Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, and many others. My personal recommendation is to check out iiRcade. The indie cabinet has a novel concept that you won’t get elsewhere. The machine doesn’t come with one game; it hooks up to a constantly updated shop where players can buy titles à la carte. New titles are still being added to the machine every month, but it already has some cool options including indie hit Dead Cells. At the very least, your loved one won’t see this one coming.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Tech News

How AI can make the world more fair for ‘gifted’ kids

A team of researchers from Las Vegas recently developed an AI model capable of judging a human pianist’s skill level. On the surface, it might not sound like the kind of breakthrough research that could change the world overnight. And it’s probably not. But it represents what could be a crucial component in a machine learning stack that could make the world fair for smart kids.

Education doesn’t work the same way for everyone. In the US, for example, most public school systems have programs in place to identify so-called “gifted” children. Unfortunately, there’s no consensus in academia or government as to what exactly constitutes a “gifted child” or how they should be dealt with. In essence, it’s a free-for-all where programs are often invented at the institutional level and implemented without oversight.

In some instances, children labeled as highest percentile learners are afforded access to tailored instruction. But this is far from the norm, especially in impoverished or low population areas. More often than not, gifted kids are forced to try and fit into traditional education paradigms.

This leads to a significant group of kids who spend more time waiting for the other children to finish than they do being educated. The answer, many experts would agree, is more one-on-one instruction. But budgetary and personnel restrictions make it unlikely that we’ll solve the problem of educating gifted kids through traditional means any time soon.

[Read: How this company leveraged AI to become the Netflix of Finland]

Which is why this paper on the aforementioned AI that can judge a human pianist’s skill is so interesting.

The team set out to determine if AI could accurately determine whether a human pianist is a skilled player or not. They sorted out that models trained with both video and audio outperformed those trained on a single input and then created a novel dataset. According to the paper, the team managed about 75% accuracy against human judges.

What’s most interesting about this AI project isn’t it’s potential to eventually become a human-level piano judge, but it’s potential as an information module in a one-on-one AI/student teaching paradigm.

Given the proper hardware set up this could be used to judge a human piano performance in real time. And it could probably be configured to provide instant feedback and even come up with on-the-fly recommendations for improvement. And all of this should be relatively simple using modern technology. You could even throw in a language model trained on teacher-student interactions and give it a name like “Piano Teacher Bot 3000.”

It’s easy to conceive the development of similar AI models for other school activities such as art and sports where human output is more easily quantified in the real world than the digital one. And, for things such as math, chemistry, and grammar an AI capable of answering their plain language questions and moving them along to the next lesson could help quicker students avoid constant boredom.

There’s nothing like this in the current digital one-way instruction paradigm. The current focus is on developing systems that work for most students and on preventing cheating – two concerns that don’t necessarily matter as much to the highest percentile learners.

An AI-powered real-time observation and feedback system would have the added benefit of learning from its own data loops. While long-term studies in the US on the efficacy of any given education paradigm are difficult due to general inconsistencies in the education system, a self-contained AI system could generate enormous amounts of useful data at a relatively small usage scale.

There are, of course, myriad ethical and privacy concerns involved in the idea of using an AI system to monitor and engage students.

But the upside could be enormous so long as it’s handled ethically. It’s far easier to put AI in classrooms than it is to solve the current budget and personnel crisis happening in US schools across the country.

Published January 25, 2021 — 21:58 UTC



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