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AI

Google is using AI to help users explore the topics they’re searching for — here’s how

“Can you get medicine for someone at the pharmacy?”

It’s a simple enough question for humans to understand, says Pandu Nayak, vice president of search at Google, but such a query represents the cutting-edge of machine comprehension. You and I can see that the questioner is asking if they can fill out a subscription for another person, Nayak tells The Verge. But until recently, if you typed this question into Google, it would direct you to websites explaining how to fill out your prescription. “It missed the subtlety that the prescription was for someone else,” he says.

The key to delivering the right answer, says Nayak, is AI, which Google is using today to improve its search results. The prescription query was solved in 2019, when Google integrated a machine learning model called BERT into search. As part of a new generation of AI language systems known as large language models (the most famous of which is OpenAI’s GPT-3), BERT was able to parse the nuances of our prescription query correctly and return the right results. Now, in 2021, Google is updating its search tools yet again, using another acronymized AI system that’s BERT’s successor: MUM.

Originally revealed at Google I/O in May, MUM is at least 1,000 times bigger than BERT, says Nayak; on the same order of magnitude as GPT-3, which has 175 billion parameters. (Parameters being a measure of a model’s size and complexity.) MUM is also multimodal, meaning it processes visual data as well as text. And it’s been trained on 75 languages, which allows the system to “generalize from languages where there’s a lot of data, like English, to languages where there’s less data, like Hindi,” says Nayak. That helps in ensuring that any upgrades it provides are spread across Google’s many markets.

A new feature rolling out in the coming months named “Things to know” will use AI to help users explore topics related to their searches.
Image: Google

Nayak speaks of MUM with pride, as the latest AI wunderkind trained in Google’s labs. But the company is also cautious. Large language models are controversial for a number of reasons. They’re prone to lying, for example — as happy writing fiction as fact. And they’ve been shown time and time again to encode racial and gender biases. This is a problem that Google’s own researchers have highlighted and been shot down for doing so. Notably, Google fired two of its top ethics researchers, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, after they co-authored a paper highlighting problems with exactly this technology.

For these reasons, perhaps, the changes to search that Google is launching are relatively restrained. The company is introducing three new features “in the coming months,” some powered by MUM, each of which is ancillary to its search engine’s primary function — ranking web results. But Nayak says they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google’s ambitions to improve its products with AI. “To me, this is just the start,” he says.

First, though, the features. Number one is called “Things to know” and acts as an advanced snippet function, pulling out answers to predicted questions based on user’s searches. Type in “acrylic painting,” for example, and “Things to know” will automatically generate new queries, like “How do you use household items in acrylic painting.” Nayak says there are certain “sensitive queries” that won’t trigger this response (like “bomb making”) but that most topics are automatically covered. It will be rolling out in the “coming months.”

The second new feature suggests further searches that might help users broaden or refine their queries. So, with the “acrylic painting” search above, Google might now suggest a narrower focus, like “acrylic painting techniques,” or a broader remit, like “different styles of painting.” As Nayak puts it, Google wants to use AI’s ability to recognize “the space of possibilities within [a] topic” and help people explore variants of their own searches. This feature will be available immediately, though it is not powered by MUM.

The third new feature is more straightforward and based on video transcription. When users are searching for video content, Google will use MUM to suggest new searches based on what it hears within the video. Nayak gives the example of watching a video about Macaroni penguins and Google suggesting a new search of “Macaroni penguin life story.” Again, it’s about suggesting new areas of search for users. This feature will launch on September 29th in English in the US.

In addition to these AI-based changes, Google is also expanding its “About This” feature in search, which will give new information about the source of results. It’s also bringing its MUM-powered AI smarts to its visual search tech, Google Lens.

Google will give users new option to “refine” or “broaden” their search — using MUM to explore related topics.
Image: Google

The change to search is definitely the main focus, but what’s interesting is also what Google isn’t launching. When it demoed MUM and another model LaMDA at I/O earlier this year, it showed off ambitious features where users could literally talk to the subjects of their searches, like the dwarf planet Pluto, and ask them questions. In another, users asked expansive questions, like “I just hiked Mt. Adams, I want to hike Mt. Fuji in the fall. What should I do differently?” before being directed to relevant snippets and web pages.

It seems these sorts of searches, which are rooted deeply in the functionality of large language models, are too free-form for Google to launch publicly. Most likely, the reason for this is that the language models could easily say the wrong thing. That’s when those bias problems come into play. For example, when GPT-3 is asked to complete a sentence like “Audacious is to boldness as Muslim is to …,” nearly a quarter of the time, it finishes the sentence with the word “terrorism.” These aren’t problems that are easy to navigate.

When questioned about these difficulties, Nayak reframes the problems. He says it’s obvious that language models suffer from biases but that this isn’t necessarily the challenge for Google. “Even if the model has biases, we’re not putting it out for people to consume directly,” he says. “We’re launching products. And what matters is, are the products serving our users? Are they surfacing undesirable things or not?”

But the company can’t completely stamp out these problems in its finished products either. Google’s Photo app infamously tagged Black people as “gorillas” in one well-known incident, and the sort of racial and gender-based discrimination present in language AI is often much more subtle and difficult to detect.

There’s also the problem of what the shift to AI-generated answers might mean for the wider future of Google search. In a speculative paper published earlier this year, Google’s researchers considered the question of replacing search altogether with large language models and highlighted a number of difficulties with the approach. (Nayak is definitive that this is not a serious prospect for the company: “That is absolutely not the plan.”)

And there’s also the consistent grumbling that Google continues to take up more space in search results with its own product, shunting searches to Google Shopping, Google Maps, and so on. The new MUM-powered “Things to know” feature certainly seems to be part of this trend: filleting out the most informative search results from web pages, and potentially stopping users from clicking through, and therefore sustaining the creator of that data.

Nayak’s response to this is that Google delivers more traffic to the web each year and that if it doesn’t “build compelling experiences” for users, then the company “will not be around to send traffic to the web” in the future. It’s not a wholly convincing answer. Google may deliver more traffic each year, but how much of that is just a function of increasing web use? And even if Google does disappear from search, wouldn’t other search engines pick up the slack in sending people traffic?

Whatever the case, it’s clear that the company is putting AI language understanding at the heart of its search tools — at the heart of Google, indeed. There are many open questions about the challenges of integrating this tech, but for now, Google is happy to continue the search for answers of its own.

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Computing

Charging via USB-C for laptops: Here’s what you need to know

The arrival of USB-C and USB-C laptop chargers has been a game-changer for many electronics. You can use the connection to charge devices and transfer media, and it’s conveniently reversible. Top laptops no longer need a big power brick — you can just use USB-C.

But there are some precautions you should take when charging over USB-C. Here’s everything you need to know.

USB charging and laptops

You have probably already used USB connections to charge smaller devices either from your computer or from an outlet. That works well because past USB connections had enough wattage to successfully power up those smaller batteries. Prior versions of USB could only handle a limited amount of power, which is why laptop chargers have typically retained their larger, bulkier cables.

USB-C changed that. This type of connection now provides enough power to juice up most laptops (particularly the Type-C 3.0 version). That’s why laptop charging is a new topic of conversation for USB connections, especially now that more laptops are entering the market with USB-C charging compatibility.

So, how do you know if your current laptop has a USB-C port that also works with charging? You could always look it up, but the easiest way is to simply examine your charger. You can identify a Type-C charger by its unique features. USB-C’s connector is small and rounded, significantly different from the old USB version. It also works no matter which way you connect it to the right port, so there’s no need to flip it the right way around. If your charger uses this connection and plugs into your USB-C port, you have a winner!

USB-C chargers are turning up on many different devices, so it’s not strictly relegated to laptops. Newer phones use USB-C charging, car chargers may come with USB-C ports, and portable chargers (discussed more below) can have USB-C options. But laptops tend to have USB-C more frequently than other devices, at least for now.

Will any port work with any charger?

USB-C is a universal charging standard. That means that, technically, it doesn’t matter what USB-C charger you use — it should be able to power up a laptop with a USB-C charging port and power bank. In the real world, this is taking a while to come true. Today the majority of laptop USB-C chargers are interchangeable, but it’s not guaranteed.

Some laptops come with USB-C ports that don’t charge. This is most common on laptops that come with their own proprietary charger — although a number of laptops can be charged either way, only the propriety charger tends to power up a laptop more quickly. The Samsung Notebook 9 is an example of that, as is the 2019 HP Envy 13. If you’re not sure exactly how to charge your laptop, check the manufacturer’s website, or look up a review of the system here at Digital Trends.

Laptops that rely entirely on USB-C, meanwhile, might not charge with just any charger. PCWorld, in its testing, found that HP’s Spectre x2 wouldn’t charge with any USB-C charger besides its own. HP said that that was intentional because a bad charger could damage the device or cause it to malfunction. Other devices, like the Apple MacBook Pro, don’t have such tight restrictions — a new USB-C authentication system could help with this issue in the near future.

While we haven’t personally heard of any damage from using a USB-C charger other than the one that came with your laptop, there’s always a slim risk when plugging a laptop into an unknown power source. Faulty cables can also be a problem. Microsoft acknowledges this by saying that you can charge a Surface with a USB-C port, but it’s highly recommended that you use the Surface charger that came with the laptop because a USB-C charger would end up being very slow due to how power is metered within the device. In short, it’s a good idea to buy cables and chargers from reputable sources and think twice about using that cable you found laying on the ground in a conference room.

You can buy additional USB-C cables for your own security.

Your settings are important

You will also want to watch your USB-C power mode, which you can find in your laptop settings, usually in the power/battery section. Here, you may find that you can switch Type-C’s output, choosing whether to receive power or send power. If your USB-C laptop charger isn’t working when by all rights it should be, check your settings to make sure it is set to receive power.

Complex charging arrangements

U USB-C cable (Ravpower C to C cable) attached to a MacBook and an external battery power bank.

Because USB-C is universal and can do multiple things at once, this allows for some unique charging circumstances. Two worth noting are:

Pass-through: Today’s charging hubs also offer something called pass-through charging. This refers to a hub that can connect multiple USB peripherals to a laptop while also charging that laptop’s battery. Basically, it’s a combination between a hub and a USB-C charging cable, so you don’t need two different USB-C ports for each task. HooToo’s popular 6-in-1 USB-C Hub is a good example of this technology. There are other innovative options, too, like sending video to an external monitor while also making sure your laptop is charged during a presentation.

Portable chargers: Maybe you have a portable charger with an old USB connection but a phone that only has a USB-C connection (which is not compatible with older USB ports). You can link the charger to a laptop that has both types of ports, and use it to power up your phone in a roundabout way. Do not try to use your laptop Type C charger to charge your phone directly. The voltage requirements are too different for most devices currently available, and multi-device chargers are still a nascent part of the market.

USB-C and Thunderbolt 3

The output and input ports of a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C cable.

There’s a variant of USB-C that’s a lot more powerful — Thunderbolt 3. Choose a laptop with at least one Thunderbolt 3-enabled USB-C port, and you can connect multiple 4K monitors at 60Hz and greatly increase your laptop’s gaming performance via an external GPU enclosure.

Thunderbolt 3 allows for a number of charging arrangements: It can “chain” up to six different devices together and easily charge while transmitting data at higher speeds than USB-C alone, up to 100W.

Since Thunderbolt 3 uses the same connection as USB-C, manufacturers are quick to label laptop ports if they also have Thunderbolt 3 technology — you can usually tell just by reading their descriptions. However, Thunderbolt 3 connections only work if you use the right cables, so make sure you have Thunderbolt 3 cables if you want to take advantage of those ports’ full features and bandwidth.

For Apple users

An Apple Lightning cable connected to an iPhone.
Nomad Lightning cable

Apple users should know that they aren’t immune to the USB-C transition we’re seeing. Currently, Apple uses Lightning cables for iOS charging, a proprietary design that silos off of all  Apple mobile charging accessories. The company has already switched to USB-C charging for MacBooks, and today’s iPad Pros also use USB-C charging. iPhones and iPads are currently unique in their Lightning cable reliance.

Apple is going to have to reimagine its current Lightning cable situation to fulfill the EU’s suspected precedent, demanding a set model of USB-C charging cables. Failure to comply with these demands will result in the loss of valuable European laptop buyers. Combine that with speculation of Apple ditching charging cables entirely, instead of focusing on a portless setup (most likely using a magnetic attachment on the back of the iPhone), and we may see the end of the Lightning cable in the next couple of years.

Furthermore, a recent rumor suggests that Apple will forgo its Lightning port for all its devices, starting with its iPhone range from 2025 onward. Another report also highlights how the company is reportedly preparing to remove the port entirely from the AirPods’ charging case, mice, etc.

The future of USB-C charging

Current USB options are about to receive a major overhaul. According to industry insiders, not only will USB have the fastest speeds ever, but they will also be universally compatible across all brands of devices. The dawn of 2021 could see an entirely new generation of laptops that espouse the new USB4 port. Of course, USB4 adds yet another layer of complexity when it comes to USB protocols. There’s even more to know about the new tech:

  • USB4 will be available on USB-C ports.
  • USB4 increases speeds and charging power to match Thunderbolt 3, up to 100W.
  • USB4 will require cables formatted for USB4 to enable its new features.
  • USB4 will be backward compatible with USB 2.0.

We’re guessing that all other ports may start giving way to the USB-C. USB-C ports will soon outweigh all other ports in importance, taking over as the primary port. In the future, USB4 and Thunderbolt will likely be the standard.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all USB-C ports allow charging?

Although USB-C is increasingly becoming more commonplace as the go-to standard for charging, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all USB-C ports allow charging.

There are certain laptops — generally the systems that sport their own charger — that feature USB-C ports which don’t offer charging capabilities.

Can I charge my laptop via USB-C?

Generally speaking, if your laptop comes with a USB-C charging feature, then you should have no problem with charging your system via USB-C. That said, some mobile systems (notebooks and laptops) require you to use a specific cable that is exclusively made to be compatible with that system.

Is USB-C charging better?

USB-C charging is better than any other alternative charging platform. Due to the advanced technical capabilities of the standard, using USB-C charging for your system means it will generally charge it faster than, say, a regular power cable.

For example, a USB Type-C cable that offers up to 240 watts of power was recently revealed, which is unheard of for USB-C. It just goes to show the possibilities that USB-C brings with it.

Can USB-C let you charge your laptop without a charger?

Yes, and no. Providing your notebook or laptop comes with a USB-C port that was specifically designed to supply charging support, then you can charge it without a regular charger. However, as we mentioned above, not all laptops offer USB-C ports that you can utilize in order to charge your device.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Victim of Zoombombing? Here’s How to Collect Your Payout

If you’re a Zoom user, you could be entitled to a minimum $15 payment for your troubles over the company’s security flaws that enabled the practice of “Zoombombing.”

The payment amount comes after Zoom announced earlier this year that it had reached an agreement of $85 million to settle the privacy issues at the heart of the class-action lawsuit.

Amazon

Zoombombing emerged as a result of lax security protocols inside Zoom’s videoconferencing and collaboration app, which gained popularity as a work tool during the global pandemic. Outsiders were able to hijack and disrupt private video calls as a result of Zoom’s security practices at the time. Disruptions could potentially involve vulgar, racist, pornographic, or otherwise objectionable conten.

The company has since made changes to how Zoom operates to prevent Zoombombing disruptions.

Even if you have never experienced Zoombombing, you can still be entitled to compensation as part of the class-action settlement terms. At the minimum, the agreement will pay you $15 for a claim if you ever registered, used, opened, or downloaded the Zoom Meeting App in the period between March 30, 2016 and July 30, 2021.

If you are a paid user of the Zoom Meetings App, you may eligible for a larger $25 settlement. Paid users can submit a claim for the larger amount of either $25 or up to 15% of the subscription cost before any optional features were tacked on, according to Zoom’s settlement agreement.

The bad news is that if you are a government user or an owner of an enterprise-level account, you’re excluded from making any claims.

If you qualify for either compensation level, you can make an online claim. The claim form must be completed by March 5, 2022. According to The Verge, the preliminary settlement has been approved by the court, but the final approval is subject to a final hearing scheduled for April 7, 2022.

Zoom has denied any wrongdoing as part of its settlement agreement.

As a result of the nuisance created by Zoombombing, the company has since made changes to the platform, including alerting users and hosts when meeting participants join from third-party apps, providing users with privacy training, and fixing its end-to-end encryption technology to make video calls more secure.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

New World is getting a ton of new content: Here’s how to try it before launch

New World is getting a massive update later this month, and the update is adding so much that Amazon is launching a Public Test Realm (PTR) to put the new content through its paces first. A number of video games have PTRs to test updates before they go live for everyone, including some MMOs. New World‘s PTR is going live later today and will give players a chance to test out these upcoming features – which include a new weapon, new quests, and new enemies – for themselves.

New World PTR details

To start, it should be noted that all of the new content detailed in this article is not going live in the game yet, only on the PTR. The PTR itself is opening later today, at 12 PM PST/3 PM EST, with two servers, one on US East and one on Central Europe. That, as New World players have likely already guessed, means that access to the PTR will be limited.

Everyone who owns a copy of New World will find that the New World PTR has been added to their Steam libraries. I don’t see it in my Steam library at the moment, so the rollout may be taking Amazon longer than anticipated. In any case, the New World PTR will be a standalone application that needs to be installed before users can join.

Like other games that offer a PTR, New World‘s PTR won’t always be accessible. Instead, Amazon will open it up for predefined test periods, and at the end of those test periods, the servers will be closed, and progress will be wiped. Amazon also asks those who join the PTR to submit feedback on the PTR sub-forum or through the in-game feedback tool.

What the first PTR test includes

The inaugural PTR patch has a significant amount of new content in it. This update introduces a new weapon called the Void Gauntlet, which scales with both Focus and Intelligence. While that Intelligence scaling makes it a good choice for any mage players out there, the Focus scaling means that players using Life Staff now have a more offensive tool at their disposal for the times they aren’t frantically healing their friends and party members.

Amazon explains that the Annihilation tree for the Void Gauntlet will center on close-range damage with the Void Blade, while the Decay tree will be more support-based with the Orb of Decay, which can heal allies and place debuffs on enemies.

The update also introduces a new enemy type – Varangian Raiders consisting of Hewers, Scouts, Knights, and Archers – and has increased enemy variety. The announcement of greater enemy variety will likely be a welcome one among New World‘s player base, as the lack of variety has been a sticking point for some since launch.

The Varangian Raiders will also be the subject of two new quests, the first of which can be obtained by Abigail Rose in Western Everfall. Since Amazon says the level range of these new enemies will be 16-20, the quests associated with them will likely be similarly low-level. Those who have reached the level cap may not want to bother seeking out these quests, but it may not be a bad idea for those having some trouble earning gold in the endgame.

This update also contains new content for endgame players in its new Legendary Weapon Quests for the Void Gauntlet. You’ll need to be level 60 and have the Void Gauntlet’s level maxed before you can start this quest, and when you’ve accomplished that, you’ll want to find Antiquarian Abbington in Reekwater to begin.

With this PTR update, Amazon has also made some improvements to main storyline quests, implemented some changes to PvP missions, and has linked all of the trading posts in the game – something it signaled it would do last week. We don’t have any indication of when this update will be hitting live servers, but you can read more about it and the PTR over on the New World website.

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Game

Animal Crossing Version 2.0 update surprise: Here’s what’s inside

Animal Crossing: New Horizons fans have received a rather pleasant surprise, as the game’s version 2.0 update has gone live a little bit early. Initially, we expected the version 2.0 update to go live on Friday, November 5th, alongside the Happy Home Paradise DLC. While it seems we still have to wait until Friday for the DLC to land, the version 2.0 update is available now and ready to be played.

What’s included in Animal Crossing: New Horizons version 2.0

While the Happy Home Paradise expansion is paid DLC, the version 2.0 update is not and is free to everyone who owns Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Perhaps the most significant addition in the update is Brewster, who will open a cafe called The Roost in the museum after players complete a task for Blathers. Players can join island residents and friends in the cafe for some coffee, and they can even use amiibo cards to summon coffee drinking companions as well.

Brewster isn’t the only returning character in this update, as Kapp’n will be making a return as well. He’ll ship players off to new islands that may be home to unique flora or islands in the midst of different seasons. Essentially, it sounds like Kapp’n could be a good way to obtain items that wouldn’t usually be available on home islands.

Gyroids are also making their return with this update, and players will be able to dig them up just like they do fossils. Gyroids can be discovered buried in the ground after rain showers, or players can bury gyroid fragments that grow into full gyroids overnight. As in previous Animal Crossing games, gyroids will make various sounds when placed, and they’ll react to music as well. They can even be customized this time around to match the design of the room they’re placed in.

With this update, Harv’s Island is also getting some renovations as players will be able to contribute bells to turn the island into an open-air market featuring shops from numerous peddlers. Cooking has also been added to New Horizons with this update, and players will be able to grow a variety of vegetables to help further their cooking ambitions.

So, even though the Happy Home Paradise DLC packs a lot of content, this update is no slouch either. You can check out the video we’ve embedded above for details on everything included in this update.

A surprise release or a mistake?

Interestingly enough, there seems to be no official confirmation from Nintendo that this update is indeed live. The page that catalogs all of the Animal Crossing: New Horizons updates on the Nintendo support site hasn’t been updated at the time of this writing and instead shows the most recent version as 1.11.1. Likewise, neither the Nintendo of America nor the official Animal Crossing Twitter accounts have made any mention of this update.

The radio silence from Nintendo has left us wondering if this surprise release was actually a planned one or if it was a mistake. If it was a mistake, it’s unlikely that Nintendo would confirm it, so we’ll likely never know what the truth is; we’d just assume there would be a little more fanfare trailing this launch.

In any case, our Switches confirm that the update is live, and while it was automatically downloaded for us, you may need to manually update Animal Crossing: New Horizons to get it. Doing so is easy – simply highlight Animal Crossing: New Horizons in your Switch library, press the “+” button, and then select “Software Update.” We’ll let you know when the Happy Home Paradise DLC is live, but while we wait, New Horizons players can dive into the new update and see what it has to offer.

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Computing

Android Apps on Windows 11? Here’s What They Will Look Like

The ability to easily run smartphone/tablet apps on PCs and laptops is something that many users have been longing for, and it seems that Microsoft may be working on implementing just that. Screenshots showcasing Android apps being run on Windows 11 have surfaced, giving insight into what this feature may look like.

Although Microsoft has previously stated that Windows 11 will support Android apps, the operating system launched without that feature. It’s likely that Microsoft is still piloting it and only allowing a select circle of users to try it out via the Dev channel of the Windows Insider Program. However, even upon completion, this is likely not going to be released as a mandatory part of a Windows Update. The leaked information suggests that Microsoft is instead planning to make it optional via the Microsoft Store.

Despite Microsoft’s urging to keep it confidential, leaked screenshots of the feature were posted on Bilibili, a Chinese social media platform. One of the screenshots shows the Windows 11 interface running Microsoft Store with an app called “Windows Subsystem for Android” available for download. The program will utilize the Intel Bridge technology in order to translate ARM code to x86.

This is similar to the Windows Subsystem for Linux which allows Windows users to run Linux binaries on their computers. This program was also recently made available by Microsoft and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. This allows for more streamlined and faster updates that don’t have to be tied to Windows Update.

Windows 11 running Android apps.

The other screenshots give more of a glimpse into what Android on Windows 11 might entail. It appears that Microsoft may be trying to integrate the apps to the same extent as regular programs, allowing users to pin them to the taskbar, run multiple apps at once, and receive notifications.

One of the leaked screenshots shows the WeChat Android app. The app is pinned to the taskbar alongside Google Chrome, suggesting that this will be possible in the Windows Subsystem for Android program. Another screenshot clearly shows the ability to run several apps at once, resize them, and receive notifications on the taskbar.

Although these first screenshots look promising, it’s possible that both Microsoft and Intel still have a way to go before this feature can be released. There is no official launch date as of yet, but rumors point to the first half of 2022.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Microsoft Flight Simulator Game of the Year Edition announced: Here’s what’s new

After letting the franchise sit dormant for several years, Microsoft teamed with Asobo Studio to launch Microsoft Flight Simulator in 2020. In the time since then, we’ve seen Microsoft Flight Simulator get six world updates in addition to many smaller updates. Now the companies have announced Microsoft Flight Simulator: Game of the Year Edition, which is launching next month with a collection of upgrades.

Asobo Studio started off today’s announcement post by revealing a completely separate event: a Windows 11 collaboration. From today until November 18th, there are 11 landmarks around the world that will be lit up in “Windows Blue.” Asobo Studio doesn’t reveal what those landmarks are, so it sounds like it’s up to the community to find them. In addition, the EXTRA 330LT is getting a Windows 11 livery as part of this event.

The Windows 11 collaboration takes us right to the release date of the Game of the Year Edition, which is launching on November 18th. The Game of the Year Edition will add five aircraft to the game: the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet (which is the first military jet being added to the game ahead of next year’s Top Gun: Maverick expansion), VoloCity, Pilatus PC-6 Porter, CubCrafters NX Cub, and the Aviat Pitts Special S1S.

In addition, eight handcrafted airports from Germany, Switzerland, and the United States will be added to the game. Players will be able to visit Leipzig/Halle (EDDP), Allgäu Airport Memmingen (EDJA), and Kassel (EDVK) from Germany; Lugano (LSZA), Zurich (LSZH), and Luzern-Beromunster (LSZO) from Switzerland; and Patrick Space Force Base (KCOF) and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (KNKX) from the United States.

Add to that new missions, tutorials, updated weather systems, early DX12 support, and new photogrammetry cities, and it sounds like this is quite the upgrade. The Game of the Year content will be free for those who already own Microsoft Flight Simulator on PC and Xbox Series X/S, and it will be launching on November 18th.

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Game

Nintendo Switch N64, Genesis controllers up for pre-order: Here’s how much they cost

Going along with today’s announcement of the pricing for the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, Nintendo has opened up pre-orders for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis gamepads. The Expansion Pack, of course, allows players to play classic N64 and Sega Genesis games, so like it did when it introduced NES and SNES games, Nintendo is releasing Switch-compatible controllers so players can get more of an authentic experience playing those titles.

Sadly, it seems that the authentic experience is going to cost more for N64 and Genesis than it did for SNES and NES. The N64 and Genesis controllers are priced at $49.99 each – a steep price to pay when you consider that the NES controllers run $59.99 for a pair and the SNES controllers are $29.99 each.

Neither the Genesis nor the N64 controller features a rail to slide into the Switch’s Joy-Con connector as the NES controllers do. Instead, they’re charged using USB-C, just like the SNES controller. One interesting thing to note is that the N64 gamepad has rumble support built-in, so in N64 games that supported the console’s Rumble Pak, you’ll get that functionality.

These controllers are full-sized, so it should be like using the real thing. Unfortunately, here in the US, we’re getting the classic 3-button controller for the Sega Genesis. While the 6-button controller is considered to be the better choice, that ultimately isn’t the one Nintendo decided to go with for this release.

Both controllers are going up for pre-order today, and like the NES and SNES controllers that came before these, the N64 and Genesis controllers can only be ordered by those with an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Customers are limited to four controllers per account, and orders will begin shipping out on October 25th – the same day Nintendo Switch Online’s Expansion Pack launches.

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Game

The Best Gaming Mice: Here’s What to Buy in 2021

When you’re shopping for a gaming mouse, it’s easy to pick the one with the highest DPI count, but there’s far more that goes into choosing a mouse than going for the best spec. Heck, the DPI count is arguably the most irrelevant aspect of a mouse choice — it’s all about how the mouse feels, how it responds to your inputs, and the day-to-day practicality, and figuring out the best option for you is key to performing better in-game.

Having tested a bunch of gaming mice over the years, we’re here to give you a list of our top picks to point you in the right direction.

The best gaming mice at a glance

Logitech G Pro X Superlight

Niels Broekhuijsen, Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best overall gaming mouse you can buy.

Who it’s for: First-person shooter gamers looking for the best

Why we chose the G Pro X Superlight:

The Logitech G Pro X Superlight is a simple mouse that doesn’t appear to be all too special, but don’t let its minimalist appearance throw you off: This mouse goes by the motto “less is more.” It weighs just 63 grams, and I can tell you, that’s stunningly light for any mouse and will certainly give you an advantage in FPS games.

For buttons, it also has only the bare essentials — left and right-click, a good notchy scroll wheel, and forward and backward navigation buttons. There’s no DPI switcher to be found here, but most gamers just use a fixed setting anyway. Under the hood is Logitech’s excellent Hero 25K sensor.

But despite its light weight, the G Pro X Superlight is also wireless, with a Logitech Lightspeed connection, and the combination of all its features makes it the most effortless, naturally intuitive gaming mouse I’ve ever played on. It’s a little costly at $150, but if you’re serious about your first-person shooters, this is a mouse you cannot miss. In the name of weight savings though, there’s no RGB, so that’s something to keep in mind if that’s important to you.

SteelSeries Prime, Prime+ & Prime Wireless

Niels Broekhuijsen, Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a highly tactile, feel-good FPS mouse.

Who it’s for: Gamers who like SteelSeries or a more tactile feel

Why we chose the SteelSeries Prime: 

The SteelSeries Prime gaming mice come in three variants — Prime, Prime+, and Prime Wireless — but our top pick goes to the entry-level Prime mouse for its excellent value for money.

This mouse has an ergo-ish shape, packing a great sensor, optical switches, and possibly the most distinct notches in a scroll wheel we’ve ever felt. Thanks to the light weight of 71 grams (or 80 for the wireless variant), this mouse is excellent for FPS games or gaming in general.

It doesn’t come with a lot of buttons, but it’s a very comfortable mouse that feels sturdy and has an excellent tactile feel, constantly reminding you of why SteelSeries remains so good at making gaming peripherals.

With pricing at $60 for the entry-level variant, it takes our top pick, but the Prime Wireless is also seriously worth considering despite its steep $140 price tag.

Read our in-depth SteelSeries Prime Wireless review 

Corsair M65 RGB Elite

Niels Broekhuijsen, Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a high-quality wired mouse for FPS shooting.

Who it’s for: Gamers who prefer to rely on a tether for reliable FPS gaming

Why we chose the Corsair M65 RGB Elite: 

Corsair’s M65 is a classic mouse at this point, but the company is still updating it bit by bit. By now, it packs RGB, a better 18K sensor, weight tuning, and more.

But underneath, it still features the same classic aluminum shell with tunable weights, cladding the outside in thick and strong plastics. The side is grippy, the DPI-shift button helps when sniping, and everything about the M65 just feels right. This is a strong mouse that doesn’t feel like it will implode if you claw it with too much force.

It doesn’t try to set any records with low weight, but it doesn’t need to. With pricing at about $60, and often found for as little as $50, this is a gaming mouse that you’ll find plenty comfortable and it will last a long time.

Razer Orochi V2

Niels Broekhuijsen, Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You need a reliable, ultralight mobile gaming mouse.

Who it’s for: Laptop gamers, or gamers who like small mice

Why we chose the Razer Orochi V2: 

The Razer Orochi V2 is the company’s latest addition to its gaming mice, packing all of its greatest tech into a tiny, portable package with absurdly good battery life.

Generally, you’d look at Logitech’s MX Anywhere mouse when you need a mouse for on the go, but it’s no good for gaming. Razer’s Orochi V2, on the other hand, features very similar dimensions, but with lighter weight, a better sensor, and 1000 Hz polling for faster responses.

Premium materials are absent here, but it’s important to keep the Orochi V2’s weight in mind: With a lithium battery, it weighs 74 grams, and using a standard alkaline AAA battery drops this to just 69 grams with a power source — and that’s not a lot.

Read our in-depth Razer Orochi V2 review

Logitech G502 Hero

Why you should buy this: It’s a comfortable, well-featured gaming mouse with excellent performance.

Who it’s for: Gamers looking for more customizable buttons and hand-friendly shapes

Why we chose the G502 Hero:

Logitech’s G502 Hero is a long-running classic at this point, but that’s not stopping us from putting it on this list. Featuring 11 programmable buttons, a DPI Shift button, an unlockable scroll wheel, great materials quality, a bit of RGB, and a shape to die for, there’s no way we couldn’t mention this mouse.

But those points aren’t even the best about it — that honor goes to the 25K Hero sensor that’s inside, which is considered one of the industry’s best gaming mouse sensors. Logitech puts a lot of money into R&D for its sensor tech, and it shows. Additionally, the mouse can be tuned exactly to your liking with adjustable lift-off distance, macro programming, and weights to get it feeling exactly how you want it.

The retail price is set at $80, but it’s been on the market for so long that it’s often priced at $50, making it a hard deal to pass up.

Razer Pro Click Humanscale

Niels Broekhuijsen, Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing: A gaming mouse marketed as an office mouse.

Who it’s for: Gamers who need a comfortable, ergonomic gaming mouse

Why we chose the Razer Pro Click:

Razer’s Pro Click is a bit of a confusing mouse. Propositioned as an ergonomic office mouse as a competitor to Logitech’s MX Master 3, I found that it didn’t really do that job quite so well. Rather, my experience with it showed that it’s actually a brilliant gaming mouse with an excellent ergonomic design, kind of like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Indeed, the Pro Click is better seen as a gaming mouse that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, featuring neat minimalistic styling and excellent sensor and button performance, along with great materials quality, wireless connectivity, and superb comfort.

Priced at $100, it’s also surprisingly affordable compared to many other options out there nowadays, which may be in part due to its office-focused marketing. But don’t let that hold you back — if you’re a gamer who has wrist and joint issues, this mouse may just be big and comfortable enough for you to avoid having to make the swap to a full vertical mouse.

Full review: Razer’s Pro Click and Pro Type: The all-white peripherals you’ve always wanted?

Logitech G203 Lightsync

Why you should buy this: It’s a great budget gaming mouse.

Who it’s for: Budget shoppers who still want good performance and RGB

Why we chose the Logitech G203 Lightsync:

Logitech’s G203 Lightsync is a bit of a funny mouse, not because it’s available in a lilac color scheme, but because it offers a ton of value with an MSRP of $30, often costing less than $20 if you shop around a little. Don’t worry, you can get it in black and white too.

And although it doesn’t feel like a premium mouse by any stretch of the imagination, it most certainly doesn’t feel like a $30 mouse either, as it has a good sensor aboard, great switches, and a fair amount of RGB illumination.

Sure, the cable isn’t braided, it’s not very grippy, nor does it have a high-DPI sensor, but its 8K sensor is plenty for all but the most demanding gamers, and it offers impressively good gaming performance for the money. If you’re on a budget, just getting into gaming, or need a mouse for your kid, the G203 Lightsync is a great option to consider that won’t break the bank.

The best gaming mice Q&A:

 What DPI should I play at?

Although many gaming mice tout sensors with extremely high DPI figures, we’re telling you now: You’ll never use anything above 6,400 DPI. In fact, most pro gamers play at 400 to 800 DPI, with the aim being longer swoops for the same in-game movement, allowing you to take aim with much higher accuracy. This is also why 60% and 65% keyboards are so popular among gamers: They give the player much more space for mousing around without a numpad in the way.

But don’t take that to mean you should ignore all these high-DPI mice. Rather, take the high DPI number as the maker vouching for its sensor’s performance, as high-DPI mice generally have better tracking, zero pointer acceleration, adjustable or pre-optimized lift-off distance, and most importantly, are capable of high-speed sweeps while maintaining accurate tracking, something that’s important when playing at much lower DPI settings.

Wireless or wired?

This one’s really a matter of cost, but generally, our preference goes to wireless mice. It used to be that wireless gaming mice suffered in performance compared to their tethered counterparts due to slow communications and interference, but that’s no longer the case with radio developments over the last few years. Wireless mice today perform as well as if not better than their wired counterparts due to not having to drag a cable around. The flip side is that they cost more, need to be charged (especially if they have RGB), and tend to weigh a little more, but we believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Do I need a ton of buttons?

If you’re an MMORPG gamer, then the answer to this is a resounding yes. But other than that, most gamers should focus on finding a mouse with a comfortable shape, excellent sensor, and light weight, as these will help better your performance more than having buttons that you don’t use. Because, remember, those buttons add complexity and weight, which will slow you down when aiming down sights.

Any other tips?

Yes, also make sure you invest in a good mouse pad for smooth gliding, and if you’re serious about gaming performance, look into a smaller keyboard with no more than a TKL layout and a high-refresh-rate gaming monitor.

Pair that with a PC that’s powerful enough to run your games at higher frame rates (do yourself a favor and prioritize frame rates over eye candy in competitive games), and you’ll suddenly find that you have a significant advantage on the battlefield.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Superman items are finally available in Fortnite: Here’s how to unlock them

When Fortnite season 7 kicked off earlier this summer, one character that undoubtedly caught the eye of everyone was Superman. As the reveal trailer for season 7 showed off an alien invasion arriving at Fortnite‘s island, Superman was one of the heroes enlisted to fight the aliens off. Now, weeks later, the character is finally going to be available in Fortnite.

Even better is the fact that none of Superman’s outfits are going to be exclusive to Fortnite‘s store, which means players can unlock all Superman items and skins just by completing battle pass challenges. With those challenges, players will work with Armored Batman and Beast Boy to restore Superman’s memories. As players complete quests, they’ll unlock new Superman-themed items.

Players will unlock the Call to Action emoticon after completing 1 quest from Clark Kent, Armored Batman, or Beast Boy. Completing three quests from any of those characters will unlock the Superman Shield spray while completing five will unlock the Clark Kent outfit. After that, players need to glide through three rings as Clark Kent to unlock the Daily Planet back bling. Once all of that’s done, head to a phone booth as Clark Kent to unlock the Secret Identity emote and Superman Cape back bling. Using the emote will allow you to change between Clark Kent and Superman.

Once you’re done with that track, there’s a set of Epic Quests to complete to unlock Clark Kent and Superman’s Shadow outfits. These quests will unlock the Kal-El’s Cape glider, a Superman-themed banner, a loading screen titled “The Last Son of Krypton,” the Solitude Striker pickaxe, and Shadow variants for Clark Kent, the Daily Planet back bling, the Superman Cape back bling, and the Solitude Striker pickaxe.

From there, using the Secret Identity emote while wearing the Shadow Clark Kent outfit will allow him to transform into Shadow Superman. You can see the unlocks in the images embedded throughout this article, but otherwise, hop into Fortnite and get to work on completing those quests.

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