New ‘FIFA Mobile’ mode puts the focus on strategy, not action

Would you rather oversee your FIFA Mobile team than control your players’ every last step? You now have your chance. EA has introduced a Manager Mode to the Android and iOS title that has you focusing on strategy and tactics rather than action. You choose the starting lineup, set the tactics in real-time (such as attacking or countering) and let your team play. You can even queue multiple matches as you climb the division ranks.

The corresponding game update also improves goalkeepers, adds player switching options and offers kits for 30 national teams. The upgrade is available now.

This doesn’t turn FIFA Mobile into a management sim like Football Manager. You aren’t scouting talent, shaping training programs or wrestling with the team’s board. Think of this more as the soccer equivalent to an auto battler like Auto Chess or Teamfight Tactics — it’s a slightly more relaxed experience that does more to reward situational awareness than fast reflexes.

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Okta hack puts thousands of businesses on high alert

Okta, an authentication company used by thousands of organizations around the world, has now confirmed an attacker had access to one of its employees’ laptops for five days in January 2022 and that around 2.5 percent of its customers may have been affected — but maintains its service “has not been breached and remains fully operational.”

The disclosure comes as hacking group Lapsus$ has posted screenshots to its Telegram channel claiming to be of Okta’s internal systems, including one that appears to show Okta’s Slack channels, and another with a Cloudflare interface.

Any hack of Okta could have major ramifications for the companies, universities, and government agencies that depend upon Okta to authenticate user access to internal systems.

“We have concluded that a small percentage of customers – approximately 2.5 percent – have potentially been impacted and whose data may have been viewed or acted upon,” Okta chief security officer David Bradbury wrote in an update Tuesday evening. “We have identified those customers and are contacting them directly. If you are an Okta customer and were impacted, we have already reached out directly by email. We are sharing this interim update, consistent with our values of customer success, integrity, and transparency.”

In an earlier statement on Tuesday afternoon, Okta said that an attacker would only have had limited access during that five-day period — limited enough that the company claims “there are no corrective actions that need to be taken by our customers.”

Here’s what Bradbury says is and isn’t at stake when one of its support engineers is compromised:

The potential impact to Okta customers is limited to the access that support engineers have. These engineers are unable to create or delete users, or download customer databases. Support engineers do have access to limited data – for example, Jira tickets and lists of users – that were seen in the screenshots. Support engineers are also able to facilitate the resetting of passwords and MFA factors for users, but are unable to obtain those passwords.

Writing in its Telegram channel, the Lapsus$ hacking group claims to have had “Superuser/Admin” access to Okta’s systems for two months, not just five days, that it had access to a thin client rather than a laptop, and claims that it found Okta storing AWS keys in Slack channels. The group also suggested it was using its access to zero in on Okta’s customers.

The Wall Street Journal notes that in a recent filing Okta said it had over 15,000 customers around the world. It lists the likes of Peloton, Sonos, T-Mobile, and the FCC as customers on its website. Based on the given figure of “approximately 2.5 percent,” the number of these customers that have been affected could approach 400.

In a earlier statement sent to The Verge, Okta spokesperson Chris Hollis said the company has not found evidence of an ongoing attack. “In late January 2022, Okta detected an attempt to compromise the account of a third party customer support engineer working for one of our subprocessors. The matter was investigated and contained by the subprocessor.” Hollis said. “We believe the screenshots shared online are connected to this January event.”

“Based on our investigation to date, there is no evidence of ongoing malicious activity beyond the activity detected in January,” Hollis continued. But again, writing in their Telegram channel, Lapsus$ suggested that it had access for a few months.

Lapsus$ is a hacking group that’s claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile incidents affecting Nvidia, Samsung, Microsoft, and Ubisoft, in some cases stealing hundreds of gigabytes of confidential data.

Okta says it terminated its support engineer’s Okta sessions and suspended the account back in January, but claims it only received the final report from its forensics firm this week.

Update, 2:38PM ET: Added Okta’s statement and claims that the hack was very limited, with no corrective actions that need to be taken.

Update, 2:58PM ET: Added the Lapsus$ hacker group’s claim that it had access to a thin client rather than a laptop, that it found Okta storing AWS keys in Slack channels.

Update, 11:30PM ET: Added details from Okta’s updated statement.

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Tech News

New ML-based console cheat puts the AI in ‘aim assist’

Aim bots are nothing new in the world of competitive online gaming. But the possible existence of a virtually undetectable new machine learning-powered cheat for consoles has the gaming community in a bit of a fervor as of late.

Up front: We can’t confirm its existence, but the Anti-Cheat Police Department Twitter account posted footage of what it says is a legitimate AI-powered cheating software.

What makes this interesting is that it’s alleged to work on consoles. While consoles are typically more difficult to cheat on than PCs, due to the nature of their respective operating systems, it’s certainly not rare to come across people using aim assistance software (aim bots) or modified controllers.

However, it’s typically relatively easy to detect them. Whether you can see the modified interface in game replays from the cheater’s perspective (a feature common to FPS games) or the developers bake in methods for detecting non-human inputs and performances, there’s usually a way to squash cheats when they start propagating.

The big deal: In the above video, what we’re allegedly seeing is a player using a PC with a capture card to send real-time gaming data (ie: whatever’s on the TV screen) from their gaming console to a cheat program running on the PC.

The cheat program then uses what appears to be a fairly basic computer vision system to identify targets. It then sends spoofed commands to the player’s controller so that the console itself is fooled into thinking the player is controlling everything.

In game, the player just has to control their on-screen avatar’s movement and aim in the general direction of enemies. The software locks on to targets and automatically fires.

Quick take: This is an interesting modern twist on a classic gaming cheat. The existence of aim bots is, unfortunately, a common evil – even on consoles. But it’s typically more of a nuisance at the public lobbies level than it is on competitive circuits.

Fortunately, there’s almost nothing noteworthy about the machine learning used in a system like this. The only interesting thing here is that the PC program spoofs commands to the controller. This makes it virtually undetectable. At least by humans working alone.

Microsoft and Sony both have outstanding AI departments and they’re both heavily-invested in fighting cheating in video games – the esports market alone is expected to surpass $1 billion this year.

Microsoft’s developing AI systems to track and detect player skill evolution. This will allow them to determine with incredible accuracy when a player employs performance-enhancing software or devices. And Sony regularly patents new anti-cheat technology.

At the end of the day, this is just another round in the cat and mouse game between cheaters and developers.

H/t: Eurogamer

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‘Zelda: Skyward Sword HD’ puts Fi on mute

When , it will address many of the more annoying design choices found in the original game. As you can see from the trailer Nintendo shared today, the remaster will feature several “quality of life improvements,” including the ability to skip cutscenes, tutorials and dialogue. What’s more, Skyward Sword HD will render at a smoother 60 frames per second, and include optional button controls.

But the biggest change is more of an addition by subtraction. Players can choose to ask Fi for advice, instead of the spirit offering it incessantly on their own. Nintendo explains Fi will only appear in cutscenes and when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, Link’s sword will glow when Fi has something to say, and you can choose to hear them out or not.

In much the same way, Nintendo has also streamlined how players interact with items. The first time you pick a new one up, the game will explain what it does, but won’t subject you to that same explanation every subsequent time you find that same item.

Skyward Sword HD also includes a new fast travel system, but you’ll need to pick up a Nintendo will release on the same day as the remaster to get access to that feature.

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Tech News

Nikon Z fc mirrorless camera puts a modern heart in a glorious retro body

Nikon has revealed its newest digital camera, though at first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking the Nikon Z fc mirrorless was something from the company’s film-based archives. Thoroughly retro in its styling, the “heritage-design” model is the first time we’ve seen the Z-series embrace a more traditional aesthetic, though inside you’re not compromising on hardware.

So, you still get 4k UHD video recording – without crop – and full-time autofocus (AF-F) during that. There’s the same Eye-Detection AF and Animal-Detection AF during stills and videos that the Nikon Z 7II and Nikon Z 6II introduced, too.

Wide-area AF-area mode is supported, with up to 87-percent coverage, and there’s an ISO range from 100-51200 (expandable to up to ISO 204800). The sensor is 20.9-megapixels, paired with an EXPEED 6 processor, and can shoot at up to 11 fps.

As well as the OLED viewfinder, there’s a 3-inch vari-angle display – a first on Nikon’s Z series models – with touch support. That automatically switches the Z fc into self-portrait mode when flipped all the way up. You can transfer images over from the camera more easily to a smartphone or tablet via the SnapBridge app, and there’s a webcam utility that allows the camera to be used as a USB webcam. A 3.5mm stereo microphone input provides plug-in power for external audio, while storage is via SD.

It’s all wrapped up in a design which Nikon says was inspired by the FM2 SLR film camera first released back in 1982. The Nikon logo is the same as the company used in the 1970s and 80s, while the FM2 donates most of the control positioning, plus a circular eyepiece and trio of dials on the top body.

Along with the magnesium alloy parts, there’ll be six different exterior color options. That’ll run the gamut from the more traditional black, tan, and white, through pale pastels for those who want something more eye-catching.

There’ll be two matching lenses as well, though of course owners will be able to use any Nikon Z mount system glass they might have. The NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 (SE) is a compact prime lens, also with a heritage design, capturing at 42mm angle of view and with a minimum focus distance of 7.5 inches.

There’ll also be NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens in a silver-color variation, Nikon says, again to match the Z fc aesthetic.

Pricing for the Nikon Z fc starts at $959.95 body-only, with preorders opening from today. It’s available in Black, Amber Brown, White, Natural Gray, Sand Beige, Coral Pink, and Mint Green, though Nikon warns that the more unusual colors are limited-availability. The kit with the 28mm prime lens is $1,199.95, or $1,099.95 with the 16-50mm zoom.

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TCL NXTWear G Puts a 140-Inch Screen In Front of Your Eyes

Modern phone screens can look amazing, but there’s no getting away from the fact they’re usually quite small, especially for comfortably watching a lengthy video. TCL Communications has the answer with the TCL NXTWear G, a wearable display that puts a 140-inch equivalent screen right in front of your eyes.

The NXTWear G have a sunglass-like design, and are fairly lightweight at about 100 grams, so wearing them for the duration of the average movie shouldn’t be a problem. You stare at dual Sony OLED screens each with a Full HD resolution, which gives the impression of looking at a 140-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio screen. TCL says the NXTWear G will show both 3D and 4K resolution video, and because the glasses understand the position of your body, you can watch standing up, sitting down, or laying down and the screen will always stay in front of your eyes.

Worried about battery life? Don’t be, because there isn’t a battery inside. Instead, the NXTWear G takes power from the device it’s connected to by a USB Type-C cable. It links to your smartphone, tablet, Windows PC, or Mac’s USB Display Port and effectively mirrors what you’d normally see on the screen. You can watch video from your phone, or make video calls from your computer, for example. Because the NXTWear G doesn’t cover your entire face like a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, you should still see the device, desk, or keyboard to work as normal.

TCL says with the glasses connected to a phone — about 100 different models work with the NXTWear G so far — on average the device’s battery should provide enough power to watch about five hours of video. While there are speakers built into the glasses, listening to audio using Bluetooth headphones from the connected device will increase privacy. If you wear glasses normally, there’s the option to add your prescription to a separate lens that magnetically attaches to the inside of the NXTWear G, plus a selection of nose pads are included to help get the best fit. The glasses fold down ready to be stored in a case for easy transportation.

TCL has been talking about its wearable display technology for a while, and it was revealed during CES 2021 as Project Archer. We’ve tried prototypes out at trade shows in the past, but we have yet to try it in this new, much more face-friendly hardware design. When will that change? It may be a little while yet, as TCL’s launch plans start in South Korea and Australia in July, with Europe to follow. A North American release is in the plans, but there’s no timeframe yet.

Part of the reason is how TCL is currently marketing the NXTWear G wearable display. It has struck deals with partners in South Korea and Australia, where the glasses are packaged with a video subscription service, and in some cases a smartphone too. It’s in discussion to bring the NXTWear G to the U.S. in a similar way. It’s a very new type of product, and TCL is exploring ways to help people understand how to get the best from it. It does still intend to sell the NXTWear G separately in some regions, with a projected price of around 599 euros, or about $715.

Editors’ Choice

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Tech News

Tamagotchi Smart puts your virtual pet on your wrist

It’s almost hard to believe that Tamagotchi is already 25 years old now, but that’s exactly what the franchise is celebrating this year. Despite all the advancements in technology, especially in toys, brand owner Bandai still believes in the joys of a simple egg-shaped device that houses a virtual pet. That said, there is always room for improvement and that seems to be what the Tamagotchi Smart is trying to present, putting the same pet-raising experience in a smartwatch form, complete with touch and crude voice input.

To be clear, the Tamagotchi Smart isn’t a smartwatch with a Tamagotchi app installed. It is more like a Tamagotchi that you can wear on your wrist and has clock functionality. Given its size and functions, it’s clearly aimed at a demographic that doesn’t really need dedicated watches, much less a smartwatch, like kids.

Tamagotchi Smart does bring some semblance of smartwatches to the toy. It has touch input to wake up your pet and interact with it. It also has voice detection but not recognition. In other words, it can be used to wake up the pet as well but not much else. It might be possible to listen to music, but the product page doesn’t exactly explain how to do that.

The device does have one unique feature in the form of a TamaSmart card that can be connected to the Tamagotchi Smart. Those cards will hold new content for pets, almost like a DLC, but it will be tied to at most three Tamagotchi Smart devices once used. Reading the FAQ, the “smartwatch” actually has very limited guarantees, including no water resistance, a rather strange decision for a device that’s meant to be used by kids.

The Tamagotchi Smart is launching on November 23 but die-hard fans can try their luck to get one early in a lottery from June 17 to July 2. The smartwatch itself will cost 7,480 JPY, around $68, while the TamaSmart card will go for 1,100 or $10. Global availability is still unknown at this point.

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Transform 2021 puts the spotlight on women in AI

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.

VentureBeat is proud to bring back the Women in AI Breakfast and Awards online for Transform 2021. In the male-dominated tech industry, women are constantly faced with the gender equity gap. There is so much work in the tech industry to become more inclusive of bridging the gender gap while at the same time creating a diverse community.

VentureBeat is committed year after year to emphasize the importance of women leaders by giving them the platform to share their stories and obstacles they face in their male-dominated industries. As part of Transform 2021, we are excited to host our annual Women in AI Breakfast, presented by Capital One, and recognize women leaders’ accomplishments with our Women in AI Awards.

Women in AI Breakfast:

VentureBeat’s third annual Women in AI Breakfast, presented by Capital One, will commemorate women leading the AI industry. Join the digital networking session and panel on July 12 at 7:35 a.m. Pacific.

This digital breakfast includes networking and a discussion on the topic surrounding “Women in AI: a seat at the table.” Our panelists will explore how we can get more women into the AI workforce, plus the roles and responsibilities of corporates, academia, governments, & society as a whole in achieving this goal.

Featured speakers include Kay Firth Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum; Kathy Baxter, Principal Architect, Ethical AI Practice, Salesforce; Tiffany Deng, Program Management Lead- ML Fairness and Responsible AI, Google; and Teuta Mercado, Responsible AI Program Director, Capital One. Registration for Transform 2021 is required for attendance.

Women in AI Awards: 

Once again, VentureBeat will be honoring extraordinary women leaders at the Women in AI Awards. The five categories this year include Responsibility & Ethics of AI, AI Entrepreneur, AI Research, AI Mentorship, and Rising Star.

Submit your nominations by July 9th at 5 p.m. Pacific. Learn more about the nomination process here.

The winners of the 2021 Women in AI Awards will be presented at VB Transform on July 16th, alongside the AI Innovation Awards. Register for Transform 2021 to join online.


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Tech News

Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition puts amp and streaming apps in one lavish box

If the idea of your own little bubble of perfect audio sounds appealing, Naim Audio’s new Uniti Atom Headphone Edition may be the trick to bringing out your inner-audiophile. A headphone-optimized version of the British music equipment specialist’s Unity Atom system, it combines a streaming box for platforms like TIDAL and Spotify with a high-quality headphone amp and more.

Rather than playing music back through a set of speakers, then, Naim’s newest box is focused on a single listener. It comes equipped with a new transformer design which, Naim says, has been reworked to deliver the best power for a headphone amp. There’s a choice of both balanced 4-pin XLR and Pentaconn outputs, plus a standard 6.3mm output.

The amp itself is a class-A that can switch into class-AB. Normally, at regular volumes, it sticks with class-A, but as you crank the power up – and the impedance of your headphones drops – then it can add in class-AB power for the top dB. There’s 1.5W per channel into 16 Ω, regardless of which output you’re using, and the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition connects to all outputs simultaneously.

There’s also support for using the box with a pre-amp, for those times you do want full speaker support. However, you can choose which to use depending on which headphones you feel like listening to. If you’re using the front 6.3mm and Pentaconn outputs, for example, the pre-amp outputs automatically mute and a headphone button illuminates. Or, you can press it manually if you want to use the XLR connection on the back.

On the streaming side, meanwhile, there’s the same tech that Naim already used on its Mu-so 2nd Gen, Uniti, and ND 555 players. There’s native support for TIDAL, Spotify Connect, and Qobuz, along with Chromecast and AirPlay 2 streaming to access other services, and Roon Ready status. TIDAL Connect, meanwhile, will be added in a few months time, Naim says.

There’s support for up to 24-bit/384kHz WAV, FLAC, and AIFF audio, plus ALAC. For MP3 and AAC, there’s up to 48kHz/320kbit (16-bit) support, plus up to 48kHz (16-bit) OGG and WMA. There’s DSD 64 and 128Fs, and finally SBC and AAC support over Bluetooth.

For connectivity, there’s an ethernet port, and WiFi 802.11ac, plus a USB port that can play music from external drives. Up to five Naim Streaming products can be connected and have their playback synchronized, all controlled via the Naim app. If you’re just operating the Uniti Atom Headphone Edition, there’s a front panel with buttons and a traditional rotary volume knob, or you can use the included Zigbee remote.

The Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is available now, priced at $3,290.

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Tech News

Fitbit Luxe puts stress and fitness tracking in a more stylish band

Fitbit has a new health-tracking wearable aiming for your wrist, with Fitbit Luxe promising a little more style than most activity trackers. Described as the company’s “most elevated tracker,” Luxe takes its inspiration from jewelry more than the tech world, with a smooth stainless steel case and interchangeable bands and straps.

The casing is made using metal injection molding, for a more seamless finish. Then, there’s metal vaporizing plating for the soft gold and platinum finishes. There’ll be silicone, Horween leather, woven, stainless steel mesh, and other bands and straps, and Fitbit has partnered with gorjana on a Fitbit Luxe Special Edition with a Parker Link Bracelet in soft gold stainless steel and a swimproof silicone peony band.

Everything is controlled via the narrow AMOLED touchscreen with a combination of taps and swipes, and there are no physical buttons on the Luxe at all. It’s water resistant to 50 meters, and has a battery which should last for up to five days, Fitbit says.

Despite the size, though, it’s still a full-featured Fitbit. There’s 24/7 heart rate tracking and oxygen saturation (SpO2) monitoring, and the Luxe will track pace, distance, and whatever other activity you get up to through the day. There are 20 exercise modes to choose between, and the wearable will automatically begin logging the most appropriate when it spots you starting to work out.

That includes swim tracking, and there’s also sleep tracking with differentiation between stages of sleep. Fitbit’s menstrual health tracking is included, to log periods, record symptoms, and track ovulation.

On the relaxation side, there’s guided breathing and “Mindful Minutes” to try to distract your brain from daily stresses. That’s one of a number of stress management tools, which will track physical signs of stress, Fitbit says, and then give you a score on your levels out of 100. Breathing rate and heart rate variability are also logged, and if you have a Fitbit Premium subscription the app will help join the dots between the various metrics being tracked.

As you’d expect, there are basics like call, text, and smartphone notifications, silent alarms, timers, a stopwatch, and a Do Not Disturb mode for when you’re trying to focus. Fitbit Luxe is available for preorder now, priced at $149.95. The company says it should ship worldwide this spring.

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