Categories
Game

Move Over, Twitch: Facebook Gaming is Steadily on the Rise

The world of video games and game streaming exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuck inside and far away from friends, many gamers made new acquaintances in streamers and their communities, joining together virtually as the outside world remained dangerous. Others began their streaming career from their bedrooms, hoping to find a way to pass the time, make a little money, and play the games they love for an audience.

This boom resulted in an explosion in the growth for streaming platforms. The biggest streaming platform, Twitch, raked in money as viewers subscribed to their favorite personalities and an increasing number of streamers started their own channels.

At the same time, Twitch was dogged with a variety of accusations and problems ranging from insufficient moderation to the proliferation of hate raids and other targeted attacks on minority streamers to a lack of backend tools for all streamers. These issues prompted third-party companies to come up with solutions to issues it seemed Twitch was not committed to solving. During the resulting boycott, titled “A Day Away From Twitch,” streamers and viewers alike began looking for alternate platforms to build their communities and interact with fans.

Enter Facebook Gaming. Though Facebook’s homemade streaming platform has been around since 2018, it’s received a recent boost in both viewership and hours streamed due to the pandemic and the widespread fallout at Twitch. While Facebook Gaming is undoubtedly growing in size and scope, can it hold a candle to established streaming titans like Twitch and YouTube Gaming and carve out its own niche in a crowded industry? The answer is yes — with an asterisk.

By the numbers

Last month, third-party software maker Streamlabs and data analytics company Stream Hatchet released a report detailing viewership and streaming data from Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming for the third quarter of 2021. One of the biggest takeaways is that the total amount of hours watched on Facebook Gaming was higher than the total amount of hours watched on YouTube Gamin, Viewers watched 1.29 billion hours of live content on Facebook Gaming versus 1.13 billion hours of live content on YouTube Gaming. Note that this only accounts for livestreams and does not include other video viewership on either platform.

Twitch still holds the crown with a total of 5.79 billion hours watched in the third quarter, though it’s interesting to note that this number fell from 6.51 billion hours watched in the second quarter. Facebook Gaming was the only platform of the three that increased in total hours watched during the third quarter. It represents a staggering amount of live content across all platforms.

On the streaming end, more hours were streamed on Facebook Gaming during  the third quarter of 2021 than on YouTube Gaming. Creators streamed 17.1 million hours of content on Facebook Gaming, while only 8.4 million hours were streamed on YouTube Gaming (Twitch sits at 222.9 million hours streamed). Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet also reported that the number of hours streamed on Twitch during the third quarter fell by the largest percentage in the platform’s history. While Facebook Gaming’s amount of hours streamed in the third quarter was less than in the second quarter, the company still saw a year-over-year increase in hours streamed compared to the third quarter of 2020.

It’s worth noting that Facebook Gaming had a sharp drop in unique channels streaming in 2021, from 1.538 million in the first quarter to 440,000 in the third quarter, likely due in part to the easing of pandemic restrictions.

As these numbers stand, Facebook Gaming has 13.8% of the streaming market share between the three companies in terms of hours watched and 6.9% of the market share for hours streamed. While that seems like a pittance next to Twitch’s lion’s share of the market, it’s important to note the trends in data. The fact that Facebook Gaming overtook YouTube Gaming in both hours watched and hours streamed, combined with Twitch’s losses in some areas, could mark the beginning of a new era for the platform.

In an email interview, Amanda Jefson, director of product at Facebook Gaming, told Digital Trends that the platform is “looking at sustained growth in the number of channels” despite the decrease noted above. Though it’s hard to go toe-to-toe with Twitch right now, it seems that Facebook Gaming is playing the long game, which could help both streamers and viewers over time.

Features for the discerning

Since its launch, Facebook Gaming has released a variety of quality of life and monetization features to develop the platform further. Last month, Facebook Gaming announced co-streaming, which allows streamers to stream with one another and lets viewers choose which stream they want to view. Twitch has a similar feature, but only Partners, defined as content creators with large followings and individual contracts with the company, can use it. Facebook Gaming has also introduced other features and programs, like the ability to use certain background music in streams without having to worry about copyright issues, a frequent complaint on Twitch.

Facebook is also expanding its commitment to diversity with the Black Gaming Creator Program, an effort to “help fund the next generation of Black gaming creators and provide mentorship, training, and early access to new products and features,” according to Jefson. The spirit of Facebook Gaming is “a welcoming space where anyone can play, watch, or connect around their favorite games,” she added.

Most notably, Facebook Gaming has created a variety of mental health workshops that give its content creators access to counselors and therapists, as well as resources and additional assistance when needed. “They’ve … put together wellness events to talk about the pressures of the industry and how to take care your mental health while navigating this career,” said Facebook Gaming streamer Michael “The Fierce Diva” Reynolds in an email interview.

A content creator co-streaming on Facebook Gaming.

Facebook has been in the news for a while after the release of a bombshell report concerning internal company knowledge that its platforms promote unhealthy atmospheres for teenagers and young people. While the company grapples with the ramifications of the report, Facebook Gaming at least appears to be trying to help its creators on the mental health front.

The company also has immunity in one area that has plagued Twitch for several months now: Hate raids. Part of the issue with hate raids on Twitch was that spammers and malicious users could make as many accounts as they wanted to under different usernames, allowing them to jump back onto the platform after one account was banned. These users frequently remained anonymous because of Twitch’s username system. On Facebook Gaming, viewers chat and interact with their real names because the platform’s logins are synonymous with those of Facebook, which requires the use of a first and last name. This makes it more difficult for spammers and hate raiders to harass content creators. If they can’t hide behind anonymous accounts and usernames, they’re less likely to rain hate on an unsuspecting streamer.

While these changes and high points are ostensibly meant to help both streamers and viewers, increasing viewership and streaming on the platform will ultimately make Facebook significantly more money. Though Facebook Gaming has pledged to give streamers 100% of the revenue from subscriptions — Twitch only gives a percentage — and announced a $1 billion “commitment” to creators, the ultimate goal is undoubtedly to make the platform more attractive to streamers and viewers and therefore increase ad revenue for the company. It’s also notable that many of these Facebook announcements are coming on the heels of widespread negative press and boycotts around Twitch, as well as the departure of several of the streaming giant’s biggest personalities.

Laser focus

The sense I got from speaking with Jefson and Reynolds was that Facebook Gaming is aiming to be a one-stop shop for everything that content creators want to do: Play games, engage with their community, and build a social media following. Rather than having to direct viewers to a Discord server for chatting or a social media page for curated content, Facebook Gaming streamers can interact directly with their followers and post recorded content on Fan Groups.

“My favorite part of Facebook Gaming is that social media is embedded into the foundation of everyone’s page,” said Reynolds. “I think this ultimately allows those that use the platform to connect with their audience more meaningfully.”

“Streamer Fan Groups allow for a community to connect and talk with each other and stay engaged before and after streams …,” adds Jefson.

Content creators laugh together at Facebook Gaming's PLAYLOUD event.

Facebook Gaming is also popular in countries outside of the U.S., including Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico. It’s noted in the Streamlabs report that only one of the top 10 Facebook Gaming content creators by follower count speaks primarily English. According to Indian finance website Moneycontrol, over 207 million Indian users, or about 15% of the country’s population, watched “live gaming videos on Facebook” during the third quarter of 2021. While Facebook is simply one of many social networks used in the U.S., to many other countries, it’s an essential method of communication and information sharing. Tying Facebook Gaming to an already successful social network is one of the ways that Facebook Gaming has been able to grow its platform.

As a result, Facebook Gaming’s most popular titles are a little different than Twitch’s and YouTube Gaming’s. Facebook Gaming allows content creators to easily stream mobile games from their phones or tablets, which leads to generally higher popularity for mobile-only titles on Facebook’s platform than on competitors’. Games that have found success outside of the U.S. are also more popular on Facebook Gaming than they are elsewhere, which speaks to a truly international audience with a broad range of interests, rather than the usual North American- and European-centric streaming focus.

Is Facebook Gaming a viable alternative to Twitch and YouTube Gaming? Yes, if you have specific aims and goals for your stream. If you’re sick of the restrictions and lack of moderation that Twitch has thrown onto the shoulders of its content creators, you’ll no doubt be attracted to Facebook Gaming’s more deliberate commitment to its streamers. The company also offers more transparent pay schemes and a variety of other features that Twitch and YouTube Gaming could do well to implement. If you primarily stream mobile titles and are bilingual or are aiming for an international audience, Facebook Gaming seems like great place to start.

At the same time, it’s not clear whether streaming as a whole will be able to regain the soaring heights of popularity that the industry reached during the worst of the pandemic. Content creation has become a busy, crowded field — it’s no longer possible to simply stream yourself playing Call of Duty and instantly make money. Knowing this, it will be interesting to see what streaming companies and platforms do in the future if unique accounts continue to wane and the hype dies down just a little bit.

Will companies like Facebook Gaming be able to retain their commitment, both financial and otherwise, to streamers if the field doesn’t maintain its glamour in the future? It’s unclear. For now, though, the streaming waters are warm, so you may as well swim.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

AI Weekly: AI model training costs on the rise, highlighting need for new solutions

This week, Microsoft and Nvidia announced that they trained what they claim is one of the largest and most capable AI language models to date: Megatron-Turing Natural Language Generation (MT-NLP). MT-NLP contains 530 billion parameters — the parts of the model learned from historical data — and achieves leading accuracy in a broad set of tasks, including reading comprehension and natural language inferences.

But building it didn’t come cheap. Training took place across 560 Nvidia DGX A100 servers, each containing 8 Nvidia A100 80GB GPUs. Experts peg the cost in the millions of dollars.

Like other large AI systems, MT-NLP raises questions about the accessibility of cutting-edge research approaches in machine learning. AI training costs dropped 100-fold between 2017 and 2019, but the totals still exceed the compute budgets of most startups, governments, nonprofits, and colleges. The inequity favors corporations and world superpowers with extraordinary access to resources at the expense of smaller players, cementing incumbent advantages.

For example, in early October, researchers at Alibaba detailed M6-10T, a language model containing 10 trillion parameters (roughly 57 times the size of OpenAI’s GPT-3) trained across 512 Nvidia V100 GPUs for 10 days. The cheapest V100 plan available through Google Cloud Platform costs $2.28 per hour, which would equate to over $300,000 ($2.28 per hour multiplied by 24 hours over 10 days) — further than most research teams can stretch.

Google subsidiary DeepMind is estimated to have spent $35 million training a system to learn the Chinese board game Go. And when the company’s researchers designed a model to play StarCraft II, they purposefully didn’t try multiple ways of architecting a key component because the training cost would have been too high. Similarly, OpenAI didn’t fix a mistake when it implemented GPT-3 because the cost of training made retraining the model infeasible.

Paths forward

It’s important to keep in mind that training costs can be inflated by factors other than an algorithm’s technical aspects. As Yoav Shoham, Stanford University professor emeritus and cofounder of AI startup AI21 Labs, recently told Synced, personal and organizational considerations often contribute to a model’s final price tag.

“[A] researcher might be impatient to wait three weeks to do a thorough analysis and their organization may not be able or wish to pay for it,” he said. “So for the same task, one could spend $100,000 or $1 million.”

Still, the increasing cost of training — and storing — algorithms like Huawei’s PanGu-Alpha, Naver’s HyperCLOVA, and the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence’s Wu Dao 2.0 is giving rise to a cottage industry of startups aiming to “optimize”  models without degrading accuracy. This week, former Intel exec Naveen Rao launched a new company, Mosaic ML, to offer tools, services, and training methods that improve AI system accuracy while lowering costs and saving time. Mosaic ML — which has raised $37 million in venture capital — competes with Codeplay Software, OctoML, Neural Magic, Deci, CoCoPie, and NeuReality in a market that’s expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

In a sliver of good news, the cost of basic machine learning operations has been falling over the past few years. A 2020 OpenAI survey found that since 2012, the amount of compute needed to train a model to the same performance on classifying images in a popular benchmark — ImageNet — has been decreasing by a factor of two every 16 months.

Approaches like network pruning prior to training could lead to further gains. Research has shown that parameters pruned after training, a process that decreases the model size, could have been pruned before training without any effect on the network’s ability to learn. Called the “lottery ticket hypothesis,” the idea is that the initial values parameters in a model receive are crucial for determining whether they’re important. Parameters kept after pruning receive “lucky” initial values; the network can train successfully with only those parameters present.

Network pruning is far from a solved science, however. New ways of pruning that work before or in early training will have to be developed, as most current methods apply only retroactively. And when parameters are pruned, the resulting structures aren’t always a fit for the training hardware (e.g., GPUs), meaning that pruning 90% of parameters won’t necessarily reduce the cost of training a model by 90%.

Whether through pruning, novel AI accelerator hardware, or techniques like meta-learning and neural architecture search, the need for alternatives to unattainably large models is quickly becoming clear. A University of Massachusetts Amherst study showed that using 2019-era approaches, training an image recognition model with a 5% error rate would cost $100 billion and produce as much carbon emissions as New York City does in a month. As IEEE Spectrum’s editorial team wrote in a recent piece, “we must either adapt how we do deep learning or face a future of much slower progress.”

For AI coverage, send news tips to Kyle Wiggers — and be sure to subscribe to the AI Weekly newsletter and bookmark our AI channel, The Machine.

Thanks for reading,

Kyle Wiggers

AI Staff Writer

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Categories
Game

Monster Hunter Rise trailer reveals crossover with fan-favorite Capcom game

Capcom announced today that Monster Hunter Rise will soon be getting another collaboration with a classic Capcom game, after the first collaboration celebrated the release of Monster Hunter Stories 2. This next collaboration – simply called Capcom Collab 2 – is a crossover with the game Okami, which former Capcom subsidiary Clover Studio created and first released in 2006.

Okami has become something of a cult classic throughout the years, and you’ll still find people who talk about it fondly today. In Okami, you play as Amaterasu, a goddess from Japanese mythology who takes the form of a white wolf. This collaboration, it seems, will give Monster Hunter Rise players a layered armor set that will make their Palamute companion look like Amaterasu.

The finished look of the layered armor is pretty good, and you can see it in the trailer embedded above. The collaboration will be going live in Monster Hunter Rise on July 30th, and for now, at least, the Amaterasu layered armor set seems to be the only thing going live with this update.

Players will unlock the armor set by completing an event quest, the details of which are unknown at the moment. Layered armor is essentially Capcom’s name for vanity or cosmetic sets, meaning that the Amaterasu armor can be layered on top of your Palamute’s usual armor loadout so that they adopt the look of Amaterasu while keeping the stats and bonuses granted by their actual armor.

All in all, this looks like a solid collaboration, and it makes us wonder which Capcom games are next on the crossover list. We’ll let you know when the next collaboration is revealed in August, but for now, look out for this crossover to launch on July 30th.

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Categories
Security

How to Protect Yourself Against Rise of Trickbot Ransomware

The infamous Trickbot ransomware botnet is on the rise, according to reports from multiple security research firms.

After being dismantled in a joint effort by Microsoft and the Pentagon, the Russian-speaking group of cybercriminals is spreading its malicious software once again, and security research firms are classifying it as a “critical” threat.

Where does it usually show up? Well, in your inbox, of course — the most vulnerable place on the internet.

What is Trickbot?

Trickbot is a botnet with over a million “zombie” computers. Botnets work by infecting computers with malware to add them to a distributed network of other computers. With the malicious software operating, hackers are able to pool the collective resources of the network to launch ransomware attacks, distributed denial of service attacks, and more.

Trickbot is one of the more infamous examples, operating out of numerous locations in Eastern Europe, including Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. As reported by The Daily Beast, the hacker group and the botnet after which they’re named is on the rise again.

Computers become infected mainly through phishing emails, which usually accuse the reader of committing some sort of crime. After clicking one of the links in the email, the hackers are able to execute malicious code and infect your computer, potentially stealing login information or banking credentials. The network then lobs ransomware attacks against high-value targets — usually businesses and wealthy individuals — to extort them.

Bitdefender, one of the leading antivirus services available, says that “Trickbot is more active than ever.” In May, Bitdefender’s detection systems started picking up increased signs of the tvncDll module, which is an updated version of the vncDll module that Trickbot has used in the past. Bitdefender says this module is used for monitoring potential targets, suggesting that Trickbot is planning another string of attacks.

Security research firm Fortinet has also identified a new strain of ransomware called Diavol. As is typical of ransomware, Diavol encrypts the files on your computer and holds them for ransom. With everything locked, you’ll only have access to a text document that asks you to download a browser and pay a ransom to restore your files. Typically, the files aren’t restored after the ransom is paid, as the criminals continue to extort your data.

Fortinet identified the new strain as a “critical” threat, and it’s easy to see why. Trickbot was mostly dismantled by Microsoft and the Pentagon prior to the 2020 U.S. election.

Citing fears of interference, Microsoft was able to eliminate about 94% of Trickbot’s critical infrastructure, largely taking the botnet offline. It didn’t get rid of everything, though, and recent reports show that the group has been quick to rebuild.

How to keep yourself safe

A man's hands typing on a laptop.

Trickbot doesn’t exploit a single vulnerability, so the only way to keep yourself safe is to follow good cybersecurity practices. The most important thing is to regularly update your operating system. Windows updates patch security vulnerabilities and update the list of known threats. If you’re staying on top of Windows updates, you’ll be protected from threats as security researchers are able to identify them.

It’s important to be careful with your email inbox, too. As mentioned, Trickbot is able to spread through malicious links in emails. Usually citing some small crime, the email will ask you to click on a link to pay a fine or to provide proof you didn’t commit the crime. After you click the link, the software is able to infect your machine and potentially spread through your network to other machines.

Although most phishing emails accuse users of committing a crime, that’s not all you have to look out for. We recommend avoiding links from email addresses you don’t recognize altogether. Once you click, there’s no turning back.

If you’re still worried, you can also invest in or at least set up an antivirus program. Windows Defender, which is included for free with Windows, will protect you from most threats. Windows also includes ransomware protection. However, services like Bitdefender and Avira employ behavioral detection systems to identify new forms of malware based on how they act on your machine.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

The Best Armor in Monster Hunter: Rise

The heart of Monster Hunter: Rise (aside from the monsters) is the gear you earn as you progress through each fight. That gameplay loop is what has attracted so many players to the series, and in many ways, Rise has streamlined the process of acquiring gear. There are dozens and dozens of different armor sets you can make in Rise, all of which have their own unique benefits and attributes. While it’s tough to specifically narrow down which ones are the best, there are some that are objectively better than others — and some that just make sense to have available for many encounters.

In this guide, we’ll show you which armor sets you should work toward while narrowing down their skills and bonuses. There are tons of different situations in Monster Hunter: Rise, so you’ll always want to have an armor set available that suits your needs. Whether you’re a newcomer or someone with more experience in the series, you’ll always want to strive toward having the best armor you can find.

Here is the best armor in Monster Hunter: Rise.

Recommended reading:

The best Monster Hunter: Rise armor — Low rank

This might be a given, but the low-rank armor sets are only good during the earlier quests. These are meant for players who are just starting out and are typically easier to obtain. While many sets are great in their own way and are good for various play styles, we’ll cover some of the best armor that protects against most elemental attacks. This will hopefully keep your bases covered when you first start out.

Bishaten

  • Rarity 2
  • Defense: 22
  • Fire resistance: -2
  • Water resistance: 2
  • Thunder: 2
  • Ice resistance: – 4
  • Dragon resistance: 2

Kicking things off is the Bishaten armor, which is a relatively obtainable set to aim toward when first starting out. It won’t give you the greatest protection, but it’s well-balanced, particularly against water, thunder, and dragon elemental attacks. The good thing about grinding for this armor set is that you’ll need to face off against the Bishaten, which is a great, low-level monster that teaches you the ins and outs of the game. You shouldn’t keep this set around forever, but it’ll serve you well during the earlier hunts.

Bnahabra

Bnahabra armor screen.
  • Rarity 2
  • Defense: 14
  • Fire resistance: -2
  • Water resistance: 0
  • Thunder: 0
  • Ice resistance: 0
  • Dragon resistance: 2

Next up is the Bnahabra armor. The interesting thing about this set is that it requires parts from a non-boss enemy. That means grinding it will be relatively easy, making it well worth the investment. With it being such a low-level set, it isn’t amazing, but you’ll want to use this one if you’re facing off against a large monster that uses dragon elemental attacks. This is one of the easiest sets to obtain for beginners, and grinding for it will provide multiple learning lessons about how the game works.

Almudron

Almudron armor screen.
  • Rarity 3
  • Defense: 30
  • Fire resistance: -4
  • Water resistance: 3
  • Thunder: 3
  • Ice resistance: -2
  • Dragon resistance: -2

When it comes to the best low-level gear, it doesn’t get much better than the Almudron set. This armor will defend you against water and thunder attacks and has high general defense. Just don’t rely on this set when going up against a fire-type monster because it has very poor defense in this category. But aside from that, this is one of the sets you should strive toward earning as you make your way to the end of low-rank quests. One thing to note is that grinding the Almudron monster is tough, so hopefully by the time you get to it, you’ll be familiar with taking on tough creatures.

Goss Harag

Goss Harag armor screen.
  • Rarity 3
  • Defense: 30
  • Fire resistance: -4
  • Water resistance: 1
  • Thunder: -1
  • Ice resistance: 4
  • Dragon resistance: 0

The main reason you’ll want to have the Goss Harag set is to help defend you against ice attacks. This has the same defense as the Almudron set but is meant for facing off against monsters in a cold environment. While grinding for this armor isn’t the most troublesome, you’ll likely need to spend a considerable amount of time gathering all the materials needed. But once you have it, you’ll be glad you did, as those pesky ice-based monsters won’t stand a chance while you’re wearing it.

Anja

Anja armor screen.
  • Rarity 3
  • Defense: 26
  • Fire resistance: 3
  • Water resistance: -3
  • Thunder: -1
  • Ice resistance: -1
  • Dragon resistance: 0

Finally, let’s cover an armor set that is great against fire. Many of the harder enemies can severely damage you with fire attacks, so you’ll need gear that will keep you alive during the … heat … of battle. That’s why we advise using the Anja armor, which is once again one of the last sets in the low-rank category. Grinding for this one isn’t too difficult, though you’ll want to be careful when facing off against the deadly Anjanath monster. Keep in mind, the previous two sets — Almudron and Goss Harag — have better overall defense, but Anja should be your go-to for fire protection.

The best Monster Hunter: Rise armor — High rank

When it comes to high rank, you’ll want to pay more attention to the gear you’ll be using during any given fight. That’s because monsters will be much more deadly, making it easier to be eliminated in just a few hits. With that in mind, you’ll also find it more difficult to grind for these sets, especially if you’re a newcomer. Though, don’t let that steer you away from working toward the best armor in the game.

Bishaten S

Bishaten S armor screen.
  • Rarity 5
  • Defense: 52
  • Fire resistance: -2
  • Water resistance: 2
  • Thunder: 2
  • Ice resistance: -4
  • Dragon resistance: 2

The Bishaten S armor set isn’t the best in any category, but is decent against many elemental attacks including water, thunder, and dragon. This is an ideal pick that serves as an interstitial armor set — holding you over for something with more focused defense. But because of its versatility, it’s hard to pass up, especially since its overall defense is high. By this point, you should be at least mildly familiar with taking down the Bishaten, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to grind for parts. Just don’t use this set when facing off against ice elemental monsters.

Barroth S

Barroth S armor screen.
  • Rarity 4
  • Defense: 50
  • Fire resistance: -3
  • Water resistance: -1
  • Thunder: 3
  • Ice resistance: -1
  • Dragon resistance: 0

The best thing about the Barroth S armor set is its defense against thunder, which is one of the highest for this particular category. Its overall defense is competitive, but you’ll likely find it challenging to gather all the parts needed for a complete set. Grinding the Barroth is yet another tough task, so you’ll need to be an experienced player to effectively make the most out of each fight. You might also have some trouble coming across the Quality Fin, which is obtained from the Delex in Sandy Plains.

Ludroth S

Ludroth S armor screen.
  • Rarity 4
  • Defense: 48
  • Fire resistance: -3
  • Water resistance: 4
  • Thunder: -1
  • Ice resistance: 0
  • Dragon resistance: 0

One of the most effective armor sets against water is the Ludroth S. Depending on your skill and how well you perform against the Ludroth, you might be able to easily obtain this particular set. It has relatively high defense overall, but its water resistance is its biggest asset. We highly discourage using this armor set against monsters that use fire attacks. Aside from that, it’s slightly weak against thunder, but even so, you’ll find this armor to be useful in general — especially against water.

Aknosom S

Aknosom S armor screen.
  • Rarity 4
  • Defense: 38
  • Fire resistance: 3
  • Water resistance: -3
  • Thunder: -1
  • Ice resistance: 0
  • Dragon resistance: 0

This one is a bit of a lower-end set, but if you’re looking for decent fire resistance, the Aknosom S is recommended. Fortunately, the Aknosom isn’t too difficult to grind, so you should have an easier time farming the materials needed than with other sets. One thing to note is that this armor does poorly against water, but aside from that, it’s a versatile set that works well, especially when upgraded. Of course, this should be your go-to for fire-resistant gear.

Dober

Dober armor set.
  • Rarity 5
  • Defense: 52
  • Fire resistance: -2
  • Water resistance: 0
  • Thunder: 0
  • Ice resistance: 0
  • Dragon resistance: 4

Full stop, Dober is just fantastic. Aside from the fact that it just looks cool, this armor set provides high general defense, making it ideal for many situations. Though, its main asset is protection against dragon attacks, so keep that in mind when accepting quests. The main thing to consider about the Dober set is that it requires parts from many different monsters — not just one, as you might be used to by now. For this reason, it’s arguably a little easier to grind for since you don’t need to repeat the same fight against one creature over and over, but there are still rare materials required for the entire set.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
AI

Machine learning’s rise, applications, and challenges

Elevate your enterprise data technology and strategy at Transform 2021.


The terms “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” are often used interchangeably, but there’s an important difference between the two. AI is an umbrella term for a range of techniques that allow computers to learn and act like humans. Put another way, AI is the computer being smart. Machine learning, however, accounts for how the computer becomes smart.

But there’s a reason the two are often conflated: The vast majority of AI today is based on machine learning. Enterprises across sectors are prioritizing it for various use cases across their organizations, and the subfield tops AI funding globally by a significant margin. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, a whopping $28.5 billion was allocated to machine learning research. Overall, the machine learning market is expected to grow from around $1 billion in 2016 to $8.81 billion by 2022. When VentureBeat collected thoughts from the top minds across the field, they had a variety of predictions to share. But one takeaway was that machine learning is continuing to shape business and society at large.

Rise of machine learning

While AI is ubiquitous today, there were times when the whole field was thought to be a dud. After initial advancements and a lot of hype in the mid-late 1950s and 1960s, breakthroughs stalled and expectations went unmet. There wasn’t enough computing power to bring the potential to life, and running such systems cost exorbitant amounts of money. This caused both interest and funding to dry up in what was dubbed the “AI winter.”

The pursuit later picked up again in the 1980s, thanks to a boost in research funds and expansion of the algorithmic toolkit. But it didn’t last, and there was yet another decade-long AI winter.

Then two major changes occurred that directly enabled AI as we know it today. Artificial intelligence efforts shifted from rule-based systems to machine learning techniques that could use data to learn without being externally programmed. And at the same time, the World Wide Web became ubiquitous in the homes (and then hands) of millions (and eventually billions) of people around the world. This created the explosion of data and data sharing on which machine learning relies.

How machine learning works

Machine learning enables a computer to “think” without being externally programmed. Instead of programming it by hand to accomplish specific tasks, as is the case with traditional computers, machine learning allows you to instead provide data and describe what you want the program to do.

The computer trains itself with that data, and then uses algorithms to carry out your desired task. It also collects more data as it goes, getting “smarter” over time. A key part of how this all works is the data labeling. If you want a program to sort photos of ice cream and pepperoni pizza, for example, you first need to first label some of the photos to give the algorithm an idea of what ice cream and pepperoni pizza each look like.

This labeling is also a key difference between machine learning and a popular subset within the field, called deep learning. Deep learning doesn’t require any labeling, instead relying on neural networks, which are inspired by the human brain both in structure and name. To sort the photos of ice cream and pepperoni pizza using this technique, you instead have to provide a significantly larger set of photos. The computer then puts the photos through several layers of processing — which make up the neural network — to distinguish the ice cream from the pepperoni pizza one step at a time. Earlier layers look at basic properties like lines or edges between light and dark parts of the images, while subsequent layers identify more complex features like shapes or even faces.

Applications

Machine learning and its subsets are useful for a wide range of problems, tasks, and applications. There’s computer vision, which allows computers to “see” and make sense of images and videos. Additionally, natural language processing (NLP) is a rising part of machine learning, which allows computers to extract the meaning of unstructured text. There’s also voice and speech recognition, which powers services like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri and introduced many consumers to AI for the first time.

Across industries, enterprises are using machine learning in their products as well as internally within their organizations. Machine learning can simplify, streamline, and enhance supply chain operations, for example. It’s also widely used for business analytics, security, sales, and marketing. Machine learning has even been used to help fight COVID-19. Facebook leans on machine learning to take down harmful content. Google uses it to improve search. And American Express recently tapped NLP for its customer service chatbots and to run a predictive search capability inside its app. The list goes on and on.

Limitations and challenges

While machine learning holds promise and is already benefiting enterprises around the globe, there are challenges and issues associated with the field. For example, machine learning is useful for recognizing patterns, but it doesn’t perform well when it comes to generalizing knowledge. For users, there’s also the issue of “algorithm fatigue.”

Some of the issues related to machine learning have significant consequences that are already playing out today. The lack of explainability and interpretability — known as the “black box problem” — is one. Machine learning models create their own behaviors and decisions in ways that even their creators can’t understand. This makes it difficult to fix errors and ensure the information a model puts out is accurate and fair. When people noticed Apple’s algorithm for credit cards was offering women significantly smaller lines of credit than men, for example, the company couldn’t explain why and didn’t know how to fix the issue.

This is related to the most significant issue plaguing the field: data and algorithmic bias. Since the technology’s inception, machine learning models have been routinely and primarily built on data that was collected and labeled in biased ways, sometimes for specifically biased purposes. It’s been found that algorithms are often biased against women, Black people, and other ethnic groups. Researchers at Google’s DeepMind, one of the world’s top AI labs, warned the technology poses a threat to individuals who identify as queer.

This issue is widespread and widely known, but there is resistance to taking the significant action many in the field are urging is necessary. Google itself fired the co-leads of its ethical AI team, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, in what thousands of the company’s employees called a “retaliatory firing,” after Gebru refused to rescind research about the risks of deploying large language models. And in a survey of researchers, policy leaders, and activists, the majority said they worry the evolution of AI by 2030 will continue to be primarily focused on optimizing profits and social control, at the expense of ethics. Legislation regarding AI — especially immediately and obviously harmful uses, like facial recognition for policing — is being debated and adopted across the country. These deliberations will likely continue. And the changing data privacy laws will soon affect data collection, and thus machine learning, as well.

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Categories
Tech News

CFM RISE open fan architecture jet engine could reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent

GE Aviation and Safran announced a new technology development program that aims to reduce fuel consumption for jet aircraft by 20 percent while reducing CO2 emissions at the same time. The program is called CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) and will demonstrate a mature range of new, disruptive technologies for future commercial aircraft engines that have the potential to enter service by the mid-2030.

Both GE Aviation and Safran also agreed as part of the announcement to extend the CFM International 50/50 partnership through the year 2050. The company has a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2050. The two companies say that their relationship is the strongest it has ever been. They will work together with the RISE technology demonstration program to reinvent flight for the future.

The companies want to take next-generation single-aisle aircraft to a new level of fuel efficiency and reduced emissions. Executives working on the project say that the current LEAP engine has already reduced emissions by 15 percent compared to past generation of engines. The new RISE technology will reduce that number even further.

New engine technologies also ensure 100 percent compatibility with alternative energy sources, including Sustainable Aviation Fuels and hydrogen. Both companies say the RISE Program is the foundation for the next-generation CFM engine expected to be available by the middle of the 2030s. One of the key features of the new engine is an open fan architecture, which is the key to improved fuel efficiency while delivering the same travel speed and cabin experience offered by current generation aircraft.

The program will leverage hybrid electric capability to optimize the efficiency of the engines while enabling electrification for many aircraft systems. So far, the RISE program has more than 300 separate components, modules, and full engine builds. A demonstrator engine is scheduled to begin testing around the middle of the decade, with a flight test soon after.

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Game

New Monster Hunter Rise and Stories 2 DLC Road Map Revealed

During the Capcom showcase, we got another look at Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, along with the road map for Monster Hunter Rise for June and July. Both games are getting new cosmetic options for players. We also learned that the trial version of Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin will be released on June 25.

The Palamute Monstie, a free content update for Monster Hunter Stories 2, will be available to download on July 15. Players will now be able to ride a palamute, the dog companion from Monster Hunter Rise, into battle and fight monsters. Monster Hunter Rise players are also getting a Tsukino layer armor for their palico that is available to download on June 18.

The road map for Monster Hunter Rise laid out new event quests for players to take on. The rewards for these quests are only cosmetics, but they include wearable sunglasses, black leather pants, new stickers, and new gestures.

Both Monster Hunter games are getting even more cosmetic options that are free to download. There will be various cosmetic options for Monster Hunter Rise players to dress up as Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin characters and vice versa.

Monster Hunter Rise is getting new paid DLC as well. The paid DLC includes new voice packs, skins for animal companions, and even more costumes for players. The voice packs allow players to change the voice of their characters. The newest packs include Kagero the Merchant and Rondine the Trader. The newest skins for the animal companions allow players to dress their palamutes and palicoes up in fashionable kimonos, as well as change Cohoot into a baby penguin.

Editors’ Choice




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Security

Go read this story about the rise and fall of a $77 million game cheating empire

Free-to-play games are hugely successful (in 2020, PUBG Mobile reportedly made $2.8 billion in China alone), but that success attracts unscrupulous developers who earn their own small fortunes helping players cheat.

If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside that kind of operation before it implodes, Motherboard’s feature on the rise and fall of an infamous game cheating ring for PUBG Mobile which authorities call Chicken Drumstick is worth a read. It features a rare account from “Catfish,” the software engineer who claims to be behind the $77 million business — and who ultimately decided to bring it to an end.

Catfish became interested in making cheats for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) on PC after dealing with cheaters himself, Motherboard’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai writes. When the PUBG Corporation released the mobile version of the game, Catfish made a cheat for it that he and his business partner eventually sold. The cheat was very popular — “it sold thousands of copies within a few days,” Catfish told Motherboard — but also started a “cat-and-mouse game.” PUBG Corporation would patch the game; Catfish and his partner would adapt the cheats so players could still see through walls or aim perfectly.

The group — actually called Sharpshooter and then Cheat Ninja, but referred to by police as Chicken Drumstick — would grow into a business that authorities claim earned tens of millions of dollars, even though in China, the sale of these sorts of cheats is considered a hacking crime. Tencent, which is a partial owner of PUBG, ultimately reported Cheat Ninja to authorities in 2020, prompting an investigation, and the arrest of the group’s lead salespeople.

Catfish went into hiding earlier this year, and ultimately decided to shut down the multi-layered, international cheating operation he had spent years building. The reason why is worth reading Motherboard’s feature to find out.

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Game

Here’s when we’ll learn more about Monster Hunter Rise 3.0 and Stories 2

Monster Hunter fans are about to get another showcase with new details on both Monster Hunter Rise and Monster Hunter Stores 2: Wings of Ruin. Capcom has revealed that the next Monster Hunter showcase will be taking place next week. As with the last one, we can expect information on the next major update for Monster Hunter Rise, while what will be revealed about Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a little more up in the air.

On Twitter today, Capcom revealed that the next Monster Hunter Digital Event will be taking place on May 26th, 2021 at 7 AM PDT/10 AM EDT/3 PM BST. The digital event will go over Monster Hunter Rise‘s version 3.0 update, which is expected to introduce new monsters to hunt along with some new features.

That’s a fairly vague set of expectations, but Capcom hasn’t revealed anything about the 3.0 update yet, so we don’t have very much to go on. It is worth noting that in a subsequent tweet, Capcom notes that the version 3.0 patch will be about 1.4GB in size – a fair bit more than the 900MB the version 2.0 patch weighed in at. That could mean that we’re getting more content in this update than we did in last month’s update, but we’ll just have to wait and see what Capcom reveals on the 26th.

As for Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Capcom reveal some new story details, characters, and gameplay mechanics during the show. At any rate, that’s what we got during April’s digital event, and with Capcom looking to build hype for Monster Hunter Stories 2 before its release in July on both Nintendo Switch and PC, reveals like those are a good way to do that.

If you’re interesting in catching the Monster Hunter digital event live, you’ll be able to watch on both the Monster Hunter Twitch and YouTube channels. We’ll see what Capcom has to reveal soon enough, so stay tuned for more.

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