ASUS’ ROG Phone 6D Ultimate has an even more elaborate cooling system

After the launch of the ROG Phone 6 Pro gaming phone, some hardcore fans were left wondering what happened to the “Ultimate” variant. As it turns out, ASUS waited for over two months before unveiling its “one more thing”: the ROG Phone 6D Ultimate. It’s identical to the 6 Pro in almost every way, except for four things: the new “space gray” color, the interesting choice of the MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ processor (which is what the “D” in “6D” stands for), the switch to the faster LPDDR5X RAM, and the new “AeroActive Portal” design for blowing cool air into its internal heat-dissipation fins — I’ll abbreviate this as heatsink from here onwards.

The AeroActive Portal itself is essentially a door flap that opens when the bundled AeroActive Cooler 6 is attached, so that a portion of the cool wind produced by the fan — at nearly 1,000cc per second — is guided through a wind tunnel and into the heatsink, with hot air coming out from the top slot. The heatsink is, of course, linked to the generously sized thermal layers covering the logic board and battery cells, in order to transfer heat from the components to the airflow. This is to help sustain a high frame rate over a longer period while gaming, as well as to ensure the phone is still comfortable to hold.

AeroActive Portal

Richard Lai/Engadget

ASUS claimed that after 60 minutes of Perfdog benchmarking on Genshin Impact at 60Hz in air cooling mode, the ROG Phone 6D reached 36.9°C (98.42°F), which was 3.4°C lower than the ROG Phone 6 in the same mode. It appears that the AeroActive Portal does make a notable difference. Likewise in “Frosty” and “Frozen” modes (with the Peltier thermoelectric cooling chip enabled), and it’s worth noting that the AeroActive Cooler 6 is the only Peltier-enabled cooler in the market that doesn’t require additional power externally — it only needs that for the more powerful “Frozen” mode.

While the AeroActive Portal only kicks in when an AeroActive Cooler 6 is attached, you can open it temporarily in settings for cleaning purposes. The flap is otherwise shut tight to safeguard the phone’s IPX4 splash resistance. It also has fall detection for automatically retracting the flap, and the stepping motor along with the zirconium alloy hinge are apparently good for over 40,000 flips — both of which are based on the learnings from the now-retired Flip Camera feature from the Zenfone series.

ROG Phone 6D Ultimate thermal design


The 6D Ultimate packs the same set of key features as the 6 Pro: 165Hz 6.78-inch AMOLED display, 720Hz touch sampling rate, up to 512GB of storage, 6,000mAh battery, 65W fast charging (42 minutes), Dirac-tuned front-facing stereo speakers, ultrasonic “AirTiggers” and a customizable “ROG Vision” color display on the back. It’s also the same set of cameras: a 50-megapixel main camera with Sony’s IMX766 sensor, a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera plus a 5-megapixel macro camera; and on the front, there’s a 12-megapixel selfie camera with a Sony IMX663 sensor.

For the processor, ASUS made the surprise switch to MediaTek for its Dimensity 9000+ processor, which apparently scores a tad higher than the ROG Phone 6’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. The company added that while the Snapdragon flagship chipset packs a better GPU, the Dimensity’s CPU is allegedly 10 percent more powerful (albeit with the same 3.2GHz maximum clock speed), and this is more crucial to most mobile games. The CPU is complemented by the faster LPDDR5X RAM as well, though this is the same reason as to why this is capped at 16GB instead of 18GB here.

ROG Phone 6D Ultimate thermal design


The ROG Phone 6D Ultimate will be available across Europe very soon, with the sole model (16GB RAM with 512GB storage) priced at €1,399 (around $1,400) or £1,199. Again, this premium model comes bundled with an AeroActive Cooler 6. There’s also the ROG Phone 6D launching alongside, which is basically the ROG Phone 6 but packing MediaTek’s chipset and LPDDR5X RAM instead (also, it’s just an RGB logo instead of an ROG Vision screen on the back; and no AeroActive Portal, of course). This starts from €949 (around $950) or £799 with the 12GB RAM plus 256GB storage base model.

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U.S. court system cyberattack was worse than we thought

A cyberattack incident that involved the U.S. federal court system infrastructure has been proven to be an “incredibly significant and sophisticated” attack.

This statement is a stark difference from the one initially provided when the situation occurred in 2020.

Stock Depot/Getty Images

As reported by TechRadar, the attack itself was confirmed in January 2021 via a hearing from the judiciary committee, with its chairman Jerrold Nadler stating that a data breach was indeed successfully carried out by threat actors.

Upon further investigation, it seems the cybersecurity event was considerably more impactful than the government initially discovered.

Nadler stressed that the committee only started to uncover the “startling breadth and scope of the court’s Document Management System security failure” in March 2022.

“And perhaps even more concerning is the disturbing impact the security breach had on pending civil and criminal litigation, as well as ongoing national security or intelligence matters,” he continued.

He also stated that the hack has resulted in “lingering impacts on the department and other agencies.”

An official from the justice department was questioned about what sort of investigations, types of cases, and attorneys were affected most by the breach. However, the individual could not provide an adequate answer. “This is, of course, a significant concern for us given the nature of information often held by the courts,” he added.

A digital depiction of a laptop being hacked by a hacker.
Digital Trends Graphic

Another government figure, Sheila Jackson Lee, asserted that the discovery of the actual impact of the attack is a “dangerous set of circumstances.” Lee said that the justice department should share more information on the matter, such as the number of cases that have been influenced in any capacity, in addition to how many of these cases were outright dismissed.

TechRadar highlights how this specific cybersecurity incident is reportedly not related to the SolarWinds attack, even though they both materialized around the same time during 2020.

For reference, the SolarWinds attack has gone down in history as among the most impactful supply chain cyber attacks ever. The group and individuals behind the incident managed to extract Microsoft 365 login credentials from SolarWinds employees via phishing methods, as detailed by TechRadar.

An exposed patch was then deployed by the threat actors to hundreds of thousands of endpoints, which saw government agencies and several technology giants bearing the brunt of the impact.

In related governmental cybersecurity news, a bug bounty program revealed how one of the largest departments of the U.S. government — Homeland Security — discovered over 100 security vulnerabilities within external DHS systems.

Editors’ Choice

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Amazon takes on PS5 and Xbox scalpers with a new invite system

is trying to fend off scalpers and bots that snag all of the and consoles before you can secure one. It’s rolling out an invite-based ordering option for high-demand products that are in low supply to help legitimate shoppers get their hands on the items.

The invite option is available now for PS5 in the US. It will be enabled for Xbox Series X in the coming days. The company told it plans to use the system for more products and in other countries.

Requesting an invitation doesn’t cost anything and you don’t need to be a Prime member. When you visit , there’s now a “request invitation” button — you may need to click the “new and used” link to see it alongside the other ordering options.



Amazon will assess whether an account that requests an invitation is authentic by looking at things like the account creation date and purchase history. If it believes you are, indeed, a human and your invite request is granted, Amazon will send you an email with instructions on how to buy the product.

You’ll have a certain time period in which to complete your purchase before the invite expires and you’ll see a countdown on the product page. Amazon will dish out more invites for a hot-ticket item as it receives more stock.

Sony has a similar invite system on its , where it sells the PS5 in limited quantities. It would have been nice if Amazon had implemented its version before the consoles arrived in November 2020, but c’est la vie. 

Although requesting an invitation won’t guarantee that you’ll be able to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X from Amazon, it could help. What’s more, it might mean you don’t have to participate in the rush to secure one whenever there’s a restock.

There are other ways Amazon could fend off scalpers too, such as limiting the price of items for Marketplace sellers. At the time of writing, a third-party seller is offering the PS5 disc version on Amazon for $999 — double the console’s retail price. Others are selling it for around $800.

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High-end braking company, Brembo to release AI braking system in 2024

High-end Italian brake manufacturer Brembo announced in October its plan to release Sensify, an AI-enhanced braking system that promises both “driving pleasure and total safety” when it rolls out via an unnamed manufacturer in 2024. Going beyond anti-lock brakes, traction, and stability control, it replaces hydraulic controls with electronic ones for design flexibility and, potentially, more precise control.

Incorporating AI into vehicles isn’t new, as algorithms control playlists, maps, driver assistance, and even “self-driving” to various degrees. AI-based brake systems, however, are enough to raise eyebrows about how exactly they will work or enhance safety.

“As you start to deal with artificial intelligence and neural networks, they’re only as good as the training data you have,” said J. Christian Gerdes, an engineering professor and co-director of the Center of Automotive Research at Stanford University. “If you have a new case that represents something it hasn’t seen before, it’s hard to know in advance what it decides to do.”

Autocar UK reports that Sensify is using a “dedicated app” to program itself based on data and enhance the driving experience. The system supposedly will use predictive algorithms, sensors, and data management tools that give it a “digital brain” capable of controlling each wheel independently.

Gerdes says that modern anti-lock brake systems, first introduced in the 1970s, are a Band-Aid for wheels locking up under heavy braking. “What would make more sense is to have an understanding of what’s going on at each of your wheels. And to then intelligently ask for brake force at different wheels.”

Car with various labels describing the Sensify system

Brembo Sensify system
Image: Brembo

Despite the digital footprint with AI and Sensify, the physical mechanics have more of a presence compared to the software in the Sensify system, according to Brembo chief executive Daniele Schillaci. The exec told Reuters “the mechanic and software contents will soon be equivalent and by the end of the decade software will become predominant in braking systems.”

The company plans to open a technology lab in Silicon Valley by the end of the year to further its digital strategies. Brembo says, “Data collection is leveraged to improve the driver experience and allows the system to be constantly updated,” but how it will handle questions like privacy and security of that collected data is unclear.

One of Sensify’s benefits is adapting to driving styles, adjusting to weather and road conditions, and shorter locking times. Brembo also says its system will be cheaper over the life of a car because it removes brake fluid by adding electromechanical control, has lower maintenance costs, lower disc consumption, and lower or zero drag torque. In an electric or hybrid vehicle, better control of regenerative braking can help reduce the battery size.

What happens when there is a hardware failure in that AI brain? In a demo for Autocar UK, Brembo explained the system has two ECUs (electronic control units) that are connected as a fail-safe but send their commands separately.

The system is set to be released in 2024. Brembo said that it’s designed to work on multiple car types like sedans, racecars, SUVs, and commercial vehicles, but it’s not clear how much it needs to be customized for each type.

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‘Extremely bad’ vulnerability found in widely used logging system

Security teams at companies large and small are scrambling to patch a previously unknown vulnerability called Log4Shell, which has the potential to let hackers compromise millions of devices across the internet.

If exploited, the vulnerability allows remote code execution on vulnerable servers, giving an attacker the ability to import malware that would completely compromise machines.

The vulnerability is found in log4j, an open-source logging library used by apps and services across the internet. Logging is a process where applications keep a running list of activities they have performed which can later be reviewed in case of error. Nearly every network security system runs some kind of logging process, which gives popular libraries like log4j an enormous reach.

Marcus Hutchins, a prominent security researcher best known for halting the global WannaCry malware attack, noted online that millions of applications would be affected. “Millions of applications use Log4j for logging, and all the attacker needs to do is get the app to log a special string,” Hutchins said in a tweet.

The exploit was first seen on sites hosting Minecraft servers, which discovered that attackers could trigger the vulnerability by posting chat messages. A tweet from security analysis company GreyNoise reported that the company has already detected numerous servers searching the internet for machines vulnerable to the exploit.

A blog post from application security company LunaSec claimed that gaming platform Steam and Apple’s iCloud had already been found to be vulnerable. Neither Valve nor Apple immediately responded to a request for comment.

To exploit the vulnerability, an attacker has to cause the application to save a special string of characters in the log. Since applications routinely log a wide range of events — such as messages sent and received by users, or the details of system errors — the vulnerability is unusually easy to exploit and can be triggered in a variety of ways.

“This is a very serious vulnerability because of the widespread use of Java and this package log4j,” Cloudflare CTO John Graham-Cumming told The Verge. “There’s a tremendous amount of Java software connected to the internet and in back-end systems. When I look back over the last 10 years, there are only two other exploits I can think of with a similar severity: Heartbleed, which allowed you to get information from servers that should have been secure, and Shellshock, which allowed you to run code on a remote machine.”

However, the diversity of applications vulnerable to the exploit, and range of possible delivery mechanisms, mean that firewall protection alone does not eliminate risk. Theoretically, the exploit could even be carried out physically by hiding the attack string in a QR code that was scanned by a package delivery company, making its way into the system without having been sent directly over the internet.

An update to the log4j library has already been released to mitigate against the vulnerability, but given the time taken to ensure that all vulnerable machines are updated, Log4Shell remains a pressing threat.

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DeepMind makes bet on AI system that can play poker, chess, Go, and more

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DeepMind, the AI lab backed by Google parent company Alphabet, has long invested in game-playing AI systems. It’s the lab’s philosophy that games, while lacking an obvious commercial application, are uniquely relevant challenges of cognitive and reasoning capabilities. This makes them useful benchmarks of AI progress. In recent decades, games have given rise to the kind of self-learning AI that powers computer vision, self-driving cars, and natural language processing.

In a continuation of its work, DeepMind has created a system called Player of Games, which the company first revealed in a research paper published on the preprint server this week. Unlike the other game-playing systems DeepMind developed previously, like the chess-winning AlphaZero and StarCraft II-besting AlphaStar, Player of Games can perform well at both perfect information games (e.g., the Chinese board game Go and chess) as well as imperfect information games (e.g., poker).

Tasks like route planning around congestion, contract negotiations, and even interacting with customers all involve compromise and consideration of how people’s preferences coincide and conflict, as in games. Even when AI systems are self-interested, they might stand to gain by coordinating, cooperating, and interacting among groups of people or organizations. Systems like Player of Games, then, which can reason about others’ goals and motivations, could pave the way for AI that can successfully work with others — including handling questions that arise around maintaining trust.

Imperfect versus perfect

Games of imperfect information have information that’s hidden from players during the game. By contrast, perfect information games show all information at the start.


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Perfect information games require a decent amount of forethought and planning to play well. Players have to process what they see on the board and determine what their opponents are likely to do while working toward the ultimate goal of winning. On the other hand, imperfect information games require the players taking into account the hidden information and figure out how they should act next in order to win — including potentially bluffing or teaming up against an opponent.

Systems like AlphaZero excel at perfect information games like chess, while algorithms like DeepStack and Libratus perform remarkably well at imperfect information games like poker. But DeepMind claims that Player of Games is the first “general and sound search algorithm” to achieve strong performance across both perfect and imperfect information games.

“[Player of Games] learns to play [games] from scratch, simply by repeatedly playing the game in self-play,” DeepMind senior research scientist Martin Schmid, one of the co-creators of Player of Games, told VentureBeat via email. “This is a step towards generality — Player of Games is able to play both perfect and imperfect information games, while trading away some strength in performance. AlphaZero is stronger than Player of Games in perfect information games, but [it’s] not designed for imperfect information games.”

While Player of Games is extremely generalizable, it can’t play just any game. Schmid says that the system needs to think about all the possible perspectives of each player given an in-game situation. While there’s only a single perspective in perfect information games, there can be many such perspectives in imperfect information games — for example, around 2,000 for poker. Moreover, unlike MuZero, DeepMind’s successor to AlphaZero, Player of Games also needs knowledge of the rules of the game it’s playing. MuZero can pick up the rules of perfect information games on the fly.

In its research, DeepMind evaluated Player of Games — trained using Google’s TPUv4 accelerator chipsets — on chess, Go, Texas Hold’Em, and the strategy board game Scotland Yard. For Go, it set up a 200-game tournament between AlphaZero and Player of Games, while for chess, DeepMind pitted Player of Games against top-performing systems including GnuGo, Pachi, and Stockfish as well as AlphaZero. Player of Games’ Texas Hold’Em match was played with the openly available Slumbot, and the algorithm played Scotland Yard against a bot developed by Joseph Antonius Maria Nijssen that the DeepMind coauthors nicknamed “PimBot.”

DeepMind Player of Games

Above: An abstracted view of Scotland Yard, which Player of Games can win consistently.

Image Credit: DeepMind

In chess and Go, Player of Games proved to be stronger than Stockfish and Pachi in certain — but not all — configurations, and it won 0.5% of its games against the strongest AlphaZero agent. Despite the steep losses against AlphaZero, DeepMind believes that Player of Games was performing at the level of “a top human amateur,” and possibly even at the professional level.

Player of Games was a better poker and Scotland Yard player. Against Slumbot, the algorithm won on average by 7 milli big blinds per hand (mbb/hand), where a mbb/hand is the average number of big blinds won per 1,000 hands. (A big blind is equal to the minimum bet.) Meanwhile, in Scotland Yard, DeepMind reports that Player of Games won “significantly” against PimBot, even when PimBot was given more opportunities to search for the winning moves.

Future work

Schmid believes that Player of Games is a big step toward truly general game-playing systems — but far from the last one. The general trend in the experiments was that the algorithm performed better given more computational resources (Player of Games trained on a dataset of 17 million “steps,” or actions, for Scotland Yard alone) , and Schmid expects this approach will scale in the foreseeable future.

“[O]ne would expect that the applications that benefited from AlphaZero might also benefit from Player of Games,” Schmid said. “Making these algorithms even more general is exciting research.”

Of course, approaches that favor massive amounts of compute put organizations with fewer resources, like startups and academic institutions, at a disadvantage. This has become especially true in the language domain, where massive models like OpenAI’s GPT-3 have achieved leading performance but at resource requirements — often in the millions of dollars — far exceeding the budgets of most research groups.

Costs sometimes rise above what’s considered acceptable even at a deep-pocketed firm like DeepMind. For AlphaStar, the company’s researchers purposefully didn’t try multiple ways of architecting a key component because the training cost would have been too high in executives’ minds. DeepMind notched its first profit only last year, when it raked in £826 million ($1.13 billion) in revenue. The year prior, DeepMind recorded losses of $572 million and took on a billion-dollar debt.

It’s estimated that AlphaZero cost tens of millions of dollars to train. DeepMind didn’t disclose the research budget for Player of Games, but it isn’t likely to be low considering the number of training steps for each game ranged from the hundreds of thousands to millions.

As the research eventually transitions from games to other, more commercial domains, like app recommendations, datacenter cooling optimization, weather forecasting, materials modeling, mathematics, health care, and atomic energy computation, the effects of the inequity are likely to become starker. “[A]n interesting question is whether this level of play is achievable with less computational resources,” Schmid and his fellow coauthors ponder — but leave unanswered — in the paper.


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Battlefield 2042: How Does the Plus System Work?

Battlefield 2042 brings plenty of new content to the storied franchise, but the Plus System is arguably the most exciting. This powerful, quality-of-life change gives you improved control over the weapons you bring into battle — and it’s a bit more complex than you’d expect.

If you’re looking to be a threat in every situation Battlefield 2042 throws at you, here’s what you need to know to master the Plus System.

Further reading

What is the Plus System in Battlefield 2042?

Battlefield 2042‘s Plus System gives you the ability to change weapon attachments while in the middle of a game. Instead of having to wait until your next respawn, you can quickly adjust your scope, barrel attachment, and other settings as needed.

See an enemy out on the horizon? Quickly clip a scope on your gun, and you’re ready for long-range engagements. Need to sneak through a building undetected? Throw on a silencer with just a few button presses. The system is surprisingly flexible, and it allows you to cater your loadout to whatever situation you happen to find yourself in.

How does the Plus System work?

A soldier stands next to a downed satellite in Battlefield 2042 Hazard Zone.

While in a match, press the Plus System button for your specific platform (LB on Xbox, L1 on PlayStation, T on PC) to pull up the menu. The Plus System is broken into four arms — hence its name — and depending on which weapon you’re carrying, you’ll have a variety of different attachments to choose from.

On console, you can simply use the D-Pad to highlight which attachment you want to add to your weapon. Release LB or L1, and the game will automatically add the selected attachment. On PC, you’ll have to left-click your selection. There’s no limit to how many times you can use the Plus System, so don’t be afraid to dive into the menu and adjust your loadout as needed.

How do I unlock more content for the Plus System?

Although your options are limited at the start of Battlefield 2042, the Plus System will gradually accumulate more attachments as you level up. These are typically tied to your Mastery Level with each specific weapon — that is, the more kills you rack up, the more attachments you’ll unlock.

You can view all currently unlocked Plus System attachments — and change your Plus System layout — by following these simple steps:

  • Head to the Main Menu.
  • Select the Collection tab at the top of the screen.
  • Navigate to the Weapons submenu.
  • Select the weapon you’d like to view/modify.

This will pull up a menu that shows all the gear you’ve unlocked for your specific weapon. It’ll also give you a chance to add each piece of gear to the Plus System — making it easy to optimize your build before heading into a match.

Keep in mind that there are more unlockable attachments than there are slots in the Plus System, so you’ll need to make sure you’re only bringing your favorite gear into battle. These can be changed at the end of every battle, but while you’re in-game, you’ll only have access to those attachments you’ve slotted into the Plus System.

Editors’ Choice

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The FBI’s email system was hacked to send out fake cybersecurity warnings

Hackers targeted the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) email servers, sending out thousands of phony messages that say its recipients have become the victims of a “sophisticated chain attack,” first reported by Bleeping Computer. The emails were initially uncovered by The Spamhaus Project, a nonprofit organization that investigates email spammers.

The emails claim that Vinny Troia was behind the fake attacks and also falsely state that Troia is associated with the infamous hacking group, The Dark Overlord — the same bad actors who leaked the fifth season of Orange Is the New Black. In reality, Troia is a prominent cybersecurity researcher who runs two dark web security companies, NightLion and Shadowbyte.

As noted by Bleeping Computer, the hackers managed to send out emails to over 100,000 addresses, all of which were scraped from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) database. A report by Bloomberg says that hackers used the FBI’s public-facing email system, making the emails seem all the more legitimate. Cybersecurity researcher Kevin Beaumont also attests to the email’s legitimate appearance, stating that the headers are authenticated as coming from FBI servers using the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) process that’s part of the system Gmail uses to stick brand logos on verified corporate emails.

The FBI responded to the incident in a press release, noting that it’s an “ongoing situation” and that “the impacted hardware was taken offline.” Aside from that, the FBI says it doesn’t have any more information it can share at this time.

According to Bleeping Computer, the spam campaign was likely carried out as an attempt to defame Troia. In a tweet, Troia speculates that an individual who goes by the name “Pompompurin” may have launched the attack. As Bleeping Computer notes, that same person has allegedly tried damaging Troia’s reputation in similar ways in the past.

A report by computer security reporter Brian Krebs also connects Pompompurin to the incident — the individual allegedly messaged him from an FBI email address when the attacks were launched, stating, “Hi its pompompurin. Check headers of this email it’s actually coming from FBI server.” KrebsOnSecurity even got a chance to speak with Pompompurin, who claims that the hack was meant to highlight the security vulnerabilities within the FBI’s email systems.

“I could’ve 1000 percent used this to send more legit looking emails, trick companies into handing over data etc.,” Pompompurin said in a statement to KrebsOnSecurity. The individual also told the outlet that they exploited a security gap on the FBI’s Law Enforcement Enterprise (LEEP) portal and managed to sign up for an account using a one-time password embedded in the page’s HTML. From there, Pompompurin claims they were able to manipulate the sender’s address and email body, executing the massive spam campaign.

With that kind of access, the attack could’ve been much worse than a false alert that put system administrators on high alert. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden mandated a bug fix that calls for civilian federal agencies to patch any known threats. In May, Biden signed an executive order that aims to improve the nation’s cyber defenses in the wake of detrimental attacks on the Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds.

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A live-action ‘System Shock’ TV series is on the way

Nightdive Studios’ immersive sim franchise franchise is being turned into a live-action TV show. You’ll be able to watch it on the upcoming streaming service Binge, which is also based on Ubisoft’s Driver.

More details about the System Shock TV show will be revealed in due course. It will tell “a harrowing story of Citadel Station and its rogue AI that subjects the crew to unimaginable horror,” Binge said. The service, which is set to launch next year, didn’t reveal when the series will premiere.

Meanwhile, Nightdive is working on a . The game was supposed to arrive this past summer, but it’s now scheduled to debut by the end of 2021.

System Shock joins a long list of shows and movies based on games that are in the pipeline. Among them are , ,  and a ton of Netflix projects, like League of Legends series . Rumors are also floating around that Epic Games might be making .

Elsewhere, Sony is supposed to release the in February at long, long last. Has, uh, anyone happened to see a trailer lying around somewhere?

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Moscow adds facial recognition payment system to more than 240 metro stations

Moscow launched “Face Pay” on Friday, a facial recognition payment system implemented in more than 240 Mosmetro stations, “the largest use of facial recognition technology in the world,” officials claim (via The Guardian). The service relies on stored photographs to validate metro payments, an obvious privacy concern given the previous uses of facial recognition technology by the Russian capital’s law enforcement.

Face Pay requires metro riders to upload a photo and connect their bank and metro cards to the Mosmetro mobile app. With everything uploaded, all you need to do is look at the camera posted above the turnstiles to make it in time for your next train. Moscow authorities expect 10 to 15 percent of riders to use Face Pay “regularly” in the next two to three years, the hope being less time swiping and paying for rides will translate to shorter lines and waits, and less close contact during the ongoing pandemic.

Face Pay launched at all Moscow Underground stations

Moscow’s head of city transport and road infrastructure Maxim Liksutov with a Face Pay camera.
Photo by TASSTASS via Getty Images

That’s all fine and good, at least conceptually. The relative convenience biometric recognition can add to payment systems is a concept that’s currently being floated in the US through Amazon One, the shipping giant’s palm recognition tech. As The Guardian notes, Moscow’s Department of Information Technology claims photographs collected through official channels won’t be turned over to the police and are instead securely encrypted in the GIS ETSHD system (Moscow’s Unified Data Storage and Processing Center).

That hasn’t convinced Russian privacy advocates, though. “This is a dangerous new step in Russia’s push for control over its population. We need to have full transparency on how this application will work in practice,” Stanislav Shakirov, the founder of digital rights group Roskomsvoboda, told The Guardian. “The Moscow metro is a government institution and all the data can end up in the hands of the security services.”

Shakirov has good reason to be concerned. Moscow’s implementation of facial recognition across its vast network of more than 10,000 CCTV cameras is more than a little scary. Worse than the possibility of abuse by local Moscow law enforcement, the system can apparently be hijacked for as little as $200 by enterprising hackers. That’s the real risk of applying facial recognition across even more of daily life in the city, not just that the government could have an easier time tracking the movements of citizens, but that the system itself is a vulnerable target for even worse abuses.

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