‘Axiom Verge 2’ is out on Switch, PC and PlayStation today

With Samsung hosting its latest Unpacked event earlier today, you may have missed Nintendo’s Indie World showcase at noon ET. It was only about 20 minutes long, but the company had a lot of news to share. Most notably, you can download Axiom Verge 2, the sequel to Tom Happ’s acclaimed 2015 Metroidvania, today. If you don’t own a Switch, it’s also available on PC via the Epic Games Store and PlayStation 4.

Axiom Verge 2 is not the only Switch indie you can download today. In all, there are six other games you can play today. Of those, the highlights are Boyfriend Dungeon and Garden Story. The former is a hack-and-slash title where you can romance and date the weapons you find on your adventure, while the latter is a top-down Zelda-like RPG set in a charming world filled with anthropomorphic plants.

Then there are the indie games you can look forward to playing at a later date on your Switch. Leading that pack is Tetris Effect, which will finally make its way to Nintendo’s portable console on October 8th. This latest version of the game will include both single-player and multiplayer components. 

Other highlights include Eastward, a new action RPG from Stardew Valley publisher Chucklefish Games, and the highly-acclaimed Loop Hero, which came out on PC and Mac earlier this year. Both will arrive on Switch before the end of the year. We’re also looking forward to a game called Bomb Rush Cyberpunk. It’s reminiscent of Jet Set Radio and is coming to Switch sometime next year.

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Axiom Verge 2 just got a release date surprise none of us saw coming

We were hoping for some big announcements during today’s Indie World Showcase, and that’s precisely what we got. Smack in the middle of the presentation, when no one was expecting it, Nintendo revealed the release date for Axiom Verge 2. The game, which is highly anticipated among Metroidvania fans, was first revealed during an Indie World Showcase back in 2019, so it seems only appropriate that its release date would be revealed during one as well.

Even more surprising is that the release date for Axiom Verge 2 is today. According to a tweet from the game’s developer, Tom Happ, it’s not just launching on Nintendo Switch today either, but also on PlayStation 4 and PC. The game will be launching on Xbox and PlayStation 5 at a later date.

In a follow-up tweet, Happ revealed that the game should be live on the Switch eShop and the PlayStation Store around 10 AM PDT/1 PM EDT, while it will launch on the Epic Games Store around 12 PM PDT/3 PM EDT. On PC, Axiom Verge 2 will be exclusive to the Epic Games Store, with the developers also revealing today that this is a 12-month exclusivity window for EGS.

In any case, this is definitely an exciting day if you’ve been looking forward to Axiom Verge 2. In the lead-up to this announcement, there was no indication that the game was targeting an early August release, as Happ had previously only confirmed a Q3 2021 release. So to have it get a surprise release announcement during today’s event certainly made this an Indie World Showcase worth remembering.

Axiom Verge 2 will run $19.99, which is the same price as the game that preceded it. The original is held up as one of the better Metroidvania titles around, so here’s hoping that its sequel can impress fans of the genre as well.

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Massachusetts on the verge of becoming first state to ban police use of facial recognition

Massachusetts lawmakers this week voted to ban the use of facial recognition by law enforcement and public agencies in a sweeping police reform bill that received significant bipartisan support. If signed into law, Massachusetts would become the first state to fully ban the technology, following bans barring the use of facial recognition in police body cameras and other, more limited city-specific bans on the tech.

The bill, S.2963, marks yet another state government tackling the thorny ethical issue of unregulated facial recognition use in the absence of any federal guidance from Congress. It also includes bans on chokeholds and rubber bullets in addition to restrictions on tear gas and other crowd-control weapons, as reported by TechCrunch. It isn’t a blanket ban on facial recognition; police will still be able to run searches against the state’s driver’s license database but only with a warrant and requirements that law enforcement agencies publish annual transparency reports regarding those searches.

Massachusetts joins cities like Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon, as well as San Francisco and Oakland in Northern California, that have banned police use of facial recognition. Earlier this year, Boston became the first major East Coast city to bar police from purchasing and using facial recognition services, but the Massachusetts bill goes a step further in making the ban statewide. S.2963 passed 28-12 in the state senate and 92-67 in the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Tuesday, and it now awaits signing from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

Use of facial recognition has become a controversial topic in the artificial intelligence industry and the broader tech policy sphere because of a lack of federal guidance regulating its use. That vacuum has allowed a number of companies — most prominently controversial firm Clearview AI — to step in and offer services to governments, law enforcement agencies, private companies, and even individuals, often without any oversight or records as to how it’s used and whether it’s even accurate.

In August, Clearview AI — which has sold access to its software and its database of billions of images, scraped in part from social media sites to numerous government agencies and private companies — signed a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (In May, Clearview said it would stop selling its tech to private companies following a lawsuit brought against it for violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which, prior to these more recent city bans, was the only piece of US legislation regulating facial regulation use.)

A number of researchers have been sounding the alarm for years now that modern facial recognition, even when aided by advanced AI, can be flawed. Systems like Rekognition have been shown to have issues identifying the gender of darker-skinned individuals and suffer from other racial bias built into how the databases are constructed and how the models are trained on that data. Amazon in June banned police from using its facial recognition platform for one year, with the company saying it wants to give Congress “enough time to implement appropriate rules” governing the sale and use of the technology.

Amazon was following the lead of IBM, which announced that same month it would no longer develop the technology whatsoever after acknowledging criticism from researchers and activists over its potential use in racial profiling, mass surveillance, and other civil rights abuses.

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