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Game

The ‘Alan Wake’ remaster is coming to Nintendo Switch

Fans of Alan Wake aren’t getting an update on the sequel this summer — but can look forward to a new TV series and a remastered version of the original game for the Switch. Remedy Entertainment’s creative director Sam Lake today revealed what’s in store for the franchise during the game’s 12th-anniversary celebration . Switch owners can anticipate Alan Wake Remastered to be available on Nintendo’s eShop sometime this fall. The remastered original title is already available on the PS5, Xbox and PC.

The original 2010 Alan Wake game — which features a thriller novelist who tries to solve the mystery of his wife’s disappearance — has become a cult classic in recent years. Remedy and Microsoft Studios then released Alan Wake’s American Nightmare in 2012. Since then, the franchise has mostly been dormant, but that’s about to change.

Lake revealed that AMC bought the rights to the Alan Wake franchise and will be adapting it into a TV series. “We have been collaborating on making a TV show happen. Nothing more to share at the moment, but we will certainly let you know when there is something to announce,” said Lake.

Alan Wake 2, which many expected to preview this summer, is currently deep in the development stages. Unfortunately, Lake confirmed that the studio won’t be releasing any further updates on the game. It did release a number of from the upcoming sequel. As we’ve known for a while, the game is slated to in 2023 for PS5 and other platforms.

“Everything [with Alan Wake 2] is going really well, and a great deal of the game is playable,” Lake said. “But we’ve been talking for the past couple of months and have come to a decision that we will not be showing anything big this summer,” said Lake.

Alan Wake devotees should watch the anniversary video in full, which also includes interesting behind-the-scene details about the remastered original and upcoming sequel. You can watch it below:

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Categories
AI

Intel signals aggressive market share push in wake of improved Q1

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Buoyed by strong continuing demand for PC semiconductors, Intel announced today flat non-GAAP revenue of $18.6 billion on a year-over-year basis that exceeded its previous guidance by $1 billion. Overall, Intel reported a net income of $5.7 billion, down 6% year-over-year.

In addition to increased demand for PC semiconductors that remain in short supply, Intel reported that the decline in demand for semiconductors used in enterprise severs has reached the bottom. Intel is forecasting increased sales of semiconductors in servers in the second half of the year as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides to the point where IT organizations begin investing in data centers again. Intel launched 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, code-named Ice Lake, this quarter, that the company is banking on driving server refreshes in the second half of 2021.

In addition, Intel is also expecting to see increased demand from cloud service providers who are currently working through a massive amount of inventory they accumulated in 2020.

Regaining supremancy over rivals

The bulk of the revenue Intel is forecasting will be generated by 10-nanometer class processors in 2021. Intel is increasing the cadence at which it is transitioning to 7-nanometer processors as part of an effort to regain processing power supremacy over rivals, said Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. This was Gelsinger’s first call with industry analysts since returning to Intel after several years of leading VMware as both its CTO and then CEO.

“It’s amazing to be back at Intel, and Intel is back,” said Gelsinger.

Intel also launched an Integrated Device Manufacture (IDM) 2.0 initiative this quarter to address the current shortage of processors. Intel is opening foundries to partners that build substrates and other components that it depends on to build processors. Additionally, Intel is co-designing processors with cloud service providers. The company expects the cloud service providers will begin increasing orders starting next quarter.

In the meantime, strong demand for notebook PCs especially has enabled Intel to weather the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Apple’s decision to abandon Intel in favor of an M1 system-on-chip (SoC) architecture. The new M1 SoC architecture combines Arm CPUs with GPUs and other accelerators to deliver twice as much processing power as an x86 platform.

The push to gain market share

As demand for other classes of processors starts to increase along with PC components, Gelsinger promised that Intel would be very aggressive when it came to gaining market share at the expense of rivals that can’t match Intel’s manufacturing muscle. In addition, Gelsinger notes that Intel processors are now optimized for new classes of workloads based on AI models that need to first both be trained by processing massive amounts of data and then deployed using inference engines that require maximum processor performance.

It’s not clear to what degree, however, enterprise IT organizations are going to invest in 10-nanometer processor platforms when they know that systems based on next-generation 7-nanometer processors will become increasing starting at the second half of this year. Cloud service providers are also now making greater use of a wide array of processors to run workloads that might previously have been deployed on x86-based servers. Regardless of past missteps, Gelsinger said Intel is now better prepared to find for control of every processor core being employed.

Overall, Intel is now forecasting it will generate $17.8 billion in revenue in the second quarter, much of which will come despite the efforts of rivals such as AMD and Nvidia that are unable to meet all the demand for processing horsepower now being driven by everything from gaming sites to digital business transformation initiatives that continue to multiply as the global economy continues to improve.

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Categories
AI

Google tests smart displays that activate without a wake word

A new feature being internally tested at Google could remove the need to say “Hey Google” before voicing commands to Nest Hub smart displays, Android Central reports. Instead, the feature codenamed “Blue Steel” could allow the device to simply sense your presence, and proactively listen for commands without first needing to hear the wake word.

The functionality has been shown off in a video posted to YouTube by Jan Boromeusz, who Android Central notes previously leaked features like the Nest Hub’s new dark mode prior to its official announcement. In the video, Boromeusz can be seen asking for a variety of information, all without once uttering the words “Hey Google.” His Nest Hub Max smart display is reportedly running leaked internal firmware meant for testing within Google, and it’s unclear if the company has any plans to release the functionality publicly.

The speculation is that the Nest Hub Max is using its existing ultrasound sensing to sense a person’s presence and start listening. At the moment, the smart display uses this to simply adjust the information it shows. However, in the future, this same technology could allow it to listen out for voice commands when it knows you’re nearby. Ars Technica speculates that it could also use its camera’s Face Match feature to get a better idea of who’s speaking. Boromeusz shows an option to turned Blue Steel on and off in the smart display’s settings menu.

If released to the public, Blue Steel could raise privacy concerns. A key element of current smart speakers and displays is that they only pay attention to what you’re saying after they hear the wake word. Relying upon proximity detection alone increases the risk of the devices hearing something they’re not supposed to, at the expense of your privacy.

That said, “Blue Steel” could make for a useful optional feature for some. Having to repeatedly say “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” before every voice command can be a pain, and this potentially makes accessing information you need far quicker.

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Categories
AI

Amazon gives Samuel L. Jackson his own Alexa wake phrase

Amazon is expanding its Samuel L. Jackson voice skill for its Alexa digital assistant to include tens of thousands more phrases, including much more of the actor’s iconic expletive-filled delivery. The company is also giving Jackson his own dedicated wake phrase: “Hey, Samuel.” The news follows Amazon’s announcement on Monday that it plans to add its next celebrity voice, Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, for the Indian market some time next year.

The Jackson partnership launched last December, allowing Alexa users to pay $0.99 to access the actor’s voice on Echo and other Alexa-enabled devices. Since then, Amazon says consumers complained that the integration was “overly burdensome,” because you effectively had to ask Alexa to ask for Jackson to reply to something.

In addition to that, the range of questions and exchanges you could have using the Jackson skill was limited, mostly because Amazon recorded only a small number of words using the actor’s real voice and relied on artificial intelligence to expand the library. When gathering feedback, Amazon says most owners of the skill — nearly 75 percent of which had expletives turned on — requested a more candid, off-the-cuff Jackson than was currently available via Alexa.

Now, in today’s update, Jackson’s Alexa integration will feature around 30,000 more phrases, including five times the swear words, reports Variety. And you can activate the voice by just saying “Hey Samuel,” a feature that proved to be a “incredibly hard engineering challenge” Amazon says it needed to upgrade the on-device wake word detector to enable.

Some examples include Jackson saying, “Look at that hot ball of gas and fire! No, don’t actually look,” when asking about the weather, and “Why do Jedis always burn their pancakes? They never turn to the dark side” if you ask for a joke.

Variety also reports that Jackson now offers a touching response when asked what he’s up to, in which he’ll respond he’s thinking about the late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. There are also other topical responses regarding Jackson’s future work, like one mentioning his upcoming Quibi animated show with Ryan Reynolds called Futha Mucka.

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Categories
Tech News

“Hey, Facebook” wake word lands on Oculus Quest 2 and Portal

Almost all the Big Tech companies have smart assistants these days except for Facebook. There have been rumors and signs that the social media giant would be coming out with its own but nothing has materialized so far. It might, however, be taking another step in that direction by pushing its own trigger phrase to activate voice commands not only on its Portal smart display but even on the Oculus Quest 2 VR headset.

Although it didn’t make sense years ago, Facebook was time and again rumored or even confirmed to be working on one form of AI-powered assistant or another. Those included the “M” assistant on Messenger but that was mostly intended to assist in shopping activities. With Facebook dipping its fingers in almost everything, it would only be a matter of time before it started making bigger steps in that direction.

To be clear, the Oculus Quest 2 has long had voice commands that could be triggered through physical controls. What Facebook is doing is to allow for complete hands-free operation by simply uttering the magic phrase “Hey, Facebook”. The announcement makes it clear that it is an optional feature that is disabled by default and users have to explicitly toggle that switch if they want to experience it.

Less obvious is the silent change spotted by The Verge where the Portal smart display will also start responding to “Hey, Facebook”. Previously, it was only “Hey, Portal” that could be used but now Facebook’s name will also be able to start video calls.

It isn’t really a surprising step given Facebook’s expansion of its brand to Oculus. It may even make sense in the smart display’s case where “Portal” is as impersonal as it can be. It may, however, suggest that Facebook is already starting the journey that would push the “Hey, Facebook” wake word on the same level as “OK, Google”, “Hey, Siri”, and “Alexa”.

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