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AI

Watch a swarm of drones autonomously track a human through a dense forest

Scientists from China’s Zhejiang University have unveiled a drone swarm capable of navigating through a dense bamboo forest without human guidance.

The group of 10 palm-sized drones communicate with one another to stay in formation, sharing data collected by on-board depth-sensing cameras to map their surroundings. This method means that if the path in front of one drone is blocked, it can use information collected by its neighbors to plot a new route. The researchers note that this technique can also be used by the swarm to track a human walking through the same environment. If one drone loses sight of the target, others are able to pick up the trail.

In the future, write the scientists in a paper published in the journal Science Robotics, drone swarms like this could be used for disaster relief and ecological surveys.

“In natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, a swarm of drones can search, guide, and deliver emergency supplies to trapped people,” they write. “For example, in wildfires, agile multicopters can quickly collect information from a close view of the front line without the risk of human injury.”

However, experts say the work also has clear military potential. A number of nations — most prominently the US, China, Russia, Israel, and the UK — are currently developing drone swarms that could be used in war. Militaries tend to invoke surveillance and reconnaissance as the most common applications for this work, but the same technology could undoubtedly be used to track and attack both combatants and civilians.

An illustration from the paper showing how multiple drones can be used to track a target even if the view from one drone is blocked.
Image: Science Robotics / Xin Zhou et al

Elke Schwarz, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London whose specialisms include the use of drones in combat, says this research has clear military potential.

“The capability to navigate cluttered environments, for example, is desirable for a range of military purposes, including for urban warfare,” Schwarz tells The Verge. “As is the ability to ‘follow a human’ — here I can see how this converges with projects that seek to develop lethal drone capabilities that minimize risk to on-the-ground soldiers in urban environments.”

The recent war between Russia and Ukraine has shown how quickly drone technology can be adapted for the battlefield and what a devastating effect it can have. Both sides in the conflict are using cheap consumer drones for reconnaissance and, sometimes, offense. One method involves using drones to drop grenades onto opposing forces. A recent video showed Ukrainian troops using what appears to be a DJI Phantom 3 drone (price-tag: $500) to drop a grenade through the sunroof of a car supposedly driven by Russian soldiers.

What makes drone swarms potentially more dangerous than lone machines, though, is not just their numbers but their autonomy. No single human can simultaneously control a swarm of 10 drones, but if this task can be offloaded to algorithms then military planners are more likely to embrace the use of this sort of autonomous system in war.

Drones in the swarm are capable of navigating through gaps as small as 30 centimeters.
Image: Science Robotics / Xin Zhou et al

Currently, drone swarms are limited in their application. The most common real world use-case is creating elaborate light shows. But in these scenarios, drones are following preset trajectories in open spaces, using tracking technology like GPS to locate themselves.

The research from Zhejiang University advances on this by using only on-board sensors and algorithms to control the drones’ flight without prior mapping of their environment. “This is the first time there’s a swarm of drones successfully flying outside in an unstructured environment, in the wild,” Enrica Soria, a drone swarm researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, told AFP. Soria added that the work was “impressive.”

In their paper, the scientists note that approaches to drone swarms tend to follow one of two programming paradigms: either “bird” or “insect.” In an “insect” swarm, the focus is on fast, reactive movements that require less forward-planning while a “bird” swarm tries to direct drones along long, flowing paths (the latter being the researchers’ approach). Both methods have their trade-offs, as thinking like an insect requires less computing power, but planning like a bird is more energy efficient. But, as the computing capacity of hardware improves, programming bird-like behavior has become more attainable.

Schwarz notes that although the focus in such drone swarm research is often on these technological achievements, this can obscure the trickier questions of how such work should be deployed. She cites the observations of 20th century US mathematician Norbert Wiener, whose work laid the foundations for AI development.

Says Schwarz: “[Weiner] said — in the 1960s — that there is a disastrous focus on and obsession with ‘know-how’, which tends to eclipse the moral question we should be asking: what is it good for.”

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Game

Watch the Pokémon Presents stream at 3PM ET for updates on ‘Pokémon Scarlet,’ ‘Violet’ and more

The latest Pokémon Presents is livestreaming at 9AM ET today, promising updates on Pokémon apps and games “including Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet,” The Pokémon Company said. It didn’t add more details, but the last Pokémon Presents revealed the Scarlet and Violet release windows, among other news. 

The company also showed off some visuals from the game at the last Pokémon Presents, including a pastoral countryside and urban landscapes, as well as the three new starters Sprigatito, Fuecoco and Quaxly. It also announced a new “Daybreak” update for Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

We now know that Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are coming to Switch on November 18th. A subsequent reveal in June showed two new professors and clues about the game’s open world. In addition, a series of rough screenshots may have shown new battle mechanics and evolutions, as well as clues about the total number of Pokémon. Hopefully, all will be revealed when the trailer drops today at 9AM ET.  

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Game

How to watch the Summer Games Done Quick 2022 speedrunning marathon

The 2022 edition of Summer Games Done Quick, the semi-annual event, gets underway on June 26th. From then until July 3rd, SGDQ will host a non-stop livestream of skilled players tearing through a wide variety of games as fast as they can. Hopefully, they’ll set a few world records in the process.

You can watch the event — the stream is embedded below for your convenience. The pre-show gets underway at 12:30PM ET on Sunday, followed by the first run, a Shadow of the Colossus random boss rush. If you miss anything, you’ll be able to later.

As ever, viewers will be encouraged to donate to Doctors Without Borders. Last year’s event raised $2.9 million for the cause. The most recent winter edition, Awesome Games Done Quick, raised $3.4 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. SGDQ 2022 takes place in Bloomington, Minnesota and it’s the first since Awesome Games Done Quick 2020.

has released the full , and there are a bunch of intriguing runs in the pipeline. I haven’t seen a reverse boss run of Donkey Kong Country before. I’m looking forward to that, as well as the Super Mario Maker 2 relay race. Among the games making their debut at a core GDQ event are , , and, inevitably, .

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Game

Watch the Summer Game Fest showcase here at 2PM ET

E3 would normally be held around this time, but it this year. Still, there are over the next few days that will shine the spotlight on dozens, if not hundreds, of upcoming games. One of the biggest events on the docket is , which is set for 2PM ET today.

Host and producer Geoff Keighley has tried to by noting that, while there will be some new game announcements, the focus will primarily be on previously revealed titles. There will be details on , , , , ,  and much more.

Rumors suggest the stream will also feature  and perhaps a release date for . One thing that definitely won’t be included is a trailer, . Don’t expect to hear a peep about either.

Keighley says the event will run for over 90 minutes. Be sure to stick around afterward for the indie-focused Day of the Devs event. The Summer Game Fest showcase is available to stream on a ton of platforms, including , , , , and even in IMAX theaters. To make things even easier for you, the YouTube stream is right here:

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AI

Tesla AI Day event: start time and how to watch the live stream

Today is Tesla’s AI Day, a sequel of sorts to the company’s Autonomy Day event held in 2019. The event, which will be held at Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, CA, will be livestreamed for the public starting at 5PM PT / 8PM ET (though the event may not actually begin until closer to 5:30PM PT).

We don’t have a lot of details about what will be announced, but based on the invitation, we’ll get a keynote address by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, hardware and software demos from Tesla engineers, test rides in the Model S Plaid, and “more.” Musk has also tweeted that the “sole goal” of the event is to lure experts in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence to come work at Tesla.

Tesla usually holds around two public events a year. This year, we got the Tesla Model S Plaid launch event in June, and now AI Day. Over the past few years, Tesla has been holding events, not to unveil new products, but to highlight certain technologies that the company views as crucial to its future development. Last year, Tesla held its first Battery Day event, at which it discussed plans to drive down the cost of battery development with the goal of producing a $25,000 electric car.

AI Day is expected to pick up on the themes first introduced during Autonomy Day, which include the manufacturing of Tesla’s own silicon computer chips to power it’s Full Self-Driving advanced driver assistance feature.

This AI Day comes at an awkward time for the company. Earlier this week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it was investigating Tesla’s Autopilot for the nearly dozen incidents in which its cars crashed into emergency vehicles. Two Democratic senators also called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla’s marketing practices for potentially misleading information.

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Computing

WWDC 2022: How to watch tomorrow’s keynote, what to expect

WWDC 2022 (Worldwide Developer Conference) is scheduled to kick off on Monday, June 6. As it has been in the past, it is once again a virtual event that can be attended primarily online and is free for all developers to participate.

In the lead-up to WWDC, the theme for the event was revealed as “swiftly approaching.” This could be a reference to the Apple Swift programming language, hinting at the focus on developers. With that said, you can expect a ton of updates and news surrounding Apple’s operating systems, including iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, watchOS, and more.

How to watch WWDC 2022

WWDC begins at 10 a.m. PT, or 1 p.m. ET, with the opening keynote. You can convert this to your local timezone here.

You can follow that opening keynote live on Apple’s website. You’ll also be able to watch on Apple’s YouTube channel, which we’ve embedded the video above for your convenience.

The best place to catch the action, though, is Apple’s event page. This page will be updated with a replay of the keynote shortly after the event ends. It also will also link you out to any hardware recaps or official details on other related announcements made on the stage.

Of course, if you own your own Apple hardware like an Apple TV, you can watch there, too. Or, if not, you can watch using the Apple TV app across platforms. And if you’re a developer, you can watch via the Apple Developer website.

What to expect at WWDC 2022

Apple Tomorrow/Twitter

Unlike Apple’s annual Spring or Fall hardware events, WWDC is reserved for talking about software. It’s rare for the company to showcase hardware at WWDC, but we do expect some this year if rumors end up being true.

We’ll touch on the software in a bit, but first, the good stuff. A new MacBook Air is the leading hardware that we expect to see at WWDC. It could come with iMac-like updated colors and a new webcam. We’re also hoping that Apple might announce an M2 processor for that MacBook Air. A MacBook Pro 13-inch with that same M2 is not out of the question, either.

Other than that, we hope to see a refreshed Mac Pro, which hasn’t been updated to Apple’s own custom silicon yet. This has been teased by Apple execs in the past at Apple’s last hardware event. A new Pro Display XDR might also fit in well with this, too as it is yet to have a true successor.

Mac Pro cheese grater design.
Simon Hrozian/Unsplash

On the software side, you can look out for some big updates to be announced for your iPad with iPadOS 16. Reports have it that this year’s update could bring long-requested features like resizable windows and a new MacOS-like multitasking mode. As for iPhones, expect iOS16, which could bring features like Door Detection, Live Captions, changes to notifications, and an always-on lock screen.

Then, for Macs, there’s MacOS 13, which could bring more exclusive features to M1-powered Macs, and improvements to System Preferences to match those of iOS. We even think that it could be named “Mammoth.”

Other updates coming at WWDC will be watchOS 9, and tvOS 16. WatchOS 9 could bring new features centered around sleep, fitness, and medication management for women.

And let us not forget the wildcard, Apple’s mixed reality headset. It’s said that Apple is working on “realityOS” for the headset, so it could make mention at WWDC. But that’s just a wild hunch.

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Computing

How to watch Nvidia’s Computex 2022 keynote

Next week, Nvidia will be presenting its Computex 2022 keynote, where the company will discuss current and upcoming products for data centers, professional applications, and gaming. It’s not entirely clear what exactly the company will be talking about, and although rumors range from a new low-end GPU to an announcement of next-gen GPUs, Nvidia is always very secretive so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here’s where you can watch Nvidia’s Computex keynote and what you can expect the company to announce.

How to watch Nvidia’s Computex 2022 keynote

Six different Nvidia executives will speak at Nvidia’s keynote, which starts at 8 p.m. PT on May 23. Computex is hosted in Taiwan, which means their afternoon is America’s late night, so you might have to stay up late to catch the presentation.

Nvidia is likely going to stream the presentation on its YouTube channel, as it typically does for Computex and events like GTC. After the stream is over, we expect a recording to be available on the YouTube page.

Following the presentation, Nvidia will host a talk specifically about Omniverse, hosted by Richard Kerris, Nvidia’s vice president of Omniverse. The talk will cover “the enormous opportunities simulation brings to 3D workflows and the next evolution of A.I.”

What to expect from Nvidia’s Computex 2022 keynote

Nvidia is notoriously tight-lipped about its upcoming products. In fact, ever since the GTX 10-series, Nvidia has always announced new gaming GPUs just weeks before launch, which is very different from rivals AMD and Intel, as they tend to announce big products more than a month away from launch. So, we’re either on the cusp of the next generation (presumably the RTX 40-series) or still some months away.

Jeff Fisher presenting the RTX 3090 Ti.

One hint comes from the list of speakers. When it comes to gaming news, we’re really interested in Jeff Fisher, Senior Vice President of GeForce. He previously announced the RTX 3090 Ti at CES 2022, which has led some to claim that this is proof he’s back again to announce the RTX 40-series. But it’s hard to imagine Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang not announcing the launch of a new generation of gaming GPUs in his famous kitchen. If Fisher is announcing a new gaming GPU, it’s more likely to be the rumored GTX 1630.

There are five other speakers at Nvidia’s keynote, but they’re expected to talk about data centers, professional GPUs, and automotive, not gaming GPUs. Unfortunately, if you’re not really into enterprise-grade hardware, you probably aren’t the target demographic of this keynote. Still, Nvidia does what Nvidia wants and we can never be too sure what it’s going to show at a big event like Computex.

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Game

How to watch The Game Awards 2021 streaming live

Today is a big day for the games industry, as The Game Awards is returning tonight. Not only will the show dole out awards to a variety of games across many categories, but we’ll also be getting some new game reveals as well. In short, there’s going to be a little something for everyone, even those who aren’t interested in awards shows in general.

How and when to watch The 2021 Game Awards

Luckily for those interested in watching, The Game Awards traditionally livestreams on a large number of platforms. The easiest way for most of us to watch will probably be on YouTube (via the livestream we’ve embedded below) or Twitch. On YouTube, the show will be streaming in 4K, while Twitch will offer a special Game Awards extension that will allow viewers to interact with the stream. On both platforms, co-streaming is allowed, so you’ll be able to watch other streamers co-stream the event too.

If YouTube and Twitch aren’t quite your style, there are more platforms beyond those that will be hosting the show. The Game Awards website lists platforms like Facebook, Twitter, IGN, GameSpot, and TikTok as global streaming partners, so there are many more places to watch beyond just Twitch and YouTube. The Game Awards also has a number of streaming partners worldwide, so if you live outside of the US, it might be worth checking that page we just linked to see if there are any platforms hosting the stream in your region.

While the main show doesn’t kick off until 8 PM EST tonight, there will be a pre-show beginning at 7:30 PM EST. While the biggest award of the night is undoubtedly Game of the Year – the nominees for which include Deathloop, It Takes Two, Metroid Dread, Psychonauts 2, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Resident Evil Village – there are 30 awards in all that span gaming and gaming-adjacent categories.

What we expect at The Game Awards this year

Aside from the obvious awards ceremony, The Game Awards also serves as a place for developers to reveal their upcoming games. The description on that YouTube livestream we’ve embedded above gives away a couple of those reveals, noting that Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz will be on hand to reveal Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (the movie, not the game from 1992), while Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss will debut The Matrix Awakens.

The Game Awards host and producer Geoff Keighley has been making the rounds hyping up his show, saying in a recent interview with ForTheWin that there will be several game announcements on the level of the Elden Ring reveal we saw over the summer.

In a recent AMA on Reddit, Keighley also said that the show should last around three hours, so plan on settling in if you want to watch the show from start to finish. He also confirmed that there will be some surprise guests at The Game Awards, so we’re in for at least a couple of surprises. We don’t have much longer to wait before The Game Awards is underway, so tune in to one of the livestreams we’ve linked above at 7:30 PM EST, 4:30 PM Pacific if you want to watch the show play out live tonight (December 9, 2021).

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Game

Nintendo’s Zelda-themed Game & Watch is a love letter to Link’s 8-bit origins

For the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. last year, Nintendo released a special edition Game & Watch. (If you don’t know, Game & Watch were a line of handheld LCD devices from the ‘80s that could each play one very simple game.) Rather than featuring a single title, the Super Mario anniversary device had a full version of the original adventure as well as its Japan-only sequel, known in the West as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels.

Nintendo’s pulling the same trick this year with a 35th-anniversary Legend of Zelda-themed Game & Watch that just went on sale. And like last year’s model, it includes a color screen and full games, but the selection is more generous. It includes the original The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, both originally released on the NES. It also includes The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, which came out on the Game Boy in 1993, making this essentially a collection of Zelda’s early 8-bit adventures.

Gallery: The Legend of Zelda: Game & Watch photos | 11 Photos

I actually have never really played the first two Zelda games, though I do love Link’s Awakening. I played the Switch remaster a few years ago, but I haven’t touched the original game since my childhood — so when we got a chance to check this tiny device out, I was pretty thrilled to give that game a go.

The Game & Watch itself is elegantly designed, but also feels rather cheap. It’s a tiny, palm-sized device with an eye-catching gold front, while the rest of the device is clad in green plastic. The front has a 2.36-inch color LCD screen that is very small but also looks great — and when playing Link’s Awakening, the upgrade from the Game Boy’s screen, which had no backlight, is dramatic. The D-Pad and buttons are nothing to write home about, but they’re good enough.

On the right side of the device is an exceedingly modern USB-C port for charging its battery (which is pretty meager, so you’re going to need to do that a lot) and a power button; the speaker is on the left side. Finally, there’s a great Easter egg on the back: When the screen is on, the Triforce glows subtly through the green plastic. It’s a great little detail.

The Legend of Zelda Game & Watch

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

The Game & Watch has a few different modes: clock, timer and game. Pressing the “game” button lets you switch between the three Zelda titles, a Link-themed version of Vermin (from a 1980 Game & Watch), and the timer. The clock and timer are fairly self-explanatory, but their use of Zelda action as backgrounds is expertly done.

On the clock, you’ll see the original Legend of Zelda, and the CPU-controlled Link essentially battles his way through the game over the course of the next 12 hours, defeating Ganon and rescuing Zelda at 11:59. If you’re so inclined, you can pick up the console and control the action from the clock screen at any time. Likewise, the timer features a handful of different scenes from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link that you can either watch or play yourself. The device’s packaging even converts into a little stand so you can use the Game & Watch as a desk clock.

If you’re interested in this Game & Watch, though, you’re not in it for playing the clock: you want to relive Link’s earliest adventures on the smallest portable device you can find. Sure, you can play the NES Zelda collection on the Switch (or many other old Nintendo devices), but the Game & Watch’s miniature screen and old-school controls feel just right for these adventures. That’s doubly true with Link’s Awakening, since it was originally designed for portable systems.

The games themselves are exactly as you remember them, with no quality of life enhancements or graphics updates; Link’s Awakening is in black and white, rather than the later “DX” version released for the Game Boy color. I’m not complaining, though, as these original versions seem right for the Game & Watch as a celebration of the series’ 8-bit origins.

The Legend of Zelda Game & Watch

Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

How you feel about these games will depend on your history with the series. Like I said, I’ve never played the original NES Zelda adventures; I got on board with A Link to the Past in 1992. As such, I don’t have a lot of nostalgic love for the original pair, and playing the first game was an exercise in frustration. There’s barely a map, Link is slow while enemies are fast, and aiming is imprecise at best. I definitely died more than my fair share of times, which was rather humbling for this self-described Zelda expert. But hey, I shouldn’t have expected anything different from a 1986 game, and I started to get the hang of it soon enough.

Link’s Awakening, on the other hand, was like visiting an old friend. Muscle and brain memory combined to have me slashing my way through it in no time at all, and it controlled just like I remembered. The A and B buttons may have felt rather squishy, but the D-pad was close enough to the one on my old Game Boy that I felt right at home. I don’t know if I’ll finish the NES Zelda games, but I’ll definitely play through Link’s Awakening.

So who exactly is this $50 device for? The Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch was really only meant for people who loved that first Mario game, not necessarily people who love the Mario franchise in general. Likewise, The Legend of Zelda Game & Watch is best for someone who loved these original games growing up. It doesn’t even have to be all three, though — if one of them was a formative gaming experience, you’ll delight in getting a chance to play it on a cute little handheld. But someone raised on Twilight Princess or Breath of the Wild probably will find these a lot less essential.

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Game

Xbox 20th Anniversary livestream: How to watch and a rumored Halo surprise

Today is a big day for the Xbox brand because today marks 20 years since the launch of the original Xbox. Microsoft launched the first Xbox console on November 15th, 2001, with Halo: Combat Evolved as its most notable launch title. In celebration of this anniversary, Microsoft is hosting a special livestream later today, and rumors that cropped up over the weekend suggest there may be more to this stream than Microsoft is letting on.

When and how to watch today’s Xbox livestream

Before we can talk about any surprises that may happen during today’s livestream, we first need to talk about when it will happen and how to watch it. Today’s 20th Anniversary Xbox livestream will be happening at 10 AM PST/1 PM EST, and it’ll be streaming on several different platforms. The easiest way to watch is via the YouTube stream we’ve embedded below, but it’ll also be up on Twitch and Facebook for folks who prefer those platforms.

Microsoft has noted that the livestream will be available with subtitles in a wide variety of languages, including “German, French, BR Portuguese, LATAM Spanish, Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), Castilian Spanish, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Malay, Norwegian, Persian (Farsi), Portuguese (EU), Slovak, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese.”

To watch the livestream with subtitles in one of these languages, the YouTube feed is one you want. When the show begins, click the gear icon in the lower-right corner to select your preferred subtitles. We’re not sure how long the livestream is slated to last, but we know that Microsoft is planning to “celebrate some of our favorite moments from the 20 years of Xbox.”

Is Microsoft planning a Halo Infinite surprise?

While we weren’t expecting any game reveals during this livestream, Microsoft may still have a big surprise up its sleeve. Over the weekend, we started hearing rumors claiming Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer will get a surprise release today rather than December 8th, which is the current release date for the full game.

It appears these rumors were kicked off by Twitter user Adam Fairclough discovering references to November 15th lurking in the Xbox store data for Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer (references that have since been changed to December 8th, for what it’s worth). There’s been a lot of back and forth about this throughout the weekend, with some suggestion that Microsoft intended for a surprise Halo Infinite multiplayer release only to delay it at the last minute because the logistics behind giving a game an early release are complicated.

Still, some industry insiders like VentureBeat’s Jeff Grubb and VGC’s Tom Henderson suggest that a shadow-drop may still happen today. After a weekend full of rumors going in both directions, it’s safe to say that the status of Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer is firmly up in the air. We’ll just have to check out the Xbox anniversary livestream later today to see if Microsoft makes that surprise reveal.



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