‘Stray’ preview: Because you’re a cat

Image Credit: BlueTwelve Studio

As cute as all of this sounds, Stray tempers the sweetness with dystopian background details. For instance, End Village is a community built on a sea of trash in an abandoned reservoir, with robots living in a makeshift tower sprouting out of the debris. The robots here are struggling but complacent, and the environment is in stark contrast to the neon lights and vending machines of the main city. In End Village, the cat can roam around, using dangling buckets as elevators and disrupting board games, and there’s a mission to collect flowers for a robot called Zbaltazar, who has knowledge to share about escaping the city.

“End Village is a very interesting example because it shows how we can really use the fact that we are playing as a cat to have fun in level design, in terms of verticality, for example, or types of paths that you can find,” Martin-Raget said. “You can still be, you know, annoying to everyone if you want to.” Because you’re a cat, it goes without saying.

There’s no fall damage in Stray, meaning every jump is a successful one, and dying isn’t a core mechanic (no, not even nine times). It is possible to be killed by the game’s main enemies, these pale beige blobs with glowing yellow eyes that chase the cat as a mob, but otherwise, it’s all about agility and the freedom to explore. Action sequences with the enemies are fast-paced, and the scene Martin-Raget showed off had the cat running and leaping down a long alleyway, the blobs close on its tail.


BlueTwelve Studio

While Stray encourages exploration, the path forward is usually clear, with crates and ledges marked by splotches of yellow and graffiti-style arrows that try to blend into the scenery. Players are able to carry a flashlight and other tools in a small inventory managed by B-12, a cute drone that lives in a backpack the cat picks up along its journey. B-12 has its own backstory, according to Martin-Raget, and it’s the main way the cat interacts with technology and talks to robots. The drone also displays the current objective.

“I don’t want to reveal too much about this, but there are a few points in the story where B-12 is a bit more powerful than what I show you now,” Martin-Raget said.

And now some rapid-fire facts about Stray:

  • There are no customization options for the cat.

  • The cat doesn’t have to eat, drink or sleep to stay alive, but it can do these things because they’re cute.

  • The cat doesn’t have a name.

  • There are no laser-pointer mini games.

Stray exists somewhere between a futuristic survival game and a housecat simulator, with some machine-powered dystopia sprinkled across the entire thing. It’s about discovery and exploration, but mostly, it’s a game about being a cat.

“As you can see, even though all the jumps are successful, I’m still really free to move around anywhere I want to,” Martin-Raget said, the cat strolling by a can on a ledge. He swiped a paw at it and it clattered to the ground. “I have to make that fall because I’m still a cat.”

Stray is due to hit PlayStation 5, PS4 and PC via Steam on July 19th.

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Tech News

Spotify’s new Only You feature will tell you that you’re special, but you’re probably not

If you ever feel like a boring normie, Spotify wants to let you know that at least your taste in music is special.

The streaming giant today launched Only You, a new feature that generates personalized playlists and pays you fawning compliments for your “unique” listening habits.

The experience is similar to Spotify Wrapped, with a visual breakdown of your streaming patterns, a Stories-like interface, and new insights about your tastes.

You can find a “unique audio pairing” of tracks you play back-to-back, songs you listen to at certain times of the day, and the years of musical history that you frequently stream.

[Read: This dude drove an EV from the Netherlands to New Zealand — here are his 3 top road trip tips]

Another highlight lets you choose three artists you’d invite to your dream dinner party. Spotify will then create a personalized playlist for each of them.

There’s also an “audio birth chart” that shows the artist you’ve listened to most over the past six months, a musician you’ve recently discovered, and one that “best shows your emotional or vulnerable side.”

The feature has a shareable format that could prove a hit on social media. It also provides another way for Spotify to signal that its algorithms promote diverse listening, rather than homogenize popular music. But Only You’s evidence for your individuality is questionable at best.

I wouldn’t consider playing Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) “My Unique Moment,” for instance. I imagine it’s one that’s been shared by many people who are justifiably despairing about the state of the world.

There’s also an irony in habits that are so often guided by algorithms being complimented as uniqueIn a sense, by praising you, Spotify is also commending itself.

Greetings Humanoids! Did you know we have a newsletter all about AI? You can subscribe to it right here.

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Venmo shows who you’re friends with even if you’re Joe Biden

Venmo has a major privacy flaw that’s been well-known for years: there’s no way to keep your list of Venmo contacts private. That means you can see the contact list of any user on the platform, a flaw that’s so large that BuzzFeed News was able to track down President Joe Biden’s Venmo account in less than 10 minutes.

BuzzFeed News didn’t just find the president, though; the publication also discovered accounts for many people in Biden’s inner circle, and, because of the nature of this flaw, all of their contacts as well:

BuzzFeed News found nearly a dozen Biden family members and mapped out a social web that encompasses not only the first family, but a wide network of people around them, including the president’s children, grandchildren, senior White House officials, and all of their contacts on Venmo.

BuzzFeed News dug in after seeing a mention of Biden sending his grandchildren money over Venmo in a New York Times article published Friday. Biden’s transactions weren’t public (unlike Matt Gaetz’s, at one point), and all of Biden’s friends on Venmo were removed after BuzzFeed News contacted the White House for comment, the publication reported. (Venmo gives you the ability to remove contacts, but you have to do it manually.)

When asked for comment on the situation, Venmo provided the following statement:

The safety and privacy of all Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we take this responsibility very seriously. Customers always have the ability to make their transactions private and determine their own privacy settings in the app. We’re consistently evolving and strengthening the privacy measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a safe, secure place to send and spend money.

As of press time, Venmo has not replied to a question asking if the company plans to let people make their contact lists private, which could help prevent something like this from happening in the future.

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5 awesome jobs you need to see if you’re looking for a change

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.

Are you looking to make a change in your working life? Then you have come to the right place. Trying to get a new job can be a minefield sometimes, with so much information and roles available at any given time.

That’s where we come in! We’ve been highlighting some brilliant opportunities every week, to help you narrow down your search. So all you have to do is click apply.

Check out this week’s best picks.

MIP Security Engineer, Avanade

Microsoft Information Protection Engineers, also called Information Security Engineers or Information Security Analysts, help to safeguard the organization’s computer networks and systems. They plan and carry out security measures to monitor and protect sensitive data and systems from infiltration and cyber-attacks. Information Security Engineers usually work as part of a larger IT team and report directly to upper management. The successful candidate will help plan and carry out the organization’s information security strategy. They will develop a set of security standards and best practices for the organization and recommend security enhancements to management as needed. They will also develop strategies to respond to and recover from a security breach.

Machine Learning Engineering Manager (Choice), Udemy

Udemy is looking for a (senior) manager to lead their Choice team. The team is focused on using machine learning approaches to serve the right learning content based on a user’s need. The team is also responsible for Udemy’s personalized recommendations system that is composed of batch (e.g., feature and machine learning pipelines), streaming (i.e., feature computation in real-time), and online (i.e., microservices to serve personalized recommendations) components. In this role, you will be responsible for leading a cross-functional agile team of data scientists, machine learning engineers, and software engineers to develop new ML products and engineering systems to provide better personalized recommendations.

Developer Advocate, Dolby

A Developer Advocate for Dolby will join a creative, experienced, and high-energy organization responsible for the growth and adoption of APIs. To drive grass-roots attention and preference for, you will bring flexibility, speed, and enthusiasm to those in broader developer communities. Ideally, you’re someone who comes from a software and/or audio background, but has a drive to be on stage guiding the broader industry towards a technology you firmly believe in. You will nurture credibility with developers, startups, architects, and CTOs. You love to share projects you are passionate about with others and exhibit good judgement in identifying opportunities to do so. 

Senior Software Quality Assurance Analyst, CSC

Do you want to be noticed for your work? Make a difference every day? Be impactful? Work with cutting-edge technology? If so, you will fit in perfectly at CSC and especially within the Order Fulfillment Team. The world’s leading provider of business, legal, tax, and digital brand services, CSC uses technology to make businesses run smoother and smarter. As a Senior Software QA Analyst, that is what you will be doing, too. You will be responsible for Quality Assurance activities including defining, implementing, executing, and maintaining test plans, test cases, and test automation tools/scripts to ensure software is delivered with high quality. They are looking for someone with a strong background in automation and Back Office processes and workflows to collaborate with your peers to review requirement specifications to better understand the features, and efficiently design and execute applicable test cases.

Data Scientist — Yield Analytics, Outbrain

Outbrain is seeking a highly motivated Data Scientist to join their BI group. If you’re eager to expand a data-driven culture and drive actionable insights to meet always-changing business needs, then they would love to meet you! As with any Outbrain employee, they’re looking for someone who is resourceful, bright, proactive, works well independently and as part of a team, and who will be passionate about what they do. For this position, they are looking for a person with exceptional analytical skills, outside-the-box thinking, and a self-learner who has proven to deliver results. They provide a casual, fast-paced culture that is built on top performance. Candidates should be energetic self-starters who can grasp the always-changing complexity of the business and technology.


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Tech News

Space tourism is now a reality… if you’re filthy rich

For most people, getting to the stars is nothing more than a dream. On April 28, 2001, Dennis Tito achieved that lifelong goal – but he wasn’t a typical astronaut. Tito, a wealthy businessman, paid US$20 million for a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be the first tourist to visit the International Space Station. Only seven people have followed suit in the 20 years since, but that number is poised to double in the next 12 months alone.

NASA has long been hesitant to play host to space tourists, so Russia – looking for sources of money post-Cold War in the 1990s and 2000s – has been the only option available for those looking for this kind of extreme adventure. However, it seems the rise of private space companies is going to make it easier for regular people to experience space.

From my perspective as a space policy analyst, I see the beginning of an era in which more people can experience space. With companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin hoping to build a future for humanity in space, space tourism is a way to demonstrate both the safety and reliability of space travel to the general public.