OT Morpho, a world leader in digital security and identification technologies, announces its collaboration with Telef nica, a leading Telecommunications service provider, to address the booming M2M and IoT market with OT Morpho’s Subscription Manager. This partnership between OT Morpho and Telef nica is a global agreement, with the service available to all Telef nica operators worldwide with a single platform hosted in OT Morpho premises.
OT-Morpho’s reactivity to propose an interoperable, scalable and group-wide commercial solution was critical in Telefónica’s decision. Through this partnership, OT-Morpho is providing Telefónica with the M2M subscription manager platform GSMA M2M rev. 3.1. The interoperable solution will allow Telefónica to manage subscriptions remotely to connected objects at any time and any location, hence fully leveraging Telefónica’s current IoT solutions offering. The service that will first be launched in Spain, will be integrated with Telefónica’s current IoT infrastructure.
“Telefónica is a key customer to us and we now continue to strengthen our partnership on one of the most innovative topics being launched by MNOs. OT-Morpho is honored to support Telefónica Group who is clearly an innovative leader on the market and who now will benefit from our readiness on this new technology,” explained Pierre Barrial, OT-Morpho, Managing director of the mobile network operators business at OT.
OT-Morpho is a world leader in digital security & identification technologies with the ambition to empower citizens and consumers alike to interact, pay, connect, commute, travel and even vote in ways that are now possible in a connected world.
As our physical and digital, civil and commercial lifestyles converge, OT-Morpho stands precisely at that crossroads to leverage the best in security and identity technologies and offer customized solutions to a wide range of international clients from key industries, including Financial services, Telecom, Identity, Security and IoT.
With close to €3bn in revenues and more than 14,000 employees, OT-Morpho is the result of the merger between OT (Oberthur Technologies) and Safran Identity & Security (Morpho) completed on 31 May 2017. Temporarily designated by the name “OT-Morpho”, the new company will unveil its new name in September of this year.
For more information: www.morpho.com and www.oberthur.com Follow @Safran_Morpho and @OT_TheMcompany on Twitter.
Kiev, Ukraine hosts one of Europe’s hottest startup cultures. Although the country is on the front lines of a cyber-war between Russia and western democracies, technology now powers 3-5% of the country’s GDP, said Seedstars director of business development Igor Ovcharenko. The number of IT-powered jobs in the country is likely to increase dramatically in the next five years.
“The economy of our country has been shaken heavily in the past couple of years,” Ovcharenko said, “but IT has always been one of the most stable industries, which makes it super attractive for [technology companies]. The salaries are way higher than average [jobs] in the market, which drives more interest to the industry.”
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In spite of instability wrought by attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure, Ukraine hosts tens of thousands of workers outsourced from Silicon Valley firms like Google and Oracle. “We have 100 thousand developers and IT-related people officially working for outsourcing companies in Ukraine,” Ovcharenko explained, “but you can easily triple that amount with freelancers and those who are not officially registered.”
Outsourced jobs in Ukraine are “good jobs,” he said, and come with a high salary relative to the market. The bulk of outsourced Ukrainian tech employees work as quality-control and customer service for US and European social media companies. Most of these entry-level jobs are filled by employees from other industries. The number of “switchers,” as they’re known locally, has increased fivefold since 2014. Tech companies even offer educational courses and retain career consultants to “help you to switch first and then grow from junior positions to top ones,” Ovcharenko said.
Enterprise firms play a large role in the country’s economy as well. “Startups are hot right now, but enterprise technology is now one of the largest industries in the country,” said a Ukrainian-based IT manager for Oracle. “Some of the outsourced jobs [at startups] are essential but perhaps entry-level. However, you can grow and learn and move up from outsource to a job like mine in a few years. That’s so important to developing our economy.”
Ovcharenko expressed a similar sentiment. “Luckily a lot of companies are now switching from pure outsourcing to product companies, meaning that they develop their own products and market them globally.”
PwC ranked Ukraine fifth among top 25 global service countries. One of the reasons enterprise companies are attracted to Ukraine is the price to cost ratio, Ovcharenko said. “No wonder why such companies as Samsung, Netcracker, War Gaming, Sitecore, SimCorp, Magento, ABBYY, Aricent, and SysIQ have been running their R&D centers in Ukraine.”
Home-grown Ukrainian startups are flourishing as well. Lookersy, a mobile imaging and AR company, was sold in 2015 to Snapchat for $150 million, and analytics startup Viewdle went to Google for $30 million.
The country has a strong technology pedigree. WhatsApp founder Jan Koum is Ukrainian, as are PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and Alexander Galitsky, serial entrepreneur and the co-inventor of Wi-Fi. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak takes great pride in his Ukrainian heritage. “In spite of the ongoing conflicts, Ukrainians are optimistic and innovation is in our blood,” Ovcharenko said.
While mobile VR is a vibrant market these days, thanks to the Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View, the same can’t be said for AR. If you want to dabble in augmented reality, you’d better be prepared to shell out at least $950 on hardware like the Meta 2, and even more for a beefy PC to run it. Microsoft’s HoloLens, which helped to popularize the dream of AR, still costs a whopping $3,000. But Mira, a young LA-based startup, is hoping to make things simpler Prism, its $99 mobile headset. Just drop in an iPhone 7, and you too can view AR atop the real world.
Gallery: Mira Prism | 6 Photos
Prism looks like a slimmed down version of the Meta 2, with a similar set of transparent, oversized lenses for displaying AR imagery. Similar to the Gear VR and Daydream, there’s a slot for for your phone (it only works with the iPhone 7 for now). Instead of pointing the screen right at your eyes, though, you position it away from you. A set of mirrors reflects what’s on the screen and repositions it on the front lenses. It might sound like a bit of a hack, but the result is a surprisingly clear set of holographic images in a relatively inexpensive device (not including the cost of the iPhone, of course).
I had no trouble putting on the Prism; even though looks a bit bulky, it’s significantly lighter and easier to wear than either the Meta 2 (which needs to be tethered to a PC) or HoloLens. Mostly, that’s due to the healthy layer of cushioning that rests on your forehead. The front lenses snap on magnetically, allowing you to easily remove them when you need to travel with the Prism.
Mira has also developed a small motion-sensing controller, which is curved and fits into your hand like the Daydream View’s. Most importantly, it also includes a trigger for your index finger like the Gear VR’s remote. That’s particularly useful for interacting with virtual objects. The remote also sports a touchpad on top, as well as menu and home buttons.
Even though I only had a few minutes with the Prism, I was impressed with what I saw. I’m used to trying on headsets that are too expensive for most people to buy, so it was a bit of a shock that it worked at all. Beyond the initial setup experience, I played a holographic game that involved maneuvering a character through a maze, which relied on the controller’s motion controls. Another game had me spinning around in my chair to destroy asteroids hovering all around me. I was particularly surprised how well Prism tracked virtual objects in AR, even though it doesn’t have any spatial mapping technology like HoloLens and Meta.
Mira says developers will be able to build both single and multiplayer experiences with its SDK. Your friends will also be able to see your AR adventures on their iOS devices using Spectator Mode. They can also take photos and videos of you interacting with virtual objects, which makes the Prism experience a bit more communal than VR headsets.
Of course, Prism will only be as useful as the software available for it. Mira says the initial release of the headset is targeted at developers, and it’s partnering with a few studios to build more AR experiences. (You can expect to hear more about those in the coming weeks.) The company plans to ship Prism to developers this fall, and it should reach consumers by this holiday season. Clearly, Mira has a long and difficult road ahead, but Prism’s low price and relative convenience could help it play an important role in the nascent world of AR.
We’re now about midway through summer — ergo, it’s time to rain on your beach party and talk about the next school year. In our buyer’s guide, you’ll find advice for gear, gaming and entertainment to keep you going through all-night study sessions and hangovers alike.
HMD Global is reviving the Nokia name with Android-powered smartphones, but its next device will be its first attempt at a higher-end option. Evan Blass shared this image of the Nokia 8 and its Zeiss dual-lens rear camera, while rumors indicate it will be on sale at the end of this month.
A 2012 agreement between Disney and Netflix is finally bringing a Star Wars movie to the service. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now streaming in the US, while gamers can expect the Destiny 2 beta, Superhot for PSVR, What Remains of Edith Finch on Xbox One and Splatoon 2 for the Switch.
The first new gaming system from Atari in over twenty years will be available in two colors, include an array of ports (HDMI, USB and SD card) and… well, we don’t know much else. The Ataribox appears to be more capable than Nintendo’s nostalgia-bait systems, but an email to interested buyers stopped at revealing some design details.
Today we get a lot more info about the upcoming Blade Runner sequel with a new trailer. In this one, we’re given more views of the futuristic California setting and a few more plot details. And maybe even another hint to Rick Deckard’s true identity.
To help astronauts have more time for their experiments, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sent Int-Ball to the ISS. The spherical camera floats around along with the crew and can be controlled by operators back on Earth. And you thought your drone shots were long-range.
Samsung will kick off its Galaxy Note 7 recycling efforts this month and expects to recover 157 tons of rare metals from the controversial device. The phone’s fiery history is pretty hard to forget, but to refresh your memory, Samsung had to pull it from shelves and discontinue its production after numerous reports of the model catching fire came out. Samsung has recently released refurbished Note 7s in Korea, but it still has to deal with a mountain of phones it won’t be able to sell anymore.
It will now collect those devices’ camera modules, chips and displays for use as replacement parts on phones sent in for repair. The company will also recover cobalt, copper, silver and gold from the phones that it can either sell or use in the production of its other phones. It plans to team up with both domestic and foreign companies for the recycling initiative, though it didn’t name any of them in its announcement. Samsung won’t recover the $5.4 billion in profit it lost due to the Note 7’s failure by salvaging parts and metals. But by doing this, it’s staying true to the promise it made back in March to recycle the devices in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Long before the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Nintendo was experimenting with a VR headset of it own. At first glance, the black-and-red Virtual Boy looked every bit as capable as the virtual reality headsets that were popular in the 90s, promising access to stereoscopic 3D worlds from the comfort of your living room. However, Nintendo got it wrong — really wrong. With its two-legged stand, which led to many a bad back, and uncanny ability to induce eye strain, the Virtual Boy was gamble that never paid off.
Released in August 1995, the Virtual Boy sold over 750,000 units during its brief life span. For some, that would be considered a success, but Nintendo was riding high from the success of the SNES, which had shifted over 20 million units by the time the 32-bit console hit North American shelves. Within six months, Nintendo had discontinued the system and shifted its focus to the development of the Game Boy Pocket and the Game Boy Color.
Even though it’s considered a failure for Nintendo, the Virtual Boy has become an intriguing collector’s item for gaming enthusiasts. In this week’s Tech Hunters episode, Julia Hardy tracks one down to find out more about the headset that was perhaps a little too ahead of its time.
Tech Hunters is a 10-part video series that uncovers the devices we were once obsessed with, looking at how they disrupted the tech industry, and what they’re worth today. From the pocket pet obsession with the original Tamagotchi, to mix-tapes and Sony Walkman, Tech Hunters explores the audio, visual, interactive and transport innovations that have shaped today’s culture.
When MelodyVR finally launches its virtual reality platform for music, it’ll have experiences to offer from all three major record labels. After signing up both Warner and Universal Music within the past few months, it has now forged (PDF) a worldwide multi-year licensing and distribution deal with Sony Music Entertainment. The startup calls the team-up “an extremely significant milestone,” since it will now be able to use Sony’s vast catalog, which includes music from artists signed by Columbia, Epic, Legacy, Masterworks, RCA Records, Sony Classical, Sony Music Latin and Syco Music. According to VRFocus, experiences featuring Sony’s tracks will launch on the platform, but the record label can use them elsewhere after some time.
On its website, MelodyVR describes its platform as the “destination for music in virtual reality” and promises VR experiences of live performances. Its application is already slated to arrive on the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Google Daydream, Android and iOS. Plus, the company has inked a deal with Microsoft to release the app for Windows 10. But now that it’s done securing the label partnerships it needs to launch, it will start focusing on expanding its app’s distribution network even further.
MelodyVR didn’t say when its app will make its debut, but you can sign up for beta access if you want to be among the first to try it out.
� Kochava (www.kochava.com), the industry leader providing holistic measurement solutions for connected devices, announces the acquisition of MobileRQ plus launches a new pricing structure at their Third Annual Summer Celebration this week.
Kochava provides measurement services for the biggest brands and has continued to demonstrate leadership in delivering critical features and being selected by tier-one customers across the industry. The Summer Celebration event taking place this week is designed to honor their top customers amidst another year of rapid growth.
“We’re excited to have everyone in town for our Third Annual Summer Celebration, treating everyone to our beautiful downtown campus and elaborate on our roadmap through 2018,” said Charles Manning , Kochava CEO.
The merging of martech and ad tech In an ongoing progression of technology leadership, Kochava announces the acquisition of MobileRQ, a contextual mobile marketing platform, and welcomes the entire MobileRQ team to Kochava. Tyler McKinley , co-founder and CEO of MobileRQ, joins Kochava as VP of Marketing Automation Platforms. Co-founder Darin Glatt joins as Director of Engineering, leading the expanding product development office in Portland, OR.
The MobileRQ platform will give Kochava customers the ability to create custom-targeted app content to meet users at every step of their in-app journey. Once integrated, marketers gain access to MobileRQ’s push notification, customer relationship management (CRM) and content management system (CMS) capabilities. They will be able to create personalized messages, reach out to users through their own CRM, and manage the digital images and content served to specific users of an app.
“We look forward to bringing targeted push notifications, CRM and CMS services under the Kochava umbrella,” McKinley said. “With our tools, customers can leverage their users with the right content to enhance the app experience, drive engagement and increase ROI.”
Kochava customers will be able to generate audience cohorts and have push notification campaigns as a first-class citizen for attribution and will also have access to uninstall data in their analytics dashboard.
“Having the capabilities of MobileRQ within Kochava will greatly boost the marketing efforts of our customers. Merging their rich martech stack with our audience and attribution tools will create a powerful resource for our customers,” Manning said.
Unabated growth Kochava continues to evolve as a major provider of holistic measurement, developing measurement tools adaptable to all connected devices. In April, they reached the impressive benchmark of more than 1 billion unique device profiles in their audience targeting marketplace, the Kochava Collective, and are continuing to develop high-quality audiences for it.
To support growth in sales on the West Coast, Kochava introduces Niels Kvaavik, as VP of West Coast Sales for Kochava. Kvaavik has spent the past five years in the convergence of martech and ad tech with Sprinklr and TBG Digital (acquired by Sprinklr in 2014) where he ran North America Sales, growing the business 264% over the past three years. Kvaavik has worked directly with many existing Kochava customers and has participated in large-scale mobile measurement and mobile audience implementations for Fortune 500 brands. Before Sprinklr, Kvaavik spent eight years selling SaaS solutions to Enterprise Customers at Enservio, Scalepoint and IBM.
“I’m very excited to join Kochava as I’ve been following their amazing growth over the last five years, where they have solidified themselves as the market leader for a full suite Unified Audience Platform,” Kvaavik said.
Kochava continues to expand the Unified Audience Platform with the release of tools such as the Fraud Console (for marketers and networks) and Traffic Verifier to ensure real-time protection against mobile ad fraud, Web SDK and True LTV as part of their enterprise offering.
In response to growing leads, Kochava also welcomes Ben Stein as VP of Marketing. Stein comes to Kochava from Salesforce, where he’s spent the past 11 years rising through the Marketing Organization, most recently driving the Go-To-Market Strategy for the core Lines of Business. His background in the CRM realm complements this turning point for Kochava as a provider of both martech and ad tech tools.
“The success Kochava has seen in the recent years has been very impressive to watch,” Stein said. “I am excited for the opportunity to join this incredible team and help drive toward the next phase of growth.”
New pricing paradigm Kochava has always served the top-tier of brands but is initiating new pricing that allows brands of all sizes an introduction to the Unified Audience Platform through free tools such as Free App Analytics and a newly launched pricing tier called Attribution Analytics. New Kochava customers will enjoy free post-install event bundles and benefit from having Media Cost and ROI rolled into their standard analytics services.
“Media cost is the final piece in creating a comprehensive campaign feedback picture. Having this actionable intelligence supported by a multitude of data sets in a single platform lets Kochava customers make truly informed real-time decisions,” Manning said.
Kochava for Agencies Agencies can now benefit from all the tools of the Kochava Unified Audience platform with the introduction of Kochava for Agencies. Ad agencies will have access to marketers’ data sets to better optimize their clients’ brand performance and ad spend.
“Kochava for Agencies puts everybody on the same page. Agencies can work more efficiently on their clients’ campaigns by analyzing the same data sets, and they have full access and control over the data they need,” Manning said.
The platform also reduces opportunities for discrepancies among partners by providing transparent insight into their media-buying capabilities and performance.
“We’ve long touted our ability to cover all aspects of a marketer’s campaigns, and we’re expanding that offering to more providers in the ecosystem by tapping into the sources capable of providing rich data,” Manning said.
About Kochava Kochava (www.kochava.com) offers a unique, holistic and unbiased analytics platform to plan, target, measure and optimize media spend. The Kochava platform for mobile and connected devices combines potent features and global coverage with thousands of network and publisher integrations, allowing advertisers to target audiences and measure campaign performance with precision. Real-time customizable visualizations give users fluid access to a full spectrum of data points, providing robust segmentation capabilities and real-time actionability. Yielding the most powerful tools in the ecosystem, Kochava is chosen by brands across industry verticals to measure the largest and most sophisticated ad campaigns.
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Virtual reality is a mainstream phenomenon these days, with major headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive now increasingly in consumer hands. There’s even a flourishing market in the lower-end, with Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s DayDream leading the way. But with so many different platforms, the VR market is getting increasingly fragmented.
One company, however, is planning on a headset that can run on not just one major VR platform, but three (Oculus, SteamVR and Daydream). What’s more, it has positional tracking, an eight-hour battery life and while it can be used with SteamVR while tethered to the PC, it can also be standalone while on Android. It’s made by GameFace Labs, and it promises to be the one headset to rule them all.
If the name GameFace Labs sounds familiar, you might remember it from when we covered it at CES 2014. We had given the Best of CES award to the Crystal Cove edition of the Oculus Rift, which was the best and most forward-looking piece of VR tech we saw at the time. Yet, we also took a look at what GameFace Labs had, which was a standalone VR headset that ran on Android. The prototype was pretty rough around the edges, but the proof-of-concept was there. It worked.
Three years later, and the VR landscape has changed. GameFace Labs’ plans to put its headset in stores fell by the wayside. But instead of faltering, the company evolved. Now, it’s focusing its efforts on making a headset that’s compatible with as many systems as possible. The result: A surprisingly capable and powerful piece of hardware that could very well be the future of VR headsets.
We took a look at the current prototype — which the company calls the EP1 — and as you can imagine it’s very different from the MarkIV we saw in 2014. It’s still standalone and it still runs on Android, but now it’s equipped with the latest NVIDIA Tegra SOCs, making it much more powerful than your regular smartphone. Hook it up to a PC, and you can run SteamVR content just like with the Vive.
Other specs include two 90Hz 2,560 x 1,440 display panels (custom made by Samsung) with a 120-degree field of view. There’s also 3D-tracking technology thanks to Intel’s RealSense cameras and Leap Motion’s hand tracking sensors. It also has a unique technology that lets GameFace download content up to 100 times faster than traditional downloading methods, which Ed Mason, GameFace’s CEO and Founder, says enables instant gratification VR content with zero latency.
“Everything is cloud delivered but locally rendered for a latency free VR cloud gaming experience,” says Mason. It even has a built-in fan that promises to keep things nice and cool during operation.
GameFace partnered with Valve to support SteamVR. The EP1 is thus completely compatible with Valve’s Lighthouse room-scale, sub-millimeter positional tracking. Indeed, if you take a look at the front faceplate, it has the same pockmark array of sensors of the Vive, and it’s compatible with HTC’s Lighthouse base stations and with the Vive wand.
This makes the GameFace headset the first ever standalone headset with Lighthouse positional tracking in an Android environment. That means that If a developer already has an app on Daydream, they can use Gameface’s SDK to make it compatible with the more advanced tracking technology, allowing them to have Daydream apps that utilize the same kind of Lighthouse capabilities as more advanced Valve hardware. It promises to make Daydream games way more immersive.
The addition of positional tracking makes the GameFace compatible with controllers that have six degrees of freedom (this is when controllers are actually trackable objects in the space, which allows for greater immersion). Mason says that the final version of the headset will ship with a single Lighthouse base station, mostly for ease of setup, and also because it doesn’t need more than just the one.
The EP1 also works with ReVive, a piece of software that lets you play Oculus-exclusive games. And, as the whole thing runs entirely on Android, it also has native Daydream support built right in. This means it can play any Google Cardboard or Daydream content as well. Mason does warn, however, that the GameFace headset is not Daydream-certified. GameFace has its own UI that lets the user launch any of these platforms from within the headset.
With all of that technology crammed into one standalone headset, you might think it would be pretty clunky. But while the prototype does look quite large, the entire unit is actually surprisingly lightweight. I strapped it onto my head without a problem and it didn’t weigh down my face at all. But while the GameFace headset is standalone, it’s not entirely untethered.
The EP1 prototype headset was attached to a battery pack dongle of sorts, which Mason says you can tuck in your back pocket. Eventually, Mason hopes to incorporate controller functionality into that battery dongle, so you would have it in your hand instead. Also, this way you won’t need to buy an additional controller with the headset.
Speaking of controllers, I tried out the EP1 headset with both Google’s Daydream handheld remote and the Vive wand in a simple white room demo setup. I could move the remote and point at certain objects, represented by a red dot that turns blue (and vice versa). The Vive controller, on the other hand, was mapped to a ball that moved as my hand moved. The demo itself was a little glitchy, but the proof of concept was there.
GameFace says this headset is targeted at developers, so that devs can create content for a variety of different platforms without having to purchase lots of expensive hardware. There are two models that developers can choose from; the GF-DD, which is the basic Daydream headset, and GF-LD, which adds on the Lighthouse positional tracking. The GF-DD is around $500 while the GF-LD will cost about $700. That’s not cheap, but it’s still more affordable than buying multiple headsets and hardware.
“I think one of the biggest holdbacks for VR is content,” says Mason. “The fact is that the people who are pushing the content, they’re not Triple A studios, they’re the indies. These are the guys who can’t afford to buy $10,000 to $15,000 worth of six to seven different headsets just so they can release $5 to $10 apps on six different stores. This is hampering development quite significantly.”
Of course, Facebook, Google and other companies are coming out with standalone VR headsets, too. But none of them are as multi-platform as the one GameFace proposes. Mason says some of them are just nothing more than cannibalized mobile phones with the phone parts taken out. They aren’t nearly as powerful or as long-lasting.
Interestingly, however, GameFace Labs is happy to license their technology to anyone who asks. Indeed, the company is actually in talks with various OEMs and industry leaders in VR right now to incorporate this tech in upcoming headsets. In a very real way, GameFace’s EP1 headset represents the future of VR.
As for entering the consumer market themselves, GameFace says it’ll certainly do that eventually, but for now, it wants to build up the field first. “What we’re trying to do is build one headset that is trying to unify a rapidly fragmenting industry,” he says. “What we really are is a VR enabling company.”
More information about the scale of attempted election hacks has been released and it involves a rather surprising target — South Carolina. Donald Trump took the state by 54.9 percent and there was never any doubt that he had the advantage in the historically republican-swinging South Carolina. However, even with almost certain projected results, the state’s voter-registration system was hit with nearly 150,000 hack attempts.
After the FBI sent out warnings to state election officials about the potential for cyberattacks, South Carolina officials met with the agency and later hired a private cybersecurity firm to fix a number of vulnerabilities in the State Election Commission’s systems discovered by the DHS. All but one was resolved by Election Day and while the state didn’t release any data on how many hacking attempts occurred prior to Election Day, its report did show a drop off in hacking attempts after November.
South Carolina was obviously not the only target during the election, but it does speak to how widespread the attacks may have been. Some of the successful election hacks included those of the Democratic National Committee’s emails and Illinois’ registration records, of which 90,000 were stolen. In a report, the Illinois State Board of Elections noted that its IP addresses were hit five times per second, 24 hours per day prior to the election. In all, there’s evidence that hackers attacked voting systems in 39 states.
In regards to many of the other known election hacking attempts, US intelligence agencies have pointed the finger at Russia. But it’s unknown as of now who was behind the South Carolina attacks.
Welcome back to Gaming IRL, a monthly segment where several editors talk about what they’ve been playing in their downtime. This month, we’ve obsessed over roguelikes, remasters and resource gathering; we’ve sent adventurers into dungeons, only to see them go insane; and one of us searched for the Burnout mode they’ve pined for, only to realize that making a 13-year-old minigame feel relevant is easier said than done.
Timothy J. Seppala Associate Editor
When Danger Zone was first announced, I was overjoyed: Someone had finally made a standalone version of Burnout‘s Crash Mode. I hadn’t played the multi-car-pileup-simulator minigame since Burnout 3: Takedown on the original Xbox, so my anticipation was high. Careening through intersections, trying to engineer the most expensive pileup possible, was a catharsis not even the GTA games provided more than a decade ago. But now, having played Danger Zone, I’ve found that my lust for automotive mayhem has barely been sated.
The good news is that the game absolutely succeeds in nailing Crash Mode’s fundamentals. How it does that isn’t surprising: Developer Three Fields Entertainment is composed of veterans Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry, from Burnout‘s original developer, Criterion Games — they know what makes Burnout, well, Burnout.
Online leaderboards and Unreal Engine 4–powered graphics definitely make it feel like a modern game, but for better and for worse, Danger Zone‘s nuts and bolts are trapped in the past. I was initially caught off guard by the complete lack of music. There isn’t even a placeholder song playing at the main menu or a looped butt-rock guitar riff during gameplay, just generic car crash sound effects. To be fair, Takedown is silent as well, and its pop-punk soundtrack is available only in menus and campaign races. But that game came out over a dozen years ago.
Another bummer is that, regardless of whether I was flying off a ramp and onto a busy highway or cruising through a simple four-way intersection, each successive challenge felt the same, because everything in Danger Zone takes place within a simulation. This means you can finally crash into a school bus in a driving game, but the downside is a sense of monotony because everything looks the same: dark, dingy and gray. I realize that the game is a $13 downloadable from a small team, but a little visual variety would’ve gone a long way toward keeping things fresh. Local multiplayer is absent too, which feels like an egregious omission.
I’m having fun with Danger Zone in half-hour bursts, sure, but more than anything, it made me glad I still have my OG Xbox and copy of Takedown.
Aaron Souppouris Features Editor
Every time I open Steam, I’m confronted by a rundown of the hours I’ve spent playing each game, and reminded that I probably shouldn’t buy any more roguelikes. I lose myself in these games, and have over a dozen in my library that I’ve sunk more than 24 hours into. The two worst playtime totals are for FTL and Nuclear Throne, which I have somehow played for 271 hours combined. More than 11 days of my life, lost forever. Despite this self-awareness, I just can’t help but find more and more games to dive into. My latest obsession is Dead Cells, a roguelike that was released on Early Access back in May.
I first played Dead Cells way back at Eurogamer’s EGX event last fall, and I was immediately taken with its premise. It essentially blends classic 2D “Metroidvania” gameplay with roguelike traits. It’s probably better described as a “roguelite” — yes, when you die, you start back at the very beginning, but there is some light progression through the many, many unsuccessful runs, with new weapons and items to unlock and upgrade and a couple of skills that will help you gain access to new areas. You start each run with randomized items, and “unlocking” a weapon adds it to the list of items that can be dropped by enemies or found in chests.
It shares some common DNA with another favorite of mine, Rogue Legacy, but what stands out is its fluid combat. Dead Cells really nails the fundamentals, with gorgeous art and sound design, dozens of weapons that all handle differently, and an ever-expanding array of enemy types that combine to kill you in new and imaginative ways. Keeping everything fresh is some light procedural generation: Each playthrough has set levels linked by the same divergent paths, but layouts and enemy placements change with each playthrough.
It’s been only two months, but I’ve already racked up 50 hours in this game. I just can’t recommend it enough. The content and level of polish present in Dead Cells at launch was more than worth the $17 price tag, and with each and every update it’s become a bigger, better game. Once it’s finally complete, here’s hoping for a Switch release so I can be unproductive on the bus as well as at my desk.
Last Day on Earth: Zombie Survival
Rob LeFebvre Contributing Writer
There’s something about a survival game that just pulls me in. Whether it’s Don’t Starve or even Minecraft, I’m a sucker for a good resource-gathering, craft-making, monster-killing game, no matter what the platform. Mobile game Last Day on Earth: Zombie Survival, by Andrey Pryakhin, is the latest title to get under my skin. The basics are simple: Gather wood, stone, metal and plant materials to build a defensible home, then craft even more complex items (including metal forges, sewing tables and gun workbenches) and upgrade everything as you defend against hordes of zombies or other players. The multiplayer aspect is a fine one, as you only ever seem to run across other survivors when you’re off gathering materials in neighboring woods.
What really has me intrigued is the energy system — you have only 100 energy points to use at any given time (they replenish at the rate of one point every five minutes). Energy allows you to run to nearby spots, including humanitarian drops, a dealer in an RV or even a plane crash. You can walk there for free, but it takes real time. The meta here sees you managing your energy for very focused play sessions: I plan out my travel based on what resources I need and how far each area is, then end up walking back to my home base while my phone is in my pocket. The game has various difficulties built right in, with more tricky zombies to fight off in areas with better loot. Your equipment breaks down over time, including your clothing, so you have to make sure you’ve got enough to survive the many zombie and survivor encounters as you try and fill up your limited storage. Don’t let the free-to-play moniker fool you: This is a game with a ton of depth and would feel right at home on a console or PC.
David Lumb Contributing Editor
If my last few recommendations have looked like a clearinghouse for recent indie titles, blame summer sales. But I’m glad I approached Darkest Dungeon during the season of sun, because this game is bleak.
Released in full last year after a long spell in Steam Early Access, Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based team RPG for folks brave enough to send adventuring parties into caverns of doom and probable death. The achingly pretty, Gothic Mignola-style art matches the game’s stressful mechanics: Your heroes are flawed creatures, bearing negative tics and suffering not just physically but mentally. When one character’s had too much horror, they either rise to the occasion … or, more often, break, and break hard, babbling incoherently and tumbling the rest of your party into a stressed-out downward spiral of oft-uncontrollable panic or selfishness. Misfortune might wipe out entire parties, and when your adventurers are dead, they’re dead for good, leaving you to train up new recruits, and maybe care about them a lot less next time.
Darkest Dungeon is exhausting, but it throws a realistic humane wrench into the usual fearless-adventurer equation. Maybe these faulty wretches are who we’d really be if we were passed the torch to delve into the horrors below our known world.
Wipeout Omega Collection
Nick Summers Associate Editor, Engadget UK
Wipeout is a series that rewards precision. Every barrier on the track is a hazard that, if struck, will wipe precious seconds off your lap time. Periodic boost pads can be hard to reach, but they represent a vital opportunity to overtake your opponent. Jump ramps are a rare chance to flick the analog stick (or mash the D-Pad, if you prefer) left, right and left again, forcing your ship to barrel-roll and boost upon landing. Even a normal hairpin bend can spell disaster if you fail to tap the air brake early enough. Success depends on lightning-fast reactions and dextrous fingers.
I’m in love with the Omega Collection. Before this new remaster trilogy — which combines Playstation 3 title Wipeout HD, its 2009 expansion pack Fury and the PlayStation Vita game Wipeout 2048 — I had never encountered the franchise before. Maybe that’s for the best; on the PlayStation 4 and especially the PlayStation 4 Pro, all three games are ridiculously sharp and smooth. I’m sure the presentation was equally impressive upon each game’s respective release, but here they’re simply breathtaking. The vibrant neon colors, the heart-thumping dance tunes — it’s sensory overload in the best way possible.
What I love most of all, however, is the handling. So many “sim” racers make the fastest cars near impossible to drive. I know it’s realistic, and that’s the appeal, but steering a vehicle that feels like it’s constantly on black ice can be infuriating. I’ve missed arcade-y racers like Blur and Burnout that let you hold down the accelerator and revel in every drift, shortcut and near miss. Wipeout is one of those games. When you master a course and fall into a Zenlike state, taking each corner on muscle memory alone — there’s really no better feeling.
“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.
If you’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for the 56 emoji approved by the Unicode Consortium last month to hit your iPhone . . . well, you have to wait a bit longer. But for World Emoji Day, Apple has hit us with a preview of what these emoji will look like when they finally arrive.
The emoji include new smiley faces, more diversity options and new animals. There’s the addition of a sandwich emoji (FINALLY) as well as mythical creatures, such as a zombie, and a tiny-armed T-Rex. You can also find emoji for a woman with a headscarf, a bearded man and a woman breastfeeding.
You’ll likely have to wait until the release of iOS 11 to enjoy these emoji on your device. With the release of the Android emoji preview, however, it’s nice that Apple followed suit.
� GENBAND , a leading provider of real time communications solutions today announced that Converge Distribution Limited (CDL) has joined its Kandy Business Solutions (branded as Nuvia in APAC) reseller ecosystem, making advanced UC solutions including Cloud PBX, Mobility and Collaboration services more broadly available throughout New Zealand .
The solution also includes the inaugural deployment of the Kandy Communicator, an intuitive, easy-to-use mobile interface built on Kandy which marries communications Platform as a Service (cPaaS), and Unified Communications as a Service (uCaaS) capabilities for the first time. Small businesses on the go can leverage the Kandy Communicator’s location-based functionality to track employees’ location on a map if enabled by the employee, who retains full control over their visibility in accordance with privacy requirements.
“We’re focused on supporting local resellers that supply managed services models, and we turned to GENBAND once again to ensure that we’re providing them the best offer on the market,” said Ali Ebrahim , Director, Sales & Technology, Converge Distribution Limited. “Nuvia offers the business-critical capabilities enterprises crave, coupled with a simple and effective cloud delivery mechanism, while Kandy Communicator offers consumer app-like ease of use.”
The agreement enables end-users to cost-effectively replace their on-prem PBXs with a suite of market-read, easy-to-install cloud UC services, gaining enhanced productivity via integrated collaboration and mobility features. The Kandy cloud also offers communication enablement of existing services with Kandy Wrappers, pre-packaged lightweight software applications that quickly and easily embed communications within workflows.
“Converge Distribution Limited is a long-term partner for us going back to their inception,” said David O’Connor , Senior Vice President APAC Sales for GENBAND. “We’re pleased to provide them with the tools and solutions to help expand their business horizons with the next-generation of UC services, and look forward to having Mr. Ebrahim participate in one of our Perspectives17 breakout sessions later this week.”
Built on the carrier-class elements that support millions of IP lines and billions of minutes of use at GENBAND customers worldwide, the Kandy Business Solutions infrastructure is designed for 99.999% up-time; all of the elements are redundant and all of the infrastructure is deployed in geographically redundant data-centers and is designed to support organizations of all sizes, from SMBs to large, multi-site international conglomerates. Kandy Business also leverages the full power of the Kandy CPaaS platform so users can customize the communication experience to match their specific environment.
About GENBAND GENBAND empowers its global base of more than 700 customers in more than 80 countries to succeed via its technology leadership and intellectual property in network evolution and cloud based real-time communications software solutions and services. With networks increasingly moving to virtualized environments, service providers, enterprises, independent software vendors, systems integrators and developers globally are leveraging our innovative solutions for rapid communications service and application creation. GENBAND’s market-leading portfolio, including its award-winning Kandy communications Platform as a Service, enables this transformation and delivers a comprehensive set of advanced embedded communications capabilities including voice, video, messaging, chat, presence and more, facilitating business, consumer and IoT solutions deployments with enhanced end-user collaboration experiences. GENBAND’s Marketing Advantage Program provides comprehensive support to fuel our partners’ success with our solutions. To learn more visit genband.com.
GENBAND, the GENBAND logo and icon are trademarks of GENBAND.
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The first phone from Android creator Andy Rubin’s new company, Essential, is coming to the UK. As the Financial Times reports, the startup is holding talks with a number of British carriers, including EE, about a potential exclusivity deal. It seems nothing has been decided beyond an “imminent” release date, which the FT promises will be sometime this year. In the US, the phone will cost $699, or $749 with a 360-degree camera accessory through the Essential website. Sprint will be the only US carrier to stock the phone, which, despite being last place in the “big four” race, might make business sense, as my colleague Chris Velazco explains.
Like OnePlus and Motorola, Essential is likely to focus on direct-to-consumer sales at launch. It’s a strategy that appeals to early adopters who want the handset SIM-free and without any carrier bloatware. Most people, however, still acquire new phones through their network in a bricks-and-mortar sore. If Essential wants to sell its first phone in big numbers, it will need the support of major carriers around the world. In the UK, they don’t come any bigger than EE, which is now owned by infrastructure juggernaut BT. First, however, the company needs to finish the phone — Rubin promised to ship the first units in June, but that deadline is long gone…
One of the big announcements from D23 this weekend (beyond details on Star Wars-inspired theme parks due in 2019) is the news that Disney will open a Star Wars resort in Orlando. The hotel itself will be filled with familiar-looking aliens, while the windows will appear to look out into space. Basically, it sounds like Disney is extending the interactivity you typically find in its theme-park experiences with one of its resort hotels.
Square Enix made an appearance at D23 and dropped off a new trailer for its next Kingdom Hearts game that revealed its heroes will visit the world of Toy Story. Also, the release window has been narrowed down to 2018.
According to IBM, conventional systems based on x86 processors only encrypt “limited slices” of information, while the new Z has enough power (18 times more, in fact) to lock everything down as a matter of course. That’s all thanks to an increase in hardware dedicated to cryptography and “pervasive encryption” built in throughout the system.
Starting today, US owners of the HTC U11 phone can download an Alexa app from the Google Play Store. That’s in addition to Google’s Assistant AI and HTC’s Sense Companion service, but HTC considers all three complementary. The Alexa service brings thousands of skills and tie-ins, and according to Chris Velazco, the U11 integration is the first time on a phone where it really works like it should.
It should not only capture much more detail than existing brain probes (the team is hoping to see “a million” neurons), but reach levels deep enough that it should shed light on how the mind processes sensory input. And that, in turn, opens the door to controlling sensory input.
Two years after Ashley Madison’s data breach, parent-company Ruby Corp is ready to pay $11.2 million, though the amount still has to be approved by a federal judge in St. Louis. Those who were affected by the security breach can claim up to $3,500, depending on how well they’ve documented their losses due to the event.