Microsoft announced its Xcloud game-streaming service last August, with the ambition of streaming console-quality games to gamers wherever they are—on their tablets, smartphones, PCs or even consoles. Yesterday, Google joined the streaming gaming fray with its announcement of Google Stadia, one-upping Redmond by offering the assembled press limited hands-on access to Stadia games.
Google promises that Stadia will be "coming 2019," potentially stealing a march on Xcloud, which is due only to enter public trials this year. But in an internal email sent to rally the troops, Phil Spencer, Microsoft's gaming chief, seemed unsurprised and apparently unconcerned.
Spencer wrote that Google "went big" with its Stadia announcement, but Microsoft will have its chance to do that, too: he promised that the company will "go big" with its E3 presentation and raft of announcements. He also said that Google's launch endorsed Microsoft's decision to launch its streaming service and said that Microsoft offered all the key elements Google identified—"Content, Community, and Cloud"—but that ultimately, "it's all about execution."
SAN FRANCISCO—The Epic Games Store's much-ballyhooed 88-percent revenue share has been great news for developers who are no longer forced to accept Steam's de facto 70-percent standard. But this new behind-the-scenes monetary split hasn't resulted in savings for gamers, who thus far have seen the same price tags for games on Epic's storefront as on Steam (when titles are available on both).
Speaking to Ars Technica, though, Epic co-founder and CEO Tim Sweeney says that players should look forward to paying less on the Epic Games Store in the future. While Epic leaves pricing decisions completely in developers' hands, Sweeney said, "after you go through several cycles of game developers making decisions, you're going to see lower prices as developers pass on the savings to customers, realizing they can sell more copies if they have a better price.
"This sort of economic competition is really healthy for the whole industry and will lead the industry to a better place for all developers and for gamers as well," he continued. "It's a supply-side thing, this revenue sharing, it's some sort of business arrangement between developers and a store that [a] gamer generally doesn't see... [but] as developers reinvest more of that 18 percent of additional revenue into building better games, that's key to the long-term health of the game industry that we all have to look out for."
SAN FRANCISCO—At a Game Developers Conference presentation today, Epic announced a number of new titles that would be coming exclusively to its Epic Games Store platform in the coming months.
Chief among the acquisitions for Epic's store are a selection of games from Quantic Dream. Former PlayStation exclusives Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and Detroit: Become Human will be coming to the PC for the first time only via the Epic Games Store, Epic said. Quantic Dream announced back in January that it would start considering platforms beyond the PlayStation console family after an investment from Chinese gaming giant Netease.
Epic also announced that it is extending its partnership with Ubisoft following The Division 2's recent exclusive release on Epic's platform. "Several major PC releases" from Ubisoft will come to the Epic Games Store, according to the announcement, but details on what those titles are will have to wait. Ubisoft will also be adding some additional back catalog titles to the Epic Games Store's free games program, which offers a new free title every two weeks.
One woman who has overcome anorexia says Instagram didn't cause her eating disorder, but it made it worse.
Psychiatrists raise concerns as the BBC finds children are swapping extreme images of weight loss.
Artificial intelligence used in the justice and financial systems is to be investigated.
On Wednesday, Nintendo used the 2019 Game Developers Conference as an opportunity to unveil a litany of indie games, and like last year's GDC, the big N had a nostalgia-tinged "one more thing" at the end. This time, unlike the unveil of a No More Heroes spin-off, it went a little bigger: a brand-new Legend of Zelda game, Cadence of Hyrule, made by the developers of the Crypt of the Necrodancer series.
For the uninitiated, Necrodancer puts players in top-down dungeons that must be navigated by tapping buttons to the beat of the music. Every step and attack must happen to the rhythm. CoH will slap this mechanic onto a 2D, pixel-art Zelda universe, similar to Game Boy Advance fare like The Minish Cap. It stars Link and Zelda alongside Cadence, the protagonist of the Necrodancer series.
Unsurprisingly, the reveal video included an uptempo, chiptune remix of the Zelda overworld theme, and we can only imagine what kind of full soundtrack the final game will ship with when it launches this spring on Nintendo Switch. (Fans of Necrodancer swear by its killer soundtrack, led by Danny Baranowsky of Super Meat Boy fame.) We'll attend a Nindies event in San Francisco later today, where we'll hopefully get a better look at how familiar Zelda mechanics will combine with Necrodancer's rhythm-specific twists.
Internet service providers in Australia have temporarily blocked access to dozens of websites, including 4chan and 8chan, that hosted video of last week's New Zealand mass shooting. New Zealand ISPs have also been blocking websites that host the video.
In Australia, ISP Vodafone said that blocking requests generally come from courts or law enforcement agencies but that this time ISPs acted on their own. "This was an extreme case which we think requires an extraordinary response," Vodafone Australia said in a statement, according to an Australian Associated Press (AAP) article yesterday.
Telstra and Optus also blocked the sites in Australia. Besides 4chan and 8chan, ISP-level blocking affected the social network Voat, the blog Zerohedge, video hosting site LiveLeak, and others. "The ban on 4chan was lifted a few hours later," AAP wrote.
We kinda knew this might be coming. Yesterday Netflix released a short teaser for season 3 of its hit series Stranger Things, hinting, "It's almost feeding time." Today we got our first full look at what's in store for the teens of Hawkins—and it looks like it will be one wild and crazy summer.
(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)
Stranger Things was an instant hit when it debuted on Netflix the summer of 2016. Set in the rural town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the early 1980s, it was a love letter of sorts to a more innocent era, when films like The Goonies, Ghostbusters, and E.T. led the box office. But all was not normal in this sleepy little town: an accident at a secret government lab opened an inter-dimensional portal and unleashed a supernatural threat from a different dimension.
The new earphones also have longer battery life and a chip that can better maintain a wireless connection.
Google and the EU's European Commission are making all sorts of announcements lately. Fresh off the revelation that Google would implement a browser and search-engine picker in EU-sold Android devices, Google's advertising division is getting slapped with a fine next, to the tune of €1.5 billion ($1.69 billion). The European Commission's latest antitrust ruling says that Google's bundling of its advertising platform with its custom search engine program is anti-competitive toward other ad providers.
The particular wing of Google's advertising empire the Commission is concerned with here is "AdSense for Search." Adsense for Search does not refer to the famous ads above Google.com search results but, instead, are ads displayed in "Custom Search" results that can be embedded inside their websites. We have a version of this on Ars—just click the magnifying glass in the top navigation bar and search for something. You won't leave Ars Technica; instead you'll get a customized version of Google Search embedded in arstechnica.com, complete with Google Ads above the results. These are the "Adsense for Search" ads, and they are different from Google.com ads. The European Commission's ruling is all about these "ads for custom search engines."
The European Commission reviewed "hundreds" of Google advertising contracts and found a range of behavior from Google's Ad division that it deemed anti-competitive. First, from 2006 to 2009, Google ads had to exclusively be shown on pages with Google custom search engines. You weren't allowed to do something like use Google to crawl your site and then show Yahoo ads above the embedded results.
The United States is unusual in offering near-absolute protection for free speech under the First Amendment. Most other countries—even liberal democracies—have more extensive systems of online and offline censorship. That difference has been on display this week as New Zealand authorities have begun prosecuting people for sharing copies of last week's white supremacist mass shooting in Christchurch and for posting hate speech in the wake of the attack.
New Zealand Chief Censor David Shanks has determined that the 17-minute video livestreamed during the Christchurch shooting is objectionable under New Zealand law. "It is a record of a terrorist atrocity, specifically produced for the purpose of promoting a hateful terrorist agenda," a press release from New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification states.
Distributing objectionable materials online comes with stiff legal penalties. One man—the 44-year-old owner of an insulation company with alleged neo-Nazi sympathies—has been arrested and charged with two counts of distributing objectionable materials in violation of New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act. He is being held without bail and could be sentenced to as much as 14 years in prison for each offense.
SAN FRANCISCO—We're not sure what exactly is up with Oculus this week, but it's on a roll. Today sees the VR company not only launch a brand-new PC-only headset, the Oculus Rift S, but also promote another headset launching around the same time: Oculus Quest.
While Rift S streamlines an existing Oculus product line—as in, wired VR that requires a PC—Oculus Quest (which was announced late last year) pushes forward with an entirely new combination of wirelessness and "six degrees of freedom" tracking (6DOF). We were excited about how solid Oculus Quest was after our first hands-on session last year, but we still found ourselves asking if the release product would be good enough to stand on its own.
That might be why Oculus asked us to carve out some Quest demo time during its Rift S event. And we're glad we did. Because if you want reasons to be excited by Oculus Quest's possibilities, you should start with the excellent, satisfying game that left us breathless (figuratively and literally) at GDC: Beat Saber.
SAN FRANCISCO—One thing was conspicuously missing from the Oculus demos at GDC 2019: cameras.
You need at least two (if not three) of the company's signature webcams to run its PC headset, the Oculus Rift. Those cameras are not great. They come with funky, oversized stands. They're not as effective at sensing a headset as the HTC Vive's "dumb" infrared boxes. And they must be plugged into a PC, which creates a certain kind of cord hell and requires a PC with plenty of spare USB 3.0 slots.
So, as we filed into this week's demo center of mock "living room" spaces, complete with VR headsets, the lack of Oculus cameras was apparent. Indeed, it was a statement.
After announcing new iPads and iMacs earlier this week, Apple has released details about its next-generation AirPods. The new wireless earbuds, which are available for preorder today starting at $159, come with an updated, Apple-designed chip, more battery life, and "Hey Siri" voice-command support. Apple also debuted a new wireless charging case for AirPods that can be charged with any Qi wireless charger.
We didn't expect Apple to radically redesign the AirPods this time around, and they look nearly identical to the previous model. Inside, however, is a new H1 chip that Apple designed specifically for headphones. The company claims the new chip will provide up to 50 percent more talk time than previous models, faster connect times when switching between iPhone, iPad, and other Apple host devices, and general performance improvements.
The new H1 chip also lets AirPods listen for the "Hey Siri" voice command. Previously, users had to touch the side of one AirPod before speaking a command to Siri, Apple's virtual assistant. Now, users can just say the waking command before asking Siri to do things like adjust the volume, play a different song, and more.
The social media giant bans targeting ads for jobs, accommodation or credit on the basis of gender, age or postcode.
Back in 2009, the EU's European Commission said Microsoft was harming competition by bundling its browser—Internet Explorer—with Windows. Eventually Microsoft and the European Commission settled on the "browser ballot," a screen that would pop up and give users a choice of browsers. Almost 10 years later, the tech industry is going through this again, this time with Google and the EU. After receiving "feedback" from the European Commission, Google announced last night that it would offer Android users in the EU a choice of browsers and search engines.
In July, the European Commission found Google had violated the EU's antitrust rules by bundling Google Chrome and Google Search with Android, punishing manufacturers that shipped Android forks, and paying manufacturers for exclusively pre-installing Google Search. Google was fined a whopping $5.05 billion (€4.34 billion) (which is it appealing) and then the concessions started. Google said its bundling of Search and Chrome funded the development and free distribution of Android, so any manufacturer looking to ship Android with unbundled Google apps would now be charged a fee. Reports later pegged this amount as up to $40 per handset.
Android is a free and open source operating system, so Google's control over Android is derived from the Google apps. Anyone can take the core Android package and distribute it without Google's involvement, but if they want access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store, they will need to get a license from Google. It's the same story with killer apps like Google Maps, Search, Gmail, and YouTube. Android is free (as in speech); the Google apps are not. Previously, shipping Android without the Google apps—"forking" Android—would mean expulsion from the Google ecosystem. Google was forced to lift this restriction as part of the EU concessions, and now manufacturers can simultaneously ship forked Android and Google Android on different devices.
It's amazing that, despite originally hitting the rumor mill almost a full year ago and putting out pictures four months ago, Google's mid-range Pixel phone is still the subject of rumors. The latest report comes from 9to5Google, which has a new round of specs.
Just like with the flagship lineup, there are two phone sizes in Google's supposedly-launching-someday mid-range lineup. What exactly these devices will be called is still up in the air. These devices have had the codename "Bonito" and "Sargo," and the rumor mill has referred to the consumer names as "Pixel 3 Lite" and "Pixel 3 XL Lite" in the past. As discovered by XDA, though, the recent Android Q Beta is calling Bonito and Sargo the "Pixel 3a" and "Pixel 3a XL." The names are not quite as bad as "LG V50 ThinQ 5G." But they're still pretty wordy.
9to5Google says the smaller "Pixel 3a" has a 2220×1080 5.6-inch screen, while the bigger "Pixel 3a XL" has a 6-inch screen of unspecified resolution. One important bit of news is that the site claims the display technology is actually OLED instead of the LCD tech that previous rumors have claimed. The report says the Pixel 3a has a Snapdragon 670, 4GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, a USB-C port, and again reiterates that the camera is identical to the industry-leading camera on the premium Pixels. The Pixel 3a XL likely has similar specs, of course with a bigger battery.
Buyers looking for premium Windows laptops today have plenty of choices; every few months sees some splashy launch of a new high-end PC. Ultrabooks have become the standard design for most premium Windows laptops, and they represent the best of what companies like Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft have to offer in terms of design, power, and innovation.
If you're looking for a thin-and-light laptop that's still powerful enough to handle work and play with ease—and doesn't run macOS—a Windows ultrabook is what you want. But not all ultrabooks are created equal. That's why Ars has tested some of the most popular Windows laptops to see which are worthy for consideration as your next high-end notebook.
Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.
The remnants of prehistoric monuments still dot the modern British landscape. Around 4,500 years ago, people gathered at these sites or in nearby communities for annual winter feasts where the main delicacy on the menu was pork. Chemical analysis of the pig bones left behind after feasts at four major henge sites in southern Britain reveals a surprisingly far-flung network of Neolithic travel.This little piggy went to Stonehenge...
Mount Pleasant Henge is a stone circle about 70km (44 miles) southwest of Stonehenge, near the coast of the English Channel. West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures is a set of circular ditches and palisades near the famous stone circle at Avebury, about 39km (24 miles) north of Stonehenge, while Marden Henge, between Avebury and Stonehenge, is a 14-hectare site surrounded by ditches and embankments that once held its own circle of standing stones. Durrington Walls, a large settlement (which eventually built its own stone circle) just 3km (1.86 miles) northeast of Stonehenge, was closely linked with the iconic monument itself.
"Stonehenge is for the dead, Durrington Walls for the living: the place of the builders of Stonehenge and the places of Stonehenge's feasts," archaeologist Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University told Ars Technica. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of ancient feasting at all four sites: broken ceramics, discarded stone tools, and the bones of butchered pigs. Those 4,500-year-old leftovers suggest that these sites were hubs linking a Neolithic social network that connected far-flung communities from Scotland to Wales.