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Lucasfilm Games' New Partnerships Mean the Galaxy's the Limit - WIRED
The Disney-owned company just announced a new Star Wars title coming from Ubisoft and an Indiana Jones game from Bethesda. And that's just the beginning.
Today, Lucasfilm Games announced that its entering a partnership with Ubisoft to create an open-world Star Wars game. The title will be developed by Ubisofts Massive Entertainment, marking the first time that a company outside of EA has produced a Star Wars game since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, ending nearly eight years of exclusivity. Also in the works is a new Indiana Jones game, to be developed by Bethesda Game Studios, a newcomer to Lucasfilms and Disneys properties. Lets start with Star Wars. Development on this new title is still very earlyMassive is still recruiting for the project evenso details are sparse. Julian Gerighty, director of The Division 2 and The Crew, will serve as the games creative director, and the title will use Massives Snowdrop engine. Beyond that, Lucasfilm Games hasnt revealed anything about the characters or settings within the Star Wars universe that the game will feature. This announcement follows yesterdays news that Lucasfilm is partnering with Bethesda to create an Indiana Jones title, the first non-Star Wars AAA game out of Lucasfilm in years. The move marks a seismic shift for Lucasfilms approach to gaming, widening the tent for developers that want to create games using Lucasfilm franchises, particularly in the Star Wars universe. While EA had previously suggested that the company would have exclusivity on Star Wars games for 10 years, it seems like either that was misstated or the clock has run out early. (Lucasfilm would not confirm for WIRED either way.) Regardless, EA will keep making games in the future, but Lucasfilm Games is free to seek other partners. EA has been and will continue to be a very strategic and important partner for us now and going forward, Sean Shoptaw, senior vice president of Global Games and Interactive Experiences at Disney, told WIRED. But we did feel like there's room for others. In 2013, Disney laid off 150 employees at LucasArts, ending in-house game development. The rationale at the time was that the move would minimize the companys risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games, according to a statement the company made to The Hollywood Reporter at the time. However, in the years since, the EA exclusivity deal has been criticized as a bottleneck to that goal. Aside from a few small mobile or VR games, the number of major Star Wars games from EA since 2013 can be counted on one hand. By allowing more developers to bring in their ideas for games, Lucasfilm hopes to diversify the titles it offers. The Star Wars galaxy is an amazing source of motivation for our teams to innovate and push the boundaries of our medium. Building new worlds, characters and stories that will become lasting parts of the Star Wars lore is an incredible opportunity for us, and we are excited to have our Ubisoft Massive studio working closely with Lucasfilm Games to create an original Star Wars adventure that is different from anything that has been done before. Yves Guillemot, cofounder and CEO of Ubisoft I think if you look at the games landscape, it's such a diverse population of folks across the world that make games, Shoptaw explains. For us to go capture the amount of quality that exists in the world and be fast to market, it would be a big challenge for us to do that internally. Just like with past EA games, any new Star Wars games will be part of the same Star Wars canon and continuity shared across all the movies and TV shows produced since the Disney acquisition. James Waugh, Lucasfilms VP of franchise content and strategy, explains that while this means that games wont always connect directly to content in other media, the possibility is on the table. I think where people get tripped up on that sometimes is like, Oh, then it has to connect to everything else. And that's not necessarily what we're always saying, Waugh told WIRED. That will happen if it's right for that story. This new non-exclusive arrangement for Star Wars gamesas well as the rest of Lucasfilms library of franchisesleaves open the door for developers to pitch their own ideas for stories to Lucasfilm Games. We get no shortage of folks knocking on our door, wanting to play with our toys, Douglas Reilly, VP of Lucasfilm Games, told WIRED. Among that camp is Todd Howard. The famed director of Skyrim (among many other games) is also a huge Indiana Jones fan. What's been most inspiring about the Indy game in particular is its a passion project for Todd Howard, Waugh explained. He came in with a point of view and a story that he really believes in. Of course, these franchises are still, in Reillys words, Lucasfilms toys. Ultimately, we have final approval over everything, Reilly explained. While developersincluding but no longer exclusively at EAmay have the freedom to pitch ideas for stories to the company, those developers will still be playing inside the Disney playhouse. Keeping both gamers and developers inside that playhouse seems to be the ultimate goal of the newly rebranded Lucasfilm Games. Increasingly, video games compete for leisure and entertainment time with film and TV. Disney has a long history of dominating film and TV competing for consumer eyeballs, but it lacks the same level of experience with video games. Leveraging the talent of outside studios could mean consumers spend far more hours of the day inside the companys sprawling franchises than they would if Disney relied on film and TV alone. As we look to the next 50 years of Lucasfilm, we look forward to continuing the wonderful legacy in games, which has introduced so many memorable characters and stories. These new collaborations will allow the Lucasfilm Games team to pursue fresh and exciting directions in the storytelling of Star Wars and Indiana Jones in imaginative and different ways than those explored by our films. Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm A single story-driven game can take up dozens of hours. An open-world game, like the kind Ubisoft is making with Lucasfilm Games, can potentially push into the hundreds of hours depending on how long a player wants to explore. That really leans into why we are doing what we're doing, because these are massive entertainment experiences that last many hours, much longer than film, Shoptaw explained.
Watch a Robot Dog Learn How to Deftly Fend Off a Human - WIRED
Kick over this robot and it’ll quickly right itself—not because someone told it how, but because it taught itself to overcome the embarrassment.
Study hard enough, kids, and maybe one day youll grow up to be a professional robot fighter. A few years ago, Boston Dynamics set the standard for the field by having people wielding hockey sticks try to keep Spot the quadrupedal robot from opening a door. Previously, in 2015, the far-out federal research agency Darpa hosted a challenge in which it forced clumsy humanoid robots to embarrass themselves on an obstacle course way outside the machines league. (I once asked you, dear readers, to stop laughing at them, but have since changed my mind.) And now, behold: The makers of the Jueying robot dog have taught it a fascinating way to fend off a human antagonizer who kicks it over or pushes it with a stick. A team of researchers from Chinas Zhejiang Universitywhere the Jueyings hardware was also developedand the University of Edinburgh didnt teach the Jueying how to recover after an assault, so much as they let the robot figure it out. Its a dramatic departure from how a hardware developer like Boston Dynamics goes about teaching a robot how to move, using decades of human experience to hard code, line by line, the way a robot is supposed to react to stimuli like, um, a persons foot. Video: Yang et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb2174 (2020) But theres got to be a better way. Imagine, if you will, a soccer team. Midfielders, strikers, and a goalkeeper all do generally soccer-esque things like running and kicking, but each position has its own specialized skills that make it unique. The goalkeeper, for instance, is the only person on the field who can grab the ball with their hands without getting yelled at. In traditional methods of training robots, youd have to meticulously code all of those specialized behaviors. For instance, how should the actuatorsmotors that move a robots limbscoordinate to make the machine run like a midfielder? The reality is that if you want to send a robot into the wild to do a wide range of different tasks and missions, you need different skills, right? says University of Edinburgh roboticist Zhibin Li, corresponding author on a recent paper in the journal Science Robotics describing the system. Li and his colleagues started by training the software that would guide a virtual version of the robot dog. They developed a learning architecture with eight algorithmic "experts" that would help the dog produce complex behaviors. For each of these, a deep neural network was used to train the computer model of the robot to achieve a particular skill, like trotting or righting itself if it fell on its back. If the virtual robot tried something that got it closer to the goal, it got a digital reward. If it did something non-ideal, it got a digital demerit. This is known as reinforcement learning. After many of such guided attempts of trial and error, the simulated robot would become an expert in a skill. Video: Yang et al., Sci Robot. 5, eabb2174 (2020) Compare this to the traditional line-by-line way of coding a robot to do something as seemingly simple as climbing stairsthis actuator turns this much, this other actuator turns this much. The AI approach is very different in the sense that it captures experience, which the robot has tried hundreds of thousands of times, or even millions of times, says Li. So in the simulated environment, I can create all possible scenarios. I can create different environments or different configurations. For example, the robot can start in a different pose, such as lying down on the ground, standing, falling over, and so on.
The Lodge 3.2-Quart Cast-Iron Combo Cooker Is the Best Baking Tool - WIRED
How this inexpensive, so-simple-it-hurts pan came to rule our food writer's kitchen.
Scoring a tour of the Modernist Cuisine kitchens near Seattle is catnip for food writers like me. Not only do they have all the toys, they have industrial versions of all the toys: rotovap machines, blast freezers, steam ovens, you name it. But the thing I remember most about my tour a few years back was a plain-Jane Samsung home oven in the middle of it all. Modernist's head chef, Francisco Migoya, opened its door and pointed at a cast-iron pot in the middle of it that was so dark, it seemed not to reflect any light. Amid this nerd gadget treasure trove, he said something like: That forty-dollar pot? That's the best tool you can buy to make good bread at home. Thanks to that pot and a near-perfect recipe, I now make loaves of fantastic bread a couple times a week. This is not a brag. The bread I make takes almost no skill on my part. I just lucked into what turned out to be the apex of what you can get by combining culinary sloth and the right tool for the job. While the internet is full of folks who are obsessed with the sourdough loaves they slaved over (it's a whole process), you can make an outstanding loaf with a bit of time and almost zero effort. Photograph: Katrin Ray Shumakov/Getty Images The Lodge 3.2-Quart Cast Iron Combo Cooker (aka the LCC3) is where the magic happens. It is a curious animal. Taken apart, the lid is also a skillet, and the bottom is a big sauce pot. Put the former on top of the latter and you've got a Dutch oven that, with its two handles, looks a bit like a kid with a ball cap on sideways. Flip it so the skillet is underneath and you have an ideal vessel for baking bread. The loaves I make have a lovely dark crust and a beautiful, springy interior, which is known as the crumb. If I bought what I made at a fancy bakery, I would be 100 percent satisfied, every time. Priced at $50 (only $40 on Amazon) and weighing 13 pounds, the Combo Cooker is so cheap that I occasionally give it as a gift, as long as the shipping is free. A huge part of why I like it so much is the recipe that makes it shine: Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, something that got a huge boost from a pairof Mark Bittman stories in The New York Times, then was forever enshrined in his own book and Modernist Bread. Instead of requiring lots of kneading or mixing, time does the grunt work. Combine flour, yeast, and salt, then add water and mix until it holds itself together in what's known as a shaggy mass. After that, stick it on the counter overnight. Shape it into a ball in the morning, let it rise again for a bit, then put it into the preheated Lodge and bake it. When I'm on my game, the manual labor takes all of about 10 minutes. By waiting it out with that overnight rise, you allow the gluten in the dough to strengthen and the flavors from the fermenting yeast to develop, a technique known both as autolyse and sleeping. There are still plenty of magic tricks left when you switch over to the pot. One of my favorites is how, with dough in it, it becomes a steam oven, a fetish item among bakers and chefs. With the pot's relatively tight seal, the steam released from the dough is trapped inside, helping make heat transfer to the dough particularly efficient. It's effectively a very stable little oven inside of your larger one, and keeping the steam inside allows the surface of the loaf to stretch during baking so the interior can rise as it cooks.
Why HDR Looks Too Dark on Your TV, and How to Fix It - WIRED
Wait, isn’t that fancy new TV supposed to deliver bright, beautiful images? If yours is a little dimmer than expected, we can help.
Step aside, 4K: High Dynamic Range (HDR) is the most exciting jump in picture quality since the transition to HD, and it's available on more TVs than ever. But if you bring home your shiny new HDR TV only to find that shows are too dark to see, you might think there's something wrongafter all, isn't HDR all about brightness? Here's what's going on and what you can do to brighten the picture. The movies and shows you've been watching for years were mastered in what we now call standard dynamic range, or SDRand it's actually quite dim, mastered with peak brightness levels of only about 100 nits. Most modern LCD TVs, however, are capable of putting out 300 nits or more when playing that SDR content, so if you're in a brightly lit room, you can just crank up the backlight, which lifts the brightness of everything in the picturefrom dark shadows to bright highlights. HDR is different. Its main purpose is, as its name suggests, to create a higher dynamic rangethat is, a bigger gap between the dark parts of a scene and the bright parts. In HDR, bright highlights can be 1,000 nits or more, depending on the capabilities of your TV. In HDR, a sun shining through the forest will really pop against the shady foreground, or a campfire will glow like an oasis of warmth against the dark desert night. On the right TV, this creates an incredible image, but it doesn't mean the entire image is brighter than its SDR counterpartonly those highlights are. The average brightness of the HDR scene should, in theory, be similar to that same scene in SDR (though this can vary from movie to movie, depending on how it was graded). However, there's a problem: Many TVs default to the maximum backlight and contrast levels in HDR mode, so you can't crank them any higher for that well-lit living room like you can with SDR content. This isn't true of all TVs, but it is common, and it can leave you in quite a pickle. Even worse, some TVs actually darken the image to make up for their HDR failings. "The light output of many value 4K HDR TVs is often no different than that of many non-HDR TVs," says Robert Heron, a professional TV calibrator and host of the AVExcel home theater podcast. This is most common on cheaper TVs, but it can happen with certain midrange or even high-end models that cut corners on brightness. Combine that with HDR's wider color palette, which many of these lower-performing TVs can't reproduce, and the TV has to do something to make up for its shortcomings. When a TV can't reproduce those bright highlights at the specified levels, it performs a process called tone-mapping to fit the content to its capabilities. Say you have a lower-end TV that's capable of only 350 nits in HDR. When it plays a scene that has a 1,000-nit highlight, it has to adjust the scene so that highlight is only 350 nits. There are two main ways TV engineers approach this:
- Some TVs will "clip" the bright highlights, keeping the average brightness of the scene where it is. The picture won't darken much, but the highlights may be a bit blown out.
- Other TVs will lower the average brightness of the scene, preserving the detail in the highlights but making the overall image darker than it was originally mastered.
Behind the Paper That Led to a Google Researcher's Firing - WIRED
Timnit Gebru was one of seven authors on a study that examined prior research on training artificial intelligence models to understand language.
Earlier this year, Google artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru sent a Twitter message to University of Washington professor Emily Bender. Gebru asked Bender if she had written about the ethical questions raised by recent advances in AI that processes text. Bender hadnt, but the pair fell into a conversation about the limitations of such technology, such as evidence it can replicate biased language found online. Bender found the DM discussion enlivening and suggested building it into an academic paper. I hoped to provoke the next turn in the conversation, Bender says. Weve seen all this excitement and success, lets step back and see what the possible risks are and what we can do. The draft was written in a month with five additional coauthors from Google and academia and submitted in October to an academic conference. It would soon become one of the most notorious research works in AI. Last week, Gebru said she was fired by Google after objecting to a managers request to retract or remove her name from the paper. Googles head of AI said the work didnt meet our bar for publication. Since then, more than 2,200 Google employees have signed a letter demanding more transparency around the companys handling of the draft. Saturday, Gebrus manager, Google AI researcher Samy Bengio, wrote on Facebook that he was stunned, declaring I stand by you, Timnit. AI researchers outside Google have publicly castigated the companys treatment of Gebru. The furor gave the paper that catalyzed Gebrus sudden exit an aura of unusual power. It circulated in AI circles like samizdat. But the most remarkable thing about the 12-page document, seen by WIRED, is how uncontroversial it is. The paper does not attack Google or its technology and seems unlikely to have hurt the companys reputation if Gebru had been allowed to publish it with her Google affiliation. It is hard to see what could trigger an uproar in any lab, let alone lead to someone losing their job over it. Julien Cornebise, honorary associate professor, University College London The paper surveys previous research on the limitations of AI systems that analyze and generate language. It doesnt present new experiments. The authors cite prior studies showing that language AI can consume vast amounts of electricity, and echo unsavory biases found in online text. And they suggest ways AI researchers can be more careful with the technology, including by better documenting the data used to create such systems. Googles contributions to the fieldsome now deployed in its search engineare referenced but not singled out for special criticism. One of the studies cited, showing evidence of bias in language AI, was published by Google researchers earlier this year. This article is a very solid and well researched piece of work, says Julien Cornebise, an honorary associate professor at University College London who has seen a draft of the paper. It is hard to see what could trigger an uproar in any lab, let alone lead to someone losing their job over it. Googles reaction might be evidence company leaders feel more vulnerable to ethical critiques than Gebru and others realizedor that her departure was about more than just the paper. The company did not respond to a request for comment. In a blog post Monday, members of Googles AI ethics research team suggested managers had turned Googles internal research review process against Gebru. Gebru said last week that she may have been removed for criticizing Googles diversity programs, and suggesting in a recent group email that coworkers stop participating in them. The draft paper that set the controversy in motion is titled On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big? (It includes a parrot emoji after the question mark.) It turns a critical eye on one of the most lively strands of AI research. Tech companies such as Google have invested heavily in AI since the early 2010s, when researchers discovered they could make speech and image recognition much more accurate using a technique called machine learning. These algorithms can refine their performance at a task, say transcribing speech, by digesting example data annotated with labels. An approach called deep learning enabled stunning new results by coupling learning algorithms with much larger collections of example data, and more powerful computers.
A Prominent AI Ethics Researcher Says Google Fired Her - WIRED
Timnit Gebru is a leader among those examining the societal impacts of the technology. She had also criticized the company's diversity efforts.
Before joining Google in 2018, Gebru worked with MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini on a project called Gender Shades that revealed face analysis technology from IBM and Microsoft was highly accurate for white men but highly inaccurate for Black women. It helped push US lawmakers and technologists to question and test the accuracy of face recognition on different demographics, and contributed to Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon announcing they would pause sales of the technology this year. Gebru also cofounded an influential conference called Black in AI that tries to increase the diversity of researchers contributing to the field. Gebrus departure was set in motion when she collaborated with researchers inside and outside of Google on a research paper discussing ethical issues raised by recent advances in AI language software. Researchers have made leaps of progress on problems like generating text and answering questions by creating giant machine learning models trained on huge swaths of the online text. Google has said that technology has made its lucrative, eponymous search engine more powerful. But researchers have also shown that creating these more powerful models consumes large amounts of electricity because of the vast computing resources required, and documented how the models can replicate biased language on gender and race found online. Gebru says her draft paper discussed those issues, and urged responsible use of the technology, for example by documenting the data used to create language models. She was troubled when the senior manager insisted she and other Google authors either remove their names from the paper, or retract it altogether, particularly when she couldnt learn the process used to review the draft. I felt like we were being censored and thought this had implications for all of ethical AI research, she says. Gebru says she failed to convince the senior manager to work through the issues with the paper; she says the manager insisted that she remove her name. Tuesday Gebru emailed back offering a deal: If she received a full explanation of what happened, and the research team met with management to agree on a process for fair handling of future research, she would remove her name from the paper. If not, she would arrange to depart the company at a later date, leaving her free to publish the paper without the companys affiliation. Gebru also sent an email to a wider list within Googles AI research group saying that managers attempts to improve diversity had been ineffective. She included a description of her dispute about the language paper as an example of how Google managers can silence people from marginalized groups. Platformer published a copy of the email Thursday. Wednesday, Gebru says she learned from her direct reports that they had been told Gebru had resigned from Google and that her resignation had been accepted. She discovered her corporate account was disabled. An email sent by a manager to Gebrus personal address said her resignation should take effect immediately because she had sent an email reflecting behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager. Gebru took to Twitter, and outrage quickly grew among AI researchers online. Many criticizing Google, both from inside and outside the company, noted that the company had at a stroke damaged the diversity of its AI workforce and also lost a prominent advocate for improving that diversity. Gebru suspects her treatment was in part motivated by her outspokenness around diversity and Googles treatment of people from marginalized groups. "We have been pleading for representation but there are barely any Black people in Google Research, and from what I see none in leadership whatsoever," she says.
27 Best Cyber Monday Headphone and Speaker Deals (2020): Beats, Sonos, Sony - WIRED
(Frequently Updated) These are our favorite audio deals this Cyber Monday, from a pair of Beats to a smart speaker for your kitchen.
The Beats Solo Pro are great headphones at this new lower price, with the excellent metallic build quality, and pretty darn good noise-canceling, not to mention a cool foldable design that makes them easy to throw in a backpack or purse. 1More Colorbuds Photograph: 1More Amazon, 1More These are both the Best Wireless Earbuds and the Best Wireless Earbuds for $100 or Lesswe highly recommend them, especially if you're on a budget. You'll only see the deal on Amazon if you're a Prime subscriber. Amazon, JBL, Walmart, Best Buy JBL's Live 650BT sound great. Until October, they hovered between $150 and $200. Now that they're down to $100, they're a steal. I love that they have 30-hour battery life, a comfortable cloth headband, and cozy fake leather earpads. Even the noise-canceling is decentmore than adequate enough to quiet down kids or noisey roommates during the quarantine work week. Best Buy The Crossfade 2 Wireless are an excellent pair of over-ear headphones that are also pretty dang life-proof. They feature replaceable shells on the outside, and a sturdy metal headband that's got a firm grip, even on small heads. I also like that the hardcase comes with a built-in carabiner, which means they don't take up precious backpack space when moving around. Amazon, Target, Walmart , Best Buy These new sport earbuds from Bose are some of our favorites of 2020, with sticky earfins and comfortable silicone eartips for lengthy workouts. They've also got pretty great microphones, for pre- or post-sweat calls. Amazon, Huckberry, Target These workout buds have EarthProof encapsulated construction, which seals the buds into a tiny plastic bubble. Unlike most buds, you can drop these into water in full immersion, and they'll survive. They sound pretty great and have a long battery life, too. The Tarahs are also on sale, if you prefer a corded running headphone instead. Bose Noise Cancelling 700 Photograph: Bose Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy
34 Best Cyber Monday Deals If You Work From Home (2020) - WIRED
(Updated Frequently) Standing desks, monitors, keyboards—pad out your work from home space with these Cyber Monday discounts on home office gear.
Specs: Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD This is a laptop-tablet hybrid, but it's one of our favorites. With these specs, the Surface Pro 7 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is powerful enough for most tasks, and the keyboard and sleeve are included in this deal. Grab the Surface Pen if you want to doodle or take notes in tablet mode. Photograph: Dell Dell Store Specs: Intel Core i7, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD Dell's latest XPS 13 is one of our favorite laptops (9/10, WIRED Recommends). This model lacks the 4K screen that WIRED writer Scott Gilbertson tested, but it has considerably better battery life. The 11th-generation Intel i7 chip is plenty fast for most things, even editing 4K video, and the 16:10 display adds some welcome extra headroom when browsing the web and editing documents. Photograph: Asus Amazon, Newegg ($550) Specs: Intel Core m3, 4+ GB RAM, 64 GB SSD If you almost exclusively use Google's Chrome browser for all your needs, then consider a Chromebook. They're a great deal more affordable, and this is the top pick in our Best Chromebooks guide. WIRED reviewer Scott Gilbertson says it strikes the best balance between price, power, and features. The 14-inch 1080p screen is bright, the battery lasts all day, and it's speedy enough for lightweight tasks.
13 Best Black Friday Deals on Google Devices (2020): Pixel, Nest, Stadia - WIRED
Google has discounted its new Pixel phones for Black Friday, along with Nest speakers, Stadia, and other Google smart home devices.
The Pixel 4A is a good deal if you want a solid phone, don't care (yet) about 5G network compatibility, and aren't in need of the Pixel 5's higher-end specs. In short, it's all the phone you really need, and that's why WIRED's smartphone reviewer extraordinaire Julian Chokkattu gave it a coveted 9/10 in his review. Like with the Pixel 5 deal, you have to activate the phone at the time of purchase on Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, and Sprint will also give you a total of $150 off if you open a new line. Google WIRED's Jess Grey was lukewarm about the Stadia when it launched last year. But despite its drawbacks, she still recommends it as being a way cheaper path into console gaming than buying a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Faster-paced games tend to suffer from lag, but she found the gameplay of slower-paced titles was pretty good. Nest Hub Max Photograph: Best Buy Google-enabled smart speakers and displays act as hubs to give smart devices a way to communicate with each other. Whether you choose a command center with a screen or just a speaker, having a hub (or several) to tie the rest of your devices together makes all of them run a lot more smoothly. Target, Walmart You don't need a screen in every room, but Nest Minis add a way for the Nest system (they all link together) to hear and respond to you when you're away from your main hub. As WIRED's Scott Gilberston noted in his review, don't expect stellar sound quality for playing music. It's a speaker designed to communicate with you, not substitute for a Sonos. Best Buy, B&H, Newegg This is a very small smart displaytoo small for watching video. But it is good at displaying photos, the weather, and showing the time, which is why it made our list of great Google Assistant devices. Read our full review to learn more about it (7/10, WIRED Recommends). Home Depot, B&H, JBL Store The Link Portable is the best Google Assistant-enabled speaker that you can move from room to room, dock, or use as a Bluetooth speaker out of the house. It gets about 8 hours of battery on a charge and can take commands as well as any Google speaker, though it doesn't have as accurate a microphone array for listening as many of the stationary speakers, so it will occasionally miss a command if you don't speak up. Target, Walmart, Best Buy
11 Best Black Friday Deals on Google Devices (2020): Pixel, Nest, Stadia - WIRED
Google has discounted its new Pixel phones for Black Friday, along with Nest speakers, Stadia, and other Google smart home devices.
The Pixel 4A is a good deal if you want a solid phone, don't care (yet) about 5G network compatibility, and aren't in need of the Pixel 5's higher-end specs. In short, it's all the phone you really need, and that's why WIRED's smartphone reviewer extraordinaire Julian Chokkattu gave it a coveted 9/10 in his review. Like with the Pixel 5 deal, you have to activate the phone at the time of purchase on Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, and Sprint will also give you a total of $150 off if you open a new line. Google WIRED's Jess Grey was lukewarm about the Stadia when it launched last year. But despite its drawbacks, she still recommends it as being a way cheaper path into console gaming than buying a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X. Faster-paced games tend to suffer from lag, but she found the gameplay of slower-paced titles was pretty good. Nest Hub Max Photograph: Best Buy Smart home hubs give smart devices a way to communicate with each other. Whether you choose a command center with a screen or just a speaker, having a hub (or several) to tie the rest of your devices together makes all of them run a lot more smoothly. Target, Walmart, Best Buy The Nest Hub lacks a security camera, and its speaker is nothing to write home about, but if you're building out a smart home with stand-alone security cameras and speakerswhich is the best way of doing itthere's little need to pay extra for a hub with these features built in. I've been using one for six months, and its 7-inch screen is more than enough to view from across my apartment. Walmart's deal includes a $20 Vudu credit for watching television shows and movies on its streaming channel. Target, Walmart, Best Buy, B&H Photo Video The Hub Max isn't perfect. When I reviewed it, I noted that its camera's lack of night vision made it a poor choice for a security camera, but the Max's 10-inch touchscreen and better speakers give it a leg up on its smaller 7-inch-screen Nest Hub, especially if you'll be gazing at it across a large room. Target, Walmart
The AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Data Isn't Up to Snuff - WIRED
There's been even more good news this week, this time from the Oxford-AstraZeneca trials. But a closer look reveals some very shaky science.
There were other dosing issues, too, that havent been explained even though dosing is the centerpiece of the press release. There are many different regimens in these trialsthe UK study has more than two dozen arms, meaning the volunteers were divided into that many groups according to age and how much of the vaccine would be administered and when. The doses are measured by the number of altered viral particles they contain, and the developers decided that the standard dose would be 5 x 1010 viral particles. But for many of those arms in the UK trialas well as everyone who got the vaccine in the Brazilian trialpublicly available trial information shows that the standard dose could be between 3.5 and 6.5 ×1010 viral particles. The lower end of that range isnt far off from a half-dose. How did Oxford-AstraZeneca end up with this patched-together analysis instead of data from a single, large trial? After all, this vaccine went into Phase 3 testing before either BNT-PFizers or Modernas did. But in the UK, where that testing started, the Covid-19 outbreak happened to be receding. That meant results would be coming in very slowly. A month later, a second Phase 3 trial for the vaccine started in Brazil. That one was for healthcare workers, for whom the risk of being exposed to Covid was far higher than it was for the people in the UK trial. But the two trials had other substantive differences. In the UK, for example, the volunteers who did not get the experimental Covid vaccine were injected with meningococcal vaccine; in Brazil, those in the comparison group were given a saline injection as a placebo. Meanwhile, BNT-Pfizer and Moderna began Phase 3 trials for their coronavirus vaccines on the same day in July: Both planned to include 30,000 volunteers at the time, and both trial plans were approved by the FDA. Oxford-AstraZeneca then announced they, too, would run a 30,000-person trial in the US. But that research on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine quickly fell behind the others. The US trial was approved by the FDA, but it didnt start recruiting people until the end of August; and just a week later, it was put on hold so the FDA could investigate a serious adverse event in the UK trial. It wasnt clear what caused the volunteer to get sick, but the FDA did not give the all-clear for Oxford-AstraZenecas US trial to resume until Oct. 23. By then the protocol for the trial had been publicly released. It says the plan is to inject the vaccine in two standard doses, a month apart; and two people will be vaccinated for every one who gets a placebo saline injection. So here we are at the end of November. BNT-Pfizer and Moderna have offered up a masterclass in how to do major vaccine trials quickly in a pandemic, while Oxford-AstraZeneca has, for the moment, only an assortment of smaller ones ready to look at. Read all of our coronavirus coverage here. But wait, more red flags! Last week, Oxford-AstraZeneca published some results from earlier in the development of the UK trial. That paper included a trial protocol for the UK study, attached as an appendix. Deep in that document, and apparently overlooked by reporters and commentators, was an eyebrow-raising suggestion: Under a section marked Interim and primary analyses of the primary outcome, the trialists outline a plan to combine and analyze data from four clinical trials (only half of which are Phase 3), carried out in different ways on three different continents. The plan, they wrote, was to pull out results only for the people across these four trials who had gotten "two standard-dose vaccines," and then pool those together for what's called a meta-analysis.
This Bluetooth Attack Can Steal a Tesla Model X in Minutes - WIRED
The company is rolling out a patch today for the vulnerabilities, which allowed one researcher to break into one in 90 seconds and drive away.
Wouters notes that the two most serious vulnerabilities he foundthe lack of validation for both key fob firmware updates and pairing new key fobs with a carpoint to an apparent disconnect between the security design of the Model X's keyless entry system and how it was implemented. "The system has everything it needs to be secure," Wouters says. "And then there are a few small mistakes that allow me to circumvent all of the security measures." To demonstrate his technique, Wouters assembled a breadbox-sized device that includes a Raspberry Pi minicomputer, a secondhand Model X BCM, a key fob, a power converter, and a battery. The whole kit, which can send and receive all the necessary radio commands from inside a backpack, cost him less than $300. And Wouters designed it so that he could stealthily control it, inputting the car's VIN number, retrieving an unlock code, and pairing a new key all from a simple command prompt on his smartphone, as shown in the video above. Wouters says there's no evidence his technique has been used for real-world grand theft auto. But thieves have actively targeted Tesla's keyless entry systems to steal vehicles in recent years, using relay attacks that amplify the signal from a key fob to unlock and start a car, even when the key fob is inside the victim's home and the car is parked in their driveway. Wouters' method, while far more complex, could easily have been put into practice if he hadn't warned Tesla, says Flavio Garcia, a researcher at the University of Birmingham who has focused on the security of cars' keyless entry systems. "I think its a realistic scenario," says Garcia. "This weaves together a number of vulnerabilities to build an end-to-end, practical attack on a vehicle." The Model X hacking technique isn't Wouters' first time exposing vulnerabilities in Tesla's keyless entry systems: He's twicebefore found cryptographic vulnerabilities in Tesla Model S keyless entry systems that would have similarly allowed radio-based car theft. Even so, he argues that there's nothing particularly unique about Tesla's approach to keyless entry security. Comparable systems are likely just as vulnerable. "They're cool cars, so they're interesting to work on," Wouters says. "But I think if I spent as much time looking at other brands, I would probably find similar issues." More unique for Tesla, Wouters points out, is that unlike many other automakers it has the ability to push out OTA software patches rather than requiring that drivers bring their key fobs to a dealer to be updated or replaced. And that's the upside of treating cars like personal computers: Even when that update mechanism turned out to be a hackable vulnerability, it also offers Tesla owners a lifeline to fix the problem.
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