Twitter test makes Reader mode the default on iOS

For now, it’s just a test. Twitter does these all the time and only some result in a global roll-out. Still, it’s useful to know what the company is working on. Chief executive Jack Dorsey has described the platform as “the people’s news network” in a recent internal memo. If it’s doubling down on journalism, it makes sense for the company to experiment with how the news is presented to people. Twitter doesn’t have a competitor to Facebook’s Instant Articles, or Google’s AMP initiative both of which promise faster load times and a more consistent user experience. Reader, for now, could be a substitute while Twitter works on something in-house.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/twitter-test-makes-reader-mode-the-default-on-ios/

Uber and Lyft aren’t immune to racial discrimination by drivers

The nature of the services makes it difficult to quantify more passive forms of racism. Uber doesn’t show drivers your photo when you request a ride, but Lyft does — a bigoted Lyft driver could simply ignore your request instead of cancelling. The data shows signs of sexism, too. Women occasionally faced overly long rides with drivers who were either flirting or assumed that female passengers wouldn’t notice rip-off routes.

Both Lyft and Uber tell Bloomberg that they don’t tolerate discrimination, and contend that their services ultimately reduce racism. They’re right to a degree: ridesharing reduces the chances of drivers avoiding whole neighborhoods, and it’s much easier to punish drivers who frequently cancel on customers. Also, the semi-entrepreneurial nature of most ridesharing (you’re using a personal car and setting your own hours) means that nearby drivers are more likely to live in the area and feel at home picking up locals.

Much like Airbnb, though, these companies are facing a difficult balancing act between fighting discrimination and maintaining convenience. If you withheld all names and photos from ridesharing services, it’d be harder for drivers to know who they’re picking up. Likewise, harsher penalties for drivers who cancel would be tricky. You don’t always know whether a cancellation is fueled by racism or more innocuous reasons. There are steps that the companies can take without affecting innocents, though, such as reviewing driver behavior. And the ridesharing outfits aren’t necessarily opposed to the study — Uber even says the data is “helpful” in showing how it can improve. You might just see some policy changes that lead to a more egalitarian experience.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/uber-and-lyft-not-immune-to-racial-discrimination/

‘Battlefield 1’ reminded me that before war was a game, it was hell

Normally, a game that automatically shoves me into its single-player campaign would have me scrambling for the skip button — but that lead-in text lingered in my mind. Why had the game bothered to tell me I wouldn’t survive? The Western Front appeared onscreen, along with a directive to defend my position against waves of German soldiers. I fought valiantly but, like the disclaimer said, I was doomed to fail.

'Battlefield 1' reminded me that before war was a game, it was hell

As my fictional soldier fell to the ground, I expected the game to cut to the Battlefield 1 logo. Instead, the camera zoomed out to reveal an epitaph for the character I had just failed. A somber voiceover touched on the futility of war as my view settled behind the eyes of another soldier. Soon, he fell too. Then another, and another, each expiring under their own floating epitaph showing the character’s birth year and time of death. The narrative’s emotionally manipulative hook was obvious, but still effective. This wasn’t a game — it was a war. I left the experience feeling like a soldier myself. One who might not make it home.

This isn’t what I was expecting. Most first-person shooters border on power fantasies — walking the player through a series of overblown, high-adrenaline sequences designed to make them feel like action heros. Battlefield 1 shatters that illusion by putting the player through a carousel of death, complete with narration. “We came from all over the world, so many of us thinking this war would be our right of passage. Our great adventure,” the voiceover coldly explains. “Instead of adventure, we found fear.”

This helps players empathize with the soldiers in a way other war games often don’t and gently reminds them that this is more than a game — it’s history. Battlefield 1‘s intro isn’t just hinting that its campaign is story driven; it’s asking you to respect the memory of the soldiers of the war it’s based on. “Behind every gunsight is a human being,” says the voice, driving the point home. That’s not a sentiment I’m used to hearing in my war simulators.

'Battlefield 1' reminded me that before war was a game, it was hell

By contrast, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and previous Battlefield titles are games first, offering great action experiences and more than enough danger to keep players on edge. That’s perfectly fine — and exactly what these games are supposed to be — but as a result, they almost never break free of the typical tropes. Namely, the player is the hero and the good guys always win. Real war isn’t like that, and neither is Battlefield 1‘s prologue. Despite being scripted and even a bit preachy, it’s poignant too. That’s enough to get me to do something I’ve never done before: Play the campaign mode of a Battlefield game.

Unfortunately, the harsh realism of the game’s introduction doesn’t quite carry over to the rest of the game’s single-player experience. The five “war story” vignettes that make up Battlefield 1‘s campaign mode take players to five different fronts of the Great War, following five soldiers through their respective adventures. Each story is unique and uses a distinct narrative to draw you in — but they all also fall back on the same heroism tropes used in other war games. It’s easy to forget the bleak prologue when you’re running across the bow of a German airship in a last-ditch effort to single-handedly take out the rest of the Zeppelin fleet.

'Battlefield 1' reminded me that before war was a game, it was hell

Even so, Battlefield 1‘s single-player stories are still worth playing. Clever writing goes a long way toward softening some of these war hero cliches. One story has you questioning if the over-the-top adventure you’re playing is reality or the exaggerations of a braggart. Another is framed as the somber reflections of a soldier struggling to cope with being his team’s only survivor. These stories didn’t hit me as hard as the game’s opening sequence, but they’re still strong, character-driven narratives deserving of your time. In fact, they’re good enough that they made me go back and see if I was missing anything in Battlefield 4‘s single-player mode. I wasn’t, but I’m glad Dice tricked me into trying Battlefield 1‘s campaign. Next time they release a game, maybe I won’t forsake the solo experience in favor of mulitplayer.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/battlefield-1-single-player-mode/

‘I Expect You To Die’ will come to PlayStation VR this year

Schell Games has announced that its forthcoming title I Expect You To Die will arrive on PlayStation VR in time for the holidays. Previously the game was announced for the Oculus Rift, and was designed to work with that platform’s touch controls. I Expect You To Die is a locked room mystery, wth a spy trying to escape capture by solving a series of puzzles and avoiding death-defying traps. The company hasn’t issued a specific launch date for PlayStation support, but given that the game launches for PCs on December 6th, it’s not hard to assume it’ll be around there.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/i-expect-you-to-die-will-come-to-playstation-vr-this-year/

Volvo’s self-driving cars will hide from UK ‘bullies’

Those are the words of Erik Coelingh, senior technical leader at Volvo Cars: “From the outside you won’t see that it’s a self-driving car. From a purely scientific perspective it would be interesting to have some cars that are marked as self-driving cars and some that are not and see whether other road users react in a different way,” he told the newspaper. “I would expect they will, but I don’t know how and to what extent. So just to be on the safe side they will all be unmarked cars. I’m pretty sure that people will challenge them if they are marked by doing really harsh braking in front of a self-driving car or putting themselves in the way.”

Coelingh’s words echo sentiments from a recent London School of Economics study that polled European road users on their attitudes towards autonomous vehicles. The inquiry found that drivers would be tempted to drive aggressively around or “bully” driverless cars. One Brit went as far to say: “[The AVs are] going to stop. So you’re going to mug them right off. They’re going to stop and you’re just going to nip round.”

The UK government is already taking its first steps to modernize road laws, opening a consultation on whether it’s fair to blame drivers for improper use of autonomous driving features and ensuring that car makers are on the hook should their technology fail to operate in the desired manner. Some UK self-driving car projects are already navigating public roads, but the vehicles are covered with stickers and branding to identify the fact that they’re driving on their own.

Volvo is already taking to Transport for London (TfL) and Highways England to safely integrate its first SUVs, which will be deployed on certain UK roads, including the M4 motorway from Heathrow into London. Drivers will given the choice to deploy autonomous features on traffic-heavy routes, allowing Volvo to see how its vehicles operate in typical, if not stereotypical, conditions.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/volvo-uk-self-driving-bullying/

Outlook now displays coworkers’ availability on your phone

From there, you can see times in white, yellow or red, indicating spaces where everyone is available (or not). Then, you can tap the time picker and drag it around until it turns green, giving you a slot that works for everyone. From there, you can fill in the rest of the information and save the event, which will automatically notify the other parties.

Many of Outlook’s calendar features come directly from Sunrise, so at least Microsoft is using the IP it paid for. Redmond integrated Sunrise’s “events” and “interesting calendars” feature last month, and added the time and date picker shortly afterwards. The scheduling assistant from Outlook desktop is icing on the cake, but whether it convinces diehard Sunrise fans to switch remains to be seen. The new feature is only on iOS, but is coming to Android and Windows 10 Mobile “shortly.”

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/outlook-now-displays-coworkers-availability-on-your-phone/

The bottom line: Our quick verdict on Google's Pixel and Pixel XL

What happens when Google designs its own phones, as Apple does with the iPhone? You get some of the best handsets money can buy, that’s what. The 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL are well-built, with fast performance, excellent cameras and great screens (especially on the larger model). No product is perfect, though, and indeed, we’ve identified a few areas where Google can improve with the inevitable second generation. In particular, we were disappointed to see that these phones are less water resistant (and arguably less stylish) than other handsets you’d find in this price range.

Speaking of the sort, these things are expensive, with starting prices of $649 and $769, respectively. That’s on par with other flagships, but for the money, we don’t want to see too many “cons” in those review cards you see below. Thankfully, the pros here vastly outweigh the few shortcomings, and both Pixel phones both earn our strong recommendation.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/google-pixel-xl-mini-review/

MIT taught a machine to give you nightmares

“We want to produce scary faces,” Dr. Manuel Cebrian told the Sydney Morning Herald. “So we take a zombie face –- a really scary one –- and feed it into the neural network.” From just a single heavily weighted image, the algorithm was able to produce scary images on its own. At least, sometimes — it also produced images that were more goofy than scary, and that’s where you come in.

The team asked humans to vote on which faces are scariest, then fed the data back into the AI. After 200,000 votes and counting, it was able to refine the algorithms and produce scarier images more consistently. (You can vote yourself on faces and landscapes in various styles, including “slaughterhouse,” “toxic city” and “alien invasion.”)

You might wonder why you would help create your own personal hell, but researchers from MIT and Australia’s CSIRO think their work could actually aid humanity. The idea is to teach machines what humans don’t like, then apply the opposite to help them. “The same technology we are using in this silly project could actually be used to comfort, to invite humans to co-operate with machines,” Dr. Cebrian says. Let’s hope like hell he’s right about that, because teaching machines exactly what we’re afraid of sounds like a … scary idea.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/mit-csiro-nightmare-machine/

Vine’s biggest stars asked for money to save the app

These clips, they argued, would keep the public interested in the service. If the team declined, each of the ‘stars’ would naturally transition to rival platforms, where audiences and money-making opportunities are greater. The group demanded some product changes too, including better comment filtering for overly negative and harassing viewers. (Vine eventually rolled this out, according to one user, but it was “too little, too late.”) Ultimately, the company turned down the deal, trudging along the path that led to last week’s sad but not all that surprising decision.

Would the proposal have changed its fate? Probably not, however the fact it was deliberated at all shows just how much power social media “influncers” can wield, particularly when their platform is struggling.

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/vine-stars-deal-save-app/

The Morning After: Monday October 31st 2016

Clever girl.This brown lump was once a dinosaur brain.

The Morning After: Monday October 31st 2016

Scientists say they have discovered the first known example of a dinosaur brain tissue fossil. It’s a particularly rare find: the researchers think they got lucky, theorizing that the dinosaur’s brain was preserved in highly acidic water (possibly from a bog or swamp), protecting its form before the whole animal was buried. It’s already offered a better insight into how dinosaurs’ brains differed from reptilian and bird gray matter.


Foodie TV without restriction.Alton Brown’s internet cooking show is the spiritual successor to ‘Good Eats’

The Morning After: Monday October 31st 2016

If you were a fan of ‘Good Eats’, it’s time to get excited about Alton Brown’s new internet cooking show. As he revealed on a live Facebook chat, Brown will be looking to explore cooking beyond the constraints of mainstream TV broadcasting. That might include rabbit and sous vides — and that’s just the entree.


C’mon, just two more pull-ups.These headphones count reps so you don’t have to

The Morning After: Monday October 31st 2016

Jabra’s new Sports Coach earphones can measure and coach not only your running but also cross-training style bodyweight exercises. Well, most of the time. Mat Smith struggles with push-ups in this heartwarming tale of man vs. gravity vs. sports headphones.

But wait, there’s more…

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Source URL:http://www.engadget.com/2016/10/31/the-morning-after-monday-october-31st-2016/