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TikTok tests Stories feature outside of the US

TikTok is no stranger to other companies copying the format of its signature short-form videos, but it may now do the same with Stories. Per a tweet shared by social media consultant and former TheNext Web writer Matt Navarra, the company has introduced posts that disappear after 24 hours. TikTok told Variety it's currently testing the feature with a small subset of users outside of the US and emphasized they may not become a permanent fixture within the app.

"We're always thinking about new ways to bring value to our community and enrich the TikTok experience," a spokesperson for the company told Engadget. "Currently we're experimenting with ways to give creators additional formats to bring their creative ideas to life for the TikTok community."

Snapchat was the first app to feature Stories before the format was widely copied by everyone from Facebook to LinkedIn. Twitter also tried to make the feature work on its platform with Fleets, but that experiment ended earlier this week. Much like its rivals, TikTok may feel it needs to add Stories to stay relevant, particularly with companies like YouTube investing millions to replicate its success.

Amazon delays 'New World' MMO again, this time to September 28th

Amazon has delayed New World mere weeks before its previously announced August 31st release date. It will now arrive about a month later, on September 28th, so that Amazon Game Studios can spend an extra few weeks polishing, fixing bugs and improving stability. The company says it decided to delay New World again following player feedback it collected during the MMO's recent closed beta.

"This was not an easy decision to make. We know this isn't the first time we've changed our launch date in pursuit of quality, and that it can be disappointing to wait a bit longer." Amazon Game Studios said on Twitter. "But we want to be sure we deliver you the highest quality game possible at launch."

For those of you still keeping track, this is New World's fourth delay. When Amazon first announced the game, it said it would come out in May 2020. Its release date initially slipped to August 25th, 2020, before Amazon announced a month later it was pushing the game back to spring 2021. At the start of the year, it then delayed the game to its most recently planned August 31st release date.

To say there's a lot of pressure on Amazon Game Studios to deliver a hit for its parent company would be an understatement. Amazon announced the game's first major delay after taking the unusual step of rolling back the availability of Crucible, its first AAA title. It later ended the development of that game. Before taking over as CEO of Amazon, Andy Jassy told employees he was committed to the studio. "Though we haven't consistently succeeded yet in Amazon Game Studios, I believe we will if we hang in there," he said in an email. Now it's on the New World team to prove that confidence was well-earned.

HBO Max adds scripted stories to its growing podcast library

HBO Max has grown its Podcast Program by leaps and bounds over the past two years expanding from 4 shows in 2019 to 25 today, many serving as tie-ins and companion pieces to HBO's various series. But that will soon change as the company announced on Wednesday that it plans to expand its online audio offerings to include original, scripted programming and "look-back" shows as well.

“Our viewers tell us that, more than any other streaming platform, they want to discuss and dissect HBO Max programming with friends and family to extend the emotional experience after finishing an episode,” Joshua Walker, Chief Strategy Officer at HBO Max, said in a statement. He cites Max Podcast fans' collective investment in the existing programming as a driving force for the company's decision.

The new slate of scripted shows will include the highly anticipated Batman: The Audio Adventures starring Jeffrey Wright and premiering this fall, a look-back at Band of Brothers on September 9th (the show's 20th anniversary), and We Stay Looking — a sequel Issa Rae's Insecure companion show and HBO's first scripted podcast. HBO is also expanding its partnership with Audacity to include titles like Lovecraft Country Radio and The Chernobyl Podcast on the streaming platform's library.

The 2021 New York International Auto Show is canceled

The 2021 New York Auto Show has been canceled. Much like last year, organizers postponed the annual spring event to August to try and avoid the worst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, they say now their hand has been forced due to a growing number of hospital cases involving the COVID-19 delta variant and increasingly stringent measures put in place by state and local officials to curb its spread.

“As custodians of the 121-year-old New York Auto Show, we are committed to providing a safe environment for everyone including attendees, exhibitors, and the thousands of men and women who put the show together,” said Mark Schienberg, the president of the New York Auto Show. “Over the past few weeks, and especially within the last few days, circumstances have changed making it more difficult to create an event at the high standard that we and our clients expect.”

At the moment, it’s unclear what this cancelation will mean for vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe that were set to debut at the show. Organizers say they “firmly believe” the event will only return in 2022 but do so during its usual spring timeframe.

Bird tests geofencing system to slow scooters in pedestrian-heavy areas

The next time you rent a Bird scooter, don’t try speeding past a school or any other area with a lot of pedestrians. The company has introduced Community Safety Zones, a feature that uses geofencing to cap the speeds of its scooters in certain areas automatically.

When traveling through a Community Safety Zone, the company’s scooters won’t go faster than 8 miles per hour. You’ll see the zones mapped out in the Bird app, and the software will display a message when you enter one to explain why your vehicle is slowing down.

The company is piloting the feature in Miami, Marseille and Madrid. Over the coming weeks, Bird says it will work with public officials to implement the geofenced zones in all of the more than 250 cities where it operates globally. Initially, the zones will center on schools, though they could also include areas around parks and shopping malls in the future.

Community Safety Zones represent part of an ongoing safety push from Bird. In July, the company introduced Safe Start, which prompts users to type in a keyword when they want to rent a scooter between 10PM and 4AM local time. Bird is using Safe Start to verify whether a potential customer is sober enough to handle one of its vehicles. 

Intel has a plan to go beyond 3nm chips

Earlier this year, Intel announced they were planning to retake the CPU manufacturing lead and "unquestioned leadership" in the PC world. These were impressive goals, but what was missing was any sense of how they'd actually achieve them. Now, we finally know Intel's plan.

Intel's CEO Pat Gelsinger and SVP of Technology Development Dr. Ann Kelleher, laid out the company's plan for the future. For starters, Intel is renaming its manufacturing nodes. What used to be 10nm "Enhanced Superfin" is now just "7." This may feel a little duplicitous — "just wave a wand a you've got better technology!" — but to be fair to intel, the nanometer measurements of process nodes don't really correspond to anything physical any more, and in terms of density Intel's current 10nm chips are competitive with TSMC and Samsung's 7nm.

Looking beyond 7nm, Intel is targeting an aggressive release schedule with major product updates happening annually. We're expecting their Alder Lake chips this fall, which will mix high and low-powered cores, followed by now-4nm Meteor Lake chips that will move to a "tile" (chiplet) design, and incorporate Intel's 3D stacked-chip technology, Foveros. 

Beyond that, Intel has technology mapped out for an EUV-based 3nm node that will use the high-energy manufacturing process to streamline chip creation, and a "20A" for angstrom node. This is one ten-billionth of a meter (meaning it's 2nm), and will be followed by a 18A node that Intel hopes to start moving into production in 2025 for products sometime in the 2nd half of the decade. Again, while node measurements don't really correspond to physical structures any more, a silicon atom is in the area of 2 angstroms wide, so these are seriously tiny transistors.

This release schedule seems aggressive, and Intel does not have the best track record of meeting targets for new nodes, but if it can even come close to these goals, expect your laptops and desktops to get a huge performance boost in the next few years. 

For even more info on Intel's plans, and details on its EMIB interconnect technology and two new versions of Foveros, be sure to check out the video above. You can see our sources here.

Ghost of Tsushima's co-op multiplayer mode is getting a standalone release

Since last fall, Sony’s Ghost of Tsushima has included a free cooperative multiplayer mode called Legends. As long as you owned a copy of the game, you had access to it. However, much like Rockstar did with Red Dead Online, Sony now plans to offer a standalone version of Legends.

Available starting on September 3rd, the company will sell this release of the mode for $19.99. Aside from some in-game cosmetics you can only earn by playing through Ghost of Tsushima’s single-player story, everything that’s included in the version that comes with the full game is also present here, and you can play with those who own the entire experience. That first point is important because Sucker Punch has various free updates planned for Legends, the most notable of which is a new mode called Rivals that comes out on the same day as the standalone release.

Taking a page from Destiny 2’s Gambit mode, Rivals pits two teams of two individuals against waves of enemies. As you defeat foes, you’ll earn a resource called “Magatama,” which you can use to delay the opposing team by doing things like casting curses on them. Once you’ve spent enough Magatama, you will unlock a final wave. Defeat that, and you’ll have won the match. 

Sucker Punch has other updates for Legends planned, including a variety of quality-of-life tweaks. Starting on September 10th, the studio also plans to release content each week until October 1st. Players can look forward to new Survival mode maps and a more challenging version of last year’s raid. 

If you decide you want to play through Ghost of Tsushima’s single-player story after experiencing Legends by itself, you can purchase an upgrade to the Director’s Cut, which includes the full story and a new island to explore, for $40 on PS4 or $50 on PS5.

Heatworks opens pre-orders for its plumbing-free countertop dishwasher

Heatworks has at long last opened pre-orders for the Tetra, a countertop dishwasher the company unveiled to some fanfare at CES 2018. Since the Tetra doesn't require any plumbing, the only thing you need to connect it to is an electrical outlet. The appliance has a three-liter tank you fill with water manually. Once the cycle (which takes less than an hour on the shortest setting) is complete, you disconnect the greywater tank and pour out the used water.

The dishwasher can wash and dry three place settings worth of dishes per load. On the surface, it might seem wasteful compared with cleaning those plates, cups and utensils manually, not to mention the counter space the machine will hog. However, Heatworks claims the machine requires less water than handwashing and rinsing the dishes. 

There are several settings, including a "fruit" one for washing produce. In addition, the dishwasher uses recyclable cartridges with concentrated detergent in an attempt to reduce waste.

The Tetra also requires less power than a standard dishwasher, according to the company. To heat up water, Heatworks uses Ohmic Array Technology, as Gizmodo notes. The Tetra takes a microwave-style approach to heating water rather than harnessing traditional metal elements. It uses graphite electrodes and "advanced electronic controls" to excite natural minerals in water. That setup allows the Tetra to efficiently heat water and maintain precise temperature control, according to Heatworks.

While there are other countertop dishwashers that don't need a plumbing connection, the Tetra has a smaller water tank than many of its rivals. Farberware's FDW05ASBWHA model (which is currently $340) has a five-liter capacity. The Tetra may heat water more efficiently than other models as well.

The Tetra will typically cost $499, but Heatworks is offering a $100 discount to those who lock in a preorder now. The detergent cartridges will cost around $6 each and they should be good for 20 loads depending on the setting and load capacity. Heatworks expects to start shipping the Tetra by May 18th, 2022, which is No Dirty Dishes Day.

What to expect at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked in August

If you’re a big Samsung fan, you’ve probably already marked your calendar for August 11th, when the company is holding its next Galaxy Unpacked event. Though it has held many events already in 2021, at least this time around it’s one that we’ve been anticipating. In recent years, Samsung has unveiled new Note phones every August. But at this coming Unpacked, the company will not be showing off a new Note. Thanks to the enterprising rumor mill and, well, Samsung itself, we have a good idea of what to expect next Wednesday.

Foldables: The third generation

The company published a blog post last month in which its president TM Roh teased what’s to come. First up: foldables. Yes, that’s plural. We’ll be seeing the third-generation of the Galaxy Z series, including the next Z Flip and Z Fold. If you’ll recall, the Z Flip is the smaller, Moto Razr-style phone that looks like a regular phone that you can close in half. Meanwhile, the Z Fold is more of a tablet-phone hybrid, where a 6.2-inch device opens up to reveal a 7.6-inch screen.

What might Samsung bring in new versions of these devices? Based on the leaks floatingaround the internet, the Z Flip 3 will possibly have a 1.9-inch outer screen with a 6.7-inch internal flexible display. That external panel is significantly bigger than the 1.1-inch sliver on the older Z Flip, which could make it more useful when the device is shut. We’ve also seen reports that the inside screen will run at 120Hz and sport dual 12-megapixel rear cameras and a 10-megapixel selfie shooter.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 standing in portrait orientation on a wooden table with its screen partly folded and facing the camera. It shows a YouTube video playing.
Chris Velazco / Engadget

Meanwhile, the Z Fold 3 is rumored to have a similar setup to the existing model, with a 6.2-inch exterior panel and a 7.6-inch version inside. It’ll probably have triple 12-megapixel cameras and two selfie cameras on either side. Both models are reported to be rated IPX8 for water resistance, though dust resistance clearly still remains a challenge. These are all educated guesses based on what’s been leaked, so I’d take the details with a grain of salt.

What has been confirmed is that the foldables will support Samsung’s S Pen. The stylus has been a hallmark of the Note series and the company enabled support for it on its flagship S series earlier this year. In his blog post, Roh said the S Pen was specifically designed for its foldables.

A stylus made for the pliable screens on foldables has been a widely requested feature, and would make the larger, opened up displays more useful. Of course, Samsung shared little else about this S Pen besides the fact that it's coming, so there are plenty of unknowns at the moment. How will it avoid damaging the softer, flexible screen? What size is its nib, what is its pressure sensitivity and will the foldables have onboard slots to house it? Will it have Bluetooth support for remote control actions? Clearly, these are things we'll have to wait till Unpacked on August 11th to learn about.

Wearables: New headphones and Wear OS watches 

Samsung also already spilled the beans on its upcoming Galaxy Watch running the new Wear OS that it co-engineered with Google. We’ve also seen plenty of leaked renders of the purported Galaxy Watch 4, which is likely to come in an Active and a Classic edition. The latter might be available in three sizes instead of just two, and appears to feature the popular rotating bezel Samsung’s watches are known for. Expect to see more details about the hardware and the UI at Unpacked, in addition to pricing and availability.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

That’s not the only wearable that will make an appearance. We’ve also seen leaks indicating new Galaxy Buds 2 might show up at Unpacked. The company’s next wireless earbuds appear to have a more refined design and more color options. One report based on a beta version of an upcoming plugin on Samsung’s update server also indicated the possibility of active noise cancellation, touch controls and a simplified battery interface.

That’s pretty much all we know so far, though I wouldn’t put it past Samsung to have something else hidden up its sleeve for the event. Will Blackpink show up? I wish. But as for actual hardware, this is already a pretty long list of things to expect come August 11th. Samsung’s launch kicks off at 10am Eastern that day, and you should come watch it with us on Engadget’s YouTube channel. We’ll be starting at 9:40AM Eastern with a pre-show and hanging around after Samsung wraps to answer your burning questions. I hope to see you then!

Lucille Ball's radio show is now a 'podcast' on SiriusXM

Lucille Ball sadly passed away long before podcasts became a reality, but that isn't stopping her from joining the modern phenomenon. The LA Timesreports that SiriusXM is turning Ball's Let's Talk to Lucy radio show into a 'pop-up' satellite radio station for three weeks. Once that stint is over, all 240 episodes of the 1960s-era show will be available as podcasts through both SiriusXM's app, Stitcher and other common platforms.

Notably, this isn't just mining nostalgia. This is the first time Let's Talk to Lucy has been heard since airing on the radio 50-plus years ago — there are conversations with legends like Bob Hope and Carol Burnett that haven't surfaced for decades.

SiriusXM is clearly hoping to boost its satellite and podcast offerings. At the same time, this also illustrates the usefulness of podcasting as a historical tool. In theory, the podcasts will both preserve Ball's interviews and make them accessible to a wider audience that might not listen to radio in the first place.

Twitter briefly verified a fake Cormac McCarthy account

The Road author Cormac McCarthy isn’t tweeting jokes about Pete Buttigieg, the secretary of transportation, or Tron using the handle @CormacMcCrthy. But a member of Twitter’s verification team mistakenly believed the account was the real deal and slapped a vaunted blue tick onto it.

The account, which was created in 2018 and has almost 50,000 followers, was briefly marked as a verified user, even though it doesn’t belong to McCarthy. According to the 88-year-old author’s agent and publisher, McCarthy has never joined Twitter.

“The account referenced was verified by mistake and that has since been reversed,” Twitter told The Guardian. “The account will also be required to adhere to Twitter’s parody, news feed, commentary, and fan account policy.” Accounts that have to abide by the rules of that policy aren’t eligible to become verified.

The company didn’t explain how the blunder occurred. Those who apply for a verification badge are supposed to provide evidence that they're the genuine article, such as by providing a copy of government ID or an official website that links to the handle. The holder of the phony McCarthy account evidently did neither of those. The Guardian suggests Twitter may have proactively verified the account following a viral tweet about engagement.

Twitter has been flooded with verification requests in recent months. It reopened public applications for the blue tick in May, three and a half years after it put the program on hold to reassess how it handles verifications, though it's evident there are still some hiccups. It briefly paused applications after eight days due to the large volume of requests. Twitter is still in the process of rolling out the application link to all accounts.

A star fragment is flying out of our galaxy at nearly two million miles per hour

Scientists have just spotted one of the fastest-moving stars known to date, and it might provide valuable answers about the cosmos. Martha Stewart (yes, really) reports that Boston University researchers have studied a star fragment from a supernova, LP 40-365, speeding out of the Milky Way galaxy at close to 2 million MPH. While that it in itself is relatively rare, the researchers have also noticed that it's spinning unusually slowly for a supernova remnant at 8.9 hours for a full rotation.

The team determined that the repeated, rapid changes in brightness were likely due to the surface rotating into view. All stars spin, but that process is accelerated for any star pieces surviving a violent explosion like this.

The observation has provided clues as to the likely origins of the fragment. LP 40-365 was likely part of a white dwarf star 'feeding' on the mass of a partner in a binary system. As the two stars were spinning so closely and quickly, both of them were likely flung outward when LP 40-365's star exploded.

The composition of the star could also provide insights. Intact stars are normally made from hydrogen and helium, but this leftover is mostly composed of metal. The reactions from the supernova produced more complex elements, researchers said.

The shard represents a rare opportunity to study a phenomenon that science was only ready to consider a few years ago. It also provides a more complete picture of how supernovas behave — they've never been tidy, but it's now clearer just how messy they can be.

Samsung’s 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G will cost $669

Samsung is releasing the 12.4-inch Galaxy Tab S7 FE 5G, a cheaper sibling to its flagship Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, on Thursday, August 5th. The "FE" stands for "Fan Edition," a term that was also used with the Galaxy S20 FE smartphone, and is essentially a roundabout way of saying this is a less flashy alternative. 

In terms of specs, that boils down to a less powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G chipset, compared to the S7/S7 Plus' 865+ processor. Here, you get an LCD instead of the Plus' AMOLED display with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution versus 1,752 x 2,800 pixels. Samsung hasn't mentioned if the refresh rate will match the 120Hz on the S7 range. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE
Samsung

Another area where it falls short is the camera: 8MP on the back and a 5-megapixel one for selfies. Comparatively, the S7/S7 Plus feature a dual camera setup, with a main 13-megapixel camera accompanied by an ultra wide 5-megapixel offering, with a front 8-megapixel snapper. The FE also poaches the S7 Plus' 10,090 mAh battery and supports quick charging. Its metal unibody design should still feel as lavish.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE
Samsung

Prices for the 5G tablet start from $669, which gets you the base model in black with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage (expandable to 1TB with an SD card). Samsung previously said the slate would also offer a 6GB/128GB configuration, though that is likely to cost more. The FE 5G will initially be available at Samsung.com, AT&T and Verizon, and will arrive at T-Mobile, UScellular and other retailers in the coming days. 

A $530 WiFi model is also available to pre-order today, ahead of a September release date, in three extra colors including pink, green and silver. Both tablets come with an S-Pen stylus out of the box. 

That really leaves you to decide whether you want the FE or last year's Tab S7 ($650/$850) or Tab S7 Plus ($850/$1,050). Of course, if you're after something even cheaper, you can always settle for the $159 Tab A7 Lite.

Tencent limits how long kids can play its flagship game, 'Honor of Kings'

China's regulatory war against its tech giants isn't limited to data. After opening a front in gaming back in 2018, the government is now adding to the restraints the biggest publishers face. Tencent is first on the chopping block. The publisher has been forced to further slash playing time on Honor of Kings for those aged under 18 to one hour during regular days and two hours on weekends. The rules, designed to appease the country's all-powerful censors, come into effect today, according to state media outlet the South China Morning Post

Previously, play time in China was capped at 90 minutes per day during the week and three hours per day at weekends and holidays as part of broader rules introduced in 2019. Additional restrictions banned younger gamers from playing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. and curbed how much they could spend on downloadable content.

Honor of Kings is a hugely popular multiplayer online battle arena game developed by Tencent subsidiary TiMi Studio Group, also known for Call of Duty: Mobile and Pokémon Unite. As of November, the mobile title boasted 100 million players. But, its success has also brought with it increased scrutiny. In June, Tencent found itself at the center of a lawsuit that accused it of including "inappropriate" content in Honor of Kings, including characters with low-cut clothes and historical inaccuracies.

The latest crackdown comes amid growing fears in China over the addictive nature of video games. On Tuesday, a state-affiliated media outlet described the products produced by the gaming industry as “spiritual opium.” The article continued: “No industry or sport should develop at the price of destroying a generation.”

Therein lies the broader issue. China is currently grappling with a generational divide that has seen younger citizens reject the competitive lifestyle pressures heaped upon them. This stance is encapsulated by the "tang ping," or "lying flat," philosophy embraced by a growing number of Gen Z Chinese. In a nutshell, it signifies those who choose not to work hard, not to buy property and not to marry and have children. 

Instead of addressing the societal complaints, China is choosing to deflect the blame onto the gaming industry.

Vudu and FandangoNow merge into a single streaming service

Fandango has revealed Vudu's fate more than a year after it purchased the streaming platform from Walmart. No, Vudu isn't going away. In fact, it's merging with its parent company's own streaming service, FandangoNow, to form a single platform that'll take on Vudu's name. Fandango told TechCrunch that it decided to retain Vudu's branding, because it has a following that's significantly larger than FandangoNow's. According to data from the NPD Group, Vudu is in over 75 million TV-connected devices in the US and has more than 60 million registered users. 

As a result of the merge, Vudu will replace FandangoNow as Roku's official movie and TV store. Roku devices will automatically update the app, and owners will be able to purchase the media they want using Roku Pay. The new Vudu will offer more than 200,000 movies and TV shows they can purchase, including new releases like F9: The Fast Saga, Pixar's Luca, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Peter Rabbit 2, The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, A Quiet Place Part II, Disney's Cruella, Godzilla vs. Kong and In the Heights. Next Tuesday, Black Widow will arrive on the platform. If you'll recall, Scarlett Johansson sued Disney for the movie's simultaneous release in theatres and on Disney+, which reportedly cost the star over $50 million. 

Even though only the Vudu branding will remain, FandangoNow customers won't lose access to their purchased content. They can now transfer their accounts to Vudu, where they'll be able to access their TV and movie libraries like usual. 

The Morning After: Is this the end of the selfie camera notch?

When will see the end of the notch or the hole-punch camera? The fight continues to make in-screen smartphone cameras a viable option. Last year's ZTE Axon 20 5G was the first phone to attempt the hidden selfie camera, but it struggled with image quality. It’s a predictable issue: The camera has to face out through the screen, affected by whatever the pixels are displaying.

Oppo has announced its third-gen under-screen camera which, based on a sample shot, shows a lot of promise. Even if it’s a company’s own sample, there’s no noticeable haziness nor glare. The company explains this is possible through a combination of electronic engineering and AI smarts. Oppo says it trained its own AI engine "using tens of thousands of photos" to achieve more accurate corrections on diffraction, white balance and HDR.

Oppo's next-gen under-screen camera
Oppo

Then there’s the display. Earlier designs lowered the pixel density in the area above the camera to let more light into the sensor. This, however, made a noticeable patch above the camera. But now, Oppo — or whichever company is making its smartphone displays, possibly Samsung — figured out a way to boost light transmittance by shrinking each pixel's geometry. In other words, it keeps the same pixel density, but more light can reach the camera sensor.

Oppo hasn’t mentioned a date — or new phone — for the under-screen camera, but ZTE claims to feature an improved version of its under-screen camera in its new Axon 30 5G, which launched in China last week. The timing is all a little too coincidental.

— Mat Smith

Apple's new Mac Pro GPUs promise a major performance boost

Probably the best you’ll get this year.

Apple Mac Pro with two Radeon Pro W6800X Duo GPUs
Apple

While it’s no Mac Pro with in-house silicon, Apple has updated the Mac Pro with new high-end GPU options. AMD's Radeon Pro W6800X, W6800X Duo and W6900X cards tout 50 percent improved performance per watt over their Vega II predecessors. All of them include four Thunderbolt 3 ports and an HDMI 2 connector, with support for Infinity Fabric Link that lets up to four GPUs (such as two W6800X Duo modules) talk to each other five times faster than PCIe.

That performance will, of course, cost you: $2,400 extra to configure a new Mac Pro with the W6800X inside, $4,600 for the W6800X Duo and $5,600 for the W6900X. Go all-out and you can spend $9,600 on two W6800X Duos or $11,600 on two W6900X modules. Continue reading.

Boeing and NASA delay Starliner launch due to unexpected valve problem

Expect an update later today.

The Atlas V rocket carrying Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule is seen after the launch to the International Space Station was delayed for a do-over test flight in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. July 30, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Joe Skipper / reuters

Boeing will have to wait yet again to test its Starliner spacecraft. The company and NASA had planned to launch the capsule on Tuesday on top of an Atlas V rocket at 1:20 PM ET yesterday, but the company had to delay the launch due to "unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system" that engineers spotted during pre-launch preparations. Continue reading.

The Krispy Kreme Xbox donut taste test.

It doesn’t taste like Mountain Dew.

Krispy Kreme's Xbox doughnut
Engadget, Mat Smith

As promised, we bought Krispy Kreme’s celebratory Xbox donut, with powdered sugar nexus design. Do we own an Xbox? No. But do we like donuts? Yes. Continue reading.

Halo's Master Chief is your new Waze navigation voice

For a limited time, but probably until ‘Halo Infinite’ actually arrives.

Microsoft and 343 Industries have partnered with Waze to bring the Master Chief and Escharum, his Banished foil in Infinite’s upcoming story campaign, to the navigation app. It’s also possible to change your car’s live map icon to either a Warthog or Ghost and update your profile “mood” to feature the visage of the Spartan or alien war chief. Continue reading.

Amazon is offering $10 in credit for your palm print

The retailer's contactless payments system is available at 53 of its physical stores.

Amazon is offering $10 in promotional credit to get people to sign up to its palm print payments system, according to an offer spotted by TechCrunch. The retailer launched Amazon One last fall as a contactless way of authenticating purchases and allowing entry into stores using a biometric device. The sign-up process is the only part that requires you to touch the device. After that, you just hover your palm over the scanner to enter a store and complete purchases.

Amazon is aware of privacy concerns and promised to secure palm data using encryption and dedicated secure zones with restricted access controls. For those worried their data could be monetized, Amazon also committed to keeping palm data separate from its other customer data. That said, a $10 voucher may not sway those already put off by the horror stories around the company’s facial recognition tech and Alexa voice recordings. Continue reading.

But wait, there’s more...

Logitech's latest wireless earbuds are certified by Zoom, Microsoft and Google

Realme's 'MagDart' is an Android take on MagSafe, but faster

AT&T finalizes spinoff of DirecTV into its own company

JLab debuts $20 true wireless earbuds with 8-hour battery life and touch controls

Netflix is making a documentary about SpaceX's upcoming Inspiration4 civilian flight

The Magic Keyboard with Touch ID goes on sale for $149

Blizzard president 'steps down' amid sexual discrimination and harassment lawsuit

T-Mobile to shut Sprint's LTE network by June 30, 2022

T-Mobile has finally confirmed when it will shut down Sprint's LTE network as part of its assimilation of the carrier it acquired in April of last year. It told Light Reading that it will shutter the service by June 30, 2022. Since completing the $26 billion merger, T-Mobile has been busy using Sprint's spectrum to expand the rollout of its 5G network

But, the transition hasn't been completely smooth. With the deal raising competition concerns, antitrust regulators set out a number of conditions to get it across the line. The goal was to make Dish Network the nation's new fourth carrier. To get it there, T-mobile was ordered to hand over spectrum, the Boost prepaid mobile brand — and the 9 million customers signed up to it — and to act as Dish's network provider for up to seven years. 

However, the partnership turned sour when T-Mobile announced that it would shut down Sprint's CDMA network by January 2022, which a majority of those 9 million customers use. Dish put T-Mobile on blast over the decision in a letter to the FCC earlier this year, accusing it of anti-competitive behavior. Just weeks ago, Dish decided to hop from T-Mobile's network onto AT&T's as part of a new 10-year agreement.

Facebook disables accounts of NYU team looking into political ad targeting

Before the US election last year, a team of researchers from New York University's engineering school launched a project to gather more data on political ads. In particular, the team wanted to know how political advertisers choose the demographic their ads target and don't target. Shortly after the project called the NYU Ad Observatory went live, however, Facebook notified the researchers that their efforts violate its terms of service related to bulk data collection. Now, the social network has announced that it has "disabled the accounts, apps, Pages and platform access associated with NYU's Ad Observatory Project and its operators..."

The researchers created a browser extension to collect data on the political ads the website shows the thousands of people who volunteered to be part of the initiative. Facebook says, however, that the plug-in was made to avoid its detection system and calls what it can do "unauthorized scraping." The extension "scrape[d] data such as usernames, ads, links to user profiles and 'Why am I seeing this ad?' information," Facebook wrote in its announcement. It also said that the extension collected data about Facebook users who didn't install it and didn't consent to take part in the project.

The company wrote that it made "repeated attempts to bring [the team's] research into compliance with [its] Terms." That apparently included inviting the researchers to access its US 2020 Elections ad targeting data through FORT’s Researcher Platform. Facebook said the data set on the platform could offer more comprehensive information than what the extension can collect, but the researchers declined its invitation. 

As The Wall Street Journal mentioned in its report last year, Facebook has an archive of advertisements on its platform, which includes data on who paid for an ad, when it ran and the location of the people who saw it. However, it doesn't contain targeting information, such as how it's determined who sees the ad. On its website, Ad Observer researchers wrote: "We think it's important to democracy to be able to check who is trying to influence the public and how." 

Facebook is adamant that it disabled the project's access to its platform because it knowingly violated the website's terms against scraping. It blocked the team's access to its platform, it said, in order to "stop unauthorized scraping and protect people's privacy in line with [its] privacy program." After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it agreed to an updated policy with the FTC, which pushed the social network to limit third-party access to its data. We asked the Ad Observer team for a statement and will update this post if we hear back. 

Update 8/04/21 7PM ET: Laura Edelson, the lead researcher behind NYU Cybersecurity for Democracy, which operates Ad Observatory, told Engadget in a statement:

"This evening, Facebook suspended my Facebook account and the accounts of several people associated with Cybersecurity for Democracy, our team at NYU. This has the effect of cutting off our access to Facebook's Ad Library data, as well as Crowdtangle. Over the last several years, we’ve used this access to uncover systemic flaws in the Facebook Ad Library, to identify misinformation in political ads including many sowing distrust in our election system, and to study Facebook’s apparent amplification of partisan misinformation. By suspending our accounts, Facebook has effectively ended all this work. Facebook has also effectively cut off access to more than two dozen other researchers and journalists who get access to Facebook data through our project, including our work measuring vaccine misinformation with the Virality Project and many other partners who rely on our data.

The work our team does to make data about disinformation on Facebook transparent is vital to a healthy internet and a healthy democracy. Facebook is silencing us because our work often calls attention to problems on its platform. Worst of all, Facebook is using user privacy, a core belief that we have always put first in our work, as a pretext for doing this. If this episode demonstrates anything it is that Facebook should not have veto power over who is allowed to study them."

Apple restores the dedicated 'Store' tab to its website

After going down briefly earlier today, Apple's website has returned with a new design that reintroduces a "Store" tab not unlike the one it removed nearly six years ago, MacRumors has reported. That leads to a dedicated buying section where customers can select from its product lineup, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. With the new tweaks, you'll no longer need to visit each product page and track down the "buy" button to see options or make a purchase. 

Along with a horizontal list of products, the Store page shows the latest products, promotions, accessories and more. It now more closely resembles the Apple Store app, as MacRumors pointed out. 

Clicking on a category like "iPhone" in the Store tab takes you to a carousel that shows all the current models available, like the iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12, iPhone SE and iPhone XR. Once you select a specific model like the iPhone 12 Pro, it takes you to the buy page for that item where you can start to select color, storage and other options. Previously, you would have needed to click on the iPhone product page, scroll down to find a specific model and click on the "buy" button. 

Apple's website had a Store tab before the 2015 redesign, but it essentially shunted you to a completely different domain. The new design works differently: You still remain on the Apple.com site, and the Store tab simply gives you a different way of navigating to the buying section. A subtle change, but significant considering the enormous worldwide traffic to Apple's website. 

Nissan's Leaf S is now the cheapest EV in the US at $27,400

Nissan has unveiled its 2022 Leaf with more standard features and a lower base price that makes it the cheapest EV in the US, the company announced. The most basic model, the Leaf S with a 40-kWh battery, now costs $27,400 or $28,375 including the destination charge — or $20,875 if you qualify for the $7,500 federal tax credit. That means it's less than the $29,900 Mini SE and can go farther, too, with 149 miles of range versus 114. 

The 40-kWh Leaf SV drops from $34,935 to $28,800, while the longer-range 62-kWh Leaf SV Plus is now $32,400 compared to $38,245 (all prices exclude destination charges and federal incentives). The S and SV models deliver 147 horsepower, 236 pound feet of torque and up to 149 miles of EPA range, while the S Plus offers more powerful 160-kW motor that produces 214 horsepower, 250 pound feet of torque and 226 miles of range. 

Nissan's Leaf S is now the cheapest EV in the US at $27,400
Nissan

The $4,245 price drop for the basic S Leaf compared to the 2021 model, and even more dramatic $6,135 decrease for the SV model, sounds like a lot. However, the new prices essentially match what buyers were paying for Leafs last year if you count buyer incentives, as Motor Trend reported. And of course, the Leaf has essentially become passé as Nissan prepares to sell the Ariya early in 2022

Still, the new prices will help buyers compare prices without having to jump through hoops. And the new models do have some useful improvements. The main thing is that all Leaf models now include a CHAdeMo quick charge port, ProPilot assist and Nissan's "Intelligent Around View" monitor as standard.

The Leaf isn't as fun, nor as attractive, as a lot of other EVs out there. But $20,875 for the base model, (including federal incentives and destination charge) is the lowest number we've seen next to a brand new EV with decent range in the US, ever. 

Google leak gave us a glimpse of its upcoming Nest cameras and doorbells

Perhaps Google has started preparing for the launch of its upcoming Nest camera products, which is why they showed up on the company's store for a very brief period. While the listings are no longer available as of this writing, The Verge was able to catch a glimpse before they disappeared. Apparently, the tech giant will launch a battery-powered Nest camera good for indoors and outdoors, another camera that comes with floodlights and a wired camera for indoors. There's a battery-powered Nest doorbell among the leaked products, as well.

Nest
Google (screenshots courtesy of The Verge)

Unfortunately, the listings didn't link to individual product pages and only took curious users back to the main Google Store page. We'll have to wait for official information to know more about the devices. By releasing a battery-powered Nest doorbell and a floodlight-equipped camera, however, Google will finally be able to offer a veritable rival to Amazon's security devices. When the tech giant first announced that it'll launch a new Nest lineup back in January, it didn't say when the products will be available. It did say, however, that the lineup is for 2021, so they'll most likely be out for purchase in the coming months.

Oppo's latest under-screen camera may finally be capable of good photos

Until recently, there was only one smartphone on the market equipped with an under-screen camera: last year's ZTE Axon 20 5G. Other players such as Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi had also been testing this futuristic tech, but given the subpar image quality back then, it's no wonder that phone makers largely stuck with punch-hole cameras for selfies.

Despite much criticism of its first under-screen camera, ZTE worked what it claims to be an improved version into its new Axon 30 5G, which launched in China last week. Coincidentally, today Oppo unveiled its third-gen under-screen camera which, based on a sample shot it provided, appears to be surprisingly promising — no noticeable haziness nor glare. But that was just one photo, of course, so I'll obviously reserve my final judgement until I get to play with one. Even so, the AI tricks and display circuitry that made this possible are intriguing.

Oppo's next-gen under-screen camera
Oppo

In a nutshell, nothing has changed in terms of how the under-screen camera sees through the screen. Its performance is limited by how much light can travel through the gaps between each OLED pixel. Therefore, AI compensation is still a must. For its latest under-screen camera, Oppo says it trained its own AI engine "using tens of thousands of photos" in order to achieve more accurate corrections on diffraction, white balance and HDR. Hence the surprisingly natural-looking sample shot.

Oppo's next-gen under-screen camera
Oppo

Another noteworthy improvement here lies within the display panel's consistency. The earlier designs chose to lower the pixel density in the area above the camera, in order to let sufficient light into the sensor. This resulted in a noticeable patch above the camera, which would have been a major turn-off when you watched videos or read fine text on that screen.

But now, Oppo — or the display panel maker, which could be Samsung — figured out a way to boost light transmittance by slightly shrinking each pixel's geometry above the camera. In order words, we get to keep the same 400-ppi pixel density as the rest of the screen, thus creating a more consistent look.

Oppo's next-gen under-screen camera
Oppo

Oppo added that this is further enhanced by a transparent wiring material, as well as a one-to-one pixel-circuit-to-pixel architecture (instead of two-to-one like before) in the screen area above the camera. The latter promises more precise image control and greater sharpness, with the bonus being a 50-percent longer panel lifespan due to better burn-in prevention.

Oppo didn't say when or if consumers will get to use its next-gen under-screen camera, but given the timing, I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be the same solution on the ZTE Axon 30 5G. In any case, it would be nice if the industry eventually agreed to dump punch-hole cameras in favor of invisible ones.

'Diablo Immortal' has been postponed until 2022

Diablo Immortal may be a game for tiny screens, but that doesn't mean it's a small feat of development. For precisely this reason, Activision Blizzard has delayed the release of Diablo Immortal to early 2022. 

The action RPG was originally supposed to hit iOS and Android devices this year, but developers need more time to fine-tune PvP content, improve PvE experiences and implement additional accessibility options, according to Blizzard. Here's how developers put it in their blog post:

Following feedback provided by test participants of the Closed Alpha, our team has been tuning core and endgame features. For example, we’re iterating on PvP content like the Cycle of Strife to make it more accessible, alongside late-game PvE content like the Helliquary to make it more engaging. We’re also working to provide controller support for those who want to play our game in a different way. However, these changes and additional opportunities to improve our gameplay experience will not be realized in the 2021 timeframe we had previously communicated. So, the game is now planned for release in the first half of 2022, which will allow us to add substantial improvements to the whole game.

Blizzard goes on to describe specific features it'll focus on, such as adding PvE Raids, adjusting Bounties and making Challenge Rifts more exciting. In terms of PvP adjustments, Blizzard will work on improving matchmaking, earning rankings, class balance, time to kill and other elements of the Battleground system, plus it'll spit-shine the Cycle of Strife endgame content. All of this joins a raft of changes to progression and XP caps.

It seems developers are still in the early stages when it comes to getting Diablo Immortal to play nice with gamepads.

"We're still working through the challenges of adapting the touch screen controls to a controller seamlessly," the blog reads. "Making our game more accessible is top of mind, and we’ll share more progress on this front as we approach the beta in the future."

Blizzard has other things on its plate right now, too. Activision Blizzard is facing a sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit from the state of California, and Blizzard president J. Allen Brack left the company today amid allegations that he overlooked abuse in the workplace for years. Blizzard's head of HR, Jesse Meschuk, also left the studio this week. A second lawsuit was filed by shareholders today, claiming Activision Blizzard failed to disclose potential regulatory issues related to the company's discriminatory, frat-house-style culture.

WhatsApp adds disappearing ‘view once’ photos to its app

WhatsApp is adding disappearing photo messages to its app. Called “view once” photos, the new feature allows users to send photos and videos in chats that can only be viewed a single time before disappearing. "View once," appeared in the beta version of WhatsApp's Android app back in June, but it's rolling out to all users this week.

The Snapchat-like feature is similar to Instagram and Messenger’s disappearing photo features. When snapping a picture in WhatsApp, users can select the timer icon to set the photo to “view once.” Unlike regular photo or video messages, the “view once” images won’t preview in the chat and can’t be downloaded to your device.

Facebook is billing the feature as one for “private moments” or for sending potentially sensitive information like Wi-Fi passwords. As always, people should be wary of just how “private” these kinds of messages really are. In a help article, the company notes that the recipient can still take a screenshot or record their screen while opening a “view once” photo and, unlike Snapchat, WhatsApp won’t let the sender know when a screenshot has been taken. The company also points out that “view once” photos that are reported will be made visible to WhatsApp.

Activision Blizzard faces an investor lawsuit stemming from its discrimination case

A harassment and discrimination lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) isn’t the only legal battle Activision Blizzard has to worry about anymore. Ahead of the company’s Q2 earnings call on Tuesday, a firm called Rosen Law filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of investors who traded in Activision Blizzard securities between August 4th, 2016 and July 27th, 2021.

The firm, the same one that’s behind a similar lawsuit against CD Projekt RED over the disastrous launch of Cyberpunk 2077, accuses Activision Blizzard of intentionally failing to disclose its ongoing problems with sexual harassment and discrimination. In doing so, Rosen Law alleges the company put itself at greater risk of regulatory legal scrutiny and enforcement. The suit names Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, as well as several other executives, as defendants and seeks to recover damages for investors under federal securities laws.

The suit comes on the same day the company announced J. Allen Brack was “stepping down” from his role as president of Blizzard Entertainment. In its lawsuit, the State of California accuses Brack of taking “no effective remedial measures” to curb the “bro culture” that enabled individuals like Alex Afrasiabi to harass the company’s female employees. Taking his place are Jen Oneal and former Xbox executive Mike Ybarra, who will oversee the studio as co-leaders.