2022 Land Rover Defender gets a V8 and a new top Carpathian Edition trim – Roadshow

Land Rover's changes for the V8 model include a new Terrain Response mode for tarmac and loose surfaces like gravel.

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Xbox Live suffers major outage – CNET

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Josh Goldman/CNET

Xbox Live's online platform for console gamers suffered a major outage Thursday, with gamers worldwide taking to Twitter to report troubles logging in.

"We are aware that users may not be able to sign-in to Xbox Live at this time," the company's support account tweeted Thursday afternoon. "Our teams are currently investigating to fix this issue."

Users may also be experiencing issues with purchasing content and party chat too, Xbox Support tweeted later Thursday.

The outage appears to have started shortly after noon PT on Thursday. It's not the first Xbox outage in recent memory -- the platform hit a difficult patch in 2020, with multiple outages as gamers flocked onto the platform for pandemic-borne entertainment.

"We will update here and on http://xbox.com/status when we have more information to share," the company added on Twitter.

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Voxelflow wants to speed your car’s driver-assistance systems way, way up – Roadshow

Machine vision -- aka the process by which a computer able to visually perceive the environment -- is complicated for many reasons, and like most complicated things, it can be handled in a bunch of different ways, each with its strengths and weaknesses. Some of the more common ways of handling this task in a car include radar, ultrasonic, lidar and plain old cameras. 

The thing is, none of those are especially good at seeing an object that's close up quickly with sufficient resolution, and then getting that information to the car's computer fast enough for the vehicle to be able to act on it. For example, you're driving, a kid runs into the road and now your car has to see the kid and apply the brakes before you hit them. A company called Terranet believes it has a solution to that problem, which it announced on Thursday, and it's called Voxelflow.

If you're like me, the first thing you're probably thinking after reading the name "Voxelflow" is, "What the hell is a voxel? That sounds made up." Well, I wasn't sure either, so I asked Dr. Anthony Roy, an expert in machine vision, for a total layperson's explanation:

"A voxel is like a pixel. A pixel is a point in two-dimensional space with an X and a Y coordinate -- like the pixels on your TV. A voxel is the same, except it's in 3D space, so it has an X, a Y and a Z coordinates."

OK, so how does the Voxelflow system generate the cloud of voxels (aka a point cloud) it needs to define an object in space? Well, unlike most on-vehicle cameras, which use traditional shutter and sensor-based cameras, the Voxelflow system uses something called an "event camera," or, more specifically, three of them and a laser.

An event camera doesn't have a shutter. Instead, the individual pixels that make up the camera's sensor independently react to changes in brightness as they occur. This makes an event camera much quicker to respond than a shutter-based camera with less chance of motion blur. Cool, right?

So, now we've got three cameras to capture the images of the object we're trying not to hit, but those only give us the X and Y coordinates. The Voxelflow system's big innovation is a scanning laser that locks onto objects detected by the cameras and provides that Z coordinate, locating the object in space and turning a pixel into a voxel.

"You can use multiple 2D cameras to generate that third coordinate," continues Dr. Roy. "The problem is that it takes longer for a computer to crunch that data. Using lidar or something like this [Voxelflow] system is going to be faster."

The result of this is a system that can see, parse and react to a possible collision in five milliseconds. But wait, as they say, there's more. Instead of just storing all its data locally, Voxelflow is partnering with Mercedes-Benz to apply it to Mercedes' Live Map technology.

Nihat Kuecuek, who works for Mercedes on its maps and navigation projects, describes the way Live Map will integrate the Voxelflow data using the three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. 

The objects that don't change -- buildings, etc. -- are like solids. Things that change on occasion -- crosswalks, traffic lights, etc. -- are like liquids. The Voxelflow data collected by vehicles as they drive, documenting things that change frequently, are like gases. All three are used to generate a more complete, living map that is then streamed, rather than downloaded, to a vehicle.

The end result of the Live Map integration will be more effective navigation and the ability for safer route planning. The benefits of this will be felt with conventional, human-driven vehicles but will genuinely pay dividends when Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous vehicles start to exist widely on public roads.

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TikTok to pay $92M to settle lawsuit over data privacy – CNET

TikTok America
James Martin/CNET

TikTok has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging that the app captured biometric and private data from users in the US. Several law firms reached a settlement with the social media app on Thursday, with TikTok agreeing to pay $92 million. 

The lawsuit also alleges that TikTok passed private user data on to third parties. The settlement would require the company to "initiate a new privacy compliance training program," the law firms said in a joint press release. 

Read more: TikTok removed nearly 350,000 videos related to election misinformation

"While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we'd like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community," a TikTok spokesperson told CNET in a statement.

The $92 million will be used to compensate TikTok users. The settlement still needs to be approved by a court.

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Two brand new Final Fantasy 7 games announced on mobile – CNET

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Without a doubt, the biggest announcement out of Sony's latest State of Play event was the free PS5 upgrade coming to Final Fantasy VII Remake, and a new chapter for PS5 players starring Yuffie -- but that might not be the biggest Final Fantasy news of the day. Square-Enix just quietly announced two more Final Fantasy VII games: a competitive battle royale game, and a second, more nostalgic-focused FF7 remake.

There's a reason they weren't in Sony's State of Play event, however: they're mobile games, destined for Android and iOS devices. 

Both games are completely unexpected in different ways. Final Fantasy VII The First Soldier marks the franchise's first foray into the battle royale genre: it's a competitive multiplayer shooter that takes place 30 years before the events of Final Fantasy VII. Players seem to battle through the streets of Midgar in a competition to be the first of member Soldier, Shinra's elite fighting force.

The game's trailer reveals that players will be able to fight familiar monsters and enemies, as well as other players, and may even be able to summon assist monsters, like Ifrit. It's also very clearly modeled after the version of Midgar seen in Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Final Fantasy Ever Crisis, however, looks completely different. Rather than borrowing the visual aesthetics of Remake, this game looks more like an upgraded version of the original Final Fantasy VII. In a sense, it is. Square-Enix says Ever Crisis is a chapter-based retelling of the entire Final Fantasy VII story. In other words, it's a single-player game that covers the events original FFVII, the FFVII: Advent Children movie, the PSP spin-off Before Crisis -Final Fantasy VII-, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII.

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Although most of the footage in the trailer looks like an overhauled version of the PlayStation Original, Ever Crisis seems to have updated the battle system to look a little bit more like the PS4 remake. Either way, it could be the perfect option for game fans who wanted a more traditional looking Final Fantasy VII remake, rather than a AAA reimagining.

Final Fantasy The First Soldier is due to arrive on Android and iOS devices sometime in 2021, with Final Fantasy Ever Crisis to follow in 2022.

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Facebook weighs whether to build facial recognition into smart glasses – CNET

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in September the social network is working on smart glasses.

Screenshot by Queenie Wong/CNET

Facebook is expected to launch its first pair of smart glasses this year, but there's one issue company employees are still discussing: whether to add facial recognition technology to the product.

BuzzFeed News, citing remarks from an internal meeting, reported on Thursday that Andrew "Boz" Bosworth, who oversees the company's augmented and virtual reality efforts, told employees that the company is looking at the legal and privacy issues that come with facial recognition.

A Facebook employee reportedly asked the executive about facial recognition and raised concerns about potential harms such as "stalkers." "Face recognition ... might be the thorniest issue, where the benefits are so clear, and the risks are so clear, and we don't know where to balance those things," Bosworth told the employee, according to BuzzFeed.  

The social network has a poor track record when it comes to protecting user privacy, which might make people wary about purchasing Facebook smart glasses. The company has been trying to repair its image around user privacy especially since the 2018 Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Last year, Facebook agreed to pay $650 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged it illegally gathered biometric data from its Illinois users to tag photos of people on the social network.

In a series of tweets, Bosworth confirmed he made remarks about facial recognition during an employee meeting. "I specifically said the future product would be fine without it but there were some nice use cases if it could be done in a way the public and regulators were comfortable with," he said in a tweet. Facial recognition, for example, could be used to identity the name of a person you can't remember. He also mentioned a neurological condition known as prosopagnosia in which a person has a hard time recognizing familiar faces. 

"Face recognition is a hugely controversial topic and for good reason and I was speaking about was how we are going to have to have a very public discussion about the pros and cons," Bosworth tweeted.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in September that the company teamed up with EssilorLuxottica, which owns eyewear brands including Ray-Ban, so the new glasses have different designs and styles. The company hasn't provided many details about the upcoming product. 

The Facebook-EssilorLuxottica partnership "will combine Facebook apps and technologies, Luxottica's category leadership and iconic brands, and Essilor's advanced lens technology to help people stay better connected to their friends and family," the companies said in a press release last year.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Mr. Potato Head brand drops ‘mister’ for brand name makeover – CNET

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The Hasbro toy Mr. Potato Head is known for its interchangeable plastic parts.

Hasbro

After decades as Mr. Potato Head, it seems the plastic-spud toy brand will embrace a new, more inclusive identity with its packaging. Toy company Hasbro will drop the "mister" part of the logo, with the change set to appear on boxes this year, according to an AP report on Thursday.  

While the main brand name will be slightly different, the Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head characters will remain. "I yam proud to confirm that Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head aren't going anywhere and will remain Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head," Hasbro tweeted on Thursday.

AP said Hasbro described the move as a "modern makeover." Official Hasbro social media channels shared an article about the rebranding effort, but didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The Mr. Potato Head toy first rose to popularity in the 1950s as a set of plastic face parts that could be stuck onto a real potato. Eventually, it became an entire plastic potato and current versions of the toy typically come with a mustache, a hat and other accessories. 

The current Mr. Potato Head comes with mustache and other accessories.

Hasbro

"Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists -- with the 'Mr.' and 'Mrs.' -- is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure," Kimberly Boyd, a Hasbro senior vice president, told Fast Company.

The brand name could be seen as fitting into a broader corporate philosophy for Hasbro.

"We have the privilege of being a part of childhood, fandom, and intergenerational play and entertainment globally," Hasbro said in a statement on inclusion and diversity released in July 2020. "With that privilege comes a responsibility to foster inclusion and to help teach the next generation that everyone is equal, and everyone is worthy."

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Bill Gates is binge-watching Netflix, playing pickleball – CNET

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Yes, even Bill Gates binges the occasional Netflix show.

GatesNotes.com

Billionaire Bill Gates is only human, and as much as he raves about books, he's not above binge-watching a streaming TV series like a regular person. The Microsoft co-founder and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chatted with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin on the invitation-only Clubhouse app on Wednesday, and revealed he recently spent four hours immersed in a Netflix show.

Gates said he sat down after dinner intending to read a book, but instead clicked on Netflix show Lupin, a French thriller starring Omar Sy as a man who turns jewel thief to avenge his father's death.

"Next thing I knew four hours have gone by," Gates admitted. "I really let myself go to seed that night, and I was kind of laughing at myself, I don't usually do that, but they sure make it easy. You just sit there and the next episode is up and running."

Gates said he and his son watched The Americans, but the rest of his family found it too violent. They have all watched Modern Family together, he said.

Video games, however, aren't his thing, though he watches his nieces and nephews play.

"I play bridge," Gates offered. He also plays tennis and pickleball, a game invented in his home state of Washington that combines badminton, table tennis and tennis.

Gates said he doesn't much play around on social media, tending to go to direct sources for his news, such as the Economist or The New York Times. Asked if he had a "burner" Twitter account, Gates said he does, though he didn't use that phrase.

"I have a Twitter (account) that I just mess around on, and then I have my official Twitter account," he said. "And that's true on most of the (social media) services. There's the official me, and then there's the 'messing around' me."

You can listen to full audio from Gates' chat on YouTube.

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Twitter explores Super Follows for creators to earn money – CNET

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Twitter has been experimenting with different ways for users to share their thoughts, including audio and disappearing messages.

Graphic by Pixabay; illustration by CNET

Twitter is exploring new products, including a Super Follow feature that'll let users pay creators, and groups that make it easier to chat about interests.

The social network, known for short posts, has been moving beyond its mainstay 280-character tweets. That's included getting more serious about experimenting with audio, disappearing messages, and other ways for people to converse online. 

"We're focused on public conversation as a use case and that use case is going to have multiple formats associated with it," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Thursday during the company's first virtual analyst day. For example, users might tweet out text but discuss tweets through audio or recap a conversation using more words in a newsletter. 

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Twitter is exploring a feature called Super Follow that's meant to help content creators earn more money. 

Twitter

Among the new products Twitter is exploring are Super Follows and tipping. The features will let users follow a creator or publisher on Twitter for a monthly subscription fee in order to view exclusive content or newsletters. Dantley Davis, who runs Twitter's design and research operations, said products that fund creators motivate "them to continue creating great content that their audience loves."

Twitter expects to start rolling out the Super Follow product this year. An image of the new feature shows a subscription fee of $4.99 per month, but the company expects that users will be able to customize their monthly subscription prices.

The company has also ramped up efforts to make it easier for users to find topics and interests, to entice them to stay on the site for a longer period of time. Taking on Facebook Groups, Twitter said it's working on a product called Communities that lets people join conversations around a specific topic, like their love for cats, surfing or plants.

"Today it could feel tone deaf to talk about a hobby or interest amidst the intense global public conversation about the pandemic," said Kayvon Beykpour, head of product at Twitter. 

Twitter, which already lets users follow topics, is working on a solution to that problem by creating a way for users to chat about their interests in smaller groups. 

Dorsey and other executives discussed a wide range of topics, including content moderation and regulation. The event provided more details about how Twitter envisions its future and its goals. The company said it aims to double its revenue to  $7.5 billion or more by 2023. Twitter also plans to grow its number of daily users to at least 315 million by the end of 2023. In the fourth quarter, Twitter had 192 million daily users. The company said it's been attracting more users in India and Nigeria and plans to grow in developing countries. 

As Twitter experiments with different ways people can converse on its site, the company will likely face more challenges when it comes to moderating content. This year, Twitter permanently banned Donald Trump, who was the US president at the time, after the deadly Capitol Hill riot in January. Social networks like Twitter have also faced more scrutiny from lawmakers, celebrities and others who say the site needs to do a better job of combating hate speech, harassment and other offensive content. 

Twitter has been leaning more on automated technology to flag offensive content that could violate its rules.

"This technology isn't perfect and never will be," said Vijaya Gadde, who leads Twitter's trust and safety efforts. "Mistakes are inevitable. As human communication evolves, so too will this technology." 

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Twitch pulls Amazon ads promoting ‘no’ vote in union election – CNET

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Warehouse workers in Alabama are voting on whether to unionize. Twitch pulled Amazon's anti-union ads from its platform Thursday.

Getty Images

Livestreaming service Twitch has pulled anti-union ads placed by Amazon during an ongoing union election at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The ads, each just over 30 seconds long, featured workers explaining why they plan to vote against forming a union, saying they don't want an outside group coming in when they already have everything they need.

Twitch is a subsidiary of Amazon, and it cited a policy against running political ads as its reason for removing them.

"Twitch does not allow political advertising, and these ads should never have been allowed to run on our service," a company spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. "We have removed these ads and are evaluating our review processes to ensure that similar content does not run in the future. We are grateful to our community for bringing this to our attention."

Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The union election is set to conclude at the end of March, with 5,800 employees receiving ballots by mail and choosing whether to let the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represent them in contract negotiations. In addition to the ads seen on Twitch, Amazon has run high-profile ads in The Washington Post and The New York Times advocating for a $15 federal minimum wage. These ads don't mention the union election.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum criticized Amazon's anti-union ads, saying they were an attempt by the online retail giant to "gaslight its workers about the dreadful working conditions at its Bessemer warehouse."

The election is the first union vote at a US Amazon warehouse since 2014, when a group of Delaware workers chose not to unionize. In the Alabama election, Amazon asked the National Labor Relations Board to require workers to vote in person at the warehouse rather than by mail, saying it would allow higher rates of voting. Union organizers objected, with concerns about exposure to the coronavirus, and the NLRB ruled that the vote could be conducted by mail.

The union drive has drawn national attention as Amazon continues to post increasingly massive profits during the pandemic, with actor Danny Glover visiting workers in person on Monday and tweeting his support for the union effort.

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