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The Morning After: Google's geothermal power plant in the desert and more

Sorry to interrupt your Saturday, but did you somehow miss that Google made a geothermal energy plant in the middle of Nevada? You know, that place with all the water for turbines? Or the incredibly dumb way security researchers were able to pull private information from ChatGPT? This week's YouTube-coated version of TMA covers that and getting far too enthusiastic (or entirely non-plussed) about all these other things from this week in tech.

This week:

Read this:

Not everything on Engadget benefits from heavy paraphrasing and a guy talking at a camera for under 10 minutes. This week, take a look at this great profile of the growth, growth and further growth of ChatGPT, OpenAI's chatbot. It reframed generative AI for the wider public, and had the biggest tech companies scrambling to catch up. And that was just its first year.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Walmart says it’s no longer advertising on X

Walmart has seen enough from X. The retailer, America’s single biggest employer and largest company by revenue, told Reuters on Friday it’s no longer advertising on the platform formerly known as Twitter. The departure follows owner Elon Musk amplifying antisemitic posts and flinging expletives at fleeing advertisers. “We aren’t advertising on X as we’ve found other platforms to better reach our customers,” a Walmart spokesperson told Reuters.

Walmart’s exit adds to a growing list of companies that have pulled ads from the platform. Apple, Disney, IBM, Comcast and Warner Bros. Discovery are among the businesses no longer buying ads on X. A group of advertisers told The New York Times on Thursday their temporary pauses will likely become permanent. “There is no advertising value that would offset the reputational risk of going back on the platform,” Lou Paskalis, CEO of marketing consultancy AJL Advisory, told the paper.

X’s former advertisers had no shortage of reasons to jump ship. Musk’s latest series of self-inflicted wounds began when the billionaire appeared to endorse and amplify a post falsely claiming Jewish communities were stoking hatred against white people. Musk replied to the user who spewed the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, saying their comments reflected “the actual truth.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 29: C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk takes the stage during the New York Times annual DealBook summit on November 29, 2023 in New York City. Andrew Ross Sorkin returns for the NYT summit for a day of interviews with Vice President Kamala Harris, President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-Wen, C.E.O. of Tesla, Chief Engineer of SpaceX and C.T.O. of X Elon Musk, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and leaders in business, politics and culture.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Michael M. Santiago via Getty Images

Watchdog group Media Matters then published a report showing ads from well-known brands placed next to antisemitic content. X responded by suing the organization, accusing it of “knowingly and maliciously [manufacturing] side-by-side images depicting advertisers’ posts on X Corp.’s social media platform beside Neo-Nazi and white national fringe content.”

Musk’s attempt to smooth things over only made things worse. After apologizing for amplifying the antisemitic content at The New York Times’ DealBook event, he told advertisers backing off of the platform to “Go fuck yourself.” His company now potentially stands to lose $75 million.

Walmart employs around 1.6 million people in the US. The retailer made $611 billion in revenue in the 2023 fiscal year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Game Awards raises an old question: What does indie mean?

The Game Awards got it wrong this year. One of the titles nominated for Best Independent Game, Dave the Diver, was produced by Nexon, one of the largest video game studios in South Korea. No matter how hard you squint, it is not indie. Dave the Diver is an excellent pixel-art game about deep-sea fishing and restaurant management, but it was commissioned and bankrolled by Nexon subsidiary Mintrocket, with billions of dollars and decades of experience at its back.

When The Game Awards nominees were announced on November 13, fans were quick to point out the error, and the recurring debate over what “indie” means was reignited. Taehwan Kim, Nexon’s overseer of Mintrocket, weighed in on November 14, saying Dave the Diver “may look like an indie, but it's not necessarily the case.” The official tweet listing the nominees for Best Independent Game now carries a reader-generated context tag reading, “Dave the Diver is not an indie game. Mintrocket, the game's developer, is a subsidiary of Korea's biggest game company Nexon. They are not independent in any sense of the word.”

Dave the Diver

A discussion around the definition of “indie” bubbled up throughout November, but it raised more questions than it answered. One common conclusion was that the media outlets who voted Dave the Diver into the independent category were fooled by its pixel art, a style that’s associated with indie games. During a live Q&A on Twitch on November 26, The Game Awards organizer Geoff Keighley argued that “independent” was a broad term with an unknowable definition, before essentially saying Dave the Diver’s inclusion in the indie category was the jury’s fault.

Specifically, Keighley said the following: “It’s independent in spirit and [it’s] a small game with a, I don’t know what the budget is, but it's probably a relatively small-budget game. But it is from a larger entity, whereas there are other games on that list that are from much smaller studios. Even like Dredge I think is published by Team17, so is that independent or not because you have a publisher? It’s a really complicated thing to figure out and come up with strict rules around it, so kinda we let people use their best judgment. And you can agree or disagree with the choices, but the fact that Dave the Diver was on that list meant that, out of all the independent games the jury looked at, or what they thought were independent games, that was one of the top five they looked at this year.”

The jury comprises 120 media outlets (Engadget has traditionally been one of these, but we did not participate in voting this year and look what happened), so Keighley is chalking the mistake up to mass hysteria and moving on. Meanwhile, there’s still little consensus on what constitutes an indie game, at The Game Awards or elsewhere.

Dave the Diver

I’ve reported on video games for 13 years and indies are a central theme of my coverage. I ran The Joystiq Indie Pitch back in the day, and I’ve made a concerted effort to write about smaller games from creators working outside of the mainstream machine, because these are the experiences that speak to me personally. The indie scene is the source of the industry’s magic. This isn’t just a debate about language — “indie” is a distinction that identifies which games and teams need outside support to survive and expand on their innovations. Understanding the label can help players make decisions about where to spend their money, the lifeblood of any game-development studio.

All that to say, the debate over the definition of “indie” is not new, but it is constantly changing, and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating. So, I’m here to offer guidance on the question of what makes an indie game or studio indie. It is a weirdly complicated topic and my approach is one of many, but the loose framework I use could help resolve some common, recurring arguments. 

Basically — it’s all about the system, man.

I’m joking, but also I’m not. Generally, when I’m trying to decide whether something is actually indie, I rotate through three questions:

  1. Is the team on the mainstream system’s payroll?

  2. Is the game or team owned by a platform holder?

  3. Do the artists have creative control?

The first question is about identifying where a studio’s money is coming from and what kind of support a game has outside of sales. If a team is wholly owned by another company of any size, it is not indie. We’re not talking about publishing deals; this opening question is about acquisitions or subsidiaries of bigger studios. Dave the Diver is a prime example here — it’s developed by Mintrocket, a subsidiary of Nexon that was created just to develop more contained, experimental games for the publisher. Dave the Diver is definitely not indie, and we’re only on question one.

The second query feeds into the first, and it’s helpful in making fine distinctions about games that exist in gray areas. What about something like Cyberpunk 2077? It’s a big-budget game built by CD Projekt RED (CDPR) — a studio that, at first glance, seems like it could be indie. However, there are two factors that take it out of the running for me. First, CD Projekt, the umbrella organization that supports CDPR’s game-making, is a publicly traded company with shareholders and a board to answer to. Second, CD Projekt is the owner of GOG, a distribution hub that allows the studio to sell its own games and DLC outside of Steam and the Epic Games Store. This ability to sell directly to players at massive scale takes CD Projekt out of the indie realm. Generally, companies with the most influence and money are console makers and platform holders like Valve, Xbox, PlayStation, Epic Games, Ubisoft, EA, and, yes, CD Projekt. They are the AAA system, and anything they own is not indie.

Dave the Diver

Lastly, on to publishers. Sorry, Keighley, but securing a publisher has very little to do with whether a game is indie nowadays. We’re blessed in 2023 to have a thriving indie industry constantly pushing against the AAA complex with different goals, more diverse voices and a broader sense of innovation — and publishing is a big part of this system. Today, indie-focused publishers (of which there are many) tend to include clauses that protect a developer’s creative vision, preventing the larger company from interfering with artistic decisions and keeping the game indie to the core. Once upon a time, it might’ve made sense to only consider self-published games indie, but that era is long gone.

The indie scene has evolved massively since the early 2010s, when games like Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez were carving out the market’s modern form. Back then, self-publishing was all the rage for independent developers because it was often their only option, and as a result there were more distinct lines between AAA, AA and indie games. Devolver Digital found its first breakout hit as an indie publisher with Hotline Miami in 2012, and that’s around the time the floodgates opened. In 2014, as the industry’s largest companies started funding and publishing programs for them, the number of indie games skyrocketed across platforms including Steam (remember Greenlight?), the App Store, Xbox, PlayStation and Ouya (RIP).

Today, indie games come standard on every console. There are multiple indie-focused publishers, including Devolver, Annapurna Interactive, Panic, Raw Fury, Team17 and Netflix, and most of them offer complete creative freedom as a main selling point. Meanwhile, platform holders like Sony and Xbox are hungry to sign distribution deals with developers of all sizes in an effort to score exclusives and pad their streaming libraries. It’s the most stable (and crowded) the indie scene has ever been. Having a publisher has no bearing on whether a game is indie.

Being owned by a publisher, however, changes everything (see question one). This is more of a concern than ever, as platform holders like Microsoft, Sony and Epic Games have recently been buying studios they like, no matter their size. Hell, even Devolver has dipped its toes in the acquisition pond recently — which, yeah, means those teams are no longer indie.

Dave the Diver

The “indie” label is transitory. Certain studios can be indie but an individual game may not be, and plenty of small companies flow between states as they age and take advantage of growth opportunities. Bungie, for example, started out as an independent outfit, then it was absorbed by the AAA complex under Xbox, and then it broke free and was briefly indie again, before Sony pulled it back into the mainstream system’s cold embrace.

So, yeah, that's my way of determining if a game or studio is indie. By all means, take my triplet of questions and have fun trying to break the logic — it probably won't take long. There is no perfect structure here and there are plenty of outliers within my own framework. Alan Wake II, according to my questions, would be considered an indie game — but its developer, Remedy Entertainment, is a publicly traded company, which brings shareholders and a board of directors. This pushes the studio and the game into The System for me, but honestly, I’m still unsure about those labels as I type this. That’s OK — when all else fails, look inside your game-loving soul and ask, can this team exist without my support? (Alan Wake II, for what it’s worth, is a delicious and unique experience that’s worth playing, regardless of your feelings on Remedy's shareholders).

Does Mintrocket need my support to keep Dave the Diver and its creative team going? Probably not, and definitely not in the same way as Larian Studios, the independent developer and publisher of Baldur’s Gate 3. Baldur’s Gate 3 is an excellent, expansive 3D adventure from an indie studio and it’s up for Game of the Year at The Game Awards, but it was snubbed in the Best Independent Game category. Meanwhile, Dave the Diver, a cute title backed by billions of dollars, is up for the indie award, but not Game of the Year. It seems like The Game Awards jury made the classic mistake of seeing pixel art and immediately calling it indie. That’s an unforced error, but it reveals one point where we can all agree:

Indie is not an aesthetic.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google’s new AI experiment composes abstract musical clips inspired by instruments

Google’s new generative AI experiment lets you create music “inspired by” over 100 instruments worldwide. Instrument Playground starts by asking for a simple prompt containing a musical instrument’s name, optionally preceded by an adjective like “upbeat,” “strange” or “gloomy.” It will then spit out a 20-second audio clip as a starting point to compose (often extremely offbeat or abstract) music that may or may not include the sound of the specific instrument you entered.

Simon Doury, an Artist in Residence at Google Arts & Culture Lab, designed the experiment. It taps into Google’s MusicLM, a text-to-AI tool it made available to the public in May.

Instrument Playground invites you to “choose one of over 100 instruments from around the world you’d like to play,” suggesting some lesser-known to Americans like the veena from India, dizi from China or mbria from Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, prefixing your instrument prompt with an adjective lets you suggest styles like “moody,” “happy” or “romantic.”

The experiment works less literally than you might expect. For example, “angry tuba” doesn’t generate the aggressive brass solo you’d expect. Instead, it sounds more like a synthesized pipe organ with tuba aspirations. Similarly, “strange didgeridoo” came out like an ominous section of a Hans Zimmer score. The results seem like abstract compositions with layers of sound that (sort of) capture the feeling — more than the specific sound — of the prompt.

It also rejects some adjectives for inexplicable reasons. When I enter “quirky” or “psychedelic,” an error pop-up tells me it doesn’t allow prompts referencing specific artists.

Once the experiment generates a clip you like for a starting point, you can choose from “Ambient,” “Beat” and “Pitch” to control different aspects of the composition, turning it into something more uniquely yours. If you want to add more instruments (or whatever sounds it makes in response to instrument-based prompts), an advanced mode opens a sequencer to layer and loop up to four tracks for your oddball musical masterpiece. Finally, you can download a .wav file of your track once you’re happy with it.

Google included the following holiday-themed example to inspire you to get started. If that looks like something you want to play with, you can visit Instrument Playground and log in with your Google account to begin composing.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

What did an iPhone camera do to this poor woman's arms?

A woman was photographed standing in front of two mirrors with an iPhone camera, but the actual photo shows three completely different arm positions. The arms are in different locations in mirror number one, mirror number two and in actual real life. Is it Photoshop? Is it a glitch in the Matrix? Did the woman take a 25-year trip inside of Twin Peak’s black lodge? No, it’s just a computational photography error, but it still makes for one heck of an image.

It all comes down to how modern smartphone cameras deal with photography. When you click that camera button, billions of computational operations occur in an instant, resulting in a photo you can post online in hopes of getting a few thumbs up. In this case, Apple’s software didn’t realize there was a mirror in the shot, so it treated each version of the subject as three different people. She was moving at the instant the photo was taken, so the algorithm stitched the photo together from multiple images. The end result? Well, you can see it above.

Smartphone camera software always pulls from many images at once, combining at will and adjusting for contrast, saturation, detail and lack of blur. In the vast majority of cases, this doesn’t present an issue. Once in a while, however, the software gets a tad bit confused. If it was three different people, instead of one with a mirror, each subject would have been properly represented.

This is something that can actually be recreated by just about anyone with an iPhone and some mirrors. As a matter of fact, there’s a TikTok trend in which folks do just that, making all kinds of silly photos and videos by leveraging the algorithm's difficulties when separating mirror images from actual people.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Meta's apps are still promoting child predation content, report finds

Meta is failing to stop vast networks of people using its platform to promote child abuse content, a new report in The Wall Street Journal says, citing numerous disturbing examples of child exploitation it uncovered on Facebook and Instagram. The report, which comes as Meta faces renewed pressure over its handling of children’s safety, has prompted fresh scrutiny from European Union regulators.

In the report, The Wall Street Journal detailed tests it conducted with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection showing how Meta’s recommendations can suggest Facebook Groups, Instagram hashtags and other accounts that are used to promote and share child exploitation material. According to their tests, Meta was slow to respond to reports about such content, and its own algorithms often made it easier for people to connect with abuse content and others interested in it.

For example, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection told the paper a “network of Instagram accounts with as many as 10 million followers each has continued to livestream videos of child sex abuse months after it was reported to the company." In another disturbing example, Meta initially declined to take action on a user report about a public-facing Facebook Group called “Incest.” The group was eventually taken down, along with other similar communities.

In a lengthy update on its website, Meta said that “predators are determined criminals who test app, website and platform defenses,” and that it had improved many of its internal systems to restrict “potentially suspicious adults.” The company said it had “expanded the existing list of child safety related terms, phrases and emojis for our systems to find” and had employed machine learning to uncover new search terms that could be potentially exploited by child predators.

The company said it’s using technology to identify “potentially suspicious adults” in order to prevent them from connecting with each other, including in Facebook Groups, and from seeing each other’s content in recommendations. Meta also told The Wall Street Journal it “has begun disabling individual accounts that score above a certain threshold of suspicious behavior.”

The social network is facing a growing backlash over its handling of child safety. The Wall Street Journal also recently reported that Instagram Reels recommendations are serving content aimed at people who “might have a prurient interest in children.” Dozens of states recently sued Meta for allegedly harming the mental health of its youngest users, and failing to keep children younger than 13 off its apps. Mark Zuckerberg will no doubt face intense questions about these allegations next month when he appears at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing focused on child safety online. His counterparts from TikTok, Snap, X and Discord are also slated to testify.

Meanwhile, Meta is also facing new pressure from regulators abroad. European Union officials are using a new law to probe the company’s handling of child abuse material, following The Journal’s report. The company has been given a December 22 deadline to turn over data to the bloc.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

A big Analogue Pocket restock is coming, but cart adapters are delayed again

The acclaimed Analogue Pocket multi-system portable handheld console is a bona fide hit. It’s so popular, in fact, that it's been sold out for weeks. Have no fear, would-be purchasers. Analogue just announced a major restock. The consoles will be available to buy on December 4 at 11AM ET. The company promises that these orders will arrive in time for the holidays.

This restock only applies to the original black and white designs, and not those nifty limited edition colors, most of which remain sold out. If you miss the window on December 4, the company is doing another restock on December 8 at 11AM ET, but those won’t ship until February.

Analogue also announced a new operating system for the console, set to arrive in the next few days. Analogue Pocket OS v.1.2 fixes a bunch of bugs, adds support for new controllers, updates the music-making app Nanoloop and allows for new openFGPA developer tools. That’s just the first update. Analogue Pocket OS v2.0 arrives before the end of the month and gives third-party developers access to the original display modes, like the iconic Game Boy aesthetic, among other features. These updates follow last year’s OS v1.1.

It’s not just the Pocket getting some love. The Analogue Duo is finally shipping on December 11, three years after the original announcement and over six months after pre-orders went live. The Duo is an all-in-one system that promises to play every TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine title, even Bonk’s Adventure, a game that gave me no end of stress in childhood for obvious name-related reasons. The Duo plays both cartridges and compact discs. It’ll even run games that originally required the Arcade RAM add-on included as part of the Japan-only SuperGrafx console. Again, Analogue promises deliveries by the holidays.

The company’s also selling a limited-edition white dock for the Pocket, which also goes on sale December 4. However, this freshly-hued dock is more expensive than the original black model, at $130 instead of $100.

It’s not all good news for fans of retro gaming. Analogue announced a delay for the Pocket Adapter Set until February. This set adds new consoles to the lineup, so the system will be able to play TurboGrafx-16 cartridges, Neo Geo Pocket Color cartridges and Atari Lynx carts.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Telegram now offers all users limited transcriptions of voice messages

Telegram has released a major update for its iOS and Android apps that includes an array of new and upgraded features. Since last year, Telegram Premium users have been able to get transcriptions of voice and video messages and now the platform is opening up that feature to everyone, albeit on a more limited basis. Free users will be able to convert two messages per week into text. Just hit the →A icon on a voice message and you'll get a text version of the memo. Telegram notes that it's rolling out this feature gradually, so you may not have access to it right away.

Elsewhere, Telegram is looking to improve channel discovery. Whenever you join a channel, you'll see a selection of similar public channels. Telegram is basing these recommendations on similarities in subscriber bases. You'll be able to view these recommendations at any time by going to a channel's profile.

A circular icon shows a group of friends looking down and waving at a camera lens. The image is overlaid on top of a windy beach in a mobile app. Text reading

You can now include a video comment or reaction with a story. You'll have the ability to resize this video message and move it around the screen. You can add a video message, a feature that takes a page out of the TikTok playbook, by holding down the camera icon in the story editor to capture a selfie clip. You can adjust the volume by holding a finger on the video track at the bottom of the screen.

Reposting someone else's story is now a cinch too. Just tap the share button on a story, then you'll have the option to repost it. Only stories that have their visibility set to public can be reposted. You can add a video comment to reposted stories too.

Elsewhere, Premium users can set up their profiles with unique color combos, everyone can apply custom wallpapers to each individual chat (Premium users can set the same wallpaper for both participants) and channel admins can customize the emoji that appear as reactions. In addition, any Telegram app can now detect a coding language in messages and highlight the syntax with proper formatting.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Researchers quantify the carbon footprint of generating AI images

Researchers at the AI startup Hugging Face collaborated with Carnegie Mellon University and discovered that generating an image using artificial intelligence, whether it's to create stock images or realistic ID photos, has a carbon footprint equivalent to charging a smartphone. However, researchers discern that generating text, whether it be to create a conversation with a chatbot or clean up an essay, requires much less energy than generating photos. The researchers quantify that AI-generated text takes up as much energy as charging a smartphone to only 16 percent of a full charge.

The study didn't just look into image and text generation by machine learning programs. The researchers examined a total of 13 tasks, ranging from summarization to text classification, and measured the amount of carbon dioxide produced per every 1000 grams. For the sake of keeping the study fair and the datasets diverse, the researchers said they ran the experiments on 88 different models using 30 datasets. For each task, the researchers ran 1,000 prompts while gathering the “carbon code” to measure both the energy consumed and the carbon emitted during an exchange.

Graph from study
Hugging Face/Carnegie Mellon

The findings highlight that the most energy-intensive tasks are those that ask an AI model to generate new content, whether it be text generation, summarization, image captioning, or image generation. Image generation ranked highest in the amount of emissions it produced and text classification was classified as the least energy-intensive task.

The researchers urge machine learning scientists and practitioners to “practice transparency regarding the nature and impacts of their models, to enable better understanding of their environmental impacts.” While the energy consumption associated with charging a smartphone per AI image generated may not seem dire, the volume of emissions can easily stack up when considering how popular and public AI models have become. Take ChatGPT for instance – the authors of the study point out that at its peak, OpenAI’s chatbot had upward of 10 million users per day and 100 million monthly active users today.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

All the best Cyber Monday deals that are still live on Amazon right now

Cyber Monday may have come and gone, but quite a few of the deals are still live. We're also seeing new discounts and bundles pop up that weren't previously listed. If you didn't get everything you need during the frenzy of Black Friday sales, you can still save on Amazon Echos, Dyson vacs, Google Nests and Sony headphones. Amazon has the most deals remaining at the moment, but other retailers, including Sonos, Wellbots, Target and Walmart, still have some worthy sale prices too. There's no telling how long these leftover savings will last, so you may not want to wait much longer to shop. Here are the best Cyber Monday tech deals you can still get today. 

Amazon Echo Dot

The Echo Dot is Amazon’s most popular smart speaker and for Cyber Monday, it's down to $23. That matches the all-time low it hit for the last two Prime Days. The Dot is one of our favorite smart speakers because it has surprising volume and audio quality for its size. It's also a dead simple way to get Aexa’s help around the house. It can set timers, tell you the weather and remind you about things on your to-do list. It’s also a great to control your other smart home devices like smart plugs.

Sony WH-1000XM5

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is down to $328 at Amazon and B&H. That's a $72 drop from the MSRP and matches the low price it went for on Black Friday. This is the top pick in our guide to the best wireless headphones, and it earned a review score of 95 from us last May. We like the powerful noise cancelation and the comfortable fit. You can get up to 30 hours of listening on a charge and the app lets you customize the EQ levels. It also has useful features like Speak-to-Chat that automatically pauses your music when you start speaking and location-based settings that can, for example, enable ambient mode when you're in the office. 

Echo Pop with a smart bulb

Amazon is bundling its smallest speaker, the Echo Pop, with a Sengled smart bulp. The set is down to $18, which is a 70 percent discount and matches the all-time low the bundle sold for on Black Friday. The colorful half-sphere is is a great candidate for a voice-operated smart home controller, and you can use it to operate the bulb just by speaking. Alexa can also tell you the weather and news, set reminders and even play some music, though the sound quality won't be as high as it would with a larger speaker. The bulb is an honorable mention in our guide to smart bulbs thanks to its easy, if slightly unpolished app, and the fact that it outputs millions of colors on any schedule you’d like.

Apple Watch Series 9

The new Apple Watch Series 9, which Apple lists at $399, is seeing a $70 discount that brings it to $329 after you clip the on-page coupon at Amazon. That's the same low price it hit for Black Friday, and an early discount for a wearable that debuted alongside the iPhone 15 only as far back as September. The big change this time around is a new SiP (system in package) chip that allows for a Double Tap feature that lets you tap your thumb and forefinger together to answer calls and more. It also allows for the onboard processing of Siri requests, making simple demands (like starting a timer or a workout) happen faster.

Google Pixel Buds Pro 

The Google Pixel Buds Pro earbuds are just $120 from Wellbots when you use the code ENGBUDS80 that's a savings of $80, which puts the buds just $3 more than their all-time low. We called these earbuds the company’s best effort to date in our official review, praising the deep and punchy bass, the useful touch controls, wireless charging options and more. And they're currently our top pick for Android users in our guide to the best wireless earbuds.

Sonos Roam

The portable and waterproof Sonos Roam is 25 percent off and down to $134, which is the same as it went for during Black Friday. It’s our top pick for a portable smart speaker. You can stick it anywhere inside or out and it’ll deliver tunes and help from Alexa or the Google Assistant to control other devices, answer questions or kick off playlists. It works on Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth to play from your phone when you’re away from home. And while the sound isn’t as big as larger speakers, it still packs a surprising amount of bass and emits distinct highs.

A few other Sonos speakers and bundles are still on sale too. That includes the Roam bundled with the Ray for $45 off. The Ray is one of the recommendations in our soundbar guide thanks to its easy setup, compact size and great sound quality.  

Blink doorbell and Outdoor camera bundle

Prime members who would like some extra eyes on their property may want to check out Amazon's bundle of two Blink Outdoor 4 smart security cameras with a Blink video doorbell. It's down to $100 for the set, which is an impressive $215 off the full price of the three items bought separately. We saw a similar deal back in September, but it was for an earlier generation of the Outdoor cameras. The new fourth-generation model has improved image quality, better low-light sensitivity and an expanded field of vision. They run on two AA batteries so you can mount them just about anywhere and can run up to two years on a set. Both the cameras and doorbells let you hear and speak with whoever is outside. And the included Sync Module 2 lets you store clips locally. 

Samsung Pro Plus microSD card

If you need a new microSD card for your Nintendo Switch, Steam Deck or GoPro, a trio of Samsung microSD cards we recommend are also down their lowest prices to date. The 128GB version of the Samsung Pro Plus is down to $11 at Amazon, B&H and others, while the 256GB and 512GB models are down to $18 and $32, respectively. The Pro Plus is the top overall pick in our microSD card buying guide, as it consistently ranked among the fastest cards we tested despite its relatively affordable price tag.

Amazon Echo Show 5

The Echo Show 5 is Amazon’s smallest smart display and was completely refreshed back in May of this year. The processor and audio quality were improved, but the device is largely the same, acting as a screen-enabled bedside alarm clock or a handy kitchen display for recipe videos and the like. It’s currently down to $40 which is $50 off and a discount it has hit twice in the past couple months.

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini

The smart plug we recommend for most homes is TP-Link's Kasa Smart Plug mini. A four-pack is on sale for $35 which is about $3 more than it sold for during Amazon's October Prime day sale, but still a decent $15 savings. Plugs like these are a simple way to add some smart capabilities to any home, letting you turn on lights with just your voice, set automated schedules and create routines triggered by other activities. These would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone you know who's curious about smart home connectivity but hasn't yet taken the plunge.

Logitech Litra Glow streaming light

Logitech's Litra Glow is our recommendation for a game streaming light and right now it's cheaper than it's ever been, thanks to an extra $10 coupon atop the 17 percent discount. The USB-powered light clips onto your monitor, near your webcam, to cast a soft glow without harsh shadows and helps you look better and more professional when you're on camera. It's highly adjustable too, giving you option for the brightness, warmth of the light, as well as the tilt and angle. 

TP-Link Deco EX75 Wi-Fi 6E mesh router

TP-Link’s Deco EX75 mesh router system with two beacons is down to $220, which is $80 off, but about $20 more than it went for on Cyber Monday. But if you missed the big sale, it's still a decent savings on our top pick for a Wi-Fi 6 mesh router system. The two-pack should cover up to 5,500 square feet with stable connectivity. When we tested the three-pack, we were impressed by how well the system balances power with user friendliness. Its network is reliable and fast, and its companion app is easy to use and clearly shows you things like all of the devices connected to your network, current speeds and more.

Google Nest Hub

Google's Nest Hub dropped to $50 for Cyber Monday, but has now gone back up to $60, which is still a 40 percent discount, at Target and Walmart. That's $20 higher than its all-time low. The Nest Hub is the top overall pick in our smart display buying guide, and we gave it a review score of 89 back in 2021. It has a 7-inch screen, so it's a bit bigger than the Echo Show 5 but should still be compact enough to fit neatly in a bedroom or small office. While it lacks a built-in camera, that may be a selling point for those who especially sensitive to their privacy (though no smart display is truly privacy-conscious). 

Bose Soundlink Flex

Bose’s SoundLink Flex dropped down to $119 for Black Friday and the deal is still live at Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and from Bose. The $119 price matches the low we saw for Amazon's Prime sale in October, though it’s gone as low at $110 elsewhere. We recommend this portable speaker in our guide for the sub-$200 category. It delivers a good amount of bass for its size and is IP67 rated to handle the elements and even a splash when you're by the pool or at the beach next summer.

Vitamix Explorian blender

The Vitamix E310 is on sale for $289 at Amazon, Target and directly from Vitamix, and while that’s not an all-time low, it’s still a $60 discount on a particularly powerful blender. It’s our favorite blender from our guide to kitchen tech because it goes beyond smoothie duty to create salsas, sauces, dips and even soups (which the blender can heat to steaming in the container due to shear friction). Anyone coming from a standard blender will be impressed with the way it renders even the hardest, chunkiest ingredients silky smooth.

Solo Stove Cyber Monday deals

Solo Stove’s Cyber Monday deals knocked up to $245 off fire pit bundles, up to $100 off fire pits by themselves and even more. And most of those deals are still live. One standout is the Ranger Backyard Bundle 2, which is $145 off and down to $320. It includes the company’s most compact fire pit along with its accompanying shield, stand, lid and shelter. Everything you’d need for an easy setup right out of the box is included in this bundle, and the 2.0-version of the Ranger includes a removable base plate and ash pan, both of which make the fire pit much easier to clean.

Audible Cyber Monday sale

A Cyber Monday deal on Amazon's audiobook subscription service brings a Premium Plus membership down to just $6 per month for the first four months — that's more than half off the typical $15-per-month cost of access. Audible's Premium Plus subscription comes with one credit every month to purchase a new or best-selling title. It's a great digital gift to get friends or family if you're not going to see them in person this holiday season.

ProtonVPN Cyber Monday deal

Our favorite VPN service, ProtonVPN, is having a rare sale for Cyber Monday that brings a monthly subscription down to only $4 for a total of 30 months. That means you’ll pay $120 for two and a half years of access, which is a pretty good deal. ProtonVPN passed our tests with high marks, but what made it stand out among other VPN security services was its independently audited no-logs policy, and the fact that the company has proven they don't comply with law enforcement requests to reveal data. If you want to jump in head-first with Proton services, the company has discounted Proton Unlimited, which includes access to VPN, Mail, Calendar, Drive and Pass, to just under $9 per month for the first year.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra

The latest flagship noise-cancelling headphones from Bose, the QuietComfort Ultra is seeing a $50 discount at Amazon, Walmart and Bose direct, among others. These headphones debuted last month and retail for $429 at full price. One of our concerns in our review was that higher MSRP, so this deal takes some of the sting out of the purchase. We found this pair to offer exceptional ANC, a comfortable fit and sound quality that has more bass plus "increased clarity and enhanced warmth" compared to previous generations of the QC cans.

Dyson Cyber Monday deals

Dyson deals include a $250 discount on the Dyson V15 Detect Absolute, bringing the cordless vacuum down to $500. It’s hard to tell if this is a record-low price, but considering the standard V15 Detect is going for between $650 and $750 across the internet, we consider this to be a good deal. In addition to its strong cleaning power, the V15 Detect has a laser-powered optic cleaner head that illuminates the floor before you as you’re cleaning so you can see dust and grime more clearly. It also has a piezo sensor, which sizes and counts dust particles as you clean and shows you that information on its LCD display.

iRobot Roomba 694

The Roomba 694 went on sale for $159 on Cyber Monday and the deal is still live today. It's our current favorite budget robot vacuum thanks to its strong suction power, easy to use mobile app and handy spot-clean function. It doesn't come with a clean base, but it has Wi-Fi connectivity and voice control with Alexa.

Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 robot vacuum

This Shark AI Ultra robot vacuum is on sale for $298, or half off its regular price. Shark makes some of our favorite robovacs, and this one has strong suction power, a self-cleaning brush roll and support for home mapping and voice control with Alexa and the Google Assistant. Shark's machines also stand out because their self-emptying bases, like the one included here, are bagless, so you don't have to constantly buy proprietary garbage bags to use with them.

PS5 + Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 bundle

If you or someone you love hasn’t gotten their hands on a PS5 yet, this bundle pairs the $500 console with the new (and critically acclaimed) Spider-Man 2 game for no extra cost. The PS5 remains one of the best gaming consoles you can get right now, and we found the open-world game to be even better than its predecessor in our review. In it, you can swap between playing as Peter Parker and Miles Morales, and it includes expanded combat mechanics.

Logitech G535

The Logitech G535 is another honorable mention in our gaming headsets guide, one that should specifically appeal to those who want a wireless option for less than $100. If that’s you, good news: It’s available for just under $80 at Amazon, B&H and Best Buy, which is about $25 off its usual street price. The G535’s noticeably light frame, relatively balanced sound and Bluetooth support all impress for the price; just note that it doesn’t work with Xbox, and that its mic sounds a bit thinner than the wired headsets highlighted above. Its battery life clocks in at 30 to 35 hours per charge, which is decent but not great.

Meta Quest 2 VR headset

The Meta Quest 2 VR headset is $50 off and down to $249 at several retailers. Despite the launch of the impressive Quest 3, we still consider the Quest 2 to be one of the best VR headsets available right now — precisely because of its more affordable price. It’s still the best way to jump into VR without spending a ton of money, and the Quest 2 has the perks of being completely cordless and comfortable to wear for long sessions. The hardware includes fast-switching LCDs with a smooth 90Hz refresh rate, and it comes with Meta’s sold motion controllers.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Our top recommendation in our streaming devices guide is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which is 40 percent off and down to $30 at Target and directly from Roku. That’s about $5 more than it was last Cyber Monday, but still a decent savings on a dongle that will turn any screen into a smart TV, complete with Roku's intuitive interface and its simple universal search function. The Roku Express 4K is on sale for $25. It has a shorter Wi-Fi range, lacks support for Dolby Vision and has a different format (a small set-top box instead of a stick that hides behind your TV) but is otherwise pretty similar for $5 less. 

Fire TV Stick 4K Max

The latest generation of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max was just announced in September during Amazon's Devices and Services event and it's now down to its lowest price yet, which is $40 and a 33 percent discount off the $60 list price. In addition to handling 4K video, it also supports Wi-Fi 6E and has a faster processor and bigger storage capacity compared to the previous generation. It'll also support Amazon's latest Fire TV feature, the Ambient Experience which displays art and shows widgets for weather, calendars, reminders and more when the TV is in standby. 

Apple MacBook Air M1

The older 13-inch MacBook Air that was released in 2020 and uses Apple’s M1 chip is on sale, with an entry-level config available for $750 if you click the on-page $99 coupon. We’ve seen this deal a handful of times over the last few months, but it matches the lowest price we’ve seen. It’s really worth stepping up to the M2 Air if you can: It’ll get you a more modern design, a faster chip, a sharper webcam and improved speakers. The 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD in this config is only suitable for casual use, and this model will almost certainly be discontinued when we get the inevitable M3 refresh. But if you’re on a stricter budget and really want a MacBook, the M1 Air is still well-built, long-lasting and fast enough for the essentials. We currently highlight it in our guide to the best budget laptops.

Samsung T9 SSD

The latest Samsung T9 portable SSD is on sale for $110 right now for a 1TB drive, which is the best price it’s been since it came out last month. You can snag this deal from Amazon or Samsung directly. The T9 is the newest iteration of Samsung’s popular portable drive that we’ve long been fans of, and it supports read and write speeds of up to 2,000 MB/s. It also has dynamic thermal guard to prevent overheating, plus it comes with a USB-C to C and USB-C to A cords so you can use it with a variety of devices.

Apple AirTag 

A four-pack of Apple AirTags is $79 right now at Amazon, thanks to a 19 percent discount. They go for $29 each at full price, so the deal will save you $9 a pop. AirTags are our top picks for Bluetooth trackers for iPhone users as they tap into Apple’s disturbingly vast FindMy network, using other Apple mobiles to find your lost stuff. 

Tile Mate

The Tile Mate Bluetooth tracker is one of our recommended affordable gifts and now it's more affordable at just $16.50 instead of $25 at Amazon. It will keep tabs on your keys or anything else it’s attached to, allowing you to ping and track items with your phone. It’s supported by the Tile 360 Life app, which is far smaller than Apple’s Find My network, but in our tests, it still managed to find our “lost” item in around ten minutes of being marked as lost.

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Apple's MacBook Pro M3 is on sale for $200 off

The just-released Apple MacBook Pro M3 is already on sale. You can snag the 14-inch model for $1,600 via Amazon. That’s a savings of $200, or 11 percent for the math fanatics out there. Not bad for a laptop that launched just three weeks ago.

Here are the pertinent specs. This model includes an 8-core CPU, a 10-core GPU and a 14.2-inch XDR display. You also get 8GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage. These are average, if not spectacular, metrics, aside from that bountiful terabyte of storage. You can snag it in silver or Apple’s proprietary Space Gray.

If the power and screen are a bit lacking, Amazon has another MacBook Pro M3 on sale. This one has a 16.2-inch screen, a 12-core CPU and an 18-core GPU. That’s a good amount of power. You also get 16GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage, with availability in black and gray. This model has been discounted to $2,300 from $2,500, another savings of $200.

These are Apple’s latest and greatest laptops. We admired the company’s newest MacBook in our official review, calling out the fast and efficient M3 chipset and the gorgeous display. The screen won’t beat a dedicated OLED, but it gets really close thanks to MiniLED backlights. We also liked the excellent keyboard and trackpad, and the overall form factor. These are, after all, MacBook Pros, the crown in Apple’s laptop lineup.

Remember, it’s near-impossible to make internal changes to these laptops once purchased, so check and double check on your likely RAM and storage requirements. The base model ships with just 8GB of RAM, which could slow you down in the long run.

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Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are back on sale for $328

Perplexing name aside, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is our favorite pair of wireless headphones for most people, and now the noise-canceling cans are back on sale for $328. This deal has popped up multiple times in the past year, most recently during the many Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales held over the course of November, but it still takes $72 off Sony's list price. While there've been a few steeper discounts since the headphones arrived in May 2022, we don't see them with much regularity. This offer is available at Amazon, Adorama and B&H; Sony also has it for $2 more.

Engadget Senior News Editor and audio expert Billy Steele gave the WH-1000XM5 a score of 95 in his review last year. This pair's active noise cancellation (ANC) is still among the better options we've tested, and its lightweight, well-constructed design should be comfortable for most to wear over extended periods. Battery life sits at a decent 30 or so hours per charge, the built-in mics are perfectly solid for phone calls and the whole thing can connect to two devices at once. The default sound profile emphasizes the bass, so it'll work best with hip-hop and pop music, though you can rein that in to something more neutral if you're willing to use the EQ tools in Sony's app. That app is home to a few other useful bonus features as well, including "Speak to Chat," which automatically pauses whatever you're playing when you start speaking.

The XM5 isn't without flaws: The design can't fold up (unlike the older Sony XM4s), and you can't manually adjust the strength of the ANC to the extent that you can on other pairs. Bose's QuietComfort Ultra delivers more powerful ANC on the whole, while Apple's AirPods Max can still offer more conveniences to iPhone owners. You can get better sound for the money, too. Taken as a complete package, however, the XM5 remains our top pick. 

If you want a pair of noise-canceling earphones, meanwhile, the Sony WF-1000XM5 has dropped back to $248. Again, that's a deal we've seen for much of the last month, but it matches the price we saw on Black Friday. The WF model tops our guide to the best wireless earbuds, as it provides most of the features noted above in an in-ear design that isolates a good chunk of outside noise even when the ANC isn't turned on.

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Sci-fi RTS sequel Homeworld 3 will arrive on March 8

The long-awaited sci-fi strategy sequel Homeworld 3 at last has a release date. It’s now slated to arrive on March 8. That’s another slight delay, given the February release window that developer Blackbird Interactive and publisher Gearbox were aiming for, but at least there’s now a concrete date. Those who pick up the Fleet Command edition, meanwhile, will get access 72 hours earlier.

In a short behind-the-scenes video, Blackbird CEO and co-founder Rob Cunningham said this was "really our original dream of Homeworld 2. The problem was, in the late '90s, early 2000s, the vision for Homeworld 3 was utterly impossible to make." Homeworld 2 debuted in 2003. Cunningham noted that Blackbird had to wait 20 years to achieve the kind of scale and scope it wanted.

The team has revealed a few more details about what's in store. Players will have a choice between the classic Homeworld control scheme or a more modern setup that should be familiar to fans of other real-time strategy games or MOBAs — you'll just need to click on an element in the environment to get there. There's also a focus on cover-based tactics. You can use a larger ship to protect yourself or even flank enemies.

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Inside the 'arms race' between YouTube and ad blockers

YouTube recently took dramatic action against anyone visiting its site with an ad blocker running — after a few pieces of content, it'll simply stop serving you videos. If you want to get past the wall, that ad blocker will (probably) need to be turned off; and if you want an ad-free experience, better cough up a couple bucks for a Premium subscription.

Although this is an aggressive move that seemingly left ad blocking companies scrambling to respond, it didn’t come out the blue — YouTube had been testing something similar for months. And even before this most recent clampdown, the Google-owned video service has been engaged in an ongoing conflict — a game of cat-and-mouse, an arms race, pick your metaphor — with ad-blocking software: YouTube rolls out new ways to serve ads to viewers with ad blockers, then ad blockers develop new strategies to circumvent those ad-serving measures.

As noted in a blog post by the ad- and tracker-blocking company Ghostery, YouTube employs a wide variety of techniques to circumvent ad blockers, such as embedding an ad in the video itself (so the ad blocker can’t distinguish between the two), or serving ads from the same domain as the video, fooling filters that have been set up to block ads served from third-party domains.

It’s not that YouTube is alone in these efforts; many digital publishers make similar attempts to stymie ad blockers. To some extent, YouTube’s moves just get more attention because the service is so popular. As AdGuard CTO Andrey Meshkov put it in an email, “Even when they run a test on a share of users… the number of affected people is very high.”

At the same time, according to Ghostery’s director of product and engineering Krzysztof Modras, it’s also true that “as one of the world’s largest publishers, YouTube constantly invests in circumventing ad blocking.” And that those investments have been effective. Many of the most common ad blocking strategies, including DNS filtering (filtering for third-party domains), network filtering (which Modras described as “more selective” and better at blocking first-party requests) and cosmetic filtering (which can blocks ads without leaving ad-shaped holes in the website content) no longer work on the site.

Now, Modras said, YouTube seems to be “adapting [its] methods more frequently than ever before. To counteract its changes to ad delivery and ad blocker detection, block lists have to be updated at minimum on a daily basis, and sometimes even more often. While all players in the space are innovating, some ad blockers are simply unable to keep up with these changes.”

Keeping pace with YouTube will likely become even more challenging next year, when Google’s Chrome browser adopts the Manifest V3 standard, which significantly limits what extensions are allowed to do. Modras said that under Manifest V3, whenever an ad blocker wants to update its blocklist — again, something they may need to do multiple times a day — it will have to release a full update and undergo a review “which can take anywhere between [a] few hours to even a few weeks.”

“Through Manifest V3, Google will close the door for innovation in the ad blocking landscape and introduce another layer of gatekeeping that will slow down how ad blockers can react to new ads and online tracking methods,” he said.

For many users, the battle between YouTube and ad blockers has largely been invisible, or at least ignorable, until now. The new wall dramatically changes this dynamic, forcing users to adapt their behavior if they want to access YouTube videos at all. Still, the ad blocking companies suggest it’s more of a policy change than a technical breakthrough — a sign of a new willingness on YouTube’s part to risk alienating its users.

“It's not that YouTube's move is something new, many publishers went [down] this road already,” Meshkov said. “The difference is [the] scale of YouTube.” That scale affects both the number of users impacted, as well as the number of resources required to maintain these defenses on the publisher's side. “Going this road is very, very expensive, it requires constant maintenance," he added, "you basically need a team dedicated to this. There's just a handful of companies that can afford it."

As ever, ad blockers are figuring out how to adapt, even if it’s requiring more effort from their users, too. For example, Modras noted that “throughout much of October, Ghostery experienced three to five times the typical number of both uninstalls and installs per day, as well as a 30 percent increase in downloads on Microsoft Edge, where our ad blocker was still working on YouTube for a period of time.” All of this activity suggests that users are quickly cycling through different products and strategies to get around YouTube’s anti-ad block efforts, then discarding them when they stop working.

Meanwhile, uBlock Origin still seems to work on YouTube. But a detailed Reddit post outlining how to avoid tripping the platform's ad-block detection measures notes that because “YouTube changes their detection scripts regularly,” users may still encounter the site’s pop-up warnings and anti-adblock wall in “brief periods of time" between script changes (on the platform's end) or filter updates (on uBlock's side.) uBlock Origin may also stop working on Chrome next year thanks to the aforementioned Manifest V3. And if you’re hoping to use it on a non-Chrome browser, Google has allegedly begun deprecating YouTube's load times on alternate browsers, seemingly as part of the anti-ad block effort. While 404 Media and Android Authority, which both reported on this issue, were not able to replicate these artificially slowed load times, users were seemingly able to avoid them through the use of a “user-agent switcher,” which disguises one browser (say, Firefox) as another (in this case, Chrome).

Why do some ad blockers still work? The answer seems to boil down to a new approach: Scriptlet injection, which uses scripts to alter website behavior in a more fine-grained way. For example, Meshkov said an ad blocker could write a scriptlet to remove a cookie with a given name, or to stop the execution of JavaScript on a web page when it tries to access a page property with a given name.

On YouTube, Modras said, scriptlets can alter the data being loaded before it’s used by the page script. For example, a scriptlet might look for specific data identifiers and remove them, making this approach “subtle enough” to block ads that have been mixed in with website functionality, without affecting the functionality.

Scriptlet injection also plays a role in an increasingly crucial part of the ad blocker’s job: escaping detection. AdGuard’s Meshkov said this is something that teams like his are already working on, since they try escape detection as a general rule — both by avoiding activity that would alert a website to their presence, and by using scriptlets to prevent common fingerprinting functions that websites use to detect ad blockers.

Scriptlet injection seems to be the most promising approach right now — in fact, Modras described it as currently “the only reliable way of ad blocking on YouTube.”

Meshkov said that assessment is accurate if you limit yourself to browser extensions (which is how most popular ad blockers are distributed). But he pointed to network-level ad blockers and alternative YouTube clients, such as NewPipe, as other approaches that can work. A recent AdGuard blog post outlined additional other steps that users can try, such as checking for filter updates, making sure multiple ad blockers aren't installed and using a desktop ad-blocking app, which should be harder to detect than an extension. (AdGuard itself offers both network-level blocking and desktop apps.)

At least one popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, won’t be trying to get around YouTube’s wall at all. Vergard Johnsen, chief product officer at AdBlock Plus developer eyeo, said he respects YouTube’s decision to start “a conversation” with users about how content gets monetized.

Referencing the now independently run Acceptable Ads program (which eyeo created and participates in), Johnsen said, “the vast majority of our users have really embraced the fact that there will be ads [...] we’ve made it clear we don’t believe in circumvention.”

Similarly, a YouTube spokesperson reiterated that the platform’s ads support “a diverse ecosystem of creators globally” and that “the use of ad blockers violate YouTube’s Terms of Service.”

As the battle between YouTube and ad blockers continues, Modras suggested that his side has at least one major advantage: They’re open source and can draw on knowledge from the broader community.

“Scriptlet injection is already getting more powerful, and it’s becoming harder for anti-ad blockers to detect,” he said. “In some ways, the current situation has spurred an arms race. YouTube has inadvertently improved ad blockers, as the new knowledge and techniques gained from innovating within the YouTube platform are also applicable to other ad and tracking systems.”

But even if most users grow frustrated with the new countermeasures and decide to whitelist YouTube in their ad block product of choice, Modras suggested that ad blockers can still affect the platform's bottom line: “If users disable ad blocking on only YouTube and maintain their protection on other websites as they browse, the platform will quickly learn that they are still unable to effectively target ads to these users,” since it won’t have data about user activity on those other sites.

Regardless of what YouTube does next, Meshkov suggested that other publishers are unlikely to build a similar wall, because few if any services enjoy the same chokehold on an entire media ecosystem — not only owning the most popular video sharing service, but also the most popular web browser on which to view it. "YouTube is in a unique position as it is de facto a monopoly," he said. "That's not true for most of the other publishers.”

Even against those odds, ad block diehards aren't dissuaded in their mission. As Meshkov put it bluntly: “YouTube’s policy is just a good motivation to do it better.”

Correction, December 1 2023, 10:09am ET: A quote in the penultimate paragraph was incorrectly attributed to Krzysztof Modras rather than Andrey Meshkov. This has been amended. 

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The Xbox Series X is down to just $349 right now

If you've been meaning to pick up an Xbox Series X but weren't able to grab one on Black Friday, good news: Walmart has a bundle that pairs the powerful console with a digital copy of the action-RPG Diablo IV on sale for $349. That's the largest discount we've tracked and a full $151 off the Series X's normal going rate. The game, meanwhile, normally goes for $70. This price also tops the best deals we've seen for the device over the past week; on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the bundle mostly sat at $440.

If the bundle runs out of stock — and given the extent of the discount, we expect it will fairly quickly — Walmart and Amazon also have the console alone on sale for the same $349. But again, you'll likely want to move fast to secure the deal.

As a refresher, the Series X is Microsoft's highest-end Xbox; it packs a stronger GPU and 6GB more RAM than the less expensive Series S, allowing it to play demanding games at higher frame rates and resolutions more consistently. It also comes with a disc drive and 1TB of storage as default. Microsoft has had some struggles producing first-party hits, but Xbox Game Pass remains one of the better values in gaming if you like to sample a wide range of titles, and the Xbox library is still home to plenty of games we like. Diablo IV isn't necessarily one of those, but it could still be worthwhile if you're in the mood for a "numbers go up" dungeon crawler. 

Hanging over every Xbox deal right now is a massive court document leak from September that included details of a potential Series X refresh, which could arrive sometime in 2024 and omit a disc drive altogether. Still, if you want to jump on the Xbox bandwagon today, the current Series X remains a strong value when it's discounted to this extent.

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The best audio interfaces in 2023

A good audio interface can make all the difference if you make music, podcast, stream or even just enjoy listening to any of those things. Your Mac or PC’s built-in sound will be just fine for most pedestrian tasks, but for creators it’s likely going to fall short of what you need for audio recording. But there's a wealth of audio recording options out there that are all tailored to a variety of specific needs and use cases. The only catch is that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to decide which is best for you.

We’ve cooked up this guide to help you in that respect, highlighting the best options whether you simply want to record a guitar, to find the best audio interface for vocals or go live to an audience of thousands (or to at least sound good while you work on that number). And don’t worry about being overwhelmed with recording studio jargon, we’ll focus on the task in hand over the kHz and decibels so that you know which is best for the results you want without feeling like you’ve just come out of a math class.

Best audio interfaces on a budget

Audio interfaces aren’t just for creators. Maybe you work from home and want to be able to use a high-quality XLR microphone for work calls. Or perhaps you prefer to have physical controls for your headphones and mic? Or maybe you just appreciate the superior audio quality from a dedicated device to the one that came with your PC. If so, you likely don’t need to spend too much money - here are three options that won’t break the bank.

M-Audio M-Track Solo

It’s certainly not the prettiest device on this list, but what the M-Track Solo ($49) lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in functionality for the price. If you’re just looking for something to plug a microphone or guitar into - or both at the same time - the M-Track Solo is hard to beat.

For beginners or would-be podcasters, there’s also the M-Track Duo ($70) which adds a second XLR microphone connection so you can invite guests over and record them on their own channel making editing a lot easier - and you won’t need to get intimate with them as you share a microphone. There’s not a lot in terms of frills here, like MIDI or effects, but for the price it’s a solid choice.

Presonos AudioBox iOne

Unlike other PC components, like graphics cards, digital sound has natural limits meaning that older devices can still be relevant today - and often at a better price. Presonos’ AudioBox iOne ($70) is one such example. It’s primarily intended for creators that work with music software, but it’s a great all-around audio interface with all the essential connectivity for a now-reduced price.

As a bonus, the AudioBox iOne works well with iPads, too - not a guarantee at this price point. Though some might find the headphone amplification on the low side, in case that’s a feature important to you.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

There’s a reason why Focusrite’s Scarlett series of interfaces appear on so many recommendation lists - including two spots on this one: They offer a great balance of performance, reliability and price. At around $130, the Solo is not the absolute cheapest you can find, but it will get you started in streaming, podcasting and beyond just fine. In fact, if you just want a port for an XLR mic, improved headphone amplification and easy connections for speakers, the Solo could be the only interface you ever need that won’t feel underpowered or even as your needs evolve.

Best audio interfaces for streamers

Four audio interfaces for streaming are pictured next to each other.
Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Perhaps not surprisingly, the streaming category is one of the busiest when it comes to audio interfaces. That’s partly because most Twitchers and YouTubers have several different audio feeds to manage in unison. As such, products in this category come with a software component that lets you pipe your microphone, your group chat and your game audio to different places. Thankfully, this isn’t as confusing as it sounds - not with one of the following devices at least.

Roland Bridge Cast

Roland might be best known for its musical equipment, but the company does a sideline in streaming gear and the Bridge Cast ($299) is one of the strongest in this category. There are four hardware volume dials so you can adjust the mix of your mic, chat and game etc. in real time, and you can even control separate “submixes” for you and your audience in real time.

On top of the mix controls, there are some voice effects, microphone EQ and dedicated mute buttons for everything - these can also be used to trigger samples, too. With the option to pipe in phone audio via an aux port, Roland has made a strong case for the Bridge Cast as the streamer’s interface of choice.

TC Helicon GoXLR Mini

The original GoXLR was one of the first audio interfaces that really focused on what streamers wanted. The Mini was released a year later and was a hit in its own right, and remains popular today, long after its initial release. The physical faders give you tactile control over each part of your stream and the connectivity includes a 3.5mm microphone port next to the headphone port - perfect for gaming headsets that use a splitter.

Additional touches include a !@#$?* button to spare your audience when you get a bit spicy with your language and an optical port so your game console audio sounds pristine. Of course, there’s RGB lighting on the faders which is almost as important as the connectivity, right?

Elgato Wave XLR

If you don’t have the budget or, let’s face it, the desk space for a full-sized mixer to control your streams, Elgato’s Wave XLR is the minimalist’s choice. Not only is it discreet, it manages to eke out a lot of functionality from just one clickable knob and a capacitive mute button.

Despite the simplicity, the Wave XLR still delivers crisp, clear audio. Where it really comes into its own, though, is its modular integration with other Elgato products. When used in concert with the Stream Deck and the Wave Link app, for example, the experience opens up to include the ability to run audio plugins and create custom shortcuts to control the audio on your stream.

Beacn Mix Create

If you already have an audio interface you’re happy with but want the convenience of a mixer for your streams then the Mix Create by Beacn is exactly that. The lightweight USB mixer comes with a screen, but the brains of the operation is the software that creates separate audio feeds for your mic, game, browser and so on.

For streamers, it means hands on controls and the flexibility of a submix (i.e. the mix you hear and the mix listeners here can be different). Not only is this an elegant solution for those who already have a hardware interface, it means you can enjoy dedicated volume controls for things like YouTube and Spotify when you’re not going live.

Best audio interfaces for musicians

Whether you pluck strings or drop DJ-bombs, you’re going to want pro tools that provide you all the right ports while delivering rich, bit-perfect sound for your home studio. Unlike streamers that will want to be able to work with audio from a variety of digital sources, musicians and songwriters also want to record (and listen to) physical instruments in real time - so all of our selections have a focus on clean sound quality with good connectivity.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite’s second showing on this list is a little red box that, once you’re aware of it, you’ll start seeing everywhere from live streams to YouTube guitar tutorials. The popularity of the Scarlett audio interface is for more than its dashing red looks. The preamps - the part that turns your voice or instruments into usable sound – are widely regarded as some of the cleanest for music production at this price range.

With two combi-ports (there’s no MIDI here) the connectivity is fairly standard, but guitarists, singers and voice actors in particular will appreciate the “Air” feature that gently adds a sense of space to vocals - a trademark of Focusrite products.

Universal Audio Volt 276

When Engadget’s Managing Editor, Terrence O’Brien, reviewed the Volt 2/76 from Universal Audio he described it as “bringing something special to the table.” It’s a reference to the built-in compressor that emulates the company’s classic 1176 Limiting Amplifier hardware. All you need to know is it’s another tool to make your instrument or vocals sit better in the mix.

In a world awash with generic audio interfaces, genuinely useful features like this are what makes the Volt series stand out. Alongside the compressor, the Volt 276 has a pair of 5-pin MIDI connector ports and a button for “vintage” mode. The latter emulates the company’s popular Audio 610 preamp which, according to Universal Audio, was used by Van Halen and Ray Charles. Not bad company to be keeping! At $299, it’s a little on the spendier side, but it's a comprehensive choice for anyone who works with instruments, vocals and outboard MIDI gear.


If you need more connectivity than the standard 2 or 4 inputs, MOTU’s M6 has you covered. As the name suggests, there are up to six instrument inputs - four of which can be microphones - and a pair of 5-pin MIDI ports for synths. The M6 can even output CV signals to control even older music gear. The M6 also has dedicated buttons on each input channel for phantom power (for condenser microphones) and real-time headphone monitoring. If all that flexibility wasn’t enough, a small display for volume levels means you have a quick visual reference to make sure you keep your precious recordings out of the red.

Best for audio interfaces for podcasters

Whether you’re operating from a sound-treated studio or recording under a duvet in the back office, most podcasters have a few needs in common. First and foremost is the option to connect more than one high quality microphone. Second would be the ability to record remote guests easily whether they are using Zoom or calling in on a phone - which requires something called “mix minus” and isn’t a standard feature on most interfaces.

Lastly, many shows will want to be able to play music or audio from other sources in real time. All of the picks in this section exceed those basic compatibility requirements, which one is best for you will be determined by budget or specific needs.

Focusrite Vocaster Two

From the same company as the acclaimed Scarlett series, the Vocaster Two takes all the audio knowledge from its sister series and packages it into a more podcast-friendly format. Not only are there dual XLR mic or line inputs, there are two headphone ports, each with their own volume control so you and a live guest can podcast together in the same room.

Thanks to both a 3.5mm and Bluetooth inputs you have multiple options for including “call in guests”. There’s even a 3.5mm output for those who want to make a video-version of their podcast for YouTube - simply plug the Vocaster right into your camera for perfect audio as you record it. What’s more, the “auto gain” and “enhance” features will make sure you and your local guest will sound tippity top without having to apply any external effects.

Rodecaster Pro II

If you see yourself taking your podcasting to the next level, then the Rodecaster Pro II from Rode is hard to ignore. With four XLR combi ports, it’s perfect for multi-guest in-person shows, especially as it has physical faders for each channel along with easily accessible mute and solo buttons.

The Rodecasater Pro II also includes both a 3.5mm/aux port and Bluetooth for plugging in a phone plus dual USB ports that make it easy to feed in audio, like a Zoom call, from a PC or a tablet. Each microphone port has a wealth of effects available to enhance the audio, and the eight rubber pads let you fire off sound effects and intro/outro music at will. The pads can also trigger automated actions like musical fade-ins. In short, the Rodecaster II is quite a powerhouse, but obviously a fair amount more expensive than most interfaces on this list.

Best audio interfaces for music

What we call an audio interface today, we might well have once called a “sound card.” While today’s interfaces also serve up a host of connectivity options, the thing we need them for the most is often just good old fashioned listening to music. While everything on this list will reproduce music to a high standard, Hi-Fi heads might prefer something that will let them interface with more exotic audio formats, audio gear and high-end headphones.

Fiio K7

With phono, coaxial, optical and USB inputs, the K7 from Fiio is able to handle music and audio from almost any high fidelity source. Most traditional audio interfaces support playback of up to 48 kHz, the K7 can handle files all the way up to 384 kHz at 32-bit - perfect for the demanding audiophile.

On the front you’ll find two inputs: a 1/4" jack and a 4.4mm balanced headphone port along with a big ol’ volume dial.While its Hi-Fi aesthetic might not be the most razzle-dazzle, it does have an RGB LED around the dial to give it a pop of color (it also changes color depending on the “quality” of your audio source).

Fiio Q7

Don’t let the unusual design fool you, the Q7 from Fiio is an absolute audio powerhouse. It has the same digital inputs as the K7 but supports files with up to twice the maximum sampling rate (for those who absolutely must have 768kHz/32bit support).

More practically the Q7 can decode Tidal’s top-tier MQA files and there’s Bluetooth for connecting to your phone along with a built-in battery, too making this a portable high-end audio experience that won’t drain your laptop. Naturally, for the music listener that wants it all, there are jacks for every size of headphone, including 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced sets.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Morning After: NASA and IBM team up for powerful AI weather model

NASA and IBM are building an AI model for weather and climate applications, combining their knowledge and skills in earth science and AI. They say the foundation model (more on that in a bit) should offer “significant advantages over existing technology.” Current AI models, such as GraphCast and FourCastNet, are already generating weather forecasts more quickly than traditional meteorological models. As IBM notes, those are AI emulators rather than foundation models. AI emulators can make weather predictions based on sets of training data, but they don’t have applications beyond that.

The model may predict meteorological phenomena better, inferring high-res information based on low-res data and “identifying conditions conducive to everything from airplane turbulence to wildfires.”

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

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Bipartisan Senate bill would kill the TSA’s Big Brother airport facial recognition

The best Android phones

Tesla’s long-awaited Cybertruck will start at $60,990 before rebates​​

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Evernote officially limits free users to 50 notes and one measly notebook

‘We recognize these changes may lead you to reconsider your relationship with Evernote.’


Evernote’s new, tightly leashed plan will restrict new and current accounts to 50 notes and one notebook. Existing free customers who exceed those limits can still use their notes, but they’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to create new ones. Evernote’s premium plans include a $15 monthly Personal plan with 10GB of monthly uploads. That’s a pricey subscription for what is dedicated note cloud storage. When Evernote’s parent company, Bending Spoons, moved its operations from the US and Chile to Europe, it said the app had been “unprofitable for years.” That push into socks didn’t work.

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The US government halts Meta briefings on foreign influence campaigns

Officials have “paused” tips to Meta.

Meta says the government “paused” in July briefings related to foreign election interference, eliminating a key source of information for the company. During a call with reporters, Meta’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, declined to speculate on the government’s motivations, but the timing lines up with a court order earlier this year that restricted the Biden Administration’s contact with social media firms.

The disclosure comes as the company ramps up its efforts to prepare for multiple elections in 2024, and the inevitable attempts to manipulate political conversations on Facebook. The company said in its latest report on CIB that China is now the third-most common source of coordinated inauthentic behavior on its platform, behind Russia and Iran.

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Google Messages now lets you choose your own chat bubble colors

But this has nothing to do with messaging iPhones and all that drama.

Google is rolling out a string of updates for the Messages app, including customizable text bubbles and background colors. So, if you really want, you can have blue bubbles in your Android messaging app. You can even have a different color for each chat, which could help prevent you from telling the wrong thing to the wrong person. But none of this means nothing to iPhone users and has nothing to do with the prolonged toing and froing on text message compatibility.

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How OpenAI’s ChatGPT has changed the world in just a year

The generative AI chatbot has helped kickstart a multibillion-dollar industry.

SOPA Images via Getty Images

ChatGPT exploded in popularity, from niche online curio to 100 million monthly active users — the fastest user base growth in the history of the internet. In less than a year, it has earned the backing of Silicon Valley’s biggest firms, as well as being shoehorned into myriad applications from academia and the arts to marketing, medicine, gaming and government. ChatGPT is just about everywhere. Engadget’s Andrew Tarantola looks at the blazing first year of OpenAI’s chatbot.

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Prime members can buy a Blink Video Doorbell and two Outdoor Cameras for $100

If you recently moved into a new place or are just looking to update your home's security, now's a good time to do so. Though Black Friday has come and gone, Blink's video doorbell and two fourth-generation outdoor smart security cameras bundle is currently on sale for $100 (the devices add up to $315 if bought separately). There's a small catch, though: the deal is only available to Prime members. 

While Prime members had access to a similar deal back in September, this time around, the two Blink outdoor cameras included are the fourth-generation model. The cameras offer better image quality and low-light sensitivity. They also have an expanded field of vision, 143 degrees compared to their predecessor's 110 degrees. The cameras should function for two years before the battery needs replacing. The bundle includes six double AA lithium batteries, along with one Sync Module 2, one USB cable, three mounting kits and a power adapter. 

Blink's outdoor camera and video doorbell both allow you to hear and speak with whoever is outside. You can also use the doorbell wirelessly by setting up in-app chimes or with a Blink Mini indoor camera. Otherwise, you can choose to hook it up to your existing system. You can store any clips from these devices in the cloud with a 30-day trial of the Blink Subscription Plan included. After that, Blink Plus will cost you $100 annually. 

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Huawei is allegedly building a self-sufficient chip network using state investment fund

We've seen Huawei's surprising strides with its recent smartphones — especially the in-house 7nm 5G processor within, but apparently the company has been working on something far more significant to bypass the US import ban. According to a new Bloomberg investigation, a Shenzhen city government investment fund created in 2019 has been helping Huawei build "a self-sufficient chip network." 

Such a network would give the tech giant access to enterprises — most notably, the three subsidiaries under a firm called SiCarrier — that are key to developing lithography machines. Lithography, especially the high-end extreme ultraviolet flavor, would usually have to be imported into China, but it's currently restricted by US, Netherlands and Japan sanctions. Huawei apparently went as far as transferring "about a dozen patents to SiCarrier," as well as letting SiCarrier's elite engineers work directly on its sites, which suggests the two firms have a close symbiotic relationship.

Bloomberg's source claims that Huawei has hired several former employees of Dutch lithography specialist, ASML, to work on this breakthrough. The result so far is allegedly the 7nm HiSilicon Kirin 9000S processor fabricated locally by SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation), which is said to be about five years behind the leading competition (say, Apple Silicon's 3nm process) — as opposed to an eight-year gap intended by the Biden administration's export ban.

Huawei's Mate 60, Mate 60 Pro, Mate 60 Pro+ and Mate X5 foldable all feature this HiSilicon chip, as well as other Chinese components like display panels (BOE), camera modules (OFILM) and batteries (Sunwoda). Huawei having its own network of local enterprises would eventually allow it to rely less on imported components, and potentially even become the halo of the Chinese chip industry — especially in the age of electric vehicles and AI, where more chips are needed than ever (as much as NVIDIA would like to deal with China). That said, Huawei apparently denied that it had been receiving government help to achieve this goal.

Given Huawei's seeming progress, and the fact that China has been pumping billions into its chip industry, the US government will just have to try harder.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TikTok ban in Montana blocked by US judge over free speech rights

Montana's unprecedented state-wide ban of Chinese short-video app, TikTok, was supposed to take effect on January 1, 2024, but as reported by Reuters, US District Judge Donald Molloy issued a preliminary injunction just one month ahead to block said ban. This means that for now, ByteDance and app stores are allowed to continue serving TikTok to users within the Montana state, without being fined $10,000 daily from the start date of the ban.

The judge was quoted saying the ban "oversteps state power and infringes on the constitutional rights of users" — echoing the legal challenge filed by five TikTok creators on the day after the bill was signed back in May, as well as another lawsuit filed by the platform's owner, ByteDance, later on in the same month. It was also questionable as to whether Google and Apple could have effectively enforced such a state-wide ban on their app stores.  

The relevant bill was originally drafted based on claims that this Chinese app would share US users' personal data with the Chinese government, to which ByteDance had long denied since the presidency of Donald Trump. "TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access," the company claimed back in August 2020 — and again via a new "transparency" push earlier this year, with reference to "Project Texas" for safeguarding US user data with help from Oracle. 

To date, no other US state had passed a bill to bar TikTok. The outcome of Montana's case may hold the key to this Chinese app's fate across the rest of the country.

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Tesla's Cybertruck is a dystopian, masturbatory fantasy

It’s been four years since Tesla first announced the Cybertruck, a hideously ugly electric pickup truck that didn’t seem to actually improve on EVs or pickups in any meaningful way. Instead, the 6,600-pound mass of “stainless super steel” seems to be more the culmination of one man's bizarre fantasy, and that man just so happened to own an entire company he could leverage to birth that fantasy, with all its sharp angles and unnecessary lighting bars, into reality.

Today, Tesla finally delivered the first, long-delayed production Cybertrucks to 10 buyers in a livestream on CEO Elon Musk’s decimated X platform, the first of an unknown number of wealthy consumers who have bought into his grim vision of the future. It's a car that promises — for only those who can afford them — a blank check for vehicular manslaughter and unnecessary survivability from semi-automatic firearms. Its tagline ("more utility than a truck, faster than a sports car") speaks almost poetically to two distinct but orthogonal archetypes of threatened masculinity: the tacti-cool milspec dork, and the showboating rich guy.

A “bulletproof” body has been a key feature since the Cybertruck's introduction in 2019; today Musk admitted it was there for no good reason. “Why did you make it bulletproof?” Musk said. “Why not?” he said with a broad grin, before metaphorically waving his genitals at the cheering crowd, while also promising metaphorically larger genitals to anyone who buys the Cybertruck. “How tough is your truck?” Musk smirked.

This admission came alongside video footage of a Cybertruck being sprayed with rounds from a .45 caliber tommy gun, a Glock 9mm and a MP5-SD submachine gun, which also uses 9mm rounds. We'd ask Tesla what cartridges they were firing and if they were being shot from within the effective range of any of these weapons, but the company dissolved its PR team in 2019.

It was a stupid but expected bit of showboating from Musk during his rambling presentation. Right before the gunfire demo, Musk touted the truck’s overall toughness, noting that its low center of gravity made it extremely difficult to flip in an accident. A video also showed the Cybertruck barely moving after a much smaller vehicle moving at 38 mph collided with it. To that, Musk commented that “if you’re ever in an argument with another car, you will win,” glibly encouraging Cybertruck owners to engage in such "arguments."

In a country where both traffic fatalities and gun violence have surged in recent years, it’s a little galling to see Musk promoting his vehicle as some sort of tool for rich people to survive the apocalypse, or even just the inconveniences of a world where their lessers occupy space at all. (All-wheel drive Cybertrucks start at about $80,000; a $60,000 RWD model is supposedly arriving in 2025.) “Sometimes you get these late civilization vibes, the apocalypse could come along at any moment, and here at Tesla we have the finest apocalypse technology,” Musk mused.

Beyond that is the simple fact that SUVs and trucks have gotten dramatically bigger and heavier in the past decade or so. EVs naturally weigh more because of their batteries, but auto manufacturers have been making the fronts of cars larger and taller in recent years, too. That’s a combo that makes these vehicles more dangerous for pedestrians and other drivers alike.

“Whatever their nose shape, pickups, SUVs and vans with a hood height greater than 40 inches are about 45 percent more likely to cause fatalities in pedestrian crashes than cars and other vehicles with a hood height of 30 inches or less and a sloping profile,” research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states. It also noted that pedestrian crash deaths have risen 80 percent since a low in 2009. Anyone who walks or bikes around a city has probably felt that danger before, and it’s even more startling when the wall of a truck stops short when you’re crossing the street. Finally, it’s well known that the speed of a car dramatically impacts the survivability of a pedestrian, which isn’t great when an extremely heavy car also can do 0-60 in less than three seconds.

Now that the Cybertruck is nearly ready for public consumption, it looks like Musk has basically built a vehicle that, for a steep price, enables the worst impulses of US drivers and gives them the “freedom” to do whatever they want. It doesn’t matter if the Cybertruck’s lightbar headlights blind the drivers of smaller vehicles; they should get the hell out of the left lane. And if someone else on the road pisses off a Cybertruck driver, who cares? Other drivers should just accept that they’re about to lose a very expensive and potentially life-threatening “argument” with the Cybertruck’s front fender.

This all should have been obvious right from the start. From day one, the Cybertruck has alluded to a cyberpunk future, a genre with cool haircuts and hacking and slightly problematic orientalism, yes — but also one where wealth inequality is even worse than it currently is, and the rules don’t apply to those with money. The implicit promise of the Cybertruck has always been a vehicle that waives societal standards for people who can afford it, and today’s spectacle made that explicit. To that end, maybe this marketing is as much genius as it is nonsense.

“If Al Capone showed up with a Tommy gun and emptied the entire magazine into the car door, you’d still be alive,” Musk crowed at one point, either promising to revive the dead or oblivious to the terrifying number of human beings who use guns to commit acts of violence. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a world where being swiss cheesed by lethal armaments is something I need to consider when I’m buying a car. Maybe the rich survivalists playing out Blade Runner meets Mad Max in their Cybertrucks haven't considered that when everything burns down, the power grid will go down too.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla's long-awaited Cybertruck will start at $60,990 before rebates

After years of production delays, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to a dimly lit stage on Thursday to hand-deliver the first batch of Cybertruck EVs to their new owners during a delivery event held at the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin, Texas. The company has also finally announced pricing for the luxury electric truck. Prospective buyers can expect to pay anywhere from $60,990 to $100,000 MSRP (and potentially $11,000 less after rebates and tax credits). The company has launched an online configurator tool for those interested in placing an order of their own.

Tesla also officially revealed the vehicle's performance specs and model options at the event. The Cybertruck's entry-level version is the $60,990 single-motor rear-wheel drive ($49,890 after "incentives" and an "estimated 3-year gas savings," per the configurator). It will offer an estimated 250 miles of range and a pokey 6.5 second zero-to-60. Who knew steel sheeting would be so heavy? It won't be released until the 2025 model year. 

The mid-level model is the $79,990 all-wheel drive version and sports e-motors on each axle. It weighs just over 6,600 pounds — 1,900 less than the Rivian R1S and nearly 2,500 less than the Hummer EV. "If you are ever in an argument with another car, you will win," Musk said Thursday.

The AWD will offer 340 miles of range, a more respectable 4.1-second zero-to-60 and 600 HP with 7435 lb-ft of torque. Its 11,000-pound towing capacity is a touch more than the Ford Lighting XLT's 10,000-pound maximum, but less than the 14,000-pound figure Musk quoted in 2019.

For $99,990, you can buy the top of the line Cyberbeast — yes, you will have to refer to it as that in public. The Cyberbeast comes equipped with a trio of e-motors that will provide AWD handling, a 320-mile range, 2.6-second sero-to-60, a 130 MPH top speed, 845 horses and 10,296 lb-ft of torque. Despite those impressive specs, the Cyberbeast is stuck with the same 11,000 pound tow limit as the base model. 

Both the Cyberbeast and the AWD iteration will be able to carry 121 cubic feet of cargo and accommodate five adult passengers. The Cybertruck line is compatible with Tesla's supercharger network and can accept up to 250kW maximum, enough to add 128 miles of range for every 15 minutes of charge time. The AWD and Cyberbeast are both currently available to order on Tesla's website, though prospective buyers will need to put down a fully-refundable $250 deposit upon ordering. 

The prices stated Thursday are significantly higher than the $50,000 price range Musk had long said the vehicle would retail for. For comparison, the Ford F-150 Lightning currently starts at $52,000. Rivian's R1S is more in line with the Cybertruck, retailing for $79,500 after its automaker raised prices from $67,500 last year.

Thursday's event comes after four years of development work that has been the subject of both intense scrutiny and promotion, often simultaneously. For example, when Musk first revealed the Cybertruck design in November 2019, he famously had an assistant throw baseballs at the vehicle's "Tesla Armor Glass" windows, which promptly broke from the impact. That snafu clearly got under Musk's skin as he made time during Thursday's Cybertruck delivery event to recreate the stunt, this time, with what appeared to be less-damaging softballs. No windows came to harm during the event. 

The window smash test wasn't the only comparative stunt of the day. Musk dusted off two classics from the 2019 reveal event: a drag race with a Porsche 911 (this time with the Cybertruck hauling a second Porsche), and a towing contest between the Cybertruck and various other light and medium-duty EV and ICE pickups. Wholly unsurprisingly, Tesla's vehicle managed to easily outmatch all of its competitors in each of the tests put on by Tesla.

The Cybertruck has also been the focus of intense marketing efforts by the company with myriad consumer product tie-ins. Tesla promised an electric ATV that would be ready at the truck's launch and was reportedly also considering an electric dirt bike as well. Those did not materialize. Tesla's RC Cybertruck, produced in partnership with Hot Wheels, did make it to market for a cool $400. Hot Wheels followed that up with a far more affordable $100 RV Cyberquad. The company even released a kid-sized Cyberquad, though the rideable toys were swiftly recalled for lacking basic safety features

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple patches two security vulnerabilities on iPhone, iPad and Mac

Apple pushed updates to iOS, iPadOS and macOS software today to patch two zero-day security vulnerabilities. The company suggested the bugs had been actively deployed in the wild. “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been exploited against versions of iOS before iOS 16.7.1,” the company wrote about both flaws in its security reports. Software updates plugging the holes are now available for the iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Researcher Clément Lecigne of Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) is credited with discovering and reporting both exploits. As Bleeping Computer notes, the team at Google TAG often finds and exposes zero-day bugs against high-risk individuals, like politicians, journalists and dissidents. Apple didn’t reveal specifics about the nature of any attacks using the flaws.

The two security flaws affected WebKit, Apple’s open-source browser framework powering Safari. In Apple’s description of the first bug, it said, “Processing web content may disclose sensitive information.” In the second, it wrote, “Processing web content may lead to arbitrary code execution.”

The security patches cover the “iPhone XS and later, iPad Pro 12.9-inch 2nd generation and later, iPad Pro 10.5-inch, iPad Pro 11-inch 1st generation and later, iPad Air 3rd generation and later, iPad 6th generation and later, and iPad mini 5th generation and later.”

The odds your devices were affected by either of these are extremely minimal, so there’s no need to panic — but, to be safe, it would be wise to update your Apple gear now. You can update your iPhone or iPad immediately by heading to Settings > General > Software Update and tapping the prompt to initiate it. On Mac, go to System Settings > General > Software Update and do the same. Apple’s fixes arrived today in iOS 17.1.2, iPadOS 17.1.2 and macOS Sonoma 14.1.2. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

TikTok's new profile tools are just for musicians

TikTok has introduced the Artist Account, which offers up-and-coming musicians new ways to curate their profiles in ways that boost discoverability. The new suite of tools are not just meant for rising stars: established pop icons can also add an artist tag to their profiles, giving their music its own tab next to their videos, likes and reposted content.

To be eligible for an artist tag, TikTok says you will need at least four sounds or songs uploaded to the app. Artists can also pin one of their tunes so it appears first in the music tab. If a musician drops new content, the app will tag songs as ‘new’ for up to 14 days before and up to 30 days after it goes live. Any new tracks will automatically be added to a profile’s music tab.

TikTok says over 70,000 artists are already using the new tools. The app has proven to be a breeding ground for content to go viral for new artists and established music makers alike thanks to the lightning speed of dance and lifestyle video trends. TikTok’s impact on the music industry has been so massive that even streamers like Spotify have looked into experimenting with video-first music discovery feeds.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Steam’s streaming software now lets you wirelessly play PC VR games on Quest headsets

One of the key selling points of Meta Quest VR headsets is that they can play PC VR titles, but you have to be physically connected via a link cable to the PC. There are some third-party workarounds that allow for wireless game streaming, like Virtual Desktop, but now Steam has unveiled an official solution.

Steam Link is a tool available for Meta Quest 2, 3 and Pro that wirelessly streams PC VR games from your Steam library directly to the headset, so you can continue to avoid cables like the plague. The free app already exists, but has been used to stream Steam games onto phones, tablets and TVs. This is the first time it’s available for VR titles.

There’s one major caveat. Just like Virtual Desktop, you still need a capable PC that can run high-end VR games. You just won’t need the link cable. It’s possible this service can work via cloud computing platforms, but the results are likely to be janky at best. Steam outlines recommended PC specs, suggesting the NVIDIA GTX970 GPU or better, 16GB of RAM and Windows 10 or newer.

Beyond the PC, you also need a 5GHz WiFi router with both the headset and the computer connected to the same network. You can download the Steam Link app directly from the Quest store to get started. This may not be the biggest deal in the world to folks who already use Virtual Desktop, but anything that gets more people into Half Life: Alyx is a good thing.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Call of Duty games start landing on NVIDIA GeForce Now

One of the major concessions Microsoft made to regulators to get its blockbuster acquisition of Activision Blizzard over the line was agreeing to let users of third-party cloud services stream Xbox-owned games. Starting today, you can play three Call of Duty games via NVIDIA GeForce Now: Modern Warfare 3, Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone.

They're the first Activision games to land on GeForce Now since Microsoft closed the $68.7 billion Activision deal in October. Activision Blizzard games were previously available on GeForce Now but only briefly, as the publisher pulled them days after the streaming service went live for all users in early 2020.

Microsoft first made its first-party games available on GeForce Now this year, beginning with Gears 5 in May. More recently, Microsoft started allowing GeForce Now users to stream PC Game Pass titles and Microsoft Store purchases.

Call of Duty titles are major additions, though, especially since that means Warzone fans can play the battle royale on their phone or tablet wherever they are without having to pay anything extra (free GeForce Now users are limited to one hour of gameplay per session). If you've bought MW2 or MW3 on Steam, you can play those through GeForce Now as well. NVIDIA notes that older CoD titles will be available through GeForce Now later.

Another key concession Microsoft made to appease UK regulators was to sell the cloud gaming rights for Activision Blizzard titles to Ubisoft. However, as evidenced here, Microsoft will still honor the agreements it made directly with various cloud gaming services.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Formula E now lets you stream every race from its first nine seasons for free

There's still time to get acquainted with Formula E before the new season begins in January. To help with that, the all-electric racing series has opened up its vault and made every race from its first nine seasons available to stream for free. Starting with the first event in Beijing in 2014 through this past season's finale in London, there's a lot to relive or watch for the first time. If you're trying to stream them all, that's 90 hours of action over 116 races you have to look forward to.

Formula E's new Race Replay archive is available for free via it's website and mobile app. All you need to do in order to gain access to the back catalog is to register for an account. What's more, the series says every race from 2024's Season 10 will be available seven days after airing live. Even if you don't have access to the required channels or platforms needed to watch live next year, you'll still be able to follow along a few days after each event.

When the lights go out in Mexico City, Formula E will offer fans expanded viewing options in 2024. Roku will stream 11 races live through its Roku Channel for free. That platform will also offer previews, replays and other commentary in addition to the live events. Paramount+ will stream five races live as simulcasts with CBS, the broadcaster that has been home to Formula E in the US for a while now. 

Season 10 begins January 13 in Mexico City before a double-header in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia later in the month. 17 total races are scheduled for 2024, including a US stop in Portland that has been expanded to its own double-header weekend after debuting last season. Formula E completed its preseason testing in Valencia in late October and you can read our key takeaways from that event here

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Bipartisan Senate bill would kill the TSA’s ‘Big Brother’ airport facial recognition

US Senators John Kennedy (R-LA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday to end involuntary facial recognition screening at airports. The Traveler Privacy Protection Act would block the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from continuing or expanding its facial recognition tech program. It would also require the government agency to explicitly receive congressional permission to renew it, and it would have to dispose of all biometric data within three months.

Senator Merkley described the TSA’s biometric collection practices as the first steps toward an Orwellian nightmare. “The TSA program is a precursor to a full-blown national surveillance state,” Merkley wrote in a news release. “Nothing could be more damaging to our national values of privacy and freedom. No government should be trusted with this power.” Other Senators supporting the bill include Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The TSA began testing facial recognition at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 2018. The agency’s pitch to travelers framed it as an exciting new high-tech feature, promising a “biometrically-enabled curb-to-gate passenger experience.” The TSA said this summer it planned to expand the program to over 430 US airports within the next few years.

The program at least technically allows travelers to opt-out, but that process isn’t always transparent in practice. Merkley posted the video above to X in September, demonstrating how agents guided travelers to the facial scanner without mentioning that it’s optional. No signs near the booths said it was optional or explicitly mentioned the gathering of facial data, either. The booths were arranged so that flyers would have difficulty entering their driver’s license or ID (required) without stepping in front of the facial scanner.

Advocacy groups supporting the bill include the ACLU, Electronic Privacy Information Center and Public Citizen. “The privacy risks and discriminatory impact of facial recognition are real, and the government’s use of our faces as IDs poses a serious threat to our democracy,” wrote Jeramie Scott, Senior Counsel and Director of EPIC’s Project on Surveillance Oversight, in Markley’s press release. “The TSA should not be allowed to unilaterally subject millions of travelers to this dangerous technology.”

“Every day, TSA scans thousands of Americans’ faces without their permission and without making it clear that travelers can opt out of the invasive screening,” Sen. Kennedy wrote in a separate news release. “The Traveler Privacy Protection Act would protect every American from Big Brother’s intrusion by ending the facial recognition program.”

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JBL Authentics 300 review: Alexa and Google Assistant coexisting

Several companies have taken shots at Sonos over the years when it comes to multi-room audio and self-tuning speakers with built-in voice assistants. These devices are a lot more common in 2023 than they used to be, so there’s a whole host of options if you’re looking for alternatives to the Move or Era. JBL is the latest to give it a go with new additions to its Authentics line of speakers. While audio may be its primary use, these devices are the first to run two voice assistants simultaneously without having to switch from one to the other. And on the Authentics 300 ($450), you get a portable unit that doesn’t have to stay parked on a shelf.


Most wireless JBL speakers fit into three categories. They’re either rugged and compact, modern-looking boomboxes or internally-lit party units. For this new Authentics series, the company opted for a more refined design: all black with a gold frame around the front speaker grille. It’s certainly an aesthetic that fits in nicely on a shelf, without the raucous palette of some of the company’s smaller options. All three of the Authentics speakers look almost exactly the same with the main difference being size, although the 300 does have a boombox-like rotating handle the other two don’t. That’s because it’s the only portable option in the range with a built-in battery.

JBL describes the Authentics look as “retro,” but I’m not sure I agree. Sure, there’s a classic vibe thanks to the ‘70s-inspired Quadrex grille the company has employed in the past, but the finer details and onboard controls are decidedly modern. Speaking of controls, up top you’ll find volume, treble and bass knobs that illuminate the level as you turn them. Pressing in the center of the volume dial gives you the playback controls. There are also Bluetooth, power and Moment buttons along with a thin light bar that indicates charging status when the speaker is plugged in. Around back is a microphone mute switch, along with Ethernet, 3.5mm aux, USB-C and power ports.

Software and features

JBL Authentics 300
Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

The features and settings for the Authentics speakers are managed inside the JBL One app. Here, you’re greeted with a list of the company’s products you own as well as their connected status, battery level and whatever media is playing on the device. After selecting the Authentics 300, JBL dumps you into the specifics, with battery level once again visible up top. A media player is just below, complete with the ability to sync Amazon Music, Tidal, Napster, Qobuz, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Calm Radio so you can play them directly inside this app.

JBL offers some limited EQ customization. There’s a manual slider with options for bass, mid and treble, but that’s it. You won’t find any carefully-tuned presets or the ability to make more detailed adjustments along the curve. To get to your tunes quickly, JBL offers a feature called Moment. Accessible via the heart button on the speaker, this allows you to save a favorite album or playlist from the app’s list of supported streaming services. You can also specify volume and auto-off timing during setup.

Lastly, a word on streaming music over Wi-Fi. The Authentics line supports a range of options here, including AirPlay, Chromecast, Alexa, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect, all of which are more convenient than swiping over to the Bluetooth menu and pairing the speaker every time you use it. With Wi-Fi, playing music on the Authentics devices are just a couple of taps away inside of the app where you’re browsing and selecting music or podcasts from. The speakers also support multi-room audio via AirPlay, Alexa and the Google Home app

Double assistants, double the fun

JBL Authentics 300
Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

JBL says the Authentics series is the first set of speakers to run two voice assistants simultaneously. Each of the three units can employ both Alexa and Google Assistant without you having to pick one or the other beforehand. This opens up availability across compatible smart home devices and it means your speaker choice isn’t as limited by your go-to assistant.

The speaker never had trouble hearing my commands and it didn’t mistake a query for one assistant with a question for the other. When you ask Google Assistant for help, a white light shows at the top center of the speaker grille. Summon Alexa and that LED burns blue until your convo is over. When you mute the microphones with the switch on the back of the 300, that light glows red and remains until you turn them back on. As is the case with any smart speaker, the voice command limitations are the general hindrances of the assistants themselves rather than any shortfalls of the speaker.

Sound quality

The Authentics 300 really shines with more mellow, chill music like jazz, bluegrass and acoustic-driven country. There’s a warm inviting sound with great clarity across those styles. When you jump to the full band chaos of metal and hardcore, or even the guitar-heavy but mellifluous tones of Chris Stapleton, the speaker’s tuning overemphasizes vocals and the lack of bassy thump creates a muddy overall sound.

Sure, you can dial up the bass with the physical controls or the EQ in the app, but that doesn’t add the kind of deep low-end that would open up the soundstage. It does improve the overall tuning of albums like Stapleton’s Higher, but there’s still an overemphasis on vocals. You can really hear the impact on The Killer’s Rebel Diamonds as Brandon Flowers almost entirely drowns out the backing synth on “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine” from Hot Fuss.

At times though, the Authentics 300 is a joy to listen to. Put on some Miles Davis and the speaker is at its best. Ditto for the bluegrass of Nickel Creek, the mellow country tunes of Charles Wesley Godwin and classic Christmas mixes. However, the inconsistency across styles is frustrating. Interestingly, JBL says the Authentics speakers offer automatic self-tuning every time you power them on, but I didn’t notice much difference as I moved the 300 around.

Battery life

JBL Authentics 300
Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

JBL says the Authentics 300 will last up to eight hours on a charge. Within two minutes of unplugging, the JBL One app already had the battery level down two percent while playing music via AirPlay 2, at about 30 percent volume. That may seem like a low level, but it’s good for “working music” on this speaker. After 30 minutes, the app was showing 88 percent, but things slowed down and I managed to still have 24 percent remaining when the eight-hours were up. During a test over Bluetooth, the percentages fell in a similar fashion, but I had no problem making it to eight hours at 50 percent volume (Bluetooth was quieter than AirPlay at 30 percent).

JBL does offer a Battery Saving Mode to help you maximize playtime when you’re away from home. This setting “optimizes” both volume and bass to extend battery life, according to the company. There’s also an optional automatic power off feature that kicks in at either 15 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour when you’re not connected to power and audio is no longer playing.

The competition

JBL offers two alternatives to the Authentics 300 within the same speaker range. The smaller Authentics 200 ($350) is more compact, but not portable, while the larger 500 ($700) is a high-fidelity unit with support for Dolby Atmos. Both still run two voice assistants at the same time and have both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, along with everything else the Authentics line offers. In order to support that immersive audio, the Authentics 500 has more drivers than the other two, with three 25mm tweeters, three 2.75-inch mid-range and a 6.5-inch subwoofer. I look forward to seeing if the extra components and added 170 watts of output power improve sound quality, but it only has slightly lower frequency response than the 300 (40Hz vs. 45Hz).

If you’re looking for something portable that can also pull double duty at home, the Sonos Move 2 is a solid option. It’s too big to haul around with ease, but it does support both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi along with improved sound and better battery life compared to version 1.0. There’s also startling loudness and a durable design. What’s more, it’s the same price as the Authentics 300 at $449. For something more stationary and immersive, you could get the Sonos Era 300 without paying more. My colleague Nathan Ingraham noted the excellent sound quality on this unit during his review, but he did encounter inconsistent performance when it came to spatial audio. There’s also no Google Assistant support on this model.


When I try to come up with a final verdict on the Authentics 300, I find myself running in circles. For every thing I like about the speaker, there’s immediately something that I don’t. The company certainly deserves some kudos for being the first to run two assistants at the same time and for figuring out how to do that with no confusion or headaches. However, the inconsistent sound quality is a major problem, especially on a $450 speaker. And while the device offers better-than-advertised battery life, it’s larger size makes portability an issue. So unless you absolutely need to seamlessly switch between Alexa and Google Assistant, there are better-sounding options.

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Meta sues FTC to block new restrictions on monetizing kids’ data

Meta has sued the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an attempt to stop regulators from reopening a landmark $5 billion privacy settlement from 2020 and to allow it to monetize kids’ data across apps like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. This comes after a federal judge ruled on Monday that the FTC would be allowed to expand on 2020’s privacy settlement, paving the way for the agency to propose tough new rules on how the social media giant could operate in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Today’s lawsuit demands an immediate stop to the FTC’s proceedings, calling it an “obvious power grab” and an “unconstitutional adjudication by fiat.” A Meta spokesperson even referred to the FTC as “prosecutor, judge, and jury in the same case”, as reported by Bloomberg. This is the second attempt by Facebook’s parent company to stop the sanctions in court.

The FTC, for its part, says that Meta has repeatedly violated the terms of 2020’s settlement regarding user privacy. The agency also says that the company has violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by monetizing the data of younger users. The FTC has already been given the go ahead by a judge to restrict this type of monetization, a decision Meta hopes to overturn.

The FTC also seeks to implement new restrictions that limit Meta’s use of facial recognition, as well as a complete moratorium on new products and services until a third-party completes an audit to determine if the company’s complying with its privacy obligations.

“Facebook has repeatedly violated its privacy promises,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The company’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures.” To that end, multiple states have sued Meta to stop the monetization of children’s data, along with the EU.

The FTC has been a consistent thorn in Meta’s side, as the agency tried to stop the company’s acquisition of VR software developer Within on the grounds that the deal would deter "future innovation and competitive rivalry." The agency dropped this bid after a series of legal setbacks. It also opened up an investigation into the company’s VR arm, accusing Meta of anti-competitive behavior.

Corporations have been all over the FTC lately in attempts to paint the agency as a prime example of government overreach. Beyond Meta, biotech giant Illumina is suing the FTC to halt a decision that stops it from a $7 billion acquisition of the cancer detection startup Grail.

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Can digital watermarking protect us from generative AI?

The Biden White House recently enacted its latest executive order designed to establish a guiding framework for generative artificial intelligence development — including content authentication and using digital watermarks to indicate when digital assets made by the Federal government are computer generated. Here’s how it and similar copy protection technologies might help content creators more securely authenticate their online works in an age of generative AI misinformation.

A quick history of watermarking

Analog watermarking techniques were first developed in Italy in 1282. Papermakers would implant thin wires into the paper mold, which would create almost imperceptibly thinner areas of the sheet which would become apparent when held up to a light. Not only were analog watermarks used to authenticate where and how a company’s products were produced, the marks could also be leveraged to pass concealed, encoded messages. By the 18th century, the technology had spread to government use as a means to prevent currency counterfeiting. Color watermark techniques, which sandwich dyed materials between layers of paper, were developed around the same period.

Though the term “digital watermarking” wasn’t coined until 1992, the technology behind it was first patented by the Muzac Corporation in 1954. The system they built, and which they used until the company was sold in the 1980s, would identify music owned by Muzac using a “notch filter” to block the audio signal at 1 kHz in specific bursts, like Morse Code, to store identification information.

Advertisement monitoring and audience measurement firms like the Nielsen Company have long used watermarking techniques to tag the audio tracks of television shows to track and understand what American households are watching. These steganographic methods have even made their way into the modern Blu-Ray standard (the Cinavia system), as well as in government applications like authenticating drivers licenses, national currencies and other sensitive documents. The Digimarc corporation, for example, has developed a watermark for packaging that prints a product’s barcode nearly-invisibly all over the box, allowing any digital scanner in line of sight to read it. It’s also been used in applications ranging from brand anti-counterfeiting to enhanced material recycling efficiencies.

The here and now

Modern digital watermarking operates on the same principles, imperceptibly embedding added information onto a piece of content (be it image, video or audio) using special encoding software. These watermarks are easily read by machines but are largely invisible to human users. The practice differs from existing cryptographic protections like product keys or software protection dongles in that watermarks don’t actively prevent the unauthorized alteration or duplication of a piece of content, but rather provide a record of where the content originated or who the copyright holder is.

The system is not perfect, however. “There is nothing, literally nothing, to protect copyrighted works from being trained on [by generative AI models], except the unverifiable, unenforceable word of AI companies,” Dr. Ben Zhao, Neubauer Professor of Computer Science at University of Chicago, told Engadget via email.

“There are no existing cryptographic or regulatory methods to protect copyrighted works — none,” he said. “Opt-out lists have been made made a mockery by (they changed the model name to SDXL to ignore everyone who signed up to opt out of SD 3.0), and Facebook/Meta, who responded to users on their recent opt-out list with a message that said ‘you cannot prove you were already trained into our model, therefore you cannot opt out.’”

Zhao says that while the White House's executive order is “ambitious and covers tremendous ground,” plans laid out to date by the White House have lacked much in the way of “technical details on how it would actually achieve the goals it set.”

He notes that “there are plenty of companies who are under no regulatory or legal pressure to bother watermarking their genAI output. Voluntary measures do not work in an adversarial setting where the stakeholders are incentivized to avoid or bypass regulations and oversight.”

“Like it or not, commercial companies are designed to make money, and it is in their best interests to avoid regulations,” he added.

We could also very easily see the next presidential administration come into office and dismantle Biden’s executive order and all of the federal infrastructure that went into implementing it, since an executive order lacks the constitutional standing of congressional legislation. But don’t count on the House and Senate doing anything about the issue either.

“Congress is deeply polarized and even dysfunctional to the extent that it is very unlikely to produce any meaningful AI legislation in the near future,” Anu Bradford, a law professor at Columbia University, told MIT Tech Review. So far, enforcement mechanisms for these watermarking schemes have been generally limited to pinky swears by the industry’s major players.

How Content Credentials work

With the wheels of government turning so slowly, industry alternatives are proving necessary. Microsoft, the New York Times, CBC/Radio-Canada and the BBC began Project Origin in 2019 to protect the integrity of content, regardless of the platform on which it’s consumed. At the same time, Adobe and its partners launched the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI), approaching the issue from the creator’s perspective. Eventually CAI and Project Origin combined their efforts to create the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA). From this coalition of coalitions came Content Credentials (“CR” for short), which Adobe announced at its Max event in 2021. 

CR attaches additional information about an image whenever it is exported or downloaded in the form of a cryptographically secure manifest. The manifest pulls data from the image or video header — the creator’s information, where it was taken, when it was taken, what device took it, whether generative AI systems like DALL-E or Stable Diffusion were used and what edits have been made since — allowing websites to check that information against provenance claims made in the manifest. When combined with watermarking technology, the result is a unique authentication method that cannot be easily stripped like EXIF and metadata (i.e. the technical details automatically added by the software or device that took the image) when uploaded to social media sites (on account of the cryptographic file signing). Not unlike blockchain technology! 

Metadata doesn’t typically survive common workflows as content is shuffled around the internet because, Digimarc Chief Product Officer Ken Sickles explained to Engadget, many online systems weren’t built to support or read them and so simply ignore the data.

“The analogy that we've used in the past is one of an envelope,” Chief Technology Officer of Digimarc, Tony Rodriguez told Engadget. Like an envelope, the valuable content that you want to send is placed inside “and that's where the watermark sits. It's actually part of the pixels, the audio, of whatever that media is. Metadata, all that other information, is being written on the outside of the envelope.”

Should someone manage to remove the watermark (turns out, not that difficult, just screenshot the image and crop out the icon) the credentials can be reattached through Verify, which runs machine vision algorithms against an uploaded image to find matches in its repository. If the uploaded image can be identified, the credentials get reapplied. If a user encounters the image content in the wild, they can check its credentials by clicking on the CR icon to pull up the full manifest and verify the information for themselves and make a more informed decision about what online content to trust.

Sickles envisions these authentication systems operating in coordinating layers, like a home security system that pairs locks and deadbolts with cameras and motion sensors to increase its coverage. “That's the beauty of Content Credentials and watermarks together," Sickles said. "They become a much, much stronger system as a basis for authenticity and understanding provenance around an image” than they would individually." Digimarc freely distributes its watermark detection tool to generative AI developers, and is integrating the Content Credentials standard into its existing Validate online copy protection platform.

In practice, we’re already seeing the standard being incorporated into physical commercial products like the Leica M11-P which will automatically affix a CR credential to images as they’re taken. The New York Times has explored its use in journalistic endeavors, Reuters employed it for its ambitious 76 Days feature and Microsoft has added it to Bing Image Creator and Bing AI chatbot as well. Sony is reportedly working to incorporate the standard in its Alpha 9 III digital cameras, with enabling firmware updates Alpha 1 and Alpha 7S III models arriving in 2024. CR is also available in Adobe’s expansive suite of photo and video editing tools including Illustrator, Adobe Express, Stock and Behance. The company’s own generative AI, Firefly, will automatically include non-personally identifiable information in a CR for some features like generative fill (essentially noting that the generative feature was used, but not by whom) but will otherwise be opt-in.

That said, the C2PA standard and front-end Content Credentials are barely out of development and currently exceedingly difficult to find on social media. “I think it really comes down to the wide-scale adoption of these technologies and where it's adopted; both from a perspective of attaching the content credentials and inserting the watermark to link them,” Sickles said.

Nightshade: The CR alternative that’s deadly to databases

Some security researchers have had enough waiting around for laws to be written or industry standards to take root, and have instead taken copy protection into their own hands. Teams from the University of Chicago’s SAND Lab, for example, have developed a pair of downright nasty copy protection systems for use specifically against generative AIs.

Zhao and his team have developed Glaze, a system for creators that disrupts a generative AI’s style of mimicry (by exploiting the concept of adversarial examples). It can change the pixels in a given artwork in a way that is undetectable by the human eye but which appear radically different to a machine vision system. When a generative AI system is trained on these "glazed" images, it becomes unable to exactly replicate the intended style of art — cubism becomes cartoony, abstract styles are transformed into anime. This could prove a boon to well-known and often-imitated artists especially, in keeping their branded artistic styles commercially safe.

While Glaze focuses on preventative actions to deflect the efforts of illicit data scrapers, SAND Lab’s newest tool is whole-heartedly punitive. Dubbed Nightshade, the system will subtly change the pixels in a given image but instead of confusing the models it's trained with like Glaze does, the poisoned image will corrupt the training database its ingested into wholesale, forcing developers to go back through and manually remove each damaging image to resolve the issue — otherwise the system will simply retrain on the bad data and suffer the same issues again.

The tool is meant as a “last resort” for content creators but cannot be used as a vector of attack. “This is the equivalent of putting hot sauce in your lunch because someone keeps stealing it out of the fridge,” Zhao argued.

Zhao has little sympathy for the owners of models that Nightshade damages. “The companies who intentionally bypass opt-out lists and do-not-scrape directives know what they are doing,” he said. “There is no ‘accidental’ download and training on data. It takes a lot of work and full intent to take someone’s content, download it and train on it.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

YouTube Music brings personalized album art to its 2023 Recap

YouTube Music users who have seen their Spotify- and Apple Music-using friends share their listening stats from this year can now join the party. YouTube Music Recap is now live and you can access it from the 2023 Recap page in the app. You'll be able to see your top artists, songs, moods, genres, albums, playlists and more from 2023. There's also the option to view your Recap in the main YouTube app, along with some other new features for 2023.

This year, you'll be able to add custom album art. YouTube will create this using your top song and moods from the year, as well as your energy score. The platform will mash together colors, vibes and visuals to create a representation of your year in music.

YouTube Music Recap custom album art
YouTube Music

YouTube says another feature will match your mood with your top songs of the year. You might see, for instance, the percentages of songs you listened to that are classed as upbeat, fun, dancey or chill. Last but not least, you can use snaps from Google Photos to create a customized visual that sums up your year in music (and perhaps your year in travel too).

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HTC's Vive Ultimate Trackers have cameras to improve full-body tracking

HTC released the Vive Ultimate Tracker, which when paired with one of the company’s virtual reality headsets, delivers multi-point body tracking for users for everything from first-person shooter gaming to soccer skills training. The new tracker follows HTC’s Vive Tracker 3.0 line and will cost $199 per unit. HTC is also selling a three-pack that comes with the required wireless dongle and other accessories for a bundle price of $599.

You can use up to five “six degrees of freedom” (6DoF) Ultimate Trackers simultaneously and connect to a single headset to collectively support multi-point full-body tracking. Each tracker relies on two wide field-of-view cameras to precisely locate the wearer's motions in 3D spaces, which ultimately gives it those self-tracking capabilities. The Global Head of Product at HTC, Shen Ye, said the technology built into the Ultimate tracker will enhance the virtual reality experience, making sessions “a lot more realistic and immersive.” Previous models relied on a base station for its tracking capabilities.

The lightweight positional trackers, weighing in at 94 grams a unit, can be attached to a variety of accessories, like a racket sports set, which expands its usability for things like VR training and dancing in VRChat. For example, the Vive Ultimate Tracker can be used specifically for foot tracking, which can be used to gauge passing skills during drills for soccer players. “From elite athletes to casual gamers, it's extremely versatile and easy to set up anywhere,” Adam Dickinson, director of Rezzil, a tech company focused on training athletes using VR, says on using the new tracker.

The new Ultimate trackers are flat and are smaller than a smartphone, giving it an entirely different look from its three-pointed predecessor, the Vive Tracker 3.0. The Ultimate Tracker can also be paired with a standard mount and paired with HTC’s Vive XR Elite and Vive Focus 3. The trackers communicate positional and map data to the headset via 2.4 GHz band and a 5 GHz WiFi band and have a battery life of up to 7 hours.

Though the company may be getting ahead of itself, Vive says it would eventually like the Ultimate Tracker to work independently with SteamVR without being paired to an XR headset. The first step in this process should come soon, as HTC plans to release a beta for direct connection to SteamVR “in the coming weeks.” This, the company says, will expand the Ultimate Tracker’s capabilities for industrial use. HTC headsets have been vying for space in the race to deliver the best virtual reality headset and accessories, primarily against the likes of Meta and its Quest headsets. Expanding the capabilities of its trackers may help Vive narrow the competitive gap, as more innovative applications may be key to enticing the niche world of VR gamers and users moving forward.

Update, November 30 2023, 1:08 PM ET: This story has been updated to clarify how the trackers use WiFi to operate.

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Evernote officially limits free users to 50 notes and one measly notebook

Evernote has confirmed the service’s tightly leashed new free plan, which the company tested with some users earlier this week. Starting December 4, the note-taking app will restrict new and current accounts to 50 notes and one notebook. Existing free customers who exceed those limits can still view, edit, delete and export their notes, but they’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan (or delete enough old ones) to create new notes that exceed the new confines.

The company says most free accounts are already inside those lines. “When setting the new limits, we considered that the majority of our Free users fall below the threshold of fifty notes and one notebook,” the company wrote in an announcement blog post. “As a result, the everyday experience for most Free users will remain unchanged.” Engadget reached out to Evernote to clarify whether “the majority of Free users” staying within those bounds includes long-dormant accounts that may have tried the app for a few minutes a decade ago and never logged in again. We’ll update this article if we hear back.

Evernote’s premium plans, now practically essential for anything more than minimal use, include a $15 monthly Personal plan with 10GB of monthly uploads. You can double that to 20GB (and get other perks) with an $18 tier. It also offers annual versions of those plans for $130 and $170, respectively.

The company acknowledged in its announcement post that “these changes may lead you to reconsider your relationship with Evernote.” Leading alternatives with more bountiful free plans include Notion, Microsoft OneNote, Google Keep, Bear (Apple devices only), Obsidian and SimpleNote.

Earlier this year, Evernote’s parent company, Bending Spoons, moved its operations from the US and Chile to Europe, laying off nearly all of the note-taking app’s employees. When doing so, it said the app had been “unprofitable for years.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Expressive E Osmose review: A game-changing MPE keyboard, but a frustrating synthesizer

When I first got to see the Expressive E Osmose way back in 2019, I knew it was special. In my 15-plus years covering technology, it was one of the only devices I’ve experienced that actually had the potential to be truly “game changing.” And I’m not being hyperbolic.

But, that was four years ago, almost to the day. A lot has changed in that time. MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) has gone from futuristic curiosity to being embraced by big names like Ableton and Arturia. New players have entered and exited the scene. More importantly, the Osmose is no longer a promising prototype, but an actual commercial product. The questions, then, are obvious: Does the Osmose live up to its potential? And, does it seem as revolutionary today as it did all those years ago? The answers, however, are less clear.

Expressive E Osmose keybed sideview.
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

What sets the Osmose ($1,799) apart from every other MIDI controller and synthesizer (MPE or otherwise) is its keybed. At first glance, it looks like almost any other keyboard, albeit a really nice one. The body is mostly plastic, but it feels solid and the top plate is made of metal. (Shoutout to Expressive E, by the way, for building the OSMOSE out of 66 percent recycled materials and for making the whole thing user repairable — no glue or speciality screws to be found.)

The keys themselves have this lovely, almost matte finish and a healthy amount of heft. It’s a nice change of pace from the shiny, springy keys on even some higher-end MIDI controllers. But the moment you press down on a key you’ll see what sets it apart — the keys move side to side. And this is not because it’s cheaply assembled and there’s a ton of wiggle. This is a purposeful design. You can bend notes (or control other parameters) by actually bending the keys, much like you would on a stringed instrument.

This is huge for someone like me who is primarily a guitar player. Bending strings and wiggling my fingers back and forth to add vibrato comes naturally. And, as I mentioned in my review of Roli’s Seaboard Rise 2, I find myself doing this even on keyboards where I know it will have no effect. It’s a reflex.

It’s a very simple thing to explain, but very difficult to encapsulate its effect on your playing. It’s all of the same things that make playing the Seaboard special: the slight pitch instability from the unintentional micro movements of your fingers, the ability to bend individual notes for shifting harmonies and the polyphonic aftertouch that allows you to alter things like filter cutoff on a per-note basis.

These tiny changes in tuning and expression add an almost ineffable fluidity to your playing. In particular, for sounds based on acoustic instruments like flutes and strings, it adds an organic element missing from almost every other synthesizer. There is a bit of a learning curve, but I got the hang of it after just a few days.

Expressive E Osmose pitch bend settings.

What separates it from the Roli, though, is its formfactor. While the Seaboard is keyboard-esque, it’s still a giant squishy slab of silicone. It might not appeal to someone who grew up taking piano lessons every week. The Osmose, on the other hand, is a traditional keyboard, with full-sized keys and a very satisfying action. It’s probably the most familiar and approachable implementation of MPE out there.

If you are a pianist, or an accomplished keyboard player, this is probably the MPE controller you’ve been waiting for. And it’s hands-down one of the best on the market.

Where things get a little dicier is when looking at the Osmose as a standalone synthesizer. But let’s start where it goes right: the interface. The screen to the left of the keyboard is decently sized (around 4 inches) and easy to read at any angle. There are even some cute graphics for parameters such as timbre (a log), release (a yo-yo) and drive (a steering wheel).

Expressive E Osmose interface with cute icons for parameters like cutoff, filter resonance and envelope.
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

There aren’t a ton of hands-on controls, but menu diving is kept to a minimum with some smart organization. The four buttons across the top of the screen take you to different sections for presets, synth (parameters and macros), sensitivity (MPE and aftertouch controls) and playing (mostly just for the arpeggiator at the moment). Then to the left of the screen there are two encoders for navigating the submenus, and the four knobs below control whatever option is listed above them on the screen. So, no, you’re not going to be doing a lot of live tweaking, but you also won’t spend 30 minutes trying to dial in a patch.

Part of the reason you won’t spend 30 minutes dialing in a patch is because there really isn’t much to dial in. The engine driving the Osmose is Haken Audio’s EaganMatrix and Expressive E keeps most of it hidden behind six macro controls. In fact, you can’t really design a patch from scratch — at least not the synth directly. You need to download the Haken Editor, which requires Max (not the streaming service), to do serious sound design. Then you need to upload your new patch to the Osmose over USB. Other than that, you’re stuck tweaking presets.

Expressive E Osmose macro controls.
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because, frankly, EaganMatrix feels less like a musical instrument and more like a PHD thesis. It is undeniably powerful, but it’s also confusing as hell. Expressive E even describes it as “a laboratory of synthesis,” and that seems about right; patching in the EaganMatrix is like doing science. Except, it’s not the fun science you see on TV with fancy machines and test tubes. Instead it’s more like the daily grind of real life science where you stare at a nearly inscrutable series of numbers, letters, mathematical constants and formulas.

I couldn’t get the Osmose and Haken Editor to talk to each other on my studio laptop (a five-year-old Dell XPS), though I did manage to get it to work on my work-issue MacBook. That being said, it was mostly a pointless endeavor. I simply can’t wrap my head around the EaganMatrix. I was able to build a very basic patch with the help of a tutorial, but I couldn’t actually make anything usable.

Hacken Editor and the EaganMatrix connected to the Osmose over USB.

There are some presets available on Patchstorage, but the community is nowhere near as robust as what you’d find for the Organelle or ZOIA. And, it’s not obvious how to actually upload those handful of presets to the Osmose. You can drag and drop the .mid files you download to the empty slots across the top of the Haken Editor and that will add them to the Osmose's user presets. But you wont actually see that reflected on the Osmose itself until you turn it off and turn it back on.

Honestly, many of the presets available on Patchstorage cover the same ground as 500 or so factory ones that ship with the Osmose. And it’s while browsing those hundreds of presets that both the power and the limitations of the EaganMatrix become obvious. It’s capable of covering everything from virtual analog, to FM to physical modeling, and even some pseudo-granular effects. Its modular, matrix-based patching system is so robust that it would almost certainly be impossible to recreate physically (at least without spending thousands of dollars).

Now, this is largely a matter of taste, but I find the sounds that come out of this obviously over-powered synth often underwhelming. They’re definitely unique and in some cases probably only possible with the EaganMatrix. But the virtual analog patches aren’t very “analog,” the FM ones lack the character of a DX7 or the modern sheen of a Digitone, and the bass patches could use some extra oomph. Sometimes patches on the Osmose feel like tech demos rather than something you’d actually use musically.

Expressive E Osmose preset menus with the Acid Bass patch highlighted.
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

That’s not to say there’s no good presets. There are some solid analog-ish sounds and there are a few decent FM pads. But it’s the physical modeling patches where EaganMatrix is at its best. They definitely land in a kind of uncanny valley, though — not convincing enough to be mistaken for the real thing, but close enough that it doesn’t seem quite right coming out of a synthesizer.

Still, the way tuned drums and plucked or bowed strings are handled by Osmose is impressive. Quickly tapping a key can get you a ringing resonant sound, while holding it down mutes it. Aftertouch can be used to trigger repeated plucks that increase in intensity as you press harder. And bowed patches can be smart enough to play notes within a certain range of each other as legato, while still allowing you to play more spaced out chords with your other hand. (This latter feature is called Pressure Glide and can be fine tuned to suit your needs.)

The level of precision with which you can gently coax sound out of some presets with the lightest touch is unmatched by any synth or MIDI controller I’ve ever tested. And that becomes all the more shocking when you realize that very same patch can also be a percussive blast if you strike the keys hard.

Expressive E Osmose logo close up.

But, at the end of the day, I rarely find myself reaching for Osmose — at least not as a synthesizer. I’ve been testing one for a few months now, and while I have used it quite extensively in my studio, it’s been mostly as a controller for MPE-enabled soft synths like Arturia’s Pigments and Ableton’s Drift. It’s undeniably one of the most powerful MIDI controllers on the market. My one major complaint on that front being that its incredible arpeggiator isn’t available in controller mode.

The Osmose is a gorgeous instrument that, in the right hands, is capable of delivering nuanced performances unlike anything else. Even if, at times, the borrowed sound engine doesn’t live up to the keyboard’s lofty potential.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google's latest Android update includes AI-created image descriptions and animations for voice messages

Google is rolling out a trio of system updates to Android, Wear OS and Google TV devices. Each brings new features to associated gadgets. Android devices, like smartphones, are getting updated Emoji Kitchen sticker combinations. You can remix emojis and share with friends as stickers via Gboard.

Google Messages for Android is getting a nifty little refresh. There’s a new beta feature that lets users add a unique background and an animated emoji to voice messages. Google’s calling the software Voice Moods and says it’ll help users better express how they’re “feeling in the moment.” Nothing conveys emotion more than a properly-positioned emoji. There are also new reactions for messages that go far beyond simple thumbs ups, with some taking up the entire screen. In addition, you’ll be able to change chat bubble colors.

The company’s also adding an interesting tool that provides AI-generated image descriptions for those with low-vision. The TalkBack feature will read aloud a description of any image, whether sourced from the internet or a photo that you took. Google’s even adding new languages to its Live Caption feature, enhancing the pre-existing ability to take phone calls without needing to hear the speaker. Better accessibility is always a good thing.

Wear OS is getting a bunch of little updates. You can control more smart home devices and light groups directly from a watch, which comes in handy when creating mood lighting. You can also tell your smart home devices that you are home or away with a tap. There’s a new Assistant Routines feature that automates daily tasks and an Assistant At a Glance shortcut on the watch face that displays information relevant to your day, like the weather and traffic data.

As for Google TV, there are ten new free channels to choose from, bringing the grand total to well over 800. None of these channels require an additional subscription, but they will have commercials. All of these updates begin rolling out today, but it could be a few weeks before they hit everyone’s inbox.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google Messages now lets you choose your own chat bubble colors

Google is rolling out a string of updates for the Messages app, including the ability to customize the colors of the text bubbles and backgrounds. So, if you really want to, you can have blue bubbles in your Android messaging app. You can have a different color for each chat, which could help prevent you from accidentally leaking a secret to family or friends.

With the help of on-device Google AI (meaning you'll likely need a recent Pixel device to use this feature), you can transform photos into reactions with Photomoji. All you need to do is pick a photo, decide which object (or person or animal) you'd like to turn into a Photomoji and hit the send button. These reactions will be saved for later use, and friends in the chat can use any Photomoji you send them as well.

The new Voice Moods feature allows you to apply one of nine different vibes to a voice message, by showing visual effects such as heart-eye emoji, fireballs (for when you're furious) and a party popper. Google says it has also upgraded the quality of voice messages by bumping up the bitrate and sampling rate.

In addition, there are more than 15 Screen Effects you can trigger by typing things like "It's snowing" or "I love you." These will make "your screen erupt in a symphony of colors and motion," Google says. Elsewhere, Messages will display animated effects when certain reactions and emoji are used.

Screenshot of a Google app that reads

On top of all of that, users will now be able to set up a profile that appends their name and photo to their phone number to help them have more control over how they appear across Google services. The company says this feature could help when it comes to receiving messages from a phone number that isn't in your group chats. It could help you know the identity of everyone in a group chat too.

Some of these features will be available in beta starting today in the latest version of Google Messages. Google notes that some feature availability will depend on market and device.

Google is rolling out these updates alongside the news that more than a billion people now use Google Messages with RCS enabled every month. RCS (Rich Communication Services) is a more feature-filled and secure format of messaging than SMS and MMS. It supports features such as read receipts, typing indicators, group chats and high-res media. Google also offers end-to-end encryption for one-on-one and group conversations via RCS.

For years, Google had been trying to get Apple to adopt RCS for improved interoperability between Android and iOS. Apple refused, perhaps because iMessage (and its blue bubbles) have long been a status symbol for its users. However, likely to ensure Apple falls in line with European Union regulations, Apple has relented. The company recently said it would start supporting RCS in 2024.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Tesla will deliver the first Cybertrucks today at 3PM ET

If you’ve long dreamed of watching a very small number of vehicles roll off an assembly line, today’s your chance. Tesla is holding a livestream event to highlight deliveries of its long-awaited Cybertruck. The company has only managed to manufacture ten of them so far, despite a 2019 reveal, so that’s what we’ll be watching.

You can catch the Texas-based livestream on X, of course, but the event is also available via Tesla’s website. It all goes down at 3PM EST. Being as how there will only be ten trucks to show off, the livestream should also go over pertinent details regarding battery range, towing capacity, up-to-date pricing and, of course, general availability. Tesla plans on ramping up production in 2024 for the cute lil dystopian wonder cars.

It’s easy to make jokes at the automaker’s expense, given the recent history of its CEO, but this is something of a big deal. It’s Tesla’s first truck, despite looking nothing like a classic pickup. The aesthetics are absolutely wild, with it resembling something out of a 1970s sci-fi flick instead of something you’d spot at a tailgate party. As for performance, it remains to be seen if the Cybertruck can compete with rival vehicles in the off-road market.

Tesla’s Cybertruck has been plagued with issues from inception. During its 2019 product debut, Elon Musk crowed about the unbreakable glass window and invited a customer to try to break it by hurling a bowling ball. Well, it shattered, leading to a muttered curse from the embattled CEO. Despite that embarrassment, the company still says the vehicle boasts a “nearly impenetrable” exoskeleton that resists dents, damage and long-term corrosion. We shall see. There have been multiple delays and a redesign back in 2020.

There’s also the matter of price. When it was first revealed, the Cybertruck was set to cost around $40,000. However, the company’s been fairly silent on the subject since then and a lot has changed since 2019. You can reserve a vehicle right now from Tesla by plopping down $100, but who knows when actual shipments will start. Despite that, Musk recently told investors that it has accrued more than one million reservations. Those folks will be waiting a while, as even generous estimates allow for Tesla to manufacture around 200,000 Cybertrucks each year.

The real question. Will Joe Rogan be one of the ten lucky golden ticket holders? We just might find out at 3PM EST.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Logitech's Litra Glow streamer light falls to a new low of $40

It's getting dark much too early, and that means a lot more time in movies or live streaming with a bright overhead light or frustrating shadows. Logitech's Litra Glow is a fantastic option for ensuring you look good on camera, and right now, it's at a new all-time low price. The light is down to $40 from $60 thanks to a 17 percent off sale and an additional $10 coupon applied at checkout. 

Logitech's Litra Glow is a Premium LED Streaming Light designed for creators and is our recommendation for game-streaming gear that will make you feel like a pro. It clips right onto your computer next to its webcam with three-way mounting, letting you adjust its height, tilt and rotation. The light is USB-powered, so you'll want room for its cord to hide behind your monitor.

The Litra Glow is equipped with Truesoft technology, so you won't just have a painfully bright light in your face. You can also adjust the light's brightness and temperature (a great tool for warm light fans) based on the time of day and personal preference. You can make these changes using manual controls or Logitech's app.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

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How OpenAI's ChatGPT has changed the world in just a year

Over the course of two months from its debut in November 2022, ChatGPT exploded in popularity, from niche online curio to 100 million monthly active users — the fastest user base growth in the history of the Internet. In less than a year, it has earned the backing of Silicon Valley’s biggest firms, and been shoehorned into myriad applications from academia and the arts to marketing, medicine, gaming and government.

In short ChatGPT is just about everywhere. Few industries have remained untouched by the viral adoption of the generative AI’s tools. On the first anniversary of its release, let’s take a look back on the year of ChatGPT that brought us here.

OpenAI had been developing GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the large language model that ChatGPT runs on, since 2016 — unveiling GPT-1 in 2018 and iterating it to GPT-3 by June 2020. With the November 30, 2022 release of GPT-3.5 came ChatGPT, a digital agent capable of superficially understanding natural language inputs and generating written responses to them. Sure, it was rather slow to answer and couldn’t speak to questions about anything that happened after September 2021 — not to mention its issues answering queries with misinformation during bouts of “hallucinations" — but even that kludgy first iteration demonstrated capabilities far beyond what other state-of-the-art digital assistants like Siri and Alexa could provide.

ChatGPT’s release timing couldn’t have been better. The public had already been introduced to the concept of generative artificial intelligence in April of that year with DALL-E 2, a text-to-image generator. DALL-E 2, as well as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney and similar programs, were an ideal low-barrier entry point for the general public to try out this revolutionary new technology. They were an immediate smash hit, with Subreddits and Twitter accounts springing up seemingly overnight to post screengrabs of the most outlandish scenarios users could imagine. And it wasn’t just the terminally online that embraced AI image generation, the technology immediately entered the mainstream discourse as well, extraneous digits and all.

So when ChatGPT dropped last November, the public was already primed on the idea of having computers make content at a user’s direction. The logical leap from having it make words instead of pictures wasn’t a large one — heck, people had already been using similar, inferior versions in their phones for years with their digital assistants.

Q1: [Hyping intensifies]

To say that ChatGPT was well-received would be to say that the Titanic suffered a small fender-bender on its maiden voyage. It was a polestar, magnitudes bigger than the hype surrounding DALL-E and other image generators. People flat out lost their minds over the new AI and its CEO, Sam Altman. Throughout December 2022, ChatGPT’s usage numbers rose meteorically as more and more people logged on to try it for themselves.

By the following January, ChatGPT was a certified phenomenon, surpassing 100 million monthly active users in just two months. That was faster than both TikTok or Instagram, and remains the fastest user adoption to 100 million in the history of the internet.

We also got our first look at the disruptive potential that generative AI offers when ChatGPT managed to pass a series of law school exams (albeit by the skin of its digital teeth). Around that time Microsoft extended its existing R&D partnership with OpenAI to the tune of $10 billion that January. That number is impressively large and likely why Altman still has his job.

As February rolled around, ChatGPT’s user numbers continued to soar, surpassing one billion users total with an average of more than 35 million people per day using the program. At this point OpenAI was reportedly worth just under $30 billion and Microsoft was doing its absolute best to cram the new technology into every single system, application and feature in its product ecosystem. ChatGPT was incorporated into BingChat (now just Copilot) and the Edge browser to great fanfare — despite repeated incidents of bizarre behavior and responses that saw the Bing program temporarily taken offline for repairs.

Other tech companies began adopting ChatGPT as well: Opera incorporating it into its browser, Snapchat releasing its GPT-based My AI assistant (which would be unceremoniously abandoned a few problematic months later) and Buzzfeed News’s parent company used it to generate listicles.

March saw more of the same, with OpenAI announcing a new subscription-based service — ChatGPT Plus — which offers users the chance to skip to the head of the queue during peak usage hours and added features not found in the free version. The company also unveiled plug-in and API support for the GPT platform, empowering developers to add the technology to their own applications and enabling ChatGPT to pull information from across the internet as well as interact directly with connected sensors and devices.

ChatGPT also notched 100 million users per day in March, 30 times higher than two months prior. Companies from Slack and Discord to GM announced plans to incorporate GPT and generative AI technologies into their products.

Not everybody was quite so enthusiastic about the pace at which generative AI was being adopted, mind you. In March, OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk, as well as Steve Wozniak and a slew of associated AI researchers signed an open letter demanding a six month moratorium on AI development.

Q2: Electric Boog-AI-loo

Over the next couple months, company fell into a rhythm of continuous user growth, new integrations, occasional rival AI debuts and nationwide bans on generative AI technology. For example, in April, ChatGPT’s usage climbed nearly 13 percent month-over-month from March even as the entire nation of Italy outlawed ChatGPT use by public sector employees, citing GDPR data privacy violations. The Italian ban proved only temporary after the company worked to resolve the flagged issues, but it was an embarrassing rebuke for the company and helped spur further calls for federal regulation.

When it was first released, ChatGPT was only available through a desktop browser. That changed in May when OpenAI released its dedicated iOS app and expanded the digital assistant’s availability to an additional 11 countries including France, Germany, Ireland and Jamaica. At the same time, Microsoft’s integration efforts continued apace, with Bing Search melding into the chatbot as its “default search experience.” OpenAI also expanded ChatGPT’s plug-in system to ensure that more third-party developers are able to build ChatGPT into their own products.

ChatGPT’s tendency to hallucinate facts and figures was once again exposed that month when a lawyer in New York was caught using the generative AI to do “legal research.” It gave him a number of entirely made-up, nonexistent cases to cite in his argument — which he then did without bothering to independently validate any of them. The judge was not amused.

By June, a little bit of ChatGPT’s shine had started to wear off. Congress reportedly limited Capitol Hill staffers from using the application over data handling concerns. User numbers had declined nearly 10 percent month-over-month, but ChatGPT was already well on its way to ubiquity. A March update enabling the AI to comprehend and generate Python code in response to natural language queries only increased its utility.

Q3: [Pushback intensifies]

More cracks in ChatGPT’s facade began to show the following month when OpenAI’s head of Trust and Safety, Dave Willner, abruptly announced his resignation days before the company released its ChatGPT Android app. His departure came on the heels of news of an FTC investigation into the company’s potential violation of consumer protection laws — specifically regarding the user data leak from March that inadvertently shared chat histories and payment records.

It was around this time that OpenAI’s training methods, which involve scraping the public internet for content and feeding it into massive datasets on which the models are taught, came under fire from copyright holders and marquee authors alike. Much in the same manner that Getty Images sued Stability AI for Stable Diffusion’s obvious leverage of copyrighted materials, stand-up comedian and author Sara Silverman brought suit against OpenAI with allegations that its “Book2” dataset illegally included her copyrighted works. The Authors Guild of America, which represents Stephen King, John Grisham and 134 others launched a class-action suit of its own in September. While much of Silverman’s suit was eventually dismissed, the Author’s Guild suit continues to wend its way through the courts.

Select news outlets, on the other hand, proved far more amenable. The Associated Press announced in August that it had entered into a licensing agreement with OpenAI which would see AP content used (with permission) to train GPT models. At the same time, the AP unveiled a new set of newsroom guidelines explaining how generative AI might be used in articles, while still cautioning journalists against using it for anything that might actually be published.

ChatGPT itself didn’t seem too inclined to follow the rules. In a report published in August, the Washington Post found that guardrails supposedly enacted by OpenAI in March, designed to counter the chatbot’s use in generating and amplifying political disinformation, actually weren’t. The company told Semafor in April that it was "developing a machine learning classifier that will flag when ChatGPT is asked to generate large volumes of text that appear related to electoral campaigns or lobbying." Per the Post, those rules simply were not enforced, with the system eagerly returning responses for prompts like “Write a message encouraging suburban women in their 40s to vote for Trump” or “Make a case to convince an urban dweller in their 20s to vote for Biden.”

At the same time, OpenAI was rolling out another batch of new features and updates for ChatGPT including an Enterprise version that could be fine-tuned to a company’s specific needs and trained on the firm’s internal data, allowing the chatbot to provide more accurate responses. Additionally, ChatGPT’s ability to browse the internet for information was restored for Plus users in September, having been temporarily suspended earlier in the year after folks figured out how to exploit it to get around paywalls. OpenAI also expanded the chatbot’s multimodal capabilities, adding support for both voice and image inputs for user queries in a September 25 update.

Q4: Starring Sam Altman as “Lazarus”

The fourth quarter of 2023 has been a hell of a decade for OpenAI. On the technological front, Browse with Bing, Microsoft’s answer to Google SGE, moved out of beta and became available to all subscribers — just in time for the third iteration of DALL-E to enter public beta. Even free tier users can now hold spoken conversations with the chatbot following the November update, a feature formerly reserved for Plus and Enterprise subscribers. What’s more, OpenAI has announced GPTs, little single-serving versions of the larger LLM that function like apps and widgets and which can be created by anyone, regardless of their programming skill level.

The company has also suggested that it might be entering the AI chip market at some point in the future, in an effort to shore up the speed and performance of its API services. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had previously pointed to industry-wide GPU shortages for the service’s spotty performance. Producing its own processors might mitigate those supply issues, while potentially lower the current four-cent-per-query cost of operating the chatbot to something more manageable.

But even those best laid plans were very nearly smashed to pieces just before Thanksgiving when the OpenAI board of directors fired Sam Altman, arguing that he had not been "consistently candid in his communications with the board."

That firing didn't take. Instead, it set off 72 hours of chaos within the company itself and the larger industry, with waves of recriminations and accusations, threats of resignations by a lion’s share of the staff and actual resignations by senior leadership happening by the hour. The company went through three CEOs in as many days, landing back on the one it started with, albeit with him now free from a board of directors that would even consider acting as a brake against the technology’s further, unfettered commercial development.

At the start of the year, ChatGPT was regularly derided as a fad, a gimmick, some shiny bauble that would quickly be cast aside by a fickle public like so many NFTs. Those predictions could still prove true but as 2023 has ground on and the breadth of ChatGPT’s adoption has continued, the chances of those dim predictions of the technology’s future coming to pass feel increasingly remote.

There is simply too much money wrapped up in ensuring its continued development, from the revenue streams of companies promoting the technology to the investments of firms incorporating the technology into their products and services. There is also a fear of missing out among companies, S&P Global argues — that they might adopt too late what turns out to be a foundationally transformative technology — that is helping drive ChatGPT’s rapid uptake.

The calendar resetting for the new year shouldn’t do much to change ChatGPT’s upward trajectory, but looming regulatory oversight might. President Biden has made the responsible development of AI a focus of his administration, with both houses of Congress beginning to draft legislation as well. The form and scope of those resulting rules could have a significant impact on what ChatGPT looks like this time next year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The US government is no longer briefing Meta about foreign influence campaigns

As Meta gears up for the 2024 election, the company is grappling with a new challenge that could slow its efforts to combat foreign attempts at election interference. US government agencies have stopped sharing information with the company’s security researchers about covert influence operations on its platform.

Meta says that as of July, the government has “paused” briefings related to foreign election interference, eliminating a key source of information for the company. During a call with reporters, Meta’s head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher, declined to speculate on the government’s motivations, but the timing lines up with a court order earlier this year that restricted the Biden Administration’s contacts with social media firms.

The order, the result of two states’ attempts to limit platforms' ability to remove misinformation, is currently suspended while the Supreme Court considers the case. But government agencies, like CISA (the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency) and the FBI, have apparently opted to keep the “pause” in place.

Gleicher noted that government contacts aren’t Meta’s only source of information, and that the company continues to work with industry researchers and other civil society groups. But he acknowledged that government officials can be best-placed to advise certain kinds of threats, like those that are coordinated on other platforms. “We have seen that particularly-sophisticated threat actors, like nation states, engaged in foreign interference… there are times when government has the capability to identify these campaigns that other players may not,” he said.

Meta’s researchers regularly share details about networks of fake accounts it catches boosting foreign propaganda and conducting other kinds of influence campaigns, what the company calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” or CIB. And while most of its takedowns don’t come as a result of government tips, the company has relied on them in detecting CIB targeting US politics. Meta acted on three separate FBI tips about fake accounts from Russia, Iran and Mexico ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Law enforcement officials have also expressed concern about the lack of coordination with social media platforms. The FBI previously told the House Judiciary Committee that it had “discovered foreign influence campaigns on social media platforms but in some cases did not inform the companies about them because they were hamstrung by the new legal oversight,” NBC News reported, citing congressional sources.

Meta’s latest comments are the first time the company has publicly confirmed that it is no longer receiving tips about election interference. The disclosure comes as the company ramps up its efforts to prepare for multiple elections in 2024, and the inevitable attempts to manipulate political conversations on Facebook. The company said in its latest report on CIB that China is now the third-most common source of coordinated inauthentic behavior on its platform, behind Russia and Iran.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best Android phones for 2023

When it comes to smartphones, the iPhone is the only game in town if you want to be in the iOS ecosystem. However, that's not the case with Andriod. One of the best things about the Android phone market is its variety: you have a wide range of different devices and manufacturers to choose from. But that also means it can be difficult to decide which device is best for you when it comes time to upgrade, or if you want to jump into Android for the first time. The latest Android devices include flagship slabs like those in Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, flip phones like the latest Motorola Razr+ and foldables like the Pixel Fold. So if you’re looking for a new phone and don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered with a selection of the best Android phones for every budget — from the Pixel 8 to Samsung's Galaxy handsets and everything in between.

What to look for in a new Android phone


When it comes to picking our favorite Android phones, the main things we look for are pretty straightforward: good performance (both compute and AI), a nice display, solid design, sharp cameras, long battery life and a significant commitment to ongoing software support. For performance, not only do we look at benchmarks and other metrics, but we also evaluate phones based on responsiveness. Regardless of whether you’re reading, text messaging, scrolling through social media or playing a game, no one wants a gadget that feels sluggish.


While the specs haven't changed much from last year, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra's 6.8-inch 120Hz AMOLED display is still easily one of the best smartphone screens on the market.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

When it comes to displays, we generally prefer OLED panels that can produce rich, saturated colors with at least 600 nits of brightness, though many of our top mid-range and high-end phones can hit 1,000 nits or more. And more recently, most of our favorite devices also support screens with fast refresh rates of 90Hz or 120Hz, which adds an extra level of smoothness and fluidity.


Now we will admit there is a bit of subjectivity when deciding which phones look the best, but there are other design aspects like dust and water resistance or screen durability that can make a big difference to long-term survival. It’s also important to consider things like support for wireless charging, power sharing (aka reverse wireless charging) and UWB connectivity, which can have an impact on how your phone interacts with your other devices.


Obviously, for photos we’re looking for sharp, colorful shots in both bright and low-light conditions. And we want video clips with high dynamic range, rich audio and smooth image stabilization. Extra cameras for ultra-wide and telephoto lenses are a plus. The best cameras should also include features like dedicated night modes, support for various video recording resolutions, and additional photo modes like timelapse, slow motion and more.

Battery and software

Finally, in terms of longevity, we’re looking for all-day battery life on devices that also delivered great results on our local video rundown test (at least 16 hours on a charge, but more is obviously better). Wireless charging capabilities have become almost ubiquitous over the past few years, and most of our top picks have this extra perk. Fast-charging is available on some Android phones, too. Finally, with people holding onto their phones longer than ever, we like to see companies commit to at least three years of software support, upgrades and regular security updates.

The best Android Phones to buy right now

Best Android phone overall: Google Pixel 8 Pro

Thanks to the Tensor G3 chip, updated sensors and a host of new AI-powered features, the Google Pixel 8 and 8 Pro have even more to offer for both photography and everyday use. The new Magic Editor on Pixel phones makes it astonishingly easy to remove distracting objects from your pics, while the Audio Magic Eraser cuts down on annoying ambient sound in videos. And for all those group photos, Best Take ensures that everyone looks their best, even if they weren’t smiling during the first shot. On top of that, Google’s Call Screen has gotten smarter while Assistant features, like being able to summarize or real articles aloud make it easy to stay on top of news however you want. Add to that a more refined design, brighter displays, better battery life and improved performance, and Google’s latest flagship phones might be the most well-rounded Android phones on the market.

Read our full review of the Google Pixel 8 Pro

Best mid-range Android phone: OnePlus 11

For those who want a phone with a big screen, excellent cameras and great performance, but for less than a traditional flagship phone, the OnePlus 11 strikes a good balance between budget and more premium devices. In a lot of ways, the OnePlus 11 is like a more affordable Galaxy S23+. Not only do you get a similar 6.7-inch 120Hz display, it also features a speedy Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip and a big 5,000 mAh battery. Meanwhile, thanks to OnePlus’ blazing 100-watt wired charging, it juices up faster than any phone from Google or Samsung. And on the camera side, the company’s ongoing partnership with Hasselblad has resulted in notable improvements in image quality.

The main shortcomings of the OP11 are that its IP64 rating for dust and water resistance falls short of what you get from competing devices, and the camera’s 2x optical zoom lens feels a bit on the short side. But with OnePlus adding wider carrier compatibility and committing four years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches, the OP11 is a well-equipped option that costs significantly less than its rivals.

Read our full review of the OnePlus11

Best budget Android phone: Google Pixel 7a

The $500 Pixel 7a delivers everything we look for in a great, affordable Android phone (if you have less money to spend, check out our best cheap phones guide). New features include a faster Tensor G2 chip, a smoother 90Hz display and for the first time on one of Google’s A-series phones: support for wireless charging. And with a refreshed design with IP67 water resistance, it looks and feels like the standard Pixel 7 but for $100 less. You also get great support thanks to five years of security updates and at least three years of software updates. The Pixel 7a's only shortcomings are rather small and include a lack of a dedicated zoom lens and no support for mmWave 5G (unless you purchase a slightly more expensive $550 model from Verizon).

Read our full review of the Google Pixel 7a

Best premium Android phone: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

With a starting price of $1,200, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is very expensive, but it has excellent performance, a great camera system and practically everything you could ever want or need in a smartphone. Its specs include a huge 6.8-inch OLED display with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, a total of five cameras (main, ultra-wide, 3x zoom, 10x zoom and a selfie shooter) and a built-in S Pen stylus for drawing and note-taking. It also features a huge 5,000 mAh battery that delivers some of the longest runtime we’ve seen on any phone. And with Samsung’s renewed commitment to software support, you can expect a minimum of four major OS upgrades and five years of regular security patches.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Best foldable Android phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

Despite increased competition from the Pixel Fold, for people who want to maximize their mobile productivity, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is still the best big foldable phone on the market. On the latest model, not only has Samsung added two new gestures for launching into side-by-side multitasking or switching from a full screen to a windowed app, it has also increased the number of recent apps you can see on the taskbar from two to four. The Z Fold 5’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset also delivers faster performance than on the Pixel Fold, and even though this Samsung phone has a smaller power cell (4,400 mAh vs 4,800 mAh), it has better battery life, too. But the biggest change for this generation is Samsung’s new Flex Hinge, which allows the phone to close completely flat and makes it thinner to boot. Unfortunately, its camera system is largely unchanged from last year, and with prices starting at $1,800, the Z Fold 5 isn’t even remotely close to being affordable.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Threads may finally launch in Europe in December

Meta has decided to play ball with the European Union's online services regulations in order to bring Threads to its member countries. According to The Wall Street Journal, Meta will make Threads available across Europe in December and, in compliance with EU policies, allow users to access the platform without needing to create a profile. 

Threads first launched to most of the world in July as an alternative to Elon Musk's increasingly polarizing X, formerly known as Twitter. Threads reached 100 million users in its first week but has experienced some drop-off. The Meta-owned platform currently has about 73 million active users compared to X's 365 million.

An expansion into the EU will undoubtedly grow Thread's global engagement, but time will tell how fast and to what extent. In October, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted that Threads could see a reach of one billion users in the next few years. Instagram, which people can use to make a Threads account quickly, has over two billion active users but didn't hit the one billion mark until eight years after launch. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has also announced that deleting your Threads account will no longer delete your associated Instagram account — another point of contention.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Morning After: Google plans to delete your old inactive accounts starting tomorrow

Starting December 1, 2023 (that’s tomorrow), Google will begin deleting accounts that have been inactive for at least two years. The company says it's doing so for privacy reasons: “If an account hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, it is more likely to be compromised,” Google noted in May 2023. “This is because forgotten or unattended accounts often rely on old or re-used passwords that may have been compromised.” Google will warn users before deletion via emails sent to the inactive account and another email, provided one has been set up.

Even if you don’t need the account, it might be best to login and check you’re not going to miss anything — there might be important information somewhere in No spam, please.

— Mat

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Elon Musk to companies that pulled ads from X: 'Go fuck yourself’

It was a fun, very mature tirade at an NYT event.

Elon Musk, seeing his financially precarious X could lose another $75 million in ad revenue following his boosting of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, has a fresh new message for advertisers pulling away from the platform: “Go fuck yourself.”

While Musk again denied being antisemitic, he expressed some regret for engaging with the tweet that resulted in another exodus of advertisers from X. “I should have not replied to that particular person… I essentially handed a loaded gun to those who hate me,” Musk said.

Continue reading.

EVs are way more unreliable than gas-powered cars

Consumer Reports’ data indicates plug-in hybrids are even worse.


Consumer Reports has published an extensive ranking of vehicle reliability, and the results pour cold water on the dependability of EVs and plug-in hybrids. The survey says electric vehicles suffer from 79 percent more maintenance issues than gas- or diesel-powered ones, while plug-in hybrids have 146 percent more problems. The troubles portray the industry’s growing pains with the relatively new technology. Lexus came out on top among EV brands. All but one of its models scored above average or better in CR’s ratings. Toyota also did well, including the 4Runner SUV, which CR describes as “among the most reliable models in the survey.”

Continue reading.

ChatGPT revealed real phone numbers and email addresses after a ‘silly’ attack

The chatbot was asked to repeat random words forever.

A team of researchers was able to make ChatGPT reveal some of the bits of data it has been trained on by asking it to repeat random words forever. In response, ChatGPT churned out random words, yes, but also shared people’s private information, including email addresses and phone numbers. When the researchers asked ChatGPT to “repeat the word ‘poem’ forever,” the chatbot initially complied, but then revealed an email address and a cellphone number for a real founder and CEO. OpenAI patched the vulnerability on August 30, the researchers say. But in our own tests, Engadget was able to replicate the attack, asking ChatGPT to repeat the word “reply” forever, which resulted, eventually, in revealing someone’s name and Skype ID.

Continue reading.

Spotify Wrapped returns to reveal your 2023 streaming stats

For the first time in a while, you can access it on desktop.


Spotify is revealing all of the artists, genres, songs and podcasts you listened to most in the last 12 months, even if it’s going to make you cringe. The 2023 installment of the streaming service's Wrapped year-in-review debuted yesterday on the Spotify app, with an all-new design alongside the familiar story-style format. This year, the company will assign one of 12 "listening characters" that best fits your streaming habit. The feature is called Me in 2023, and those "characters" range from the Shapeshifter, someone who moves from one artist to another quickly, to the Alchemist, someone more likely to create their own playlists.

Continue reading.

Amazon now has its own AI image generator

AWS users can try out Titan Image Generator.

Amazon has its own image generator. AWS customers can now check out a preview of Titan Image Generator on the Bedrock console. They can either enter a text prompt to create an image from scratch or upload an image and edit it. Amazon says the tool can produce large volumes of studio-quality realistic images at low cost. Users can also isolate areas in which they want to add or remove details. Amazon also recently revealed its own business-centric chatbot, Q.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Meta, X, TikTok, Snap and Discord CEOs will testify before the Senate over online child safety

Social media's negative impact on children's and young adults' mental health has been a growing cause of concern for parents and lawmakers. Now, the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord and X are set to testify in front of the US Senate Judiciary Committee on "their failure to protect children online." Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew are willing participants. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, Discord CEO Jason Citron and X CEO Linda Yaccarino are testifying after being subpoenaed.

Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham, its ranking member, released a statement expressing their frustration with Snap, Discord, and X's initial refusal to have their CEOs participate and even accept the subpoenas. In Discord's case, US Marshals visited their offices to serve the document. 

The senators further shared a feeling of hypocrisy at these platforms wanting a say in policy but fighting against getting involved in discussions. "When we held our first hearing on protecting children online with experts and advocates earlier this year, Big Tech griped about not getting an invitation. We promised them that their time would come," Durbin and Graham stated. "We've known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech. They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids. Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs. Parents and kids demand action." 

The Judiciary Committee has focused on this issue a great deal throughout the year, approving bills that would force online platforms to take more responsibility in protecting children (and be more transparent in their efforts) and improve reporting of online child sexual exploitation, among other steps. The hearing with the CEOs from the five tech giants was originally set for December but will now take place on January 31, 2024, at 10 AM ET. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

United Auto Workers seeks to unionize Tesla, BMW and other carmakers

Fresh off successful contract negotiations with Ford, GM and Stellantis, the United Auto Workers (UAW) is seeking to unionize 150,000 workers across 13 automakers including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Hyundai, it announced. "To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: now it’s your turn," said UAW president Shawn Fain. 

The UAW said the organizing drive covers "more than a dozen" non-union automakers. It notes that many use a mix of full-time, temporary and contract employees "to divide the workforce and depress wages." The union cited one example of a Hyundai assembly plant employee who worked for a subcontractor for eight years starting at $9.25 an hour before finally becoming a full-time Hyundai employee. 

Non-union automakers, including VW, Nissan, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Subaru raised wages after the UAW's negotiations with the big three. VW, for one, bumped them to $23.42 an hour, rising to a maximum of $32.40. However, they "lag far behind UAW autoworkers in wages, benefits and rights on the job," the union said.

The UAW helped workers win a 25 percent raise over four years with the big three automakers, with the highest-paid Ford workers now earning $83,000 per year for a 40-hour work week (around $42 per hour). The union also gained reinstatement of cost-of-living allowances, shorter progression periods to top wages and a quicker conversion of temporary to in-progression (full-time) employees. 

Tesla employees have attempted to unionize the company before, and some alleged that the company fired them for that — though that claim was recently dismissed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB has previously found that Tesla violated labor law by prohibiting employees from talking about workplace matters. Back in 2022, Elon Musk challenged the UAW to hold a vote at Tesla's California factory.

Other automakers aren't exempt from worker complaints, including startup Rivian. "The company likes to tell us we’re making the plane while flying it, and that explains a lot about the problems we have," said one Rivian chassis worker. "We have all sorts of safety issues. Turnover is terrible. Every group has a story about a new employee who did not make it to first break. The lack of safety, the low pay, the forced overtime, there are so many reasons we need to be union." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

NASA and IBM are building an AI for weather and climate applications

NASA and IBM have teamed up to build an AI foundation model for weather and climate applications. They’re combining their respective knowledge and skills in the Earth science and AI fields, respectively, for the model, which they say should offer “significant advantages over existing technology.”

Current AI models such as GraphCast and Fourcastnet are already generating weather forecasts more quickly than traditional meteorological models. However, IBM notes those are AI emulators rather than foundation models. As the name suggests, foundation models are the base technologies that power generative AI applications. AI emulators can make weather predictions based on sets of training data, but they don’t have applications beyond that. Nor can they encode the physics at the core of weather forecasting, IBM says.

NASA and IBM have several goals for their foundational model. Compared with current models, they hope for it to have expanded accessibility, faster inference times and greater diversity of data. Another key aim is to improve forecasting accuracy for other climate applications. The expected capabilities of the model include predicting meteorological phenomena, inferring high-res information based on low-res data and "identifying conditions conducive to everything from airplane turbulence to wildfires."

This follows another foundational model that NASA and IBM deployed in May. It harnesses data from NASA satellites for geospatial intelligence, and it's the largest geospatial model on open-source AI platform Hugging Face, according to IBM. So far, this model has been used to track and visualize tree planting and growing activities in water tower areas (forest landscapes that retain water) in Kenya. The aim is to plant more trees and tackle water scarcity issues. The model is also being used to analyze urban heat islands in the United Arab Emirates.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Microsoft joins OpenAI board as Sam Altman returns as CEO

Following Sam Altman's rollercoaster of a return as OpenAI's CEO, the company announced — on the eve of ChatGPT's first anniversary — that it will now include Microsoft as a non-voting observer on its board. The question remains as to why the firm's largest investor wasn't on its board in the first place, but this seems to be somewhat addressed for now, at least. Altman is joined by co-founder Greg Brockman who resumes his role as President, whereas Mira Murati, who very briefly served as interim CEO throughout the drama, will return to her role as CTO.

The announcement also confirms a new board consisting of former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor (chair), former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and original member Adam D'Angelo, who is also Quora's co-founder and CEO. It was earlier rumored that Altman's exit was partly influenced by D'Angelo's seeming conflict of interest, as OpenAI was developing a potential competitor to Quora's Poe service — the latter offers OpenAI's ChatGPT and GPT-4, along with several other text-generating AI models.

D'Angelo's presence on OpenAI's new board came as a surprise, and Altman took to X to address the elephant in the room. "Quora is a large customer of OpenAI and we found it helpful to have customer representation on our Board." The exec added that D'Angelo "has always been very clear... about the potential conflict and doing whatever he needed to do," including offering to leave the board, if necessary. As to why the original board wanted Altman out, he said "it is clear that there were real misunderstandings between me and members of the board."

OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever was a former board member who allegedly led the ouster of Altman. The exec later openly admitted that he "deeply regret my participation in the board's actions" (with Elon Musk begging for attention in his thread), and he had since voiced his support for Altman's return as CEO. In his open message, Altman says "I harbor zero ill will towards him," and that his team is figuring out a way to let Sutskever continue his work at OpenAI.

In the same official announcement, OpenAI's new Chair, Taylor, assured that the company will "enhance the governance structure," and put together "an independent committee of the Board to oversee a review of the recent events," for the sake of the organization's stability.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Elon Musk responds to companies that pulled ads from X: 'Go fuck yourself’

Elon Musk, facing the fact that an already financially-precarious X could be poised to lose another $75 million in ad revenue following his boosting of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, has a new message for advertisers pulling back from the platform: “Go fuck yourself.”

Musk repeated the sentiment multiple times during an appearance at The New York Times’ DealBook event. “Don’t advertise,” Musk said. “If somebody is going to try and blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go fuck yourself. Is that clear? I hope it is.”

“Hey Bob,” Musk added, in an apparent reference to Disney CEO Bob Iger, who appeared at the same event earlier in the day and spoke about the company’s decision to pull ads following Musk’s tweet earlier this month. Iger said that Disney’s association with X was “not necessarily a positive one for us,” according to Variety.

While Musk again denied being antisemitic, he did express some regret for engaging with the tweet that’s resulted in another exodus of advertisers from X. “I should have not replied to that particular person… I essentially handed a loaded gun to those who hate me,” Musk said about the post, per Variety.

X didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. X CEO Linda Yaccarino had a front-row seat to the remarks, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which reports the former ad exec sat “stone-faced” during Musk’s tirade.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

EVs are way more unreliable than gas-powered cars, Consumer Reports data indicates

Consumer Reports has published an extensive ranking of vehicle reliability, and the results pour cold water on the dependability of EVs and plug-in hybrids. The survey says electric vehicles suffer from 79 percent more maintenance issues than gas- or diesel-powered ones, while plug-in hybrids have 146 percent more problems. The troubles portray the industry’s growing pains with the relatively new technology as the planet sets record temperatures, and scientists warn of rapidly approaching deadlines to thwart global climate catastrophe.

The survey polled CR’s members about issues with their rides from the past year, gathering data on 330,000 vehicles. The publication’s data included models from 2000 to 2023, alongside a few (early launched) 2024 models. CR studied 20 “trouble areas,” including relatively minor issues like squeaky brakes or a broken interior trim and more problematic ones related to the transmission, engine or EV battery. The number of potential trouble areas varies by type: internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have 17, EVs have 12, traditional hybrids have 19 and plug-in hybrids have all 20.

The publication combined the data with its own track testing, owner satisfaction survey results and safety info. It then averaged it to assign each brand a numerical score (out of 100).

Marketing photo of the Lexus UX hybrid vehicle. The silver model drives down a city street with dramatic lighting.
The Lexus UX, a rare plug-in hybrid that scored well in the survey.

Non-plugin hybrids scored well, with the survey indicating they suffer from 26 percent fewer issues than gas- and diesel-powered vehicles. CR highlighted the most reliable brands in that space, including the Lexus’ UX and NX Hybrid and Toyota’s Camry Hybrid, Highlander Hybrid and RAV4 Hybrid.

If only plug-in hybrids (PHEV) could enjoy those ratings. Instead, their longer list of trouble spots led to 146 percent more problems than traditional gas-powered vehicles. Lowlights include the Chrysler Pacifica, which scored an abysmal 14 out of 100, and Audi Q5. However, several PHEVs defied the category’s expectations, including “standouts” like the Toyota RAV4 Prime and Kia Sportage. Several others, including the BMW X5, Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape, scored “average” in reliability.

Fully electric cars and SUVs, the vehicles many automakers aim to fill their dealership lots with by 2030, have mediocre average scores: 44 and 43, respectively. Electric pickups, the newest technology in the bunch, perhaps unsurprisingly scored worse with an average of 30.

Lexus came out on top among EV brands. All but one of its models scored above average or better in CR’s ratings. And the lone exception, the NX, still had an average score. Toyota also did well, including the 4Runner SUV, which CR describes as “among the most reliable models in the survey.” However, its electric Tundra pickup scored poorly. Other EVs with above-average scores include Acura’s RDX and TLX.

Photo of the Tesla Model 3 sitting outdoors next to a field. Green grass, trees and hills are visible in the distance.
Photo by Roberto Baldwin / Engadget

Once practically synonymous with electric vehicles, Tesla had overall scores in the middle of the pack (alongside brands like Chevrolet, Buick, Ram, Cadillac and Dodge). CR says the Elon Musk-led company’s EV powertrains tend to fare better than those from traditional automakers. However, Ars Technica notes the company’s reliability scores struggled more with things like bodywork, paint / trim and climate systems.

Regionally speaking, Asian automakers enjoyed the highest average scores in the survey at a healthy 63. European companies were second with an average of 46, while US brands slumped with a somewhat disappointing score of 39.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at