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Nissan's improved hybrid car system reduces CO2 emissions (www.engadget.com) 02/27/2021 12:20 PM

Nissan has announced that it has achieved a 50 percent thermal efficiency for its next-generation e-Power hybrid technology. As RoadShow explains, most modern gasoline engines have a thermal efficiency of around 40 percent — in other words, only 40 percent of the energy they create upon burning fuel is transformed into motion. The rest gets turned into waste, such as heat and emissions, which means its technology can potentially lead to lower emissions.

The automaker was able to achieve a higher thermal efficiency, because its e-Power system doesn't work like conventional gas engines — it doesn't power the car itself and instead acts as a dedicated electricity generator for the technology's e-powertrain. That means the engine can run at its most efficient range all the time, allowing it to efficiently burn a more diluted air-fuel mixture at a high compression ratio. In conventional engines, the air-fuel dilution varies depending on various operational conditions.

Toshihiro Hirai, senior vice president of Nissan's powertrain and EV engineering division, told reporters:

"It took 50 years to increase thermal efficiency (of conventional engines) from 30% to 40%. But with e-Power, we can increase it to 50% in several years. That has been the target for the engineering community,” he said, describing that level as the "ultimate, challenging goal'."

Nissan previously said that it's aiming to have an electrified version of all its new models in major markets by the early 2030s and that it's hoping to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. "Nissan's electrification strategy promotes the development of e-powertrains and high-performance batteries for EVs, with e-Power representing another important strategic pillar," Hirai said. The company has yet to announce when it would launch the e-Power system with 50 percent efficiency, but it launched the all-new Note powered by the current version of e-Power in Japan back in December.

ICYMI: We check out Lenovo’s lightest ThinkPad yet (www.engadget.com) 02/27/2021 12:00 PM

This week we spent some time testing Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Nano — the company's thinnest and lightest ThinkPad at under two pounds. As usual, slimming things down comes with some trade offs, and Cherlynn Low tells us where the X1 Nano might leave you hanging. We also played around with the Poly Effects Beebo, an ambitious virtual modular synth in guitar-pedal form that Terrence O’Brien says is no more difficult to use than a smartphone. And Nicole Lee let the Amazon Echo Show 10’s rotating display follow her around her kitchen to find out if that new (and somewhat creepy) feature is worth paying $250 for.

The Thinkpad X1 Nano is impressively slim, but doesn't last long

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Nano
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Lenovo’s Thinkpad line is known for reliable performance, excellent keyboards and long-lasting batteries. The company’s new X1 Nano, which has a refreshed design and improved display, is noteworthy for weighing less than two pounds and for being one of the first laptops to meet Intel’s Evo certification. Cherlynn Low found a lot to like about the $1,399 laptop, namely its 11th-generation, 2.1GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, physical webcam shutter and 16:10 display

The X1 Nano is nearly identical to the X1 Carbon, and like all Thinkpad laptops, it meets military spec standards (MIL-STD-810H), making it quite durable. The display is a 2K panel that supports Dolby Vision and tops out at 450 nits of brightness, but doesn’t have touchscreen capabilities. It also has Dolby Atmos speakers, which Cherlynn found surprisingly loud, and four, 360-degree microphones that are intended to improve audio quality during video conferences. However in this case, the trade-off for getting a light and thin laptop is battery life: Cherlynn was able to eek just about 9 hours out of this machine.

The Poly Effects Beebo is an ambitious virtual modular synth

Poly Effects Beebo
Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

Poly Effects actually released the Beebo earlier this year, but the company recently merged the firmware with its other modular pedal, the Digit. This, according to Terrence O’Brien, has created one super pedal that’s basically a virtual modular synthesizer in a guitar-pedal format. The Beebo has a 5-inch touchscreen, which puts it on the smaller side, and Terrence said if you can use a smartphone, you'll likely be able to figure out this device.

In testing, Terrence said it was a versatile and complex touchscreen guitar pedal that’s easy to navigate with a bright interface and small, attractive icons. However, he found that some of the modules were a bit inconsistent and he ended up using the amp sim, cab sim and convolution reverb modules the most. The one glaring hole in the lineup is the lack of a looper. That being said, he found joy in experimenting with the Beebo and, despite its bugs, found it a wholly unique and powerful piece of gear.

Amazon’s 3rd-gen Echo Show 10 moves with you

Amazon Echo Show 10
Nicole Lee/Engadget

Nicole Lee admits she was skeptical about the new Amazon Echo Show 10. The device looks different from previous models in that it has a display stuck onto a swiveling base, which enables it to turn and follow users so its screen is always in view. It’s also expensive at $250, making it more of an investment than the $130 Echo Show 8. However, after testing it in her kitchen, Nicole says she found the swiveling feature more useful than she thought it would be (albeit a bit creepy at first).

The Echo Show 10 has a 6.7-inch base and a 9.9-inch display, which means it takes up a fair amount of space — plus, it needs room to swivel around. Nicole said she found it best for watching videos since you’ll never miss an important moment with the screen always in view. She used it a lot to follow recipe instructions since she could keep track of things while moving around the kitchen to grab ingredients or wash her hands. The Echo Show 10 was smart enough to keep her and her husband in the frame, and to refocus on her when he left the frame. But in practice, the panning and zooming features were sometimes inconsistent and, as an Amazon device, it lacks functionality with some Google apps like YouTube and Nest cameras.

MSI’s GS66 Stealth is a solid step towards 1440p gaming on laptops

MSI GS66 Stealth
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

On the outside, the MSI GS66 Stealth doesn’t look that much different from last year’s model. It still has the same slim and sturdy aluminum frame, 4.6-pound weight, solid selection of ports, LED back-lit keyboard and large trackpad. However, it now includes NVIDIA’s new RTX 30-series GPUs and a 2K screen, making it one of the first gaming notebooks with such a panel. This middle ground between a 1080p and a 4K display provides a sharp picture and the upgraded GPU provides a fast refresh rate that makes for smoother gameplay.

Devindra Hardawar took the new model for a spin and was pleased by the results of his battery testing, an area in which many gaming laptops falter. The GS66 Stealth lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes during our benchmark test, which is an hour more than last year’s model. However, it’s not necessarily every gamer’s dream machine: he found the keyboard to be a bit mushy when typing, and the 1440p resolution isn’t the most ideal for streaming video. Also, like most gaming laptops, the GS66 Stealth gets pretty warm on the underside. But the biggest drawback by far are the fans, which were loud enough for Devindra to recommend using a headset while pushing the machine to its limits.

Hitting the Books: The Brooksian revolution that led to rational robots (www.engadget.com) 02/27/2021 11:30 AM

We are living through an AI renaissance thought wholly unimaginable just a few decades ago — automobiles are becoming increasingly autonomous, machine learning systems can craft prose nearly as well as human poets, and almost every smartphone on the market now comes equipped with an AI assistant. Oxford professor Michael Woolridge has spent the past quarter decade studying technology. In his new book, A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence, Woolridge leads readers on an exciting tour of the history of AI, its present capabilities, and where the field is heading into the future.

A Brief History of AI
Flatiron Books

Excerpted from A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence. Copyright © 2021 by Michael Woolridge. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Robots and Rationality

In his 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the philosopher Thomas Kuhn argued that, as scientific understanding advances, there will be times when established scientific orthodoxy can no longer hold up under the strain of manifest failures. At such times of crisis, he argued, a new orthodoxy will emerge and replace the established order: the scientific paradigm will change. By the late 1980s, the boom days of expert systems were over, and another AI crisis was looming. Once again, the AI community was criticized for overselling ideas, promising too much, and delivering too little. This time, the paradigm being questioned was not just the “Knowledge is power” doctrine that had driven the expert systems boom but the basic assumptions that had underpinned AI since the 1950s, symbolic AI in particular. The fiercest critics of AI in the late 1980s, though, were not outsiders but came from within the field itself.

The most eloquent and influential critic of the prevailing AI paradigm was the roboticist Rodney Brooks, who was born in Australia in 1954. Brooks’s main interest was in building robots that could carry out useful tasks in the real world. Throughout the early 1980s, he began to be frustrated with the then prevailing idea that the key to building such robots was to encode knowledge about the world in a form that could be used by the robot as the basis for reasoning and decision-making. He took up a faculty position at MIT in the mid-1980s and began his campaign to rethink AI at its most fundamental level.

THE BROOKSIAN REVOLUTION

To understand Brooks’s arguments, it is helpful to return to the Blocks World. Recall that the Blocks World is a simulated domain consisting of a tabletop on which are stacked a number of different objects—the task is to rearrange the objects in certain specified ways. At first sight, the Blocks World seems perfectly reasonable as a proving ground for AI techniques: it sounds like a warehouse environment, and I daresay exactly this point has been made in many grant proposals over the years. But for Brooks, and those that came to adopt his ideas, the Blocks World was bogus for the simple reason that it is simulated, and the simulation glosses over everything that would be difficult about a task like arranging blocks in the real world. A system that can solve problems in the Blocks World, however smart it might appear to be, would be of no value in a warehouse, because the real difficulty in the physical world comes from dealing with issues like perception, which are completely ignored in the Blocks World: it became a symbol of all that was wrong and intellectually bankrupt about the AI orthodoxy of the 1970s and 1980s. (This did not stop research into the Blocks World, however: you can still regularly find research papers using it to the present day; I confess to have written some myself.)

Brooks had become convinced that meaningful progress in AI could only be achieved with systems that were situated in the real world: that is, systems that were directly in some environment, perceiving it and acting upon it. He argued that intelligent behavior can be generated without explicit knowledge and reasoning of the kind promoted by knowledge-based AI in general and logic-based AI in particular, and he suggested instead that intelligence is an emergent property that arises from the interaction of an entity in its environment. The point here is that, when we contemplate human intelligence, we tend to focus on its more glamorous and tangible aspects: reasoning, for example, or problem solving, or playing chess. Reasoning and problem solving might have a role in intelligent behavior, but Brooks and others argued that they were not the right starting point from which to build AI.

Brooks also took issue with the divide-and-conquer assumption that had underpinned AI since its earliest days: the idea that progress in AI research could be made by decomposing intelligent behavior into its constituent components (reasoning, learning, perception), with no attempt to consider how these components worked together.

Finally, he pointed out the naivety of ignoring the issue of computational effort. In particular, he took issue with the idea that all intelligent activities must be reduced to ones such as logical reasoning, which are computationally expensive.

As a student working on AI in the late 1980s, it seemed like Brooks was challenging everything I thought I knew about my field. It felt like heresy. In 1991, a young colleague returning from a large AI conference in Australia told me, wide-eyed with excitement, about a shouting match that had developed between Ph.D. students from Stanford (McCarthy’s home institute) and MIT (Brooks’s). On one side, there was established tradition: logic, knowledge representation, and reasoning. On the other, the outspoken, disrespectful adherents of a new AI movement—not just turning their backs on hallowed tradition but loudly ridiculing it.

While Brooks was probably the highest-profile advocate of the new direction, he was by no means alone. Many other researchers were reaching similar conclusions, and while they did not necessarily agree on the smaller details, there were a number of commonly recurring themes in their different approaches.

The most important was the idea that knowledge and reasoning were deposed from their role at the heart of AI. McCarthy’s vision of an AI system that maintained a central symbolic, logical model of its environment, around which all the activities of intelligence orbited, was firmly rejected. Some moderate voices argued that reasoning and representation still had a role to play, although perhaps not a leading role, but more extreme voices rejected them completely.

It is worth exploring this point in a little more detail. Remember that the McCarthy view of logical AI assumes that an AI system will continually follow a particular loop: perceiving its environment, reasoning about what to do, and then acting. But in a system that operates in this way, the system is decoupled from the environment.

Take a second to stop reading this book, and look around. You may be in an airport departure lounge, a coffee shop, on a train, in your home, or lying by a river in the sunshine. As you look around, you are not disconnected from your environment and the changes that the environment is undergoing. You are in the moment. Your perception—and your actions—are embedded within and in tune with your environment.

The problem is, the knowledge-based approach doesn’t seem to reflect this. Knowledge-based AI assumes that an intelligent system operates through a continual perceive-reason-act loop, processing and interpreting the data it receives from its sensors; using this perceptual information to update its beliefs; reasoning about what to do; performing the action it then selects; and starting its decision loop again. But in this way, an AI system is inherently decoupled from its environment. In particular, if the environment changes after it has been observed, then it will make no difference to our knowledge-based intelligent system, which will stubbornly continue as though nothing had changed. You and I are not like that. For these reasons, another key theme at the time was the idea that there should be a close-coupled relationship between the situation that the system finds itself in and the behavior that it exhibits.

OnePlus will reportedly launch its '9R' phone and watch in March (www.engadget.com) 02/27/2021 11:20 AM

OnePlus may have a particularly busy March. Well-known tipster Ishan Agarwal told 91Mobiles that OnePlus will reportedly unveil at least four devices in March, including a lower-cost 9R smartphone (you're looking at the 8T above) as well as the standard 9, the 9 Pro and the company's previously teased smartwatch. While Agarwal doesn't have new specs to share for either the 9R or the watch, it comes just days after Evan Blass found web evidence of the 9R name.

The 9R was previously rumored as a 9E or 9 Lite and might straddle the gap between OnePlus' usual flagships and budget devices like the Nord N series. It wouldn't bowl anyone over with its 6.5-inch 90Hz display, Snapdragon 690 chip or 64MP main camera, but it might offer more RAM and battery (8GB and 5,000mAh respectively) than the Nord N10's 6GB of memory and 4,300mAh battery pack. The 9 and 9 Pro are both expected to include smoother 120Hz displays, more powerful Snapdragon 888 chips and upgraded camera tech (if at lower resolutions), so you'd still have a clear incentive to spend extra if your budget allows. 

The OnePlus watch, meanwhile, could be a circular Wear OS watch that shares some common ground with the Oppo Watch RX.

If the claims are accurate, you could expect OnePlus to start teasing the 9R, the watch and other offerings in the near future. It's safe to say this would be the largest OnePlus launch yet — it would have four new major products and a full range of phones covering most use cases. Whether or not fans will be happy is another story (a compromised 9R device doesn't exactly scream "Never Settle"), but they at least won't be hurting for choice.

The Morning After: MSI's latest gaming laptop targets the 1440p sweet spot (www.engadget.com) 02/27/2021 10:45 AM

Years after 3D's last invasion has receded from the public sphere, it’s notable that some of the most favorable implementations happened on mobile devices. To mark the ten-year anniversary of the Nintedo 3DS launch in Japan, Engadget editors chimed in with a few memories of their favorite games.

StreetPass
Kris Naudus / Engadget

Still, Kris Naudus wants you to know that the portable system’s best feature had nothing to do with 3D. Instead she focused on StreetPass, Nintendo’s pre-contact tracing social feature that passively traded information between systems whenever they got close to one another. If you weren’t living in a densely populated area and taking your 3DS on public transportation every day, it’s interesting to see what the experience was like when all the elements came together.

— Richard Lawler

MSI GS66 Stealth review (2021)

The gaming sweetspot comes to laptops.

MI GS66 Stealth
Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

MSI's latest GS66 Stealth is one of the first gaming notebooks with a 240Hz 1440p (or 2K) screen. As Devindra Hardawar explains, that means you don’t have to choose between 1080p screens that don’t seem quite sharp enough or 4K displays that add battery drain and strain mobile GPUs. The only problem? MS hasn’t finalized pricing on this unit, and the fan noise was a bit loud, but with competitors close to releasing similar devices this is a space to watch in 2021.
Continue reading.

Netflix is making a Terminator anime with the studio behind 'Ghost in the Shell'

Yes, Production I.G. is working on another new series for Netflix.

A Terminator anime from the legendary studio behind the Ghost in the Shell franchise is coming to Netflix. The streaming giant didn't share any details on the plot, but showrunner Mattson Tomlin, who worked on Project Power for Netflix, told Variety he plans to approach the franchise in a way that "breaks conventions, subverts expectations and has real guts.” My big question? Who is this Redditor that suggested the project a year ago, and what else did they see in their crystal ball?
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Google offers improved sleep tracking tools for Android apps

The Sleep As Android developer collaborated on this project.

Android Sleep API
Google

If you woke up looking for more information on how to get a good night’s sleep, and you use Android, then stay tuned. Google has opened up a Sleep API for third-party apps to use that surfaces info on a user’s sleep without using a lot of battery power. An on-device AI model uses the light and motion sensors to pull in data, which the apps can access if a user grants it the Physical Activity Recognition runtime permission.
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This week's best deals: $200 off the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and more

The 55-inch CX OLED is down to a record-low price.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

While Nintendo's Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is $10 off, Amazon knocked the prices of all of Samsung's Galaxy S21 smartphones down by hundreds. Those handsets just came out last month, making now a good time to grab one if you've been meaning to upgrade.

Here are all the best deals from the week that you can still snag today, and remember to follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for more updates.
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The Engadget Podcast

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover has landed! Now what?

Engadget Podcast logo

This week, Devindra and Cherlynn chat with PhD candidate and all-around space nerd Sophia Gad-Nasr about NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover. We dive into what it’s journey was like, what was so remarkable about its landing, and what it’ll be working on in the future. Also, we chat about the new PSVR headset, the death of Fry’s Electronics and Cinefex magazine, and more!

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts or Stitcher.
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'Next-gen' USPS vehicles can use gas or electric motors

The plan is to build up to 165,000 of these and put them on the road starting in 2023.

USPS NGDV
USPS

This is the next-generation USPS van, which will replace an aging fleet of vehicles powered by gas engines that can barely crack 10 MPG. The Postal Service announced that its 10-year, multi-billion-dollar modernization plan will revolve around these slightly cartoony vehicles, built by a company called Oshkosh Defense, which usually produces tactical vehicles for the military.

The Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) doesn’t have turrets or gun racks, but it does have air conditioning, blind-spot warning, automatic braking and a back-up camera. Most notably, however, is the option of an electric powertrain, which the USPS claims allows for upgrades in the future as technology improves.
Continue reading.

But wait, there’s more...

NASA reveals video of Perseverance's landing on Mars

Virgin Galactic delays space tourism flights to early 2022

'Terraria' will hit Stadia after all

Right-wing site Gab responds to 'alleged' data breach

Netflix's first 'Shadow and Bone' trailer shows off the fantasy world of Ravka

Survival game 'Valheim' sold four million copies in three weeks of early access

Sony's FX3 is a compact $3,900 camera for filmmakers

Streaming music made up 83 percent of the record industry's revenue in 2020

'Pokémon Diamond' and 'Pearl' remakes are arriving on Switch later this year

SpaceX's first private flight will carry the youngest ever American to orbit

Hyundai's striking Ioniq 5 delivers long range and brisk performance

ThinkPad X1 Nano review: Light and mighty but doesn't last

What's going on at Google AI?

Volkswagen is using its electric ID.Buzz van to test self-driving tech (www.engadget.com) 02/27/2021 06:03 AM

Volkswagen at one time said its electric ID.Buzz van would reach dealerships by 2022 (that announcement has been removed but you can view it in the Internet Archive), but news from its commercial division confirms that at least an unveiling is still on deck for next year. Beyond that, VW autonomous driving exec Christian Senger said "This year, for the first time, we are conducting field trials in Germany, in which the self-driving system by Argo AI will be used in a version of the future ID. BUZZ by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles."

Argo AI is the autonomous driving technology that Ford and VW have partnered to invest in and develop. The commercial vehicles team is developing vans to use the self-driving tech in that are based on the ID.Buzz to power a ride-hailing and pooling concept with autonomous vans that can operate in urban areas. 

With the announcement VW also released this concept sketch (above) of the self-driving test vehicle that Germans may see on roads any moment now. LIDAR sensors are visible on the corners and a roof-mounted bulge should hold more tech to help the van sense its surroundings. As Autoblog notes, this concept doesn't have the retro-themed two ton color scheme we've seen in previous ID.Buzz releases, but we'll have to wait for the reveal to see how it pays homage to VW vans from the past.

Facebook's BARS is an experimental TikTok-like app for rappers (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 11:50 PM

Facebook's R&D division, the NPE Team, has introduced another experimental app that's centered around music. It's called BARS, and it's meant to give aspiring rappers a way to record their rhymes with the app's studio quality vocal effects and professionally created beats, as well as to share their videos on social media. Users can select from the several beats available, and if they write in-app, BARS will auto—suggest words that rhyme with what they're typing

The app has audio and visual filters and an autotune feature that users can take advantage of to create a polished product. There's also Challenge mode, wherein users will have to rap freestyle while incorporating the auto-suggested word cues. As TechCrunch notes, BARS seems to be another attempt at a TikTok competitor, albeit a specialized one, seeing as each video can only be up to 60 seconds in length. The app even has a similar UI, with a two-tabbed vertical video interface.

Late last year, the NPE team released the experimental app Collab, which allows users to collaborate on music videos without having to get together in person. The team told TechCrunch that the pandemic played a role in the creation of both apps. "I know access to high-priced recording studios and production equipment can be limited for aspiring rappers. On top of that, the global pandemic shut down live performances where we often create and share our work," team member member DJ Iyler told the publication.

Facebook has launched BARS as a closed beta for iPhones, with its first videos uploaded by members of the team. It's currently up on the App Store, and interested rappers can now download it to reserve their username and sign up for the waitlist.

A PlayStation Network outage is affecting certain games (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 09:26 PM

Just a day after a massive Xbox Live outage, Sony's PlayStation Network has been experiencing issues for several hours. The problem on this end is a bit different, and based on reports may only affect certain games. Sony's PSN Status page reports that "You might have difficulty launching games, apps, or network features" on platforms including the PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and PS5.

Some people have had problems trying to go online to play Call of Duty: Warzone or Minecraft, while other games like Fortnite seem to be accessible. When I tried to access a few games on my PS5, Fall Guys worked, but Call of Duty and Destruction AllStars couldn't connect to matchmaking. The service status page says this issue started around 6:33 PM ET, but gamers online noted problems several hours before and a look at DownDetector shows reports of issues spiking as early as 1 PM ET. At least in this case, it seems like most people won't have to go offline to try to play their games, and may just have to switch titles until it's resolved.

Affected platforms:
PS Vita, PS3, PS4, PS5

Affected services:
You might have difficulty launching games, apps, or network features. We're working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Sony

NASA’s Perseverance rover carried a family portrait of its robotic siblings to Mars (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 08:37 PM

Like any good piece of high-tech hardware, NASA’s Perseverance rover features an Easter egg hidden in plain sight. Since landing on Mars on February 18th, NASA has been sharing thousands of photos captured by the rover. And if you look close enough, as Space did, you’ll catch a decal bolted to the top of its body. That decal depicts Perseverance and every single other NASA rover to successfully make it to the surface of Mars.

From left to right, you can see Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance lined up in the order they landed on the Red Planet: 1997, 2004, 2012 and 2021. On the far right of the decal is NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter drone, which caught a ride on Perseverance and will attempt to fly the skies of Mars later this year.

After people caught sight of the family portrait, Dr Moogega Cooper, a planetary protection engineer at NASA’s JPL lab, shared a photo of the decal taken before it left Earth. “For those wondering if it was biologically clean, yes… yes it was,” she said.

While it’s been stealing the hearts of nerds everywhere, Perseverance’s real job is to find signs of ancient microbial life. Sometime in the next few weeks, NASA plans to take the rover on a short test drive before exploring further into the Jezero Crater. Perseverance will start collecting samples once it finds a promising place to drill.

'Terraria' will hit Stadia after all (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 06:54 PM

Terraria will come out Stadia after all. In a state of the game post spotted by Android Police, developer Re-Logic said it had resumed work on the port after settling its differences with Google.

“After a month of pushing (and with the immense support of our fans), Google finally reached out and was able to provide a lot of transparency around the situation and to restore access to all of our accounts,” Re-Logic said on Friday. “Due to the hard work the Stadia team has put in — as well as our partners at 505 Games — we have decided that we will allow the upcoming launch [of] Terraria on Google Stadia to proceed.”

The “situation” the statement references broke out near the start of the month. Terraria co-creator and Re-Logic CEO Andrew Spinks took to Twitter to blast Google after the company allegedly suspended the studio’s YouTube, Gmail, Drive and Play accounts. “I absolutely have not done anything to violate your terms of service, so I can take this no other way than you deciding to burn this bridge,” Spinks said at the time. “Consider it burned. #Terraria for @GoogleStadia is canceled. My company will no longer support any of your platforms moving forward.”

In an interview with Engadget, a spokesperson for Re-Logic recounted the studio’s side of the story. They said Spinks and the team tried to resolve the issue over several weeks, but repeatedly hit a wall with Google support. The tweetstorm was a last resort by the studio to try and resolve the situation. According to a recent Bloomberg report, Google spent tens of millions of dollars to get games like Red Dead Redemption II on Stadia, so there may be financial reasons to get the port done too.

Right-wing site Gab responds to 'alleged' data breach (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 06:19 PM

The CEO of Gab — the right-wing haven that lost mainstream tech backing after violent attacks in 2018 — published a curious blog post denying that the company has suffered a data breach. While it mysteriously went offline for a short time a week ago, at the time it claimed the only problem was some kind of bitcoin wallet spam affecting only a few accounts.

Now Gab's CEO writes that the site was contacted by reporters about an alleged data breach that may have leaked an archive of posts, DMs, profiles and hashed passwords. The CEO says there's no independent confirmation a breach took place, and claims the site doesn't collect much personal information about its users anyway, but still accuses the unnamed reporters of working with a hacker to smear its reputation. Andrew Torba admits the site is aware it had a vulnerability to an SQL injection attack and patched the flaw last week, followed by a security audit that is still ongoing.

Where this all leads is hard to tell, but a reporter linked to DDoSecrets tweeted "Yes, we have the data" and promised more information "soon enough."

Netflix is making a Terminator anime with the studio behind 'Ghost in the Shell' (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 04:43 PM

A Terminator anime from the legendary studio behind the Ghost in the Shell franchise is coming to Netflix. The streaming giant didn't share any details on the plot, but showrunner Mattson Tomlin, who worked on Project Power for Netflix, told Variety he plans to approach the franchise in a way that "breaks conventions, subverts expectations and has real guts.” If you're an anime fan, you need no introduction to Production I.G. In addition to adapting Masamune Shirow's seminal manga, the studio has worked on popular series like Psycho-Pass and Eden of the East

Netflix has been investing a lot into anime in recent months. Earlier this month, it announced it was working with Valve and Studio MIR, best known for producing The Legend of Korra and Voltron: Legendary Defender, to release a Dota 2 animated series in March. It also has a Splinter Cell show on the way from John Wick co-creator Derek Kolstad. 

Streaming music made up 83 percent of the record industry's revenue in 2020 (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 03:49 PM

The coronavirus pandemic may have made it nearly impossible to check out live shows last year, but the music industry still found a way to grow despite all the hardships. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual year-end report, overall recorded music revenue increased by 9.2 percent to $12.2 billion in 2020. That growth was primarily sustained by more money coming from streaming services, with the format generating $10.1 billion in revenue in 2020, up from $8.9 billion in 2019. 2020 marked the fifth consecutive year of growth on that front.

Of the major streaming platforms, Spotify and Apple Music were the biggest contributors, generating $7 billion in revenue between the two of them. At the same time, the average number of US subscriptions increased to 75.5 million, up from 60.4 million in the previous year.

When you put all those numbers together, streaming accounted for 83 percent of the industry’s total revenue. Sales of CDs and digital downloads continued to decline, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that vinyl had another strong year. Sales of the format increased by 29.2 percent year over year to $619.6 million. That’s particularly impressive when you consider record shops had to close for most of the year.

One crucial question the RIAA’s report doesn’t answer is where all that money is ending up. The streaming model pays out generously to the world’s biggest acts but makes it difficult for smaller and independent artists to make a living off their music. In some ways, that’s always been the case with the industry, but the problem has become more pronounced with the coronavirus pandemic. There’s an entire subsection of professionals who haven’t been able to participate in the economic growth the industry saw this year because it’s been impossible for musicians and bands to tour. That’s something platforms like Bandcamp have tried to address, but it will take other companies turning to more equitable business models before the problem gets better.

Netflix's first 'Shadow and Bone' trailer shows off the fantasy world of Ravka (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 01:15 PM

Netflix has shared the first trailer for Shadow and Bone, its live-action adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling fantasy novel series. The clip introduces us to protagonist Alina Starkov, played here by Jessie Mei Li, as she sets off on a journey to cross the Shadow Fold, the darkness that is at the center of both the story’s plot and the fictional kingdom of Ravka. Alina discovers she has a hidden power when her friend Malyen is attacked by one of the monsters that live in the darkness.

Eric Heisserer, best known for his work on Arrival and Bird Box, created, penned and produced the adaptation. The eight-episode series will adapt the entirety of Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, as well as its two spin-off novels, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. You’ll be able to catch all eight episodes of Shadow and Bone when Netflix starts streaming the series on April 23rd.

MSI GS66 Stealth review (2021): The gaming sweetspot comes to laptops (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 01:00 PM

MSI's latest GS66 Stealth may look the same as last year's model, but it has a lot more going for it. It's powered by NVIDIA's new RTX 30-series GPUs, and it's one of the first gaming notebooks with a 1440p (or 2K) screen. That's a big deal. For the last few years, laptop gamers could choose from low-resolution, 1080p screens with fast refresh rates, or 4K displays that pack in a ton of pixels, but also require a ton of power to render games.

1440p is a nice middle ground: It's sharper than 1080p, but isn't as demanding as 4K. The MSI GS66 Stealth, and other notebooks sporting 1440p, also supports fast refresh rates to make gameplay look silky smooth. So take this new screen tech, more power and the relatively slim design of the GS66 altogether, and it seems like a winner, right?

For the most part, yes. But I came across one major downside: tons of fan noise. That's the cost of cramming so much hardware into a thin notebook. And while fan noise is something every PC gamer has to deal with, the GS66's cooling system was far louder than most.

But let's start with the good stuff first. As soon as I got the GS66, equipped with NVIDIA's RTX 3080 mobile GPU, Intel's i7-10870H CPU and 16GB of RAM, I promptly installed Overwatch to see just how well its 240Hz 1440p screen performed. I wasn't disappointed. That 240Hz figure means the screen can display up to four times as many frames every second, compared to standard 60Hz monitors. The more data, the smoother everything looks. Pretty simple.

In Overwatch, I reached around 175FPS on average with epic graphics settings in 1440p. The fluidity of the gameplay made it easier for me to line up sniper shots or just wreak havoc as Junkrat. Sure, I've seen the game run even faster on last year's GS66, which had a 300Hz 1080p display. But that lower resolution delivered less detail whenever I slowed down to take a close look at Overwatch's characters and stages. With the new 1440p display, I could make out things like the fine lines in costumes, as well as distant objects and players that were a bit muddy in 1080p. I'd gladly trade off an insanely high refresh rate like 300Hz for a slightly better screen.

MSI GS66 2021
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

And while 4K screens are obviously sharper, gaming in 1440p requires a lot less horsepower. You'll likely see great results with the GS66 even if it doesn't have NVIDIA's most powerful graphics card. Most 4K screens have largely been limited to 60Hz refresh rates, so even if you could run a game well, it could never look as smooth as a 1080p screen. Ironic, isn't it? We're seeing 120Hz 4K screens now in pricey machines like the Razer Blade Pro 17, but that's still pretty rare.

1440p isn’t a particularly useful resolution when it comes to watching videos, but the GS66’s screen still made streaming content look great. That 240Hz panel also made browsing the web and perusing documents incredibly smooth — though you have to enable NVIDIA’s GPU manually to see the full benefits of that refresh rate. By default, the GS66 uses NVIDIA’s Optimus technology to automatically switch between the system’s integrated Intel graphics and the RTX 3080 GPU. That helps with battery life, but it also limits the screen to a more standard 60Hz with integrated graphics. And as a side note: If you’re still not sold on 1440p as the ideal gaming resolution, you can also snag the GS66 with a 300Hz 1080p screen or a 4K panel.

PCMark 10

3DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)

Geekbench 5

ATTO (top reads/writes)

MSI GS66 Stealth (2021, Intel i7-10870H, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Max-Q)

5369

4,538

1,247/6,505

3.1 GB/s / 2.9 GB/s

MSI GS66 Stealth (2020, Intel Core i7-10750H, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q)

4,778

3,231

1,159/6,901

1.8 GB/s / 1.8 GB/s

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XB (Intel i7-10875H, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q)

5,155

3,495

1,137/5,681

2.93 GB/s / 2.59 GB/s

ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 (Intel i9-10980HK, NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q)

5,616

3,680

1,365/8,055

3 GB/s / 3.24 GB/s

ASUS Zephyrus G14 (AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS, NVIDIA RTX 2060 Max-Q)

5,436

2,725

1,189/7,705

1.7 GB/s / 1.67 GB/s

Moving on to a more demanding game, the GS66 was able to run Control between 55 and 75FPS with maxed out graphics and ray tracing settings. I had to use NVIDIA's DLSS technology to achieve that smooth gameplay though, which means it was actually being rendered at a resolution lower than 1440p, before being scaled back up with AI algorithms. Given just how taxing ray tracing can be, I've found DLSS to practically be a requirement with Control, no matter which system I'm playing on.

MSI GS66 2021

As great as its gaming performance was though, the GS66's fan noise started to wear on me over time. Simply loading the Overwatch menu screen made them spin up. It didn't matter what I was playing — the GS66's three fans made it sound like a jet getting to take off. They're not just loud, they're also incredibly whiny. You'd probably want to stick with a headset just to keep yourself sane. At the very least, MSI's overzealous cooling does a decent job of keeping the RTX 3080 at around 70 Celsius under load. I'm used to seeing GPU's soar past 80 degrees. Its underside does get hot when it's under load, but that's pretty normal for gaming notebooks.

Beyond its new internals, the GS66's design hasn't changed at all since last year. The thin and sturdy aluminum frame is back; it still weighs 4.6 pounds (putting it on par with the Razer Blade); and its LED back-lit keyboard and large trackpad haven't changed a bit. I would have liked to see MSI add a bit more depth to the keyboard — it's fine for gaming, but a bit mushy when typing. You've got a solid selection of ports too: three USB 3.2 Type A connections; 2 USB-C ports (one of which supports Thunderbolt); HDMI; and a 2.5 gigabit Ethernet connection.

MSI GS66 2021
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The GS66 looks attractive and refined, though not as expertly honed as the Razer Blade. That makes sense, as Razer can focus its design strength on a handful of products, while MSI has a wide array of notebooks to take care of. I appreciate the understated look of the GS66, though. As long as you keep those RGB LEDs off, it could easily fit into a more professional setting. (At least, until those fans start whirring.) The GS66’s battery life also makes it a decent productivity machine. It lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes during our benchmark, almost a full hour more than last year.

So, should you buy the GS66? Here’s the problem for MSI: While it’s one of the first companies to deliver a 1440p gaming notebook, Razer, HP, and ASUS aren’t far behind. And given its noisy fans, it may be worth waiting to see how competitors handle cooling. MSI also hasn’t finalized pricing for this system in the US yet, so it’s hard to compare precisely. To put things in perspective, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced with similar specs (though twice as much RAM) is going for $2,900.

MSI has delivered a solid 1440p gaming laptop when it comes to pure performance — it’s just too bad about those fans. Maybe that won’t be an issue for some buyers. I’m just hoping a redesign fixes things for the next model. At this point, it’s clear that MSI is reaching the limits of what you can do with thin gaming machines.

This week's best deals: $200 off the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and more (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 12:30 PM

As February comes to a close, we saw a number of solid devices go on sale this week — including brand new smartphones. While Nintendo's Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is $10 off, Amazon knocked the prices of all of Samsung's Galaxy S21 smartphones down by hundreds. Those handsets just came out last month, making now a good time to grab one if you've been meaning to upgrade. Here are the best tech deals we found this week that you can still get today.

Samsung Galaxy S21

Samsung Galaxy S21
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

All of Samsung's latest smartphones are on sale at Amazon, with a couple seeing $200 discounts. The regular Galaxy S21 is $100 off while both the Galaxy S21+ and the S21 Ultra are $200 off. While the S21 is the best value Android phone you can get at the moment, the S21 Ultra is a substantial upgrade that will serve power-users and creatives well.

Buy Galaxy S21 at Amazon - $700 Buy Galaxy S21+ at Amazon - $800 Buy Galaxy S21 Ultra at Amazon - $1,000

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Engadget

The Galaxy Watch 3 is down to a record low price of $249 at Amazon, which is $150 off its normal price. You'll pay $30 more for the 44mm model, but that, too, is an all-time low. We gave the Galaxy Watch 3 a score of 86 for its spinning bezel and solid activity and sleep tracking.

Buy Galaxy Watch 3 41mm at Amazon - $249 Buy Galaxy Watch 3 44mm at Amazon - $279

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

Nintendo Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit
Nintendo

Nintendo's Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit racing kit is just about $10 off at Amazon, bringing it down to just about $90. It's a small discount but a decent one for a Nintendo Switch accessory that rarely goes on sale. The kit gives you the Luigi racing cart and "gates" with which to make your own track around your home. With it and the free software downloaded to your Switch, you can move your racing endeavors (partially) off the screen and into your living room.

Buy Mario Kart: Home Circuit Luigi pack at Amazon - $90.12

LG CX OLED TVs

LG CX OLED smart TV
LG

The 55-inch LG CX OLED TV is down to a record low of $1,350 at Amazon and Best Buy. Newegg recently joined this sale by knocking $800 off the 65-inch CX OLED model, and you'll get a free $200 Newegg gift card when you buy. While new 2021 models will be coming out soon, this 2020 TV remains a good pick if you don't want to shell out around $2,000 or more for the latest versions. The CX lineup uses LG's a9 Gen 3 AI Processor 4K and it supports 120Hz refresh rates, NVIDIA G-SYNC, AMD FreeSync, Dolby Vision IQ, Dolby Atmos and more.

Buy 55-inch LG CX OLED at Amazon - $1,350 Buy 55-inch LG CX OLED at Best Buy - $1,350 Buy 65-inch LG CX OLED + $200 gift card at Newegg - $1,997

New tech deals

Roku Streambar

Roku's Streambar is down to $109 on Amazon, which is $20 off its normal price. We've seen it $10 less than this before, but if you want a solid, compact soundbar with the power of a Roku streaming device inside, this is a great pick. We gave it a score of 86 for its solid sound quality, Dolby Audio support and its ability to work as a Bluetooth speaker.

Buy Roku Streambar at Amazon - $109

Roomba i7+ + Braava M6 bundle

If you want a robot combo that can handle vacuuming and mopping, this one on sale at Wellbots is a good pick. Now you can get the Roomba i7+ vacuum and the Braava M6 mop for $1,099, which is $150 off its normal price. We like the i7+ for its cleaning power and included base, into which it empties debris so you don't have to handle its bin after every cleaning. The Braava M6 uses its water reservoir to handle hardwood, tile and other types of flooring. These two devices also work together now to separately map your home for more efficient cleaning.

Buy Roomba bundle at Wellbots - $1,099

Twelve South HiRise Pro

Twelve South's iMac stand, the HiRise Pro, is down to $109 on Amazon, which is more than $60 off its normal price. It's a more elegant accessory for those what want to lift their iMac or monitor to a more comfortable viewing position. It also provides extra storage space with its interior, adjustable shelves, giving you a place to put hard drives and other trinkets that you need to access regularly.

Buy HiRise Pro at Amazon - $109

Logitech G203 Lightsync gaming mouse

Logitech's G203 Lightsync gaming mouse is down to an all-time low of $30. In addition to coming in a few fun colors, this mouse also has customizable RGB lighting so you can make it your own in that way, too. It also has an 8,000 DPI sensor and six buttons that you can program using Logitech's G Hub software.

Buy Logitech G203 at Amazon - $30

ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

One of our favorite grilling gadgets, the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 in gray is on sale for $69, or $30 off its normal price. It's one of the best instant-read thermometers for cooking that we've tried and we like its rotating, backlit display and its automatic on/off function that's triggered by movement. Just pick it up when you need to use it and, when you're done, it will shut off after you've set it down.

Buy Thermapen Mk4 at ThermoWorks - $69

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Apple Music's Behind The Songs hub highlights songwriters and producers (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 12:17 PM

Apple Music has rolled out a portal that shines a spotlight on songwriters, producers and session musicians. Behind the Songs includes radio shows, playlists and videos that highlight their work. You'll get to take deep dives into songs and lyrics, and hear from producers about collaborating with artists.

The section brings together a number of Apple Music playlist series, including Songbook, Behind the Boards and On the Session, as well as Lyrics to Live By and The Stories Behind the Songs videos. It includes the radio show Deep Hidden Meaning, in which Nile Rodgers interviews songwriters and listens to their stories. 

Apple says everything in Behind the Songs is searchable on the music streaming service. Anyone who searches for "songwriter" or "songwriters" will see it in their results.

Behind the Songs is also at the heart of Apple Music's partnership with The Ivors Academy, which represents and promotes the UK and Ireland’s songwriters and composers. Nominees for the Rising Star Award With Apple Music will be revealed on the portal in July.

Apple Music is joining Spotify in bringing more attention to the people behind the music you love. Spotify opened a similar hub for songwriters in December.

Ripley and the Xenomorph from Alien are the latest additions to 'Fortnite' (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 11:54 AM

It was only last week that Ryu and Chun-Li from Street Fighter joined Fortnite and now another beloved franchise is making its way to the battle royale. This time, it’s Alien with both Ripley and Xenomorph skins available to purchase this week through the game’s item shop. Part of the release includes the Space Gear Bundle, which comes with an emote called “Burst Case Scenario.” Bet you can’t guess how that one plays out.

On the surface, Alien might seem like an odd addition. After all, most Fortnite players aren’t old enough to have seen Alien Resurrection when it was in theatres back in 1997, let alone the original movie in 1979. But then Fortnite has been all about its retro tie-ins this season, with cosmetics from franchises like Predator, Terminator and GI Joe making their way to the game in recent weeks.

If you want to pick up Ripley or the Xenomorph, there’s a good chance you could have some extra V-Bucks lying around. If you bought even a single loot box when those were available in Fortnite, Epic will have added 1,000 V-Bucks to your account

Netflix pledges $100 million to improve the diversity in its shows (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 11:45 AM

After releasing its first diversity report in January, Netflix has also published the results of a study of its US-commissioned films and series over 2018 and 2019. While the earlier report covered the makeup of Netflix's employees, today's findings look at its on-screen talent, as well as the producers, writers and directors behind its shows. The study was conducted by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at Netflix's request, and indicate that while the company's shows had made progress towards inclusion, there are still improvements to be made. According to the executive summary, "racial/ethnic representation varies by group," and "LGBTQ and characters with disabilities are rare." 

To help make those improvements, Netflix announced a Fund for Creative Equity today that will see it invest $100 million over five years. It will work with external organizations that co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement have "a strong track record of setting underrepresented communities up for success in the TV and film industries." The fund will also go towards setting up "bespoke Netflix programs that will help us to identify, train and provide job placement for up-and-coming talent globally."

It's no coincidence that Netflix decided to publish reports on its diversity both within its "employee population" and on the set of its productions this year. Last September, when the company released the first teaser for its teen drama series Grand Army, writer Ming Peiffer tweeted that she and three other writers of color had quit the show over "racist exploitation and abuse." She said that the showrunner and creator had called Netflix HR on "the Black writer in the room for getting a haircut." In a subsequent tweet, Peiffer said "Netflix was fully aware of it all and did nothing except hire more writers of color to lend their names to the show."

Publicly, Netflix hasn't appeared to have directly addressed these allegations, and Engadget has reached out for comment. Commissioning a study of the diversity and representation of people who work for the company might be a first step, but it's not the same as actual acknowledgement of errors that might have been made.

In general, the results show that Netflix has indeed made some improvements over the last two years, though the c. It's also worth noting that since content from 2020 wasn't included in the study, there could be areas of growth (or continually underrepresented communities) that weren't covered. One thing that USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's executive summary did state is that "relative to its industry peers, this result signifies that for Netflix, inclusion is more than a marketing slogan, and serves to guide decision-making."

The report noted that Netflix did make progress towards inclusion "for women on screen and behind the scenes, for Black casts and creatives and for women of color in leading and main cast roles." But it also highlighted "where accelerated change is necessary, particularly for specific racial/ethnic groups, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities." The study measured 22 inclusion indicators, and out of all of them, it found that "Netflix films and series improved slightly to significantly from 2018 to 2019 across 19 metrics." The executive summary provides a comprehensive set of data (and colorful graphs and charts) that go into further detail, so take a look here to learn more. 

These modern-day treasure hunters reunite people with lost heirlooms (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 11:30 AM

Whether it’s a family heirloom that’s been passed down for generations or a brand new engagement ring, losing a treasured piece of jewelry can feel like losing a piece of yourself. That’s why former professional soccer player and lifelong metal detecting enthusiast, Christopher Turner, established The Ring Finders, a directory of like-minded altruistic treasure hunters from around the world who can help you recover it.

Back in 1972, a young Turner spotted an ad for metal detectors in a copy of his father’s Field & Stream magazine. “I asked my dad what it was,” Turner told Engadget. “He said, ‘It finds treasure.’ I said, ‘I want one.’ He said, ‘Get a job.’” So, Turner spent his summer working on a chicken farm to raise enough funds to purchase his first, but certainly not his last, metal detector.

“I just fell in love with the adventure of them,” Turner recalls. He has spent the past 40-plus years enjoying the hobby — less the seven years he spent playing pro soccer in the North American Soccer League. When a knee injury ended his goalkeeping career, Turner took up metal detecting again.

“I was just enjoying it and I lived in LA on a boat for a while, then I was approached by people who had lost rings asking for help,” he said. “It kind of evolved into a service where I realized there's a lot of people that need help. They were always pulling out their wallets to give me money and I'm like ‘I don't want your money’ but they’re like ‘You're taking it, you don't know what this means [to us].’”

When he moved back to his hometown of Vancouver, BC a few years later, Turner started a small ring finding company called Lost Jewelry. Then, 12 years ago, an angel investor reached out to Turner after finding his YouTube channel chronicling all of the people Turner had helped with an offer to fund a major expansion to his business. And thus, The Ring Finders directory was established.

While The Ring Finders is a full-time job for Turner, it remains mostly a side hustle for the 500 hundred independent Finders in 22 countries around the world — mostly because roughly 90 percent of them, according to Turner, operate solely on a reward basis. “We'll accept the reward of [what the client thinks the service is] worth and what they can afford,” Turner explained. “We just ask that they cover our gas.”

The equipment that the Finders use depends largely on what they’re tasked with looking for. “If you're a relic hunter, they have machines that are good for relic hunting,” Turner explained. “If you're going just for nuggets they have golden nugget machines. If you're a diver, they have machines submergible to around 150 feet.” And, just like cell phones, manufacturers are continually coming out with more capable detectors that can scan deeper and more accurately each year. However, the equipment does not make the Ring Finder.

“You have to be a good detective,” Turner said. “You have to know the questions to ask in order to get yourself in that area where you do have to find it. So many times myself and my members were told where somebody lost a ring and we find it like 80 yards away. So if you don't ask, if you don't go in there with a game plan, then you're not prepared to grid search and extend the area if you need to.”

One bit of tech that Turner would love to get his hands on would be a visualizer allowing treasure hunters at least a rough glimpse at what their detector is looking at — something akin to a fish finder. Current displays typically only provide a numerical score based on the detected object’s conductivity — high conductive metals like silver will return a higher score (and can be detected more deeply) than low conductive metals like lead or gold. So while these displays will give an idea of what the object is likely made of, it won’t provide any clues as to what it actually is. For example, gold items, bottle caps and aluminum pull tabs all have roughly the same conductivity so there will be a good chance that what the detector reads as the gold locket you’re looking for will actually be the top from a soda can.

“I want to see when you can actually see the shape, ‘okay, that looks like a ring and that's a bottle cap.’” Turner said. “That would be incredible. It’s 2021, we can go to Mars but we can't make a metal detector that sees into the ground?!”

But not just anybody can get themselves listed in The Ring Finders directory. Those interested will need at least a year or two of metal detecting experience as well as their own equipment. “I'll spend probably an hour on the phone talking to them and understanding their experience,” Turner added. “We don't want to send somebody who just bought a metal detector to go out and help somebody.” You’ll also need to pay an annual $65 fee to be listed, though that price does increase if you want to be listed in more than one city or wish to operate as the exclusive Ring Finder in a given area.

To date, The Ring Finders directory has grown largely through organic means, such as word of mouth recommendations from past clients, and that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon — especially when Turner has folks like Jon Cryer, star of CBS’ Two and a Half Men, extolling the directory’s virtues.

“The interesting thing is, what’s attached to these rings — their stories — and everyone has one,” Turner contemplated. “And when that ring is lost, that story ends. So what we do is we help continue it. It just, it blows me away.”

Take a look back at Engadget's favorite Nintendo 3DS games (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 11:00 AM

Today is the 10th anniversary of the 3DS’s release in the Japan and, while the Switch has certainly captured our hearts these past four years, Nintendo’s 3D handheld still left quite an impression over the past decade. The system might have ceased production just last year, but the titles will live on forever in our hearts. So in honor of its great games library, we here at Engadget have put together a list of our favorite 3DS titles and what they meant to us.

Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice

My love for the Ace Attorney franchise waxed and waned year to year while waiting for the next installment after Apollo Justice. There was no way I’d miss the titles released for the 3DS, though, and I snapped them up as soon as they became available. While neither game quite captured my heart the way the first four did, I prefer Spirit of Justice over Dual Destinies, because it finally showed us what happened to Maya Fey.

In Spirit of Justice, Phoenix Wright’s former assistant was (again) accused of a murder she didn’t commit. The spirit medium got caught up while studying in the country of Khura'in, and Wright (of course) takes up her defense. To me, it seemed very fitting for Wright to reunite with his old friend that way — after all, they met in the first game when he acted as her defense lawyer after she was accused of killing her older sister (and Wright’s boss) Mia Fey.

Spirit of Justice introduced a new mechanic called Divination Séance, where you could see the victim’s final moment through their eyes, performed by priestess Rayfa Padma Khura'in. It took a while to get used to, since you had to examine the victim’s vision, as well as Rayfa’s interpretation of the scene, at once. That said, you get used to it the longer you play. If anything, my biggest gripe with the Ace Attorney 3DS titles is that they’re not quite as difficult and challenging as the first four games. — Mariella Moon, Associate Editor

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I’ve written about Animal Crossing a lot in the past year because I do love New Horizons, but I also still have warm feelings about its predecessor on the 3DS, New Leaf. One thing I’ve always maintained over the years is that Animal Crossing works better on handhelds, so New Leaf was a nice return to the format after the disappointing City Folk.

But that doesn’t mean New Leaf didn’t learn anything from City Folk. A lot of the more interesting features were carried over into the new game, including a strip of shops you could visit and fun characters like Kicks. But it also introduced new locations like The Roost and the Happy Home Showcase for even more activities to wile away your time. Most notable was the return of the tropical island where you could vacation and catch rare bugs — the predecessor to the Nook Miles Tours of New Horizons.

While I’ve appreciated the quality of life improvements in New Horizons (especially the character customization), there’s a lot I miss about New Leaf, like the Gardening Store and Club LOL. And Brewster, of course. I need my caffeine fix!

However, I don’t miss the mean-spiritedness of New Leaf. Jack took my favorite shirt and replaced it with rags, and I’m salty about it eight years later. — Kris Naudus, Buyer's Guide Editor

Fire Emblem Fates

I adored Fire Emblem Awakening, but I’d still pick Fates as my favorite 3DS installment of the franchise. Yes, Awakening was the game that saved Fire Emblem, and a lot of people consider Awakening’s story to be the stronger of the two. But it’s hard not to get attached to a game and its characters when you spend over 300 hours playing a title to completion.

Fates was the first FE title with three storylines — each a full-length game on its own — featuring the same characters. You’ll have to buy each route separately, though, unlike Fire Emblem: Three Houses for the Switch, which is sold as a single game. 'Birthright' was the easiest route of the three, though achieving victory in the battlefield almost always meant killing all the enemies on the map. I personally prefer the 'Conquest' story and characters, but it has more challenging victory conditions and a darker theme compared to Birthright that may not be the best starting point for beginners.

Choosing between Birthright and Conquest means picking between your birth family and adoptive family, so you’re getting two different sides of the story. The third route, 'Revelation,' ties things together and sheds light on the remaining mysteries in the game, including the identity of the true enemy. At this point in time, Three Houses has already taken the top spot in my list of favorite FE titles, but Fates will always have a special place in my heart. — MM

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

The first Zelda game that hooked me was Link’s Awakening on the original Game Boy. While I loved Ocarina of Time and almost every entry in the series since, after the release of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword (my two least favorite games), I felt like a lot of Zelda fans were begging for the formula that A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening hewed to. A Link Between Worlds was the game we’d all been waiting for.

Pitched in Japan as a literal sequel to A Link to the Past, booting up Between Worlds is an immediate nostalgia hit to anyone familiar with the SNES and Game Boy era of the series. Of course, Nintendo rarely gives fans exactly what they want, always trying to subvert its well-established formulas in some way. While the most memorable mechanic was the ability to merge into walls, in retrospect the game made genuinely interesting use of both the 3DS’ stereoscopic display and its StreetPass system. More than anything, though, it’s just Zelda at its non-linear, exploratory best. — Aaron Souppouris, Executive Editor

Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth

Persona Q isn’t exactly considered a classic, but for people who love the Persona series, it’s unmissable. And when Buyer’s Guide editor Kris Naudus asked me to nominate some titles for this article, it was the first game that came to mind. While its combat, lethargic storytelling and stylish presentation tick all the Persona boxes, it’s the map mechanic that’s so memorable to me. Pulled straight from developer Atlus’ Etryian Odyssey franchise, it has you literally drawing out the dungeon map with the 3DS’ stylus, putting an additional layer on top of the often-laborious act of dungeon crawling. While I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, it feels like a game that could only have worked within the unique form factor of the DS family. — AS

Pokémon X & Y

Between two generations and four mainline games, the 3DS had a lot to offer to Pokémon fans. But the one I kept coming back to was the game that reintroduced me to the series: Pokémon X and Y. Not a popular choice among longtime fans, I know, but as someone coming back to the franchise after a long break, it was an easy one to love.

It was the first mainline game to move to a 3D battle system, with all 721 Pokémon modeled with personality and style. Then there was the charm of Professor Sycamore, Lumiose City and the other inhabitants and locales of the Kalos region. The French inspiration of X and Y translated into some of its best features. Some people might not have liked Mega Evolutions, but no one was happy when Game Freak didn't include player customization in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. That same inspiration helped produce some memorable Pokémon as well. Who can forget Furfrou, the poodle-like Pokémon you could take to a groomer to give it different coat trims.

I spent countless hours playing X and Y at a time when I was underemployed and taking care of a dying parent. More than anything, I'll remember the comfort it gave me at a time when I needed it most. — Igor Bonifacic, Associate Editor

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology

I first played Radiant Historia for the DS and fell in love with the characters, story and the game’s time-traveling mechanics. When the expanded remake came out for the 3DS, I snapped it up and was thrilled to realize that the game truly was as good as I remembered. The new features added to the 3DS version, including voice acting, made the game even richer.

I loved the redesigned artwork Atlus did for Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology, even if a lot of old fans were unhappy with the change. And I definitely appreciated the new route made for the 3DS. In the game, you play as the protagonist Stocke, who can use the power of a magical tome called the White Chronicle to travel across multiple timelines.

'Possible History' is the name of the additional timeline, and it features a mysterious new character named Nemesia. It’s not quite as long and as robust as the other routes, and it may not be enough new content to convince you to buy the game again if you still have the old version on DS. However, it does let you explore 'what if' scenarios and leads to a brand new ending. — MM

Tomodatchi Life

I don’t really know where to begin with Tomodatchi Life. Imagine directing a reality TV show starring the Miis of your friends, family and invariably some sort of hideous monster. And having no control over what they do. I think I played it for a month straight and then never touched it again, but that month was the weirdest, most special time. Watching my brother (‘s Mii) attempting to woo my then-partner (‘s Mii), only for the human embodiment of a Tic Tac to come along and spoil the party… yeah it’s something. Something special, something unique and, for now, something that you can only experience on the 3DS. (Please give me a sequel, Nintendo.) — AS

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

Before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gave us an almost endless world to explore in a portable console, there was Xenoblade Chronicles 3D. A port of the 2012 Wii title, it was the first 3DS game I played that made me marvel at what was possible on a handheld system. It was so epic, it couldn't even run on the original 3DS — it was exclusively built for the New 3DS, which featured more RAM, a faster processor, more stable 3D and a second analog stick (that was admittedly more of a nub).

While I never fell in love with Xenoblade as much as I did with its spiritual predecessors (the mind-bending Xenogears and the Xenosaga series), playing it on the 3DS almost felt like I was breaking the laws of physics. It featured an open world that had you facing off against enormous enemies in fast-paced combat, and the title was filled with cinematic in-game cutscenes. You could tell the textures were a bit too muddy and low-res, but that didn't matter much. It was a deep JRPG I could play anywhere!

Xenoblade Chronicles was also a great introduction to the New 3DS, a console that fixed almost all of the problems I had with the original. I was one of the unlucky few to buy a 3DS at launch for $250. The 3D was wonky, the early games weren't super compelling and, as if to rub salt in the wound, Nintendo dropped the price of the console to just $169 a few months after launch. And no, the 20 free games didn't really help much, especially since they didn't carry over to my new system. I'm still mad about it. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Zero Escape series (Virtue's Last Reward/Zero Time Dilemma)

I have a confession to make… I haven’t actually finished Zero Time Dilemma. But in my defense, both it and Virtue's Last Reward are very time-consuming games thanks to their branching narratives where the split is part of the main story. That is, you will need to play through several possibilities or timelines, if not all of them, to reach the true ending of each game.

At least both titles let you jump around in the story, so you’re not forced to rewatch the same dialogue scenes over and over again. Which is a lifesaver when the characters can be rather… wordy. If you’re big into metaphysics and time travel mechanics these are the games for you. They also have pretty great characterization that will definitely keep you guessing who you can trust and who will inevitably betray you… which in some cases is the same person.

Aside from the intriguing (and often confusing) story, the puzzles you’ll have to solve are probably the biggest draw of the series. They aren’t too hard, but not that easy either — your calculation and deduction skills will be tested and you may be tempted to pull up GameFAQs from time to time. I certainly did, if only to figure out how to unlock all the different timelines. — KN

'Pokémon Legends Arceus' is an open-world prequel coming early 2022 (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 10:48 AM

You won't have to settle for modernized versions of classic Pokémon games in the near future. The Pokémon Company has used the 25th anniversary of the franchise to unveil Pokémon Legends Arceus, an open-world (apparently moreso than past games, at least) action RPG for the Switch that's decidedly unlike the usual top-down experience.You play a trainer exploring the Sinnoh region (the home of the Diamond/Pearl games) in its early days, when it was a relatively untamed wilderness. As the name implies, you'll also learn more about the mythical Arceus creature and its creation myth.

Most gameplay details are still under wraps, but the developers are aiming for more "immersive" mechanics. You'll "seamlessly" enter Pokémon battles and sneak up on them to study their behavior. It's not going to share much the Switch's other big open world game, Breath of the Wild, although the expansive natural landscapes might be superficially familiar.

Pokémon Legends Arceus will be released sometime in early 2022. There's no telling if its approach will be compelling to fans of the series' well-worn formula, but it at least shows that the producers want to branch out and try experiences that are new to Pokémon, if not necessarily the game industry as a whole.

'Pokémon Diamond' and 'Pearl' remakes are arriving on Switch later this year (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 10:41 AM

The Pokémon Company had plenty to show off during its Pokémon Presents 25th Anniversary stream. Along with a deeper look at Pokémon Snap, the company announced remakes of the 2006 Nintendo DS games Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl.

It looks like the developers are taking full advantage of the Nintendo Switch's hardware as the visuals look much sharper this time around. These versions have a similar art style to games like Pokémon Sword and Shield.

The Pokémon Company says it has added the "easy-to-understand, player-friendly conveniences" it brought to recent games in the main series, along with close-quarters battles. You'll choose between Turtwig, Chimchar and Piplup as your starter Pokémon. Each game has its own legendary Pokémon to search for, too. In Brilliant Diamond, it's Dialga and in Shining Pearl, you can look for Palkia.

You won't have to wait too long to play these "faithful" remakes, which take place in the Sinnoh region. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl will be released worldwide in late 2021.

New 'Halo Infinite' screenshots tease a more detailed world (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 10:12 AM

The first footage of Halo Infinite gameplay didn't sit well with gamers, to put it mildly, but there are signs of progress. 343 Industries and Microsoft have shared a fresh batch of screenshots that give you a sense of how the Xbox Series X/S title's visuals have evolved over the past several months. While there aren't really any character studies ("Craig" is nowhere to be found), the Pacific Northwest-inspired Zeta Halo environment appears slightly grittier, realistic and... well, more next-gen.

Infinite is characterized as a "spiritual reboot" whose art and mechanics are meant to recreate the feel of playing early Halo games, even as they (hopefully) push the series forward. That includes redesigning enemies like Jackals and Grunts to look more like their initial versions, art lead Justin Dinges said. With that said, there are clearly touches that benefit from modern hardware, such as an environmental lighting system that can change the mood based on the time of day.

The delayed and troubled title is now slated to ship sometime in the fall. It's not clear just how much the new Halo's graphics will have improved by then, but it's evident 343 and Microsoft want the series' next-gen debut to hit the right visual notes.

‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’ will be a PS Plus freebie with a catch (www.engadget.com) 02/26/2021 10:10 AM

After Sony’s latest State of Play stream, it’s clear why the company announced the next batch of free games for PlayStation Plus members a couple of days later than usual. Final Fantasy VII Remake headlines the March lineup. At State of Play, Sony showed off the PS5 version of the game, which will have upgraded graphics, higher framerates, other improvements and a DLC episode.

But here’s the rub. If you claim FF7 Remake through PS Plus, you won’t get a free upgrade. You'll still need to buy the current game for the upgrade or pay directly for the PS5 version, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.

The other games on the March slate look solid. First-person puzzle game Maquette is intriguing, with its recursive, mind-bending riddles requiring some out-of-the-box thinking. If you get stuck, you can call on the console’s Game Help feature for guidance. Like Bugsnax and Destruction AllStars, Maquette is making its debut as a PS Plus freebie for PS5 owners. It'll also be available on PS4 and Steam next week.

You’ll also get your hands on a pair of shooters: PS4 third-person survival game Remnant: From The Ashes and PS VR title Farpoint. Meanwhile, Destruction AllStars remains on the list for a second month. Sony will update the PS Plus offerings with these games on Tuesday, March 2nd, and they’ll remain up for grabs until April 5th.

You have until March 1st to snag the other games in the current lineup, Control: Ultimate Edition and Concrete Genie. There’s plenty to look forward to as well. PS Plus subscribers will be able to claim the PS5 version of the long, long-overdue Oddworld: Soulstorm at no extra cost when it’s released in April.

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