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Amazon and the US government team up to thwart online counterfeits (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 11:21 AM

Amazon is following through on its reported plans to work with officials in its fight against counterfeits. The internet shopping giant has teamed up with the US government’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center for short) on an effort to prevent counterfeit products from entering the US. Operation Fulfilled Action will use shared data to stop fake goods at the border regardless of their intended destination.

The two will use a combination of joint data studies and “targeted inspections” to thwart counterfeiters. Any evidence obtained during the campaign will be used for ongoing investigations, the new allies said. Amazon’s Counterfeit Crimes Unit will lead the project, while DHL and US Customs and Border Protection are providing support.

This isn’t a completely new collaboration . Amazon routinely provides the IPR Center with data for known counterfeiters, and the company partnered with five others and the IPR Center in an effort to stamp out COVID-19 fraud.

Still, this is an acknowledgment that counterfeits remain a problem at online stores like Amazon. While automated systems and anti-counterfeit teams help, it can be difficult to stop every possible bogus product from reaching virtual shelves. A joint operation like this theoretically gives both Amazon and the government a much better insight into the true scope of counterfeiting.

Disney+ will debut a Taylor Swift 'Folklore' concert film this week (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 10:55 AM

Disney+ has a Thanksgiving treat in store for Taylor Swift fans. Starting at midnight PST (3AM ET) on Wednesday, you’ll be able to stream an “intimate concert” of Folklore, Swift’s latest album.

Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, which Swift directed, was filmed at the eponymous studio in upstate New York in September. It marked the first time Swift had been in the same room as her collaborators, with whom she recorded the album remotely. 

In the film, she performs Folklore's 17 songs in order with the help of co-producers Aaron Dessner (The National) and Jack Antonoff (Bleachers), as well as guest Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). Swift also tells the stories behind the songs on Folklore, which is the best-selling album of the year so far.

This won’t be the first time a Swift concert film has popped up on Disney+. Earlier this year, a performance of songs from her previous album, Lover, aired on ABC before it hit that platform and Hulu. Last year, Swift headlined an Amazon Prime Day concert that streamed on Prime Video.

PS5 gamepad triggers will tighten as 'FIFA 21' players get fatigued (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 10:34 AM

EA is finally ready to explain just how FIFA 21 will improve on the PlayStation 5 with its December 4th update. While you can expect the usual round of visual upgrades (more on those later), the true highlight may be FIFA’s use of the DualSense controller to aid gameplay. For one, the adaptive triggers will add resistance as your players’ stamina worsens — you may quickly realize it’s time for a substitution. This isn’t completely novel (NBA 2K21 also does it), but it’ll be appreciated in the heat of the action. You’ll also get haptic feedback that reflects the foot a player used for a kick, and tackles should be more forceful than the usual fights for position during corner kicks.

It should be faster to hop into a match. EA is taking advantage of the PS5’s Activity Cards to jump directly into certain modes right from the console’s home screen. If all you want is a quick friendly match, you can start it in seconds.

And yes, there are plenty of visual enhancements. You’ll see more responsive “multi-touch” animations that promise better ball control, not to mention more convincing hair and muscles. Deferred lighting creates a more realistic stadium atmosphere. EA is even using next-gen hardware to play with camera angles, including a broadcast-like GameCam during play, pre-match cinematics to set scene and new reaction cameras for goals.

The PS5 update is free to owners of FIFA 21 between December 4th and the eventual release of FIFA 22. You can expect many of the more generic improvements to cross over to the Xbox Series X/S version arriving at the same time. However, it’s evident that EA isn’t just releasing a generic next-gen ugprade. It intends to take advantage of a given system when possible, even if the changes aren’t always visible on screen.

Akai MPC Live II review: A truly portable all-in-one studio (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 10:30 AM

Akai has an MPC problem. To be clear, It’s a good problem, as there’s basically an MPC for every type of electronic musician. But it also means picking the right one for you can be a challenge. The MPC Live II is the latest member of the family, and as the name suggests, it replaces the original MPC Live in the lineup. The pitch is straightforward: It’s the same all-in-one music production device, just this time with built-in speakers, more connectivity and a slew of other tweaks. I’ve had one on my desk for a while now, and it’s creatively invigorating; the bright lights and large touchscreen almost beg you to use it. But is it worth the $1,119 price tag? 

Hardware 

Let’s start with the basics. That’s to say, the hardware features that carry over from the original. First of all, there are the 16 velocity-sensitive sample/trigger pads. No change here. They are still a delight to use, feel nice and responsive and make it easy to tap out “human-feeling” beats and melodies. Then there’s the 7-inch touchscreen where you’ll find all your menus, modes and music-making tools. This is a great feature, and makes the non-touchscreen letterbox display on Native Instruments’ Maschine MK3 or Plus seem quaint. 

The unit itself is ever-so-slightly bigger. The addition of a bar along the base containing the “studio monitors” (speakers) makes it a shade deeper. Other small changes include moving the master volume control from the rear of the device to the top left corner, which makes even more sense given those built-in speakers. Some of the other buttons have moved around a bit, but remain functionally the same.

MPC Live II review
James Trew / Engadget

Beyond the new speakers, the other notable hardware upgrade is around the back. Much like the original MPC Live, you’ll find six audio outputs, four MIDI ports (two in and two out) and four audio inputs. Along with the same USB connections (two type-A and one type-B for connecting to the desktop). It’s what you’ll spy just above the MIDI ports that’s new: the four CV/Gate ports, giving the MPC Live II the ability to play nice with a host of analog gear, too.

What really leaps out of me, compared to the Maschine for example, is how easy it would be to make the MPC Live II the center of your outboard setup. With plenty of MIDI connectivity, the original Live was already a great hub. The addition of the CV outputs just makes it even more appealing. It’s not the first in the MPC family to add CV ports (both the MPC One and X have them also), but it does round out its credentials.

If all that’s not enough, the MPC Live also boasts Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The former allows for wireless connectivity with Ableton Live (via Ableton’s “Link” software) along with other perks (such as hassle-free firmware updates). The latter lets you use Bluetooth MIDI keyboards to control the Live II itself. Wireless connections are often considered inferior to their cabled counterparts (mostly due to latency) but it’s definitely a perk here, given how many things you can connect to it, the freedom of adding something wirelessly is at least one less cable to fidget with around the back of your desk.

Software

All the buttons, knobs and pads in the world can’t help if the software running the show isn’t up to snuff. Fortunately, Akai has so many years in the game, that there’s little to worry about here. The MPC platform appears to be very well maintained, with regular updates and new features. To drive this point home, version 2.9 was released today which includes a new drum synthesizer, adding to the list of built-in sound engines that come with the MPC Live II.

Before we get to the good stuff like onboard plugins, though, it’s worth talking about the general user interface. I’ll come right out and say it: I am not a huge fan. That’s not to say that it’s bad, in many regards it’s actually very straightforward. Jumping around the top-level menu options couldn’t be easier. It’s once you dip under that main menu that things start to get a little more complicated. 

MPC Live II review.
James Trew / Engadget

A large part of this friction, for me at least, is that Akai takes a slightly different approach than most desktop software when it comes to the building blocks of your tracks. In a typical DAW, like Logic, for example, you might well have different tools to compose sections of a song, but ultimately it all comes back to a linear timeline. With the MPC, you build several small “sequences” and then either “play” them in the order you want, or line them up as you see fit. That’s selling it short somewhat, but it’s the easiest way to describe it.

This, in itself, isn't a bad thing. If you’ve used Ableton Live’s “session” view, then this will sound familiar. For me, it’s more about how it wants you to build these parts. When you jump in to make a new sequence, you’ll assign the sequence a number, then choose whether that track is audio or a plug-in part, MIDI track and so on. From there you’ll allocate that track a program number. Within this is potentially more flexibility, but it’s also easy to change the wrong thing or forget which section was which. From a workflow standpoint, I didn’t find it intuitive, especially when it comes to thinking about the bigger picture for your track.

There are many more screens that you’ll be spending time in, including a good old-fashioned piano roll, a mixer and automation and so on, all of which are easy to use, even with the relatively limited screen space. In fact, often the touchscreen makes tasks easier than they might be on the desktop, like using your finger to draw in an automation line instead of a mouse or manually riding a knob.

The good news is that there’s also a companion desktop app that mirrors the MPC’s built-in software. So you can either use that to fine-tune your ideas and arrangement, or just use the hardware for creating your core components, and move over to the desktop later.

I won’t dwell on the software side of things too much, as there’s a lot of hardware features to get through, but the built-in synths are worth a mention. The three melodic plugins are Bassline, Electric and TubeSynth, which are now joined by DrumSynth. Bassline is a monophonic sound engine, TubeSynth is a vintage/analog polyphonic emulation and Electric mimics… electric pianos. The new DrumSynth, unsurprisingly is a percussive engine.

All four synths are pretty capable for a company that is mostly known for its hardware (Akai doesn’t really claim to be a software/synth company). My personal favorite is TubeSynth, because I am a sucker for big analog sounds, and it has them in spades. Bassline is also suitably well decked out in thick, moody low-end, with the presets serving up a bit of everything. Electric is, in my opinion, the coldest of the three melodic plugins sonically. It does an okay job of delivering a variety of key sounds, but you might be better served with some of Akai’s expansions, sampling or using a third-party VST on the desktop. No doubt, Native Instruments trumps the MPC ecosystem when it comes to synths, but the ones on offer here do a fine job of covering the essentials, and definitely skew towards house and hip hop -- exactly the genres MPC fans like the most.

MPC Live II review.
Akai

We should talk about the new DrumSynth in more detail though, given that it just made its debut. Unlike the other software synths, when selecting DrumSynth, you’ll choose between one of nine instances: Clap, Crash, HiHat, Kick, Multi, Perc, Ride, Snare and Tom. All of them are essentially presets for each type of drum hit (bar Multi). Within each are several different “kit” styles, some with less-that-subtle names like “Eighty” or “Ninety” which just happen to sound a lot like 808 and 909 kits respectively. 

The selection of presets is surprisingly comprehensive. I’ve worked my way through pages and pages of built-in drum kits in my time, and often they’re fine if you want a lifeless sounding acoustic kit, or a basic electronic one. But here, I could see myself using almost all the sounds right off the bat. 

Even if you don’t like the presets, you can get hands-on and carve out your own drum hits. Choose a virtual kit and then tweak the attack, tuning, decay, distortion among many other parameters. Once you have a sound you like, you can save it to the library. The MPC Live definitely feels more comprehensive thanks to this update.

This, of course, is all on top of what the MPC family is really about: sampling. Many might never even dive into the plugins because they much prefer to find and sample their sounds, and use the now-famous pad grid to play them live (or recorded “live”). Needless to say, sampling here is still a delight, with stereo phono and 1/4-inch TRS inputs you’re mostly covered. You can, of course, just bring samples over with an SD card or thumb drive. From there you can move them over to the Live II’s 16GB of internal storage, or if you’re a hoarder, even install an SSD in the SATA bay tucked away on the underside of the unit. 

Beats to go

I know it took a while to get to this part, but I really think it warrants laying out what’s inside the box first before we get to how it all comes together as a portable studio. This would also be a good time to talk about those built-in speakers. 

Akai calls them studio monitors, which makes sense given that it’s pitching this as an all-in-one studio. But for many, that term indicates a very specific type of speaker -- one that’s not compatible with compact and exotic form factors, or the constantly changing environments that a portable device might find itself in.

Technicalities aside, the speakers here do an excellent job. It’s hard to say how neutral/flat they are, but they also don’t sound overly bass-heavy or shrill at the high end. Ultimately though, I don’t think too many people will be using them to perfect the mix of their track. (Though, let me know how that goes if you do!) Volume-wise, they’re not overly loud. You would be fine for a small gathering/party (for example), but really they are there for you to listen to while it’s on your desk/lap. Despite the small drivers, low frequencies are well represented, and transients punch through. But some snares or other snappy sounds sometimes sounded a tiny bit crunchy at full volume. For the most part, they make the MPC Live’s portable credentials stronger.

MPC Live II review.
James Trew / Engadget

With the original, you were always able to take it with you and make music anywhere you wanted. The internal battery meant you didn’t need an outlet, and the headphone jack allowed you to hear what you were doing (somewhat important). And that’s fine, but wearing headphones nonstop during a marathon beat-making session is exhausting. And sometimes you may want to play along with someone, perhaps a vocalist or a guitar. Well, now you can.

The slight downside is that, in practical terms, the MPC Live II is slightly less portable than before, as the speaker bar adds about two inches of depth to the unit. But let’s be real, the original was only barely portable. You definitely needed a bag to lug it around, and no change here. You’ll just need a slightly bigger bag this time.

One small thing to mention is that the speakers work independently from the headphones. That’s to say, connecting headphones won’t disable the speakers like it might a laptop or phone. This is by design, obviously, as monitoring is a thing. But also it means you can be jamming away in your own head and totally forget it’s also playing out loud. Something my neighbors can attest to. There’s a switch on the back to toggle the speakers on/off, and the master volume control on top, but that’s also the same volume control for the headphones, so beware

Wrap up

MPC Live II review.
James Trew / Engadget

I’ve actually been playing with the MPC Live II since before the Maschine+ came out. And when that landed, I wondered if that might change how I feel about the Akai. I am generally a fan of Native Instruments’ hardware and plug-ins, and haven’t used Akai gear nearly as much. When the latest Maschine crossed my desk I was quite taken with it, and felt that it was sonically superior to the MPC Live II. But my appreciation for what the Live II is capable of, especially in comparison to the Maschine, has grown recently.

For one, the portability credentials of the MPC Live II are much stronger. The two devices are about the same in terms of mass. But the Live II’s built-in battery means you truly can use this anywhere. Maschine will still need an outlet. Then, of course, there are those speakers. The fact that the Live II has more connectivity also makes it more appealing to those with a lot of outboard gear in their studio, too.

That said, when it comes to the primary task of making music, I feel the balance tips the other way. There’s no doubting the Live II’s sampling credentials, but Maschine is no slouch here either. And when it comes to sound engines, Native Instruments simply has the stronger heritage, and that’s borne out by the decent, but very slim instrument offerings on the MPC. If you want to make your own sounds, particularly as a standalone device, then I’d go with the Maschine every time. I also never truly got to grips with how Akai wants you to compose a song. It’s not bad, it’s just not quite as intuitive as other platforms. For me, that’s sort of a big deal, as there’s nothing worse than a great idea languishing in a collection of eight-bar loops.

As a complete package, the two run at around the same price, so it’ll really come down to what you want to do (and how you want to do it). If you want something that’s good at a lot of things, then the MPC Live II is an easy sell. If you want something that’ll do the core tasks of sound design, sequencing and track building, my vote would go to Maschine+. Of course, there are other all-in-ones you might want to consider, including other MPCs, but a lot of people looking for PC-free options will likely find themselves landing somewhere between these two. Sample fans with lots of outboard gear, however, will find a natural home in the MPC Live II.

Spotify resets up to 350,000 passwords linked to third-party data leak (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 10:17 AM

Spotify has reportedly begun resetting the passwords of up to 350,000 accounts that were breached as the result of a credential-stuffing attack. A company called vpnMentor, as found by ZDNet, says that it discovered a treasure trove of hacked account data available online. This information was used by some nefarious types to gain access to the streaming music platform and generally cause havoc. ZDNet says that the company has now begun 

Credential stuffing is the art of using data from one leak and using it to access otherwise secure accounts elsewhere. If you re-use your passwords, then if Site A is breached and hackers get hold of your email address and password, they can easily try them to access Site B. vpnMentor said that it found the cache of third-party data in July, and it notified Spotify on July 9th, at which point the streaming platform took action. It’s worth saying that Spotify itself was not breached, but that the login details were aggregated from other hacks.

As with all incidents of this type, it’s a good reminder to not re-use passwords, and make sure that you keep your passwords updated. If you don’t fancy doing that yourself, you can always avail yourself of a third-party password manager like LastPass, which also proactively warns you if your passwords show up in these sorts of databases. Spotify adds that users concerned about their privacy should head to a page with advice on how they can protect their account.

Fortnite's Crew subscription is built for the battle royale superfan (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 10:00 AM

Clearly, Epic isn’t content with the money it gains from Fortnite Battle Passes and V-Bucks purchases. The company has announced Fortnite Crew, a monthly subscription that includes every seasonal Battle Pass, 1,000 V-Bucks to spend in the game’s Item Shop, and a special pack that contains Crew-exclusive outfits and accessories. The scheme launches on December 2nd — the same day that the fifth season of chapter two is expected to launch — and will set you back $11.99 (€11.99/£9.99) per month.

Is it worth the money? That depends on how badly you crave new cosmetics. If you play on PC, Mac or console, Epic will sell you 1,000 V-Bucks for $7.99. (The prices are higher on iOS and Android because, well, Epic isn’t best friends with Apple and Google at the moment.) A Battle Pass currently costs 950 V-Bucks, or a little less than $7.99. A Fortnite Crew subscription makes sense, therefore, on the months that a Battle Pass is released, because you’re also getting a bonus 1,000 V-Bucks to spend in the store (which are worth another $7.99), in addition to the exclusive Crew cosmetics. Battle Passes come out sporadically, though — three have been released so far this year, whereas six debuted in 2018 — which makes the math more complicated.

Clearly, Epic is banking on people’s appetite for exclusive cosmetics. The first Crew pack comes with the  Galaxia Outfit and Style, as well as Cosmic Llamacorn Pickaxe and Fractured World Back Bling. Fortnite’s developer has stressed that Crew items will never be sold or given away to non-Crew members. You can cancel at any time and keep the Battle Passes V-Bucks and Crew items that you accrued while the subscription was active. If you skip a month, though, there’s no guarantee that the Crew items you missed will ever be available again. It’s that fear of missing out, combined with the hassle of constantly deactivating and activating a subscription, that Epic hopes will keep diehard Fortnite fans locked into the scheme.

Fortnite is still the king of battle royale games. The title’s popularity is waning, though, amongst streamers and professional players. Many have shifted to other competitive titles such as Call of Duty: Warzone, Valorant and Apex Legends. Fortnite Crew could stop a few bored or frustrated players from jumping to another game. It’s more likely, however, that the subscription will be adopted by Fortnite super-fans. The ones that pore over every leak and are excited to chat with friends over the newly-announced Houseparty integration. Monetizing these users will help Epic finance other endeavours, such as its ongoing court battles with Apple and Google, as well as the freebies that are offered every week on the Epic Games Store.

YouTube's AI-generated video chapters could help you skip lengthy intros (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 09:40 AM

YouTube chapters can help you quickly navigate a video, but you often don’t have that luxury when creators have to add them by hand. There might not be as much of a rush going forward. The 9to5Google team reports that YouTube is testing automatic, AI-generated video chapters, A machine learning system creates the chapters by looking for text. In other words, a producer who’s been thoughtful enough to title sections in the video itself might not have to add chapters later.

The internet giant is currently experimenting with auto chapters for a “small group of videos,” and is giving creators chances to opt out and offer feedback.

This won’t help with videos with subtler transitions between sections. It also won’t be surprising if some creators balk at AI organizing their videos. If the technology works well, however, it could be helpful for producers who’d rather not go to the trouble of adding timestamps. And of course, it could be useful for viewers — you might not have to wade through two minutes of introduction for a five-minute video.

TikTok will add a flashing imagery filter to address epilepsy concerns (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 09:20 AM

The problem with a service throwing random clips at you is that you could be exposed to something that could harm your health. TikTok is today announcing that, after lobbying from epilepsy groups, it will take steps to prevent people seeing clips with flashing images that could potentially trigger a seizure. Users concerned can now opt to skip all videos that the system has determined has photosensitive content from inside the accessibility settings. In addition, the first time a user comes across a flashing clip, they’ll be given the option to skip it and filter them in the future.

This is, in part, due to TikTok’s work to clean up its platform in recent months and also in response to criticism it received earlier this summer. The so-called “Seizure Challenge” saw people imitating individuals having an epileptic seizure, while music by the artist JuiceWrld played in the background. This was all the more insensitive because the artist died, aged 21, from a seizure in December 2019. The challenge was decried by epilepsy advocates, with Epilepsy Today describing the meme as “insensitive” and “harmful.” 

TikTok’s work in this area also comes amid the backdrop of its continuing struggles in the US where it remains in political limbo. At the same time, the platform has seen another copycat product, this time from Snapchat, which is launching Spotlight. Much like Facebook’s own TikTok clone -inspired product, Snapchat has secretly committed to paying influencers who make clips for the service. It’s not clear, however, if all of that cash will succeed in wooing folks away from the current social video leader. 

Logitech's Folio Touch iPad keyboard is cheaper and more versatile than Apple's (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 09:00 AM

Last month I reviewed the fourth-gen iPad Air. Normally by now, I would have sent our loaner unit back to Apple. But my work isn’t quite done. Having tested the tablet itself, it’s time to move on to accessories. In addition to Apple’s own add-ons, from the Pencil to various folio cases, there’s a bevy of third-party options, some of them better (or at least better values) than what Apple has on offer. 

I was particularly interested in trying Logitech’s new Folio Touch, which includes a trackpad and backlit keyboard, similar to what you’ll find on Apple’s own Magic Keyboard. Importantly, though, where Apple’s keyboard costs an eye-watering $299, Logitech’s alternative sells for $160. It even has a few features that Apple doesn’t, including more screen angles, a rubber casing protecting the sides and a dedicated row for shortcut keys. I recommend it, particularly for gift givers trying to stick to a budget. But it’s not my favorite for typing, especially in my lap.

The Folio Touch makes a strong first impression, with a soft, tweed-like fabric finish, available in Oxford Grey or a darker color called Graphite. In addition to being pretty, I’ve already noticed it stays cleaner than Apple’s Magic Keyboard, whose silicone surfaces pick up fingerprints and smudges even when you think you’re being gentle with it. 

As mentioned earlier, the Folio Touch has dense rubber bumpers, which cover everything except the lock button, which you’ll need for Touch ID logins, and the top edge where the Apple Pencil magnetically attaches. The Air’s stereo speakers and USB-C port remain exposed, though the rubber bumper is thick enough that all of those openings would be safe in the event of a drop. 

Hands-on with Logitech's Folio Touch keyboard.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

Somehow, despite the heavy-duty rubber, this thicker case doesn’t feel that much heavier than Apple’s offering. The main downside is that the rubber enclosure is trickier to slip on and off. With any other Smart Connector accessory, you’d just pull and the tablet would snap off from the three magnetic pins.

Around back there’s a somewhat adjustable kickstand, and on top you’ll notice a loop that can fit Logitech’s optional Crayon accessory (an alternative to the Pencil). That strip of material can also unfurl to turn into a magnetic closure when the folio is shut like a book. For those of us who don’t own the Crayon, it’s easy enough to tuck the loop back into itself so that it’s not obscuring the screen while you’re typing.

I alluded to this early on, but it doesn’t feel like the Folio Touch was designed to be used in one’s lap — the skinny kickstand felt a little precarious balanced on my legs, and it’s quite top heavy. Even once you stabilize everything, the screen sits upright at an awkward angle. I prefer Apple’s approach, which eschews the kickstand entirely. The Magic Keyboard’s flat underside rests comfortably against your legs, while a crease in the folio allows you to tilt the screen forward and back to suit your needs. 

Hands-on with Logitech's Folio Touch keyboard.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

At least the Folio Touch is comfortable for desk typing. The buttons provide a surprising amount of depth, with springy feedback and no issues like double presses. I will say that with extended use (e.g., editing back-to-back iPhone reviews in Google Docs), I started to notice a few too many instances of stuck keys. Input lag meant I was often several words ahead in my mind before realizing I had to pause, back up, and correct any typos.

Side by side, Logitech’s keyboard is also louder than Apple’s, though the typing experience is good in both cases. You can’t go wrong if easy touch typing is the priority.

Hands-on with Logitech's Folio Touch keyboard.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

The buttons’ backlighting kicks in automatically, and that shortcut row will come in handy if you want to do things like adjust the screen brightness or volume or control media playback. There are also some iOS-specific shortcuts, like a search button that does the same thing as hitting CMD-spacebar. These are mostly useful, though beware the lock key in the upper-right corner — too often, I hit that instead of the Delete button, causing the screen to lock up while I was in the midst of typing.

As for the touchpad, it’s about the same size as what you’ll find on the Magic Keyboard, and responds to the same multitouch gestures, like swiping up with three fingers to see all your open apps and swiping with two-fingers to close any of those thumbnails. The touchpad also worked well for single-finger tracking. Many apps support pointing and clicking, though you’ll have to press down with each “left click” — there is no option in iPadOS settings for tap to click. 

Hands-on with Logitech's Folio Touch keyboard.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

Other than like a laptop — what Logitech calls “Type” mode — the Folio Touch can be used in three other positions. There’s “View,” where you flip the keyboard back so that you’re just looking at the screen. (Lenovo has been offering this on its Yoga laptops for years, as Stand mode.) There’s also “Sketch,” where you allow the tablet to lie at an almost-flat angle. And, of course, “Read” is what happens when you fold the keyboard around, like a book cover, leaving just a tablet in your hand. Apple’s Magic Keyboard can do none of these things. 

Hands-on with Logitech's Folio Touch keyboard.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

In practice, the Folio Touch balances better in your lap in either Sketch or View mode than it does a laptop-style keyboard. I watched eight straight episodes of GLOW with the tablet balanced on either my lap, or sitting up in bed with the device resting on my legs. I guess I was comfortable enough, if I stayed that way for over four hours of binge-watching. That said, I wouldn’t recommend watching a movie in your lap with this thing if there’s a flat surface available.

In Read mode, meanwhile, the physical keyboard automatically shuts off when it’s flipped back, so you don’t have to worry about accidental key presses. Even so, feeling keys beneath your fingertips is an odd sensation. (I said the same thing about Lenovo’s Yoga laptops, way back in the day.)

Hands-on with Logitech's Folio Touch keyboard.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

Anyway, should you buy this thing? If you can’t stomach Apple’s $299 asking price for the Magic Keyboard, but still want a physical keyboard — yes. And if you want more than just a folio keyboard — ditto. Also: if you want a keyboard that doubles as a protective case. All good reasons. But if money is no object, and you aren’t going to buy Logitech’s Crayon accessory, and you want the best possible typing experience above all else, bite the bullet and spend your money with Apple.

The Owlet 3rd-gen smart baby sock is $75 off for Black Friday (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 08:30 AM

Owlet makes one of the few infant wearables: a smart “sock” that wraps around a baby’s foot and sends readings back to an app. They also make a more standard camera that can work with the app to provide a 1080p video feed. If someone you love has a newborn, Owlet’s Black Friday sale could give you the opportunity to save money while giving them a solid gift.

The company is currently running a sale on most of its product line including the Duo, which packages the newest smart sock with the company’s baby-monitor camera. The Duo is on sale for $324, which is a whopping $125 off its normal price. The 3rd gen sock alone is $75 off its regular $299 price point, bringing it to a record low. The stand-alone Cam is $50 off, bringing it down to $99. 

Buy Owlet Duo at Owlet - $324 Buy Owlet 3rd-gen sock at Amazon - $224 Buy Owlet Cam at Amazon - $99

When we reviewed the recently redesigned 3rd gen Owlet smart sock baby monitor earlier this year, we saw a lot of overall improvements across the product. The base station was smaller (and less distractingly bright), the sensor was more accurate and the battery now charges wirelessly. However, the sock itself didn’t seem to fit better -- and a slipped sock often produced error readings which can be alarming. But overall the system was popular and gave new parents we spoke to  peace of mind. 

We haven’t yet reviewed the Owlet Cam, but it features 1080p video with night vision and two-way audio over an encrypted WiFi connection. It sends sound and movement notifications while the Sock provides data on heart rate and pulse ox. This gives parents information on their baby’s physical readings as well as a visual feed on their movements in a crib or bassinet. That might be more data than some parents require, but for others it might be an ideal way to cover all their baby-monitoring bases. 

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

August's WiFi smart lock is $50 off for Engadget readers at Wellbots (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 08:00 AM

If you’re in the market for a smart lock, August’s 4th-gen WiFi device is one of the best the company has ever made. Normally priced at $250, the smart lock is now on sale for $199 exclusively for Engadget readers when you use the code at ENGADGETLOCK checkout. We’ve seen this smart lock drop between $205 and $230 in the recent past, but this is the best deal on it we’ve seen in a while. As usual, Wellbots has free shipping and no sales tax outside New York.

Buy August smart lock at Wellbots - $199

Like other smart locks, August’s lets you open or lock your door using a companion mobile app. We gave it a score of 80 for a number of reasons, the first being its easy installation process. The mobile app guides you through simple instructions to attach the smart lock to your door and you’ll be asked to enable two-factor authentication for your account, making it a bit more secure then other IoT setups that make that step optional. It attaches to your existing deadbolt and it took us only about 10 minutes to install. The lock doesn’t dominate your door either — this version is nearly half the size of its predecessor and we generally like its minimalist design.

Both Android and iOS users can put the August smart lock to work and it’s compatible with 2.4Ghz WiFi networks. In addition to unlocking the door before you even reach your doorstep, you can also half the smart lock automatically secure when you leave the house and you can send digital “keys” to those you trust. It’s also compatible with Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant, so you can use your voice to control the lock as well. On top of all that, you’re still able to use your regular key with this lock whenever you want to skip the smart features.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

Sony says the PS5 would still be sold out without a pandemic (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 07:45 AM

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) CEO Jim Ryan confirmed that the PlayStation 5 is completely sold out despite his best efforts to have enough stock, according to an interview with the Russia’s Tass. He added that he believes the supply shortage would have happened even without COVID-19. However. despite the success of the console, launching in the middle of a pandemic was a challenge he “wouldn’t recommend” to anybody else.

“Everything is sold. Absolutely everything is sold,” he said. “I’ve spent much of the last year trying to be sure that we can generate enough demand for the product. And now... I’m spending a lot more time on trying to increase supply to meet that demand.”

The biggest issue caused by the pandemic was in pre-production, according to Ryan. Because of travel and other restrictions, “we had to do all the manufacturing preparation by camera remotely,” he said. “I mean, just imagine that for a precision device like the PlayStation 5.”

Ryan expressed relief at the success of the console during a difficult year, but said in the end that the product and sales would have likely been the same even if people weren’t stuck at home. “The way we took it to market might have been a bit different, but the actual product would have been the same,” Ryan said. “We might have had a few more to sell, but not very many; the guys on the production/manufacturing side have worked miracles.”

He said that Sony is taking a wait-and-see attitude over Microsoft’s purchase of Zenimax, including studios like Bethesda and id software. However, it sounds like the company plans to take some action in response to Microsoft’s Game Pass. “There is actually some news to come, but just not today,” he told Tass.

The Morning After: Porsche's EV sets a world record for drifting (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 07:15 AM

You’ve finally lived long enough to see Snapchat ripping off its competitors instead of the reverse. Just after Twitter launched its own version of the Stories feature Snapchat popularized, the Snap folks have rolled out Spotlight, “a new section of its app that will showcase user-created videos.”

Snapchat Spotlight

Now it’s taking aim at TikTok and Instagram Reels, although without the remixing features that have helped so many clips and trends catch on. Instead, Snapchat is focusing on getting creators paid, not famous. Karissa Bell reports the company is committed to spending a million dollars a day through the end of the year, so maybe it’s time for you to go viral. Just a thought.

— Richard Lawler

The most expensive game ever sold is ‘Super Mario Bros. 3’

$156,000!

SMB3

The sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 is now the most expensive game ever sold. It took the record from a copy of the original Super Mario Bros., which a bidder snapped up in July for $114,000. Bidding for SMB3 started at $62,500 and 20 bidders tried to get their hands on it. 

What makes this particular copy so valuable is that it has a rare box design variant. Pay attention: The word “Bros.” is typically on the right, whereas it’s on the left of this box, and it covers a bit of Mario’s glove. It's actually the earliest version of the game in SMB3's production history — and also in excellent condition.
Continue reading.

Joe Biden's presidential transition launches with BuildBackBetter.gov

Twitter and Facebook indicated @POTUS accounts will be transferred after the new president is sworn in.

Joe Biden

With the election results certified in Michigan, a federal agency gave its authorization to begin the transfer of power to Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration as president. With that, the Biden–Harris administration gained access to the .gov domain for its Build Back Better site. At the same time, GM announced it’s withdrawing from a Trump administration lawsuit against emissions regulations in California in a move to “better foster the necessary dialogue” with the incoming president.
Continue reading.

Google built an 'Infinite Bad Guy' generator using 15,000 YouTube covers

The company used machine learning to line them up perfectly.

YouTube

Search for ‘Bad Guy’ on YouTube and you’ll find thousands of covers alongside Billie Eilish’s official music video. To celebrate the track, which has now passed one billion views, and the community of covers that’s grown around it, Google has created Infinite Bad Guy, a music video that goes on forever. Every time you hit play, the custom website will load up one of 15,000 covers posted on YouTube. You’ll see some videos either side and a bunch of hashtags at the bottom of the screen, such as #violin, #quartet and #parody. Click on these and the video will transition without missing a beat. To try it for yourself, simply head over to billie.withyoutube.com.
Continue reading.

Google Assistant can finally schedule your smart lights

"Turn off the bedroom lights at 10:45 PM."

Google Assistant already works with Hue and other smart lights, but functionality has been limited to the point of often irrelevance. Now, you can schedule lights and other electronic devices to turn on and off at specific or general times. The feature works via Google’s Scheduled Actions feature, so you can say “Hey Google, turn on the lights at 7 AM,” for example. 

The feature is working but still appears to need more refinement. For instance, if you say “tomorrow” without mentioning a specific time, it will just acknowledge the command but do nothing. Also, Google’s documentation states you can cancel scheduled actions, but that function doesn’t appear to work yet, either.

And if you were looking for something to combine with those wake-up lights, Lenovo’s smart clock is on sale.
Continue reading.

But wait, there’s more...

Watch a Porsche Taycan break the Guinness World Record for an EV drift

Engadget Deals: Sony's budget WH-CH710N Bluetooth headphones drop to record low of $88

Beloved RPG 'The World Ends with You' will get a sequel, 14 years later

How to make sense of Logitech's universal remote lineup

China's Chang'e-5 mission is off to collect samples from the Moon

Jabra updates its Elite 85t earbuds to fix annoying noise issues

The EPA confirms the 2021 Mustang Mach-E can run up to 300 miles

Google's 'Verse by Verse' AI can help you write in the style of famous poets

The Hugo Awards will have a video game category in 2021

What's new on TV this week: 'Saved by the Bell'

How ‘Astro’s Playroom’ captures the magic of PS5's DualSense controller 

Watch a Porsche Taycan break the Guinness World Record for an EV drift (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 04:50 AM

If you’ve ever kicked out the tail of your car, you’re aware of the razor-thin line between a clean drift and a wild spin. Now, imagine holding that knife edge for 55 minutes over a marathon distance of 26.2 miles. That’s exactly what Porsche driving instructor Dennis Retera pulled off in a Porsche Taycan EV, setting a new Guinness world record in the process.

Retera set the record in a real-wheel-drive Taycan, available in either 402 or 469 horsepower versions with 79.2 kWh or 93.4 kWh hour batteries (Porsche didn’t specify which). He performed the feat at Porsche’s Hockenheimring center on a 200 meter (656 foot) long drift circle that’s irrigated to save tire life and allow for lower speed drifting — about 29 mph on average for the Taycan record.

“When the driving stability programs are switched off, a powerslide with the electric Porsche is extremely easy, especially of course with this model variant,” said Retera. “Nevertheless, it was also very tiring for me to keep my concentration high for 210 laps, especially as the irrigated asphalt of the drift circuit does not provide the same grip everywhere.”

Guinness defines a drift as “being performed when there is a speed differential between the driven wheels of the vehicle and its ground speed,” with those parameters checked by yaw rate sensors and other instruments. Retera’s record is specifically for EVs and there doesn’t appear to be a prior record in that category, so the Taycan has essentially laid down the benchmark. The longest drift in any car over 8 hours is a whopping 232.5 miles, achieved in a BMW M5 that was (insanely) refueled in the middle of the attempt — something you’ll clearly never see with an EV.

Curiosity rover finds evidence of ancient megafloods on Mars (www.engadget.com) 11/24/2020 03:26 AM

Previous images of large channels on Mars and giant wave-like features on its surface called “megaripples” indicate that the planet suffered from catastrophic floods in the past. Now, a team of scientists has used data gathered by the Curiosity rover to prove that megafloods swept across the Gale crater around 4 billion years ago. “We identified megafloods for the first time using detailed sedimentological data observed by the rover Curiosity,” said Alberto G. Fairén, co-author of the paper published by Nature. “Deposits left behind by megafloods had not been previously identified with orbiter data.”

The team comprised of scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii used images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Image and Mastcam cameras on board the Curiosity rover to observe rocks and minerals in the Gale crater. What they found were sediments that they determined were deposited by gigantic flash floods that happened after Mt. Sharp and the Gale crater first formed.

They believe that the floods were caused by a huge meteoric impact that generated enough heat to melt massive amounts of ice on the planet. The event released carbon dioxide and methane, which combined with water vapor to form a warm and wet climate for a short time. This led to torrential rains across the planet, and the waters (along with the sediments) that slid off Mt. Sharp flooded the Gale crater. So, what does this mean exactly?

As you most likely know, the presence of water could mean the presence of life. That’s why NASA and other space agencies have been trying to find evidence of water on other celestial bodies in our solar system. “The planet had the conditions needed to support the presence of liquid water on the surface – and on Earth, where there’s water, there’s life,” Fairén explained. It’s now the Perseverance rover’s job to find evidence of ancient life on our planetary neighbor after it lands on the Martian surface in February 2021.

Twitter will warn you if you 'like' misleading tweets (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 11:32 PM

Twitter started flagging tweets for disputed and potentially misleading content this year ahead of the 2020 Presidential Elections. With the feature in place, the website will show you a warning every time you try to retweet or quote a post that’s been labeled as such in an effort to curb the spread of misinformation. Now, the social network has expanded the feature so that you’ll also get a warning if you attempt to “like” a disputed tweet. Tapping the heart button on a post that’s been labeled as misleading will trigger a prompt with a “Find out more” button to pop up.

App experimental feature researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered the expanded function earlier this month. The tweets she tested, which were related to the elections, showed a warning that says “Official sources may not have called the race when this was tweeted.”

A week after election day, Twitter revealed that it labeled 300,000 tweets as misleading between October 27th and November 11th. Out of all those, 456 were blocked from being retweeted or liked and were hidden behind a warning before they could even be viewed. The company says its efforts have led to a 29 percent decrease in quoted tweets containing misleading information. According to The Verge, the feature expansion is rolling out on the web and on iOS to all users around the world this week. Android users, meanwhile, will start seeing prompts in the coming weeks.

Joe Biden's presidential transition launches with BuildBackBetter.gov (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 11:20 PM

Election Day was almost three weeks ago, but despite media projections and state-certified results marking a Joe Biden win in the race for president, the government had not yet started the transition process. Earlier today, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to Biden that the official process has been approved — a decision she said she came to independently, just minutes before Donald Trump tweeted that actually he gave his recommendation.

While the Trump administration insists it has not conceded its loss in the election, that decision gives the Biden campaign access to federal funding to make the transition happen ahead of the inauguration in January, which includes access to official .gov domains. Just as the Trump campaign launched GreatAgain.gov in November 2016, the Biden-Harris administration has launched a site at BuildBackBetter.gov, complete with policy information, cabinet selections and, of course, a pitch for donations.

In case you’re wondering about the social media handles, Twitter and Facebook have said they will pass over control of @potus and associated accounts to the Biden administration once he is sworn in as the 46th president. That should also see some associated changes to the WhiteHouse.gov web site, again.

What's on TV this week: 'Saved by the Bell' (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 09:54 PM

This week we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in the US, and nostalgia will be all over TV screens and Peacock resurrects Saved by the Bell with a cast that includes new younger actors and several of the stars from the original show.

Other throwbacks include Mad Max on Ultra HD Blu-ray and a Buck Rogers box set, but for something newer you can check out Peninsula, a sequel to the excellent Korean zombie movie Train to Busan as it arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray. Netflix’s latest feature film is Mosul, along with its Hillbilly Elegy movie. Criterion is also releasing a special edition of Netflix’s Martin Scorsese feature The Irishman, however it’s sadly only available in 1080p Blu-ray without the benefit of 4K and Dolby Vision HDR.

For an all-new option, try Superintelligence on HBO Max, where Melissa McCarthy stars as a woman chosen by an all-powerful AI for surveillance via her various connected devices.

Look below to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).

Blu-ray, video on-demand & Games

  • Mad Max (4K)

  • Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula (4K)

  • The Irishman (Criterion)

  • Deadly Games (4K)

  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

  • Ava

  • Better Call Saul (S5)

  • World of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC)

  • Football Manager (PC)

  • Vigor (PS4)

  • BFF or Die (PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

  • More Dark (PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

  • Tesla Force (Xbox One)

  • Landflix Odyssey (PS4, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X)

Tuesday

  • Hillbilly Elegy, Netflix, 3 AM

  • Wonderoos (S1), Netflix, 3 AM

  • Dragons: Rescue Riders Holiday Special, Netflix, 3 AM

  • A Teacher, Hulu, 3 AM

  • NCIS, CBS, 8 PM

  • Moonshiners (season premiere), Discovery, 8 PM

  • Inside the NFL, Showtime, 9 PM

  • FBI, CBS, 9 PM

  • Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, HBO, 10 PM

  • Transplant, NBC, 10 PM

  • Tosh.0 (series finale), Comedy Central, 10 PM

  • FBI: Most Wanted, CBS, 10 PM

  • Big Sky, ABC, 10 PM

Wednesday

  • Saved by the Bell (S1), Netflix, 3 AM

  • Heroes of Lucha Libre (S1), Crackle, 3 AM

  • Uncle Frank, Amazon Prime 3 AM

  • Happiest Season, Hulu, 3 AM

  • Great Pretender (S2), Netflix, 3 AM

  • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two, Netflix, 3 AM

  • The Amazing Race, CBS, 8 PM

  • House of Payne, BET, 8 PM

  • Women of Worth, NBC, 8 PM

  • WWE NXT, USA, 8 PM

  • The Goldbergs, ABC, 8 PM

  • American Housewife, ABC, 8:30 PM

  • Assisted Living, BET, 8:30 PM

  • The Mystery of DB Cooper, HBO, 9 PM

  • Sistas, BET, 9 PM

  • I Can See Your Voice, Fox, 9 PM

  • S.W.A.T., CBS, 10 PM

  • For Life, ABC, 10 PM

Thursday

  • Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access, 3 AM

  • Mosul, Netflix, 3 AM

  • 12 Dates of Christmas, HBO Max, 3 AM

  • Craftopia, HBO Max, 3 AM

  • Full Bloom, HBO Max, 3 AM

  • Superintelligence, HBO Max, 3 AM

  • The Flight Attendant (series premiere), HBO Max, 3 AM

  • Texas 6 (series premiere), CBS All Access, 3 AM

  • The Walking Dead: World Beyond (season finale), AMC+, 3 AM

  • Sesame Street, HBO Max, 3 AM

  • Valley of Tears, HBO Max, 3 AM

  • Ravens/Steelers, NBC, 8:20 PM

  • The Masked Singer, Fox, 8 PM

  • The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration, ABC, 9 PM

  • I Can See Your Voice, Fox, 9 PM

Friday

  • The Mandalorian Disney+, 3 AM

  • Sugar Rush Christmas (S2), Netflix, 3 AM

  • Virgin River (S2), Netflix, 3 AM

  • Black Beauty, Disney+, 3 AM

  • Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, Netflix, 3 AM

  • The Great British Baking Show (season finale), Netflix, 3 AM

  • The Barrier, Netflix, 3 AM

  • Riding with Sugar, Netflix, 3 AM

  • The Call, Netflix, 3 AM

  • Over Christmas, Netflix, 3 AM

  • The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse, Disney+, 3 AM

  • Dear Christmas, Lifetime, 8 PM

  • WWE Smackdown, Fox, 8 PM

  • Illumination presents Minions Holiday Special, NBC, 8:30 PM

  • The Amber Ruffin Show (season finale), Peacock, 9 PM

  • Wilmore (season finale), Peacock, 9 PM

  • Warrior, Cinemax, 10 PM

  • The Movie Show (series premiere), Syfy, 11:30 PM

  • ELeague, TBS, 12 AM

Saturday

  • Start-Up, Netflix, 3 AM

  • Uncanny Counter (series premiere), Netflix, 3 AM

  • Oklahoma/West Virginia college football, ABC, 7:30 PM

  • Earth's Great Seasons, BBC America, 8 PM

  • Finding My Daughter, Lifetime Movie Network, 8 PM

Sunday

  • F1 Bahrain GP, ESPN2, 9:05 AM

  • Pandora, CW, 8 PM

  • Top Gear, BBC America, 8 PM

  • The Reagans, Showtime, 8 PM

  • Supermarket Sweep, ABC, 8 PM

  • Once Upon A Main Street, Lifetime, 8 PM

  • The Simpsons, Fox, 8 PM

  • The Spanish Princess (season finale), Starz, 8 PM

  • Bears/Packers, NBC, 8:20 PM

  • Bless the Harts, Fox, 8:30 PM

  • The Undoing (season finale), HBO, 9 PM

  • Bob's Burgers, Fox, 9 PM

  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, ABC, 9 PM

  • NCIS: NO, CBS, 9:30 PM

  • The Walking Dead: World Beyond (season finale), AMC, 9 PM

  • Card Sharks, ABC, 10 PM

  • Fargo (season finale), FX, 10 PM

  • Moonbase 8 Showtime, 11 PM

All times listed are ET.

China's Chang'e-5 mission is off to collect samples from the Moon (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 06:48 PM

China successfully launched its Chang’e-5 mission on Monday. And if all goes according to plan, by the end of the week, it will be orbiting the Moon, ready to collect samples from the lunar surface for the first time in decades. 

Once the lander portion of the spacecraft is on the ground, it will have approximately 14 days — or the length of a single day on the satellite — to complete its mission. That’s because it’s not designed to cope with the extreme cold temperatures that come with nightfall on the Moon. The part of the Moon China plans to land on is called Mons Rümker. It’s a volcanic plain on the near side of the satellite that’s much younger than the craters Apollo astronauts visited in the 1960s and 70s. From liftoff to its eventual return back to Earth, the entire mission is scheduled to take less than a month.     

Once everything is said and done, China hopes to bring more than four pounds worth of samples back to Earth. To put that context, NASA astronauts brought back approximately 842 pounds of Moon rock and soil between 1969 and 1972. If the mission is successful, China will become only the third nation in history to have accomplished that feat. To date, only the US and the Soviet Union have successfully brought back samples from the Moon.  

As The New York Times highlights, in the past China has typically waited until one of its craft has successfully made into orbit before sharing any news. This time around, the country broadcast the entire liftoff procedure on state television and YouTube, signaling its growing confidence in its space program. Like Chang’e-4 before it, Chang’e-5 is part of China’s ambitious plan for the Moon. By the end of the 2030s, the country hopes to establish a research facility and human colony on the lunar surface, something NASA’s Artemis program hopes to do as well.

The Hugo Awards will have a video game category in 2021 (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 05:04 PM

For the first time in its storied history, the Hugo Awards will honor a video game. The annual literary award has avoided recognizing the medium for years, but present circumstances being what they are, it will make an exception at the next World Science Fiction Convention in 2021. As you might have guessed, the about-face came out of the coronavirus pandemic, and more specifically the amount of time most in the sci-fi and fantasy communities have spent playing video games in lockdown. 

“Since early 2020, many of us have spent more time gaming than we ever expected. This award will offer fans an opportunity to celebrate the games that have been meaningful, joyful and exceptional over this past year,” said Collette Fozard, the co-chair of the 79th World Science Fiction Convention, which will be held in Washington DC in August. As with the literary award, the video games category will award the best science fiction or fantasy work from the previous year. So expect games like Half-Life Alyx and Cyberpunk 2077 (provided it doesn’t miss its release date again) to get consideration.

As things stand, video games won’t be an ongoing fixture at the Hugo Awards. That’s not unusual. The awards have consistently experimented with categories. In 2002 and 2005, for instance, it gave out awards to the best websites, but hasn’t done so since. The good news is that the Hugo Study Committee will consider adding a permanent Best Game or Interactive Experience category, and there’s a strong case to be made for their inclusion.  

The best Instant Pot for most of us is down to $50 for Black Friday (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 04:35 PM

The Instant Pot is one of the most popular kitchen appliances of the past few years, and the 6-quart Duo has often been the most recommended model. But since the more recent Instant Pot Duo Nova is essentially an updated version of the Duo, that’s now arguably the best Instant Pot model for most people. Best of all, thanks to Black Friday sales, you can now snag it for $50, which is half off its usual $100 price tag. 

Buy Instant Pot Duo Nova at Amazon - $49.99

The Instant Pot Duo Nova has pretty much every feature of the original Duo; it has the functions of a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a steamer, a saute pan, a food warmer and a yogurt maker all in one machine. One important upgrade, however, is that it comes with an easy seal lid that automatically seals the Instant Pot without you having to flip a toggle. That along with its clear, simple controls makes the Duo Nova especially great for beginners, as it’s that much easier to learn how to use. We also generally think the 6-quart model is best for most people as that can easily feed up to six people.

Just as with the other Instant Pots, the Duo Nova’s real star feature is the pressure cooker. With just a few button presses, you can make meals that typically take hours to cook in a fraction of the time. Think pulled pork in an hour instead of five, or chicken curry in just 10 minutes. For more on how to use the Instant Pot’s many features, you can check out our Instant Pot guide here.

If you’d rather have an Instant Pot with more functions, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp is also on sale for $130, which is $50 off its $180 retail price. The Duo Crisp has many of the same features as above, except that it also comes with an Air Fryer Lid that adds dry-heat cooking methods like broiling, baking, dehydrating and air-frying.

Buy Instant Pot Duo Crisp at Amazon - $129.99

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

GM pulls out of Trump administration's fuel emissions lawsuit in California (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 04:20 PM

General Motors won’t support the Trump administration’s attempts to strip California of the right to set its own fuel emissions standard. In a letter obtained by The New York Times to some of the country’s largest environmental groups, the automaker said it has abandoned the Environmental Protection Agency’s lawsuit against the state and called on the other automakers that had supported the agency, including Toyota and Fiat Chrysler, to do the same. 

In a sign of major companies moving to support President-elect Joe Biden, GM CEO Mary Barra said the company agrees with the former vice-president’s climate change policies. “We are confident that the Biden Administration, California and the US auto industry, which supports 10.3 million jobs, can collaboratively find the pathway that will deliver an all-electric future,” she said in the letter. “To better foster the necessary dialogue, we are immediately withdrawing from the pre-emption litigation and inviting other automakers to join us.”

As The New York Times points out, the messaging is a dramatic about-face for GM. When Trump came to power in 2016, Barra was among the first to meet with the president. She used that opportunity to push the administration to weaken fuel economy standards put in place by President Obama. When the EPA put forward a national fuel economy standard, GM’s stance put it at odds with several other automakers, including Ford, BMW, Volkswagen and Honda, all of which had signed a pledge with California to make their engines more efficient than the national standard.  

GM’s reversal also looks like a sign of things to come, with Toyota telling The Washington Post it’s reconsidering its position. "Given the changing circumstances, we are assessing the situation, but remain committed to our goal of a consistent, unitary set of fuel economy standards applicable in all 50 states," a spokesperson for the company said. 

Whether President-elect Biden will have the opportunity to implement substantive environmental policies will depend on if Democrats can take control of the Senate when the Georgia runoffs are decided in January. Current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to table legislation to help Americans trade in their gasoline cars for electric vehicles. Those kinds of policies will be harder to pass with a Republican-controlled Senate. Still, with companies GM changing their stance, we’ll likely see more action from the automakers themselves.

Google's 'Verse by Verse' AI can help you write in the style of famous poets (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 03:21 PM

If you've ever fancied yourself as a poet but don't quite have the lyrical and rhythmic skills one might require, Google's Verse by Verse tool can help you to craft the most delectable verse. The company's latest experiment with AI-driven poetry offers suggestions in the style of America’s most renowned wordsmiths.

You can select up to three poets for inspiration, including the likes of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe. Once you've made your choices and picked a structure for your poem, the tool will ask you to compose your first line of verse. The AI will then suggest some more options.

Verse by Verse won't lock you into using those suggestions. You can ditch or tweak them, or accept them as is. The tool is supposed to inspire you, not generate an entire poem on your behalf — though you can more or less do that too. Once you have perfected a stanza, you can add more of them to your future masterpiece.

To build the tool, Google engineers fed the system "a large collection of classic poetry." They then used each poet's own work to fine tune the AI models in an attempt to ape their writing styles. They also wanted the AI to make relevant suggestions, so, according to engineer Dave Uthus, "the system was trained to have a general semantic understanding of what lines of verse would best follow a previous line of verse. So even if you write on topics not commonly seen in classic poetry, the system will try its best to make suggestions that are relevant."

Verse by Verse does a solid job of adapting the style of classic poets to help you shape your stanzas, even if some of its suggestions don’t quite work. Here’s hoping Google eventually builds a version based on the work of rappers, our best-known modern poets, as well.

Roku adds AMC+ to its streaming channel (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 02:08 PM

While free content has been the Roku Channel’s primary calling card, it has also offered the option to subscribe to paid TV channels like STARZ and ShowTime. And now it’s adding yet another premium option. Starting today, you can subscribe to AMC+ through the Roku Channel for $9 per month. In addition to shows like The Walking Dead and Mad Men, AMC+ includes access to select content from AMC-owned properties like Sundance TV and Shudder. Whether AMC+ is right for you will depend on how you feel about its originals, but it’s a good option if you want some variety without subscribing to several different streaming services.

With Roku recently making the channel available through a new standalone Android and iOS app, you don’t need one of the company’s devices to subscribe to AMC+ — though a subscription likely makes the most sense if you’re already deep in the company’s ecosystem.

The EPA confirms the 2021 Mustang Mach-E can run up to 300 miles (www.engadget.com) 11/23/2020 01:59 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its certified range numbers for the 2021 Mustang Mach-E, and they're pretty much what Ford had expected. Depending on the configuration, the automaker's first major electric vehicle can run for up to 300 miles on a single charge, per the EPA. You'll need to kit out the EV with rear-wheel drive and the extended battery to hit that target. 

The EPA's testing matched Ford's estimates for other variants too. The all-wheel drive with extended battery option has an estimated range of 270 miles, while the standard range model with rear-wheel drive can run for up to 230 miles before you need to recharge it. 

As for the standard, all-wheel drive model, that should be good for 211 miles on a single charge, according to the EPA. That's one mile more than Ford predicted. The EPA has yet to complete testing on the California Route 1 trim, which Ford also says has a range of 300 miles. The company expects the agency to release its estimated range for that variant by the end of the year.

While those EPA-estimated ranges are a far cry from those of the Lucid Air (517 miles) and the Tesla Model S Long Range Plus (402 miles), Ford has to be pleased that its predictions were almost dead on. The automaker, which dropped the price of the EV in September, expects to start delivering the Mustang Mach-E in the US in December. 

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