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Here’s what we know about Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X game consoles so far

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Sony unveiled its highly-anticipated PlayStation 5 (PS5) console Thursday. It will compete directly against Microsoft‘s upcoming Xbox Series X when both game consoles launch later this year.

Sony and Microsoft have been competing in the game console market since Microsoft entered the scene in 2001 — long after the first PlayStation was introduced in 1994. The last major release from both companies came in 2013, with the launch of the PS4 and the Xbox One. While both consoles have been updated with some improvements since then, this is the next generational step for both companies. 

Sometime before the holidays, the new Xbox Series X and the PS5 will launch. And, thanks to Sony’s presentation on Thursday evening — which finally showed us what the PS5 looks like and several games — we’re starting to learn a lot more about what we can expect.

Here’s what we know so far about Sony’s PS5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X.

Specs and design

Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox Series X console.

Microsoft

Microsoft says its Xbox Series X will be four times as powerful as its predecessor, the Xbox One X, supporting 8K resolution and a frame rate of 120 frames per second (FPS) — though you’ll only be able to take advantage of this higher quality video if you have an 8K-ready TV, and they don’t come cheap. The PS5 will also have 8K capability and can run 4K graphics at 120 FPS. This means sharper, smoother graphics.

The Xbox Series X looks sort of like a black computer tower. It’s simple. The PS5 is the opposite. Sony opted for a more futuristic style, with two white wings on either side of a black block wedged in the middle of the console.

PlayStation 5

Sony

Both consoles come with solid-state drives (SSDs) which will allow you to boot up games much quicker. Sony said it will release a version of the PS5 called the “Digital Edition” for people who prefer to download games instead of buying discs. You’ll just want to make sure you have a fast internet connection if you pick this model, since games are going to be really large and will take a long time to download (hours or days) on a slow connection.

Controllers

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is unveiled during the Microsoft Corp. Xbox event ahead of the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, June 9, 2019.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg via Getty Images

It might seem minor, but gamers really care about controllers. After all, the controller is how you’re interacting with games for, sometimes, hundreds and hundreds of hours. So far, both look pretty impressive.

Microsoft’s Xbox Elite Controller: Series 2, which has already been released, comes with adjustable-tension thumbsticks and wrap-around rubberized grips. It’ll also have a built-in rechargeable battery with up to 40 hours of battery life.

Sony’s DualSense wireless controller for the PlayStation 5.

Sony

Sony, meanwhile, has added haptic feedback to its DualSense controller for the PS5. It says you’ll be able to feel virtual things physically. In theory, in-game sensations should feel more realistic to the player than simple vibrations, but we don’t know how well it works yet.

Games

Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” a PlayStation 5 exclusive.

Sony

Exclusive launch titles — the games available that are exclusive to either the PS5 or Xbox Series X — can be important. They’ll help drive sales, since people will want to buy a new console to play the latest games.

Sony revealed a compelling lineup on Thursday with various PS5 exclusives, including big titles like “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” and “Horizon Forbidden West.”

Here’s a list of other games that are coming exclusively to the PS5:

  • “Gran Turismo 7”
  • “Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart”
  • “Demon’s Souls”
  • “Returnal”
  • “Sackboy: A Big Adventure” 
  • “Astro’s Playroom”
  • “Destruction All Stars”

“Halo Infinite,” “The Medium” and “Scorn” will launch as exclusives for the Xbox Series X. 

Both consoles will support backward compatibility for games made for their predecessors. That means you’ll still be able to play an Xbox One game on the Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 4 game on the PS5.

Cloud

Microsoft Project xCloud will let people stream games to mobile devices, too.

Microsoft

The cloud is about to play a much more prominent role in gaming, too. Google debuted a streaming game service of its own called Stadia last year, but it’s so far had a mixed reception

Microsoft’s Project xCloud, currently in beta, promises to let gamers play their games anywhere on phones, computers and tablets, even if they aren’t near their Xbox. Right now, gamers can stream from an Xbox to a computer, but only over the home Wi-Fi network. xCloud should make that experience much more seamless, allowing gamers to pick up where they left off wherever they are.

Sony hasn’t talked a whole lot about its plans, but it has a partnership with Microsoft in which it will use Microsoft’s Azure cloud to offer game streaming. It currently has a subscription service called PlayStation Now which allows players to play games on their PS4 or PC, so we expect that to expand in some form with the launch of the PS5.

Pricing and release dates still unknown

Game enthusiasts and industry personnel walk between the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation exhibits at the E3 trade show on June 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Christian Petersen | Getty Images

Microsoft and Sony have spoken about the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Microsoft said in April that the outbreak wouldn’t change the timing of its next-gen console’s release, though it may slow down some game production. Sony said there have been no “major problems” in its game development pipeline.

We still don’t know when the PS5 or the Xbox Series X will launch, though.  Sony and Microsoft have just said this year. And we don’t know how much they’ll cost.

New consoles typically cost hundreds of dollars at launch, though. The PS4 was $399.99 when it launched and the Xbox One was priced at $499. So, ballpark it around $400 – $600 plus the cost of new games, which typically run around $50 – $60 a pop.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/12/ps5-vs-xbox-series-x-what-we-know-so-far.html

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Pinterest is reportedly in talks to acquire VSCO

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So what can Pinterest do to jump higher up the list of social networking sites? According to a report by the New York Times, one possibility is acquiring the owner of VSCO, the app for editing / sharing photos and videos that has brought in-depth tools to mobile users for years. Neither side directly confirmed the negotiations, and there’s no word on a possible price, but maybe combining forces can bring some Instagram-like glow. 

As it is, Pinterest is still mostly known for planning and organizing, and as the NYT article points out, other than some recent acquisitions, VSCO is currently best known for the “VSCO girls” meme.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/vsco-pinterest-014258107.html

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A sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ just sold for $660,000

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A nearly perfect copy of Super Mario Bros. for the NES has sold for $660,000 at auction. In what turned out to be a 13-bidder contest, $550,000 went to the game’s original owner. The copy was one of the earliest shrink-wrapped versions of the games you could buy in the US (Super Mario Bros. eventually had 11 different box variants, according to WATA Games).

Heritage Auctions, the firm that oversaw the sale, told Ars Technica it dates back to late 1986. It was reportedly bought as a Christmas gift and sat unopened in a desk drawer for the better part of four decades. “I never thought anything about it,” the seller, who asked to remain anonymous, told the auction house.

The $660,000 this copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for is crazy when you consider the Nintendo PlayStation, a one-of-a-kind prototype representing a unique piece of gaming history, sold for $360,000 at auction last year. More recently, someone paid $156,000 to buy a pristine copy of Super Mario Bros. 3. It makes you wonder how much the owner would have walked away with had they simultaneously tried to cash in on the NFT craze somehow.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/super-mario-bros-auction-000001095.html

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‘Lost Tapes of the 27 Club’ used Google AI to ‘write’ a new Nirvana song

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Were he still alive today, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain would be 52 years old. Every February 20th, on the day of his birthday, fans wonder what songs he would write if he hadn’t died of suicide nearly 30 years ago. While we’ll never know the answer to that question, an AI is attempting to fill the gap.

A mental health organization called Over the Bridge used Google’s Magenta AI and a generic neural network to examine more than two dozen songs by Nirvana to create a ‘new’ track from the band. “Drowned in the Sun” opens with reverb-soaked plucking before turning into an assault of distorted power chords. “I don’t care/I feel as one, drowned in the sun,” Nirvana tribute band frontman Eric Hogan sings in the chorus. In execution, it sounds not all that dissimilar from “You Know You’re Right,” one of the last songs Nirvana recorded before Cobain’s death in 1994.

Other than the voice of Hogan, everything you hear in the song was generated by the two AI programs Over the Bridge used. The organization first fed Magenta songs as MIDI files so that the software could learn the specific notes and harmonies that made the band’s tunes so iconic. Humorously, Cobain’s loose and aggressive guitar playing style gave Magenta some trouble, with the AI mostly outputting a wall of distortion instead of something akin to his signature melodies. “It was a lot of trial and error,” Over the Bridge board member Sean O’Connor told Rolling Stone. Once they had some musical and lyrical samples, the creative team picked the best bits to record. Most of the instrumentation you hear are MIDI tracks with different effects layered on top.

One thing neither AI gave direction on is how exactly Cobain would have sung the song. Outside of cadence and tone, Hogan had to interpret how the grunge star, who famously suffered from crippling stomach pain, would have channeled his anguish into the lyrics.

Over the Bridge isn’t the first group to use AI to emulate a dead artist. But the intent here is different from similar past projects. “Drowned in the Sun” is part of the organization’s Lost Tapes of the 27 Club initiative. They set out to record AI-generated songs by musicians who died at the age of 27 to raise awareness about mental health resources musicians, and people more generally, can turn to when they feel they need help. The Toronto-based non-profit has a Facebook page where it offers support. It also offers online sessions and workshops.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or over an online chat.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/over-the-bridge-lost-tapes-of-the-27-club-223000315.html

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Microsoft’s online-only Build conference starts on May 25th

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Spring is fully upon us, which means the calendar is starting to fill up with high-profile tech events. And the latest addition? Microsoft confirmed today that its online-only Build developer conference will run between May 25th and May 27th, though there’s still no word on when registration will open. (If last year is any indication, our money is on “the end of April.”)

“Microsoft Build is where developers, architects, start-ups, and students learn, connect, and code together, sharing knowledge and expanding their skillset, while exploring new ways of innovating for tomorrow,” the company’s events page explains. 

Unfortunately, Microsoft has yet to update its Build-specific webpage with information about this year’s priorities or schedule, but we’re almost certainly looking at another packed event. Last year, Microsoft went on (among other things) about improved collaboration tools for its suite of Office productivity apps, an AI-focused supercomputer running on its Azure cloud platform, and new cloud tools designed specifically for healthcare practitioners. 

Historically, spring and summer are been jam-packed with large, in-person events where app and software developers get their first glimpse at upcoming platform and strategy updates, attend workshops and code reviews, and generally mingle with their colleagues. Starting last year, though, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has forced companies that stage these events to rapidly rethink their approaches.

Some, like Microsoft and Apple, quickly pivoted to informative online-only affairs that include full days worth of sessions, demos and fireside chats. (For what it’s worth, Apple announced this week that its own Worldwide Developer Conference will also proceed as an online-only event from June 7-11.) Meanwhile, Google has not yet confirmed whether it plans to stage its Google I/O developer conference at all this year — the company cancelled the show entirely in 2020, but said last month that it does plan to host some version of its annual Google Cloud Next event this October. 

Between a surge in COVID-19 vaccine production and news of relaxed restrictions for vaccinated travelers, Build 2021 may well be the last purely virtual developer conference Microsoft will ever need to put on. With any luck, devs will resume their pilgrimages to Seattle next year, and who knows — maybe those tiny emotional support horses from Build 2018 will show up again too.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-build-2021-may-25-to-27-developer-conference-official-212230206.html

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