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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, all litigation worldwide between Apple and Qualcomm has ended. Plus, details about the next PlayStation console and Respawn’s next game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. But first, Microsoft has a new, disc-less console in the Xbox One S.

New Xbox One S is disc-less, arrives on May 7

This week, Microsoft revealed a new Xbox One game console that has no optical drive. The All-Digital Edition Xbox One S is just like the other Xbox One S but with a 1 TB hard drive.

The console supports 4K video playback, gaming upscaled to 4K, and high-dynamic range video. It costs $300 and comes with three games: Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 3.

The digital experience is supported by Microsoft’s cloud storage features for saves and backups, and you can pre-install games so that they are playable immediately on release. No waiting.

You can combine the new console with the Xbox Game Pass, which is a subscription model that gives you access to more than 100 games for $12 a month. You can combine the Game Pass with the benefits of Xbox Live Gold for US$15.

Here’s what we know about the next-gen PlayStation console

It’s probably going to be called the PlayStation 5, but Sony won’t confirm that name. But the company has revealed a lot of what’s going to be in the next game console.

In an interview with Wired, Sony system architect Mark Cerny explained that it will support PlayStation 4 games and 8K graphics.

The new system will have an entirely new architecture, with an eight-core CPU from AMD, and a custom graphical processing unit (GPU) from AMD Radeon which will allow for ray-tracing graphics, which provide much more accurate renderings.

But the biggest change might be to a unique solid-state drive (SSD) that can reduce load times dramatically. Cerny demonstrated a reduction in wait time on Spider-Man from 15 seconds on a PS4 to less than one second.

The new PlayStation isn’t expected before the end of 2020 so there’s lots of time for things to change. But game developers already have kits in their studios so they can be making games for the new system.

For my part, I’m looking forward to the next Horizon game on the PS5.

The battle between Apple and Qualcomm has ended

Apple – maker of iPads, iPhones, and Mac computers – and Qualcomm – maker of semiconductors, computer chips, and smartphone modems – have been engaged in multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions since 2017. It all ended on Tuesday.

The settlement agreement dismisses “all litigation between the two companies worldwide.” Apple is making an undisclosed payment to Qualcomm as part of the settlement. Also part of the deal is a six-year “global patent license agreement”.

This all started back in 2017. Apple claimed that Qualcomm was using its dominant position as a supplier of smartphone components to charge high licensing fees for those products.

It’s something that Qualcomm has been accused of by other companies and regulators in other jurisdictions, including one brought by the Federal Trade Commission in the United States. The company has paid more than a billion dollars in fines over antitrust practices.

Qualcomm fought back by accusing Apple of patent infringement, and working to get iPhones banned, which worked in Germany (Apple pulled iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 from German shelves earlier this year) and China.

Apple has used only Intel modems in iPhones since the iPhone 7. The settlement means that Qualcomm’s 5G modems, which are already available, can be used in new iPhone designs. Intel, which had been providing the modems for all iPhones, has announced its decision to exit 5G smartphone modem business.

Some analysts are suggesting that Apple will buy Intel’s mobile modem IP so that they can manufacture their own.

Respawn reveals its new Star Wars game

Respawn Entertainment, a studio owned by Electronic Arts, surprised gamers last month with the existence of Apex Legends, a free-to-play, battle royale game like Fortnite and Player Unknown Battlegrounds.

On Monday, Respawn revealed details of another game in development: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.

The third-person action adventure will be released for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One on November 15.

The story is set during the time just after the events of the film, Revenge of the Sith, when the Emperor attempted to slaughter everyone in the Jedi order.

In addition to Apex Legends, Respawn created Titanfall and Titanfall 2, shooter adventures in which traversal and movement have been integral, and these mechanics will be part of the new Star Wars game, which will have platforming and puzzle solving aspects.

Players will also be fighting using both a lightsaber and Force powers.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Amazon makes dumb speakers smart, hackers get rewarded for their efforts, and Borderlands 3 is announced. But first, Huawei’s P30 series of smartphones take the best photos.

Huawei leaps ahead of the crowd with P30 handset photography

Last week I attended a briefing for press detailing Huawei’s new line of smartphones, the P30 series. Paul Dayco is the chief technical advisor for Huawei Canada, and explained that the “P” is for “photography”.

And there’s lots of buzz about the photographic potential of these handsets. The P30 has a 5x optical zoom (compared to 2x in most other handsets), a 10x hybrid zoom, and a 50x digital zoom (compared to 10x in most others).

This is made possible by the quad-lens camera system on the back of the device that makes use of Leica optics:

  • ultra wide angle, which can be used for panorama photos but also for super-macro (close up) photos
  • wide angle
  • telephoto
  • “time of flight”, which is used to enhance auto focus and depth effects

The “super zoom” technology Huawei has in this device uses a periscope-like design, which arranges the lenses differently in the handset so that more of them can be used.

And the larger sensor and larger aperture means more light is pulled into the camera system, reportedly allowing for the best low light pictures possible from a smartphone. This is all supported by a dual optical image stabilization system

There’s another camera on the front of the phone that provides 32 MP selfies with high dynamic range (HDR).

This is all in addition to high speed charging (up to 70% in only 30 minutes) and reverse charging (you can charge any Qi-compatible device from the back of the handset, including earbuds and even toothbrushes) in a sleek chassis.

The P30 has a 6.1-inch OLED display and is available for around $900 to $950 outright.

The P30 Pro has a 6.47-inch curved OLED display and is available in black or “breathing crystal” (a shimmery finish that takes on the colours and textures of the environment) for between $1,100 and $1,200.

I’ve got a P30 Pro to play with, and am going to report back in a couple of weeks on what my experience is taking photos and shooting video with it.

Add Alexa to any speaker you want with Echo Input

If you’ve already got amazing speakers and are getting tired of hearing everyone else talk about their “smart” speakers, you can stop being annoyed and simply upgrade.

The Echo Input is kind of like a dongle that you plug into speakers with a 3.5 mm audio cable or through Bluetooth, and it gives your speakers Alexa functionality. So you can use your speakers the way anyone else would use an Echo.

You can ask Alexa for the weather forecast, or to give you the news headlines. You can even stream music from Amazon Music or Spotify.

The Echo Input is priced at Cdn$45.

Pwn2Own competition sees hackers infiltrate Model 3 system

At the end of March, teams of computer programmers tackled some interesting challenges in Vancouver.

It was the Pwn2Own competition that was part of the annual CanSecWest conference. The event is a product of the Zero Day Initiative, which was created by computing company Trend Micro to reward hackers (Trend Micro calls them “researchers”) for discovering and privately reporting software vulnerabilities.

Pwn2Own is a hacking contest. Competitors are given specific tasks and constraints, and are rewarded with cash and “Master of Pwn” points for being the first to succeed in the task.

This year, a Tesla Model 3 was added as a target. The target was the web browser that is part of the Model 3 system, and which is used by Tesla to deliver updates to the car.

Fluoroacetate, a team made up of Amat Cama and Richard Zhu, were named Masters of Pwn, having earned $375,000 and 36 points, in addition to the laptops and Model 3 they were awarded for winning stages.

Borderlands 3 is the game you want to play right now

Announced by Gearbox Software at PAX East last week, Borderlands 3 doesn’t release until September 13, but I’ll be watching the reveal trailer – it’s below – daily until then.

The first-person shooter, role playing game hybrid franchise was an epiphany when the first game came out in 2009. The games are raucous, rambunctious, and ridiculous, with a unique art style, atypical narrative development, and plenty of humour.

One of the things that makes Borderlands games so appealing is the continual collecting of loot from caches in the environment and from the bodies of the bad guys you take out.

You’ll be able to play on PS4, Windows, or Xbox One, and you can pre-order now to get the “gold weapon skins pack”.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the new games coming to PlayStation VR, including Concrete Genie, Blood & Truth, No Man’s Sky, and Marvel’s Iron Man. Also, Alexa now understands Quebecois, the Unidentified Human Remains Interactive Viewer, and the new web browser, Brave.

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