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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Bluetooth bra fittings, the new Bioshock game is being made in Montreal, Sony will help make baseball games for consoles other than PlayStation, and the delight of the new Pokémon games for Nintendo’s Switch. But first, the first electric airplane has flown.

World’s first electric airplane takes flight in Vancouver

We’ve got electric cars and trucks and motorbikes, there are electric-powered boats on the water, and now even airplanes are going electric.

This week, Harbour Air conducted a test flight of its ePlane, a six-passenger de Havilland Beaver equipped with an electric engine.

Harbour plans to convert its entire fleet to electric. It currently has more than 40 aircraft.

The engine comes from magniX, based in the Seattle area, a company created to develop electric propulsion systems for aircraft.

Port Coquitlam’s Finger Food uses technology to help consumers get what they need

A technology company in Port Coquitlam, B.C. is “redefining the way humans interact with machines” and providing Canadian retailers with innovative methods to helping customers.

Finger Food Advanced Technology Group has expertise in augmented and virtual reality, robotics, and artificial intelligence, and this year completed two projects that demonstrated what they can do.

For Lululemon, Finger Food created Bluetooth sensors that are used in stores during bra fittings. With the sensors in place, the customer runs on a treadmill and information on breast movement is recorded, and that “unique breast movement profile” is used by store staff to provide a recommendation on the best sports bra for the customer.

The challenge for Mountain Equipment Coop was finding a way to show customers the range of options available in tents. Stores can’t display all the tents they sell; there’s just not enough space. So Finger Food scanned all the products and created virtual models of them, and now people can explore the tent they’re interested in using an augmented reality experience wherever they are.

Video game news: New Montreal studio working on next BioShock game, Sony’s MLB games coming to other platforms

Montreal’s new studio

The last game in 2K Games’ BioShock franchise was Infinite, released in 2013. This week, the video game publisher announced that a new game was being developed by Cloud Chamber, a new studio with locations in the San Francisco area and Montreal.

Kelley GIlmore, who has extensive experience with Firaxis, another 2K studio, will head up Cloud Chamber. She’s hired Ken Schachter to manage the Montreal location.

2K was frank about the fact that the “decision to open a new office in Montreal was supported” by financial incentives provided by the city and by the provincial government of Quebec.

Official MLB video games branching out

For years, Sony’s PlayStation platforms have had the exclusive rights to baseball video games. That changes “as early as 2021” according to a press release issued this week by Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and San Diego Studio, which has been developing MLB The Show since 2006.

While Sony retains the license for MLB and the MLBPA, “the historic expansion of the long-standing partnerships will bring MLB The Show, for the first time ever, to additional console platforms beyond PlayStation platforms”.

Specific details haven’t been announced, but it’s likely that Sony will sub-license the development of the game on other systems.

Everybody’s playing nicely these days.

Pokémon Sword and Shield worthy games for Nintendo’s Switch

Christmas came early to my kids this year in the form of the new Pokémon video game for the Nintendo Switch console. As with most games in the series, this one comes in two editions, Sword and Shield.

We got the Shield edition, because one of my Pokémon trainers wanted to battle a gym leader who was a ghost-type specialist.

Having differnt gym encounters, which are the franchise’s boss battles, is one way that the two editions differ. The other is in the roster of wild pokémon to be collected, and in the legendary characters that are available: Zacian is exclusive to Sword and Zamazenta is exclusive to Shield.

You can get those other pokémon in your copy of the game by trading with other players, and playing with your friends is also supported by the Wild Area, a region in the game where co-operative battles and multiplayer raids can happen. It’s a welcome addition that gives a freshness to the game and extends playability.

The two most appealing new features, though, are the ability to skip tutorials and the abolition of random encounters. Instead of never knowing where or when you were going to be attacked, now you can choose when and where to engage in a battle with a wild pokémon because these encouters are marked on the map.

Inside of a week, both my kids were well into the game, taking turns to progress using their own profiles on the Switch. They both remarked on how much they like the high-res graphics that are possible on the Switch, and the design of the Galar Region, based on Great Britain, in which the game is set.

They also appreciated the control modifications that made the game easier to play, and the battles more fun.

And while one kid is nearing the eighth and final gym, these games are eminently replayable, so there’s lots more fun to be had.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Twitter delays a plan to delete dormant accounts, Columbia’s new Star Wars parkas, and Sony’s PlayStation turns 25. But first, the founders of Google are stepping down from their management roles of Alphabet.

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page step down from Alphabet management roles

In a surprise move on Tuesday (December 3), Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the two who founded Google and birthed a tech empire, announced that they were giving up their roles as president and CEO, respectively, of Alphabet.

That was the company created in 2015 to be an umbrella over Google, YouTube, and the other tech products and services like Maps, Chrome, Google Cloud, and Waymo.

In a letter published at the Google blog, the two wrote, We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company.”

The two haven’t been in the public eye lately, and analysts that follow the company aren’t as suprised by this move as the rest of the world.

And the two aren’t going anywhere. “We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders,” they wrote. “In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!”

In a release announcing that he was now the CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai was quoted as saying, “I’m excited about Alphabet and its long term focus on tackling big challenges through technology. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Larry and Sergey in our new roles. Thanks to them, we have a timeless mission, enduring values, and a culture of collaboration and exploration. It’s a strong foundation on which we will continue to build.”

This is also a time of scrutiny of Alphabet and its companies. While YouTube is challenged to reign in unacceptable content, Google is under threat by its own employees who are reacting to the businesses it works with and issues of endemic sexual harrassment.

The combined net worth of Brin and Page is reported to be more than $100 billion dollars.

Twitter pauses plan to reclaim Twitter handles

Last week, Twitter announced that it was going to start reclaiming dormant accounts. But the company was alerted to a use case they hadn’t considered and they’ve since postponed the plan.

The purge was to begin this month, but when Twitter was asked how it would handle memorial accounts, which are accounts created by people who have died that are kept open in the interest of history and posterity, company representatives admitted they hadn’t considered that.

“We’ve heard you on the impact that this would have on the accounts of the deceased,” the company said in a statement. “This was a miss on our part. We will not be removing any inactive accounts until we create a new way for people to memorialize accounts.”

Clearing out accounts that aren’t being used is good and proper maintenance, and has been a long time in coming, so once they’ve figured out how to identify and preserve the memorial accounts, this will happen.

The company isn’t trying to take anything away from users and they’ve been clear that you don’t have to be actively posting to keep your account if you only use it to lurk. All you need to do is log in with your username and password to keep the registration active.

If you want to keep accounts like this active, all you need to do is set a reminder to log in to them every six months.

New Star Wars parkas from Columbia will keep you warm, dry, and let you show your allegiance

Whether you side with the Rebels or the Empire, if you’re a Star Wars fan, Columbia’s got a winter jacket for you. Just in time for Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.

The new Challenger Jackets, which go on sale at 9 p.m. PT this Friday (December 6), are priced at $249 CAN. They come in black, for the Imperialists, and in grey, for the Rebels. Each style also has a chest patch with the appropriate corresponding insignia.

The jackets feature details in Aurebesh, the primary language of the universe, including the ID numbers for Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter and the Death Star.

They are also fully featured Columbia jackets that are both waterproof and breathable, and with multiple pockets and an adjustable hood.

It’s the 25th anniversary of PlayStation

Sony is celebrating 25 years of play.

On December 3, 1994, the first PlayStation console was released for sale in Japan. A quarter of a century later, the gaming business is one of Sony’s most robust and consistent. The PS2 sold over 150 million units and the PS4 is closing in on 103 million.

The PlayStation 5 console is only a year away, and some of the best games of the past decade are exclusive to the platform, including the Last of Us, God of War, and Uncharted franchises, and games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Marvel’s Spider-Man that are expected to have sequels.

PlayStation changed the video game industry.

Game Informer has a great feature on the history of PlayStation in the words of the people who were there, including Ken Kutaragi, who was tasked with building the video game business within Sony.

Originally, the first console was going to be the Nintendo PlayStation. But at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1991, Nintendo surprised everyone by announcing that it would partner with Philips instead.

There’s also a 30-minute documentary on the early days from Polygon.

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This week, Sacha Baron Cohen provides a crystal rationale on the need for regulation of the “Silicon Six” products and services, Tim Berners-Lee is calling for governments and companies to sign the Contract for the Web (which he invented), and WiX LED lightbulbs are an easy way to get in on smart lighting in your home. But first, Samsung is ready to show you the Galaxy Fold smartphone. Are you ready to try it?

Get your own hands-on experience with Samsung’s folding smartphone

Samsung has done some redesigning on its Galaxy Fold device, and the company wants you to try it out for yourself.

Starting December 6, you can visit the Samsung Experience Store closest to you for a chance to get hands on with the folidng smartphone.

If you really like it, you’ll be able to purchase one for yourself at the cost of $2,600.

And to guard against any further catastrophes from people using the device, everyone purchasing a Galaxy Fold will also get Samsung’s Galaxy Fold Premier Service, “including Fold Concierge and a screen replacment offer”.

When open, the Galaxy Fold has a 7.3-inch display. The cover display is 4.6 inches. The smartphone has a dual-lens camera on the front and a triple-lens camera on the back.

There are three Samsung Experience Stores in the Greater Toronto Area, one at West Edmonton Mall, and one at Metrotown in Burnaby.

Sacha Baron Cohen schools us on the real dangers of social media

Last week, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen was presented with the International Leadership Award by the Anti-Defamation League, an organization founded to stop anti-Semitism that has extended its mandate to include cyberhate, bullying, and “contempt for anyone who is different”.

The award is given to “exceptional individuals who combine professional success with a profound personal commitment to community involvement and to crossing borders and barriers with a message of diversity and equal opportunity.”

Cohen’s scintillating keynote address has gone viral.

In it, he talks about how the “Silicon Six” – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey – are “imposing their vision on the rest of the world, unaccountable to any government and acting like they’re above the reach of law.”

These platforms are, Cohen suggests, “the greatest propaganda machine in history,” invoking a headline in Haaretz that wondered what the Nazi propaganda machine would have done had it access to such tools.

“Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach,” Cohen says. He’s right in calling for regulation of this medium.

Inventor of World Wide Web has a plan to make it a more positive place

Tim Berners-Lee is the guy who created the internet as we know it. And he’s worried.

In an interview with the Guardian, he said, “I think people’s fear of bad things happening on the internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater. If we leave the web as it is, there’s a very large number of things that will go wrong. We could end up with a digital dystopia if we don’t turn things around. It’s not that we need a 10-year plan for the web, we need to turn the web around now.”

To drive that effort, he facilitated the development of a Contract for the Web, which puts forward nine principles, three for governments, three for companies, and three for citizens:

  • Ensure everyone can connect to the internet
  • Keep all of the internet available, all of the time
  • Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights
  • Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone
  • Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust
  • Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst
  • Be creators and collaborators on the Web
  • Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity
  • Fight for the Web

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are signatories to the contract. For whatever that’s worth.

WiZ LEDs make it easier to experiment with smart lighting at home

I’ve been lucky to get a chance to play around with programmable and connected LED bulbs over the years. But not everyone can justify the expense.

Well, the new WiZ bulbs are only $20, and as they are LED they’ll last a long time.

The other thing that makes them great for people who are just getting in to smart home tech is that you don’t need a piece of hardware to act as a bridge or hub. These bulbs connect directly to your Wi-fi network and you use a smartphone app to configure them.

They can also be used with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri.

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