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  • Samsung has rescued Opera Software’s Opera Max data-saving, privacy-protecting Android browser app from oblivion and relaunched it today as Samsung Max.

    Norwegian tech company Opera, which first became known for its desktop browser when it launched in 1995, has offered mobile browser apps across various platforms for years. But in 2014, it launched the standalone Opera Max browser for Android, designed to get its users more bang from their data plan while also offering some VPN-like features. The app compresses data such as photos, music, and videos, while promising “no noticeable loss of quality.” Opera Max can also block background processes to conserve battery and data.

    The app was given a number of new features over the past few years, but last August the company revealed it was pulling the plug on Opera Max once and for all. The reason, according to Opera at the time:

    The product had a substantially different value proposition than our browser products, and represented a different focus for Opera. We, therefore, focus on our browsers and other upcoming services.

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  • (Reuters) — Intel did not inform U.S. cyber security officials of the so-called Meltdown and Spectre chip security flaws until they leaked to the public, six months after Alphabet notified the chipmaker of the problems, according to letters sent by tech companies to lawmakers on Thursday.

    Current and former U.S. government officials have raised concerns that the government was not informed of the flaws before they became public because the flaws potentially held national security implications. Intel said it did not think the flaws needed to be shared with U.S. authorities as hackers had not exploited the vulnerabilities.

    Intel did not tell the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, better known as US-CERT, about Meltdown and Spectre until Jan. 3, after reports on them in online technology site The Register had begun to circulate.

    US-CERT, which issues warnings about cyber security problems to the public and private sector, did not respond to a request for comment.

    Details of when the chip flaws were disclosed were detailed in letters sent by Intel, Alphabet and Apple Inc on Thursday in response to questions from Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The letters were seen by Reuters.

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  • Cuphead was a hell of a hard game. I know that.

    But Cuphead earned three major awards on Thursday night at the DICE Awards, the peer-voted awards staged by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. The debut title from Studio MDHR was nominated in five categories.

    Cuphead was a tough game, with focus on controlling analog sticks precisely at every moment of difficult boss fights.

    The game was lovingly illustrated with hand-drawn art that was reminiscent of 1930s cartoons. So it was no surprise the game won for best achievement in animation. It also won for best original music and best art direction.

    Above: Studio MDHR’s Maja Moldenhauer accepts award for best animation at DICE Awards.

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  • Nintendo scored big at the DICE Awards, one of gaming’s biggest nights for honoring the best games of the year. Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild won Game of the Year.

    The DICE Awards are selected by industry peers who are members of the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, which has 33,000 members. The Legend of Zelda came away with four of the 24 awards, and Nintendo itself won 10 awards as either developer or publisher.

    The game takes players on a world of adventure as they travel across vast fields, through forests and over mountain peaks as they discover what has become of the kingdom of Hyrule. It played a big role in the success of the launch of the Nintendo Switch hybrid home and portable game console.

    Cuphead, developed by the tiny Canadian developer Studio MDHR, won three awards. Games honored with two awards each were Sony’s Horizon Zero Dawn, Ready At Dawn’s Lone Echo/Echo Arena, PUBG’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Nintendo Snipperclips.

    Other top honorees were Fire Emblem Heroes for Mobile Game of the Year, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Racing Game of the Year, Injustice 2 for Fighting Game of the Year, FIFA 18 for Sports Game of the Year, Snipperclips for the Sprite Award, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds for Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay.

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  • Genyo Takeda, 68, received the Lifetime Achievement award at the prestigious DICE Awards tonight during the DICE Summit elite gaming event in Las Vegas.

    Takeda was honored for his work on generations of Nintendo game consoles, including the Nintendo 64, GameCube, and the Nintendo Wii.

    He was formerly general manager of Nintendo’s Integrated Research & Development division, and was the co-representative director and technology fellow until he retired in 2017. He joined Nintendo in 1972 was started his work in R&D in 1981.

    He was a game designer, creating things like the save system for The Legend of Zelda. He also created games such as Punch-Out! and StarTropics. And he made Nintendo’s first arcade game, EVR Race, in 1975.

    He thanked Hiroshi Yamauchi, the now-deceased longtime CEO of Nintendo.

    “He trusted me and gave me the opportunity to lead the technology effort at Nintendo,” Takeda said.

    Humbly, he said he accepted the award on behalf of all of the engineers who worked on hardware consoles at all companies throughout the industry.

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  • Updated at 8:10 p.m. February 22: PSN is back up and running. 

    Sony knows that you’re having trouble getting into some games on your PlayStation 4 this evening. The publisher has acknowledged an outage of its PlayStation Network service, and it has dispatched a team to get the servers back up and running. The company has updated the PSN status page to confirm the problem.

    “You may have some difficulty launching games, applications, or online features,” reads Sony’s PSN page. “Our engineers are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, and we thank you for your patience.”

    If you are trying to get online in games like Monster Hunter: World, Call of Duty: WWII, or Fortnite, you may encounter errors making that connection. Your PS4 may also have issues booting into Netflix, Hulu, or other online streaming-video platforms.

    This is already the fourth significant PSN outage so far in 2018. The service went offline for most users around the world twice at the end of January — once January 23 and again on January 26. Earlier this month, the network had issues on February 8, and now again today. Sony has not provided any details into what is causing PSN to have so many troubles.

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  • Today, the FCC’s so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” which repealed the net neutrality protections the FCC had previously created with the 2015 Open Internet Order, has been officially published. That means the clock has started ticking on all the ways we can fight back.

    While the rule is published today, it doesn’t take effect quite yet. ISPs can’t start blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization for a little while. So while we still have the protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order and we finally have a published version of the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order,” it’s time to act.

    First, under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress can reverse a change in regulation with a simple majority vote. That would bring the 2015 Open Internet Order back into effect. Congress has 60 working days—starting from when the rule is published in the official record—to do this. So those 60 days start now.

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  • U.K. esports fans will have more to look forward to than just tuning into see how the London Spitfire are doing in the Overwatch League. Esports platform Faceit is bringing the biggest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament to the U.K. later this year. The CS: GO Major will see 24 teams competing for a $1 million prize pool. The finals will take place from September 20 to September 23 at the SSE Arena, Wembley in London.

    Faceit has hosted competitions for other games like Rocket League, but its roots lie in CS: GO. Faceit has previously hosted the open qualifiers for CS: GO Majors, but for its U.K. effort, it will be running all qualifiers and events on its platform. It also created and runs the annual  Esports Championship Series tournament, which awards $3 million in prizes. Last year, YouTube snapped up exclusivity rights to broadcast that competition.

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  • Discord is expanding its Verified Servers program to include esports teams and leagues. The company has already welcomed game developers and musicians to start official channels on the powerful chat app. Now, fans of Team Liquid and Cloud 9 can find the online homes for those squads on Discord to connect with their favorite players and fellow fans.

    The esports expansion hits Discord today with 20 new verified servers for its 90 million members. This should simplify community management for these teams that thrive on a deeply engaged audience.

    “When it came to making a decision on what social communication tools to use for community, Discord was the obvious choice,” Team Liquid co-chief executive officer Steve Arhancet said in a statement. “It’s where all the gamers are. And, it is the only social messaging app that allows for a real-time back-and-forth between the teams and the fans. Our Discord server is the official hub for Liquid fans, players, and staff; and host to our pro team events.”

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  • As I wrote back in June, startups in the VR/AR space are wading through a shroud of mystery as to when the industry’s winter will give way to widespread traction and mainstream adoption. I also offered an example of an exceptional case earlier this month about how a UK-based startup, VirtualSpeech, meandered through a series of different combinations of product-market fits and revenue models until they were able to spot an intersection with a traditional industry that delivered a revenue positive outcome.

    Unfortunately, most of VirtualSpeech’s peers aren’t (or weren’t) so lucky, which in most cases isn’t owing to any particular failing on their part per se, but is rather a consequence of facing the market reality of a long and perhaps overextended hype cycle. That the landscape is murky is a continual fact of existence for the industry at this point in time, but the fog does seem to be starting to clear.

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  • Google subsidiary DeepMind announced today that it’s working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to use machine learning in an attempt to predict when patients will deteriorate during a hospital stay.

    Deterioration (when patients get worse under hospital care) is a significant issue, since care providers can miss warning signs for potentially lethal conditions that arise as part of other treatment. DeepMind and the VA aim to tackle Acute Kidney Injury (AKI), which — as the name implies — occurs when a person’s kidneys temporarily stop working as well as they should. That can mean full-on kidney failure, or just injury that reduces their function. AKI can kill people if untreated.

    DeepMind’s goal is to improve algorithms used to detect AKI so that doctors and nurses can spot it quicker and treat patients faster. Dominic King, the clinical lead for DeepMind Health, said in a blog post that the two organizations are already familiar with the condition, which is why they’re choosing to tackle it first.

    The company will have access to more than 700,000 medical records that have had identifying personal details stripped out of them. Using those records, DeepMind and the VA aim to determine whether or not it’s possible to predict the onset of AKI and patient deterioration more broadly using machine learning.

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  • In Brian Aldiss’ landmark short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” a child whiles the day away with his sentient teddy bear. Since the story was published in 1969, the “boy and his robot” trope has become a staple of science fiction. According to new research, however, those relationships aren’t nearly so idyllic in real life.

    During a six-month study at a Swedish primary school, students took lessons in urban geography from a robot tutor. As they played map-reading and city-planning games on an interactive touchscreen, the 10-to-12-year-olds received coaching from NAO-T14, Softbank Robotics’ “interactive companion robot,” which was often the only “authority” in the room. If that sounds like a setup for the best school day ever (No teachers! Playing with robots!), here’s a transcript of one boy’s valiant struggle to operate the touchscreen:

    ROBOT: Can you see this symbol?

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  • The unemployment rate in Pike County, Kentucky is 8.7 percent. Kentucky-born Jonathan Webb graduated from University of Kentucky with an opportunity to go into coal sales — Kentucky is the third largest coal producing state, but turned it down in favor of pursuing a career path that promoted sustainability.

    After working with the U.S. Army to implement renewable power resources such as solar power, Webb turned his sights to his hometown. The area has been growing alternative education and jobs for laid off miners, such as coding bootcamps and solar projects requiring temporary manual labor.

    Aiming to bring a new generation of agriculture into Pikeville, Webb founded AppHarvest — a soon-to-be $50 million high-tech greenhouse that will create 140 full-time jobs in Pikeville at a former surface coal mine. According to Webb, there are 1.2 million acres of reclaimed surface mine sites in Eastern Kentucky that can be reused.

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  • The 14th annual International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA) has announced 174 nominations in 13 different categories, including the Grand Prix award. Most of the winners will be determined by a jury panel, but folks can vote online for the People’s Choice award on the IMGA website. The IMGA Global awards ceremony will take place on March 20 in San Francisco.

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  • Flagship Product, Shep, Helps Businesses Know Just How Much Is Spent by Business Travelers on Their Favorite Travel Sites

    AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–February 22, 2018–

    Complai, the Austin-based makers of Shep, today announced the company has closed a $1.4 million seed funding round led by Moonshots Capital with participation from the Capital Factory, an Austin-based accelerator and fund. The financing will be used to bring the company’s flagship product to market, support customer onboarding, and grow the team and product. Craig Cummings, Co-Founder and General Partner at Moonshots Capital will join CEO, Daniel Senyard, on Complai’s board of directors.

    Founded in 2016, Complai’s employee-centric travel tool, Shep, embraces the rogue spirit of modern business travelers by letting them book business travel on consumer sites while tracking their spending through a browser extension. Automated tracking helps small-to-medium enterprises save valuable resources on their second largest controllable expense, business travel.

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  • The new Metal Gear game is out from publisher and global pachinko-gambling syndicate Konami, and as far as I can tell, it’s about drinking dirty water and struggling with the inventory system. OK — that’s not true. It’s about surviving in another hell dimension by finding enough resources to upgrade your character and your base. I’ve spent a brief amount of time with it, and I wanted to share my experience with you.

    Metal Gear Survive is available on PC and consoles right now for $40. It uses the same Fox Engine that runs the gorgeous Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and it is the first new Metal Gear from Konami since series creator and long-time director Hideo Kojima left the publisher in 2015.

    As you might assume from the $40 price and the lack of Kojima, this is not a traditional Metal Gear. While it has stealth and infiltration elements, you are going out on runs while dealing with ever-depleting hunger and thirst meters. This game is much more about resource-collecting and character management.

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  • MojiLaLa also rebrands as Leo Stickers

    SAN JOSE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–February 22, 2018–

    Augmented reality marketplace Surreal has rebranded as Leo AR and joined visioncamp, a new accelerator program operated by betaworks.

    This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

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  • Few emerging technologies generate as much buzz as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and chatbots. Even so, it seems like these new technologies explode onto the public radar, then vanish as quickly as they arrive. Behind the scenes, though, companies and researchers are making ongoing breakthroughs in all three of these areas. And when AR and VR combine with AI-powered chatbots, magic happens.

    A brief history of AR and VR

    Augmented reality has been around for a few years, notably in games such as Pokémon Go. It didn’t really grab the public’s attention on a large scale until the last generation of iPhones was released, though. The iPhone 8, iPhone 8+, and iPhone X were all billed as having special chips designed to make AR a better experience. A few apps were showcased, a few hit the App Store, and it’s been mostly crickets since.

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  • Paradox Interactive revealed today that its space strategy game Stellaris has passed 1.5 million copies sold since launching in May 2016. The in-house development team, Paradox Development Studio, also released the Apocalypse expansion today, which features new planet-scale combat and weapons. The DLC is available now for $20 on PC.

    Stellaris is a 4X game, which is a term that refers to how players can “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate.” And the Apocalypse expansion definitely leans into that last one. It introduces the new weapon Colossus capable of destroying whole planets à la Star Wars’ Death Star. Players will also be able to pilot new ships called Titans that give bonuses to their entire fleet, fortify planets against attacks, and hire nomadic Mauraders as mercenaries.

    In addition to the new units, Stellaris: Apocalypse will include ascension perks, which are powerful abilities can give bonuses like more defense to ships or unlock new research options. Homeworlds will also have new civics, and players can use their in-game currency to customize their gameplay in more ways.

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  • Banning or heavily regulating short-term rentals in Kansas City could deter tech companies from building in the metro, tech council members say.

    It’s more than just the perception that Kansas City is not tech-friendly, according to Chris Brown, attorney and founder of Venture Legal, who advocates for friendlier laws for the sharing economy. It’s going to hurt the tech employers’ ability to recruit highly skilled tech workers, he said.

    “These employees that are being recruited, they want to stay in a neighborhood because they want to see what it’s like to live here,” Brown said. “They might second-guess, ‘Is Kansas City the right place for me?’ It may not be intentionally, but it’s subliminally. Those individuals will look at other cities that embrace this more than we do, and those other cities will have a leg up.”

    VentureBeat’s Heartland Tech channel invites you to join us and other senior business leaders at BLUEPRINT in Reno on March 5-7. Learn how to expand jobs to Middle America, lower costs, and boost profits. Click here to request an invite and be a part of the conversation. 

    Brown serves on the policy committee of the KC Tech Council, but his opinions are his own, he said.

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  • Soulcalibur VI‘s new-character reveal shows that Ivy will be returning to the series when the fighting game comes out later this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. And sh5e’s looking … well, she’s not wearing much. Which is pretty typical for Ivy.

    Ivy’s been a mainstay in the franchise’s roster since the first Soulcalibur came out for arcades in 1998. She has a unique playstyle that focuses on her sword, which turns into a whip. But Ivy stands out for, you know, other reasons. Soulcalibur was one of the first games to put an emphasis on “jiggle” physics, and its busty female roster would ripple with enough unrealistic chest-bouncing if you so much as breathed on them.

    But Ivy always stood out. Not only does she have the cartoon proportions, but her outfits are revealing and her voice lines are mostly dominatrix-flavored innuendo. And for awhile, her outfit and bust size seemed to get even more outlandish with each sequel. Just look at the difference between her first design and how she looked in Soulcalibur IV.

    Above: Practical battle gear!

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  • Epic Games’ hit multiplayer shooter Fortnite: Battle Royale is starting Season 3 today, and with it comes a new Battle Pass that gives players access to a new wave of cosmetic items, including costumes, gliders, pickaxes, and more. It also includes some new console framerate options and other additions.

    Fortnite: Battle Royale has over 40 million players across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and it’s often the most popular game on Twitch. The Battle Pass gives Epic Games a way to monetize the free-to-play title. The Battle Pass costs 950 V-Bucks, Fortnite’s in-game currency. You can buy 1,000 V-Bucks for $10.

    The Battle Pass unlocks some items immediately, but you can also earn more by playing and unlocking new tiers of content. So not only does it give Epic Games a way to make money, but it encourages those who buy it to keep playing Fortnite.

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  • Airbnb today announced a series of changes to give people more ways to decide what kind of home they want to stay in when away from home. Starting this summer, Airbnb will allow people to search for properties based on new categories like unique homes, vacation homes, bed and breakfasts, and boutique hotels. Unique homes include listings that let you stay places like barns, boats, campers, caves, and treehouses.

    Right now Airbnb’s 4.5 million listings can only be searched for based on three categories: shared room, private room, and entire home.

    “Wer’re going to be adding thousands of new categories and it will make it easier for guests to find a place to stay,” Airbnb cofounder Brian Chesky said onstage at a press conference held at The Masonic in San Francisco for members of the press and Airbnb staff.

    Airbnb Collections, homes preset for specific occasions, launches today with offerings like Airbnb for Families and Airbnb for Work. Collections for weddings, honeymoons, dinner parties, and group getaways will be launched later this year. The social stays collection is made for experiences where the host stays with the guest and shows them around town.

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  • BOCA RATON, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–February 22, 2018–

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  • FanAI has raised $2.5 million in seed funding for its platform that uses artificial intelligence to monetize esports fans.

    Esports ventures are getting a lot of funding these days, and market researcher Newzoo believes esports will grow to $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion in 2020. Santa Monica, California-based FanAI figures out the value of fan data in order to optimize sponsorship engagement within esports.

    Courtside Ventures and CRCM Ventures led the round, with participation from Bitkraft Esports Ventures, BDS Capital, Catalyst Sports, Deep Space Ventures, Everblue Management, Greycroft GC Tracker Fund, M Ventures, Rosecliff Ventures, and Sterling VC.

    FanAI is already being used by esports teams Cloud9; OpTic Gaming; Overwatch League’s LA Valiant and NYXL; and Cav’s Legion GC, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA2K League team. The additional funding will be used to expand the product and data science teams and round out the client engagement structure needed to support the startup’s growth.

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  • Way of the Passive Fist is a side-scrolling brawler … in which you never throw a punch. Rather than tussling with your enemies, it’s all about dodging, defending, and wearing them down until they run out of stamina. Then you simply push them over and move on. It’s the debut of Household Games, and it launches March 6 on PC and PlayStation 4, and March 7 on Xbox One.

    Alongside Way of the Passive Fist’s unique twist on the fighting genre, it’s also got a forward-thinking take on accessibility. At Double Fine’s Day of the Devs event last year, I spoke with Household Games founder Jason Canam about how the studio worked with AbleGamers charity and streamer HalfCoordinated to bake in accessibility from the very start. Players can remap every control in the game, play it one-handed, and adjust the difficulty level.

    Household Games also considered Way of the Passive Fist’s visual effects. Some players have trouble seeing or they’re sensitive to flashing lights. So animator Rosemary Brennan and the art team worked on tackling that aspect of accessibility.

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  • Indigo Fair, a platform that connects independent retailers with makers and manufacturers, has raised $12 million in a series A round of funding led by Khosla Ventures and Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Sequoia.

    Founded out of San Francisco in 2017, Indigo Fair targets smaller local retailers with a marketplace where they can procure anything from jewelry and stationery to kitchen accessories, appliances, and condiments. Unlike other ecommerce marketplaces, Indigo Fair doesn’t target individual consumers, as most items can only be procured in minimum set quantities, such as a case of 12. It’s basically an online wholesaler focusing on unique goods that you may not find on the shelves of your local department store.

    Retailers can “try before they buy,” as they’re not charged for any products until two months after they’ve shipped.

    Above: Indigo Fair

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  • As the first 5G phones are less than a year away, a new report from FierceWireless explores how 5G networks and devices will handle — and evolve — traditional voice calls. In short, U.S. carriers expect to continue using 4G Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for the near future, but exciting new 5G voice services are in the works that will radically improve phone calling.

    VoLTE was originally rolled out in 2014 with the promise of dramatic improvements to voice call quality. During a VoLTE call, muddy and bassy conventional phone audio is replaced with more dynamic, clear sound that’s akin to being in the room with your caller. Since early 5G phones will simultaneously maintain connections with 5G and 4G/LTE networks, they will begin by making VoLTE calls.

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  • Presented by CSG

    The future is here — but that doesn’t mean we can’t still look forward.

    It’s easy to ask how smart devices can get smarter; to wonder how to satisfy a plugged-in society that’s used to having every convenience at a literal arm’s length.

    “Customers expect access to their services whenever and wherever they want, and they expect a consistent user experience across devices,” said Ken Kennedy, Executive Vice President and President of Technology and Product at CSG, a leader in digital transformation. “Today’s customer is conditioned to expect immediate gratification, and anything less will result in a dissatisfied customer.”

    Netflix just announced, promoted, and released a movie with a $50 million budget on the same night. NBC is mainstreaming virtual reality with its coverage of the Winter Olympics. Innovations are happening faster than most people can keep track of. If you want a glimpse into what else the future holds, here are four tech upgrades set to change how we use our devices.

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  • Amazon-owned online movie and TV show database IMDb has launched its first real Alexa skill in conjunction with Paramount Network.

    The new skill is a Flash Briefing, which is a customizable news alert that Alexa plays containing information gleaned from numerous online sources, as determined by the user. You can activate the briefing by saying, “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”

    In the case of IMDb’s “What’s on TV” Flash Briefing, users will receive airtime and network details relating to the day’s top five trending TV shows, based on IMDb pageview data.

    You may recall that Amazon last year explicitly banned advertising in Alexa skills, with two notable exceptions: ads within music and Flash Briefings. And there are some rules in place for those ads — for example, they can’t use Alexa’s voice or a voice that sounds similar.

    Officially, the IMDb Flash Briefing is “presented by Paramount Network,” which seemed to suggest that all recommendations would hail from the network’s own TV shows. That isn’t the case, which is a good thing, as it would be a little one-dimensional. As a sponsor, Paramount Network will receive a “featured placement” within each day’s Flash Briefing — but only if one of its shows is airing.

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  • Google passed Facebook as the top referral traffic driver in 2017 as the search giant doubled down on mobile and the social giant cleaned up its News Feed. That move resulted in an even bigger change last year: Search overtook social in 2017, after the two first swapped spots in 2013. The chart above shows this best, detailing the quarterly share of visits for six search engines and the top 13 social networks.

    The findings come from social discovery and sharing platform Shareaholic, which today released a report covering referral traffic data for 2017. The platform tracks over 400 million users visiting its network of over 250,000 mobile and desktop sites. Before we dive deeper into the numbers, some quick methodology:

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  • It’s been quite a year for beauty brand Glossier (pronounced gloss-ee-ay). In 2017, the New York City-based startup added two product categories and expanded to new markets, opening offices in London and Montreal. It also acquired Canadian tech agency Dynamo in December. Today, Glossier announced that it has raised $52 million to develop new digital products for its customer base. Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) and Index Ventures co-led the round, with participation from existing investors Thrive Capital, Forerunner Ventures, and 14W. New investors Imaginary Ventures and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz also joined.

    Glossier is the brainchild of founder and CEO Emily Weiss, who created beauty blog Into The Gloss in 2010 after working as a fashion assistant at Vogue. By sharing beauty tips and interviewing celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Weiss amassed an impressive number of followers, which created a solid base to launch Glossier in 2014. Into The Gloss has two million monthly unique visitors today.

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  • Apple is working on at least two new versions of its wireless AirPods earphones, according to a Bloomberg report this morning, with plans to release one as early as this year, and the second as early as next year. Each of the new models is expected to bolster existing features rather than radically changing the current, apparently successful formula.

    Developed under the code name B288, the first new AirPods version is said to let users evoke Siri by saying “Hey Siri” rather than tapping on the earphone’s stem. It’s unclear whether Apple’s AI assistant Siri will gain additional functionality for AirPods or largely continue to be used for changing tracks, volume, and play/pause status.

    B288 will also include “an upgraded Apple-designed wireless chip for managing Bluetooth connections.” The current AirPods model uses Apple’s W1 wireless chip, delivering five hours of battery life on a charge, and is compatible with Bluetooth 4. Apple has recently added Bluetooth 5 to recent iPhones and the HomePod, suggesting that the new AirPods will follow the same path.

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  • Period-tracking app Clue announced today that it is launching on Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch, thereby allowing women to track their period, PMS symptoms, sexual activity, energy, and fertility windows directly from their wrists.

    “The new Clue app on Ionic is the next step in giving users the ability to connect their workout with their cycle,” wrote Clue cofounder and CEO Ida Tin, in an email to VentureBeat. “Clue helps its users to understand their cycle and its impact across their lives, including fitness and health. Research has shown a connection between exercise and the cycle. With the wearable market growing year-on-year, it is incredibly exciting to partner with Fitbit and become the first female health app available on Fitbit Ionic.”

    Above: Clue app on Fitbit Ionic

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  • Intel today announced a wide-ranging partnership with a consortium of leading PC makers to begin developing personal computers that can fully leverage the power of 5G networks.

    The intention is to use Intel’s XXM 8000 series 5G modem as the foundation of a new generation of devices created by Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft. While some wireless carriers are rolling out early stages of 5G networks later this year, Intel’s goal is to have these new devices ready for the holiday season in 2019.

    “This shows the building blocks being put into place,” said Rob Topol, Intel’s general manager for 5G technologies, in a conference call with reporters.

    Intel made the announcement on the eve of Mobile World Congress, the massive telecom industry conference that starts on Monday in Barcelona.

    Topol stressed that there are no firm specs for the devices at this time, but rather the partnership has agreed on some “guiding principles.”

    The development of such devices is critical for Intel, which is in a race with Qualcomm and Samsung to be the provider of choice for 5G modems. Samsung has an advantage in that it can build its own devices that contain its modems.

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  • GameChanger Charity has received $18 million worth of donations in the last two months toward its goal of using video games to help sick kids. The nonprofit also announcing a new venture, ZOTT, which is a content platform specifically for children in hospitals. Former Twitch executive vice president of broadcaster success Jonathan Shipman will be heading up ZOTT as president.

    Taylor Carol and his father founded GameChanger a decade ago. Its inspiration comes from Carol’s own battle with cancer and how he found comfort in video games during his multiyear stay at medical institutions. The nonprofit has launched a number of initiatives such as scholarships for cancer survivors and events at hospitals. It’s also partnered with the charity Child’s Play to get games and consoles to sick children.

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  • When is a bus not a bus? Give up? When it’s an eight-seater private hire vehicle designed to bypass strict city regulations.

    If that punchline didn’t have you laughing out loud, well, you should know it wasn’t a joke. Popular city transit app Citymapper is launching its own public transport service in London, called Smart Ride, which is now live in the London area. You can basically book transport directly through the Citymapper app.

    This adds to a growing number of initiatives from the tech startup world that blur the lines between what constitutes a “bus” and a “taxi” — or, to put it another way, between public and private transport.

    By way of a quick recap, Citymapper is a popular transport app used in dozens of conurbations globally, including New York, Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and its native London. The company announced last May that it was putting its gargantuan arsenal of travel data to good use by plugging the gaps in London’s transport infrastructure. To do this, it started trialing its own smart green bus in the U.K. capital, following pre-set routes and allowing passengers to jump on and off at bus stops.

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  • Entrepreneurs can pull up plenty of data about the business conditions in Silicon Valley. But tech companies outside of the coasts often don’t have access to the same level of information about how diverse the local workforce is or how many entrepreneurs are raising funding in their area.

    That’s a problem Powderkeg, a community-building platform that works with tech workers and leaders in nine cities, is aiming to solve with today’s release of its first Indianapolis Tech Census. Powderkeg surveyed 359 members of the Indiana tech community — 78 founders, 12 investors, and more than 250 tech workers — to find out what kind of challenges the tech community faces and get a better sense of who works in tech in the city. According to Indianapolis organization TechPoint, there are currently 428 tech companies in Indianapolis and its surrounding suburbs.

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  • Lighthouse is launching a new home security camera powered by voice commands and artificial intelligence. It lets you ask who was jumping around in the living room after you find a broken vase on the floor. And it will tell you if there’s a burglar in your home or if it’s just one of the kids getting milk at night.

    Palo Alto, California-based Lighthouse hopes to be the first to bring real smarts to the home security camera business, which is expected to grow 11 percent a year globally to $8 billion by 2023, according to research by Market Research Future. Most home security cameras are connected to Wi-Fi and smartphones, but they can still be pretty dumb about sending alerts to you when a cat walks by the camera. Lighthouse considers its product more like the Alexa of security cameras, with built-in computer vision, voice controls, and AI.

    “We see a lot of camera companies out there,” said Lighthouse CEO Alex Teichman, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We don’t see AI companies. There are plenty of camera manufacturers, but this is a different thing. We are an AI services company that makes hardware to support the AI.”

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  • Yasuhiro Wada has previously espoused his love for “nature, animals, and caring for other people,” which his classic game Harvest Moon clearly expressed. Little Dragons Café seems to tap into the same warm and fuzzy feelings, putting players in charge of running a family restaurant and raising dragons. Wada has teamed up with publisher Aksys Games, and the title will launch sometime this summer for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.

    Little Dragons Café is the story of two children whose mother has fallen into a deep slumber. A mysterious man tells them she’ll only wake up once they’ve successfully raised a dragon. In the meantime, they’ve got to keep the family café running — which means planting crops, fishing, learning recipes, serving food to small-town neighbors.

    Aksys founder and CEO Akibo Shieh and Wada are long-time friends, and the two had planned on working on a project together for a while. They’ve been developing Little Dragons Café for two years now. The title is Wada’s first since 2016’s Birthdays the Beginning, a sandbox game about creating and nurturing life.

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  • Presented by Intel

    Anyone involved in virtual reality over the course of the past few years, whether as a developer of VR, as a user of VR, or simply tracking the industry’s progress, will agree there’s a word they’ve heard a few times too many: Holodeck. The well-trod Star Trek concept has become a threadbare metaphor for a supposed end-point for VR technology.

    While aspirational visions serve a purpose, they can also do us disservice. The reality is that we are a very long way from that Holodeck vision and that’s OK. VR is already serving many useful purposes with near-term solutions that don’t attempt to fool all our senses to the point of a complete suspension of disbelief. Most of the industry, it seems, has come to accept this, as have most VR users. We have, collectively, come to terms with the fact that great product solutions can exist in the near term, that deliver some portion of the Holodeck promise, while leaving other portions to the fictions of Star Trek and other sci-fi.

    It is surprising then, when looking at augmented reality [1], that so many believe in the promise of a “Holodeck of AR” — sleek and stylish glasses delivered via hardware and software magic that rather than bringing us to any imaginable universe, instead bring any imaginable augmentation of the senses to our real world. Moreover, many believe this is deliverable in the near-term time horizon.

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  • Facebook has officially opened its first in-house incubator, which will be held in its London headquarters.

    The company first announced LDN_LAB back in December when it opened its new HQ in the U.K. capital. The incubator will launch three 12-week courses throughout 2018, and seven U.K. startups will participate in the inaugural program, which kicked off on Monday.

    Each three-month program will focus on helping startups grow their business, with the first intake aimed specifically at those using technology to build communities.

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  • PARIS & LONDON & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–February 22, 2018–

    Tinyclues, provider of a leading AI-first marketing campaign intelligence solution, today announced the closing of a USD 18 million Series B investment. Lead investor in the round was the EQT Ventures fund (“EQT Ventures”), with participation from existing investors, Alven, Elaia Partners and ISAI.

    This press release features multimedia. View the full release here:

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  • (Reuters) — Twitter said on Wednesday it would no longer allow people to post identical messages from multiple accounts, cracking down on a tactic that Russian agents and others have allegedly used to make tweets or topics go viral.

    The San Francisco-based social network also said it would not allow people to use software to simultaneously perform other actions such as liking or retweeting from multiple accounts.

    Twitter, known for freewheeling discussions in short messages, is under pressure from users and Western governments to stem the spread of false news and foreign propaganda, often done with the help of automated accounts known as bots.

    Twitter bots disseminated propaganda before the 2016 U.S. elections and have continued to inflame U.S. politics under cover of anonymity, academic researchers and U.S. authorities say.

    On Friday, the office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies, including St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency known for trolling on social media. The court document said those accused “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

    Twitter’s new restrictions are aimed at improving “information quality,” Yoel Roth of the company’s policy team said.

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  • Find Your Grind (FYG) has partnered with esports platform ReKTGlobal to create a scholarship program for students and others who want to pursue esports. Each year, the two will be offering $450,000 through the program, which focuses on high school students but is open to anyone.

    FYG founder Nick Gross says that esports aptitude isn’t a prerequisite for applicants. Instead, the program is searching for people who have “identified a purpose and a direction” and demonstrate a passion for competitive gaming. ReKTGlobal will also be connecting recipients with folks in the industry and professional players. The scholarships aren’t earmarked for any particular purpose; when students receive one, they can use it for anything, such as college tuition or buying computer equipment.

    In 2017, the organization began offering several different types of scholarships aside from esports. It started out focusing on music, art, and technology awards and programs. It has teamed up with Will.I.Am’s I.Am.Angel Foundation, which helps prepare kids for college and provides scholarships.

    Through a partnership with memorabilia company Jostens, FYG is on tour until April to speak to high school students about opportunities in creative fields.

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  • Last week, I wrote about Venture for America founder Andrew Yang’s unlikely run for president, as he aims to convince the general public of the need for universal basic income (UBI). Whether one agrees that UBI is necessary in today’s digital economy or not, the stories highlighted in this week’s Heartland Tech newsletter show that inequality is increasingly top of mind for tech companies and their executives.

    Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has a new book out today in which he joins Yang in calling for the implementation of UBI. Meanwhile, his former employer is giving troves of personal data to  Stanford researcher Raj Chetty, who will study the roles social divisions play in income inequality, as Politico’s Nancy Scola reported.

    Finally, as I reported yesterday, tech think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Fund (ITIF) is calling for an overhaul of workforce training programs as artificial intelligence prepares to automate an array of tasks that workers perform today. But at the same time, the think tank came out against UBI, arguing that artificial intelligence won’t automate as many jobs as people fear.

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  • Why is the allure of virtual reality in the enterprise becoming increasingly difficult to resist for many marketers? Are there real-world use cases in business-to-business (B2B) marketing today, and will these translate into sales venues any time soon?

    While some companies are active in VR and AR in the enterprise, many large businesses have been hesitant to leap into VR. This is true because the focus has been all about the technology and not as much about the potential value of these kinds of applications. Simply creating a VR application for the sake of the VR experience has no inherent value to the customer, nor does it have any value to the marketer, other than the hype it generates. After the hype wears off, however, one is left with nothing sustainable, in terms of brand association, recall or customer loyalty.

    The evolution of the virtual

    VR has been around for a long time. The first public experience of this kind was the Sensorama, unveiled in 1962 as a multi-sensory 3D stereoscopic movie experience that included stereo sound and even aromas to complete the “real life” simulation.

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  • Amazon Web Services gave its customers an easier way to get started with serverless applications today. The cloud provider launched its Serverless Application Repository out of beta to give customers an app store for trying out different applications built using Lambda, its event-driven computing service.

    AWS made a major splash when it announced Lambda at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas roughly three and a half years ago. Lambda allows developers to write short computing functions that run in response to trigger events, without managing the underlying computing infrastructure used to run those functions.

    Serverless application development has drawn quite a bit of interest from AWS customers since it has the potential to alleviate a major drag on developers’ time.

    This launch makes the already easy-to-use Lambda even easier to adopt. Customers don’t even have to write code to use applications from the repository, and the service also allows them to modify the applications they deploy. That way, it’s possible for Lambda novices to see how other companies build on the service, thus improving their own skills.

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  • Nuro autonomous delivery car

    The self-driving car industry is developing rapidly, and companies are competing not just to perfect the technology first, but also to figure out and execute the type of autonomous vehicle model that’s most likely to be profitable and accepted by the general public.

    Originating as Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo remains a frontrunner in bringing consumer-owned fully autonomous vehicles to market. But another startup, with interestingly similar origins, has the potential to shift the industry — and help bring us to an autonomously driven future.

    Enter Nuro

    Remaining stealthily in development for the past several years, the startup Nuro was founded by two engineers who contributed to Google’s self-driving car project back when it was still a part of Google. But instead of trying to automate a fleet of taxis, provide hands-free transportation for individual commuters, or replace truck drivers for cross-country trips, Nuro is focusing on an entirely different segment.

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  • Capcom likes January. The company was the top-performing publisher in the United States, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. Monster Hunter: World was the driving factor here, as it was the No. 1 selling game of the month overall as well as on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems.

    “Sales of Monster Hunter: World represent an all-time launch month high for the Monster Hunter franchise in the U.S.,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said.

    The publisher had already confirmed that this was the fastest-selling Monster Hunter ever, and now the NPD has added some color to that. Monster Hunter: World has established the series as a powerful new force in the gaming industry in the west.

    This is the second year in a row that Capcom has had a major January release. The company revealed Resident Evil 7 in 2016, and then it launched that horror sequel in January 2017. The game topped sales for that month, and it even helped offset some slumping sales for the industry.

    In January 2018, gaming is no longer slumping, but Capcom still managed to own the month. Maybe we’ll get something else from it next January? I’m hoping for Bionic Commando: World.

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  • The Nintendo 3DS handheld console just had its best January since 2013 in terms of consoles sold, according to the NPD Group. For hardware dollar sales, it was the portable’s best January since 2014.

    This success comes at an odd time. Nintendo’s support for the 3DS — which debuted in 2011 — is slowing down as it focuses on the home console/portable hybrid Switch, which has been a big success for Nintendo since launching in March 2017. The 3DS didn’t see any major new software releases in January, and none of its games made the NPD’s top 20 list for the month.

    But the 3DS is home to a lot of games with long sales legs. Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on NPD’s list of the 10 best-selling 3DS games for the month. Those games came out in November, and Pokémon titles have often been on top of the 3DS sales charts. Mario Kart 7, which came out all the way back in 2011, was at No. 3. Other companies, like Atlus, have continued to support the system.

    Nintendo has shied away from saying that the Switch is a successor to the 3DS despite its portability, and it’s clear why. The 3DS might be old, but the system still has some sales life left in it.

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  • One of the biggest games in the world continued to dominate in January. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was the No. 4 best-seller in the United States last month, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. What’s impressive is that only includes “physical” and digital sales on Xbox One and not Steam sales on PC.

    PUBG, a last-player-standing shooter that debuted on PC in Early Access last April, hit the Xbox One December 12 for $30. During that month, it was the No. 7 best-selling game. Its momentum has not dropped off in January, as it outsold perennial hits like Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K18, and more across all platforms.

    On Xbox One, the only console it is available for at the moment, it was the No. 2 best-selling game of the month behind only Monster Hunter: World. This means it outsold the hot new fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ from publisher Bandai Namco. It also outperformed Call of Duty: WWII.

    You can buy PUBG’s Xbox One version through the Xbox game store or at retailers like GameStop in a physical box. But because the game is online only, that case does not have a disc — instead, it has a downloadable code.

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  • Hardware sales doubled year-over-year in January, according to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group. Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all benefited from that spending.

    “Hardware spending in January 2018 grew 119 percent when compared to year ago, to $278 million,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said. “Spending gains were driven by Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 hardware sales growth.”

    This is another sign that the console gaming market is as healthy as ever. This comes after a strong 2017 where Nintendo’s Switch debuted to huge sales without stripping away a significant number of customers from Microsoft and Sony. And that “everybody wins” trend continued last month.

    “PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One all performed well in the month of January,” said Piscatella. “In dollar sales, the gap between the top-selling platform and the third best-selling was only 3 percent. Nintendo Switch was the month’s best-selling platform in Unit sales, while PlayStation 4 topped dollar sales. Xbox One dollar and unit sales in January 2018 are the highest achieved for the platform in a January month.”

    Again, this is not just about sales parity — these systems are addressing diverse groups of consumers. That is growing console gaming in a major way.

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  • 2018 is off to a good start for the gaming industry. Revenues in January were up 59 percent year-over-year and generated $1.096 billion, according to the industry-tracking firm The NPD Group.

    The big winner is Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World, which was the best-selling game for the month despite launching January 26. The series has always been popular in Japan, and it’s one of the publisher’s most successful franchises. It doubled down on Western audiences with Monster Hunter: World, focusing on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 rather than Nintendo systems. It also introduced a more open-world feel. Capcom’s efforts paid off, and it sold over 5 million copies of the game in the first weekend alone.

    “Sales of Monster Hunter: World represent an all-time launch month high for the Monster Hunter franchise in the U.S.,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said.

    Here are the numbers for January 2018:

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  • More people bought Nintendo Switch consoles than Xbox One or PlayStation 4 systems in January in the U.S., but consumers spent more money on Sony’s system, according to industry-intelligence firm The NPD Group. Don’t worry about the Xbox One, though — it had its best January ever.

    NPD confirmed that PS4, Switch, and Xbox One all had strong sales. In terms of revenues, the difference between the top-selling gaming platform and the No.3 platform in January was just 3 percent. This comes as each company is selling products that are exciting its customers. The PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation VR are helping that platform continue to sell. Xbox One X really is the most powerful console ever. And the Nintendo Switch is selling like wild to a group of hardcore gamers who want to untether from their televisions.

    That parity has broken up a winning streak for the PlayStation 4 since 2013 when it comes to hardware in the United States. The Xbox One won a handful of months between 2013 and 2016, but Sony’s system was dominant until the introduction of the Switch. Since March 2017, however, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all taken turns selling the most units or the most in terms of dollars.

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  • In the future, when a construction worker or hotel maid says “Help!” or “Emergency!” on a radio or chat group, it may automatically summon help from colleagues or send an alert to appropriate company personnel.

    That’s the idea behind Panic Bot, the product of Orion Labs, a company created by two former first responders. The platform combines team communication with bots for automated workflows and access to backend systems like Oracle, SAP, Shopify, and PagerDuty.

    Panic Bot was made especially for first responders, miners, hotel maids, and others whose work environment sometimes calls for them to be independent or isolated from coworkers.

    “I think the most exciting part of what’s happening right now really is that this technology is starting to benefit industries, verticals, and people doing real work in the world in a way that doesn’t happen if you’re supposed to be sitting at home all day behind a $3,000 MacBook,” founder Jesse Robbins told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “These are for people working real jobs in the field and doing hard stuff and needing to be connected, so I’m pretty pumped because I really believe in startups as a means of changing people’s lives, hopefully for the better.”

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  • Star Fox came out for the Super Nintendo on February 21, 1993. Yup, the space shooter with anthropomorphic animals turns 25 years old today.

    I remember getting Star Fox as an Easter present shortly after its release. I was only 6 at the time, but I knew the game was a big deal. Star Fox was one of the first games I ever played with 3D graphics. This was an especially impressive feat on the Super Nintendo, a system that was already a couple of years old at the time. But Star Fox wasn’t just a technical marvel. The on-rails shooting was fun, but Nintendo pumped the rather simple shooter full of personality.

    My favorite part of Star Fox is the the very beginning. The warning sirens blaring, the Star Fox crew introducing themselves (and their adorable, nonsensical voice lines) as they report in, and then the transition into the first level.

    Star Fox is fun, but it succeeded first as a technical showpiece and as a way for Nintendo to get its bearings on 3D gaming. This tradition continued with Star Fox 64, one of the Nintendo 64’s best-looking games. It was pretty much a remake — just four years later — of the original, but Star Fox 64 was able to show just how far 3D gaming had come in such a short time.

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  • While PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds developer PUBG Corp. continues its ongoing fight against cheaters, it is still sneaking out some updates to its battle royal shooter. The studio is introducing a pair of new loot boxes filled with fresh cosmetic items, and it is testing a method of matchmaking that should improve the experience for people with fast pings.

    The loot boxes are called Fever and Militia crates. They feature 1970s- and 1980s-era fashions including a leathery frontiersman outfit that will look at home in the desert Miramar map. In a blog post today, PUBG Corp. is referring to these as its spring crates, and the apparel reflects that as well. The Fever crate requires a key, an item you have to purchase with real money, to unlock (or you can sell it on the Steam Marketplace). The Militia crate is completely free to open. As with all previous crates, you can purchase them with the in-game Battle Points currency.

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  • Although Apple’s gaming track record has largely rewarded enthusiasm with disappointment, a new Apple TV trademark application discovered by Patently Apple indicates that the company is still interested in video games. The application, which Apple filed last week, expands the use of the Apple TV name for video game purposes — nothing else.

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  • Memora Health wants to automate patient discharges and follow-ups through its SMS-based virtual assistant so as to relieve care teams of certain administrative hassles. The Mountain View, California-based startup launched out of stealth today and will be graduating from Y Combinator’s (YC) Winter 2018 batch this March.

    “A lot of patients who are elderly are texting their families,” said Memora Health cofounder and CEO Manav Sevak, in an email to VentureBeat. “We found that using SMS could get them the right post-care information without having to go to the hospital each time.”

    Sevak argues that patients have often been readmitted to the hospital because they didn’t know how to manage their condition at home. He and his cofounders, Nisarg Patel and Kunaal Naik, created Felix, software that caters to these patients’ needs and answers questions like “I ran out of strips for my glucose meter, where can I buy some?” or “Can you give me a prescription refill?”

    Felix also sends patients reminders about picking up a prescription, taking medication on time, and keeping their weight and blood sugar level in check.

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