Posts with «author_name|mariella moon» label

NVIDIA's new Shield update can stop late-night movies waking up the entire house

NVIDIA has rolled out Experience Upgrade v9.1 for all Shield TV and TV Pro units, and one of the features it brings will make watching action movies without earphones more feasible for night owls. The new Night Listening mode can optimize sounds when it's switched on so that loud explosions are subdued while quiet dialogue gets emphasized even while the volume is on low. "Enjoy watching movies or playing games at night without disturbing your family," the company said in its announcement. To note, the new model is available while using HDMI audio only. 

In addition to Night Listening, the latest update also enables Shield TVs to automatically switch to low latency game mode on all supported television and display models. So long as a display has Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM), the streaming media device will be able to ensure that it's activated while a user is playing, whether it's a local game or something from the GeForce NOW cloud gaming service. By reducing latency, ALLM reduces lag and allows a smoother, more responsive gaming experience. Upgrade 9.1 comes with a few more features that include the ability to disable displaying HDR/Dolby Vision content and to get notifications when the microphone is turned on. 

Shield TV's previous update brought Android 11 to all models and added access to a new Google Keyboard with support for voice searches. It also fixed a a vulnerability that allowed remote attackers to cause a permanent denial of service. While 9.1 doesn't come with a big security fix, it does include a bunch of bug fixes for both Shield TV app and devices.

Instagram test turns all video posts into Reels

It looks like Meta truly is making a big push for Reels. Social media consultant Matt Navarra has posted a screenshot on Twitter showing a notice for an experimental Instagram feature that says all video posts would be shared as Reels on the app. If your account is public, that means anyone can discover your video and use your original audio to create their own Reel. Only friends would see your video if your profile is private, but other users can still create a remix with your Reel and download it as part of their remix. The only way to ensure nobody uses your Reel for remixes is to turn the option off in Settings or to disable it for each video you post.

Instagram is now making EVERY video a Reel


— Matt Navarra (@MattNavarra) June 30, 2022

As TechCrunch notes, this move doesn't come as a surprise when the TikTok-style videos have quickly become a popular format on both Instagram and Facebook. When he revealed the company's fourth quarterly earnings report for 2021, Mark Zuckerberg said that Reels is now Meta's fastest growing content format. Meta chief product officer Chris Cox called Reels a "bright point" for the company, as well, in a recent memo shared with employees warning them about "serious times" ahead due to slowing growth. He also said that one of the projects Meta intends to focus on for the second half of 2022 is monetizing Reels as quickly as possible. 

Apparently, time spent viewing the short-form videos has more than doubled since last year, with 80 percent of that growth coming from Facebook. That's why the company will go as far as to redesign Instagram's and Facebook's home pages to better incorporate the short videos. Turning all video posts into Reels would give the company more content to circulate, which in turn would translate to more time viewing videos on the platform and bigger potential ad earnings for when the format is finally monetized. That said, not all experimental Instagram features make it to wide release, and it remains to be seen whether this one will survive the testing phase.

Meta cuts hiring plans as it prepares for 'serious times'

In a weekly employee Q&A session, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said the company is experiencing "one of the worst downturns [it has seen] in recent history." According to Reuters, the executive has revealed that Meta has slashed its target number for new engineers hires this year by about 30 percent. Meta previously said that it's slowing its hiring plans due to weak revenue forecasts, but now Zuckerberg has announced more details with exact figures. Apparently, from plans to hire 10,000 new engineers this year, Meta will only hire between 6,000 and 7,000.

Further, the CEO said that Meta is raising expectations on current employees and giving them more aggressive goals so that they can decide on their own if the company isn't for them. "[S]elf-selection is OK with me," he said. In a memo to employees, chief product officer Chris Cox has stressed that the company "is in serious times here and the headwinds are fierce." He also listed the company's six investment priorities for the second half of the year, starting with its metaverse initiatives Avatars and its virtual world Horizon Worlds

According to the memo, published in full by The Verge, Meta is also aiming to monetize Reels as quickly as possible. Time spent on Reels has more than doubled around the world since last year, the memo reads, with 80 percent of that growth coming from Facebook. Cox called Reels, its short-form video format created as an answer to TikTok, a "bright point" for the company in the first half of 2022. Meta plans to continue improving the experience, including making changes to the home screen on Instagram and Facebook to incorporate the videos more natively.

In addition, Meta plans to focus on its AI initiatives, as well as on WhatsApp and Messenger in the second half of the year. It plans to test WhatApp communities before the feature launches around the world by the end of 2022. The company is also going to develop Instagram Creator channels and joinable chats, which are slated for rollout in the coming months.

Cox wrote in the memo:

"I have to underscore that we are in serious times here and the headwinds are fierce. We need to execute flawlessly in an environment of slower growth, where teams should not expect vast influxes of new engineers and budgets. We must prioritize more ruthlessly, be thoughtful about measuring and understanding what drives impact, invest in developer efficiency and velocity inside the company, and operate leaner, meaner, better exciting teams."

GM is training more first responders for EV emergencies in the US and Canada

GM is training more first responders to be able to handle emergencies involving electric vehicles. The automaker is "significantly expanding" its EV First Responder Training program in the United States and Canada as electric vehicle sales continue to grow. Its initiative will primarily focus on training firefighters and equipping them with the necessary knowledge about full electric vehicle technologies. GM says it's hoping to dispel misconceptions when it comes to handling EVs in emergency situations. One of those misconceptions is that water is dangerous around EV batteries — turns out the recommended way to put out lithium-ion battery fires is by using copious amounts of water. 

Andrew Klock, a senior manager of education and development at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), said: "The best way for the public and private vehicle fleet owners to rapidly adopt EVs is to train firefighters and emergency responders on how to handle incidents involving battery powered vehicles. The fire service has had more than 100 years to gain the knowledge needed to respond to internal combustion engine fires, and it is critical that they are now educated on EV safety." The NFPA held trainings of its own that had benefited 300,000 first responders, but it believes more than 800,000 members of the community still need further training.  

GM previously piloted the program in southeast Michigan, but now it's conducting training events across Michigan and in Fort Worth, Texas, as well. Later this summer, it's bringing the program to metro New York City and Southern California. Participants will have to attend four-hour sessions, with up to two per day, held in various venues, such as fire houses and dealerships. Interested first and second responders can register through the program's dedicated website and earn a certificate from the Illinois Fire Service Institute if they score higher than 70 percent on the learning assessment by the end of their training. 

The automaker already has a few EV models on the market, including the Chevy Bolts, the GMC Hummer EV and the Cadillac Lyriq. It has huge electrification plans for the future, though, and training responders could help make potential customers more receptive to the idea of switching to electric vehicles. GM aims to launch 30 EV models by 2025 and to exclusively sell EVs ten years after that.

Amazon blocks listings for LGBTQ+ products in the United Arab Emirates

Amazon's customers in the United Arab Emirates won't find listings for LGBTQ-related products on its website anymore. According to The New York Times, the Emirati government has demanded the removal of products associated with LGBTQ people and issues and has threatened to penalize Amazon if it doesn't comply by Friday. In response, the e-commerce giant has pulled individual product listings and restricted search results for over 150 keywords. The UAE criminalizes consensual same-sex relations, and punishment could include imprisonment and even the death penalty. 

Some of the search terms the website had restricted are broad enough to cover most items, including "lgbtq," "pride" and "closeted gay." However, some blocked search terms are more targeted, such as "transgender flag," "chest binder for lesbians" and "lgbtq iphone case." The Times says those terms didn't produce any result when the publication tried them out. 

In addition, Amazon blocked several books in the region. Nagata Kabi's My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness and Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist are two of the affected titles. In a statement sent to The Times, spokesperson Nicole Pampe said that as a company, Amazon remains "committed to diversity, equity and inclusion" and that it believes "that the rights of L.G.B.T.Q.+ people must be protected." Pampe added, however: "With Amazon stores around the world, we must also comply with the local laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate."

Amazon is but one of the companies in the tech industry that has given in to the demands of a restrictive government in order to keep operating in a region. Netflix, for instance, previously pulled a show critical of the Saudi government, while Apple reportedly gave the Chinese government control of some of its data centers in the country. Google once developed a censored Chinese search engine called Project Dragonfly, though it ultimately terminated the initiative in 2019. 

Outside of regions with restrictive laws, Amazon is much less likely to remove items from its product listings. When a group of employees in Seattle called on the company to remove books that suggest kids who identify as transgender are mentally ill, Amazon said that as a bookseller, it has "chosen to offer a very broad range of viewpoints, including books that conflict with [its] company values and corporate positions."

Unity lays off 4 percent of its workforce to realign its resources

Unity has laid off hundreds of employees in its offices across the globe, according to Kotaku. The video game software development company known for its popular game engine has reportedly let around 300 to 400 staffers go so far. Layoffs are still ongoing, sources said, so those numbers may be higher by the time the company is done. Unity has confirmed to Engadget that it's "realigning some of [its] resources," which has led to the dismissal of approximately 4 percent of its entire workforce. That's consistent with the report that it has let around 300 people go, since its LinkedIn page lists 8,048 employees.

The company told Engadget:

"As part of a continued planning process where we regularly assess our resourcing levels against our company priorities, we decided to realign some of our resources to better drive focus and support our long-term growth. This resulted in some hard decisions that impacted approximately 4% of all Unity workforce. We are grateful for the contributions of those leaving Unity and we are supporting them through this difficult transition."

While the mass dismissal affects Unity's entire workforce, Kotaku said it's mostly concentrated on its AI and engineering divisions. On Blind, the anonymous messaging board used by workers in the tech industry, posters claiming to be former Unity employees said they were asked to hop on a Zoom call with a manager and an HR personnel. They lost access to their company Slack and email and had to surrender their laptops within 48 hours, but they were apparently given 30 days to find a new role within the company. According to Kotaku, giving them 30 days to find a new role wouldn't help because the company has instituted a hiring freeze, but Unity told us that's not true at all. 

One of the publication's sources said there's a lot going on within Unity at the moment, including mismanagement and "strategic pivots at a rapid, unpredictable rate." Whatever the reason is for its reorganization, Unity's layoffs are just the latest in a string of job cuts across the tech industry. Niantic also recently laid off around 90 employees, or 8 percent of its workforce, to streamline its operations. Meanwhile, Netflix's latest round of job cuts due to slowing revenue growth had affected 300 staff members. 

Hyundai shows off its Ioniq 6 electric vehicle for the first time

Hyundai has revealed the design for Ioniq 6, its upcoming electric vehicle that was inspired by the Prophecy concept EV it showed off in 2020. It retains the Prophecy's futuristic elements without looking like it was a prop made for a sci-fi movie, with its aerodynamic profile and clean lines. Hyundai says the vehicle will have an ultra-low drag coefficient of 0.21 — most modern cars have an average drag coefficient of 0.25 or 0.3 — thanks to its low nose and active air flaps, among other elements. Its elliptical wing-inspired spoiler and slight boat-tail structure help make it more aerodynamic, as well. 

Inside, the Ioniq 6 has a cocoon-shaped interior that's trimmed in sustainable materials, such as eco-process leather or recycled PET fabric for its seats. The company's modular platform for electric vehicles enabled its designers to stretch the car's dimensions and give it a completely flat floor for more legroom and space. For its entertainment and navigation system, it has a modular touchscreen dashboard with a 12-inch touchscreen display and a 12-inch digital cluster. 


The automaker has yet to announce the EV's specs, but to give you an idea, the Ioniq 5 has a 72.6-kWh battery that can deliver up to 300 miles of range. It also boasts 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet of torque and the capability to go from 0 to 60 MPH in under 5 seconds. Hyundai will reveal the Ioniq 6's full specifications and features during its world premiere in July.

Meta admits to ‘incorrect’ moderation of posts about abortion pills

Facebook has been inconsistently enforcing its rule against buying or selling tobacco, marijuana, as well as medical and non-medical drugs in relation to abortion pills. Motherboard recently reported that the website has been flagging posts saying "abortion can be mailed" and has even been temporarily restricting some accounts. Engadget was able to independently verify the information. As social media companies start dealing with content related to the outcome of the Roe v. Wade ruling last week, Meta has admitted to the 'incorrect enforcement' of posts that may trigger rules relating to the buying and selling of pharmaceuticals on its platforms.

Gizmodo reports that Meta communications director Andy Stone has admitted that the website has "discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement" when it comes to its rule against the buying and selling pharmaceuticals. He also said that the company is correcting those instances. 

Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed. We've discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.

— Andy Stone (@andymstone) June 27, 2022

In a tweet responding to Motherboard's story, Stone said content attempting to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals aren't allowed. However, content discussing the "affordability and accessibility of prescription medication" is. Posting "abortion pills can be mailed" shouldn't be flagged if that's the case, though it may run afoul of other rules related to promoting crime.

Gizmodo ran a test by posting "abortion pills can be mailed" on different accounts and found that Facebook was only flagging the status update if it was posted on a burner account, or an account that's not regularly used. We were able to verify that, as well. The post we made on a barely used account was flagged, but the update we posted on our main account wasn't. 

We also tried posting about other pharmaceuticals and medicine on our accounts. Our post that said "I'm selling ivermectin, PM me" was flagged, but the one that said "ivermectin can be mailed" wasn't. That's consistent with the website's rule. Our post saying "I'm selling cigarettes," however, wasn't flagged. We also tried posting "You can get abortion pills mailed from Aid Access," which shouldn't have been flagged if "affordability and accessibility of prescription medication" is allowed on the platform. We got restricted barely a minute after posting that on our burner account.

As you can see, enforcement of the rule has been inconsistent, and it's not quite clear why the exact same content doesn't get flagged on a frequently used account when it gets a warning on a barely used one. By flagging content about the mailing of abortion pills, Facebook could be preventing that information from getting to people who need it. Especially since it flags even the status updates of users outside the US. 

The main Facebook website isn't the only Meta property that's been removing information about abortion pills. According to the Associated Press, Instagram has also been deleting posts about the mailing of abortion pills, though our search for #abortionpills yielded over 1,000 results. 

FCC Commissioner urges Google and Facebook to ban TikTok

"TikTok is not just another video app. That's the sheep’s clothing." That's what Brendan Carr wrote in his tweet along with a copy of the letter he sent Apple and Google, asking the companies to remove TikTok from their app stores. The agency's senior Republican commissioner references a recent BuzzFeed News report that examined leaked audio from 80 internal TikTok meetings. Based on those leaked audio recordings, China-based employees of TikTok parent company ByteDance had repeatedly accessed private information on users in the US. 

One member of TikTok's Trust and Safety department reportedly said during a meeting in September 2021 that "everything is seen in China." A director said in another meeting that a Beijing-based engineer referred to as "Master Admin" has "access to everything." Just hours before BuzzFeed News published its report, TikTok announced that it migrated 100 percent of US user traffic to a new Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. It's part of the company's efforts to address concerns by US authorities about how it handles information from users in the country. 

TikTok is not just another video app.
That’s the sheep’s clothing.

It harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in Beijing.

I’ve called on @Apple & @Google to remove TikTok from their app stores for its pattern of surreptitious data practices.

— Brendan Carr (@BrendanCarrFCC) June 28, 2022

In his letter, though, Carr listed other reports showing "concerning evidence and determinations regarding TikTok's data practices" that include previous instances wherein researchers discovered that the app can circumvent Android and iOS safeguards to access users' sensitive data. He also cited TikTok's 2021 decision to pay $92 million to settle dozens of lawsuit, mostly from minors, accusing it of collecting their personal data without consent and selling it to advertisers.

Carr wrote:

"It is clear that TikTok poses an unacceptable national security risk due its extensive data harvesting being combined with Beijing's apparently unchecked access to that sensitive data."

He's giving Apple and Google until July 8th to explain why they aren't removing the app from their stores if they refuse to do so. That said, Carr was the letter's lone signee — it doesn't look like the other FCC Commissioners are involved. We've reached out to all parties to ask for their official statement on the issue. 

HTC's first new phone this year is the metaverse-focused Desire 22 Pro

HTC has introduced a new phone with metaverse-focused features, like it promised earlier this month. The HTC Desire 22 Pro supports HTC's Viverse ecosystem and will allow users to visit communities even without VR devices using their browsers. It's also compatible with the company's $499 Vive Flow VR headset and can be paired with the device if users want to explore experiences, watch movies and TV or even just access their apps in virtual reality. As Engadget Chinese notes, though, aside from its metaverse-focused offerings, the phone is firmly mid-range.

The HTC Desire 22 Pro has a 6.6-inch display with a 1,080 x 2,412 pixel resolution and a 120 Hz refresh rate. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 5G chip, a mid-range SoC, has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The device has a 4,520 mAh battery and offers reverse wireless charging. Plus, it has a three-camera system at the back, with a 65-megapixel main, 13-megapixel ultrawide and 5-megapixel depth-sensing cameras. For selfies, the phone has a 32-megapixel front-facing camera. 

A company executive said at Mobile World Congress this year that the manufacturer is gearing up to launch a new high-end device. It's not clear if the executive was talking about this particular phone, but prices for the Desire 22 Pro begin at NT$11990 or around US$404, which means it has the potential to reach a wider audience than more expensive flagship devices. The Desire 22 Pro is now available for pre-order and will start shipping on July 1st in the company's home country of Taiwan. In the UK, buyers can pre-order a unit for £399 and expect shipping to begin on August 1st. Those who also want to get a Vive Flow headset can order a discounted bundle for NT$23,490 (US$791) in Taiwan or £763 in the UK.  

Desire 22 pro is the phone to carry you into the future.
Learn more:

— HTC (@htc) June 28, 2022