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Beats Fit Pro earbuds are 23 percent off right now

If you've been looking at a set of AirPods but hesitate due to concerns about fit, don't forget about the Beats Fit Pro earbuds. They have the many of the same perks including ANC and spatial audio, but offer a more comfortable design. If you've been hesitating due to the $200 price, you can now pick up a pair at either Amazon or Walmart for $153.11, for a savings of 23 percent.

But Beats Fit Pro at Amazon - $153.11Buy Beats Fit Pro at Walmart - $153.11

The Beats Fit Pro wireless earbuds earned an excellent 87 Engadget review score for their solid around performance. On the comfort front, the "fit wing" tip can bend to a wide range of ear shapes while keeping the buds firmly in place. They also offer physical buttons to answer calls, control volume, play/pause music and skip tracks. 

The sound quality is "balanced and powerful" with punchy bass as you'd expect with Beats earphones, while also offering great clarity. They support Apple's spatial audio, giving you the ability to listen to Dolby Atmos Music content in Apple Music, or TV/movies on Apple TV. They also support Adaptive EQ that adjusts low- and mid-range frequencies depending on ambient sound to keep audio quality consistent. The ANC is powered by Apple's H1 chip and does a solid job of blocking distractions when you need it to.

The regular $200 price is fairly high and we haven't seen them on sale much yet, so the discount is welcome news if you've been eyeing a pair. Keep in mind that the $153.11 price won't show in Amazon until you add it to your cart, but the discount is there. The deal also only applies to the black color model.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

The Xbox Series S is 7 percent off at Woot

If you've been trying to buy a next-gen console, you're no doubt aware that it's been quite a challenge due to component shortages. However, Microsoft has done a great job making the Xbox Series S model available over the past few months, and now we're starting to see our first real discounts. It's on sale at Woot for $280, which is $20 or 7 percent off the regular $300 price. That's not a lot, but given that they haven't been available at all until recently, any discount is appreciated. 

Buy Xbox Series S at Woot - $280

We said that the Xbox Series S was a "formidable next-gen console wrapped up in an adorable package" in our Engadget review, while also noting that it was an "incredible value." That's thanks to the compact design (looking at you, Sony PS5), improved game performance and the huge backward-compatible library. 

More specifically, the console can handle games at up to 1440p and hit variable refresh rates up to 120fps, though not many games can do both at the same time. It can't handle 4K like the Xbox Series X or PS5, but refresh rate is a more important issue for most gamers. You also get dramatically faster load times thanks to Microsoft's new Xbox Velocity architecture and custom 512GB SSD, though the relatively paltry storage might be an issue for some users. 

Lack of storage aside, the Xbox Series S is already one of the best console deals out there, and even more so at the discounted $280 price. You'd better act quickly if you want one, however, as the deal is likely to disappear soon. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Blizzard chief promises to 'rebuild trust' ahead of Microsoft takeover

Blizzard Entertainment boss Mike Ybarra has promised in a blog post to "rebuild your trust" in the studio, marking his first comments since Microsoft's proposed $68.7 billion acquisition of Blizzard Activision. The developer of blockbuster titles like World of Warcraft and Overwatch has been under pressure since it was sued by the state of California, which accused it of being a "breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women."

Ybarra promised new measures to improve the company's culture, starting with tying executive and management compensation to "our overall success in creating a safe, inclusive and creative work environment at Blizzard," he said. He also outlined new roles designed to address discrimination and other issues, including: 

"A Culture leader who will help us maintain the best aspects of what we have today, and change and evolve where needed to ensure everyone brings their best self to Blizzard; a new organizational leader for Human Resources who will build trust, empower our teams, and help foster a safe, positive work environment for everyone; [and] a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) leader solely focused on our progress across multiple efforts in this area."

We're committed to more open dialog directly with the amazing player communities - not just from me but from all of our incredible teams. https://t.co/5MUILlUCnS

— Mike Ybarra (@Qwik) January 20, 2022

He said the company has tripled the size of its compliance and investigation teams, shared representation data internally, and created an "upward feedback program" to help employees evaluate managers. He didn't share representation data in the blog, but Activision Blizzard's workforce is reportedly around 80 percent male. 

Microsoft announced the acquisition while Blizzard Activision was at a point of weakness due to the misconduct scandal, as Bloomberg noted. Microsoft CEO Phil Spencer acknowledged the issues with the studio, saying "we’re looking forward to extending our culture of proactive inclusion to the great teams across Activision Blizzard." Microsoft also recently launched a third-party review over its own harassment and discrimination policies. 

There are other unresolved issues with Blizzard, particularly around leadership. It's still not clear if embattled CEO Bobbie Kotick will remain with the studio, or for how long. He addressed employees yesterday following the acquisition, but many weren't impressed, noting that he didn't acknowledge culture issues or potential layoffs, according to The Washington Post.

Ybarra, who only left Microsoft for Blizzard in 2019, was originally installed as Blizzard co-lead along with Jen Oneal to replace former president J. Allan Brack — who was named in California's lawsuit. However, Oneal stepped down shortly afterward and reportedly said in an email to the company's legal team that "it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Ybarra also seemingly acknowledged recent delays to Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV. "We also know we need to deliver content to our players on a more regular basis and innovate both in and beyond our existing games," he said. "We have some exciting things to announce, and I’ll be sharing more next week." Microsoft's acquisition of Blizzard is still pending approval by regulators. 

Amazon is opening its first physical clothing store

Amazon is opening its first-ever physical clothing store with the promise of a high-tech shopping experience, confirming a rumor from last year. It will offer brands consumers "know and love," according to Amazon, and an app will let you choose an item, size and color and send it directly to a fitting room or pickup counter. 

Amazon said it will offer "hundreds of brands" chosen by fashion creators and "feedback provided by millions of customers shopping on Amazon.com." It didn't specify which, but its online store currently carries products from designers like Oscar de la Renta, Altuzarra and La Perla. However, many luxury and high-end brands have resisted listing goods online with Amazon.

The stores will offer double the number of styles of traditional stores, while not forcing customers to search manually for the right size or color. Instead, if you see a clothing item you like, you can scan its QR code using the Amazon Shopping App to see sizes, colors, customer ratings and other details. You can then send it to the fitting room or directly to the pickup counter if you don't need to try it on. As you might expect, it also uses an AI-powered algorithm to recommend more products based on what you've already picked. 

You can open the fitting room door using the app, with all the items you've picked inside. Each one offers a touchscreen that lets you continue shopping and request new items to try on without having to leave. They'll then arrive in "minutes" thanks to tech that Amazon also uses in its fulfillment centers. 

You can feel free to buy items online that you found in the store, with the same prices in both places. Items can be returned in store, and any item you've scanned will be saved in the shopping app so you can revisit it later. 

Amazon has already opened a number of Fresh grocery stores, along with book stores and even a hair salon. It didn't say if it would use its cashierless "Just Walk Out" tech found in Fresh and Whole Foods, but it will use the Amazon One palm recognition service for checkout. The first Amazon Style store is coming to The Americana at Brand in Los Angeles sometime "later this year," the company said.

Canon's EOS R5C is a hybrid cinema camera with 8K video and 45-megapixel stills

Canon has revealed the EOS R5C, a new member of its cinema camera line that looks like a good choice for photos, too. It strongly resembles Canon's EOS R5 mirrorless camera, but has a big hump in back to accommodate an active cooling system. As such, it offers most of the benefits of the EOS R5 with none of the overheating issues when shooting 8K or high frame rate 4K video. 

On the video side, the EOS R5C can shoot 8K at up to 60fps in Canon's 12-bit RAW LT format using the entire width of the sensor, a big step up from the 8K 30p RAW available on the R5. Better still, it can work at that setting "indefinitely," while the R5 is limited to just 20 minutes at 8K 30p due to overheating issues. It can also handle RAW 6K/60p with a Super 35mm crop and shoot 4K at up to 120 fps with no crop and full AF capability. The latter could use line-skipping like the EOS R5, however.

It also supports ProRes RAW output to an external recorder via the HDMI port at up to 8K/30P. "Proxy data can also be simultaneously recorded to an SD card in-camera, helping to provide efficient post-production operations," Canon said. Unfortunately, it uses micro HDMI rather than a full-sized port — not ideal for a dedicated cinema camera. 

Unlike the R5, however, the R5C doesn't have in-body stabilization — so any optical shake reduction for stills or video will only be available via supported lenses. However, the optical lens stabilization can work in concert with Canon's electronic stabilization, with a 1.1x image crop.

On the photography side, the full-frame 45-megapixel sensor is a big plus, as is the 20 fps shooting speed in electronic shutter mode (12 fps with the mechanical shutter). It uses Canon's Dual Pixel autofocus system for both stills and video, along with eye/face detection and subject tracking, so it should offer the same excellent AF performance as the R5. When you flip the camera over to photo mode, all the menus and button settings change accordingly. 

It comes with a 3.2-inch variable-angle flip out LCD monitor and 5.76 million-dot viewfinder, the same as the EOS R5. While you get Canon Log 3 for improved dynamic range, the Log 2 option found on other Canon cinema cameras isn't available. Other features include dual card slots (one CFexpress and one SD UHS-II), animal eye detection (cats, dogs, or birds), vehicles detection, a multifunction shoe for microphones and other accessories, a timecode terminal for multi-cam shoots and a DC coupler to provide continuous power.

The EOS R5C will arrive in March for $4,499, a $600 premium over the R5. It's a pretty interesting model as it can do more than some Canon cinema camera models for a lot less money and is much smaller, to boot. At the same time, it might give photo/video hybrid shooters serious pause if they're looking to buy Sony's $6,500 A1 hybrid

Wandercraft's latest exoskeleton lets paraplegics walk with a more natural gait

Paris-based Wandercraft has announced that it's latest "Atalante" exoskeleton has been updated to give paraplegic and other patients a more natural gait during rehabilitation exercises. It also received a Medical Device Regulation (MDR) certificate in Europe, allowing patients and medical staff to use the device more widely. Finally, it's taken a step closer to personal exoskeletons with additional funding.

The last time I saw Wandercraft's first-generation exoskeleton was over four years ago, which is ages in the field of robotics. However, I recently got a chance to see the latest model in use with paraplegic patients, and chat with them and the team behind Atalante. 

Steve Dent/Engadget

Exoskeletons (or exos, as they're called in the industry) are powered "wearable robots" adapted to each user, designed to aid in walking rehabilitation treatments and restore a patient's mobility. Atalante is Wandercraft's second-generation exo with a more advanced design and features than the original model. It comes with a remote to operate it and a new app that lets a physiotherapist and patient fine tune movements and exercise programs. It uses two sets of removable batteries that allow for continuous use.

The new model is much smaller, more streamlined and more comfortable for patients, thanks to new hardware, tweaks in the fit and more intelligent software. It's now self balancing, so it's easier to control for both patients and physiotherapists. Although it's not yet approved to be used alone, Wandercraft showed me a video demonstrating that it can self balance, even when shoved off kilter. It also offers features that make it easier to get in and out, along with the "Wander Balance" feature that allows for easy "verticalization" to help the patient stand up.

The device automatically generates optimized and adjustable kinematics according to a each patient's morphology, with the settings allowing for custom exercises. The latest feature is "RealGait" (shown above) which allows for physiological walking with adjustable speeds. "CustomGait" allows the pace, step length and mass center to be changed, while "ActiveGait" lets the user change the assistance effort from 0 to 100 percent. That feature also includes an "EarlyGait" setting for first steps, along with the new RealGait setting. 

Those features, plus smaller changes make Atalante far more useful. "We've improved half turns so they happen on a spot rather than taking up a lot of space," Wandercraft CEO Matthieu Masselin told me. "We've redesigned things like the attachments and padding. That allows the patient to get in an out more quickly, move more comfortably and get more walking done in each session — which means more rehabilitation and re-education benefits."

All of that is enabled by numerous sensors and software that can make adjustments on the fly, Wandercraft told me. The device's "sense of balance" makes the various gait patterns possible, while also giving the patient and physiotherapist confidence that the device (which is still not light at 130 pounds) won't tip over. 

Steve Dent/Engadget

Wandercraft allows some patients to use Atalante for rehabilitation purposes and I saw it in action with Arbiha, a paraplegic patient who has used it for multiple sessions. The device was suspended from the ceiling and operated by a physiotherapist for safety reasons, but the plan is to one day have a version that can be used in the real world without assistance. 

It was striking how easily she was able to walk during a relatively long one hour session. The exo therapy offers some clear benefits like stimulation of the cardiovascular/lymphatic systems and training for the arms and other supporting muscles, but it goes well beyond that. 

Steve Dent/Engadget

"It boosts both my body and my spirits," Arbhia told me. "It gives me a cardiovascular workout that I couldn't get otherwise. Being upright for a fairly long period of time helps my balance, too, as you lose that aspect when you don't stand up. I have a digestive malady and the walking therapy has also helped stabilize that, which is something I didn't expect at all."

Wandercraft's eventual goal is a personal exoskeleton that can be used as an assistance device at home or in the streets. To that end, the company just received $45 million in financing to help it fulfill that "mobility for all" mission. "With the team we have, the financing we've received and the technology developed, we're confident that we can one day have our exos on the streets and in people's homes," said Masselin. "But we still have a lot of work to do." 

'Valorant' will let players mute words they don't want to appear in text chat

If you'd rather not mute certain Valorant players even though they occasionally make sketchy comments in chat, a new update could solve the problem. The latest Valorant patch 4.01 is introducing a muted words list, letting you enter words or phrases "that you, personally, would not like to appear in-game," developer Riot Games announced. 

Currently, you can only completely mute a player's text chat. The new feature could help you avoid using that nuclear option, allowing for a more bespoke experience. It'll also let you protect yourself based on your own tastes instead of relying on Riot's global watchlists. 

Riot plans to use player muted word lists to "make the chat less toxic by comparing them across regions, and using the data we collect to improve our own detections of bad words." It noted, for instance, that its own filters could catch "Riot" but not necessarily "R1ot" or "R!ot." 

Early last year, Valorant rolled out new behavior detection and penalty updates that included measures for chat-based offenses. The rules allowed mods a bit more leeway to give warnings and comms bans, or issue game and extended game bans if required. By contrast, the muted words list feature gives the player control, even if it's just to mute words or phrases you find annoying or repetitive. 

Along with the muted words list, the latest patch boosts the price for the Ares weapon while changing some characteristics. Riot also tweaked Melee to make aiming more reliable, while fixing some bugs around weapons, esports features and performance. Patch 4.01 is now rolling out globally. 

Opera launches a dedicated crypto browser

Opera has launched its Web3 "Crypto Browser" into beta with features like a built-in crypto wallet, easy access to cryptocurrency/NFT exchanges, support for decentralized apps (dApps) and more. The aim is to "simplify the Web3 user experience that is often bewildering for mainstream users," Opera EVP Jorgen Arnensen said in statement. 

A key feature is the built-in non-custodial wallet that will support blockchains including Ethereum, Bitcoin, Celo and Nervos from the get-go. It also announced partnerships with Polygon and others. The idea is to let you access your crypto without the need for any extensions, with the option of using third-party wallets as well. You can purchase cryptocurrencies via a fiat to crypto on-ramp, swap crypto directly in-wallet, send and receive it and check your wallet balance. It even has a secure clipboard that ensures other apps can't data when you copy/paste.

The other primary function is support for Web3, aka blockchain-based decentralized internet, aka the buzzy new thing among crypto enthusiasts (and skeptics). On top of providing extra security via blockchain encryption, it allows users to access things like GameFi "where you can earn as you play your way through all sorts of metaverses," Opera notes. It also offers a "Crypto Corner" with the latest blockchain news that also "lets you grow your Web3 skills," according to Opera. 

Opera's rival Mozilla recently announced it would accept cryptocurrency donations, but was hit by a backlash from users including co-founder Jamie Zawinski over the environmental impact of blockchain. Perhaps anticipating a similar reaction, Opera said it was working toward implementing the more energy-efficient Etherium Layer 2 standard "as quickly as possible."

Other companies like Ubisoft jumping on the blockchain train with NFTs and other offerings have been hit by similar criticism. However, Opera at least gives its users a choice with multiple browser options, as it also offers its regular Opera browser and one that's dedicated to gamers. The Crypto Browser is now available for Android, Windows and Mac, with an iOS version coming soon. 

Anemia could make space travel to Mars a challenge, study finds

A new Canadian study has found that "space anemia" caused by weightlessness is not a temporary issue as once thought, the CBC has reported. "As long as you are in space, you are destroying more blood cells than you are making," said the University of Ottawa's Guy Trudel, who led a 14-astronaut study carried out by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). 

Normally, the body destroys and replaces two million red blood cells per second. However, the new study found that the astronauts' bodies destroyed three million red blood cells per second during six month missions. "We thought we knew about space anemia, and we did not," said Trudel.

A full year after returning to Earth from the ISS, the astronauts' red blood cell levels had not returned to pre-flight levels, according to the study in Nature. "If you are on your way to Mars and... can't keep up" with red blood cell production, "you could be in serious trouble," said Trudel. That wouldn't necessarily cause problems in a zero gravity environment, but could become an issue once astronauts arrive on Mars or when they return to Earth. 

[Anemia] is a primary efffect of going to space.

The researchers said that anemia could even be an issue for space tourism, if the potential travelers are at risk for anemia. The study also noted that "current exercise and nutritional countermeasures of modern space travel did not prevent hemolysis and post-flight anemia" with the astronauts tested. 

The study, first announced in 2016, drew from data gathered during Expedition 10 and 11 missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in 2004 and 2005. Anemia is defined as a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood, a condition that can result in pallor and weariness and affect endurance and strength.

The study didn't say how such issues could be directly resolved, but suggested that doctors focus on anemia-related issues when testing candidates. "Medical screening of future astronauts and space tourists might benefit from a preflight profiling of globin gene and modifiers," according to the study. It also suggested that post-landing monitoring should cover conditions affected by anemia and hemolysis.  

Amazon sued by family of employee killed in Illinois tornado warehouse collapse

Amazon is being sued by the family of delivery driver Austin McEwan who died in the Edwardsville, Illinois warehouse struck by a tornado last month, CNET has reported. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon was negligent, citing the fact that it told people to keep working through extreme weather warnings. It also makes claims of negligence against contractors who helped build the warehouse. 

McEwan was one of six people killed when the warehouse roof was hit by a tornado and collapsed. The family of victim Deandre Morrow has also retained a lawyer. "Sadly, it appears that Amazon placed profits first during this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and the other five," said McEwan's mother, Alice McKewan in a press conference

"Severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told CNET in a statement. "We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued." The company said that the warehouse was built four years ago in accordance with building code requirements. 

Edwardsville is in a region known as Wind Zone IV, a part of the US most at risk from tornadoes. The National Weather Service warned of a tornado threat 36 hours before they struck, and the morning before the storms, it cautioned of the "likely threat" of "damaging winds in excess of 60 mph."

During the same incident, an Amazon dispatcher pressured a driver to deliver packages amid tornado alarms, threatening her with termination. Amazon said that the dispatcher "didn't follow the standard safety practice" and should have directed the driver to seek shelter. Meanwhile, Democrats have pressed Amazon for details on the warehouse deaths, saying in a letter that the incident "fit a larger pattern" of Amazon putting safety at risk "in everyday situations and emergencies alike."