Posts with «consumer discretionary» label

McDonald's will trial its plant-based burger in the US on November 3rd

You may soon be able to give McDonald's plant-based burgers a try. The fast-food chain will offer the McPlant at eight restaurants across the US starting on November 3rd and until supplies last. It's a limited-time trial run for the burger, and it's supposed to help the company figure out how having the item in its menu will impact its kitchen operations. 

The burger's patty is made with Beyond Meat plant-based meat. It's supposed to be different from the company's patties offered by Carl's Jr., Del Taco and other fast-food chains, though, because Beyond Meat co-developed it with McDonald's itself. Back when the McPlant was first announced, the fast-food giant said it "delivers [its] iconic taste in a sink-your-teeth-in (and wipe-your-mouth) kind of sandwich. It’s made with a juicy, plant-based patty and served on a warm, sesame seed bun with all the classic toppings."

While McDonald's didn't mention the exact locations of the stores that will sell the McPlant, it said that they can be found in Irving and Carrollton, Texas, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jennings and Lake Charles, Louisiana and El Segundo and Manhattan Beach, California. McDonald's is also trialing the burger in other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and the UK. While the McPlant is simply a burger for now, McDonald's previously said that it could represent a whole line of plant-based menu items in the future, including chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches. 

Analogue Pocket's OS is meant as the 'definitive' platform for retro games

Analogue's Pocket handheld won't arrive until late this year, but the company is betting that its software will be worth the wait. TechCrunchnotes the company has detailed AnalogueOS, the platform the Pocket and future Analogue devices will run — and it's pitched as nothing less than the "definitive" OS for retro games, a way to showcase classics that haven't always received the kindest treatment.

Rather than simply play cartridge games, the Pocket and future hardware will tap into a library that provides all the useful data surrounding a game, ranging from box art and publisher data to guides. Pop in a cartridge and you'll learn about that particular version of a game. You might know if you scored a Nintendo World Championship cart or a bootleg, for instance. That database, in turn, will help you browse your library and even create "playlists" to share with fellow nostalgic gamers (who can buy the same cartridges, that is).

AnalogueOS will also track your play time and let you remap controls or enable Bluetooth gamepads. The Pocket will enable save states for cartridge games, which can be helpful if you're trying to recreate a thandheld's original experience.

This approach is meant for a particular variety of retro gamer focused on physical copies and authenticity. It's not as convenient as the digital downloads of, say, the Switch Online Expansion Pack. If it succeeds, though, it could shake up the category. Much of the information for vintage games is scattered across websites, code and even books. Analogue could put all that knowledge in a central location, albeit one limited to the most devoted players.

Introducing Analogue OS.

Analogue OS is the start of something big. At its heart, Analogue OS is purpose built for exploring and celebrating all of video game history. Designed to be the definitive, scholarly operating system for playing and experiencing the entire medium.

— Analogue (@analogue) October 16, 2021

Dbrand stops selling PS5 faceplates after Sony issues legal threats

It's not just small companies facing Sony's wrath over aftermarket PlayStation 5 faceplates. Dbrand told The Verge it stopped selling its PS5 "Darkplates" after Sony issued a cease-and-desist letter earlier in the year threatening legal action over alleged design and trademark violations. Visit Dbrand's product page now and you'll only see links to news stories and testimonials.

Dbrand isn't going down quietly. In a Reddit thread, the company claimed it was submitting to the "terrorists' demands... for now." It believed customers had the right to modify hardware with third-party components, and speculated that Sony might be clamping down so that it can either sell its own covers or charge licensing fees. The company didn't definitively say it planned to resume sales, but did say it would "talk soon."

Whatever Dbrand's intentions, this takes away a major option (though not your only option) for customizing the PS5. The question is whether or not Sony can completely halt third-party faceplate sales. After all, the faceplates are designed to be easily removable and aren't much more than plastic sheets. Dbrand likened this to replacing a broken F-150 truck bumper with an aftermarket part — you have the right to choose the parts you use for fixes or cosmetic upgrades, and Ford can't sue simply because you're using an unofficial bumper. It won't be surprising if there's an eventual court battle over Sony's policy.

Steam bans games that allow cryptocurrency and NFT trading

Steam will no longer allow games that enable NFT (non-fungible token) and cryptocurrency trading through the blockchain. Steam's onboarding page for Steamworks users and partners now states that they shouldn't publish "applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs" on Steam. The rule was added at some point after October 6th, according to a version of the page cached by Google.

Some developers have spoken out about the rule. SpacePirate Games, the studio behind a sci-fi action-adventure title called Age of Rust, said Valve was booting blockchain games off of Steam "because NFTs have value." Some puzzles in Age of Rust, which is in development, will reward players with NFTs as achievements. "Steam's point of view is that items have value and they don't allow items that can have real-world value on their platform," SpacePirate said. The developer plans to publish the game elsewhere.

Community: A few minutes ago, we were notified that @Steam will be kicking *all blockchain games* off the platform, including Age of Rust, because NFTs have value. Behind the scenes, we've had good communication and have been upfront with Steam. #blockchaingames#NFT

— Age of Rust (@SpacePirate_io) October 14, 2021

It's unclear how many games already on Steam will be affected. Searching for "NFT" and "crypto" turns up 14 and 64 results respectively. Not all of those necessarily allow real-world trading though. Crypto Mining Simulator, for instance, lets you pretend you're mining cryptocurrency, which sounds like a barrel of laughs.

Engadget has contacted Steam for more details about this rule, including why it was brought in. NFT scams do exist, and unless you know what you're doing, it's not hard to get burned on crypto trading. That said, Valve does allow people to exchange virtual goods for Steam Wallet funds through the community market, so SpacePirate's belief that Steam doesn't permit items with real-world value doesn't entirely hold water.

'Genshin Impact' now supports 120fps on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Pro

The popular iOS game Genshin Impact is taking advantage of the iPhone 13 Pro's higher-refresh ProMotion display with a new 120fps mode, 9to5Mac has reported. On top of the higher framerates, developer miHoYo introduced new areas, events, missions, character banners and more. 

Apple previously wrote that all iOS developers must release updates to their apps or games to "unlock" the 120Hz mode by adding .plist file key. As with Android devices, use of the mode will drain your battery quicker, but allow for smoother gaming. 2nd-gen or higher iPad Pros don't necessarily need an update to support 120Hz refresh rates, but any game would likely require one anyway.

At the WWDC 2021 Apple Design Awards, Genshin Impact won the best game in the visual category, thanks to graphics and artwork that "push the frontier for mobile gaming," Apple wrote. While the game is also available on Android, PC and Playstation 5, iOS appears to be the first platform to support the higher framerates, according to the Brazilian site Technoblog

Roblox will offer layered clothing and facial gestures for more realistic avatars

Roblox wants to make its avatars look less blocky and more realistic, and it has announced a couple of visual updates meant to achieve that goal during its annual developers conference. One of those changes is layered clothing, which it's been working on since at least 2020. It allows any type of character model to be outfitted with layered clothing items. TechCrunch explains that the feature ensures clothing items will fit avatars and will drape around them naturally, whether they're human- or dinosaur-shaped. At the moment, players can only access the feature in the beta version of Roblox Studio's avatar editor, and it's unclear when it'll be more widely available.

Here's a preview of what 3D Layered Clothing will look like within the Roblox Avatar Editor.

— Bloxy News | #RDC2021 (@Bloxy_News) October 14, 2021

Roblox CEO David Baszucki said during the keynote:

"Self-identity is a crucial pillar of the metaverse, and the ability to precisely customize your clothing to your unique avatar is paramount in personal expression"

Roblox has also announced a feature called Dynamic Heads that can provide facial animations for avatars. The animations could link with facial tracking, so the character's mouth can move in time with its words. TechCrunch says the feature was made possible by the company's acquisition of digital avatar startup last year. 

It'll be a long time before facial animations become an official part of the game, though — Roblox has only given developers access to it right now, so they can play around with it and test it out. "These releases represent important stepping stones in a long line of innovations to improve the expressiveness and combinatorics in the metaverse," Daniel Sturman, Chief Technology Officer for Roblox, wrote in his recap for the event.

Roblox has thousands of ways to express yourself. Dynamic Heads is a first step towards reactive facial expressions that make conversations feel as real inside the #metaverse as they do outside it.

— Roblox (@Roblox) October 14, 2021

In addition to the experimental avatar features, Roblox has announced that it's giving creators a new way to earn money, as well. Creators will be able to put up items they designed for sale for a limited time, turning them into collectibles with higher value than the other goods they're selling in-game.

Spotify opens its Car Thing waitlist to all US users

Spotify is expanding US availability of its Car Thing, an $80 music and podcast player for vehicles. The company debuted the gizmo back in the spring on an invite-only basis and only charged users for shipping during a test phase.

Those who signed up for the Car Thing waitlist before now will get first dibs on the company's first hardware device. In addition, both free and Premium Spotify members in the country can now sign up for the waitlist, though the Car Thing requires a Premium subscription and a smartphone for connectivity. Everyone who signs up for the waitlist will eventually be offered a Car Thing.

Spotify worked on Car Thing for several years before it started shipping the device a few months ago. The idea is to bring infotainment features to almost any car, particularly older ones without newfangled touchscreens. Once you hook up Car Thing to your vehicle with the help of one of the included mounts, you can use it to play music and podcasts with either physical controls or "Hey Spotify" voice commands.

HTC’s Vive Flow is a $499 lightweight VR headset built for entertainment and wellness

HTC is today launching a lightweight headset designed to split the difference between a standalone VR headset and a personal cinema. The HTC Vive Flow is a pair of glasses weighing just 189 grams (6.6 pounces) which pair with a smartphone to let you play some VR content or simply watch TV. It’s marketed as both a piece of tech to keep you entertained and a device to help you improve your mental wellbeing.

Naturally, the company doesn’t want to talk too much about the technology inside Flow, preferring to focus on what it can do. What we do know, however, is that it has two “1.6K” displays running at a 75Hz refresh rate and offering a 100-degree field of vision. There’s no battery per-se, except for a tiny cell designed to make sure that it’ll shut down safely if Flow is severed from whatever power source you've connected its USB-C cable to. 


It’s in this regard that it’s set up more like a personal cinema than it is your standard VR headset, especially with the fairly narrow body. HTC spent a lot of time and effort shrinking the distance between the display and your eyes, and Flow uses a pair of diopter lenses up front. It means that short-sighted folks won’t need to wear their glasses when using Flow, since they can set the lenses up to suit their comfort level.

To ensure that Flow really is portable, HTC set a power budget of 7.5 watts, the upper limit for USB 3’s charging spec. It means you can run this thing off any compatible battery pack (or your phone, in a pinch) as well as a standard socket over a USB-C cable. Some of that juice goes to powering a small active fan in front of the nose, which pulls cold air over your face and pushes warm air out of the Flow’s top vents.


HTC also spent plenty of time talking about how the dual-hinge system will ensure that the Flow’s glasses-like frame will sit comfortably on anyone’s head. A pair of speakers embedded into the arms offer what we’re told is surprisingly high quality spatial audio, and beefy given their relative size. And since they sit on your head like regular glasses, you can wear them laying down should the need arise.

You can pair Flow with your smartphone over Bluetooth or Miracast (for watching protected content) and use the phone as a pointer inside VR content. That limits the number of experiences you’ll be able to enjoy with the gear, but you were hardly going to be able to play Half Life: Alyx on this thing anyway. A pair of camera lenses facing forward will, when the feature is ready, enable the Flow to track your hands for more immersive VR, too.

It's worth saying that this is not, and as I understand it, can never become an AR headset in its current form. Those lenses don't apparently offer much passthrough (beyond what's necessary for motion tracking) and this isn't designed for it anyway. 

HTC says that the focus of Flow’s content on “wellbeing, brain training, productivity” and “light gaming,” with apps like Color Connect VR, Space Slurpies and VR meditation app Tripp. The headset will be able to access a special version of Viveport Infinity, offering a wide library of Flow-compatible content for a monthly fee of $5.99. The company added that if users wanted to meditate within the Flow towards the end of the day, a blue light filter will kick in to help ensure that you can get more restful sleep.


If you’re looking to get hold of an HTC Vive Flow, then pre-orders are opening from today, with shipping expected to begin in November. The price is $499, and for that you get the glasses and a soft carrying case thrown-in, but I’d strongly advise you to pre-order if you want one. Doing so entitles you to receive the flask-like hard carrying case, as well as seven pieces of additional VR content thrown in gratis.

Naturally, Flow has become something of a worst-kept secret in technology after many of these details were leaked ahead of time. One of the obvious sticking points is the higher price compared to the Quest 2, although HTC was clear to dispel the notion that the products were equals. Flow, after all, is a not a standalone headset, and HTC believes that the lighter, more elegant hardware will win it fans in the health and fitness market. 

Amazon’s second-gen Echo Show 8 falls back to $100

If you missed the chance to grab the new Echo Show 8 during Amazon's Prime Day event in July, you may want to check the smart display's listing on Amazon. It's currently on sale for $100, $30 less than its original retail price of $130. That's only $5 more than what it was listed for during Prime Day, and it's certainly not a bad deal for a relatively new device that was only released in June. 

Buy All-new Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen, 2021) at Amazon - $100

We gave the Echo Show 8 a score of 87 in our review. Between this device and its smaller 5-inch sibling, it received more upgrades from the previous generation, including a faster octa-core processor. It also has a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera that's a huge improvement over the previous version's one-megapixel sensor. The smart display uses digital panning and zooming to follow you around during calls, and it worked well enough when we tested it out. It even works with every video calling platform the device supports, including Skype and Zoom.

Aside from its faster processor and better camera, we praised the Echo Show 8 for its minimalist design and its 1,280 x 800-pixel resolution display. It lacks the 3.5 mm jack of its predecessor that will let you connect it to a speaker, but it already has a powerful bass and impressive volume. The device's overall sound quality is also better than its smaller sibling's, since it has two speakers instead of one. 

We found the Echo Show 8 a great digital photo frame that's capable of displaying current time and weather conditions during our tests. In addition, we found it helpful in the kitchen, thanks to its large library of recipes with step-by-step instructions from sources that include the Food Network and Allrecipes. And in case you want to use the smart display to watch videos, you can do so, as well, since it supports video streaming from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu.

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

David Fincher's next Netflix project is VOIR, visual essays about cinema

Sadly, we're note getting Mindhunter season 3. After a short tease yesterday, Netflix just revealed its next project from renowned filmmaker David Fincher: VOIR, a collection of visual essays about the love of cinema. The short teaser doesn't tell us much, sadly. But according to writer and film critic Drew McWeeny, who's working on one episode of the series, VOIR will feature standalone explorations about different aspects of movies. 

From executive producer David Fincher…

VOIR, a new documentary series of visual essays celebrating cinema, from the mind of one of film’s modern masters.

Premiering at AFI Fest and coming soon to Netflix.

— NetflixFilm (@NetflixFilm) October 13, 2021

"We’re not trying to sell you anything, and we’re not interviewing anyone about what Marvel movies they’re doing," McWeeny wrote in his newsletter, Formerly Dangerous. "We’re each tackling a totally different idea, something that intrigues us or upsets us or that has to do with our connection to the movies."

Much like Love, Death and Robots, the animated sci-fi series from Fincher and Tim Miller (Deadpool), VOIR episodes will range from 10 to 30 minutes. The series is also co-created by David Prior, the director of the recent cult horror hit The Empty Man. Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos, The duo behind the excellent YouTube series Every Frame a Painting, Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou, are also listed as directors. VOIR will premiere at LA's AFI Fest in November, and Netflix says it'll be heading to the streaming service soon.