Posts with «employment & career» label

'Overwatch' hero McCree will be renamed Cole Cassidy on October 26th

Overwatch hero Jesse McCree has a new name, and, no, it’s not Deadeye Dave. As promised, Blizzard has renamed the gunslinger in the aftermath of his real-life namesake leaving the studio back in August. As of October 26th, McCree will be known as Cole Cassidy.

“To make the new Overwatch better — to make things right — he had to be honest with his team and himself.” Blizzard said in a tweet. “The cowboy he was rode into the sunset, and Cole Cassidy faced the world at dawn.”

Meet Cole Cassidy.

Rides into Overwatch October 26.

— Overwatch (@PlayOverwatch) October 22, 2021

The real Jesse McCree left the studio after the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard for fostering a “frat boy” workplace. While not directly named in the complaint, McCree reportedly took part in the infamous "Cosby Suite" where Blizzard employees, including former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi, allegedly harassed women. When it first announced the name change, Blizzard said it wanted to find one that better represented Overwatch’s ideals. It also promised it would no longer name in-game characters after employees.

Alongside the name change, Blizzard is testing two potential changes to Cassidy’s kit. It may tweak his Deadeye ultimate to make it more deadly and allow players to use his Combat Roll in midair. The latter change should help with avoiding vertical knockback abilities from heroes like Doomfist and Wrecking Ball. You can try out the tweaks by launching Overwatch’s Experimental mode.

The Carol smart exercise bike is a $2,400 paradox

If you had the opportunity, would you pay more in order to use an exercise bike less frequently? That is, give or take, the sales pitch for Carol’s at-home spin bike. It’s the anti-Peloton, designed to be used for just 8 minutes and 40 seconds per workout. At the end of its standard program, it even tells you that you can go to the gym if you want to, rather than because you need to. But stealing back all of those hours from the capricious gods of exercise comes at a price: $2,395, plus $12 per month after the first three months. It’s up to you to decide if that eye-watering fee is worth swerving all of those cardio sessions.


Daniel Cooper

Carol leverages the principles of Reduced Exertion, High Intensity Interval Training (REHIIT), a variation on the Tabata method of HIIT. Put simply, you’re asked to exercise at a very high intensity for a very short period of time, rather than a long period of time in a steady state. In this example, Carol says that its standard sub-nine-minute workout gives you the equivalent workout to a 45-minute jog. This involves you going all-out for 20 seconds, but then having the better part of three minutes to recover.

That 20-second frenzy is designed to deplete your body’s stores of glycogen and pushes the heart rate through the roof. The long recovery time is designed to reset your body, enabling you to grind out far more from your muscles than you would in a standard Tabata workout. And studies have shown that, at least in male participants, a six-week REHIIT program can improve their insulin resistance and oxygen consumption.

“One of the things I like about REHIIT is the long length of the recovery periods,” says Stuart Moore, trainer and owner of Wheel Fitness, a specialist cycling practice. “This enables people without a lot of experience to recover properly between bouts of hard work and then go again with another round.” He added that “all interval training can be useful,” but stressed that would-be adopters “should get the important checks with your doctor” before trying this sort of thing. “I’d prefer complete beginners to interval training try something more mild than modified versions of HIIT,” he said, “this could help with developing a base before delving into the more intense exercise later.”

Andrea Speir, co-founder and lead trainer at Speir Pilates, added that the psychological benefits on neophyte exercisers were crucial. “Because it spikes the heart rate and improves VO2 Max, cardiac output and boosts the metabolism [...] without being too strenuous,” she said. “It’s not as daunting to commit to it three-to-five times a week, which is where you really see great results,” she added.


Daniel Cooper

It’s not often that a company founder announces that their product exists because of a BBC documentary, but Carol isn’t exactly a standard Silicon Valley story. Co-founder Ulrich Dempfle was a management consultant working with the UK’s National Health Service on behalf of firms like McKinsey and PWC. Part of his role was to look for ways to encourage people to exercise more, despite the fact they would often say they didn’t have enough time to become gym bunnies. It wasn’t until he watched 2012’s The Truth About Exercise that he became a convert to REHIIT.

The documentary was fronted by Dr. Michael Mosely, who is chiefly responsible for making intermittent fasting mainstream in the UK. One of Mosely’s gimmicks has always been to look for more efficient ways to feel healthy, and this was a love letter to REHIIT. Dempfle and his team contacted the academics whose research was featured in order to get a look at their equipment. Dempfle explained that the bikes featured had their intensity controlled by one of the academics while a person exercised on them, and that the price was astronomical. It was here that the idea of building an affordable REHIIT bike was more or less born. In fact, Carol would wind up being featured in a Mosley’s 2018 follow-up documentary, The Truth About Getting Fit, albeit not named because of the BBC’s rules against product placement.


Daniel Cooper

At first glance, Carol could be mistaken for pretty much any at-home exercise bike. It has a very large, rear-slung flywheel and a beefy drive unit, which houses the system to electronically control the resistance, the secret sauce behind the REHIIT program. A pair of short handles with the customary heart rate-monitoring electrodes sit below the display housing, which holds a 10.1-inch screen. The seat height and distance is adjustable, as well as the height of the handlebars, and there are toe cages and clips on the pedals, for pro cyclists.

After you’ve registered, you can then log in to the bike, which is a process you’ll have to do every time you want to use it. After the first attempt, you can just tap on your initials on a list of stored users, but there’s no way to stay logged in by default. Given how beefy the bike is, and that it’s designed for both at-home and professional use, I feel as if this makes it well-suited to offices and gyms, more so than people’s homes. You could easily see this in the corner of a small business, with staff members getting their 10 minutes each day as they take a break from their work.


Daniel Cooper

When it comes to screens, there are two schools of thought dominating the at-home fitness market. Peloton’s ubiquity means that consumers may soon expect all machines to have a glossy, massive HD display as the default. Companies like Wattbike, Concept2 and others, however, are happy pushing out machines that still leverage old-school LCD head units. (On a personal note, the Polar View offered by the Wattbike PMB is one of the best training tools I’ve ever encountered).

Carol splits this difference by offering a 10.1-inch color touchscreen that offers the same sort of data you’d find on an LCD set, but cleaner and more colorful. The UI flashes an angry red when you hit the high intensity phase, and the visualizations showing your power output are great. A software update, too, came through during my review that has made the UI a lot cleaner and smoother than it was before. And, even better, you can use the display to live stream classes from Peloton’s own app, although you’ll need to subscribe to them separately.

Boot the bike up for the first time and you’ll be greeted by a Lenovo splash screen because Carol’s display is quite literally a Lenovo tablet in a housing. On paper, this is genius: An Android tablet should last longer, is more affordable and should be easier to replace than a custom solution. Plus, you can (and Carol does) leverage Google’s pre-built accessibility features for adjusting screen fonts and voice overs that it would take time and money to copy for little-to-no upside.

Not to mention that, because it is an Android tablet, you can run third-party apps through the Play Store, albeit only ones that have been sanctioned by Carol’s makers. So far, that’s just Peloton, but there’s no technical reason that your favorite fitness, or entertainment, app couldn’t wind up on this screen as well. But, for all of those positives, slamming an Android tablet onto a bike and calling it quits still feels a bit lackluster for a bike costing two thousand four hundred dollars.

In use

Daniel Cooper

Once you’ve answered the medical questionnaire, you have to go through six taster sessions for the bike to gauge your overall fitness level. After that point, you’re free to sample the delights that the bike has to offer, including four different REHIIT workouts. I pretty much stuck to the standard program — the reason anyone would buy a Carol bike — but there are other options available. This includes an Energiser ride, which offers shorter, 10-second sprints, as well as 15-minute or 25 minute Fat Burn program, with 30 or 60 sprints, respectively. You also get the option for a Free Ride, with power controlled by yourself, or an Endurance ride with the resistance slowly ramping up beyond your ability to cope with it.

Once you’ve chosen a program, you’re asked to choose from a series of generic audio options but, again, I was advised by the company’s representatives to stick with the default. (This was probably for the best, because the other options are essentially musak.) In it, a calm voiceover talks about how neanderthal man never jogged, they either walked slowly, or ran like their lives depended on it. At the same time, the on-screen coaching tells you to breathe in for four seconds, hold for a beat, and then exhale over six seconds, which is hard to coordinate if you’re bad at multitasking. All the while you’re asked to cycle at a very low level, never exceeding an output of 20 watts or so.

There’s a countdown timer on screen (and a timeline), so it’s not as if you’re not told when the sprints are about to begin. But the narration treats it more like a surprise, talking about the vista when, suddenly, she tells you that there’s a tiger leaping out at you!, and you have to pedal for your life. The screen turns red three seconds before the sprint begins, letting you spool up as you prepare to go hell for leather to escape your predator. Because the resistance is calibrated to your fitness level, it continues to go up after your initial burst of energy to ensure that you’re nicely wiped out by the end of the sprint. Hell, I found that I was flagging at the 10-second mark, and could never get back to my first output peak no matter what I tried.

You may scoff at the idea that biking for just 20 seconds can wipe you out and make any positive impact on your fitness. You begin to feel your legs go as your body suddenly starts to wuss out, and the final quarter of the sprints have you running on fumes. As effective exercises go, the system makes good upon its promises, and you need that long recovery time to restore any sense of humanity you may have had. The screen will graph your output (and compare it to your output on the second sprint, when you hit it) and let you see how far you’ve dropped between runs. Although the on-screen display’s promise that you won’t sweat is mostly true, it’s not entirely fair for sweaty, sweaty boys like me.


Daniel Cooper

In the period in which I was using Carol, I think my fitness did improve, as did my mood when I was trying to complete one of these more or less every single day. (The bike repeatedly advises you, as does its representatives, to only do a single sprint session in a 24 hour period and only three times a week to avoid injury.) You certainly start the day feeling more energized, and I can’t complain that this has eaten a big chunk of my day when it hasn’t.

But I’m finding myself hamstrung by the price, especially given the fact that it’s designed to do one job, one fitness program, to the exclusion of most others. Do I want to spend $2,399 plus an additional $12 a month on an appliance I’d use for 30 or 40 minutes a week? Yes, that’s less than you can spend on a Wattbike Atom or Peloton Bike+, but it’s still a lot. In that philistinic sense of knowing the cost of something but not its value, the numbers make my eyes water.

It’s a bike that does one thing, really, and it does it well, but I feel in my gut that I’d have an easier time singing this thing’s praises if its price was just below the $2,000 mark. It’s a weird psychological barrier for sure, and maybe you’re scoffing at my imaginary parsimony. But as much as this thing is designed for a mainstream audience, right now, it’s priced at the level where only enthusiasts can buy it.

NOAA's surfing drone captured footage inside Hurricane Sam

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has shared what it says are the first images and video captured inside a hurricane by a surface drone. The agency placed the Saildrone Explorer SD 1045 in the path of the category-four Hurricane Sam. The saildrone overcame 50-foot waves and winds at speeds topping 120 miles per hour to capture data from the hurricane and offer a new perspective into such storms.

The device has a special “hurricane wing” to help it survive the intense wind conditions. The SD 1045 is one of five saildrones that have been in the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season. They are constantly recording data to help researchers gain a deeper understanding into hurricanes. The information could help improve storm forecasting, which will hopefully reduce the loss of lives when hurricanes make landfall.

“Using data collected by saildrones, we expect to improve forecast models that predict rapid intensification of hurricanes,” Greg Foltz, a scientist at NOAA, said in a statement. “Rapid intensification, when hurricane winds strengthen in a matter of hours, is a serious threat to coastal communities. New data from saildrones and other uncrewed systems that NOAA is using will help us better predict the forces that drive hurricanes and be able to warn communities earlier.”

Sidenote: I can't be the only one with a sudden urge to watch Twister again.

Boss' SY-200 is a powerful guitar synth that fits on a pedalboard

Boss is certainly no stranger to the world of guitar synths. In fact, Roland and Boss have been at the forefront of guitar synths and MIDI controllers since the '70s. After launching the absolutely epic SY-1000 in 2019, then cramming a bunch of synth sounds into an actual guitar Eurus earlier this year, Boss is going a little more traditional with the SY-200. 

The SY-200 isn't quite as big as the 1000, which is basically a pedalboard in and of itself. But it's definitely larger and more comprehensive than the compact Boss pedals you're probably familiar with, like the SY-1 synth. The 200 has 171 different sounds spread across 12 different categories and can be played without the need for a special pickup. 

Each voice has three parameters that you can customize, which pales in comparison to the full on programable synth inside the SY-1000, but it's definitely a lot more approachable and pedalboard-friendly. You've everything from ripping leads, to warm pads, to delicate bell tones at your disposal. (Though, the Boss demo video above is real heavy on traditional guitar shredding.) Oh, and it's fully polyphonic, which we've come to expect from Boss synth pedals, but it's still worth calling out.

There's two foot switches for giving you some control over live variation while playing, but you can also connect an expression pedal, or control parameters and program changes via MIDI. You've got 128 preset slots for saving and recalling your favorite sounds. And last, but definitely not least, there are send and return jacks for blending in other effects in parallel with your synth sounds. 

The Boss SY-200 will be available for $300 in January alongside Boss' new IR-based amp and cab simulator, the IR-200, which will retail for $400. 

You can now stream Xbox Series X/S games to your PC

The Xbox app on PC just got much more useful. You can now use it to stream games from your Xbox Series X/S. In addition, the app can now stream all of the console titles available through the cloud on Xbox Game Pass.

This is the first time Microsoft has enabled remote play on PC for Xbox Series X/S — folks have been able to stream Xbox One games to PC since 2015. The company says it has improved the feature's stability and added features such as being able to stream games from consoles in 1080p at up to 60 frames per second and play some original Xbox and Xbox 360 games. 

Microsoft noted that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers in 22 countries can now play console titles through the cloud on Windows 10 (and soon, Windows 11) PCs. As long as you have a membership, compatible controller and a sturdy enough internet connection, all you need to do is hit the Cloud Gaming button in the Xbox app and you'll be able to stream console and PC games and play either by yourself or with friends. 

There are currently 294 console games available through the cloud on Game Pass Ultimate, compared with 115 PC games. Those include some EA games via the bundled EA Play membership.

The update marks another step forward in Microsoft's goal of bringing cloud gaming to as many devices as possible. Last month, the company said it would enable cloud gaming on Xbox consoles this holiday season. Game Pass subscribers have been able to stream games from the cloud via web browsers since June

Meanwhile, if you want to play a game on your Series X/S but your TV's in use, you'll able to hop into a session on your desktop or laptop instead. Remote play is also available on iOS and Android phones and tablets.

Streamlabs' new monthly tipping service doesn't take a cut from streamers

Streamlabs' new livestreaming tool offers streamers a new way to make money — and it won't even be taking a commission. The Logitech-owned company has launched a monthly tipping service called Streamlabs Creator Subscription, which (as you can probably guess from its name) gives streamers a way to set up a subscription service for viewers. Streamlabs says creators will get 100 percent of the tips fans give them after PayPal takes its usual processing fees. 

As The Verge notes, that makes Streamlabs Creator Subscription a more appealing option than Twitch's built-in service, which takes a 50 percent cut from the subscription fees streamers get. Especially since Streamlabs' new tipping tool can be directly integrated into its popular OBS software suite anyway. The OBS software can be used to stream not just on Twitch, but also on YouTube, Facebook and TikTok

Streamlabs will let creators decide on what kind of subscription service they want to offer their fans, and they can also set specific price points. If they choose, however, they can allow viewers to choose how much to contribute every month. Fans will get "redeemable alerts" in exchange for their contributions, and they can use those if they want their favorite streamer to thank them on screen. Streamlabs will also be adding leaderboards and badges in the coming weeks to encourage fans to support their favorite creators.

Ashray Urs, Head of Product at Streamlabs, said in a statement: 

"As the live streaming industry has grown, so has the need for a sustainable revenue model. Currently, most major streaming platforms provide viewers with a way to subscribe to a channel; however, they usually split the revenue from the subscription in half between the creators and platform. In addition, platforms require a creator to meet certain qualifications before they can unlock the ability for viewers to subscribe. Streamlabs Creator Subscription is open for anyone with a Streamlabs tip page, regardless of size or how often they stream."

OnlyFans has 'suspended' its ban on sexually explicit content

OnlyFans' upcoming ban on sexually explicit material appears to be over before it even began. The company said it had "suspended" its planned October 1st change after having "secured assurances" needed to support its existing creator base.

The exact situation isn't clear (we've asked for comment), but it appears adults-only content is safe for now. A more detailed communique will reach producers soon.

The statement suggests OnlyFans has triumphed at least momentarily in its fight against big banks. These institutions have historically balked at tech companies that court sexually explicit content, pushing sites like Patreon to drop sex workers if they wanted to maintain their financing. It's not clear just how OnlyFans might have prevailed as we write this (did the banks change their minds, or is there new funding?), but the tension seems to have dissipated, at least for now.

Even a permanent victory might be bittersweet, however. The planned crackdown shook the trust of some sex workers and other OnlyFans creators — a key source of income is no longer quite so reliable as it once was. It won't be surprising if some content makers either switch services or add alternatives to protect their income.

Watch Xbox's Gamescom show in 11 minutes

OK, we'll be honest: The 2021 Xbox Gamescom show was fluffy. It was a 90-minute live YouTube event populated by drawn-out developer interviews, a mini-documentary on the trebuchet and slightly exciting updates to mid-tier titles, but there were also a few bright spots. Xbox cloud gaming is heading to Xbox Series X, Series S and Xbox One this holiday season; Psychonauts 2 got a shiny new launch trailer, and we got a closer look at Microsoft Flight Simulator and Forza Horizon 5. Competitive multiplayer is heading to Microsoft Flight Simulator this fall, while Forza Horizon 5's cover cars look truly spectacular. 

See it all for yourself in our 11-minute cutdown.

Apple reportedly delays office return as US COVID-19 cases rise

Apple bosses had been pushing for employees to get back into the office in September, but they may have changed their tune due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. According to Bloomberg, the tech giant is delaying its return-to-office deadline by about a month and won't be expecting employees to start working out of its facilities again until October at the earliest. It's reportedly a response to the recent uptick in coronavirus cases due to the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant in the US and around the world.

The tech giant originally wanted to implement a hybrid workplace arrangement starting in September, wherein most employees will be expected to show up at the office for three days a week at a minimum. "Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate," Tim Cook reportedly wrote in an internal email.

As The Verge reports, staff members tried to push back and sent the company a letter asking it to rethink its "location-flexible work policy" and to embrace remote work for the sake of inclusion and diversity. However, Apple execs insisted back then that "in-person collaboration is essential to [the company's] culture and... future." 

Bloomberg notes that Apple is one of the first tech giants is the US to delay its return to office. Google announced that it's adopting a hybrid work week back in May, but it expects 20 percent of its workforce to continue working from home full time. As for Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously said that he expects 50 percent of his employees to work from home within the next five to ten years. While Apple doesn't have a new data for its hybrid workplace implementation, Bloomberg's sources said that the company will give employees a month's notice in advance before they're expected to go back to work in the office. 

TikTok tests letting US users to apply for jobs with video resumes

The reports were accurate: TikTok is expanding into job recruitment. As of today, the company has launched a pilot program that allows people in the US to apply for entry, associate and senior level positions by tagging videos they upload to the platform using the #TikTokResumes hashtag. You can see a list of the approximately three dozen companies that are taking part in the pilot, as well as the jobs they're hiring for, by visiting TikTok's dedicated resumes website. Some of the more notable brands taking part include Shopify, Target and the Detroit Pistons. Applicants have until July 31st to apply for the first set of jobs posted on the platform.

In expanding in this way, the company says it "believes there's an opportunity to bring more value to people's experience with TikTok by enhancing the utility of the platform as a channel for recruitment." And while it might seem strange for TikTok to push its users to upload video resumes, it's a reflection of the fact the platform was never just about viral dance videos. You can already find creators dedicated to helping other TikTok users build their careers. And as Gen Z faces uncertain job prospects following the pandemic, it makes sense for TikTok to support the demographic that makes up a significant portion of its userbase.