Posts with «small businesses» label

Insta360’s X4 captures 8K 360-degree video

There’s a cult following for 360-degree cameras. While companies like GoPro and Ricoh continue to dabble in the category, Insta360 simply dominates it. Until today, the X3 was the ultimate 360 camera, with loads of features and shooting modes that were relatively easy to use. Insta360’s collection of selfie sticks, guards, cases and peripherals added even more cool tricks like bullet time effects and fast-zoom video effects. A few years later, we’re getting the Insta360 X4, with improvements prioritizing the fundamentals. There are higher-resolution camera sensors, a bigger battery and even more versatility, thanks to multiple resolutions and framerate options.

Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

The Insta360 X4 doesn’t look hugely different from the X3. It has the same candy bar form factor, with two huge wide-angle lenses either side. It does seem more elongated, but I had no issue cramming it into my pocket during a week of testing.

The new camera has removable lens guards, which is an intelligent design improvement. Any damage or scratch to the lens will likely affect image quality, especially when it’s exposed in … adventurous settings. Previously, Insta360 offered sticky lens covers, but the X4 new lens has guards that can be twisted on and off the camera sensors. And they come included in the box, which is nice.

Both the USB-C port and battery compartment, where the microSD slot lives, are protected by solid covers with sliding locks. The Insta360 X4’s Type-C port now supports USB 3.0 speeds, arguably necessary when dealing with these higher-resolution videos and bigger files.

Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

The button layout remains streamlined and familiar to anyone who’s used Insta360 cameras before. There’s a circular ‘shoot’ button (voice and gesture shooting options are built-in, too, but they’re a little less reliable), a mode switcher, a programmable Q button, and the power button. The 2.5-inch touchscreen is bigger, too, and most settings are only a few swipes away. It feels like using a smartphone, which helps make it intuitive.

However, the sheer versatility means there are a lot of menus to peruse. I never felt overwhelmed but during testing, I never quite managed to get Bullet Time and Time Shift to work anywhere near as well as I’ve seen on YouTube.

Photo by Mat Smith/Engadget

Newcomers can power up the X4 immediately and capture video and stills without too much struggle. Naturally, for those who know what they’re doing, this is where things get fun.

The technical improvements focus on video, with the new ability to record footage at up to 8K 30fps or 5.7k at 60fps. Slow-mo video has been boosted up to 4K resolution, too. Insta360’s Me Mode, which captures traditional ‘flat’ video (in combination with its ‘invisible’ selfie stick), has been upgraded to 4K 30fps. In short, it captures more of everything compared to its predecessor. More pixels mean more detail with 360-degree video (or any capture mode). It also ensures that when you crop down to create clips for social media, the footage doesn’t appear too low-res. Plus, Insta360 claims that stepping down to 5.7K resolution to record video will offer better performance in low light, which seemed true during my tests indoors and in the evening.

Insta360 has considered the increased processing demands of higher-resolution content. The X4 has a 2,290mAh battery, 67 percent bigger than the X3's. According to the press release, it should be able to capture video for up to 135 minutes.

While we’re focusing on the upgrades, a lot of Insta360’s best camera features are carryovers from the X3. 360-degree horizon lock keeps all your footage level regardless of how you hold the X4, and there’s still impressive image stabilization and waterproofing up to 33 feet. While the X3 fixed many of the biggest problems with capturing 360-degree video, the X4 has boosted fidelity to the point where it’s possible to capture polished footage without much effort.

The X4 is now available to order directly from Insta360, priced at $499.99. That is $100 more than its predecessor but still less than the company’s pro-level $800 camera, the One RS 1-inch 360 Edition.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Fallout TV series is V.A.T.S. (a very awesome TV show)

Fallout’s transition to TV starts with a bang (or three depending on how you’re counting). But even after the show emerges from the vault, the hits keep coming. That’s because unlike a lot of other video game adaptations that receive a thin veneer designed to appeal to fans of the source material, the essence of Fallout runs so deep throughout this series it could weather an atomic blast. Its characters are magnetic and its visuals are downright impressive. But most importantly, just like HBO’s The Last of Us, Fallout is more than just a video game adaptation. It’s a really good show in its own right – an apocalyptically good one at that.

The first thing that stands out about the show is just how good it looks. Every set and costume is packed with detail. The clean blues and yellow of vaultsuits are the perfect counterpoint to the dilapidated buildings and shaggy clothes of surface dwellers, which look so grimy you can almost feel the rads coming out of your screen. Meanwhile, Fallout’s Power Armor might be some of the best-looking live-action mech-suits this side of Pacific Rim. Locations are also incredibly diverse and fleshed out while still paying homage to the franchise that inspired them. The settlement of Filly looks almost exactly how I imagine Megaton might appear in real life, you know, aside from having a massive bomb in the middle of town. The show’s audio is also a treat, right down to the crunchy sounds of analog electronics and all the rockin’ oldies that wafting in the background (including an obligatory playing of the Inkspots’s “I don’t want to set the world on fire”).

Courtesy of Prime Video

I really liked how all the show’s easter eggs and references to the video game never felt forced. Iconic gadgets like the Pipboy help build the world while simultaneously pushing the plot forward. Even its cinematography makes callbacks to the game with slow-mo that evokes the V.A.T.S. mechanic during firefights. And all the little critters Fallout fans love and hate like rad roaches, irradiated bears and a very good canine companion make appearances that feel right at home.

Of course, all this would simply be window dressing without characters that bring the world to life. And once again the show doesn’t disappoint. As a vault dweller, Lucy MacLean (played Ella Purnelle) is the perfect foil to ease us into the world of Fallout. As she explores and adapts to the surface, we get to meet an incredible cast of characters who highlight the struggles and revel in the weirdness of a post-doomsday world. I also need to call out the casting of Walton Goggins as the Ghoul, which feels like an especially enlightened choice. This man was made for this role, and even considering some of his previous appearances in Justified and The Hateful Eight, this might be his most engaging performance yet.

Courtesy of Prime Video

The most impressive thing about the Fallout show is how it balances several different stories with grace and intrigue. So often when you have branching plotlines, one arc drags while the others shine. But in Fallout, they are woven together so well that even if one scene goes long, the show on the whole never bores. Now I will admit that those new to the franchise may need to be a bit more patient, as Maximus’ arc and the story surrounding the Brotherhood of Steel takes some time to get rolling.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Fallout is its brutality. This is not a series for the faint of heart. Warning: There is some animal cruelty and there’s so much gore that a regular bullet wound seems tame in comparison. It’s also important to mention that the jump from pixels to live action adds even more impact to this. But coming from a franchise that’s reveled in crass and crudeness since the beginning, it would feel weird any other way.

Courtesy of Prime Video

As a fan of the franchise, there’s always a little trepidation when a game tests the waters of a new medium. But Fallout has absolutely nailed it. And looking back, it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, because unlike Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat whose stories always felt like afterthoughts, it was the world and the characters of Fallout that kept people coming back to the wasteland. While the game may have provided the blueprint to make the show a success, this adaptation can stand on its own.

The Fallout series is available to stream today starting at 9PM ET on Amazon Prime Video.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Apple officially allows retro game emulators on the App Store

In addition to updating its developer guidelines to allow music streaming apps to link to external website, Apple has also added new language that allows game emulators on the App Store. The updated guidelines, first noticed by 9to5Mac, now say that retro gaming console emulator apps are welcome and can even offer downloadable games. Apple also reportedly confirmed to developers in an email that they can create and offer emulators on its marketplace. 

Emulator software wasn't allowed on the App Store prior to this update, though developers have been finding ways to distribute them to iOS users. To be able to install them, users usually need to resort to jailbreaking and downloading sideloading tools or unsanctioned alternate app stores first. This rule update potentially eliminates the need for users to go through all those lengths and could bring more Android emulators to iOS.

Apple warns developers, however, that they "are responsible for all such software offered in [their] app, including ensuring that such software complies with these Guidelines and all applicable laws." Clearly, allowing emulators on the App Store doesn't mean that it's allowing pirated games, as well. Any app offering titles for download that the developer doesn't own the rights to is a no-no, so fans of specific consoles will just have to hope that their companies are planning to release official emulators for iOS. While these latest changes to Apple's developer guidelines seem to be motivated by the EU's Digital Markets Act regulation, which targets big tech companies' anti-competitive practices, the new rule on emulators applies to all developers worldwide. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The 5 best meditation apps for 2024

Meditation is often touted as a mental cure-all, purported to help with stress, sleep, mood, focus and even certain medical conditions. I’ve been meditating most of my adult life. I’ve done silent retreats. I’ve been formally trained in various techniques. I’ve had someone in my contacts list who I referred to as a “guru.” So I feel I’m relatively qualified to give some bad news: Meditation won’t fix your life, despite what David Lynch says. However, there’s also some good news: Despite not actually being a cure-all for everything bad in the universe, meditation can certainly take the edge off.

This is where meditation apps can come into play. Of course, practicing mindfulness doesn’t require an app; people have been doing it for thousands of years, with nary a smartphone in sight. But mindfulness apps can be useful in a number of ways. They provide access to all kinds of guided meditations to suit different styles. Some even offer social connections, which can motivate you to keep up your practice via the magic of peer pressure. They are also particularly well-suited to beginners, with many of them offering a free trial. With all of this in mind, I downloaded some of the most popular meditation apps and set about sitting calmly on a comfortable chair to test them out. What follows is a comparison aimed at real people just looking to squeeze a bit more joy and relaxation out of daily life.

How we tested meditation apps

Every brain is different, so I did not rate these apps based on if they sync up with my preferred meditation style. First and foremost, I looked for apps that cater to various methods and those that offer guided meditations that go beyond what’s free on YouTube. All of the items on this list are available on both Android and iOS, so you won’t have to worry about something being only for iPhone owners.

Of course, there’s lots of free stuff out there, from podcasts and videos on YouTube to audio tracks on streaming services. You can even find guided breathing sessions on an Apple Watch or Fitbit, as well as meditations in Fitness+, Samsung Health or any number of workout video providers. For this guide, I focused on apps that stood out in some way. I liked apps with huge libraries of guided meditations and those that offer additional mindfulness activities, like yoga routines. I also looked for easy-to-use apps with well-designed layouts. You don’t want to start your meditation journey with a clunky app that actually increases anxiety.

The most important thing with meditation is to keep doing it, so I awarded points for clever gamification elements, simple social network integration and anything else that encourages repeat visits. Finally, I considered extra features that set an app apart from the glut of competitors out there. For example, some meditation apps offer novel ways to track your progress, access to yoga routines and a whole lot more.

At the end of the day, each of these apps has its strengths. But if installing an app or using a device is not how you prefer to meditate, you can always turn off your phone and find a quiet room or environment. For those of us who need a little help from a digital guru, though, here are our favorite apps for meditation.

Other meditation gear we tested

Brain-tracking wearables have been around for years, but there are some newer devices that have been tailor-made for meditators. These gadgets track the brain during meditations and offer real-time feedback. It’s a real boon for the data-obsessed, but also a real bank account drainer, with some gadgets costing thousands of dollars. I took two of the more-popular options for a spin to see what they’d make of my brain. Neurofeedback System is a weird contraption that not only claims to track brainwaves, but gives real-time feedback to “teach” people how to meditate and enter a flow state. The device involves a giant headset that’s stuffed with brainwave sensors that detect beta, alpha, theta and gamma waves, in addition to heart-rate sensors. It also comes with a truly bizarre companion gadget that uses light stimulation (transcranial photobiomodulation) to keep an eye on focus and attention levels. The whole thing is combined with an app that keeps track of dozens of data metrics and allows access to various guided meditations.

I’m as surprised as you to say that this thing appears to work, with some caveats. It’s uncanny how well it monitors the brain during meditations. If I got lost in a thought spiral about lasagna at six minutes in, sure enough, there would be a dip in analytics at the six-minute mark. It’s also fairly easy to use, despite a process that involves wetting a number of electrodes. As magical as the accurate brain-tracking seems to be, however, I wasn’t as keen on the actual training portion, which often involves staring at a screen throughout the entirety of the practice. It’s also not for the financial faint of heart, as the device costs $1,500.

NeoRhythm Omnipemf

NeoRhythm’s Omnipemf is another wearable to help people get into that ever-elusive flow state. It doesn’t track your brain, but rather floods it with electromagnetic fields at specific frequencies to make it more susceptible to meditation and focus. This is supposed to prime your brain for the meditative state and, in theory, make it easier to capture that zen. However, I didn’t get much from it, other than a placebo-esque buzzing in my head.

To use it, you simply pop on the wearable and go about your day. You aren’t tied to an app, so you can meditate in whatever way you like. There are multiple modes that go beyond meditation, as this thing is supposed to help with focus, pain relief and sleep. I’d wait for some peer-reviewed studies, however, before buying this.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google DeepMind's new AI can follow commands inside 3D games it hasn't seen before

Google DeepMind has unveiled new research highlighting an AI agent that's able to carry out a swath of tasks in 3D games it hasn't seen before. The team has long been experimenting with AI models that can win in the likes of Go and chess, and even learn games without being told their rules. Now, for the first time, according to DeepMind, an AI agent has shown it's able to understand a wide range of gaming worlds and carry out tasks within them based on natural-language instructions.

The researchers teamed up with studios and publishers such as Hello Games (No Man's Sky), Tuxedo Labs (Teardown) and Coffee Stain (Valheim and Goat Simulator 3) to train the Scalable Instructable Multiworld Agent (SIMA) on nine games. The team also used four research environments, including one built in Unity in which agents are instructed to form sculptures using building blocks. This gave SIMA, described as "a generalist AI agent for 3D virtual settings," a range of environments and settings to learn from, with a variety of graphics styles and perspectives (first- and third-person). 

"Each game in SIMA’s portfolio opens up a new interactive world, including a range of skills to learn, from simple navigation and menu use, to mining resources, flying a spaceship or crafting a helmet," the researchers wrote in a blog post. Learning to follow directions for such tasks in video game worlds could lead to more useful AI agents in any environment, they noted.

Google DeepMind

The researchers recorded humans playing the games and noted the keyboard and mouse inputs used to carry out actions. They used this information to train SIMA, which has "precise image-language mapping and a video model that predicts what will happen next on-screen." The AI is able to comprehend a range of environments and carry out tasks to accomplish a certain goal.

The researchers say SIMA doesn't need a game's source code or API access — it works on commercial versions of a game. It also needs just two inputs: what's shown on screen and directions from the user. Since it uses the same keyboard and mouse input method as a human, DeepMind claims SIMA can operate in nearly any virtual environment.

The agent is evaluated on hundreds of basic skills that can be carried out within 10 seconds or so across several categories, including navigation ("turn right"), object interaction ("pick up mushrooms") and menu-based tasks, such as opening a map or crafting an item. Eventually, DeepMind hopes to be able to order agents to carry out more complex and multi-stage tasks based on natural-language prompts, such as "find resources and build a camp."

In terms of performance, SIMA fared well based on a number of training criteria. The researchers trained the agent in one game (let's say Goat Simulator 3, for the sake of clarity) and got it to play that same title, using that as a baseline for performance. A SIMA agent that was trained on all nine games performed far better than an agent that trained on just Goat Simulator 3.

Google DeepMind

What's especially interesting is that a version of SIMA that was trained in the eight other games then played the other one performed nearly as well on average as an agent that trained just on the latter. "This ability to function in brand new environments highlights SIMA’s ability to generalize beyond its training," DeepMind said. "This is a promising initial result, however more research is required for SIMA to perform at human levels in both seen and unseen games."

For SIMA to be truly successful, though, language input is required. In tests where an agent wasn't provided with language training or instructions, it (for instance) carried out the common action of gathering resources instead of walking where it was told to. In such cases, SIMA "behaves in an appropriate but aimless manner," the researchers said. So, it's not just us mere mortals. Artificial intelligence models sometimes need a little nudge to get a job done properly too.

DeepMind notes that this is early-stage research and that the results "show the potential to develop a new wave of generalist, language-driven AI agents." The team expects the AI to become more versatile and generalizable as it's exposed to more training environments. The researchers hope future versions of the agent will improve on SIMA's understanding and its ability to carry out more complex tasks. "Ultimately, our research is building towards more general AI systems and agents that can understand and safely carry out a wide range of tasks in a way that is helpful to people online and in the real world," DeepMind said.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Ayaneo's NES-inspired mini PC is more than a retro tribute

The mini PC is misunderstood. Easily dismissed as underpowered, over-priced or just plain ugly; we intuit that a computer with a tiny footprint has to mean a compromise. Ayaneo, best known for its Windows gaming handhelds, has branched out into tiny desktops with retro-inspired designs. Thankfully Ayaneo’s AM01 and AM02 mini PCs have more to offer, but their initial draw over rivals, I won’t lie, is nostalgic appeal.

Sadly, I’m old enough to remember using the original Macintosh that inspired the AM01 and if Nintendo ever reimagined a real NES, I hope it looks like the AM02. Both PCs come in various specifications, but to save typing out the numerous configurations the AM01 starts at $200 and comes in low-to-modest specifications, good for retro gaming and general office tasks. The AM02 is priced between $440 and $630, and all variants come with an AMD 7840HS APU, better suited for PC gaming and heavier tasks like video editing or even music production.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

As someone that plays a lot of retro games and doesn’t mind playing PC games on low or medium settings, the AM02 is fast becoming my primary gaming system. Partly because the AM02 strikes a good balance between retro and contemporary design so it fits well in my adult living room. It’s also really well built. I’m not so sure about the four-inch touch screen (more on this later) but the overall design blends in nicely with a contemporary decor without calling too much attention to itself.

The AM02 I’ve been testing is fully loaded with 32GB or RAM and 1TB of storage, but there are enough ports here that even with a lower-spec model you can add more storage or even an eGPU (thanks to a USB 4.0 port) later down the line. There are also two RJ45 ports, one of which is 2.5Gbps, future-proofing the AM02 somewhat and making it well-suited to pulling media from networked storage. This model is also powered by USB-C which makes it more “portable” than its Mac-inspired sibling that uses a laptop-style power brick. Theoretically you could power a display from the AM02’s USB 4 port and have a PC that can easily be moved around. Yes, they invented laptops for exactly this but a perk of mini PCs is that they aren’t a pain to relocate.

I’ve suggested that the AM02 works great in a living room, and it does, but the placement of the built-in display suggests this was designed to live on a desk. When Ayaneo announced these mini PCs, marketing shots showed them in horizontal and vertical configurations. Sadly, neither model makes sense in a vertical orientation. Not least because both have ports on the side that would be facing the desk. Worse, the AM02 has a delightful NES-inspired front flap covering the USB and 3.5mm ports. Press the red button and it satisfyingly clicks open, but that would be the side facing down in a vertical set-up. Not to mention all the cables would then be coming out of the top.

It’s kind of a bummer as I was hoping the built-in display could be visible from across the room, but you can only see it if you’re near enough to peer over from above. What’s more, at least right now, the display is more of a novelty. By default it shows performance statistics such as FPS, CPU usage / temperature and fan speed which is useful for some folk. You can even change the TDP/power draw right from the display, but honestly, given that this thing is plugged in I’ve just been leaving it on the max 45W setting.

Swipe left on the screen, and the view changes to a date and time widget. Swipe one more time and there’s a virtual volume control along with the option to turn the display off. Fun fact, right now there’s no option to turn it back on again. I restarted the PC via Windows and it still didn’t come back to life. I tried once more via the physical power button and that worked, there’s a neater solution coming in the final software. Relatedly, Ayaneo is hoping users will create their own widgets for this display, so there’s definitely potential here. I’m sure it won’t be long before Doom is running entirely on the linux that runs that display.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

If you do want to use this just for gaming, then you’ll have to decide whether you want to use the company’s own launcher or not. On Ayaneo’s handhelds it’s useful for changing power settings on the fly and other tasks that would otherwise be a pain for a handheld. On a PC like this, the launcher is adequate, but you might want to find your own or just ditch it for the most part. I set the AM02 up to load right into Launchbox/Big Box which handles all my retro/Steam/Epic games just fine and gives a much more console-like experience. But that’s the joy of Windows for gaming I guess, you can do what you want with it.

Despite their diminutive size, mini PCs aren’t always cheap. Like their full-size counterparts, prices range wildly depending on their performance, storage and components. Ayaneo’s handhelds almost universally fell into the “premium” pricing category with nearly all its Windows models costing more than the Steam Deck they try to rival. The two mini PCs break that trend with both models offering, at worst, fair market prices and, at best, beating the competition.

Most direct rivals to the AM02 don’t have a built-in screen (though some do) or have quite as good a selection of inputs and outputs. That’s to say, overall the AM01 and AM02 are reasonably priced for their spec and even more so if you can scoop them up during the early-bird window, which at time of publication is still active for the AM02.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

There’s a small elephant in the room though. That is, if you’re looking for a true gaming PC, there are likely better ways to spend your money. The lowest spec AM02 costs more than a PS5. Or about the same as an LCD Steam Deck with a dock. Then there’s the Mac Mini which starts at $600 (with less memory and RAM but that M2 processor is no joke). So if gaming is your sole goal, then there’s a slim niche that the AM02 serves best — those looking for a mix of retro and PC titles that also want the flexibility of other media tasks (an easier way to watch Netflix with a VPN, for example) in a package that only draws the right kind of attention. Or maybe you just love it for its design and the capabilities work for you.

Mostly, it’s a promising new direction for a company that made a name for itself trying to take the Steam Deck head on. It might not have been truly successful in that specific mission, but it earned itself plenty of fans along the way for its high-spec handhelds that help re-establish portable gaming as an exciting category. As Ayaneo enters the more general PC market, it might well have found a space where it can excel against a very different type of competition.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

An Elden Ring mobile game is reportedly in the works at Tencent

Tencent is in the midst of developing an Elden Ring game for mobile phones, according to Reuters. Apparently, if the Shenzhen-based tech company's plan pushes through, fans are getting a free-to-play title with in-app purchases, similar to the gacha game Genshin Impact. That's a complete departure from the original Elden Ring action RPG, which sells for $60 from the get-go and isn't loaded up with microtransactions. 

That's pretty much all the details Reuters has reported — according to the news organization's sources, progress on the project has been slow, so it may take a while before we see the game. That is, if the game even gets released: Tencent recently shut down the development of much-awaited Nier mobile game that had been in the works for two years. Tencent reportedly couldn't find a monetization model that would allow it to recoup what it cost the company to license the franchise from Square Enix, along with what it's going to spend to bring the project to completion. 

Tencent and Sony purchased a 30 percent share of FromSoftware, the Japanese developer behind Elden Ring, back in 2022. The Chinese company also acquired the licensing rights to develop the game back then and put together a team with a "few dozen people" to work on a prototype. Reuters says Tencent is hoping to give its aging library of games a boost with a new title, and one based on a wildly successful game like Elden Ring has the potential to become a hit. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Google reveals another text-to-image generative AI tool, ImageFX

Google is rolling out a swathe of updates on the generative AI front, including a new text-to-image tool. What’s different about ImageFX is that it has an interface that features “expressive chips.” The idea here is that these will help you “quickly experiment with adjacent dimensions of your creation and ideas.”

Alongside the debut of ImageFX, Google says it has improved MusicFX and TextFX. The company’s claims that it’s made upgrades to the MusicLM model that include faster generation of music and higher-quality audio, along with new features. Generated songs can now last up to 70 seconds. As for TextFX, Google has rolled out usability updates in the aim of improving navigation and the overall user experience.

ImageFX-generated images and audio made with MusicFX are tagged by SynthID, a digital watermark that aims to make it clear that these are forged using AI, especially when they appear in Search or Chrome. ImageFX creations will also include IPTC metadata. This, according to Google, will offer “people more information whenever they encounter our AI-generated images”

Folks in the US, Kenya, New Zealand and Australia can try out these new and revamped tools in the AI Test Kitchen starting today. They’re only available in English for now.

The Imagen 2 model is powering the new image generation features of ImageFX. It’s also the tech that’s driving new generative AI options in Bard, Search, Ads, Duet AI in Workspace and Vertex AI. Google says that Imagen 2 helps to deliver its highest-quality AI-generated images yet. The company notes that the model helps keep images clear of artifacts and improves on areas of image generation that such tools have struggled with until now.

In addition, Google says it has made "significant investments" in Imagen 2 training data safety while adding guardrails to "limit problematic outputs like violent, offensive or sexually explicit content as well as applying filters to reduce the risk of generating images of named individuals." This is due to the model's upgraded ability to generate photorealistic images. The company claims it also carries out "extensive adversarial testing" to detect and clamp down on potentially problematic and harmful content.

Elsewhere, Gemini Pro in Bard is more broadly available starting today. It's now accessible in more than 40 languages and north of 230 countries and territories. Also as of today, Google says people in most countries can generate images in Bard in English for free. These images will include SynthID watermarks.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Instagram will start telling night owl teens to close the app and go to sleep

Instagram has revealed its latest mindfulness feature targeted at teens. When a younger user scrolls for more than 10 minutes in the likes of Reels or their direct messages, the app will suggest that they close the app and get to bed.

These "Nighttime Nudges" will automatically appear on teens' accounts and it won't be possible to switch them off. Instagram didn't specify whether the feature will be enabled for all teenagers or only under-18s. 

The idea, according to Instagram, is to give teens who aren't already using features such as Take a Break reminders to close the app for the night. "We want teens to leave Instagram feeling like the time they spend on the app is meaningful and intentional, and we know sleep is particularly important for young people," Instagram said.

The new tool follows other features Instagram has rolled out to help teens and their parents manage time spent on the app. Along with Take a Break and parental supervision features, this includes the likes of Quiet Mode. The latter enables teens to mute notifications, automatically reply to messages and let their friends and followers know that they're unavailable and doing something else, such as studying or sleeping.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Scientists extract the sharpest image of a black hole yet

Black holes are one of the most powerful forces in the universe, but we had never seen one until the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team released the first image back in 2019. Now, the EHT Collaboration has released the most detailed image yet of the same M87 black hole, created with the aid of an additional telescope, that better displays the insane physics behind these supermassive objects. 

The first image was captured in 2017 (it takes a long time to process the data) using eight high-altitude telescopes from locations including Chile and Antarctica. The complex technique required the synchronization of atomic clocks, use of the Earth's rotation and processing of petabytes of RAW telescope data. The result was slightly fuzzy, but clearly showed the expected "donut" with the black hole at the center and accretion disk made of matter inhaled from nearby stars. 

However, the EHT collaboration captured another image a year later using an additional telescope in Greenland. That "significantly" improved the image fidelity, particularly in the north-south direction, according to the EHT. One of the original platforms, The Large Millimeter Telescope, also gained sensitivity by using its full 50 meter surface for the first time. The teams also introduced new data analysis techniques that boosted accuracy.

The result is a sharper and brighter image that also clearly shows the Doppler/Einstein effects that cause a black hole to appear to be brighter on one side. That bright spot actually shifted to the right between the capture of the two images. 

"The biggest change, that the brightness peak shifted around the ring, is actually something we predicted when we published the first results in 2019," said Dr. Britt Jeter from Taiwan's ASIAA. "While general relativity says the ring size should stay pretty fixed, the emission from the turbulent, messy accretion disk around the black hole will cause the brightest part of the ring to wobble around a common center. The amount of wobble we see over time is something we can use to test our theories for the magnetic field and plasma environment around the black hole."

The new image also shows that the science behind the image technique is sound and reproduceable. "Confirmation of the ring in a completely new data set is a huge milestone for our collaboration and a strong indication that we are looking at a black hole shadow and the material orbiting around it," said Dr. Keiichi Asada from ASIAA. 

The EHT Collaboration will continue to advance the science with new observations set for the first half of 2024. At that time, scientists hope to capture multiple images to create the first "video" of a black hole to show its chaotic movements. As before, it could take several years (and the participation of many scientists) to get the final result. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at