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Get Ready for Targeted Ads on Your Smart TV

Disney, Comcast, NBCUniversal, and other top media companies have teamed up with VIZIO for a new standard that will bring targeted ads to television viewers. VIZIO, which recently lost $2.2 million after being caught tracking and selling viewing data using software on its Smart TVs, claims targeted ads, which are "relevant" to the household, will "drastically enhance" the viewing experience.

The companies are calling themselves a consortium, and they've dubbed this "Project OAR," or Open Addressable Ready. Once developed, the new, open standard will make it possible for all connected TV companies to sell targeted ads in scheduled and on-demand programs. While this will theoretically make ads more successful and therefore more valuable, it also means viewers' data will be shared with third parties. That raises the usual data privacy concerns.

Posted by Megalith March 17, 2019 2:45 PM (CDT)

This Is Probably the Movie Version of Sonic the Hedgehog

Nightmare fuel: ad agency Hamagami/Carroll Inc. has published what appears to be the final design of Sonic for his silver-screen debut, and according to most fans, it’s every bit as disappointing as the teaser posters hinted at. One complaint is that the blue blur’s body appears far too human, highlighting the uncomfortable fact he’s a naked hedgehog. Creator Yuji Naka thinks it sucks, and fans have been busy sharing better edits.

By 2019 standards, the face isn’t terrible! But the whole thighs/hips region is very uncomfortable to look at. It doesn’t look like HCI were responsible for the redesign of the character himself; their work is detailed as having been tasked with producing a new universal packaging and marketing scheme, where all the different "types" of Sonic—like "Classic Sonic, Modern Sonic, Film Sonic [and] Animation Sonic"—can be presented the same way.

Posted by Megalith March 09, 2019 1:30 PM (CST)

NVIDIA: RTX GPUs, High-Refresh-Rate Monitors Can Improve Your Kill-Death Ratio

If only to convince gamers to upgrade their GPUs and displays, NVIDIA has published new data supporting the obvious idea that better hardware improves player performance in Battle Royale titles such as Fortnite and Apex Legends. Essentially, players who can manage 144 fps score significantly higher than those limited to 60 fps: the company’s graphs suggest its RTX cards can increase K/D ratio by as much as 53%, while playing on 240 Hz and 144 Hz monitors can improve K/D ratio by 34% and 51%, respectively.

NVIDIA used more than a million sample points collected via anonymous GeForce Experience data, and then analyzed the data (which means no AMD cards). Specifically, NVIDIA is looking at player performance in two popular battle royale games: PUBG and Fortnite. How do you quantify player performance? NVIDIA looked at kill/death ratio and matched that up with number of hours played per week, then finally broke that down into graphics hardware and monitor refresh rate. NVIDIA limited its analysis to 1080p, which provides for the highest refresh rates and also serves to normalize things a bit.

Posted by Megalith March 09, 2019 10:05 AM (CST)

Got a Spare $43,000? You Could Spend It All on This Monster Gaming PC

OverclockersUK is selling a gaming PC that costs almost as much as a Tesla Model 3: for $43,000, filthy rich enthusiasts get a tower that is actually two systems in one, comprising three NVIDIA Titan RTX GPUs, a liquid-cooled and overclocked 18C/36T Intel Core i9-7890XE and 8C/8T i9-9700K, 144GB of DDR4 RAM, eight 2TB Samsung SSDs, and a 2000W power supply. Handle with care, UPS.

For those of us who fantasize about the dream PC we’ll buy as soon as our lottery numbers come up, here’s an option to consider: the OrionX2 from OverclockersUK. It costs the equivalent of just over $43,000, or around 20 high-end gaming PCs. 43 grand is, of course, an awful lot of money for a computer, but this isn’t your everyday PC. Designed by overclocking champion Ian "8Pack" Parry, the OrionX2 is actually two overclocked systems packed into one case, making it a workstation/gaming machine combo.

Posted by Megalith February 23, 2019 2:25 PM (CST)

Apple Will Reportedly Launch a Credit Card This Year

Apple will be giving iPhone users the courage to spend money they may not have with a new credit card developed in partnership with Goldman Sachs. Slated for release later this year, "the Apple Pay card will integrate with Apple's Wallet app bringing with it extra features including money, debt, and rewards management tools." The joint card will use Mastercard’s payment network and offer a cash back of about 2 percent on most purchases.

[Goldman is] reportedly splashing $200 million on the card's back end infrastructure, from customer-support call centers to an internal system to handle payments. Cardholder perks will apparently include cash back of about 2 percent on most purchases and possibly even more on Apple's devices and services, which the tech giant is set to expand courtesy of an incoming news subscription service and a video streaming platform. The card will use Mastercard's payment network, which is second only to Visa in the US, according to WSJ.

Posted by Megalith February 23, 2019 10:30 AM (CST)

How Facebook Tracks Your Ovulation and Heart Rate Through Apps

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that apps are sending sensitive information to Facebook through the Facebook SDK. The Facebook SDK makes it easy for app writers to share information with Facebook through a built-in analytics service called "App Events." 17.6% of the apps on Apple's App Store and 25.4% of the apps on the Google Play Store use the Facebook SDK. These apps are collecting your data to "allow apps to better understand their users' behavior or to collect data to sell targeted advertising." Facebook says it didn't know that health information was being collected and shared as this is violates their policies. Facebook collects the information for market research and advertising campaigns. Users do not even need a Facebook account for their information to be shared with the social media giant. Some of the apps analyzed by The Wall Street Journal shared information such as weight, height, women's period, length of cycle, ovulation, heart rate, when women desire to get pregnant, location and prices of home listings; including which were marked as favorites. Other information shared include; unique advertising identifier that can be matched to a device or profile, email address, which part of the body a person has issues with in regards to weight loss and many other interactions. Within seconds of entering information into an app, Facebook is sent a copy of the information. "Facebook can often match that data with actual Facebook users."

Facebook said some of the data sharing uncovered by the Journal's testing appeared to violate its business terms, which instruct app developers not to send it "health, financial information or other categories of sensitive information." Facebook said it is telling apps flagged by the Journal to stop sending information its users might regard as sensitive. The company said it may take additional action if the apps don't comply. "We require app developers to be clear with their users about the information they are sharing with us," a Facebook spokeswoman said. She said Facebook automatically deletes some sensitive data it might receive, such as Social Security numbers.

Posted by cageymaru February 22, 2019 2:59 PM (CST)

NASA Wants to Return to the Moon as Early as This Year

Some are calling it a fantasy, but following a partnership with several private spaceflight companies, NASA believes it could return to the lunar surface as early as this year. The goal this time is establishing a settlement and practicing "in-situ resource utilization": that is, "commercial lunar partners will work on how to mine and recycle resources on the moon and make them available for future mission use." Hydrogen and oxygen from extracted water could be used to power rockets, for instance.

All these commercial endeavors would also need to integrate with NASA’s planned Lunar Gateway. This would be a space station in orbit around the moon that would serve as Grand Central Station for robotic or crewed missions to the lunar surface, or even for deep space missions. NASA hopes to open the Gateway by 2026, with the first power and propulsion elements entering orbit in 2022.

Posted by Megalith February 17, 2019 11:05 AM (CST)

Razer Shutting Its Digital Game Store This Month, Less than a Year after It Opened

That didn’t last long: Razer has announced its game store would "cease operations on February 28, 2019 at 0100hrs Pacific Time as part of the company’s realignment plans." The store originally opened in April 2018, less than a year ago. Games will still be offered through the company’s virtual credits and loyalty rewards system, Razer Gold and Silver.

"It has been a privilege for us to recommend and deliver great digital game deals to you," it said. "We have been extremely fortunate to have you as part of our awesome community. Thank you for the support and making all this possible." Razer will still fulfill any pre-orders made through the store, and any games you've already bought will work as long as you retrieve the keys -- either Steam or Uplay -- before February 28.

Posted by Megalith February 17, 2019 10:05 AM (CST)

"I Don't Want Your Respect": NetherRealm Responds to Mortal Kombat "Going Woke"

There is a growing subset of Mortal Kombat fans who aren’t pleased with the artistic direction in which NetherRealm Studios is taking series. Specifically, they allege the female roster has had their "sex appeal" taken away, a controversy that was reignited this week after NetherRealm revealed a ghastly looking, covered-up Jade. NetherRealm’s community manager has punched back against one fan who called it "disgusting" and how the developer should make the girls "sexy" in order to earn his "money and respect," calling such comments "truly awful." Even female gamers are beginning to agree the characters have been "censored," however.

@Draka_: For a "community manager" you don't seem to get how this thing called "community" works and how ridiculously godawful your communications skills are. If you start acting butthurt bc of one negative comment, you ain't exactly helpful to the "community" or the company you represent. @laope_: Gore = Core Values, CG tiddies = TOO OFFENSIVE! @irxson: You don't want your customers respect? I'm less inclined to buy the game now. Of course I will wait and see but I have to agree, Character designs are bad and I loved the older designs, my favorites being from MK9. It is sad to see the team is not going to consider our feedback.

Posted by Megalith February 16, 2019 1:05 PM (CST)

This Website Uses AI to Generate the Faces of People Who Don't Exist

Will the real-life version of Skynet model its Terminators after real people? That’s up in the air, as currently existing AI is already capable of crafting convincing faces all on its own. Software developer Philip Wang has launched a website called thispersondoesnotexist that proves this, allowing visitors to generate incredibly convincing but falsified human heads on every page refresh with the help of a powerful GPU and NVIDIA machine learning code. "I have it dream up a random face every two seconds, and display that to the world in a scalable fashion," Wang says. "Nothing fancy."

The website uses an implementation of machine learning known as Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs. These programs "learn" from a large number of training inputs -- say, real human faces -- in order to produce new examples. uses code previously released by Nvidia researchers on GitHub. "Most people do not understand how good AIs will be at synthesizing images in the future," website creator and software developer Philip Wang told me in an email.

Posted by Megalith February 16, 2019 11:00 AM (CST)

Your Privacy and Data are Different Things

Scandals from social media companies and tech giants seem to make the headlines every day, and stories of data breaches or serious vulnerabilities follow right behind them. The publicity is prompting lots of talk about the value of privacy, but a recent article from NBC highlights a critical point in that argument: data is not the same thing as privacy. A smartphone that spies on its owner may represent a breach of privacy, for example, but Aza Raskin points out that tech company don't even need to cross that line to send creepy ads. He says "isn't it more creepy that they can predict what you're talking about without listening in? It's this little model of you. You are super predictable to these platforms. It’s about persuasion and prediction, not privacy." In other words, maybe consumers should be less worried about how tech companies are breaching their privacy, at instead take a closer look at just what predictive models and applications they're building with the mountain of data they already have.

"Privacy as we normally think of it doesn’t matter," said Aza Raskin, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. "What these companies are doing is building little models, little avatars, little voodoo dolls of you. Your doll sits in the cloud, and they'll throw 100,000 videos at it to see what's effective to get you to stick around, or what ad with what messaging is uniquely good at getting you to do something."

Posted by alphaatlas February 06, 2019 12:18 PM (CST)

Apple: You Can't Sue Us for Slowing Down Your iPhones Because We're "Contractors"

Apple is in the process of defending itself from a class-action lawsuit alleging they intentionally slowed down processors with an iOS update, but desperation appears to be growing based on their legal team’s newest defense on why they shouldn’t have to pay up. In what is described as a "bizarre" argument, lawyers say Apple is essentially a building contractor: a typical job (iPhone) may involve excessive destruction (degraded hardware), but initial consent (user agreeing to updates) pardons the contractor from such liabilities.

Apple is like a building contractor you hire to redo your kitchen, the tech giant has argued in an attempt to explain why it shouldn't have to pay customers for slowing down their iPhones. Addressing a bunch of people trying to sue it for damages, the iGiant's lawyers told a California court this month: "Plaintiffs are like homeowners who have let a building contractor into their homes to upgrade their kitchens, thus giving permission for the contractor to demolish and change parts of the houses." They went on: "Any claim that the contractor caused excessive damage in the process sounds in contract, not trespass."

Posted by Megalith February 03, 2019 1:40 PM (CST)