This week, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is serializing a new novel online, Side Door brings concerts into your home, I’m playing The Last of Us Part II, Epistory uses typing as a video-game mechanic, and Minecraft Dungeons is a new way to play. But first, LG’s new OLED televisions will take your breath away.
LG’s new OLED televisions are the best you can get right now
For the past couple of years, LG’s line of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) televisions have been at the top of the list for home screens.
The 2020 models are even better, and if you can afford one, the LG CX line is the best screen you can get right now.
I’ve had one in my house for the past couple of weeks, and while I’ve watched things on LG’s earlier OLED televisions, I am impressed with the picture quality on the 55CX.
OLED screens are notable for the perfect blacks and rich colours that they can generate, and the high dynamic range (HDR) feature brings uncanny detail and texture to video.
But the CX improves on all that with technology to improve the responsiveness of the screen. Notably, it has variable refresh rate (VRR) functionality that allows the television to automatically adjust the rate at which it updates the picture on the screen.
This is excellent news for video game players because it means the CX will change from 30 Hz to 60 Hz without any image jitter.
In addition to that, the “a9 Gen 3 AI Processor 4K” in LG’s 2020 OLEDs takes regular images and upscales them so they display at closer to 4K quality.
The approach to using motion smoothing to prevent blurring – which is despised by filmmakers – is also addressed with the CX in the form of “Filmmaker Mode”, which disables all the post-processing effects that might be done by the television system.
The LG 2020 OLEDs are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, it’s got Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant built in, and you can install streaming apps including Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, and YouTube (but not Crave).
The three sizes of LG’s CX series are:
- 55: as low as $2,600
- 65: as low as $3,800
- 77: $7,000
LG Canada also sent me one of the new LG Soundbars (SN9YG) to use with the CX, and while the dialogue was a bit muddy in some cases, the 5.1.2 soundbar easily filled the house with sound and the subwoofer made sure we felt the bass. You can pair two wireless speakers to turn this into a 7.1.2 system.
Harry Potter author Rowling publishing new novel for free online
J.K. Rowling knows that the various isolation protocols in place around the world have been particularly difficult for kids. So she’s giving them – and us – a novel to help keep us busy.
The Ickabog has nothing to do with Harry Potter, although Rowling admits to having written early drafts while she was writing those books.
So what is it about? According to Rowling, “The Ickabog is a story about truth and the abuse of power. To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.”
She’s publishing between one and three chapters daily to the website; so far five chapters of the new novel have been published.
And while The Ickabog is being serialized for free online, it will be published in print later this year. Rowling is donating her royalties to “groups who’ve been particularly impacted by the pandemic”.
And she’s asking children to create illustrations based on the story. Publishers in each territory where the book will be published are staging competitions to select artwork to be used in the final print edition.
Parents of Canadian children can submit illustrations to Scholastic.
Winners will receive a signed copy of the book and a $650 USD donation of books “to the school or library of the winner’s choice”.
Music concerts at home with Side Door
There have been a lot of free performances being offered by artists in the past months, but Canadian business Side Door expects that music fans who are used to paying for concert events are willing to spend a few bucks for an online event.
Founded by Vancouver musician Dan Mangan and Nova Scotia promoter Laura Simpson, Side Door got its start matching touring musicians with non-traditional venues and hosts. Like your backyard or living room.
With in-person gatherings being restricted, Side Door is offering artists the chance to stage live-stream concerts for audiences around the world.
Tickets for the performances range from $5 to around $15 (the artists set their own prices).
Upcoming shows include
- Hush on May 28
- International Folk Music Awards artist of the year in 2017 Ordinary Elephant on May 28
- Fred Penner on May 30
- Hey Ocean on May 30
- Moscow Apartment on May 30
I’m playing The Last of Us Part II and you’re not
That’s all I can say about that right now.
But if you want to see more of the game, earlier today director Neil Druckmann from Naughty Dog previewed the experience on Playstation’s latest State of Play. You can watch it here.
Epistory makes learning to type fun and engaging
One of the things I’ve got my kids doing while they’re doing their schooling at home is keyboarding (it was called typing in my childhood).
Once they’d learned all about the home row and the basics had begun to automate in them, I needed something to get them practicing. Retyping pages from books just didn’t seem to work, but thankfully I’ve found something better.
Epistory is lovely little adventure game where players need to type words in order to damage the insect creatures that attack them.
The story is relevant: players help a writer overcome writer’s block by collecting sentence fragments and story elements.
Epistory is adaptive, too, so if you are a skilled typist the game will make it more difficult than it would be for beginners. And the game has been localized for different languages and keyboard layouts.
You do need to have the basics of typing learned, or Epistory will be frustrating. But once you’ve got the hang of it, there’s lots to reveal here.
Minecraft Dungeons a new way to play in the world of blocks
Minecraft is already the best-selling video game of all time (with over 200 million copies sold), and there are millions of kids playing it these days while they are in isolation mode.
Minecraft Dungeons puts gamers into the world in the context of an action adventure, a completely new way to play. In Dungeons, you can play with up to three friends – couch co-op or online – roaming around a Minecraft world, fighting enemies (called “mobs” in Minecraft), collecting treasure, and exploring dungeons.
It’s a game created in the spirit of dungeon crawling adventures of old, and it’s designed so that kids who may be new to this kind of game can easily pick it up and play. Diablo fans may find Minecraft Dungeons a bit limited, but if you can set your expectations accordingly, it’s a delightful game to play.
And because this is Minecraft, although it’s owned by Microsoft, Dungeons is available on the Nintendo Switch and PS4, too. Cross-platform play isn’t available yet, but it is planned.