Technological World for July 15: Bye-bye Clearview AI, hello Photoshop Camera, Paper Mario: The Origami King, Ghost of Tsushima

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, the Photoshop Camera for mobile devices from Adobe, Paper Mario: The Origami King, and Ghost of Tsushima. But first, facial recognition service Clearview AI has left Canada.

Update at 10 p.m. PT, 2020-07-15: Hackers appear to swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars in Twitter hack

Clearview AI no longer operating in Canada

The technology company, which provides facial recognition services to law enforcement, government agencies, and even retailers, has exited Canada.

Toronto police forces, the Department of National Defence, Rexall, and Via Rail were all customers at one point.

The technology reportedly only pulled image data from the internet, but privacy commissions across Canada, including Alberta, B.C., and Quebec, in addition to the federal commission, are continuing their investigations.

Canadians can choose to opt out of the Clearview AI database of images. But you have to send them a photo of yourself in order to do so.

Adobe Photoshop Camera software comes to mobile devices

Adobe, the software company behind Photoshop, Illustrator, and so many other design apps, has released a camera app for mobile devices.

Adobe Photoshop Camera gives you easy access to backgrounds and filters, which Adobe calls “lenses”. You can apply these to your photos when you take them, or afterwards.

Artists and photographers are also creating other filters that you can add to your lens library. “Astrophotographer” Jaxson Pohlman, for example, has created a couple of lenses that will enhance your night sky photos.

The Photoshop Camera is now available for Android and iOS.

Nintendo’s Mario flattens out with The Origami King

Nintendo’s got a way of taking its franchises and doing something different with them every time. With Paper Mario the conceit is that everything is made of paper, and the world and its characters know it.

In the Origami King, the bad guys are the usual enemies which have been folded up and brainwashed by the titular ruler. Mario straightens them out by engaging in turn-based puzzle combat, in which he stomps on or pounds enemies to flatten them out into proper two-dimensional creatures.

As Mario navigates this paper world, he has to repair holes in the landscape that expose the wire framework upon which it was constructed. To do this he needs to collect confetti, which he then throws onto the holes to patch them.

I enjoyed exploring the world and searching for collectibles more than the combat, which involves you rotating the rings of a circle in order to line up enemies for grouped attacks. It’s a clumsy mechanic that breaks the paper theme.

But it doesn’t destroy the game, which is a typical, cute affair that is winking at itself the entire time.

Paper Mario: The Origami King releases on Friday, exclusively on the Nintendo Switch.

Beautiful Ghost of Tsushima makes it fun to be a samurai

This role-playing adventure game, a PS4 exclusive from Sony’s Sucker Punch Studios, turns players into a samurai on Tsushima Island, an archipelago between what is today Korea and Japan.

Ghost of Tsushima is an open world game, and plays much like the Assassin’s Creed series. You’ll roam the countryside, often on horseback, encountering enemies, helping the locals, and collecting resources that can be used to upgrade your weapons and gear.

In becoming samurai Jin Sakai, players find themselves in 1274, when the Mongol Empire’s Kublai Khan invaded Tsushima as a way to conquer Japan.

The combat is delicious. You switch between different stances depending on what enemy type you’re battling, and using the katana, timing cuts and parries, is particularly delightful. You’ll also use stealth and ranged weapons.

And I’m not mincing words by calling this game beautiful. The art style, which is like an oil painting come to life, is exquisite, and the animations are colourful and fluid.

While you’d be forgiven thinking this game is an Assassin’s Creed title, Sucker Punch does have some lovely touches. Rather than following a mini-map on the screen, you follow the wind, which blows in the direction you need to travel.

There’s also a nod to Japanese culture in how you can seek out shinto shrines and meditation spots where you’ll compose haiku.

But that’s where Ghost of Tsushima is problematic. The developers have admitted they were careful in how they created the game, knowing that appropriation was something to be mindful about. While that explains the tone of the game, it doesn’t excuse it.

Ghost romanticizes the notion of the Japanese samurai in a way that only a group of white, Western Kurosawa fans could. The way the characters talk about codes of honour becomes quite tiresome after a while.

At least the actors playing the major characters are Japanese. Daisuke Tsuji, as the protagonist Jin Sakai, is excellent, taking an understated approach to the role.

That said, I’m going to continue playing Ghost of Tsushima, because I love the world that’s been created, and becoming a powerful samurai is something I enjoy doing. But I’m aware at all times that this isn’t history, it’s only a game.

Update at 8:50 a.m., 2020-07-16: Japanese reviewers of the game, who are able to be more critical than I about how Ghost of Tsushima represents Japanese culture and history, seem to be okay with what Sucker Punch has done here, according to Kotaku’s Brian Ashcraft, who has been living in Osaka since 2001. I still think the game romanticizes the role of samurai, but this is a power fantasy after all.

Update at 9:40 a.m., 2020-07-24: Writing for Polygon, Kazuma Hashimoto validates my concerns about romanticizing samurai: “It feels like it was made by outsiders looking into an otherwise complex culture through the flattening lens of an old black-and-white film. The gameplay is slick and the hero moments are grand, but the game lacks the nuance and understanding of what it ultimately tries to reference.” I’m still enjoying the game, though, for moments of quiet beauty and episodes of visceral sword fighting.

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