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Categories Consumer technology |

Amazon’s just announced new Fire TVs, some of which turn your living room into an art gallery.

Amazon building out Fire TV lineup with new sizes and pricing

Amazon has been providing streaming video hardware since 2014, starting with USB sticks that you’d plug into your dumb television to make it smart. In 2021, the company started shipping televisions manufactured on their behalf with the software built in.

The business is strong enough that last year, Amazon upped the quality with the Omni QLED line of premium sets. Starting today, three new sizes – 43”, 50”, and 55” – join the 65” and 75” screens.

The 4K devices have quantum dot technology and support for high-dynamic range and Dolby Vision. Prices start at $600 and top out at $1,500.

Amazon has also released a new, budget line, the 2-series, which comes in two sizes, 32” ($270) and 40” ($340). The former is limited to 720p resolution, while the latter gets to true HD with a 1080p picture. Both sets have high-dynamic range ability.

This is all in addition to the Omni UHD and 4-Series lines from Amazon.

Why your television makes for a nice frame for streaming art

One of the features of Amazon’s Omni QLED televisions is an “ambient experience”, which refers to how the screen gets used when you’re not actively watching something.

With the built-in “presence sensor”, the hardware knows when a person is in the room, and it can display widgets with information like appointments and the weather. You can also leave a sticky note on the display with messages for others in your household.

And, just like LG has “gallery mode” and Samsung has an entire television, the Frame designed around displaying art, the Omni QLED will show you art, too.

The collection includes some 1,700 images, including from masters like Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Seurat. Want to know the name of the art you’re seeing and who painted it? Just ask Alexa.

And in collaboration with artist Sam Stubblefield, there’s a dynamic art experience coming to the Omni QLED that provides moving images that are created based on an algorithm that considers location data like sunrise, wind speed and direction, and temperature.

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Categories Video games |

Board game Catan translates well to a TV screen, more PS VR2 gaming experiences, and getting ready for the RE4 and Diablo IV demos.

Popular board game Catan literally comes to life on console

It’s not easy taking a board game and putting it on a screen, but Dovetail Games has done a pretty good job translating Catan for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.

The Console Edition replicates the board game experience exactly, with players needing to build and trade their way to victory by collecting and managing resources.

The game can be played with up to four people, either together on the same console, on different systems, or online with strangers or in private matches. You can adapt settings so the system gets things set up for you or you can design the board your way.

(The Deluxe Edition of the game adds five board layouts that were used in previous world championships.)

At first I wasn’t sure how it would work with the cards that you need to have in your hand. You can view your cards on the screen, but doing so reveals them to your opponents and you can only look at them when it’s your turn.

And then I discovered the second screen function, which gives you a QR code you can use with your smartphone and it puts the cards in your hand on your handset.

It can be a little difficult at times to see what your opponents are doing, especially when you’re playing against the computer and things move fast. But there’s no clock here, so you can take all the time you need to survey the board and refine your strategy.

I’ve gone through periods where I’m very into playing Catan, and can’t get anyone in my house to play with me, so the ability to play with computer opponents is great. I’ve discovered that they annoy me just as much as real people do when playing against me.

Catan: Console Edition is a fantastic new way to enjoy one of the best board games created.

PS VR2 games we played this week: Swords, motorbikes, and monsters

Here’s what the household stepped into this week.

Altair Breaker

A sword fighting game set in a world that is futuristic and medieval at the same time.


You become Mina, who needs to escape a city on a motorcycle, and armed with guns and grenades.

Resident Evil: Village

If you thought Resident Evil Village was scary when you were playing it on the television screen, imagine how those jump scares translate when you’re in VR. Yeah, it’s terrifying.

The PS VR2 version of Village is available to people who have the Gold Edition of the game in their PS5 library.

Demo for Resident Evil 4

Originally released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2005, Resident Evil 4 is being updated by Capcom for PS4, PS5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S.

The full game releases on March 24, and features special agent Leon Kennedy, on a mission to save the daughter of the President of the United States from a cult. But you can play the first part of the game now by downloading the “Chainsaw Demo,” which drops Leon into a strange European village.

RE4 was important and influential. As a Resident Evil game it left some of the horror behind in favour of third-person shooter mechanics, but kept much of the resource management that has been so much a part of the franchise.

Diablo IV open beta runs this weekend and next

The next two weekends are your chance to get an early look at Diablo IV, the next level action role-playing dungeon crawler from Blizzard.

The game, coming to PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S, officially releases on June 6, but people who snagged themselves a code for the early access, or those who have preordered the game, can begin levelling up starting on Friday, March 17, at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

That first beta ends on Monday, March 20 at noon, but another pre-release session begins on Friday, March 24 at 9:00 a.m. PT and running through until noon on Monday, March 27.

That second beta is open to everyone.

One the first weekend, only the barbarian, rogue and sorcerer are available classes to choose from. The druid and necromancer will be added to the roster for the second weekend.

You’ll only be able to play up to level 25 and note that you will not be able to transfer your progress over to the final version of the game. So enjoy yourself, but don’t get too invested in that character.

You can learn more about what the Diablo IV beta will bring at the Blizzard blog.

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Categories Consumer technology |

If you’re in the Lower Mainland and you’re looking for something to do with the kids during spring break, you should check out Syncra, which is currently installed in the Croatian Cultural Centre on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

The space is dark, with projectors everywhere displaying graffiti-like images, lights flashing, and electronic dance music pulsing through speakers throughout the space.

What you soon realize is that the lights are strobing in conjunction with the music.

And you can interact with all of it.

Scattered in Syncra are boxes with levers and dials and switches, and you can use them to manipulate the entire experience. You can change the pitch or compression on the music or alter the colour or shape of the lights. There are a couple of areas where you can move around and sensors will detect your movement and translate it into digital images on screens.

There are illusions to see and games to play and a few places where you can immortalize yourself in a distorted image that you can download on a smartphone using a QR code that is generated after your picture is taken.

It’s a fun way to spend some time with the kids and I bet older kids are having even more fun here with their friends later in the evening. There’s a counter where you can buy food and drinks if you want to spend a longer time in the space.

Syncra is running until March 26. Get your tickets here.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift, Shane Hewitt and I talked about Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, Jurassic World Aftermath, Tentacular, Tetris Effect Connected VR, Thumper, Starfield’s new release date, Mario Day, International Women’s Day’s Embrace Equity campaign, and the new yellow iPhone 14.

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