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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Google brings the Lookout app to Canada as MEC drops its iPhone app, Beats 1 becomes Apple Music 1 and renamed EA Play and Prime Gaming, Archer: Danger Phone is a great way to waste time, Tell Me Why centres a transgender character in a video game story.

Lookout app comes to Canada for Android users

Android users in Canada with visual impairments are now able to use Google’s Lookout app, which uses smartphone cameras to collect information which it then shares with users verbally.

Users can have Lookout identify packaged foods in a store, for example. Or take a photo of a document so your smartphone can read it to you.

Lookout also works in French, Italian, German, and Spanish.

MEC killing its iPhone app

While some companies are falling over themselves to create smartphone apps, Mountain Equipment Co-op is getting rid of theirs.

On September 15, the MEC iPhone app will stop working and customers will be sent to the website instead.

It’s actually a smart business move because maintaining both a smartphone app and a website can be costly. As long as the website is created to be a positive experience on a mobile device, there’s no need to have both.

All the name changes coming to media companies near you

There are a lot of services that are getting name changes in the coming weeks. Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered!

Beats 1 becomes Apple Music 1

Apple has been slowly fading out the Beats brand and this is one of the last steps. Buh-bye Beats, hello Apple Music Radio.

Not only is Beats 1 being retired, but Apple is launching two new radio stations: Apple Music Hits and Apple Music Country.

One of the hosts of the former is Canada’s own George Stroumboulopoulos.

Strombo’s show which debuted on August 18, broadcasts from Toronto and he’s already showed his knowledge of rock history with segments featuring Alanis Morissette and Jagged Little Pill, the Ramones, and the bad blood between Blur and Oasis.

One listener praised his juxtaposition of Killers with Men Without Hats.

As for Apple Music Country, I will acknowledge that it’s a thing and there are people who will appreciate it. Nuff said.

EA renames game subscription services to EA Play

Video game developer and publisher Electronic Arts was one of the first companies to offer a subscription service for gaming. It was a bit piecemeal, though, with EA Access originally only available on Xbox and Origin Access providing games to computer players.

Well, EA is simplifying all this under the EA Play brand. The subscription service is now available on PlayStation, Xbox, EA’s Origin platform, and Steam.

For $30 a year, EA Play gives you early access to “select new releases for up to 10 hours of play time”, unlimited access to older games, and a discount on EA games.

EA Play Pro, which is only available on the Origin platform, costs $100 a year, and lifts the 10-hour limit on the new releases.

EA’s annual celebration of gaming that has coincided with the E3 trade show in L.A. is to be named EA Play Live.

Twitch Prime becomes Prime Gaming

Twitch, the video game video streaming service, was acquired by Amazon in 2014, and now the company aligns the brand with its other Prime properties.

Prime Gaming is available to all Amazon Prime members, and bestows in-game content, free Windows games, and a subscription to the Twitch channel.

You’ll love wasting time with Archer: Danger Phone

Developed in Vancouver by East Side Games, Danger Phone is based on the hilarious adult cartoon, Archer (FX Networks).

The mobile game, which has you collecting and assigning resources in an attempt to mine “Kriegerrands”, a digital currency conceived by Krieger, the research and development employee of the show’s spy agency.

All of the usual suspects are here, too. Archer, Lana, and Archer’s mother, Malory, are the key characters, but the entire supporting cast, in all their weird guises, also feature. You unlock them by accumulating and redeeming various collectibles.

They’re all involved in the wacky schemes and double crosses that make up the story elements, and that’s what elevates Danger Phone above other incremental games: the writing absolutely nails the snarky tone of the television show.

In addition to the main story about a global financial meltdown that’s spinning out over time, there are regular short-term events that span a day or a weekend. These are variant stories set in different environments – a space ship or arctic research station – and they pit you against other players to see who can collect the most in-game cash, with tiered rewards going to the top earners.

You can spend real money to progress the story faster, but you don’t need to. You can also watch short advertisements to double the amounts of currencies you collect. Again, you don’t need to.

In fact, I’d suggest that to stretch out the experience and make it last longer, you shouldn’t. Just load it up a couple of times a day for a few minutes to get a few laughs and collect your cash.

Archer: Danger Phone is available for Android and iOS

Twins make for interesting characters in the transgender story of Tell Me Why

Tell Me Why is a new narrative game about family secrets and the difficulty of coming home that transcends genre by putting a transgender character at the centre of the experience.

Set in Alaska, the three-chapter story features transgender Tyler and his twin sister Alyson traveling to the remote, rural home where they grew up to get it prepared for sale. It’s been ten years since they left under traumatic circumstances, and the two are understandably unsure what will surface on their return.

While there, they rediscover what it means that they are twins, and they realize that what happened in that place is not quite what they remember. As they explore the truth of it all, as the player you decide what their relationship will become depending on how you act.

Tell Me Why comes from Dontnod, the studio that created the Life is Strange series that explored high school students coming of age. This is similar in how it plays, with you controlling one of the two characters at a time, moving through the environments and choosing what to look at, who to talk to, and how to respond.

In addition to unabashedly including a transgender character, Dontnod’s development process was distinguishable in how people from represented populations were consulted, including GLAAD and members of the Tlingit Indigenous culture that is also part of the fabric of the game.

The story is told with great respect and sensitivity to the point that Tyler’s deadname, or birth name, is not used anywhere in the game. And to make sure that everyone can be comfortable playing, the developers have published answers to questions that, while spoiling aspects of the game, may be important to know. Whether Tyler is ever misgendered, for example.

Tell Me Why is a serial for Windows and Xbox One. The first chapter is available now, chapter two releases on September 3, with chapter coming on September 10.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, get a deal on a new Apple computer or tablet, updates to the driving navigation app, Waze, and Fall Guys is a new last-player-standing game that is ridiculous fun. But first, a look at the new Galaxy Note20 smartphone from Samsung.

Samsung steps it up with Galaxy Note20 smartphone

For the past week and a bit, I’ve been test driving the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G from Samsung. It’s the larger of the Note20 devices with a luxurious 6.9-inch display, and it’s available with 128 GB of capacity ($1,820) or 512 GB ($2,030).

The standard Note20 has a 6.7-inch screen and is available with 128 GB of storage ($1,400).

The camera features on these smartphones are superb, but the biggest upgrade on the Note20 Ultra is to the main wide-angle camera, which boasts a 108 megapixel lens. It can also record 8K video and gives you control over things like ISO, shutter speed, and focus. And for super smooth slo-mo, you can shoot 120 frames per second.

Those lenses come at a cost, though, which in the Note20 Ultra is a bump that cannot be ignored. This smartphone cannot rest flat on its back as a result and it will catch when you try and take it out of pockets and purses.

The reason to opt for one of Samsung’s Note devices rather than the flagship “S” smartphone is because you want the stylus, and the full-featured accessory is just as useful as ever. You can use it to tap, as a remote control to operate a number of different apps including the camera, and to write notes.

If you’re using it for handwriting, you’ll appreciate that the latency in the S Pen is lower than ever and you won’t have to wait for your writing to appear on the screen. And the Samsung Notes app does a better job than any other similar software in reading handwriting and converting it to typewritten text that can be searched and organized into folders. You can even annotate PDFs.

It’s easy to use for note taking, too, given the Note20 Ultra’s size. And this smartphone is all screen, wrapping around on the sides and an imperceptible bezel on the top and bottom. The AMOLED and HDR display is a delight for watching videos and gaming.

You may be able to get used to the camera bump, but you won’t need any getting used to the screen.

Apple’s annual pre-school sale is on now

My daughter is going into high school, and earlier this summer presented her case for needing a computer.

She was very persuasive, and early in September she’ll receive her first MacBook Air. Which, thanks to Apple’s annual back-to-school sale, was a wee bit cheaper than normal, starting at $1,299.

Apple threw in some AirPods ($219), too, which we upgraded to AirPods Pro for an extra $110.

With the uncertainty around back-to-school protocols, this is a good time to make sure you’ve got the technology to keep your kids engaged with all the ways they can learn through online and virtual environments.

Apple’s got sale prices on the seventh generation iPad and iPad Air, both of which are light and can be equipped with wireless keyboards as a laptop replacement.

The MacBook Air is my pick for the best all-around laptop for most people, but if you’ve got a need for audio or video production, there’s also the MacBook Pro.

And for the artists, pair the iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil for sublime digital drawing and sketching.

Waze updated with voice controls, railroad crossing safety

I’ve written before about how Waze is my preferred driving navigation app, and now you can better use Waze with your Android device or iPhone because Google Assistant has been integrated.

That means you can now search for a location, change your route, or report traffic slowdowns by saying, “Hey, Google.”

Another update to the app comes from a new partnership with CN, Operation Livesaver Canada, and the Railway Association of Canada brings new safety functionality.

When you’re using Waze and you’re approaching a rail crossing you’ll get an alert so you can make sure you’re paying attention. Not all rail crossings have gates, especially in rural areas, so the extra notification might be just the thing to keep people safe around trains.

Fall Guys a fresh take on the last-player-standing mechanic

If you’re getting tired of your kid playing Fortnite all day, where the objective is to kill opposing players, you’ve got to have them try Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, which is goofy and utterly compelling.

Developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver, the game starts with up to 60 players at a starting line, who then have to run an obstacle course of one kind or another, trying to qualify for the next round by getting across the finish line in time.

In each round, another ten to twelve players get eliminated, and in this way, Fall Guys winnows the field until there is one player who grabs the crown at the end of the final course. You’ve got to clear three levels to get to the final round.

There are a range of course types, including straight on races, obstacle courses, and team objectives that all seem to have been based on the kinds of games I used when coaching little kids in soccer.

Available on PS4 and Windows – not Xbox One at this point – Fall Guys is, according to the developers, based on the crazy Japanese game show, Takeshi’s Castle, where real people ran through wacky obstacle courses.

The characters are like Weebles crossed with jelly beans. You’ll earn cosmetics you can use to change colours and dress them up in costumes, and the hyper-pastel artwork makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a cotton candy hallucination.

Fun and frantic, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockdown is a hoot.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift, Shane Hewitt and I talked about the battle royale between Epic Games and Apple and Google, Sennheiser’s sale on super audio products, DC FanDome, Google Play Music shutting down, Animal Crossing New Horizons, Xbox Series X release date, and the delay of Halo Infinite.

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