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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about reasons to be wary about your smartphone being used to track COVID-19 as well as why the joint initiative between Apple and Google isn’t that. I also talked about the cool, communal storytelling effort that’s being led by author Leila Sales with her story about Ada and the Lost Horizon. Also: the sweet limited edition Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox One X console.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, a look at video streaming service Quibi, extended trial periods for other streaming services, Ada and the Lost Horizon, and the Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox One X. But first, how smartphones can play a role in tracking COVID-19.

How smartphones may be used to help track COVID-19

On April 10, Apple and Google announced a joint effort to use smartphones to help with contact tracing people who test positive for COVID-19.

This is all opt-in, so if you want to participate, or have the functionality available to you, you’ll need to download an app that will be provided by official public health organizations. These won’t come until later in May.

The plan uses Bluetooth protocols, as opposed to GPS or Wi-fi location data, which helps to make the system more anonymous, because it doesn’t have anything to do with your location, but what devices are in your immediate area.

If you use the app, your phone will transmit and receive Bluetooth signals with other phones near you and keeps track of them for two weeks. If you are diagnosed and agree to share that information, your phone will ping all the devices it was close to.

The partnership between the two tech companies means that this will all work across platforms, regardless of whether your phone is Android or iOS.

Apple and Google have said that a longer-term plan is to have this kind of functionality built in to smartphone settings.

A similar approach has been used in Singapore since late March.

Why you should be wary of a smartphone solution to COVID-19 tracking

The video below shows how individual smartphone users who were on a beach in Fort Lauderdale during spring break could be tracked. Each dot represents a user which can actually be tracked back to an address, which can then be used to identify them.

Quibi is a new mobile video streaming service for shorts

Quibi, for “quick bite”, is a new video streaming service ostensibly designed for modern life. Videos that appear on the service are less than 10 minutes long and you can only watch on a mobile device.

The service was not helped by launching just as COVID-19 changed how we live. While the company reported 1.7 million downloads in its first week, the free app is no longer trending on app stores. (Disney+ grabbed 10 million subscribers in its first day.)

It will have a more difficult time after the 90-day free trial ends, and people are expected to pay for a monthly subscription, which in Canada is $7 with ads, or $10 without.

A number of brands and broadcasters are participating by creating recaps and rundowns of their more traditional shows, and there are some halfway interesting experiments on Quibi, including:

  • Iron Sharpens Iron, where two professional athletes have to undergo the other’s training program.
  • Dummy, from Anna Kendrick, about a woman who makes a friend out of her boyfriend’s sex doll.
  • Memory Hole, featuring Will Arnett exploring pop culture history.
  • Elba vs Block, where actor Idris Elba and professional drier Ken Block channel their inner Top Gears.
  • Punk’d reboot, for better or worse.

But I doubt that any of these experiments are going to be enough to save Quibi.

Crave and other streaming services offer longer free trials

Until the end of April, Crave, which is newly available on Roku streaming devices and the Roku Channel (which aggregates content from other streaming services), has extended the free trial to 30 days.

Shudder, which curates horror and thriller films and TV, has done the same.

Ada and the Lost Horizon asks you to help tell a story

Not everything you and your kids do to pass the time these days has to be digital. Author Leila Sales is telling a story about a young woman named Ada, and anyone can help to create the adventure.

Sales started the story with the character and a premise: “Ada wakes to find herself alone. She was supposed to be here with her younger brother, Teddy. She was supposed to be watching out for him. But Teddy has disappeared in the night. Ada must find him, but her only clue is a ransom note.”

She sourced the content of the ransom note from her social media following. This is the note that she selected as the winner:

Sales used the contribution to further the story.

The instructions lay everything out, but basically Sales puts out a call for contributions every other day and anyone who wants to contribute to the story has a day to submit.

And the things that Sales is asking can be completed by any age and also, according to the rules, “a) alone, b) at home, and c) without use of a computer…. All of the Tasks will be open to interpretation and customization (e.g. ‘make a treasure map’ or ‘turn your bathroom into a beach resort’), so there’s no one ‘right’ answer.”

Get caught up on the story of Ada and the Lost Horizon.

Limited edition Xbox One X looks like it comes from the world of Cyberpunk 2077

Eagerly anticipated open world action video game Cyberpunk 2077 doesn’t come out until September 17, but this week CD Projekt Red and Xbox showed off the limited edition console celebrating the game.

The 1 TB console ships with a code for the game, of course, as well as a slick new controller that you can purchase separately now for $85.

Pricing for the Cyberpunk Xbox One X has not been announced, but preorders go live in June.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the announcement of Apple’s second generation iPhone SE, the run on webcams, Andrea Bocelli’s Easter Sunday performance on YouTube, the video game In Other Waters, Sony’s Play at Home initiative, and the PS5 DualSense controller.

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, webcams are a hot ticket item, Bocelli’s Music for Hope, exploring an alien ocean In Other Waters, free games for your PS4 from Sony, and the DualSense controller for the upcoming PS5 console. But first, Apple’s announced the second generation iPhone SE.

Apple announces new iPhone SE packed with power and affordability

Today, Apple revealed the second generation iPhone SE.

The SE model is Apple’s more affordable iPhone, and while it doesn’t have all of the fancy features of the iPhone 11 line, it’s still equipped with Apple’s A13 Bionic chip, the same one that’s in the iPhone 11 Pro, which brings power and battery life to the handset.

And for many people, the iPhone SE is more than enough. It’s equipped with Touch ID, wireless charging, and a 4.7-inch Retina display. It’s got a 12-megapixel camera and can shoot 4K video with high dynamic range (HDR).

There are three hard drive sizes to choose from: 64 GB, 128 GB, and 256 GB.

The smartphone will be available in three colours: white, black, and (Product)Red. Preorders for the iPhone SE begin on Friday.

Where, oh where, have the webcams all gone?

Have you been trying, unsuccessfully, to buy a webcam?

Industry analysts at NPD Group report that sales of home office computer equipment spiked, of laptops and monitors in particular.

Webcams have also been selling well, up to 179 percent better.

This is presumably because of all the videoconferencing that has become the norm, and because not everyone has a computer with a decent webcam built in.

The Verge has reported on the gouging by third-party resellers that has a US$25 webcam selling for more than $130 on Amazon.

Easter Sunday concert by Andrea Bocelli a moving performance for our time

On Sunday, Italian singer Andrea Bocelli performed Music for Hope.

The incredible performance took place at the Duomo cathedral of Milan. The stunning gothic church was empty save for Bocelli and an organist. He sang four songs inside the building, and the production was excellent.

The 25-minute performance ended with a rendition of “Amazing Grace”. Bocelli walked down the main aisle of the empty cathedral to stand on the front steps so he could sing to the world. The last segment included haunting footage showing the empty streets of New York and Paris.

In Other Waters turns you into a scientist on another planet

New to the Nintendo Switch is this curious game, In Other Waters (Jump Over the Age). It’s set on an alien planet, and your job is to assist a scientist who is in a dive suit and at the bottom of an ocean.

The game is all played through an interface that is like something you’d find in a Star Trek tricorder. You use the various tools to navigate through the ocean, collect samples, and come to know and classify a new world of living creatures. Just like a real scientist.

Along the way you will get to know the scientist you’re helping, Ellery Vas, her story, and the larger story of the planet you’re on.

In Other Waters is unique and compelling, providing an unforgettable experience of exploration.

Play At Home with Sony means free games and funds for indie developers

Sony announced this week the Play at Home initiative in response to worldwide physical distancing due to COVID-19.

Starting today and until May 5, you can download four PS4 games for free, and to keep:

  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
  • Journey

The first three games are all packaged in the Nathan Drake Collection from Naughty Dog. (If you’re a Playstation Plus subscriber, you can also get Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.)

The last game comes from Thatgamecompany, an indie developer that also created Flower.

This initiative also includes a $10 million fund to support other independent video game developers survive the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

First look at Playstation 5 controller, the DualSense

While The Last of Us Part II and Marvel’s Iron Man VR have been delayed, we’re still hoping that the PS5 console is on track for release this holiday season.

And to keep us excited, Sony has shared the design and features of the controllers that will ship with that console.

While bigger in size than the DualShock – there’s a lot more tech in this controller – the DualSense has a more streamlined look to it, while preserving the same button, trigger, and joystick configuration of earlier Playstation controllers.

What’s been added is haptic feedback to deliver more nuanced experiences, including adaptive triggers which are able to make it feel like it’s more difficult to pull the trigger as your in-game avatar draws a bow.

The DualSense also has a built-in microphone so you don’t have to plug in a headset if you don’t want to (or don’t have to!).

The controller also has a slick two-tone colour scheme, black on white, with LED lights surrounding the touch pad.

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Categories Corus Radio Network | Consumer technology

This week on The Shift with Drex, I talked about the stupid conspiracy theory suggesting 5G causes COVID-19 (to be clear: it doesn’t), Dyson’s new Corrale hair straightening iron, virtual travel experiences, LeVar Burton and Patrick Stewart’s online readings, and the video games Nioh 2 and Spyder.

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