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God of War Ragnarök is coming on November 9 and Bioware has hired narrative designer Mary DeMarle to lead the writing team on the new Mass Effect game.

You will be playing God of War Ragnarok on November 9

God of War Ragnarök, from Playstation’s Santa Monica Studio, is being released this fall.

On November 9, the highly-anticipated sequel to the 2018 game that placed god-killer Kratos in the lands of the Norse gods, will hit PS4 and PS5 consoles. Ragnarök was originally planned for release in 2021.

Christopher Judge and Sunny Suljic return as Kratos and son, Atreus, and Ryan Hurst is Thor in this third-person action adventure.

There are some amazing collector’s kits available and the Collector and Jötnar editions of the game each come with a 16-inch replica Mjölnir, Thor’s hammer.

You can place your preorder for God of War Ragnarök, including the special editions, on Friday, July 15.

Bioware adds Mary DeMarle to Mass Effect team

Writer Mary DeMarle will be leading narrative design on the new Mass Effect game in development at Bioware.

DeMarle most recently led the writing team on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which I praised for the depth in its characters and the witty banter between them.

She also led the writing on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Both of those games were developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix.

Bioware is an EA studio, and the announcement of DeMarle’s hiring was made by Michael Gamble, who is directing the work on the new Mass Effect game.

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Categories Consumer technology |

Amazon’s Prime Day returns, tracking pricing history on Amazon, maintaining your privacy with your smartphone.

Get ready for Prime Day next week

Prime Day, Amazon’s annual sales blitz, starts next Tuesday (July 12).

Most of the early deals that have been announced are on Amazon products. You can get up to half off Blink, Eero, and Ring smart home products, for example, and steep discounts on Amazon Fire televisions and streaming sticks

With Prime Video, you can also get movies to purchase or rent cheaply: Dune for $8 or The Lost City for $10, for example.

And Prime Gaming is giving away games like Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Need for Speed Heat, and the two Star Wars Jedi Knight games, Jedi Academy and Jedi Outcast. That’s in addition to dozens of indie games including 10 Second Ninja X, Death Squared, Metal Slug 2, and the King of Fighters 2002.

The trick to avoid spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need during Prime Day is to make a list of the things you really need, and to be diligent on the day about checking the lightning deals and making sure that the price that is listed is truly a deal.

Because that’s not always the case.

How savvy shoppers can get Amazon pricing history

The website Camelcamelcamel is a free service that tracks the pricing history of many products listed for sale at Amazon, so you can tell if the price you’re looking at in real time is actually a deal.

Keepa is both a website and also provides browser extensions so you can see price history information when you’re actually on the Amazon website.

Both of these services provide the option of creating an account so you can be notified of price drops. Camelcamelcamel makes money as an Amazon referrer and through ads, while Keepa has additional data services you can subscribe to access.

Being diligent with you personal security and safety in the modern world

Two recent events provide strong examples of why you should be aware and in control of the settings on your smartphone.

The first is the continuing cascade of consequences around the overturning of Roe v Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Forced birth approaches by some jurisdictions has some privacy advocates calling for people to delete from their devices and app that tracks menstrual cycles. The rationale is that information collected and stored by the software could be used to prosecute people.

It’s true, that information collected and stored by other apps on your smartphone could also be used against you, which is one reason Google has decided to automatically delete location history information if people have visited places like medical facilities and shelters.

You also have more control over the settings of location history when using an Apple device or a Google product.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has a good article on the topic.

The second incident was reported by writer and actor Hannah Rose May, who discovered that an AirTag had been placed on her without her knowledge. Her iPhone notified her that she was being tracked.

This is disconcerting, to say the least.

AirTags have been quite useful in many situations, too, most recently to help air travellers find their bags in the sea of luggage at many major airports.

But bad actors can use anything to further their nefarious purposes, so women should be aware of this and need to take precautions.

Macworld has detailed instructions on how you can find, block, and disable AirTags.

And Tracker Detect is an Android app developed by Apple to give the same kind of control to people using Android-enabled smartphones from Google, Samsung, and others. The problem with Tracker Detect is it’s a manual scan only.

Another option is AirGuard, which comes from the Computer Science department of Germany’s Technical University of Darmstadt.

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Categories Consumer technology | Corus Radio Network

This week on The Shift, Shane Hewitt and I talked about the voice cloning AI that was demonstrated by Amazon’s Alexa last week, Twitter Notes for longform writing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Samsung and Xbox partnering, and Nintendo’s summer road trip.

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Montreal’s Tribute Games plays on nostalgia with Shredder’s Revenge, playing Xbox games without a console on new Samsung TVs, and Nintendo’s summer road trip is back.

Shredder’s Revenge is a delightful throwback to the era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If you’re of a certain age, you’re going to be sure that you played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge when you were a kid. That’s how convincingly Montreal’s Tribute Games has recreated the era of ’80s brawler video games.

Published by Dotemu for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, Shredder’s Revenge is effectively the sequel to TMNT that was a hit in arcades in 1989. The voice actors from the television cartoon series reprise their roles here, and the tone and humour of the series is perfectly matched.

The side-scrolling beat-em-up action lets you play as either of the four turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, or Donatello – or as Master Splinter, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones (who is unlockable).

Each of the characters has different specs and different moves, and you can execute clever combos with other players.

Up to six players can play at a time (only four on the PS4) and the game scales the number of enemies so you’ve always got a challenge but aren’t overwhelmed.

Which makes it a perfect game to play with friends who want to have fun but may not be the most skilled gamers.

If you want more of a challenge, the arcade mode restricts the number of lives you have and does not save your progression. It’s a true arcade experience in which you try to see how far you can get.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is furious, frantic fun.

Play Xbox games on your new Samsung TV without needing a console

Ever since Xbox and Playstation started exploring cloud-based gaming, we’ve been wondering when consoles might become irrelevant.

That future gets closer every day.

Samsung recently revealed that it’s Game Hub, which is part of all 2022 smart televisions, will include the Xbox app.

With an Xbox Game Pass subscription and an Xbox controller, you can now play hundreds of Xbox games on your Samsung screen without needing a console.

Yes, you can already play plenty of games without needing a game console. But now you can play the latest Forza and Halo games without needing an Xbox.

Even if you have an Xbox console, with a 2022 Samsung smart television, you’ll be able to play wherever that screen is, even if the console is connected somewhere else.

Nintendo’s summer road trip is happening again

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, Nintendo Canada often hosted events across the country where people could try out Nintendo systems and games.

This summer marks a return of the idea.

At the Nintendo Switch Summer Experience, Canadians will be able to try some of the fun games available for the Switch, including Mario Strikers, Nintendo Switch Sports, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land.

At some of the events, registration will be required.

The Summer Experience in Canada starts at Carnaval del Sol in Vancouver the weekend of July 9, and will be at many of the big summer festivals across the country.

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Categories Consumer technology |

Amazon wants Alexa to connect with you on an emotional level; Twitter experimenting with longform writing.

Amazon’s re:Mars conference shocks with demonstration of voice cloning

Amazon’s conference about machine learning, automation, robotics, and space was in the news last week because of a moment during the keynote address by Amazon’s Rohit Prasad.

Prasad runs the research into artificial intelligence for the Alexa program, and in his presentation he talked about how machine learning would allow Alexa to use an audio recording of a real person to mimic that voice. In the demonstration, a boy has Alexa read a book in his grandmother’s voice.

It’s called voice cloning and it’s been around for as long (longer?) as we’ve had deepfake videos, and it’s been used to recreate Anthony Bourdain’s voice as well as Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun: Maverick.

Twitter testing new longform functioning in Canada

Twitter is expanding the number of characters that a select group of writers can use in their posts with the new Notes function.

Notes allows posts to include images, animated gifs, videos, and other Twitter posts. And they can be edited by writers.

While readers cannot – yet – comment directly on the note, you can thread comments under Twitter posts promoting the Note.

The new functionality is being tested by writers from Canada, the U.S., the UK, and Ghana, but Notes published by these individuals can be seen anywhere. Canadian writers participating in the initiative include Bee Quammie, who posted a Note about trying to find a mommy blog written by Black Canadian mothers, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who republished a commentary about the importance of Inuit instutitions being led by Inuit, and Terese Mason Pierre, writing about finishing a poetry manuscript.

At the moment, Notes feel like a return to blogging platforms from ten years ago, and that’s kind of how Twitter got started, by providing a place where longform content published elsewhere could be promoted and aggregated. The difference now is that you can read the full post on Twitter, instead of having to go elsewhere online.

And the people who are publishing Notes are an interesting group that has been carefully curated by the Twitter Write editors. I’m curious to see who else gets invited to publish Notes. Just how wide will this new functionality go?

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