The real-life Pinkertons are involved in a Red Dead Redemption 2 lawsuit

In brief: If you’ve been enjoying the excellent Red Dead Redemption 2, you’ll know that two of the main antagonists, Andrew Milton and Edgar Ross, are part of the Pinkerton detective agency. But it seems the real-world version of the agency has taken exception to its name appearing in the game, and Rockstar is now locked in a legal battle over the issue.

Court documents obtained by The Blast show that Pinkerton, which is now a subsidiary of Swedish security firm Securitas AB and called Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, sent a cease-and-desist notice to Rockstar and Take-Two last month.

While the firm acknowledged Rockstar’s “clear affection” for Pinkerton, it claims the use of the name might lead people to believe the agency was involved in the game’s creation, even though no permission was given. Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations is asking for a single lump sum or a share of Red Dead 2’s royalties.

Take-Two has responded to the letter with a lawsuit that claims the use of the Pinkerton name is protected under the First Amendment, and that it’s part of the game’s historical setting.

“Put simply, [Pinkerton] cannot use trademark law to own the past and prevent creators from including historical references to Pinkerton agents in depictions of the American West,” Take-Two said.

The game company adds that the Pinkertons have appeared in media for years, including the 1980 movie The Long Riders, TV show Deadwood, and the Elton John song “Ballad of a Well-Known Gun.” It’s not even the first time the name has been used in a game; the protagonist in BioShock Infinite, Booker DeWitt, is a former Pinkerton agent.

Take-Two also points out that the original Pinkerton name and badge is used in Red Dead Redemption 2, not the current ones, and that the Pinkertons only appear in 10 of the game’s 106 missions.

Back in 1996, Pinkerton tried and failed to sue rock band Weezer over the band’s second album, titled ‘Pinkerton.’

Take-Two Interactive vs. Pi… by on Scribd

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Watch this four-minute film about the future of work in a world run by algorithms

How will you do your job when you’re outpaced by a computer? Or when the company you’re working for is taken over by algorithms? These are some of the questions explored in a stimulating new short film by designer and architect Keiichi Matsuda.

Merger is a 360-degree film set in the augmented reality workspace of an unnamed consultant. While trying to manage her work and life responsibilities, she explains to an interviewer why she’s ready to take the next step: to leave her human body behind and merge with the network. “I know that once I’m on the other side I’ll be able to be everywhere, see everything,” she says. “I can give my clients a chance to fight back.”

It’s an unsettling message, subtly delivered. We live in a world that worships productivity, and that equates our ability to work with our value to society. But what happens when this meaning is taken away from us? What might we sacrifice in order to keep feeling useful?

Speaking to The Verge, Matsuda says he was inspired by a number of converging trends, including the rise of algorithms, the automation of work, and, particularly, the cult of productivity. “We don’t feel like we have agency over the outside world, but we do feel we have agency over ourselves,” he says. “So we optimize, prioritize, and do anything we can to try and get that little bit of an edge over the competition.”

Like Matsuda’s last short film HYPER-REALITY, which explored a hellscape of augmented reality pop-ups, Merger tells much of its story through the design of its technology. This makes sense considering Matsuda’s background. He recently finished a stint as VP of design at Leap Motion, makers of hand-tracking hardware sensors, and you might recognize his work from his tweets about the company’s experimental “virtual wearables.”

In Merger, the protagonist’s augmented reality desktop feels claustrophobic, cocooning her in information like a hamster ball made from data. Pause the video and you can see a mix of to-do lists, news articles (“Why Alexa Must Be First AI President”), chat messages, and even a cartoon mascot that looks suspiciously like Microsoft’s Clippy. In the interface, as in reality, there’s little separation between work and social life.

Matsuda says the design was partly inspired by a common trope in action and sci-fi films: that of the “operator” — the character who sits behind a desk, the world at their fingertips. The gesture-based interface used by Tom Cruise’s character in Minority Report is often a template for this. “I’m asked to build that sort of interface all the time,” laughs Matsuda.

But as the film progresses, the interface becomes more intimate. Soft colors replace chirpy blues and whites, and the surrounding landscape (inspired by the famous Bliss image used as wallpaper in Windows XP) is replaced by a night sky, populated by constellations of algorithms, their nodes blinking down peacefully at the protagonist.

“She wants to get closer to the information; closer to the data and the networks,” says Matsuda. “But eventually the boundary between human and machine softens. The interface is a sphere that surrounds her, but the final step in the film is to transcend that.”

To some viewers, this augmented reality desktop probably looks more dreamy than dangerous (it certainly did to me). But that’s proof of how deep-rooted our desire to be productive is. Many of us want to do more in our lives, but we often forget to ask why or to what end we’re actually working. Matsuda hopes that, like his work in interface design, Merger will be a useful artifact for people. But, instead of helping them work more, it should prod them to think about why they’re working at all.

“I hoped that it could be like a tool,” Matsuda says of the film. “To allow people to have access to an idea [and] then to think for themselves what type of future they could have.”

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This tiny Bluetooth chip doesn’t need a battery because it harvests energy from the air

The Internet of Things promises to connect billions of otherwise ordinary devices to the internet, but when each one needs to have its own battery, there’s a limit to how small or cheap they can become. A new paper-thin Bluetooth chip that’s able to operate entirely without a battery could be about to solve this problem. The postage stamp-sized chip from Wiliot is able to harvest energy from the ambient radio frequencies around us, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cellular signals, and use them to power a Bluetooth-equipped ARM processor that can be connected to a variety of sensors.

Wiliot says that the size of the Bluetooth chip, combined with the lack of any battery, means it can be produced cheaply and mounted on almost anything. The company gives several potential use cases for the technology. For example, it could be embedded in consumer products to provide easy access to a digital manual when the original paper version is long lost, or it could be put on a clothing label and used to communicate the optimal settings to a washing machine.

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However, the fact that it can also be combined with sensors raises more interesting possibilities. In addition to tracking items through a supply chain, a temperature sensor could also report when items get either too hot or too cold. Elsewhere, a pressure sensor could detect when a food container is empty and automatically order a replacement, thereby making so-called smart fridges truly smart.

Although a recent $30 million financing round means that Wiliot now counts on both Amazon and Samsung as investors, it will still be another year before its sensor tags are widely available. Wiliot says that it hopes to offer them as part of a limited release in 2019 before making then widely available in 2020.

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German court throws out Qualcomm's latest patent case against Apple

A patent lawsuit filed by Qualcomm Inc against Apple Inc was thrown out by a German court on Tuesday, in a reversal for the U.S. chipmaker after it won a recent court ban on the sale of some iPhones in the country.

The regional court in the city of Mannheim dismissed the Qualcomm suit as groundless in an initial verbal decision, saying the patent in question was not violated by the installation of its chips in Apple’s smartphones.

Qualcomm, waging a worldwide patent battle with Apple, said it would appeal after winning a separate case before a court in Munich in December that enabled it to enforce a ban on the sale of older iPhones in Germany.

“Apple has a history of infringing our patents,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s executive vice president and general counsel.

“While we disagree with the Mannheim court’s decision and will appeal, we will continue to enforce our (intellectual property) rights against Apple worldwide.”

Apple declined to comment on the Mannheim decision. It referred to a statement issued in response to the Dec. 20 ruling in Munich, against which it is appealing.

Apple said at the time that, while a decision on the Munich appeal is outstanding, it would no longer stock the iPhone 7 and 8 at its 15 retail outlets in Germany, although its newer models would remain on sale.

All of its models remain available through carriers and resellers. Gravis, the leading Apple reseller in Germany, said on Tuesday it continued to stock the full range of iPhones.

Apart from the German order, Qualcomm has also secured a ban on the sale of some iPhones in China. Apple, which is also contesting that ruling, has continued to offer its iPhones in China but made changes to its iOS operating system following the order.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, faces a U.S. antitrust case brought by the Federal Trade Commission which accuses it of abusing a monopoly on mobile chip technology in a trial that could have a major impact on the smartphone industry.

If the government prevails in the trial that began on Jan. 4, Qualcomm could be forced to change its practices for licensing a trove of patents to device makers like Apple.

Apple is closely watching the FTC case, as it has its own pending lawsuit making similar claims against Qualcomm.

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