'Devil May Cry' series coming from the producer of 'Castlevania'


Capcom

After Adi Shankar chalked up a hit with his animated Castlevania series on Netflix, what’s he going to do next? Why, adapt another classic, darkly-themed video game franchise, of course. Shankar told IGN in an interview that he’s developing an animated Devil May Cry series as part of what he says is a “bootleg multiverse.” He did buy the rights, to be clear — he’s just making sure the “jabronis in Hollywood” don’t mess up the treatment of Capcom’s stylish shoot-and-slash titles. There’s not much to show beyond that, although Shankar did post a teaser picture showing what looks like Dante from the DMC games.

There’s also no mention of which service would carry the series, provided all goes well. Netflix sounds like an obvious candidate given that it has enthusiastically supported Castlevania (the show quickly got a third season), but that’s not set in stone.

It will likely take a while before you see the first fruits of the project. However, Shankar’s involvement is promising. Castlevania has generally been well-received both critically and commercially — even if it’s not a stunner, it’s arguably better than many game adaptations. This doesn’t guarantee that a Devil May Cry show will be as good or better, but it suggests that the production could capture the visceral spirit of the games in a way that other studios might miss.

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YouTube quietly offers free, ad-supported movies


AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

YouTube is borrowing a page from Vudu’s playbook, in a manner of speaking. AdAge has confirmed that the Google video service quietly started adding free, ad-supported movies to its “Movies & Shows” section in October. The roughly 100-title collection largely revolves around old or unspectacular movies that are long past their money-making prime, such as Legally Blonde, Agent Cody Banks and the original Terminator. However, that makes it an easy fit — studios can rake in some ad revenue (YouTube hasn’t said how it shares ad money) from people wanting to watch a classic during a sleepy afternoon.

Company product management director Rohit Dhawan hinted that there could one day be a way for advertisers to sponsor individual movies. You could watch the first movie in a franchise when its sequel hits theaters, for instance. Whether or not that happens will depend on how studios evolve their digital strategies. They’re used to paid services, but ad-supported movies are relatively new.

As AdAge observes, this could be in part about creating a more tempting target for advertisers. YouTube knows some companies are reluctant to run ads alongside some of its user-uploaded video, especially after incidents where ads were linked to hate speech clips. This would give nervous companies a ‘safe’ place to advertise that could reflect well on their brands.

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Instagram bug inadvertently exposed some user's passwords


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According to The Information, Instagram has suffered a serious security leak of its own that could’ve exposed user’s passwords. While Facebook recently had a much more serious problem linked to its “View As” tool that was being actively exploited by… someone, the Instagram issue is linked to its tool that allows users to download a copy of their data.

Facebook notified affected Instagram users that when they utilized the feature, it sent their password in plaintext in the URL. For some reason, these passwords were also stored on Facebook’s servers, however the notification said that data has been deleted and the tool was updated so it won’t happen now.

Instagram

In a statement to The Information, a spokesperson said the issue only impacted a “small number of people” although if those people were using a shared computer, or on a compromised network then it could’ve left their account info wide open. If you haven’t been notified then your account apparently was unaffected, but it’s still a troubling gap left in the hole of security, especially on something as important as passwords. While everyone should be using unique password managers for every site and service (if you need a password manager to keep up with them, then that’s the way to go, meanwhile you cna enable two-factor authentication on Instagram as described here), not everyone does and an exposure of this kind is just another troubling episode to hit Facebook.

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Spotify's holiday discount on Premium works for lapsed users too


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Spotify is offering a couple of holiday deals and they’re not limited to new users like these sorts of discounts typically are. First time Spotify Premium users in the US can get three months for $0.99 as long as they haven’t used a 30-day trial before or provided credit card information in the past. And any Spotify Premium user that cancelled their account prior to October 16th of this year can get three months for the price of one ($10).

Spotify says similar discounts are being offered in the majority of its markets globally, though some regions’ deals may have slight differences. They’re available through December 31st and you can see the terms for each here and here.

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Verizon to introduce next-generation RCS texting in 2019


Bloomberg via Getty Images

RCS support has been slow to roll out, but another major US carrier will soon jump on board. Verizon announced at an event that the company would support the messaging system in “early 2019,” joining Sprint, US Cellular and the limited support currently offered by T-Mobile. While Verizon wouldn’t confirm to The Verge that it planned to support Universal Profile 1.0, GSMA told the publication that Verizon’s RCS would, and if it does, that will be a significant step towards making RCS the SMS replacement it promises to be. Among its benefits, once adopted by carriers, are read receipts, better group chat support and improved media sending.

Verizon didn’t say exactly when RCS support would roll out, but Fierce Wireless reported last week that the company’s new messaging service could come as early as February.

Verizon owns Engadget’s parent company, Oath (formerly AOL). Rest assured, Verizon has no control over our coverage. Engadget remains editorially independent.

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Microsoft’s new experimental app is all about imitating emojis


Microsoft

Microsoft has released a new app that aims to demonstrate how its Windows Machine Learning APIs can be used to build apps and “make machine learning fun and approachable.” Emoji8 is a UWP app that uses machine learning to determine how well you can imitate emojis. As you make your best efforts to imitate a random selection of emojis in front of your webcam, Emoji8 will evaluate your attempts locally using the FER+ Emotion Recognition model, a neural network for recognizing emotion in faces. You’ll then be able to tweet a gif of your top scoring images.

Emoji8

“This app will give you a great end-to-end example of how you can use the Windows ML APIs to create simple yet magical experiences,” the company said. And it has made Emoji8’s code open-source on GitHub.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has built an app to show off its machine learning services. Back in 2015, it released How-Old.net to demonstrate how its Azure APIs could be used. The site let users upload a picture and from there, it would try to guess their age.

You can download Emoji8 from the Microsoft Store now, just make sure you’re using Windows 10 with the October 2018 update.

Image: Microsoft

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More companies are chipping their workers like pets

The trend of blundering into the void of adopting new tech, damn the consequences, full speed ahead, continues this week. The Telegraph tells us about “a number of UK legal and financial firms” are in talks with a chip company to implant their employees with RFID microchips for security purposes.

Ah, security purposes, our favorite road to hell paved with some kind of intentions. Is it like when Facebook took people’s phone numbers for security purposes and handed them to advertisers? Sorry, I’m just a little cynical right now. The report explained the purpose of corporate bosses chipping their workers like a beloved Pekinese is to set restrictions on areas they can access within the companies.

“One prospective client,” The Telegraph wrote, “which cannot be named, is a major financial services firm with “hundreds of thousands of employees.”

Jowan Österlund, founder of chip-implant company Biohax at the center of this deal, told the outlet: “These companies have sensitive documents they are dealing with. [The chips] would allow them to set restrictions for whoever … In a company with 200,000 employees, you can offer this as an opt-in,” said Mr. Österlund. “If you have a 15 percent uptake that is still a huge number of people that won’t require a physical ID pass.”

Never mind that RFID badge cloning is trivial to the point of funsies for hackers (who have been experimenting with hacking biochips for a while), this is about employee efficiency. A further selling point for companies grinding privacy into bottom-line dust is that it’ll save a company money. “As well as restricting access to controlled areas,” The Telegraph said, “microchips can be used by staff to speed up their daily routines. For instance, they could be used to quickly buy food from the canteen, enter the building or access printers at a fastened rate.”

As some readers may recall, this isn’t the first instance of employee chipping in recent news. Last year, American company Three Square Market in Wisconsin made headlines when 80 of its employees got chips implanted. They use the little RFID chips in their hands (the size of a grain of rice, like the one in your cat) to scan themselves into security areas, use computers and vending machines. Interestingly, Three Square sells vending machine “mico markets” but offers a cottage industry in implants (with an angle on their use for “law enforcement solutions“).

Microchip Hand Implant

Yet the first US company to inject workers with tracking chips was a Cincinnati surveillance firm in 2006, which required all employees working in its secure data center to have RFIDs implanted in their triceps. Coming from a spying company, it’s almost like asking if you’d like your Orwell with a little Orwell on top. California in 2007 swiftly moved to block companies from being able to make RFID implants mandatory, as well as blocking the chipping of students in the state.

Don’t get me wrong: becoming a cyborg sounds pretty awesome. It’s a fairly popular pastime for DEF CON attendees who like their hackery edge-play to get a souvenir implant while at the conference. But those people are hackers, and they know what they’re getting into. And I’m just that annoying person worried about normal people not knowing how they can get pwned, and who has a few irritating questions about personal security and privacy.

According to MIT Technology review, the Three Square Market employees said they liked it — the convenience outweighed personal privacy and security concerns, which could include surveillance by higher-ups, or attackers doing a little drive-by data sniffing (when hackers ping your chip to see what’s on it). President of Three Square, Patrick McMullan, told MIT that only some of the info on the chip is encrypted “but he argues that similar personal information could be stolen from his wallet, too.”

Unlike a company ID card, you can’t leave it at home. We might imagine that with all of these privacy and tracking concerns, female employees dealing with harassment would have an extra layer to worry about. MIT only quoted male employees, so that’s worth noting.

The chip-your-workpets trend spreading to the US and UK got its foothold in Sweden where apparently they are much cooler about becoming the Borg than we are. Swedish incubator Epicenter in Stockholm “includes 100 companies and roughly 2,000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015,” reported LA Times. “Now, about 150 workers have the chips.”

Microchipped Employees

Jowan Osterlund from Biohax Sweden, holds a small microchip implant, similar to those implanted into workers at the Epicenter digital innovation business center

The chief experience officer at Epicenter, Fredric Kaijser, told press: “People ask me, ‘Are you chipped?’ and I say, ‘Yes, why not?’ And they all get excited about privacy issues and what that means and so forth. And for me it’s just a matter of I like to try new things and just see it as more of an enabler and what that would bring into the future.”

Again, I’ll annoy you by pointing out that the evangelists here all seem to be dudes, which isn’t a bad thing. It maybe might suggest no one’s thinking about the inevitable DEF CON talk “Chipped employees: Fun with attack vectors,” or a possible future headline about employee stalking or chip-based discrimination. I mean, we can already imagine the ones where ICE demands the last known doors opened by all employees on the RFID database who happen to be brown.

I’m sure it’s all well and good until someone gets locked out of their own hand. Or the app used to access your hand gets compromised.

Like I said earlier, it’s at the “damn the consequences, full speed ahead” stage.

Images: LPETTET via Getty Images (Xray); Associated Press (Biohax microchip)

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Scoot will add locks to its scooters to combat theft and vandalism


Bloomberg via Getty Images

In August, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency awarded two companies, Scoot and Skip, permits to operate their scooters in the city. The scooter pilot program has now been running for a month and Scoot says it has learned a few things during that time, including that its Kick scooters are a lot easier to steal and vandalize than it once thought. Because of that, the company will start adding locks to its scooters come December.

Scoot says that in just the first two weeks of operating, more than 200 Kicks were stolen or damaged beyond repair. “We treat our electric vehicles as precious assets that we carefully maintain, recharge and make available to our riders for as many years as possible so our riders can use them for fast, fun, affordable, green transportation,” Scoot said in a blog post. “The idea of putting vehicles on the street just to be stolen or vandalized is antithetical to Scoot’s environmental and civic mission.”

The company said its upcoming Kick locks are similar to those that it deployed for its electric bicycles in Barcelona. It added that in the meantime, it’s experimenting with other ways of securing its scooters in the hopes of keeping theft and vandalism down to sustainable levels.

So far, Kicks are being used more often than Scoot’s other shared vehicles, particularly in Santiago, and in San Francisco, Scoot and the MTA have received “very few” complaints regarding safe use of Kicks. “Our goal is zero complaints, so we are listening to the community and correcting our riders who don’t use our Kicks safely, and improving our instructions to avoid unsafe behavior in the future,” Scoot said.

The company noted that it would be bringing more of its scooters to both San Francisco and Santiago.

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Senate bill takes aim at illegal robocalls


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Three senators have proposed new legislation aimed at deterring robocall scams. The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Protection, or TRACED, Act would give the FCC broader authority to penalize those that violate telemarketing restrictions, give the commission a longer window in which to act and establish an interagency working group that would explore additional actions that might deter robocall scams going forward.

“As the scourge of spoofed calls and robocalls reaches epidemic levels, the bipartisan TRACED Act will provide every person with a phone much needed relief,” Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), a cosponsor of the proposed legislation, said in a statement. “It’s a simple formula: call authentication, blocking and enforcement, and this bill achieves all three.”

With this legislation, the statute of limitations on penalties for robocall violations would be extended from two years to three, and the FCC would be instructed to propose new rules aimed at protecting individuals from receiving calls or messages from those using unauthenticated numbers. Further, an interagency working group — which would be made up of both federal agencies and state entities such as the Departments of Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security, the FCC, the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorneys general — would be tasked with providing Congress with recommendations regarding both prevention and prosecution of robocall violations as well as strategies for how federal agencies might implement those recommendations.

Additionally, the TRACED Act would require the FCC to ensure voice service providers implement call authentication frameworks that can verify incoming calls are legitimate before they reach consumers.

“The TRACED Act targets robocall scams and other intentional violations of telemarketing laws so that when authorities do catch violators, they can be held accountable,” said Senator John Thune (R-SD), who introduced the bill. “Existing civil penalty rules were designed to impose penalties on lawful telemarketers who make mistakes. This enforcement regime is totally inadequate for scam artists and we need do more to separate enforcement of carelessness and other mistakes from more sinister actors.” Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) cosponsored the bill.

In the last year, the FCC has approved new rules targeting robocalls that spoof caller ID information and urged voice providers to begin validating calls before they reach recipients. “Combating illegal robocalls is our top consumer priority at the FCC,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement earlier this month. “That’s why we need call authentication to become a reality — it’s the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence. By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones.” In May, the FCC issued a robocall operator responsible for 96 million automated calls a $120 million fine.

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The kilogram has officially been redefined


ASSOCIATED PRESS

Today, scientists voted to change the definition of the kilogram as well as three other units of measurement — the ampere, the kelvin and the mole. The vote took place at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France and the new definitions will be based on “what we call the fundamental constants of nature,” as Estefanía de Mirandés of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) told Science News, instead of the less precise definitions these measurements are currently tied to. The kilogram, for example, is defined by a physical cylinder known as Le Grand K that’s stored in a vault outside of Paris.

These redefinitions have been in the works for some time. “This is the most important decision that the BIPM has made in maybe 100 years, which may be a slight exaggeration, but at least since 1960 when they adopted the International System of Units,” Terry Quinn, emeritus director of the BIPM, told Engadget last year. And while the changes won’t necessarily be reflected in your day to day life, they’ll help scientists make more accurate measurements going forward.

The kilogram will now be defined by the Planck Constant, while the ampere, kelvin and mole will be tied to the elementary electrical charge, the Boltzmann constant and the Avogadro constant, respectively. “It’s about as excited as you’re going to see metrologists get,” David Newell a researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, told Science News. “I can’t believe we’re finally getting it done.”

The new definitions will be put into place on May 20th, 2019.

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