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Ninja Creami review: This machine makes your frozen dreams come true

1 day 19 hours ago

Unless you’ve worked in the food service industry, the Ninja Creami probably isn’t like any other ice cream maker you’ve used before. That’s because until recently, the engineering that powers the Creami was owned by the Pacojet company (which was acquired by Groupe SEB in 2023), which made pricey devices intended for use in restaurants. But after the patent expired, Ninja jumped on the opportunity to make a much more affordable version for home cooks. And while making ice cream in your own kitchen is more of a luxury than a true necessity (though I’m sure some may disagree), the Creami makes the process so fast and easy, and produces surprisingly tasty results, that I hope more people will give it a go.

Standard Creami or Deluxe?

The version I tested for this review is the standard Creami, which goes for $200. However, there is a deluxe model that costs a touch more at $230. The latter comes with a few extra settings (most of which are drinks) for things like slushies and Creamiccinos (whatever those are) and a revamped menu system to match. But the biggest change is that the Deluxe uses larger 24-ounce “pints” instead of the 16-ounce containers you get with the standard model. This means it's easier to make bigger batches for parties or other special occasions, while also having options to spin just the top or bottom of a container as needed for smaller mixes.

Design and how it works

Unlike traditional ice cream makers, the Creami doesn’t rely on churning. Instead, you make a liquid ice cream base, freeze it solid (ideally for 24 hours) and then the machine uses what is essentially a drill press to blend (or spin in Creami parlance) everything into a thick and tasty treat. The base of the machine is about 6.5 inches wide and 16 inches tall. That’s significantly smaller than most old-school ice cream churns, but it’s still going to take up some space on your countertop, especially for anyone living in an older home with low cupboards. Make sure you measure before buying.

Aside from its main body, the Creami comes with an outer bowl, two plastic pint containers (plus tops), a large lid and a paddle, which is the blade-like attachment that does all the hard work. The pints fit inside the outer bowl, while the paddle attaches to the top of the lid. Then, after you put everything together, you shove the whole contraption into the machine, twist the handle to lock it in place and you’re ready to go. Admittedly, it sounds complicated, but if you can use a food processor, you can use the Creami. After the first spin, you can always top off your creation with some sprinkles, chocolate chips or anything else you want and then hit the mix-in button to spread things evenly throughout the pint.

My main complaint is that when it’s actively blending, the Creami is kind of loud. It’s noisier than a food processor but slightly quieter than a countertop blender on full blast. The first time I used the Creami, my toddler covered his ears and ran into another room. But the commotion only lasted for a few minutes, and on subsequent attempts, he stuck around (though that’s probably because he learned all that noise meant ice cream was on its way).

How it tastes

Of course, the best part of testing the Creami is trying everything it makes. To start, I relied on Ninja’s surprisingly large catalog of recipes. My son requested something with blueberries, so I landed on this recipe for blueberry honey ice cream with graham crackers, which turned out excellent even though I swapped in coconut-based yogurt (my wife is lactose intolerant) and skipped the graham cracker crumble. Next, I made a sorbet based on this formula, but with key lime juice instead of lemon. It was smooth and tart without a hint of iciness and it may have been my favorite of the bunch. Then my wife used these instructions to create a true vegan option, which tasted rich and creamy even though she used zero dairy.

After this, I went for a more freestyle approach and started throwing things together with abandon. The most surprising thing is how hard it is to mess up a batch, even when things don’t turn out how you intended. For example, while there isn’t a dedicated setting for it, I wanted to see if the Creami could make something close to shaved ice. Even though the texture of my creation was more like froyo than distinct flakes, I was shocked at how good a simple mixture of whole milk with a couple tablespoons of condensed coconut milk can be. So unless you go absolutely buckwild, it’s pretty hard to make something that doesn’t taste good.

That said, there are some important differences between what the Creami makes and more traditional ice cream. Because the base is spun instead of churned, there’s less air inside your finished product. This is good because it increases flavor intensity and delivers a slightly denser, more luxurious mouthfeel. It’s almost closer to a frozen custard than ice cream. The downside is that less air means less insulation, so treats tend to melt faster. I noticed that often after spinning something in the Creami, the consistency was borderline runny, like when you leave a pint from your freezer on the counter for a few minutes too long.

Now, if you’re eating things right away, this might be a bonus, because I prefer a softer product instead of something you need to really bite into. But if you’re not, it’s important to put whatever you made in your icebox almost immediately before it turns back into a puddle. On the flipside, if your base is too cold before you put it in the Creami and it comes out too hard or chunky, you can simply re-spin the pint (there’s a dedicated button for that), which will help smooth it out.

Wrap-up

For someone like me with a relatively small kitchen, anything that takes up valuable space on my countertop or in my pantry has to be more than just OK or even good. And while I’m still not sure I need it, the Creami is something I want to make room for. Sure, what it creates isn’t exactly the same as a more traditional churned product and the machine is far from the prettiest kitchen appliance I own. But the Creami is still undoubtedly a great ice cream maker and it has some advantages over more traditional rivals. Flavors are more intense and textures are smoother. Meanwhile, because most of the parts are machine washable or easily rinsed, cleanup isn’t a chore either. You also get the freedom to control exactly what ingredients you use or mix in, which is almost essential when you live with people with a handful of food allergies/restrictions. And at just $200 for the standard model, it feels very reasonably priced. You just have to remember to use it in moderation, because it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ninja-creami-review-this-machine-makes-your-frozen-dreams-come-true-143155174.html?src=rss
Sam Rutherford

Sonos Ace headphones hands-on: Joining your home theater setup with the push of a button

1 day 19 hours ago

After years of rumors and leaks, Sonos has finally pulled the wraps off of it's much-anticipated entry into a new product category. Today, Sonos announced the Ace headphones: a meticulously designed, feature-packed set of premium cans from the company that made its name with multi-room audio and stellar sound. But, that reputation was built on speakers and soundbars, and now Sonos is lending its mix of aesthetics, acoustics and tech to headphones. The Ace is first and foremost a set of Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones that can be used on the go, but it's also got some unique home theater chops that work in tandem with its soundbars. You'll have to wait a bit longer to try to the $449 headphones, but you can pre-order them now if you're already convinced. 

Design-wise, these Sonos headphones have a refined look that draws some inspiration from the company's speakers. Sonos opted for a mix of matte finishes, stainless steel and leather for its high-end look, keeping everything black on one version while using white with silver accents on the other. Even with the premium materials, the Ace weighs 11 ounces (312 grams). That's lighter than the AirPods Max which is 13.6 ounces (385 grams) thanks so some use of plastic. 

"It's all in the interest of doing something that's going to make this light and comfortable for the customer," Sonos CEO Patrick Spence told Engadget. "We knew it had to be premium, just like all the speakers that we've designed, but we felt like we could do this in a different way than anybody else." 

A key aspect of the Ace's design is the hidden hinge, which Sonos has placed in the ear cup. The company says this puts less stress on cabling than a folding mechanism, but it also argues that it just looks better. Sonos chose physical controls rather than a touchpad, assigning those functions to a multi-purpose button it calls the Content Key. Here, you have volume and playback controls along with the ability to switch between ANC and transparency modes. A single button on the opposite side handles power and pairing. Like Apple, Sonos uses removable, magnetic ear pads on its headphones, and plans to sell replacements in the future.

Inside, 40mm custom dynamic drivers power the Ace's sound. Sonos promises "impeccable precision and clarity" across the EQ with spatial audio and dynamic head tracking for increased immersion. These headphones also support lossless audio over Bluetooth if you're streaming from a device with Qualcomm's Snapdragon Sound. They also offer lossless listening over USB-C if you prefer a wired connection for that purpose. And if the stock tuning doesn't suit you, the company allows you to adjust bass, treble and loudness from the Sonos app. 

Billy Steele for Engadget

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is onboard the Sonos headphones and there's an Aware mode when you need to let in ambient sounds. The company says the Ace is equipped with eight beamforming microphones that pull double duty with ANC and voice targeting, so you'll be able to use them during calls. The headphones also have wear detection sensors which will automatically pause movies or music when you take them off. Sonos says you'll be able to use the Ace for up to 30 hours on a charge with ANC on, 10 hours more than the AirPods Max and on par with Sony's WH-1000XM5. The latter of which is our current top pick for best wireless headphones

None of this is a surprise given how many of the details broke cover before the official reveal, but Sonos did manage to keep secret how the Ace would interact with its other products. While the company's app will carry key features for the headphones, the interaction with other Sonos speakers is unique here. The Ace has a feature called TV Audio Swap that sends the audio from a Sonos soundbar to the headphones as long as you're in range. To make this happen, the company says the Ace switches to Bluetooth LE to maintain a connection with the app for controls and settings while Wi-Fi allows it to sync with a soundbar. At launch, the swap functionality will only work with the Sonos Arc, but the company says it will come to both generations of Beam and Ray in the future. 

"What we realized is for the majority of the population, and for the many use cases of headphones, the best way to do it is the Bluetooth first with connectivity to the system," Spence said. "Because what's more important to the customer is power management and battery life." 

There's also a version of the company's TruePlay tuning on the Ace, but it's called TrueCinema. When it arrives later this year, the feature will map the room your soundbar is in to create a complete virtual surround system inside the headphones. The goal here is to mimic the acoustics of the room you're in so that maybe you'll forget you're even wearing headphones. 

"It's more natural, because often times the headphones will be tuned to a perfect room," Spence explained. "We thought it was better to have it tuned to the room that you're actually in because it would create the effects that you would expect."

After some time listening to both music and movie clips on the Ace, I'm impressed with what the company has built in terms of sound quality. There's pristine detail and heightened immersion with Dolby Atmos content that make the headphones a complement to a home theater setup. However, the most surprising thing about the Ace to me was how well the TV Audio Swap feature works. 

Once the headphones have been added to your collection of devices in the app, all you have to do is press the Content Key button to switch the sound to what's coming from your soundbar. It's quick and easy, and there's no jumping, popping or other distractions when you hop back and forth. I can see a lot of people using them so that they can still hear the finer details of Dune or every shot of John Wick 4 when their family has gone to bed.

Even if your content isn't 7.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos, Sonos' 3D virtualization tech will upscale it so it sounds comparable. The company has also developed its own head tracking processing that learns from your position and the direction you're looking so that it's not constantly recentering if you look down at your phone. Unfortunately, the head tracking, spatial audio and the TV audio swap with Sonos Arc will only be available in the iOS version of the Sonos app at launch. Android compatibility is coming "shortly after."  

The Sonos Ace headphones are available for pre-order today from the company's website for $449 and will begin shipping on June 5th. While that's more expensive than flagship models from Bose, Sony and others, it's $100 less than the AirPods Max. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sonos-ace-headphones-hands-on-joining-your-home-theater-setup-with-the-push-of-a-button-130045023.html?src=rss
Billy Steele

Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door review: A Switch remake (mostly) befitting a masterpiece

1 day 21 hours ago

It’s criminal that there’s been no way to play Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for over a decade. The only way to experience the original 2004 Gamecube title was on that console or the Wii, which thankfully supported Gamecube discs (something that feels like a genuine miracle now). There was no Gamecube hardware support on the Wii U, unfortunately, and The Thousand-Year Door never popped up on its online store. So here we are, 20 years later, with a complete remake for the Switch. It’s fantastic, befitting a game that was already a masterpiece — it’s just a shame that Nintendo took so long to revisit the game.

Here’s some sobering perspective: I first played through The Thousand-Year Door as a senior in college, where my roommates and I made it a communal adventure. Now I’m married with two kids but I still lament the loss of Gamecube titles almost daily. Where’s Eternal Darkness, one of the best horror games ever made? Where’s Skies of Arcadia, an RPG I adored on the Dreamcast and which was later re-released on the Gamecube? I realize re-releases take work, but surely there’s an audience for these beloved titles!

Anyway, back to the remake of The Thousand-Year Door: It’s great, you should play it. It’s an easily accessible RPG for newcomers with a cute setup: Princess Peach has been kidnapped (of course), but this time it's by aliens! It's up to Mario and a group of friends — including a treasure-hunting Goomba named Goombela, and Koops, a cowardly Koopa — to save her by solving the mystery of an ancient civilization.

Like Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario before it, Thousand-Year Door is sort of a hybrid action RPG. You get to explore worlds and level up characters like an RPG, but battles also involve some responsive button mashing to keep you on your toes. A well-timed button could let you jump on an enemy's head more than once, or counter incoming attacks. It's an innovative approach to RPG mechanics that I wish more games picked up – the excellent Sea of Stars was a rare exception.

Nintendo

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is also well worth revisiting for the olds with nostalgia for the original. The graphics are richer and more detailed, with sharper sprites and lighting that makes the environments feel alive (the reflections, in particular, are often stunning). The game's score has also been revitalized to feel less MIDI-like – don't worry, there's also an in-game perk that can change everything back to the original Gamecube tunes.

It’s too bad Nintendo had to lower the frame rate down to 30fps from the Gamecube’s silky smooth 60fps, but it’s not the end of the world. If you can enjoy some of the greatest games ever made in 30fps, like Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, The Thousand Year Door is no different. The remake also adds enough new graphical elements to make it look better than the original. I’m sure I nailed the game's timing-based moves more often in 60fps, but they're still fairly easy to pull off (except for those damn counters).

Nintendo

Had Nintendo released this remake earlier in the Switch’s lifespan, I’m sure fewer gamers would be complaining about the 30fps dip. But at this point, the Switch is on its last legs and we’re awaiting news about its successor. Both Sony and Microsoft have had “next-gen” consoles out for so long they’re considering mid-cycle upgrades. It’s simply odd to see a game running more slowly today than it did on the Gamecube 20 years ago, especially when Nintendo is charging $60 for a lesser experience.

Perhaps the Switch 2, or whatever Nintendo’s new console is called, will be able to run The Thousand Year Door at 60fps. But it really doesn’t matter. It’s still a masterpiece, even at half the frame rate.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/paper-mario-the-thousand-year-door-review-a-switch-remake-mostly-befitting-a-masterpiece-130052569.html?src=rss
Devindra Hardawar

How to pre-order the Sonos Ace headphones

1 day 21 hours ago

Sonos might be known for its high-quality speaker systems, but the company has finally announced its first foray into the personal listening space: the Sonos Ace headphones. We no longer have to rely on leaked information and can confidently say the wireless headphones will launch on June 5 and are available for $449 in either black or white. While that's not too long a wait, you can pre-order the Sonos Ace headphones now through the company's website.

The Sonos Ace wireless headphones offer features like active noise cancellation and aware modes, spatial audio with Dolby Atmos and lossless audio. Plus, they have two custom-designed drivers and eight beamforming microphones. The headphones will use Sonos' upcoming TrueCinema technology, which maps your space, aiming to provide a surround sound experience. Sonos also claims the headphones last up to 30 hours of listening or talking use and can get three hours of battery life in just a three-minute charge.

In a statement, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said the Sonos Ace headphones leverage "everything we've learned over two decades as an audio leader to bring stunning sound, sleek design and long-standing comfort to one of the largest and most popular audio categories worldwide." Even the physical design reflects this with a matte finish, memory foam interior wrapped in vegan leather and lightweight build. 

You can pre-order the Sonos Ace headphones today with orders shipping on June 5. For all of the details and our initial impressions, you can read our hands-on here

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/how-to-pre-order-the-sonos-ace-headphones-130040879.html?src=rss
Sarah Fielding

Adobe Lightroom gets its own AI eraser tool

1 day 21 hours ago

Adobe is adding another AI-powered tool to its belt with the announcement of Generative Remove for Lightroom. As the name indicates, Generative Remove lets you get rid of any unwanted objects from a photo and then creates "pixel perfect generations" that make it seem as if nothing was ever there. These items could be anything from an ugly trash can in a beautiful photo or a lamp post that blocks an otherwise clear skyline. It's pretty much Adobe's version of Google's Magic Eraser

The new tool uses Adobe Firefly, a generative AI creation model launched in March 2023. Firefly trains on licensed content, such as that from Adobe Stock, and can improve image quality, create photos using a description and utilizes Generative Fill and Expand to add, remove or broaden the image. It exists across Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. 

Generative Remove is currently available as an early access feature for Lightroom, which Adobe claims will make it available to millions of people. Adobe has also expanded Lens Blur, which adds "aesthetic blur effects to parts of a photograph, to be generally available — and with new automatic presets. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/adobe-lightroom-gets-its-own-ai-eraser-tool-130003020.html?src=rss
Sarah Fielding

Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are $72 off right now

1 day 21 hours ago

There are a lot of really great headphones out there, but for us, none compare to Sony's WH-1000XM5 model. We're excited to say our favorite wireless headphones are now on sale, down to $328 from $400 — an 18 percent discount. While this isn't a record-low deal, it is the cheapest we've seen them available for yet this year.

Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones came out two years ago, yet they're still an amazing choice. We gave them a 95 in our initial review thanks to features like incredible crisp and clear sound quality with a punchy base. The M5, which offers active noise cancellation, also doubled the number of microphones and processors while adding an optimizer to ensure you can truly block out the rest of the world. The headphones also have up to 30 hours of battery life, and you can get another three hours with just three minutes of charging.

Despite the upgrades, the M5 is actually 0.14 ounces lighter than its predecessor and has better weight distribution, making for a more comfortable experience. The entire look is sleeker, though one of the few negatives of the M5s is that they don't fold, so they can be a bit bulky to carry around.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sonys-wh-1000xm5-headphones-are-72-off-right-now-123008959.html?src=rss
Sarah Fielding

The 4 best air fryers for 2024, tested and reviewed

1 day 22 hours ago

If you have yet to hop on the air fry bandwagon, it’s not a bad time to do so. Like the ubiquitous Instant Pot, air fryers are small appliances that don’t cost an arm and a leg that can be useful additions to your kitchen. While they excel at making things super crispy without excess oil, many of them are true multi-cookers with different cooking modes like bake, broil and dehydrate. Regardless of if you get a traditional pod-style air fryer or a larger air fryer toaster oven machine, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to use your new appliance for more than just crisping up chicken or french fries. And in warmer weather, they’re much easier to operate than a standard oven and won’t make your home as stifling. If you’re unsure where to start in your search for the best air fryer for you, Engadget can help. We’ve detailed our top picks below, along with buying advice that will help you decide which air fryer model is right for you.

What does an air fryer do?

Let’s clear one thing up first: it’s not frying. Not really. Air fryers are more like smaller convection ovens, ones that are often pod-shaped. Most work by combining a heating element and fan, which means the hot air can usually better crisp the outside of food than other methods. They often reach higher top temperatures than toaster ovens – which is part of the appeal.

For most recipes, a thin layer of oil (usually sprayed) helps to replicate that fried look and feel better. However, it will rarely taste precisely like the deep-fried version. Don’t let that put you off, though, because the air fryer, in its many forms, combines some of the best parts of other cooking processes and brings them together into an energy-efficient way of cooking dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch.

Read more: We’ve also rounded up the best pizza ovens and the best sous vide machines.

Best air fryers for 2024

Buying guide for air fryers

Convection ovens

You can separate most air fryers into two types and each has different pros and cons. Convection ovens are usually ovens with air fryer functions and features. They might have higher temperature settings to ensure that food crisps and cooks more like actually fried food. Most convection ovens are larger than dedicated air fryers, defeating some of the purpose of those looking to shrink cooking appliance surface area. Still, they are often more versatile with multiple cooking functions, and most have finer controls for temperatures, timings and even fan speed.

You may never need a built-in oven if you have a decent convection oven. They often have the volume to handle roasts, entire chickens or tray bakes, and simply cook more, capacity-wise, making them more versatile than the pod-shaped competition.

The flip side of that is that you’ll need counter space in the kitchen to house them. It also means you can use traditional oven accessories, like baking trays or cake tins, that you might already own.

Pod-shaped air fryers

Pod-shaped air fryers are what you imagine when you think “air fryer.” They look like a cool, space-age kitchen gadget, bigger than a kettle but smaller than a toaster oven. Many use a drawer to hold ingredients while cooking, usually a mesh sheet or a more solid, non-stick tray with holes to allow the hot air to circulate. With a few exceptions, most require you to open the drawer while things cook and flip or shake half-cooked items to ensure the even distribution of heat and airflow to everything.

That’s one of a few caveats. Most pod-shaped air fryers – there are a few exceptions – don’t have a window to see how things are cooking, so you’ll need to closely scrutinize things as they cook, opening the device to check progress. Basket-style air fryers also generally use less energy – there’s less space to heat – and many have parts that can be put directly into a dishwasher.

Some of the larger pod-shaped air fryers offer two separate compartments, which is especially useful for anyone planning to cook an entire meal with the appliance. You could cook a couple of tasty chicken wings or tenders while simultaneously rustling up enough frozen fries or veggies for everyone. Naturally, those options take up more space, and they’re usually heavy enough to stop you from storing them in cupboards or shelves elsewhere.

As mentioned earlier, you might have to buy extra things to make these pod fryers work the way you want them to. Some of the bigger manufacturers, like Philips and Ninja, offer convenient additions, but you’ll have to pay for them.

Air fryer pros and cons

Beyond the strengths and weaknesses of individual models, air fryers are pretty easy to use from the outset. Most models come with a convenient cooking time booklet covering most of the major foods you’ll be air frying, so even beginners can master these machines.

One of the early selling points is the ability to cook fries, wings, frozen foods and other delights with less fat than other methods like deep frying, which gets foods the crispiest. As air fryers work by circulating heated air, the trays and cooking plates have holes that can also let oil and fat drain out of meats, meaning less fat and crisper food when you finally plate things up. For most cooking situations, you will likely need to lightly spray food with vegetable oil. If you don’t, there’s the chance that things will burn or char. The oil will keep things moist on the surface, and we advise refreshing things with a dash of oil spray when you turn items during cooking.

Most air fryers are easy to clean – especially in comparison to a shallow or deep fryer. We’ll get into cleaning guidance a little later.

With a smaller space to heat, air fryers are generally more energy-efficient for cooking food than larger appliances like ovens. And if you don’t have an oven, air fryers are much more affordable – especially the pod options.

There are, however, some drawbacks. While air fryers are easy enough to use, they take time to master. You will adjust cooking times for even the simplest types of food – like chicken nuggets, frozen French fries or brussels sprouts. If you’re the kind of person that loves to find inspiration from the internet, in our experience, you can pretty much throw their timings out of the window. There are a lot of air fryer options, and factors like how fast they heat and how well distributed that heat is can – and will – affect cooking.

There’s also a space limitation to air fryers. This is not a TARDIS – there’s simply less space than most traditional ovens and many deep fat fryers. If you have a bigger family, you’ll probably want to go for a large capacity air fryer – possibly one that has multiple cooking areas. You also might want to consider a different kitchen appliance, like a multicooker, sous vide or slow cooker to meet your specific cooking needs.

You may also struggle to cook many items through as the heat settings will cook the surface of dishes long before it’s cooked right through. If you’re planning to cook a whole chicken or a roast, please get a meat thermometer!

Best air fryer accessories

Beyond official accessories from the manufacturer, try to pick up silicone-tipped tools. Tongs are ideal, as is a silicon spatula to gently loosen food that might get stuck on the sides of the air fryer. These silicone mats will also help stop things from sticking to the wire racks on some air fryers. They have holes to ensure the heated air is still able to circulate around the food.

Silicone trivets are also useful for resting any cooked food on while you sort out the rest of the meal. And if you find yourself needing oil spray, but don’t feel like repeatedly buying tiny bottles, you can decant your favorite vegetable oil into a permanent mister like this.

How to clean an air fryer

We’re keeping clean up simple here. Yes, you could use power cleaners from the grocery store, they could damage the surface of your air fryer. Likewise, metal scourers or brushes could strip away the non-stick coating. Remember to unplug the device and let it cool completely.

Remove the trays, baskets and everything else from inside. If the manufacturer says the parts are dishwasher safe – and you have a dishwasher – the job is pretty much done.

Otherwise, hand wash each part in a mixture of warm water, with a splash of Dawn or another strong dish soap. Use a soft-bristled brush to pull away any crumbs, greasy deposits or bits of food stuck to any surfaces. Remember to rinse everything. Otherwise, your next batch of wings could have a mild Dawn aftertaste. Trust us.

Take a microfiber cloth and tackle the outer parts and handles that might also get a little messy after repeated uses. This is especially useful for oven-style air fryers – use the cloth to wipe down the inner sides.

If Dawn isn’t shifting oily stains, try mixing a small amount of baking soda with enough water to make a paste, and apply that so that it doesn’t seep into any electrical parts or the heating element. Leave it to work for a few seconds before using a damp cloth to pull any greasy spots away. Rinse out the cloth and wipe everything down again, and you should be ready for the next time you need to air fry.

How to find air fryer recipes

Beyond fries, nuggets and – a revelation – frozen gyoza, there are a few ways to find recipes for air-fried foods. First, we found that the air fryer instruction manuals often have cooking guides and recipe suggestions for you to test out in your new kitchen gadget. The good thing with these is that they were made for your air fryer model, meaning success should be all but guaranteed. They are often a little unimaginative, however.

Many of the top recipe sites and portals have no shortage of air fryer recipes, and there’s no harm in googling your favorite cuisine and adding the words “air fryer” on the end of the search string. We’ve picked up some reliable options from Delish, which also has a handy air fryer time converter for changing oven and traditional fryer recipes.

BBC Good Food is also worth browsing for some simple ideas, as is NYT Cooking, with the ability to directly search for air fryer suggestions.

And if you have a killer recipe or unique use for your air fryer, let us know in the comments. What’s the air fryer equivalent of the Instant Pot cheesecake? We’re ready to try it.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-air-fryers-133047180.html?src=rss
Mat Smith,Nicole Lee,Valentina Palladino

The Morning After: Microsoft introduces its AI-centric Copilot+ PCs

1 day 22 hours ago

Microsoft couldn’t wait until its Build conference today. It just revealed a bunch of new hardware and plans for Windows. Copilot+ PCs were the big announcement, designed to run generative AI processes locally instead of in the cloud. Of course, Microsoft had new Surface devices to showcase these features, but the usual PC suspects also have new laptops that meet the spec requirements — and include Copilot+ in their name for added chaos. The company also claims Copilot+ PCs are 58 percent faster than the M3-powered MacBook Air.

Engadget

We’ll drill into some other announcements down below.

— Mat Smith

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Microsoft’s redesigned Surface Laptop has over 22 hours of battery life

It’s a Copilot+ PC too.

Engadget

The new Surface Laptop is a redesigned PC with thinner bezels in 13.8- and 15-inch sizes and Qualcomm’s Arm-based Snapdragon X Elite chip. Microsoft says this is the brightest display it has ever shipped, at 600 nits, and the new Studio Camera is now in the bezel, so no visible notch.

Will the Snapdragon X Elite give better performance? Expect potent battery life. Microsoft claims the 15-inch model will run for up to 22 hours on a single charge while playing videos locally and up to 15 hours while actively browsing the web. We’ve got some hands-on impressions right here, but we’ve got reservations. Devices like the Surface Pro 9, which ran Windows on Arm, still didn’t feel as fast or responsive compared to their more traditional x86-based counterparts.

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Microsoft rebuilt Windows 11 around AI and Arm chips

There’s also a new emulator for running older Windows apps.

Microsoft says it has rebuilt core components of Windows 11 to better support Arm-based hardware and AI. That includes a new kernel, compiler and, most importantly, an emulator named Prism, for running older x86 and x64 apps. Thanks to a powerful new Neural Processing Unit (NPU) in the Snapdragon X Elite chips, Copilot+ PCs can run more than 40 trillion operations per second, a measure of a chip’s AI performance, more than four times the performance of today’s AI PCs.

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With Recall, Microsoft may have fixed Windows’ eternally broken search

The new AI-powered feature is like a photographic memory of everything you’ve done.

This sounds very good. Microsoft also announced Recall, a new feature to make local Windows PC searches as quick and effective as web searches, tapping into AI to add more contextual search parameters. Microsoft product manager Caroline Hernandez gave the example of searching for a blue dress on Pinterest using a Windows PC with Recall. She can search the Recall timeline for ‘blue dress’ (using her voice), which pulls all of her recent searches, saving her from having to sift through browser history. She further refined the query with more specific details like ‘blue pantsuit with sequined lace for Abuelita,’ and Rewind delivered relevant results. Microsoft says it can start with exact information or vague contextual clues to find what you want — and it’s apparently all done locally. It is, however, a Copilot+ exclusive.

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Scarlett Johansson says OpenAI used her likeness without permission

An AI company using something without permission? Whaa?!

AI companies love to tap Scarlett Johansson’s star power, but this time it’s a bigger player in AI. Johansson accused OpenAI of copying her voice for one of the ChatGPT voice assistants, despite her denying the company permission to do so. Johansson’s statement on Monday came hours after OpenAI said it would no longer use the voice. “The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers,” an OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement sent to Engadget. The Her actor said OpenAI only stopped using the voice after she hired legal counsel.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-microsoft-introduces-its-ai-centric-copilot-pcs-111916490.html?src=rss
Mat Smith

The best live TV streaming services to cut cable in 2024

2 days 1 hour ago

Cable’s deserved reputation for being tough to cancel is partly what makes streaming such a compelling alternative. In fact, the FTC held an informal hearing in January about its proposed “click to cancel” rules, which would compel subscription providers like cable companies to make it simpler for people to end their service. During the hearing, industry representatives claimed making canceling easier for customers would just “confuse them.” There’s a lot of entertainment, news and sports sequestered behind cable’s pay wall, and a live TV streaming service is the best way to get around that. Though more expensive than a traditional streaming service, these live TV plans will let you catch your local news, watch a slew of national and international sports and browse the latest “cable-only” channels — all with plans that can be canceled with a couple clicks. We tried the best of what’s out there and these are the live TV streaming services we think are worth your money.

What to look for in a live TV streaming service

How to stream live TV

Streaming live TV is a lot like using Netflix. You get access through apps on your phone, tablet, smart TV or streaming device and the signal arrives over the internet. A faster and more stable connection tends to give you a better experience. Most live TV apps require you to sign up and pay via a web browser. After that, you can activate the app on your device.

Price

When I started my cord-cutting research, I was struck by the price difference between live TV and a standard streaming app like Netflix or Peacock. Where the latter cost between $5 and $20 per month, many live TV services hit the $75 mark and can go higher than $200 with additional perks, channel packages and premium extras. The higher starting price is mostly due to the cost of providing multiple networks – particularly sports and local stations. And, in the past year or so, every service except Philo and Sling has raised base plan prices.

Local channels

Only two of the services we tried don’t include full local channel coverage for subscribers and one of those makes no effort at carrying sports. That would be Philo and, as you might guess, it’s the cheapest. The next most affordable option, Sling, only carries three local stations, and only in larger markets, but it still manages to include some of the top sports channels.

When you sign up with any provider that handles local TV, you’ll enter your zip code, ensuring you get your area’s broadcast affiliates for ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. Of course, you can also get those stations for free. Nearly all modern television sets support a radio frequency (RF) connection, also known as the coaxial port, which means if you buy an HD antenna, you’ll receive locally broadcast stations like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. And since the signal is digital, reception is much improved over the staticky rabbit-ears era.

Sports

One reality that spun my head was the sheer number and iterations of sports networks in existence. Trying to figure out which network will carry the match-up you want to see can be tricky. Google makes it a little easier for sports fans by listing out upcoming games (just swap in NFL, MLB, NHL and so on in the search bar). When you click an event, the “TV & streaming” button will tell you which network is covering it.

That just leaves figuring out if your chosen service carries that regional sports network. Unfortunately, even with add-ons and extra packages, some providers simply don’t have certain channel lineups. It would take a lawyer to understand the ins and outs of streaming rights negotiations, and networks leave and return to live TV carriers all the time. That said, most major sporting events in the US are covered by ESPN, Fox Sports, TNT, USA and local affiliates.

It's also worth noting that traditional streaming services have started adding live sports to their lineups. Peacock carries live Premier League matches and Sunday Night Football. Max now airs select, regular season games from the NHL, MLB, NCAA and NBA with a $10-per-month add-on. You can watch MLS games with an add-on through the Apple TV app, and Apple TV+ includes some MLB games. And finally, if you subscribe to Paramount Plus, you can see many of the matches you’d see on CBS Sports. While these options won’t cover as much ground as live TV streamers, they could scratch a sports itch without too much added cost.

Amy Skorheim / Engadget

Traditional cable networks

Dozens of linear programming networks were once only available with cable TV, like Bravo, BET, Food Network, HGTV, CNN, Lifetime, SYFY and MTV. If you only subscribe to, say, Netflix or Apple TV+, you won’t have access to those. But as with sports, standard streamers are starting to incorporate this content into their offerings. After the Warner Bros. merger, Max incorporated some content from HGTV, Discovery and TLC. Peacock has Bravo and Hallmark shows, and Paramount+ has material from Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

Other channels like AMC+ have stand-alone apps. The Discovery+ app gives you 15 channels add-free for $9 per month. And a service called Frndly TV costs a mere $7 per month and streams A&E, Lifetime, Game Show Network, Outdoor Channel and about 35 others. Of course, most live TV streaming options will deliver more sizable lists of cable networks, but just note that you may already be paying for some of them — and if all you need is a certain channel, you could get it cheaper by subscribing directly.

How to stream live TV for free

We also tested a few apps that offer free ad-supported TV (FAST) including Freevee, Tubi, PlutoTV and Sling Freestream. They let you drop in and watch a more limited selection of live networks at zero cost. Most don’t even require an email address, let alone a credit card. And if you have a Roku device, an Amazon Fire TV Stick or a Samsung TV, you already have access to hundreds of live channels via the Roku Channel, the live tab in Fire TV or through the Samsung TV Plus app.

Digital video recordings (DVR)

Every option we’ve included offers cloud DVR storage, so you don’t need a separate physical device like you often do with traditional cable. You’ll either get unlimited storage for recordings that expires after nine months or a year, or you’ll get a set number of hours (between 50 and 1,000) that you can keep indefinitely. Typically, all you need to do is designate what you want to record and the DVR component will do all the hard work of saving subsequent episodes for you to watch later.

Aside from being able to watch whenever it’s most convenient, you can also fast-forward through commercials in recorded content. In contrast, you can’t skip them on live TV or video-on-demand (VOD).

Most live TV subscriptions include access to a selection of VOD content including movies and shows that are currently airing on your subscribed networks. This typically doesn’t cover live events, local shows and news programming. But it does let you watch specific episodes of ongoing shows like Top Chef or BET’s Diarra from Detroit. Just search the on-demand library for the program, pick an episode and hit play.

Tiers, packages and add-ons

Comparing price-to-offering ratios is a task for a spreadsheet. I… made three. The base plans range from $25 to $80 per month. From there, you can add packages, which are usually groups of live TV channels bundled by themes like news, sports, entertainment or international content. Premium VOD extras like Max, AMC+ and Starz are also available. Add-ons cost an extra $5 to $20 each per month and simply show up in the guide where you find the rest of your live TV. This is where streaming can quickly get expensive, pushing an $80 subscription to $200 monthly, depending on what you choose.

How we tested

When I begin testing for a guide, I research the most popular and well-reviewed players in the category and narrow down which are worth trying. For the paid plans, just six services dominate so I tried them all. There are considerably more free live TV contenders so I tested the four most popular. After getting accounts set up using my laptop, I downloaded the apps on a Samsung smart TV running the latest version of Tizen OS. I counted the local stations and regional sports coverage, and noted how many of last year's top cable networks were available. I then weighed the prices, base packages and available add-ons.

I then looked at how the programming was organized in each app’s UI and judged how easy everything was to navigate, from the top navigation to the settings. To test the search function, I searched for the same few TV shows on BET, Food Network, HGTV and Comedy Central, since all six providers carry those channels. I noted how helpful the searches were and how quickly they got me to season 6, episode 13 of Home Town.

I used DVR to record entire series and single movies and watched VOD shows, making sure to test the pause and scan functions. On each service with sports, I searched for the same four upcoming NHL, NBA, MLS and NCAA basketball matches and used the record option to save the games and play them back a day or two later. Finally, I noted any extra perks or irritating quirks.

Here’s the full list of everything we tried:

Free ad-supported live TV:

Best free live TV streaming services

Many standard streaming apps have added live components to their lineups. You’re paying for the service, so it’s not technically “free,” but you can get a dose of live TV without spending more than necessary. Peacock includes some regional NBC stations and Paramount+ subscribers can watch on-air CBS programming. The standard Hulu app has a live ABC news channel and Max now includes a live CNN outlet with its service.

Amazon Prime Video contains a live TV tab, as does the Fire TV interface. And, if you use Roku or Samsung as your smart OS of choice, their built-in, proprietary services include hundreds of live channels at no extra cost. Plus there are free apps from Plex and PBS — even NASA has a free streaming service.

But if you want a full suite of live TV networks, and don’t want to sign up for any paid service, there are a number of free ad-supported TV services that have live TV. Here's the best of what we tried:

Frequently asked questions

What streaming service is best for live TV?

FuboTV does the best job of letting you organize live channels to help you find just what you want to watch. The interface is uncluttered and when you search for something, the UI clearly tells you whether something is live now or on-demand. YouTube TV also does a good job making that info clear. Both have just over 100 live channels on offer.

What is the most cost effective TV streaming service?

Free TV streaming services like PlutoTV, Plex, Tubi and FreeVee show plenty of ad-supported TV shows and movies without charging you anything. Of course, they won’t have the same channels or content that more premium subscriptions have. Ultimately it depends on what you want to watch and finding the service that can supply that to you in the most streamlined form so you’re not paying for stuff you don’t need.

Is it cheaper to have cable or streaming?

A basic cable package used to be more expensive than the base-level live TV streaming service. But now that nearly all major providers have raised their prices to over $75 per month, that’s no longer the case. And with add-ons and other premiums, you can easily pay over $200 a month for either cable or a live TV streaming service.

What streaming service has all the TV channels?

No service that we tested had every available channel. Hulu + Live TV and DirecTV Stream carry the highest number of the top rated channels, according to Neilsen. Hulu’s service will also get you Disney+ fare, which you can’t get elsewhere. FuboTV has the most sports channels and YouTube TV gives you the widest selection of add-ons.

What is the most popular live TV streaming platform?

YouTube TV has the most paying customers. According to this year’s letter from the company’s CEO, the service has over eight million subscribers. Disney’s 2023 fourth quarter earnings put the Hulu + Live TV viewer count at 4.6 million. Sling reported two million patrons and FuboTV claimed 1.1 million, both in respective year-end reports.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-live-tv-streaming-service-133000410.html?src=rss
Amy Skorheim

Volvo and Aurora introduce their first self-driving truck

2 days 2 hours ago

Volvo and Aurora have unveiled their first production autonomous truck, three years after the companies initially announced that they were teaming up. They've just showed off the Volvo VNL Autonomous truck, which was designed by autonomous trucking and robotaxi company Aurora but will be manufactured by Volvo, at ACT Expo in Las Vegas. 

It's powered by Aurora Driver, a level 4 autonomous driving system that uses high-resolution cameras, imaging radars, a LiDAR sensor that can detect objects up to 400 meters away and even more sensors. Aurora's technology has driven billions of virtual miles for training, as well as 1.5 million commercial miles on actual public roads. For safety purposes, the truck has "redundant steering, braking, communication, computation, power management, energy storage and vehicle motion management systems."

According to TechCrunch, the vehicle will still have a human driver behind the wheel to take over whenever needed when it starts ferrying cargo across North America over the next few months. An Aurora spokesperson told the publication that it will be announcing pilot programs with its clients that are planning to use Volvo's truck sometime later this year. It didn't name any companies, but the startup previously ran pilot programs with FedEx and Uber Freight. 

The autonomous vehicle company also intends to deploy 20 fully driverless trucks between Dallas and Houston soon, but it's unclear if this inaugural fleet of driverless vehicles will be comprised of Volvo's trucks or of its other manufacturing partners'. The companies did say at the Las Vegas event, though, that Volvo has already started manufacturing a test fleet of the VNL Autonomous truck at its New River Valley assembly facility in Virginia. Nils Jaeger, President of Volvo Autonomous Solutions, called this truck the "first of [the company's] standardized global autonomous technology platform." Jaeger added that it will enable Volvo "to introduce additional models in the future."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/volvo-and-aurora-introduce-their-first-self-driving-truck-080058835.html?src=rss
Mariella Moon

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II review: A series of unfortunate events

2 days 2 hours ago

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II shoves hopeless brutality in your face and screams at you to recognize its beauty. Its landscapes are littered with disemboweled corpses and shrines of rotting flesh, and its shadows conceal monsters carrying blood-stained blades. Every chapter in Hellblade II is a parade of suffering and pain, and every scene has a backdrop of taunting whispers. After just a few minutes of playtime it can feel like you’re strapped down, trapped in Senua’s claustrophobic reality on the Icelandic coast, suffocating under the dark waves with her.

And here’s the thing — it is absolutely beautiful.

Hellblade II is a third-person narrative adventure set in Iceland in the 10th century, and it’s the sequel to Ninja Theory’s 2017 game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Senua is a young warrior who hears a cacophony of disembodied voices in her mind, judging her every move. The whispers are a critical and permanent part of Senua’s psyche — a lesson she learned in the first game, after realizing the depths of her father’s abuse when she was a child. In Hellblade II, Senua is figuring out how to live outside of her father’s influence, but his voice still rumbles in her head at inopportune times, drowning out the female whispers that she’s come to view as her allies.

Ninja Theory

Senua regularly sees the ghosts of the warriors and civilians that have died around her, and she carries their souls as a mental shroud, fueling her intense desire to save as many oppressed people as she can. She has targets right away: Hellblade II opens with Senua and others held captive on a slave ship during a catastrophic storm. The ship is thrown ashore, scattering slavers and the enslaved on the black rocks. This is where Senua finds her sword.

She makes her way inland, where she finds companions and learns about a plague of giants terrorizing the local villages, slaughtering entire communities and destroying precious farmland. Throughout her journey, Senua fights the giants and hordes of human-sized enemies — always one at a time — with a single broadsword and a bit of magic. The whispers provide a constant soundtrack of criticism, encouragement, warnings, fear, anger and doubt, hisses slicing through the silence and interrupting moments of dialogue, inescapable.

Hellblade II is more of an extended, extremely anxious and violent vibe than a traditional adventure game. Its combat is OK, its puzzles are slightly tedious and, emotionally, it’s one-dimensional — but as an interactive brutality visualizer, Hellblade II is outstanding. Senua fights until her pores ooze blood, screaming through each swing of her sword as the whispers surround her, cuing her when to strike and telling her to ignore the pain. Every fight is close combat and one-on-one, warriors waiting in a circle of fog for their turn to rush in, punch her in the face and slice her to pieces. The sounds of flesh smacking against flesh join the whispers and the screen splatters red when Senua is hit. Hellblade II revels in physical violence.

Ninja Theory

Outside of combat, Senua’s body is sacrificed to the elements, caught in swirling riptides and burned to ash in bursts of hellfire, pieces of broken earth floating around her. Senua steps gingerly into dark pools filled with the ghosts of the damned, shadowy figures wailing and trying to pull her down. A giant’s hand slams to the ground, smashing a body with a wet splat beneath its palm. Reality bends and shatters, and Senua is trapped in torturous, psychedelic nightmares narrated by her father’s booming voice. She burns herself at the stake. Her face fills the screen, panic spewing from her lips and horror sharp in her eyes. In every scene, the whispers persist.

Basically, it’s metal as hell.

I played Hellblade II on Xbox Series S without headphones and on a high-end gaming PC with headphones. The game is stunning in both formats, though of course the details and lighting looked a bit crisper on PC. There may be no laughter in Senua's life, but there are breathtaking landscapes dotted with delicate shrubs and rough boulders, fine red dust stretching to the horizon. There are towering cave systems lit by the soft glow of blue flames; there are beaches with roiling waves; there are snow-capped mountains backlit by a golden setting sun. The environments in Hellblade II are all phenomenally detailed, which is great news for the game's Photo Mode.

Ninja Theory

Whether on console or PC, I encourage every Hellblade II player to wear headphones in order to fully enjoy the binaural audio. In this format, the whispers surround your head as they do Senua’s, spawning from various directions in a terrifying way. With no UI in the entire game, stellar acting from Melina Juergens as Senua, and headphones full of soft, hissing judgements, Hellblade II can get incredibly immersive.

Outside of its aesthetic and tonal merits, combat in Hellblade II is simplistic and sometimes frustrating. The game has pared-down mechanics, and Senua has just a standard and heavy sword attack, plus an evade move, a parry and a special power-up. Timing is everything in battles, and Senua moves sluggishly enough that last-second adjustments rarely land. Additionally, Senua’s special move is — dare I say — overpowered, and it basically guarantees she’ll kill whatever minion she’s fighting. Between the annoying timing structure and a too-strong power-up, it’s difficult to find a rhythm with any enemy in Hellblade II. That may indeed be a rhythm to be found in these battles, as demonstrated by the original Hellblade, but I couldn’t identify it in my initial playthrough.

Ninja Theory

The most successful puzzles in Hellblade II involve Senua magically changing the landscape around her, focusing on specific vortices to manifest platforms where she needs them. These riddles aren’t particularly challenging and they don’t gain layers of complexity as the game progresses, but their settings are gorgeous, generally contained to cave systems that glow like the night sky. The game’s most annoying puzzles are the symbol-hunting ones, where Senua has to find pieces of an ancient language in the environment. These moments feel like filler; they don’t advance the story in any meaningful way and they make me squint at the screen uncomfortably. That last one might be because I need new glasses, but still, I could do without the symbol-seeking puzzles entirely.

Hellblade II uses a limited set of inputs — just directional, sprint, focus and interact — and portions of it are fully playable with one hand, whispers shadowing Senua’s steps. Everything that Senua does is cloaked in apocalyptic framing; every conversation she has, whether with herself or her companions, is drenched in anxiety and urgency. There is no joy in Senua’s life, no respite from the pressure to save everyone, nowhere to run from the guilt that already weighs heavily on her mind. Senua’s singular emotion is desperation, her trauma is repeated over and over, her ghosts are explained again and again.

It’s as if Ninja Theory built Hellblade II to be an art installation at a busy museum — like they expected its audience to be milling in and out of the room, paying attention for spurts at a time, and they wanted to make sure every scene told the full story. Though Senua gathers a few allies along her journey, every character in this harsh world feels transitory, and their presence lacks lasting impact. Hellblade II is stuck at 11 on the emotional scale and it doesn’t offer any opportunities for falling or rising tension, causing its climax to fall a bit flat. The final scenes are epic, like the rest of the game, but they also feel like… the rest of the game. So much so, that I was surprised when the credits started to roll.

Ninja Theory

As a side note, I’ve never had a game trigger my phobia of crashing waves quite like Hellblade II. I had to close my eyes for half of one segment because it involved Senua getting swept up by the raging sea in regular pulses, waves repeatedly crushing her body and the camera, and it was making my stomach turn. This is far from the only deep-water horrorscape in the game, so fair warning.

Hellblade II is an impressive sensory experience interrupted every so often by tedious symbol-hunting puzzles. It’s an epic poem in video game form, violent and timeless.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is available on Xbox Series X/S and PC, included in Game Pass.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/senuas-saga-hellblade-ii-review-a-series-of-unfortunate-events-080047631.html?src=rss
Jessica Conditt

The best Xbox games for 2024

2 days 3 hours ago

Whether you have an older Xbox One or a brand new Xbox Series X, you have access to an almost-identical library of games. That’s a good thing for gamers, but it makes it harder for people like us to maintain favorites lists that vary by console — at least for now. With this list of best Xbox games, we wanted to highlight the best games we would recommend to someone picking up an Xbox today — whether it’s the best Xbox One games or the top picks for a Series X, a Series S or One S. The result is a list that is a mixture of games exclusive to Microsoft’s consoles and cross-platform showstoppers that play best on Xbox. We’ve done our best to explain the benefits Microsoft’s systems bring to the table where appropriate. Oh, and while we understand some may have an aversion to subscription services, it’s definitely worth considering Game Pass Ultimate, which will allow you to play many of the games on this list for a monthly fee.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-xbox-games-140022399.html?src=rss
Engadget

Scarlett Johansson says OpenAI used her likeness without permission for its 'Sky' voice assistant

2 days 6 hours ago

Actor Scarlett Johansson has accused OpenAI of copying her voice for one of the voice assisstants in ChatGPT despite denying the company permission to do so. Johansson’s statement on Monday came hours after OpenAI said that the company would no longer use the voice in ChatGPT but did not provide a reason why.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” Johansson wrote in the statement shared by her public relations team with Engadget (NPR first reported the story). “He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.” Johansson added that she declined the offer after “much consideration and for personal reasons,” but when OpenAI demoed GPT-4o, the company’s latest large language model last week, “my friends, family, and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ’Sky’ sounded like me.” 

When Johansson saw OpenAI’s newest demo, she said she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mind that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference.” She also revealed that Altman had contacted her agent just two days before the company revealed GPT-4o and asked her to reconsider, but released the system anyway before she had a chance to respond. 

"The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson's, and it was never intended to resemble hers," an OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement sent to Engadget that the company attributed to Altman, OpenAI's co-founder and CEO. "We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better." 

Even though “Sky” has been one of the voice assisstants in ChatGPT since September 2023, GPT-4o, which the company announced last week, takes things a step further. The company said that the new model is closer to “much more natural human-computer interaction” and demoed its executives having nearly human-like conversations with the voice assistant in ChatGPT. This invited comparisons to Samantha, the virtual voice assistant played by Johansson in the 2013 movie Her who has an intimate relationship with a human being. Shortly after the event, Altman tweeted a single word — “her” — in an apparent reference to the film.


On Monday, OpenAI said that it was pausing the use of “Sky” in ChatGPT and released a lengthy post revealing how the company hired professional voice actors to create its own virtual assistants, and denying any similarities with Johansson’s voice.

"We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity's distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice," OpenAI wrote and added that each of its performers, who it declined to name for privacy reasons, was paid “above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products.”

This move, Johansson said in her statement, only came after she hired legal counsel who wrote two letters to Altman and OpenAI asking for an explanation. “In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity,” Johansson wrote. “I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

Update, May 20 2024, 9:09 PM ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from OpenAI.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/scarlett-johansson-says-openai-used-her-likeness-without-permission-for-its-sky-voice-assistant-233451958.html?src=rss
Pranav Dixit

Another patient will get Neuralink’s brain implant

2 days 10 hours ago

Neuralink will be able to surgically implant its device into another patient’s brain. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company was approved to move forward with a second procedure months after Noland Arbaugh became the first person to receive the brain implant.

Elon Musk said last week that the company was “accepting applications for the second participant” in the trial. The company began recruiting potential participants for its first clinical trial last year with the goal of bringing the technology to people with ALS, spinal cord injuries or other conditions that cause quadriplegia.

Redefining the boundaries of human capability requires pioneers.

If you have quadriplegia and want to explore new ways of controlling your computer, we invite you to participate in our clinical trial. pic.twitter.com/svqfAkVV1M

— Neuralink (@neuralink) May 16, 2024

Neuralink has also reportedly come up with a potential fix for an issue that caused Arbaugh’s implant to malfunction about a month after his surgery. The company said earlier this month that some of the implant’s threads “retracted from the brain” causing the issue. Arbaugh recently told Bloomberg that software updates have since restored many of those capabilities. Neuralink has shared clips of Arbaugh, who is paralyzed from the neck down, playing chess, controlling a music player app and performing other activities. 

According to The Journal, Neuralink told the FDA that in a second procedure it would place the implant’s threads deeper into the patient’s brain to prevent them from moving as much as they did in Arbaugh’s case. The FDA is apparently on board with the changes. The company reportedly wants to complete the second surgery in June and has seen more than 1,000 people sign up for a chance to participate in the trial.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/another-patient-will-get-neuralinks-brain-implant-235059248.html?src=rss
Karissa Bell

Meta approved ads in India that called for violence and spread election conspiracy theories

2 days 11 hours ago

Meta’s advertising policies are once again in the spotlight as a watchdog group says the company approved more than a dozen “highly inflammatory” ads that broke its rules. The ads targeted Indian audiences and contained disinformation, calls for violence and conspiracy theories about the upcoming elections.

The ads are detailed in a new report from Ekō, a nonprofit watchdog organization. The group says it submitted the ads as a “stress test” of Meta’s company’s advertising systems, but that the spots “were created based upon real hate speech and disinformation prevalent in India.”

In all, the group was able to get 14 of 22 ads approved through Meta’s company’s advertising tools even though all of them should have been rejected for breaking the company’s rules. The group didn’t disclose the exact wording of the ads, but said they “called for violent uprisings targeting Muslim minorities, disseminated blatant disinformation exploiting communal or religious conspiracy theories prevalent in India's political landscape, and incited violence through Hindu supremacist narratives.” Researchers at Ekō pulled the ads before they ran and they were never seen by actual Facebook users, according to the report.

It’s not the first time Ekō has gotten inflammatory ads approved by Meta in an effort to draw attention to its advertising systems. The group previously got a batch of hate-filled Facebook ads targeting users in Europe approved, though the ads never ran.

In its latest report, Ekō says it also used generative AI tools to create images for the ads. Researchers at the organizations said none of the ads were flagged by Meta as containing AI-generated material, despite the company’s statements that it’s working on systems to detect such content.

Meta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a response to Ekō, the company pointed to its rules requiring political advertisers to disclose their use of AI and a blog post about its efforts to prepare for the Indian elections.

Update May 21, 2024 6:10 PM ET: "As part of our ads review process—which includes both automated and human reviews—we have several layers of analysis and detection, both before and after an ad goes live," a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. "Because the authors immediately deleted the ads in question, we cannot comment on the claims made." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-approved-ads-in-india-that-called-for-violence-and-spread-election-conspiracy-theories-225510165.html?src=rss
Karissa Bell

Surface Laptop Copilot+ hands-on: Quietly powerful

2 days 12 hours ago

The Surface Laptop has always been a bit of an anti-revolutionary device. After Microsoft struggled to make a splash with its original Surface tablets, it was created as a more mainstream option for less courageous consumers. It simply a Windows laptop, albeit a well-designed one. 

The same is true for the new Copilot+ Surface Laptop: It doesn't look very unique at first, but spend a bit of time with it and you'll notice the attention to detail around its case and keyboard, or the way its thin new bezels highlight its brighter screen. And together with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon X Elite and X Plus chips, it's also far more powerful than before.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Aside from those slim screen bezels, though, it's easy to mistake the Surface Laptop for any Microsoft's previous models. The only tell is the Copilot buton on its keyboard, which opens up Microsoft's AI assistant to do your bidding. Just like the new Surface Pro, there's plenty of potential for the Surface Laptop to be an AI powerhouse, especially with features like Recall, which aims to remember everything you've ever done on your PC. But it's just hard to tell how successful it'll be in a brief hands-on.

In one demo at Microsoft's campus, I watched as a representative used CapCut to remove the background from a video featuring several dancers. Within a few seconds, the app was able to insert a more dynamic alternative. It's the sort of thing you can do manually, but it would take a long time to separate every dancer and map them onto a new background. Thanks to the Surface Laptop's neural processing unit (NPU), it can intelligently carve out the dancers and place them on a new stage.

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The new Surface Laptop Copilot+ AI PC starts at $999 for the 13.8-inch model with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and a Snapdragon X Plus processor. You can upgrade to the more powerful X Elite chip for an extra $300, and you can also add a 1TB SSD for an extra $200 on top of that. The 15-inch Surface Laptop starts at $1,300 with the X Elite chip.

Catch up on all the news from Microsoft's Copilot AI and Surface event today!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/surface-laptop-copilot-hands-on-quietly-powerful-215015871.html?src=rss
Devindra Hardawar

iOS 17.5.1 fixes reappearing photo bug

2 days 13 hours ago

Apple just released an update for iOS (and iPadOS) to tackle a strange bug that cropped up in the past week. When iOS 17.5 came out, some users noticed that photos they deleted were reappearing in their Photos library — now, iOS 17.5.1 promises to fix that. As Apple puts its, the update “addresses a rare issue where photos that experienced database corruption could reappear in the Photos library even if they were deleted.”

As noted by MacRumors, some users on Reddit were seeing photos that were deleted not just weeks ago but months and years ago returning to their devices. Indeed, one person reported seeing photos from way back in 2010 popping up in their library as if they were newly shot. 

As usual, Apple hasn’t offered more details besides what is in the iOS 17.5.1 release notes, but we’re reaching out to see if they have any other details about how this bug popped up in the first place. In the meantime, you might as well go update your iPhone or iPad now. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/ios-1751-fixes-reappearing-photo-bug-204830179.html?src=rss
Nathan Ingraham

Intel-powered Copilot+ PCs will be available this fall

2 days 13 hours ago

A gaggle of PC makers rolled out their first Copilot+ PCs on Monday, but they all run on Qualcomm silicon. Intel chimed in today to assure us that its Lunar Lake chips, the company’s first to support all the Copilot+ AI features, will arrive in Q3 2024.

Intel says more than 80 new laptops from over 20 hardware partners will begin shipping in time for the holidays. The PCs will add the new Copilot+ features, like Recall and Cocreator via a software update. (The company didn’t provide a specific window for those.) Intel expects to ship more than 40 million AI PC chips this year, which include an onboard neural processing unit (NPU) for generative AI features.

The chipmaker says Lunar Lake will have more than triple the AI performance of the current Meteor Lake models, supporting over 40 trillion NPU operations per second (TOPS).

“The launch of Lunar Lake will bring meaningful fundamental improvements across security, battery life, and more thanks to our deep co-engineering partnership with Intel,” Microsoft Windows and Devices VP Pavan Davuluri wrote in a press release. “We are excited to see Lunar Lake come to market with a 40+ TOPS NPU which will deliver Microsoft’s Copilot+ experiences at scale when available.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/intel-powered-copilot-pcs-will-be-available-this-fall-204049150.html?src=rss
Will Shanklin

ASUS’ first Copilot+ PC locks when you walk away and unlocks when you return

2 days 14 hours ago

ASUS isn’t sitting out the rush of AI-enhanced Copilot+ PCs, which also includes new models from Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and, of course, Microsoft. The “ultra-thin” ASUS Vivobook S 15 has Windows AI features like memory assistant Recall, the image generator Cocreator, and several ASUS-exclusive AI apps.

One of the more intriguing AI-powered features of the ASUS Vivobook S 15 is its use of the AiSense IR camera. ASUS says it can detect your presence and adjust the display accordingly. If you look away, the display will dim, and it will brighten up again when you look back. And if you step away from the computer, it will lock — and unlock when you return. While we can't vouch for its effectiveness before trying it, the feature sounds super handy for security and privacy if it delivers consistently.

Another baked-in AI feature is StoryCube, an app that ASUS says can automatically organize RAW photos and videos. In addition to the standard Copilot+ features announced on Monday, the laptop also includes Windows Studio Effects, which can automate lighting adjustments and noise removal in video calls. It also supports Microsoft’s Live Captions (real-time, AI-powered subtitles).

ASUS

On the hardware side, the Vivobook S 15 runs on the Snapdragon X Elite chip with a built-in Qualcomm Hexagon neural processing unit (NPU), which ASUS claims can process 45 TOPS (that’s 45 trillion operations per second). The PC ships with a 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD and up to 32GB of 8448 MHz LPDDR5X RAM.

The laptop has a 15.6-inch OLED screen with a 2,880 x 1,620 resolution and an 89 percent screen-to-body ratio. It also includes a Harmon Kardon-certified audio system with Dolby Atmos sound. ASUS claims its 70 Wh battery can last up to 18 hours.

One of the Vivobook S 15’s selling points is its thin aluminum body: Its tapered design has a thickness ranging from only 0.58 to 0.63 inches (14.7 mm to 16 mm). The PC weighs a mere 3.13 lbs (1.4 kg), slightly lighter than Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Air.

The laptop has a healthy port selection, including two USB4, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type A, HDMI, an audio combo jack and a microSD slot. Its keyboard has customizable single-zone RGB lighting and a Copilot key for quick access to the ChatGPT-powered assistant.

The ASUS Vivobook S 15 is available for pre-order now through the company’s retail partners, starting at $1,300. The company says additional configurations will launch later this year.

Catch up on all the news from Microsoft's Copilot AI and Surface event today!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/asus-first-copilot-pc-locks-when-you-walk-away-and-unlocks-when-you-return-195952186.html?src=rss
Will Shanklin

Microsoft Paint is getting an AI-powered image generator that responds to your text prompts and doodles

2 days 15 hours ago

Microsoft Paint is getting new image generation powers with a new tool called Cocreator. Powered by "diffusion-based algorithms," Cocreator can generate images based on text prompts as well as your own doodles in the Paint app.

The company has been experimenting with AI image generation in Paint for a while, and early versions of Cocreator have been available to developers and Windows Insiders since the fall. But with the introduction of CoPilot+ PCs, the feature is now official.

During a demo at its Surface event, the company showed off how Cocreator combines your own drawings with text prompts to create an image. There’s also a “creativity slider” that allows you to control how much you want AI to take over compared with your original art. As Microsoft pointed out, the combination of text prompts and your own brush strokes enables faster edits. It could also help provide a more precise rendering than what you’d be able to achieve with DALL-E or another text-to-image generator alone.

Catch up on all the news from Microsoft's Copilot AI and Surface event today!

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/microsoft-paint-is-getting-an-ai-powered-image-generator-that-responds-to-your-text-prompts-and-doodles-190653716.html?src=rss
Karissa Bell