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5 video games for kids to while away the fall hours – that parents might like, too

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With winter weather approaching and our social options limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kids and teenagers might be tempted to fill their free time playing video games.

Here are five games released in 2020 that parents might be comfortable letting their kids play as they while away the hours this fall.

MARIO KART LIVE: HOME CIRCUIT

Platforms: Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Suggested Retail Price: $129.99

The anticipated latest entry into Nintendo’s “Mario Kart” series literally takes the action into your house.

The “Mario Kart Live” kit comes with a real toy kart (Mario and Luigi are the characters currently available) mounted with a camera.

Players use the Switch to drive the cart around the house to create a racetrack. Once finished, players can race on the track in the game.

The “augmented reality” mix of real-world and virtual environments gives creative players a wealth of tools at their disposal to make challenging tracks. Standard Mario Kart elements such as items to boost speed or obstacles to impede karts can be mixed with everyday household items used as ramps or obstacles.

What’s more, the game is free of some of the limitations of similar toys like slot-car racetracks. Setup and takedown is a breeze, as the only items that needed to be placed on the floor is four gates for the kart to drive through.

There are, however, a couple of potential drawbacks.

To get the most out of “Mario Kart: Home Circuit,” you will need a large, well-lit space. It’s possible to make smaller tracks for more compact areas, but the scope of what you can do will be limited.

Also, multiplayer presents some problems. The game supports up to four players on a track, but each must have their own kart and Switch console. There is no online multiplayer option.

Not only can multiplayer be costly, but the pandemic makes it difficult to meet in the same space to race against someone not in your social bubble.

Still, as both a collectible and a game, there’s little doubt that this will be high on the wish list for any Mario Kart fan. Those with the space and the desire to create increasingly devious tracks should find enough replay value in the title for months to come.

ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS

Platforms: Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

The latest instalment of the popular “Animal Crossing” game was released in March, just as households across the country were preparing for the lockdown in response to the spreading pandemic.

The lighthearted nature of the game, which tasks you with developing an island paradise for your anthropomorphic animal buddies, was a welcome contrast to the uncertainty of the time.

The charming title has grown since then, with Nintendo releasing a number of free updates to keep the game fresh.

The recently released fall update includes Halloween-themed costumes to wear and decorations to place around the island, giving players several creative options to make their habitat suitably spooky.

With a Thanksgiving/Christmas themed update announced for sometime next month, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” gives gamers of all ages a lot of bang for their buck.

ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

ESRB Rating: E (everyone)

Suggested Retail Price: $39.99

An action/adventure game in the style of the Nintendo classic “Metroid”, “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” game sees the light spirit Ori navigate a forest full of wondrous sights and treacherous traps in a mission to rescue a friend, and heal the land in the process.

The latest Ori adventure boasts beautiful art direction, clever level design and an empathetic tone that should resonate with younger players.

Some of the combat and puzzles could be challenging for inexperienced gamers, though that could be remedied by playing on an easier difficulty setting.

The sequel to the indie hit “Ori and the Blind Forest” received strong reviews for its gameplay and story when it was originally released for the Xbox One and Windows earlier this year. A version for the Switch was released last month.

NHL 21

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One,

ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Recommended for gamers 10 and over)

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

With the 2020 Stanley Cup already awarded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble, and the next season delayed until at least the beginning of January, “NHL 21” might help fill the hockey void.

“NHL 21” lets you lead your favourite hockey team to glory, or you can create your own player and take the journey from promising prospect to all-star.

Players can compete online against others, so friends can match skills while staying in a safe environment. Parents may want to monitor if their kids play online against strangers.

EA Sports releases a new game in its NHL franchise every year, and there is often not a lot to differentiate the titles on a year-to-year basis. If you have a recent NHL title, you may want to direct your entertainment budget elsewhere.

If you haven’t bought an NHL title in a while, or are looking to pick up your first game in the series, then “NHL 21” is a way to scratch the hockey itch while the pro leagues are on hiatus and minor programs are suspended.

MARVEL’S AVENGERS

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PS4, Google Stadia

ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

Suggested Retail Price: $79.99

It’s fair to say “Marvel’s Avengers” didn’t quite live up to its heroic hype when it was released last month.

Reviews were mixed, with praise for its short but excellent single-player campaign and a lukewarm reception for its directionless online component.

Still, superheroes are pop culture dynamos, and there is enough here for fans of Captain America, Iron Man and Black Widow to enjoy.

Combat is fast and furious, and each of the six currently available Avengers have their own play style. Rampaging into a horde of the enemies with the Hulk or lighting them up with Thor’s hammer feels right.

While the Avengers are a force for good, the violence might be intense for very young gamers. Teen players who are into superheroes, however, will find a relatable protagonist in the delightful Kamala Khan, otherwise known as Ms. Marvel.

“Marvel’s Avengers” might currently be a bit thin on content for those who aren’t big fans of the genre, but that might change. The game’s developers have beefed up the multiplayer since launch, and new characters are on the way, with the Kate Bishop version of Hawkeye expected in the coming weeks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.

Source: – Humboldt Journal

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42 Amazon Cyber Monday Deals 2020: Robot Vacuums, Noise-Cancelling Headphones, Sweatshirts, and More – GQ

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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 is a glimpse into how much better your next Android phone will be – CNET

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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 will be in 5G devices in the first quarter of 2021.


Qualcomm

The chip that will power most high-end 5G phones next year is here: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. And for the first time in its ultra high-end lineup, Qualcomm has integrated its 5G modem on the same chip as the brains, AI and other processor features, likely giving 5G phones a boost in battery life. 

Smartphones need a lot of components to operate, but two key parts that make a phone a phone are the application processor that acts as the brains of a device and a modem that connects it to a mobile network. The first 5G devices needed standalone modems that worked alongside the main computing processor. That was because 5G technology was so new, it was too difficult to combine it with the brains. 

Last year’s Snapdragon 865 also had a standalone modem, while Qualcomm integrated 5G connectivity with the processor system on its midrange Snapdragon 765 and 765G systems on a chip, or SoCs. Many people expected Qualcomm’s highest-end chip to be the first Snapdragon SoC to have an integrated modem, but the company at the time said if it didn’t pare back the modem or the app processor features, the resulting chip would be too big and too power hungry for high-end smartphones. Qualcomm chose not to compromise on either feature for its high-end phones but was willing to make some compromises for its midrange chip lineup.

The Snapdragon 865 paired with the X55 modem to power the majority of high-end 5G phones released in 2020, starting with Samsung’s Galaxy S20 lineup

With the Snapdragon 888, Qualcomm gets back to its SoC strengths, and phone users will benefit. The biggest advantages of SoCs are better battery life and lower cost. Instead of two chips taking up room in a phone, there’s just one, resulting in thinner, sleeker phones or more room for bigger batteries. Having an integrated chip also enables device makers to quickly develop phones for essentially any 5G network in the world, and it makes 5G handsets cheaper for consumers.

“It gives you everything you need in a single package and theoretically makes phone design easier, cheaper and just better integrated,” Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell said.

The continued advance of 5G is more critical than ever now that the coronavirus has radically changed our world. People are stuck at home and are maintaining their distance from each other, forcing them to rely on home broadband service — something 5G could amp up. The next-generation cellular technology, which boasts anywhere from 10 to 100 times the speed of 4G and rapid-fire responsiveness, could improve everything from simple video conferencing to telemedicine and advanced augmented and virtual reality. Gaming is one area that’s expected to benefit from 5G’s responsiveness and fast speeds. 

Qualcomm is hosting a two-day virtual Tech Summit in lieu of its annual in-person event in Hawaii. Instead of releasing a flood of new chips and news, the company is keeping its digital event focused on the Snapdragon 888’s capabilities. Wednesday featured technical deep dives into features like Snapdragon 888’s camera

5G’s improvements

The world may be grappling with a widespread pandemic, but that’s sure not slowing down 5G’s rollout. The super-fast technology reached more customers this year than expected and will cover about 60% of the global population by 2026, according to report from Ericsson on Monday. That makes 5G the fastest deployed mobile network ever, the Swedish networking giant said.

By the end of this year, there will be 218 million 5G subscriptions around the world, up from Ericsson’s forecast in June for 190 million — which itself was an increase from an earlier estimate. 

A lot of those people are using phones powered by Qualcomm’s processors. Even the new iPhone 12 lineup, which uses Apple’s own application processor, relies on Qualcomm modems to connect to 5G networks.

For Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, the focus is on four areas: 5G, artificial intelligence, gaming and camera, Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm senior vice president and general manager of mobile, compute and infrastructure, said in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s news. 

“It really rounds off all of the use cases and capabilities that this device has,” Katouzian said. “We concentrated on really core technologies for low power compute as well as communications.” 

The integrated modem is Qualcomm’s X60, which is capable of downloading data at up to 7.5 Gbps and uploading information as fast as 3 Gbps. The modem, unveiled in February, taps into super-fast but unreliable millimeter-wave airwaves favored by Verizon and the slower and steadier sub-6 spectrum preferred by virtually all other carriers in the world. It supports many features that allow for faster speeds and other network benefits. 

“On the 5G side, the communication capabilities are going to become much better,” Katouzian said. 

While the peak download speed isn’t much faster than the previous generation, the X60 aims to boost the average speed on devices by aggregating different types of wireless signals. The X60 has the ability to aggregate the slower sub-6 networks with the faster mmWave spectrum, boosting overall performance. 

The X60 also increases network capacity and expands coverage. Networks operators will be able to double sub-6 peak speeds in standalone mode (that’s where the phone goes straight to 5G instead of today’s non-standalone networks, where 4G works as the anchor to make the initial handshake between a phone and a network before passing the device along to a 5G connection). 

T-Mobile is one carrier that will benefit from carrier aggregation. Users of the earliest T-Mobile 5G phones haven’t seen speeds much faster than 4G connectivity. But when T-Mobile can combine its different airwaves, users should see faster download and upload rates. The modem in 5G phones this year, the X55, couldn’t aggregate that spectrum together. 

“The X60 is really the first modem that does all the 5G stuff you really need,” Technalysis’ O’Donnell said. Qualcomm “now really has a modem that can be leveraged more successfully to get the best possible 5G speeds.”

And AI, gaming and camera

When it comes to artificial intelligence, the Snapdragon 888 includes Qualcomm’s new, sixth-generation AI Engine. Qualcomm re-engineered its Hexagon processor, which it said provides a “pivotal leap forward in AI” when compared with the previous technology. It improves performance and power efficiency and crunches data at 26 tera operations per second, or TOPS. Qualcomm also included its second-generation Sensing Hub, which includes lower-power, always-on AI processing. 

AI “underpins so many different applications that [are] very widely used today,” including in photography and videography, Katouzian said. It “really just takes [out] all of the headaches that were there before in terms of choosing the right parameters, putting it in the right mode, making sure the lighting is correct, even recognizing scenes and faces and backgrounds and depth. All of those things are taken care of through AI capabilities.”

And the Snapdragon 888 features a faster Spectra image signal processor that lets users capture photos at videos at 2.7 gigapixels per second. That equates to about 120 photos in one second at 12MP resolution, which is up to 35% faster than the previous generation. 

“That’s huge,” Katouzian said. “When this capability comes out, people will start to [develop] different applications and services associated with it.” That could include things such as ultra-sharp video conferencing or giving users the ability to capture photos of what they’re doing throughout the day and share those on social media with others, he said. 

alex-katouzian-with-oem-logosalex-katouzian-with-oem-logos

Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm senior vice president and general manager, mobile, compute and infrastructure, talks up some of the companies that will be using the new Snapdragon 888 processor. 


Qualcomm

The Snapdragon 888 adds a third image processing module that allows flagship smartphones to handle three simultaneous video streams, all in 4K resolution with high dynamic range imagery. And for photos, the chip now uses artificial intelligence training to better judge photo focus and brightness.

That will result in better low-light and night photos and action shots of something moving very quickly — or very slowly. Combining AI and the camera, the phone will automatically know which setting to select for each circumstance, and users won’t have to “worry about the technical details, Katouzian said.

The processor also supports TruePic technology that verifies photos and videos are real, an effort to prevent deepfakes. And Qualcomm’s third-generation Snapdragon Elite Gaming technology that boosts the video effects on mobile devices. 

Qualcomm’s new Kryo 680 CPU, the brains of the Snapdragon 888, is 25% power powerful and 25% more battery efficient than its predecessor. The updated Adreno 660 graphics processor renders graphics 35% faster while being 20% more power efficient.

Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 is expected to power most high-end Android phones next year. Companies that plan to use the Snapdragon 888 in devices include Asus, Black Shark, LG, Meizu, Motorola, Nubia, Realme, OnePlus, Oppo, Sharp, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE

“I’m glad that our new flagship smartphone Mi11 will be the one of the first devices with Snapdragon 888,” Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun said in a press release. “This is another cutting-edge product from us and will be loaded with various hardcore technologies.” 

Qualcomm didn’t specifically name Samsung, but it’s likely the next Galaxy S handsets will include the Snapdragon 888 when they launch early next year. The first phone to have last year’s Snapdragon 865 was the Galaxy S20

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Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 promises faster speeds, better cameras, and more powerful AI – The Verge

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Qualcomm teased the Snapdragon 888, its latest 5G-equipped flagship smartphone processor, on the first day of its Snapdragon Tech Summit. But at the day two keynote, the company provided all of the details on the new chipset, which will be the brains powering almost every major 2021 Android flagship.

First off, the basic specs: the new processor will feature Qualcomm’s new Kryo 680 CPU, which will be one of the first devices to feature Arm’s latest customized Cortex-X1 core and promises up to 25 percent higher performance than last year’s chip with a maximum clock speed of 2.84GHz. And the company’s new Adreno 660 GPU promises a 35 percent jump on graphics rendering, in what it says is the biggest performance leap for its GPUs yet. The new CPU and GPU are also more power-efficient compared to those on the Snapdragon 875, with a 25 percent improvement for the Kyro 680 and a 20 percent improvement on the Adreno 660.

Another key difference between the Snapdragon 888 and last year’s 865 is that Qualcomm has finally integrated its 5G modem directly into the SoC. That means manufacturers won’t have to deal with finding the space (and power) for a second external modem. Specifically, the Snapdragon 888 will feature Qualcomm’s 5nm X60 modem, which the company announced back in February, and it will enable better carrier aggregation and download speeds up to 7.5 Gbps on new devices. The Snapdragon 888 will also support Wi-Fi 6 as well as the new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E standard, which should boost that rollout by making it the default on most Android flagships.

As is tradition for a Snapdragon update, Qualcomm is also putting a big emphasis on its camera improvements. The new Spectra 580 ISP is the first from Qualcomm to feature a triple ISP, allowing it to do things like capture three simultaneous 4K HDR video streams or three 28-megapixel photos at once at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second (35 percent faster than last year).

It also offers improved burst capabilities and is capable of capturing up to 120 photos in a single second at a 10-megapixel resolution. Lastly, the upgraded ISP adds computational HDR to 4K videos, an improved low-light capture architecture, and the option to shoot photos in 10-bit color in HEIF. That said, it’ll be up to phone manufacturers to build cameras that can take advantage of the new features.

The final major changes come in AI performance, thanks to Qualcomm’s new Hexagon 780 AI processor. The Snapdragon 888 features Qualcomm’s sixth-generation AI Engine, which it promises will help improve everything from computational photography to gaming to voice assistant performance. The Snapdragon 888 can perform 26 trillion operations per second (TOPS), compared to 15 TOPS on the Snapdragon 865, while delivering three times better power efficiency. Additionally, Qualcomm is promising big improvements in both scalar and tensor AI tasks as part of those upgrades.

The Snapdragon 888 also features the second-generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub, a dedicated low-power AI processor for smaller hardware-based tasks, like identifying when you raise your phone to light up the display. The new second-gen Sensing Hub is dramatically improved, which means the phone will be able to rely less on the main Hexagon processor for those tasks.

All of this adds up to a substantial boost in Qualcomm’s — and therefore, nearly every Android flagship’s — capabilities for what our smartphones will be able to do. The first Snapdragon 888 smartphones are expected to show up in early 2021, which means it won’t be long before we’ll be able to try out the next generation of Android flagships for ourselves.

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