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Canada's C-Suite flocks to emerging audio app Clubhouse, but long-term appeal unclear – Toronto Star

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TORONTO – When earnings season rolls around, Duncan Fulton spends days preparing for calls with media, analysts and investors, but hardly ever gets a chance to deliver his messages directly to the people who frequent his Tim Hortons coffee shops or Popeyes drive-thrus.

That changed in February when the chief operating officer of Restaurant Brands International joined chief executive Jose Cil on Clubhouse — an emerging audio platform that gives anyone with an iPhone and an app the ability to host and access discussions on every topic imaginable.

“It’s like reimagined talk radio with calls, but we are the producer,” said Fulton, who hosted an “open kitchen” talk the day after RBI released its latest quarterly earnings.

“Our guests don’t care about our adjusted EBITDA. They care about real stuff, about our food, our brands, and so we said, ‘Why don’t we use Clubhouse?’”

Fulton and Cil are the latest Canadian executives to turn to the app started by San Francisco serial entrepreneurs Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth last spring as a new way to host public conversations.

As COVID-19 spread throughout the globe and lockdowns kept millions of people at home, executives from top venture capital and tech firms began to jockey for access to the invite-only audio platform.

By the start of 2021, hundreds of business leaders and other Canadians had joined Clubhouse, which has offered increasing numbers of invites since late last year.

Members have been able to hear SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discuss whether he believes in aliens, Shopify executives Tobi Lutke and Harley Finkelstein wax poetic about entrepreneurship and Wattpad founder Allen Lau talk about his recent decision to sell the company.

“It’s really democratizing corporate Canada and corporate America in a way,” says Fulton, “because normally consumers wouldn’t get this access to senior business leaders.”

He pitched a Clubhouse talk to Cil after being introduced to the platform by Ottawa restaurateur Stephen Beckta, who got his invite from Finkelstein.

After dipping into music conversations, Fulton found he liked the exploratory nature of the platform and that moderators have control over who can speak and when.

“If you’re a business leader that wants the safety of not taking questions, you can still go on there, share your views, and there’s lots of people that are happy to not participate, not ask questions and just listen,” he said.

Richard Lachman, a digital media professor at Ryerson University, agreed the platform can be helpful for executives wanting to manage their image, but said users will quickly drop out of conversations if a speaker is boring them or recognize when someone is too scripted.

Though executives go through media training, he said a few “embarrassments” will likely arise on the app if people don’t know how to respond to “aggressive” questions or can’t kick someone out of a discussion fast enough.

While the app doesn’t overtly market itself as private, its invite-only nature has built a casual atmosphere, even as its userbase grows.

Clubhouse did not respond to a request for comment, but has a “rule” banning transcribing, recording or sharing personal information heard on the app. The company recently removed a bot it found sneaking into discussions to restream them to people without the app.

Still, a quick search on social media reveals dozens of recordings and quotes from the app available online.

Prominent venture capitalists faced criticism last year when audio leaked of them ridiculing New York Times journalist Taylor Lorenz and complaining that so-called cancel culture — sometimes described as withdrawing support for someone caught misbehaving or using outmoded language and expressions — had gone too far.

There have also been privacy complaints from users who opted not to give the app access to their contact lists, but say it is detecting their sign-ups and alerting friends whose numbers they have stored.

Once on the app, some users reported they stumbled upon misogyny and racism in discussions, despite rules against abuse and bullying and a feature to report problematic users.

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“Some of the challenges (Clubhouse) is facing is that this content is very unmoderated and we are not in 2003 in (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room, pretending that anything we make we know where it’ll go and we’ll just let the market figure it out,” said Lachman.

“We know what might happen. Online spaces can be incredibly toxic, they can be harsh and we know that things can be taken out context very quickly and easily duplicated on other platforms.”

Despite the issues, Deepak Anand, chief executive of medical cannabis company Materia Ventures, joined the app. He hosts several pot discussions on it every week, but is careful in his approach.

He doesn’t share anything on Clubhouse he wouldn’t be comfortable with if it were leaked, but has seen several instances of people not realizing how public the app is.

“People generally like to share more than they normally would on the platform because it’s easy to get carried away and it almost seems like you’re having a conversation with friends,” he said.

Among the positives, Anand saysClubhouse has helped him discover new ways to network while stuck at home during the pandemic and increased his social media followers.

He’s unsure the app will continue to be his go-to because a competitor, Twitter Spaces, has caught his eye.

Tech Crunch reported that users who mined Twitter’s coding have found Spaces, which is still in pilot mode, experimenting with ways to embed tweets into discussions, offer transcription for users with disabilities and enhance blocking capabilities.

Facebook is said to be developing a similar platform, but hasn’t formally released any details.

The number of emerging audio apps and the flood of new Clubhouse users will make it even tougher for executives to stand out, Lachman predicted.

“This might have value right now, but in a year or two from now, that might get lost.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:QSR, TSX:SHOP)

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Dead Space Remake Officially Announced at EA Play – CGMagazine

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After weeks of different rumors and leaks, the Dead Space remake was officially confirmed at EA Play 2021.

The Dead Space remake wasn’t given any kind of release window, but it is in development for next-gen systems only, meaning PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. The game is being built with the Frostbite Engine and is handled by EA Motive, who is best known as the developer of the recent Star Wars Squadrons. The original trilogy was developed by Visceral Games, which was shuttered by EA in 2017.

The announcement didn’t show much at all but presented fans with a short teaser trailer showing a grisly space station as the iconic sounds of Necromorphs echoed in the background. As the camera zooms in Isaac Clarke’s backpack lights up and reveals the words Dead Space. A press release from EA says fans will “experience an improved story, characters, gameplay mechanics.” Phillippe Ducharme, Senior Producer of Dead Space, says the team at Motive has invited fans to give their feedback on the remake ever since the early days of development. With that in mind, it’s not exactly clear how far along in development the Dead Space remake actually is. You can watch the reveal trailer yourself down below.

One of the most prolific survival-horror series of all time, it’s been eight years since the release of the last game in the series, Dead Space 3. The franchise was always known for its nail-biting horror and inventive combat, requiring players to hack off the limbs of enemies in order to both slow them down and kill them. Here’s EA’s description of the first game and remake,

“In Dead Space, Isaac Clarke is an everyman engineer on a mission to repair a vast, sprawling starship, the USG Ishimura, only to discover something has gone horribly wrong. The ship’s crew has been slaughtered and infected by some alien scourge…and Isaac’s beloved partner, Nicole, is lost somewhere on board. Now Isaac is alone with only his tools and engineering skills as he attempts to uncover the nightmarish mystery of what happened aboard the Ishimura. Trapped with hostile creatures called “necromorphs”, Isaac faces a battle for survival, not only against the escalating terrors of the ship, but his own crumbling sanity.”

While Dead Space is coming back, Glen Schofield former executive producer of the series, has gone on to make a brand new sci-fi horror game called The Callisto Protocol.

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OnePlus Nord 2: An impressive 5G phone at an affordable price – CNET

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The OnePlus Nord 2, also called the “flagship killer,” has some impressive specs and performs well all round. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus calls its brand new Nord 2 the “flagship killer,” and I get why. This phone has impressive specs, performs well and when paired with a reasonable starting price (only £399 here in the UK), it’s designed to offer everything you’d need from a phone without emptying your bank account. A powerful processor, a solid dual rear camera setup, 5G connectivity, super fast charging — and it’s not bad to look at either. 

Read more: OnePlus Nord 2 vs. Nord vs. Nord CE vs. OnePlus 9: Comparing OnePlus’ latest phones

Like the previous Nord — and the cheaper Nord CE, launched just a few weeks back — the Nord 2 will not be on sale in the US. It’s destined for the UK and wider Europe, where it’ll cost £399 for the version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage or £469 with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. For reference, £399 converts to about $540 or AU$740.

But no, it doesn’t really “kill” any flagships. It’s not as powerful as a “true” flagship like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or S21 Ultra, nor will its camera skills attract the world’s most demanding photographers. The flagship that I feel is most at risk is OnePlus’s own 9 series, which shares many features with the Nord 2, yet has a much higher starting price of £629 ($729). 

I’ve spent a short amount of time with the Nord 2 ahead of its unveiling, and here are the five things I like most about it.

A powerful MediaTek processor 

OnePlus has typically used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line of processors for its phones but it went with MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200-AI chip for the Nord 2. You’ll notice absolutely no difference in use — it’s the same as any other Android phone — but you will notice that it’s surprisingly powerful for the price. 

While it’s not up there with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in terms of benchmarks, it did beat the Pixel 5 and wasn’t far below the more expensive OnePlus 9. It’s certainly powerful enough for gaming, photo editing and video streaming and navigating around the Android 11 interface is smooth and stutter free.

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The OnePlus Nord 2 houses a powerful processor, a dual rear camera setup, 5G connectivity and super fast charging. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Android 11 software

The Nord 2 runs Android 11 at its core, over which OnePlus has slapped its usual Oxygen software. I really like OnePlus’s software as it’s neat, easy to use and doesn’t try and load the phone up with too many bundled services and bloatware. As a result, the phone remains nippy and trouble-free for longer.

It’s particularly important on lower and midrange phones that might not cope as well with being bogged down by services. The result here is a phone with smooth performance that I expect to remain for some time to come. 

OnePlus says it’s guaranteed to get at least two years of Android upgrades — so an update to Android 12 this fall and Android 13 next year is a given — with an additional year of security updates after that. 

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The OnePlus Nord 2 runs Android 11 software. 


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Incredible fast charging

The Nord 2 has the same 65-watt fast charging seen on the OnePlus 9 series and it’s amazing. It’ll take the phone from empty to full in only about 30 minutes, which makes it amazing for giving it a quick boost before you head out from home. The 4,500-mAh battery should still give you a day of use from a charge, but when you can recharge so quickly, battery life becomes somewhat less of an issue.

Even better is that a 65-watt fast charger comes in the box, so you don’t need to scour Amazon for one. What the phone doesn’t have is wireless charging, but I don’t see that as a particular problem. 

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The OnePlus Nord 2 has the speedy charging with 65-watt support.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Vibrant, sharp display

The Nord 2’s display measures 6.43 inches and boasts a resolution of 2,400×1,080 pixels, which is sufficient to make tiny text look nice and sharp. It’s an AMOLED panel, making it extremely vibrant too: great for videos, photos or playing whatever colorful game is currently making the rounds on the Google Play Store.

It has a 90Hz refresh rate which is a touch lower than the 120Hz of the OnePlus 9 series, but I doubt you’d be able to tell any real difference in day-to-day use. It’s silky smooth when scrolling around the interface, but you can also turn it down to a more regular 60Hz, which will apparently help save battery life. 

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The main cameras on the OnePlus Nord 2 are a 50-megapixel lens combined with a 8-megapixel super-wide lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Decent rear cameras

We haven’t done our full suite of camera tests yet, but what we’ve seen from the cameras so far looks good. The main sensor is a 50-megapixel affair — the same one seen in the OnePlus 9’s ultrawide camera. Outdoor images look well-exposed, with plenty of detail and natural-looking colors. 

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, super-wide lens.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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OnePlus Nord 2 outdoor camera test, standard lens with 2x digital zoom.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The 8-megapixel super-wide lens is noticeably less detailed, but it too seems capable of capturing good-looking outdoor images. There’s an on-screen option for 2x zoom but there isn’t a zoom lens, so that 2x is based on digitally cropping the shot. Results still look good, but it’s worth keeping in mind that you won’t get maximum quality doing this. 

There’s also technically a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor, which is totally pointless in my opinion as a photographer. If you want good-looking black and white images, use the regular camera and apps like Adobe Lightroom or Snapseed to have full control over converting to mono. Frankly, I feel OnePlus could have pulled this out and lopped another 20 quid or so off the price. 

OnePlus Nord 2 specs

Display size, resolution, refresh rate 6.43-inch AMOLED, FHD+ (2,400×1,080 pixels), 90Hz
Pixel density 410ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.25×2.88×0.32 in.
Dimensions (Millimeters) 158.9×73.2×8.25 mm
Weight (Grams) 6.66 oz; 189g
Software Android 11
Camera 50MP (main),  8MP (wide-angle),  2MP (mono)
Front camera 32-megapixel
Video 4K
Processor MediaTek Dimensity 1200-AI processor
Storage 128/256GB
RAM 8/12GB RAM
Fingerprint reader No
Battery 4,500 mAh
Price In-display
Connector USB-C
Headphone Jack No
Special features 5G-enabled, 65W fast charging, 90Hz, dual stereo speaker, face unlock
Price (USD) Approximately $540 (converted from UK price)
Price (GBP) £399
Price (AUD) Approximately AU$740

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OnePlus will add ‘optimized mode’ toggle in Oxygen OS 12 to address throttling – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com

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Following a performance vs optimization controversy this month, OnePlus has confirmed that it plans to address the debacle in the way that it should have done from the very beginning. A OnePlus employee confirmed through a OnePlus Forum thread that the Android skin will gain a toggle to enable/disable OnePlus’ performance optimization with an early build of Oxygen OS 12.

Earlier this month, OnePlus was delisted from benchmarking app Geekbench due to alleged performance manipulations. This sparked controversy and OnePlus was prompted to respond to the allegations. Although benchmarking apps were performing in line with what’s expected from the Snapdragon 888 chipset, the phones were throttling many other apps from using the chipset’s maximum capacity during use. Geekbench saw this as cheating and that’s what prompted the benchmark app to delist the OnePlus 9 Duo.

OnePlus gave its reasoning for this: Users offered feedback about both battery life and heat management for future OnePlus devices, and explained that it has “optimized” performance of these devices when using the most popular apps. OnePlus even went beyond and stated that today’s high-end chipsets are overkill for most apps. While they are right to an extent, further testing showed that the so-called battery savings were minutes at most and largely negligible.

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