PhD student Colin Madland was among the first to point out the issue after he attempted to post a two-up image of his face and that of his Black colleague’s
Epic Games this evening sent out emails to Fortnite users on iPhone, iPad, and Mac to let them know that it will not be possible to play the newly released Marvel-themed season 4 content on their devices.
In the email, Epic Games blames Apple’s App Store fees for the unavailability of new content, even though Apple has said that if the direct payment option is removed and Fortnite obeys App Store policies, it can be updated and remain in the App Store while the legal battle between the two companies plays out in court. From the Epic Games email:
Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the App Store, and has said they will terminate our ability to develop Fortnite for Apple devices. As a result, the Chapter 2 – Season 4 update (v14.00), did not release on iOS and macOS on August 27. […]
Apple limits competition so they can collect 30% of consumer payments made in apps like Fortnite, raising the prices you pay. Epic lowered prices through a direct payment option, but Apple is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to players. Epic has taken legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions on mobile device marketplaces. Papers are available for our August 13, August 17, and August 23 filings. In retaliation for this action, Apple blocked your access to Fortnite updates and new installs on all iOS devices.
Epic Games informs customers that they can still play the existing season 3 content, but progression is not possible and iOS and Mac players cannot play cross-platform with those on other devices. Players using Apple products cannot access the new cosmetic options, nor can they receive gifts from the new season unless they log into an alternate platform that has access to the season 4 content. Battle Lab, Duos, and LTMs are disabled on iOS, and iOS players are unable to complete new Quick Challenges and Style Challenges.
In lieu of iOS devices, Epic Games recommends customers play Fortnite on Android, PC, PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch, and it directs customers to Apple to ask for refunds for in-app purchases.
Epic Games attempted to get a temporary restraining order that would force Apple to allow Fortnite updates to continue to be available on iOS devices and that would prevent Apple from terminating the Epic Games developer account, but the judge sided with Apple and did not grant a restraining order for Fortnite.
The judge overseeing the case told Epic Games’ lawyers that all Epic needs to do “is take it back to the status quo and no one suffers any harm,” but Epic has opted not to do so and is standing firm as Apple prepares to terminate its developer account. Epic lawyers in fact said that Epic “can’t go back into an anticompetitive contract.”
Apple said in mid-August that Epic would lose access to its developer account on August 28, which is tomorrow, so it looks like Fortnite will be unavailable for the foreseeable future as it appears neither side has plans to back down.
Apple was also going to block Epic from working on the Unreal Engine used by third-party developers, but Epic was able to successfully secure a restraining order to prevent that from happening. So while Apple is allowed to block Fortnite so long as Epic continues to violate App Store rules, it is not allowed to terminate the Epic International developer account and tools used for the Unreal Engine.
The next hearing in the Apple vs. Epic battle will take place on September 28, with Epic aiming for a preliminary injunction that will allow Fortnite back onto the App Store.
Twitter apologizes after users notice image-cropping algorithm favours white faces over Black – Woodstock Sentinel Review
Twitter has apologized after users called its ‘image-cropping’ algorithm racist for automatically focusing on white faces over Black ones.
Users noticed that when two separate photos, one of a white face and the other of a Black face, were displayed in the post, the algorithm would crop the latter out and only show the former on its mobile version.
PhD student Colin Madland was among the first to point out the issue on Sept. 18, after a Black colleague asked him to help stop Zoom from removing his head while using a virtual background.
Madland attempted to post a two-up display of him and his colleague with the head erased and noticed that Twitter automatically cropped his colleague out and focused solely on his face.
“Geez .. any guesses why @Twitter defaulted to show only the right side of the picture on mobile?” he tweeted along with a screenshot.
Entrepreneur Tony Arcieri experimented with the algorithm using a two-up image of Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell. He discovered that the algorithm would consistently crop out Obama and instead show two images of McConnell.
Several other Twitter users also tested the feature out and noticed that the same thing happened with stock models, different characters from The Simpsons, and golden and black retrievers.
Dantley Davis, Twitter’s chief design officer, replied to Madland’s tweet and suggested his facial hair could be affecting the model “because of the contrast with his skin.” Davis, who said he experimented with the algorithm after seeing Madland’s tweet, added that once he removed Madland’s facial hair from the photo, the Black colleague’s image showed in the preview.
“Our team did test for racial bias before shipping this model,” he said, but noted that the issue is “100% (Twitter’s) fault.”
“Now the next step is fixing it,” he wrote in another tweet.
In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson conceded the company had some further testing to do.
“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing. But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate,” they said, as quoted by the Guardian.
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Sony apologizes for PlayStation 5 pre-order disaster – Polygon
Pre-orders for Sony’s next-gen console, the PlayStation 5, opened shortly after the company announced its release date and price details. To put it nicely, it was a mess. Retailers went rogue and opened pre-orders early — a day ahead of the Sept. 17 date announced by Sony. Sites crashed and people panicked wondering whether they’d get their hands on a next-gen console or not.
As it turns out, Sony has recognized the error of its ways. “Let’s be honest: PS5 preorders could have been been a lot smoother,” Sony tweeted from the PlayStation Twitter account on Saturday. “We truly apologize for that. Over the next few days, we will release more PS5 consoles for preorder — retailers will share more details. And more PS5s will be available through the end of the year.”
Let’s be honest: PS5 preorders could have been a lot smoother. We truly apologize for that.
Over the next few days, we will release more PS5 consoles for preorder – retailers will share more details.
And more PS5s will be available through the end of the year. pic.twitter.com/h1TaGsGBun
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) September 19, 2020
Specific details on future pre-order windows are still unclear.
To add more chaos to the pre-order mess, Amazon reported on Friday that people who did secure pre-orders might still see delays in getting their consoles. The company emailed pre-order customers and warned them they “may not receive this item on the day it is released due to high demand.” It continued: “We’ll make every effort to get the item to you as soon as possible once released.”
Sony’s next-gen competitor, Microsoft, is opening pre-orders for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on Sept. 22. The company appears to be more confident in its pre-order processing, providing exact timing for the pre-order launch. Pre-orders open Tuesday at 11 a.m. EDT.
Microsoft to Buy Bethesda for $7.5 Billion to Boost Xbox – Bloomberg
Microsoft Corp. said Monday it plans to acquire ZeniMax Media Inc., owner of the storied video-game publisher Bethesda Softworks, for $7.5 billion in cash, marking its biggest video game purchase ever.
Bethesda is the publisher of games like The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout and also has at least two titles slated for debut next year. ZeniMax, based in Rockville, Maryland, also owns several other studios across the globe, giving Microsoft’s Xbox business a much-needed infusion of titles and game developers. It’s one of the biggest privately-held game companies with 2,300 employees worldwide, Microsoft said.
Microsoft is launching a new generation of Xbox consoles in November at the same time as Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5. The games lined up for the new Xbox have so far disappointed some players, especially after Microsoft delayed its biggest title, Halo Infinite, until next year. The software maker has been adding new game creators and content, including acquiring six studios in 2018 and one last year. It spent $2.5 billion to purchase the maker of Minecraft in 2014.
Microsoft is leaning on its game subscription service, Game Pass, to draw in users and boost revenue and needs compelling content to attract customers to that product. Microsoft said Game Pass now has 15 million subscribers, up from the 10 million it announced in April.
“Bethesda’s games have always had a special place on Xbox and in the hearts of millions of gamers around the world,” said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in a blog post. “Our teams have a close and storied history working together.”
Recently however, Bethesda has been working more tightly with Sony. Bethesda had previously agreed to debut two of its upcoming games, Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo, on Sony’s new PlayStation rather than Xbox. Both games were announced as “timed console exclusives,” meaning that they would be restricted to the PlayStation 5 for a fixed period of time before coming to Xbox. It remains to be seen how this acquisition will affect that deal.
Microsoft expects the deal to close in the second half of its fiscal year 2021, which ends June 30, and to have “minimal” impact on its adjusted operating income for the current and next fiscal years. The shares were down 1.4% to $197.66 at 9:35 a.m. in New York.
Sony’s launch lineup for the PlayStation 5 is stronger than Microsoft’s and that machine is expected to outsell the new Xbox devices, the Series X and Series S, according to George Jijiashvili, an analyst at researcher Omdia.
Bethesda was a pioneer in the market for personal computer games and an early developer of new types of games. The company was founded by Christopher Weaver in 1986 and initially developed football and hockey simulation games, before releasing role-playing title The Elder Scrolls in 1994.
ZeniMax was founded in 1999 by Weaver and Robert Altman, the company’s chief executive officer, to serve as a parent company for Bethesda. Over the next decade, it acquired the Fallout franchise and Id Software, the maker of Doom and Quake. Bethesda’s structure and leadership will remain in place, Microsoft said.
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