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Gallery: Concept imagines an online Apple Services Hub with Siri Search and more – 9to5Mac

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Amid suggestions that Apple is investigating the possibility of building its own search engine to rival Google, a new concept today images what an all-in-one Apple Services Hub might look like on the web. Through this hub, you’d be able to access all of your Apple ID services, as well as Siri Search on the web.

The concept was created by Parker Ortolani and it showcases how you could visit a new Apple services webpage for easy access to iCloud services, Apple Card details, Apple Music, the Apple Store, and much more. Perhaps most notably, there would also be new Siri Search capabilities.

Point your web browser to Siri․com and use Apple’s latest technologies to power up your web searches. Search Apple News for stories, updates, and financial data. You can search Apple Maps for destinations. iTunes and the App Store are there too so you find content or apps. Or search Apple․com for products, news, or support.

As of right now, you can access certain Apple services online through iCloud.com, but things like Apple Music, the apple Store, and Apple TV+ are located on their own separate webpages. This hub idea would incorporate everything into a central location, and add new Siri Search features.

Earlier today, a report from the Financial Times claims that Apple is now “stepping up” efforts to create its own search engine as its lucrative deal with Google comes under threat. While this still appears to be far off in the future, if it happens at all, you can learn more in our coverage here.

Google currently pays Apple an estimated $8-12 billion per year to be the default search engine on iOS devices. In 2018, for example, the sum was estimated at a little under $10 billion — around 20% of the company’s Services income for the year. However, antitrust regulators are now putting this deal in the spotlight, and arguing that it may be anti-competitive.

What do you think about the possibility of Apple expanding into the search industry? Would you use an Apple search engine over Google if given the option? Check out Parker’s full concept here and let us know down in the comments!

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Xbox Series X Game Review Roundup: Gears 5, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, NBA 2K21 and more – MobileSyrup

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Given the compressed nature of the Xbox Series X’s review program, we unfortunately weren’t able to put together in-depth looks at every game releasing for Microsoft’s new video game console.

Like our round-up of PlayStation 5 launch titles, we’ve decided to give a selection of the Xbox Series X’s launch lineup the same mini-review treatment.

Along with taking a look at Xbox Series X’s backwards compatibility features, this story also delves into titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, The Falconeer, Halo: The Masterchief Collection and more.

It’s important to note that not all of these games are exclusive to Microsoft’s new consoles and that performance is generally comparable across the PlayStation 5 when it comes to most of the third-party titles in this list.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99

At times, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a bloated, shockingly glitchy, far too expansive mess. On the other hand, it can also be stunning, and genuinely pushes the long-running franchise in exciting directions.

For instance, the game’s Medieval setting, which includes intricate gothic castles, rolling hills and a level of detail not present in its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, is one of the most compelling worlds Ubisoft Montreal has ever created.

Of course, as has become expected from Ubisoft’s open-world games, Valhalla is also a bit of a mess. Enemies aren’t very smart and will sometimes stop pursuing you for no apparent reason, environmental objects occasionally float (one time we saw a whale float through the ocean) and overall, it’s just not a very polished video game. Further, despite a streamlining of the series’ quest system, you’ll still find yourself grinding out the occasional side quest to push the story forward or to level up protagonist Evior.

On the more positive side of things, health no longer replenishes automatically, adding a level of stakes to battles not present in recent Assassin’s Creed titles. Also, the weapon and armour system is far more streamlined than in other recent titles in the series.

With all that said, Valhalla remains one of the best-looking video games available for the Series X and is a good indication of what to expect from the Xbox Series X in terms of graphics when it comes to future Ubisoft titles.

For more on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, check out Patrick O’Rourke’s in-depth look at the game.

The Falconeer

The Falconeer

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, PC
Developer: Tomas Sala
Publisher: Wired Productions
ESRB rating: T for Teen
Price: $38.99

Acting as an unintentional spiritual successor to Xbox airplane combat game classic Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, The Falconeer was developed by just one person: Tomas Sala.

With that in mind, the game’s impressive aerial combat is compelling, though, unfortunately, gets repetitive after a few chapters. Between moments of intense combat, a relatively simple story unfolds that involves several different factions and uncovering secrets that have been lost to the sea.

It’s also worth noting that while The Falconeer isn’t very long, it’s one of the few titles that support 4K 120Hz on the Xbox Series X. All things considered, it’s cool to see an indie title like this launching on the Xbox Series X alongside big-budget titles like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. As long as you set your expectations appropriately, there’s a lot to like about The Falconeer.

Gears 5 leads the enhanced pack

Gears 5

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: The Coalition
Publisher: Xbox
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $39.99 (on sale for $9.99) Game Pass

Despite Gears 5 already being one of the best-looking Xbox One titles, Vancouver-based The Coalition has managed to improve the game’s visuals in several ways on the Xbox Series X. While the game still utilizes dynamic resolution scaling, it hits a far more consistent 2160p. On the multiplayer side of things, Gears 5 now features a shockingly smooth 120Hz frame rate and, as a result, a slightly lower resolution than the game’s campaign mode.

Gears 5‘s detail level has also been bumped up significantly across the board, with the Series X version of the game adopting higher quality PC-like volumetric lighting, improved shadows and more. Of course, the game also loads much quicker thanks to the Series X’s NVME SSD.

In what feels like an effort to fill the void left by Halo Infinite‘s delay, Microsoft offers several “enhanced” backward compatible Xbox One titles. For example, Ori and the Will of the Wisps runs at a smooth 120Hz, and Forza Horizon 4 — a game that already looked incredible on the Xbox One — now runs at native 4K and 60fps on the Series X. Sea of Thieves, Rare’s boat-filled pirate adventure, runs at a consistent 4K/60fps on Microsoft’s new console as well.

It’s also worth pointing out that all of the titles mentioned above are part of Microsoft’s excellent $16.99 per month Game Pass Ultimate subscription service, giving you access to a wide range of games for a relatively low monthly fee.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo The Masterchief Collection

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Developer: 343 Industries
Publisher: Xbox
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $49.99 or available through Game Pass

Outside of Gears 5Halo: The Master Chief Collection is perhaps the biggest older game to get Series X/S optimizations. Impressively, 343 Industries has introduced a slew of enhancements across the collection’s several games — both on the campaign and multiplayer side. This means that Series X and S players can enjoy 120fps single-player and multiplayer modes on top of improved splitscreen play and adjustable FOV. Series X owners, specifically, can benefit from 4K resolution.

We haven’t played the Master Chief Collection since the vanilla Xbox One days, so being able to play the classic Halo games at 4K/120fps on Series X was a real treat. While we didn’t personally notice much of a difference between 60fps and 120fps, it’s still a welcome change that does impact gameplay to a degree. What’s more impressive is the crisper visuals, making Halo‘s iconic maps look absolutely stunning as we shot, punched and Spartan Laser’d my way through them. Meanwhile, the consoles’ faster load times mean you can jump into levels more quickly. Amusingly, 343 actually had to rein in the load times so they didn’t affect matchmaking.

Overall, the optimizations certainly don’t fill the void left by Halo Infinite‘s delay, but they’re nonetheless nice to have in the meantime.

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate

Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia, Windows
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99

Positioned as the definitive version of Mortal Kombat 11, the game’s new Ultimate edition includes Kombat Pack 1, the aftermath Expansion and the Kombat Pack 2, giving players access to 37 playable characters, two full story campaigns and a wide array of modes. For reasons that remain unclear, Rambo is also in the game now and voiced by Sylvester Stallone himself (yes, you read that correctly).

If you’ve played a Mortal Kombat title before, you’ll know what to expect here. The game is rife with sometimes disgusting over-the-top blood-filled violence, features the same wacky franchise mainstay characters and a plotline that really doesn’t make sense. With all that said, there’s still something charming about Mortal Kombat 11‘s simplified special system and generally stripped-back combat. Nearly anyone can still pick up the game and have a great time button mashing away. There’s also a wealth of tutorials available if you want to understand the game’s mechanics on a deeper level.

Apart from improved load times, Mortal Kombat Ultimate also runs at a 4K dynamic resolution on the Series X.

NBA 2K21

NBA 2K21

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, PC, Google Stadia, Windows
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Sports
ESRB rating: E for Everyone
Price: $79.99

NBA 2K21 is an extremely graphically impressive video game. This is because it’s one of the few third-party titles built from the ground up to take advantage of the ample power the Xbox Series X offers.

Everything from players’ faces and animation, to even the sweat dripping down their faces looks stunning in dynamic 4K 60fps with HDR. If you’ve seen videos of NBA 2K21 in action on YouTube, they truly don’t do the game justice given the limitations of video quality on the platform. That said, there are moments where the visuals fall apart, like, for example, when a player stares off into the distance for no reason — say hello to the uncanny valley.

On the negative side of things, NBA 2K21 is full of obtrusive microtransactions and pay-to-win mechanics across nearly all of its modes. It’s also really not that much of an upgrade over last year’s game in terms of features and gameplay, with most of the upgrades being purely visual. The only notable change to gameplay is a surprisingly compelling new shooting mechanic that requires the player to aim their shots and have precise timing.

Still, as far as sports titles that actually take advantage of what the Xbox Series X has to offer, NBA 2K21 is in a league of its own.

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Google Employees Say Scientist's Ouster Was 'Unprecedented Research Censorship' – NPR

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Former Google AI Research Scientist Timnit Gebru speaks here in September 2018. Gebru says she was abruptly fired from the tech giant after a dispute involving a research paper.

Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Hundreds of Google employees have published an open letter following the firing of a colleague who is an accomplished scientist known for her research into the ethics of artificial intelligence and her work showing racial bias in facial recognition technology.

That scientist, Timnit Gebru, helped lead Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team until Tuesday.

She says she was forced out of the company following a dispute over a research paper and an email she subsequently sent to peers expressing frustration over how the tech giant treats employees of color and women.

“Instead of being embraced by Google as an exceptionally talented and prolific contributor, Dr. Gebru has faced defensiveness, racism, gaslighting, research censorship, and now a retaliatory firing,” the open letter said. By Thursday evening, more than 200 Google employees and a similar number of outsiders — many of them academics — had signed it.

The research paper in question was co-authored by Gebru along with four others at Google and two other researchers. It focused on the environment impact and ethical implications of housing the data for and promoting an AI tool that can create lengthy text documents as if written by a human.

According to Gebru, she was planning to present the paper at a research conference next year, but then her bosses at Google stepped in and demanded she retract the paper, or remove all the Google employees as authors.

Gebru threatened to resign. She then took to an internal email list to vent about what she saw as empty promises to increase the number of underrepresented groups at Google.

Describing her own treatment as “silencing marginalized voices,” she also claimed she was given an insufficient explanation for why Google opposed her research paper. It made her feel like her expertise was not valued at the company.

“Instead of being like, ‘OK let’s talk,’ they’re like, ‘You know what? Nope, bye,'” Gebru told NPR.”I don’t feel like they thought it through. They could have had a much better outcome through dialogue.”

In the open letter, Gebru’s former colleagues described her as a “pathbreaking scientist” who sought to ensure the artificial intelligence systems were held accountable. They wrote that Gebru was one of the few Black women research scientists at Google.

Google’s dismissing Gebru, according to the letter, amounted to “unprecedented research censorship.”

Google had no immediate response to the letter.

But in an email sent internally and obtained by NPR, Google’s head of AI research, Jeff Dean, said Gebru’s paper “didn’t meet our bar for publication,” citing unspecified research she allegedly left out that undercut her premise.

Dean said since Gebru threatened to step down over Google’s lack of support for her paper, she was not fired, but rather resigned — something Gebru and her supporters dispute.

Emails from Dean and Gebru were first reported by Platformer’s Casey Newton.

Gebru’s row with Google unleashed a flurry of support from researchers and others on Twitter, organizing around the hashtag #ISupportTimnit.

Researcher Joy Buolamwini, who co-authored a seminal 2018 study with Gebru showing facial recognition technology is far more likely to misidentify people of color, particularly women, than white men, said Gebru’s termination could hurt Google’s reputation in holding its own technology accountable.

“Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand intellectual integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics and algorithmic auditing,” Buolamwini said. “She deserves more than Google knew how to give, and now she is an all-star free agent who will continue to transform the tech industry.”

In July, Buolamwini and Gebru’s research played a prominent role in Amazon, IBM and Microsoft pulling back on providing the technology to law enforcement agencies during the national protests over the death of George Floyd.

Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest executive who left the company after voicing concern over the treatment of Black employees, said in an interview with NPR that she believed Google would not have let go a white male employee for similar behavior.

“She was fired because of who she is and not because of what she did,” said Ozoma, who also used to work at Google.

Gebru’s ouster, which she first tweeted about on Wednesday night, came the same day the National Labor Relations Board said Google had illegally fired two employees who were involving in labor organizing last year. The federal agency also found that Google had illegally spied on employees who viewed a union organizing presentation.

Ozoma, who is a friend of Gebru, says Google has shown a pattern regarding employees who agitate for change inside the company.

“Google is doing this over and over again and seems to not care at all and seems to believe they can get away with it,” she said.

In their open letter, the Google employees ask that senior leadership meet with the artificial intelligence team Gebru helped lead to explain how and why the paper Gebru co-authored was “unilaterally rejected” by management at the company.

Letting Gebru go could make Google’s workplace less welcome to Black researchers and other employees of color, the letter signatories wrote.

“The termination is an act of retaliation against Dr. Gebru, and it heralds danger for people working for ethical and just AI — especially Black people and People of Color — across Google.”

Editor’s note: Google is among NPR’s financial supporters.

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Google Ousts Top AI Ethicist – Futurism

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Censorship Allegations

One of Google’s top AI ethicists says she’s out at the company — in part, she says, because the tech giant was censoring her research.

OneZero reports that Timnit Gebru, who had been the technical co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, says her employment was abruptly cut off — along with her access to her company email address — after a tense email exchange.

Gebru is known for influential research into racial bias in AI algorithms. Most recently, she’s been working at Google in a research position, exploring ethical implications of AI technologies.

Story So Far

But it now sounds like her experience at the search giant has been fraught. In an email obtained by Casey Newton’s new publication Platformer, Gebru told an internal listserv about a saga in which she had circulated a new research paper coauthored with a number of other Google employees — its precise topic remains unclear, though it appears to have to do with language models — to a large group of research peers.

Then, she wrote in the email, she was surprised when her “manager’s manager” told her that she needed to retract the paper.

According to a second email, also obtained by Platformer and sent by head of Google research Jeff Dean, Gebru then said that she would resign unless a list of conditions were met. In his email, Dean also pushed back against elements of Gebru’s narrative. For instance, he said that she only gave internal Google reviewers one day to read the paper, instead of the customary two weeks.

Gebru’s manager, she said on Twitter, subsequently told her that the company couldn’t meet her conditions — and would have to let her go immediately. Google instantly cut off access to her company email account, Gebru told OneZero.

Several of Gebru’s recent tweets suggest that she’s seeking legal recourse. In one message last Monday — before her termination — she inquired about legal protections for whistleblowers among AI researchers. And on Wednesday, she tweeted that she was looking for legal representation.

READ MORE: Noted A.I. Ethicist Timnit Gebru Let Go From Google Following Tense Email Exchange [OneZero]

More on Google: Three Signs Google Is Turning to the Dark Side

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