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Sega is reportedly working on big-budget reboots of Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio

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Jet Set Radio Hd
A screenshot from Jet Set Radio HD.

Sega has reportedly started work on big-budget reboots of two cult titles: Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio. According to a report from Bloomberg citing “people familiar with its plans,” the Japanese game giant wants to create new games that can become global hits like Fortnite and deliver recurring revenue.

Fortnite, of course, has built its success on a number of attributes. It’s cross-platform, free-to-play, and generates money for publisher Epic Games through the use of cosmetic micro-transactions. Bloomberg doesn’t state that Sega is following this mold exactly, but it’s hard to know how you’d create a Fornite-like hit without ... replicating Fornite’s key traits.

Vague hints of Sega’s plans in this department have been appearing for a while now. In the company’s annual earnings report for the year ending March 2021, it named Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi as “examples of past IP” it wanted to utilize through reboots, remasters, and remakes. (Other games named included Rez, Panzer Dragoon, and Streets of Rage.) This same report discussed an internal “Super Game” initiative, which Sony exec Shuji Utsumi later explained would mean building multi-platform AAA titles with global releases. (He also alluded vaguely to NFTs, but honestly I think executives just say this as a reflex right now.)

Earlier this month, Utsumi said that several Super Game projects were currently underway, and Bloomberg is now saying these include Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio. The new Crazy Taxi game has been in development for a year, says Bloomberg, with a targeted release of 2024 to 2025. No such timeframe for Jet Set Radio is mentioned, and the publication stresses that “both new games are in the early stages of creation and could still be canceled.”

Things are still very much in development, then, but it’s tantalizing to imagine what Sega might do with these properties. Both titles arrived on Sega’s Dreamcast in 2000 (Crazy Taxi appeared in arcades the previous year) and gained cult followings for their stylish graphics and soundtracks. Crazy Taxi tasked players with delivering fares around a fictional San Francisco as quickly as possible, while Tokyo-based Jet Set Radio offered a number of game modes focused on inline skating and graffiti tagging.

Both titles are much more focused on gameplay than story, but Jet Set Radio’s use of factions and competitions seems particularly well suited to the sort of mass-participation multiplayer that has helped make Fortnite so popular. And who knows, perhaps a reboot of Crazy Taxi will mean a new theme song from The Offspring? That would certainly get the attention of anyone who played these titles on release.

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Apple brings detailed city maps to Canada

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A 3D view of Toronto’s City Hall. | Image: Apple

Apple Maps’ more detailed, three-dimensional cities that launched with iOS 15 are coming to Canada, offering better driving navigation, transit directions, and an augmented reality walking experience. The company has announced that the new city experience is available in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. The feature was previously available in a half a dozen US cities — Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. — as well as London in the UK.

It’s a welcome expansion. When we reviewed iOS 15 last year our only real issue with the enhanced mapping experience was its extremely limited availability. But, where available, it offers a sizable improvement to how cities look in Apple’s software, and even includes 3D models of major landmarks. From a functional perspective, these improvements help with driving directions, like showing more detail about which road lanes to use.

 Image: Apple
Apple Maps’ cycling directions are also coming to Montreal.

As well as driving navigation, directions for public transit will also see improvements in the added cities. Apple Maps will give you a notification when it’s time to disembark, and there are also user interface improvements like letting users pin their favorite transit lines to make their preferred routes more easily available. Walkers also benefit, and can get step-by-step directions in augmented reality, while cycling directions (a feature that originally came to Apple Maps with iOS 14) are also now available in Montreal.

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To my surprise and elation, the Webb Space Telescope is really going to work

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The James Webb Space Telescope as it will appear in orbit.

The James Webb Space Telescope as it will appear in orbit. (credit: NASA)

I met John Grunsfeld outside a coffee shop in Houston, across the street from Johnson Space Center, a little more than five years ago.

He had only recently retired from NASA after a long and storied career. Over the course of nearly two decades, Grunsfeld had flown into space five times, the latter three of which were missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope. A physicist by training, Grunsfeld had become affectionately known as a "Hubble Hugger" for his work on the venerable instrument in space.

He had then left the astronaut corps and gone on to lead NASA's science missions as associate administrator of the agency's science directorate. When we met late in the fall of 2016, Grunsfeld had just returned to private life. Now that he could speak more freely, I wanted to know what Grunsfeld really thought about the space agency's science priorities. He was in Houston for his annual astronaut physical, and we enjoyed the pleasant late November sunshine as cars zipped by on NASA Road 1.

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The latest phishing scam to watch out for: fraudulent QR codes on parking meters

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Parking Meters On City Street In Reading Pennsylvania
Photo by Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Police in several US cities are warning residents not to pay for their parking using QR codes stuck to parking meters. That’s because these codes have been placed there by scammers, who are using them to direct people to fraudulent sites that capture their payment details.

Warnings have been issued by law enforcement in Austin and San Antonio over the holiday period (we spotted the story via The Overspill newsletter). Police say they discovered a number of stickers with illicit codes appearing on parking meters, while a report by local news site Click2Houston shows how one of the fraudulent codes directed people to a site promising “quick pay parking.” (The site now appears to be offline.)

Police are advising anyone who inadvertently enters their credit card details into one of these sites to file a police report and contact their card vendor to reverse any payments.

Although once derided as an outdated technology, QR codes have become increasingly visible in the West over the past few years. These two-dimensional barcodes are able to store snippets of data but are commonly used to direct people to URLs. They’ve been a staple of digital payments in Asia for many years, but have been embraced in the West during the pandemic, used to link people to restaurant menus, report vaccination status, and check in to locations.

The convenience of QR codes (QR stands for “quick response”) is balanced by their lack of security. Although the code itself cannot be comprised, it can be used to direct people to fraudulent or dangerous sites, as with the parking meter scam. There’s no way for a human to “read” a QR code, and preview URLs created by mobile devices are often ambiguous at best. That makes them ripe targets for surprise or malicious redirects.

The advice for avoiding these scams is the same as for any phishing fraud: check the URL of the website you’ve been sent to for misspellings or less-than-professional design (not always a useful tell when it comes to local government sites). And in the case of parking fees, look for official apps which are commonly used in US cities to make such payments.

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zipcube
121 days ago
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Dallas, Texas
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Debris from a satellite shot down by the Russians appears to threaten the ISS

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The space station is being threatened by an unexpected cloud of debris.

The space station is being threatened by an unexpected cloud of debris. (credit: NASA)

The seven astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the International Space Station sheltered inside their respective spacecraft, a Crew Dragon and Soyuz, on Monday morning as the orbiting laboratory passed through an unexpected debris field.

This was not a pre-planned collision avoidance maneuver in low Earth orbit, in which the station would use onboard propulsion to move away. Rather, the situation required the astronauts to quickly take shelter.

Had there been a collision during the conjunction, the two spacecraft would have been able to detach from the space station and make an emergency return to Earth. Ultimately that was not necessary, and the astronauts reemerged into the space station later Monday. However, as the crew on board the station prepared for their sleep schedule, Mission Control in Houston asked them to keep as many of the hatches on board the space station closed for the time being, in case of an unexpected collision during subsequent orbits.

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zipcube
182 days ago
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Dallas, Texas
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TD Pilot will let people with disabilities control iPads with their eyes

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There's plenty new in iPadOS 15, but it also features an under-sung accessibility upgrade: support for third-party eye-tracking devices. That'll allow people with disabilities to use iPad apps and speech generation software simply through eye movements — no touchscreen interaction required. Tobii Dynavox, the assistive tech division of the eye-tracking company Tobii, worked with Apple for years to help make that happen. And now, the firm is ready to announce TD Pilot, a device that aims to bring the iPad experience to the estimated 50 million people globally who need communication assistance.

The TD Pilot is basically a super-powered frame for Apple's tablets: It can fit in something as big as the iPad Pro 12.9-inch, and it also packs in large speakers, an extended battery and a wheelchair mount. It's thankfully water and dust-resistant, so it'll survive time in a rainstorm or even a user's shower. There's also a secondary "Partner Window" on the back that spells out what a TD Pilot user is saying, which aims to make conversation feel more natural. Most importantly, though, it features Tobii Dynavox's latest eye-tracking sensor, which is powerful enough to work in bright sunlight.

This isn't exactly new territory for the company: It's been producing popular Windows-powered assistive devices for years. But, as CEO Fredrik Ruben tells Engadget, TD Pilot gives users with disabilities the same sort of flexibility that the non-disabled have. Some may not need the full power of a Windows PC, or maybe they'd just rather deal with the simpler interface on an iPad. TD Pilot users will also be able use eye tracking to play some iPadOS games—so long as they don't require extremely rapid movement.

While Tobii Dynavox is the current market leader in eye-tracking solutions, a smaller company ended up delivering iPad support first. Inclusive Technology's Skyle launched last year, and it allows for gaze control by tapping into the iPad's Assistive Touch feature. That was originally meant for mice and other input devices. Consequently, Ruben claims that technique is more like emulated tracking, since it involves staring at a cursor to move it around. Still, a short review from the YouTube channel Products for pALS was pretty favorable (and also had some less kind things to say about Tobii Dynavox's dated software).

Skyle's $2,995 price may also be another advantage if your insurance doesn't cover TD Pilot. Ruben tells us that Tobii Dynavox has around 400 insurance contracts already, and its devices are already covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Without insurance, though, the total cost of the TD Pilot could run up to $10,000, not including the cost of the iPad. Part of that cost would also go towards getting the device set up, as well as paying for Tobii Dynavox's software.

A screen showing the TD Pilot iPad software
Tobii Dynavox

When I tried out Tobii's eye-tracking technology in VR a few years ago, it felt like a superpower. I could hit a far-off target with a rock simply by focusing on it. It's not hard to see how useful that technology could be with an iPad for users with disabilities. Last year, we said that assistive technology still had a long way to go, despite a bit of progress from companies like Microsoft and Google. So, at the least, it's heartening to see another solution pop up—especially one that forced Apple to open up its restrictive ecosystem in the name of accessibility.





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