Here’s what having the biggest game of the year looks like at E3

For all of the beautiful photo-realistic titles shown off at E3 this year, for all the mind-bending storylines and beautiful art styles, it seems that nobody can stop thinking about Fortnite. The battle royale title has picked up users at break-neck speeds, announcing yesterday that it now has 125 million active users logging in and dropping into battle. The Epic Games title is available across a wide variety of platforms — it just launched a version for the Nintendo Switch yesterday, successfully rounding out the most viable gaming platforms. In short, this is Fortnite’s year, and on the E3 show floor, Epic Games made quite the splash with one of the more elaborate booths, complete with mechanical llama piñatas, photo ops, merch, snacks and plenty of opportunities for fans to stop and play a little Fortnite. Check out some more of the ridiculous opulence below. [gallery ids="1656223,1656222,1656224,1656221,1656226,1656225,1656228,1656230,1656231,1656243,1656227,1656233"]

Twitter wants to inject live events into every area of the app

The chronological news feed has been a bit of a looming specter for Twitter . Sure, it’s their bread-and-butter, but it only works for users who are willing to put in the time to prune their own feeds and strip away follows while constantly keeping an eye out for new accounts. For Twitter, a major challenge is discovering how they can update the experience for casual users who follow a few accounts but haven’t gotten deep into the discovery phase yet. Twitter’s efforts to double-down on surfacing live events coverage and catering to users’ specific areas of interest have been an evolving mission for the company, but today, they are announcing some of their boldest moves yet to change how the app grows to understand a user base on their interactions. Twitter is making some major updates to the Explore feed, which will now surface curated pages dedicated to news stories
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Jane.ai raises $8.4M to bring a digital assistant into your office software

Even as AI assistants delve deeper into consumer hardware, companies still seem a bit reticent to bring them deep into their office software workflows. Jane.ai is aiming to bring natural language processing and intelligence into an employee-facing solution that lets people query a digital assistant to give them information about documents, meetings and general company knowledge, The St. Louis startup announced today that it is raising an $8.4 million Series A from private investors to power this vision. Jane lives inside apps like Slack and Skype for Business (in addition to its own web app) where users are already chatting with co-workers and may need to surface information quickly that they don’t have ready access to. With Jane, employees can just message the assistant directly and the system will comb through information and apps that were uploaded and connected to the system in order to find answers. You
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Hands-on with Nintendo’s Poké Ball Plus

Nintendo doesn’t come out with a ton of hardware in-between system launches, but the peripherals it does come out with have a history of being pretty quality. That being said, the Poké Ball Plus may be the nicest little game-specific system accessory Nintendo has sold yet. At Nintendo’s big, honking E3 booth I had a chance to go hands-on with the little golf-ball sized device. Nintendo was not allowing us to take video or pictures of it during use, but rest assured, this is exactly what it looks like in real life. For what should by all means be a gimmicky little device, Nintendo put a thoughtful amount of engineering into the little ball, which was surprisingly fun to play the new titles with and seemed to offer a lot more than nostalgia for prospective owners. Build-wise this thing feels nice and hefty with an experience that feels a bit
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Everything Nintendo announced at E3 2018

Nintendo came out with the big guns for its pre-recorded E3 conference this morning, delivering updates on a couple veteran franchises while also bringing some new titles to its Switch console. We didn’t get a ton of big surprises, but what Nintendo showed off was certainly exciting to a lot of fans. The bulk of the presentation was (as expected) devoted to the intimate minutiae of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, which is arriving at the end of the year and will bring the biggest cast of video game series to the game ever, with some new characters arriving alongside the entire cast of the series’ previous iterations. Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Super Mario Party and Fortnite were probably the biggest highlights, but let’s take a look at everything they talked about.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

One of the crazier parts of this announcement included the fact that Nintendo has made
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Super Mario Party lets you connect multiple Switch consoles to expand your screen

Super Mario Party is coming to the Nintendo Switch but alongside the new party gameplay, there appears to be an interesting new use of the Switch hardware for multi-player.

It appears you’ll be able to modularly connect at least two Nintendo Switch consoles to expand the size of the screen you’re working with. In gameplay it seems actions will be able to seamlessly move from one screen to the other after users draw where the connection between the consoles are.

Mario Party has long been a Nintendo franchise that pushes the technical limits of the systems in their most gimmicky capacities. It seems that the Switch will gain some cool applications of the controllers’ motion capabilities.

This really seems like the idealized use for the Switch’s controller system and while Mario Kart 8 offered a lot of tabletop fun for using controllers on the tiny screen, Nintendo is really letting

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Reddit brings autoplay native video ads to desktop and mobile

The advertising-lite days of Reddit are now firmly in the rear-view as the rapidly maturing company begins to seriously chase advertising revenues in users’ feeds. Today, Reddit has announced that it is rolling out autoplaying video ads across the site on mobile and desktop. Reddit is looking to tread as carefully as they can as the company begins to quickly scale its ad products; its vocal user base has often proven resistant to sweeping changes. Users will be able to turn off autoplay on video ads in their main feed. Additionally, for the time being, video ads will only be served to users that are utilizing the expanded card display type, which is the default of three new modes in Reddit’s latest mobile and desktop redesign. These are also just for standalone ad campaigns at the moment; this rollout will not add pre-roll ads to videos that users click on.
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Square Enix didn’t show off much at its E3 2018 showcase

Well, Square Enix just wrapped up a short and uneventful E3 press conference that really seemed to phone it in. No Final Fantasy VII remake details and nothing on The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy The hyped presentation did have plenty to share on a new Tomb Raider title, to which they devoted about seven minutes of their half-hour presser. They also spent a lot of time with close-ups of the tornadoes that will be blaring around in Just Cause 4, which is getting a December release date. The extreme weather looks pretty cool, actually, and, given that a lot of the Just Cause series seems to be about just finding the limits of weird stuff you can do with the game’s wonky physics, this seems like it’d be pretty clutch. Outside of that, there was a sneak peek at a new title called The Quiet Man, which
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Microsoft acquires a whole bunch of game studios

Microsoft kept the gaming announcements coming at its Xbox E3 press conference where it announced a series of studio acquisitions meant to bolster the original gaming content emerging from the console maker. Xbox head Phil Spencer announced Sunday that Microsoft has acquired Ninja Theory, Playground Games, Undead Labs and Compulsion Games. The four studios will add to Microsoft’s considerable heft in first-party game development, especially as the company looks to strengthen its game download subscription service Xbox Game Pass. Playground Games, started in 2010, is the developer behind the Forza racing series and has been a long-time Xbox partner. The partnership announcement comes alongside the announcement of Forza Horizon 4, a new title in the series. Ninja Theory has designed titles including Hellblade, Undead Labs has released the State of Decay series, and Compulsion Games is working on its new title We Happy Few which will launch this year. The
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Limited Siri support for music apps like Spotify is possible in iOS 12

Apple is finally getting a bit more friendly with third party music-streaming apps when it comes to Siri. Music-streaming companies like Spotify will soon be able to let users utilize Siri controls to play music through their apps thanks to Apple’s newly-announced Siri Shortcuts feature in iOS 12. At a WWDC developer session, the company detailed a new “Play Media” intent it was introducing to developers with Siri Shortcuts that will let users summon audio and video media from third-party apps. The integrations would operate much less seamlessly than controls for Apple Music through Siri, but you would theoretically be able to direct Siri on the iPhone or HomePod to a designated playlist or artist on a service like Spotify, functionality that was previously not possible.

The big caveat here is that this is a developer tool and support relies on

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Valve says removing controversial games from Steam is hard so it’s not going to

Internet platforms removing objectionable content from their sites has been one of the more difficult challenges for tech companies in recent years. Valve has also determined that it’s a pretty difficult challenge in their Steam gaming store, but unlike some of the other major platforms on the web, they’ve decided they’re not going to do anything unless the content is actually illegal or, as they put it, “straight up trolling.” The company has also asserted that “the games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values…” Here’s exactly what else Valve employee Erik Johnson said in a company blog post, which you should read in full here:
Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed
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Sonos announces the $399 Beam, its compact home theater smart speaker

Today, at a special event in San Francisco, Sonos announced a compact home theater smart speaker, the Sonos Beam. The $399 device boasts a much smaller footprint than its previous home theater products, the company says Beam is 60 percent smaller and 28 percent shorter than the Playbase. The speaker is available for pre-order starting today. The company’s new home theater product will support Amazon Alexa controls at launch alongside Airplay 2 connectivity which will arrive in July. The product will be set up to gain support from other voice assistants in the future, the company says. You’ll be able to perform tasks like turning on the TV and changing the device’s volume, with FireTV support you’ll be able to query Alexa to direct you to specific movies and shows. “We believe that people want a better way to listen,” said CEO Patrick Spence onstage at the event. The product launch
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Facebook announces Oculus Connect dates Sept. 26-27

The Oculus Connect developer conference is back for its fifth year of chasing the VR dream. Facebook VP or VR Hugo Barra announced that the company’s virtual reality-centric conference would be returning to San Jose on September 26 and 27. In past years, Oculus has used the conference to reveal its latest prototype hardware and to announce new software upgrades. This year, VR took center stage at Facebook’s F8 developer conference with the company using the event to launch the $199 Oculus Go standalone headset while also showcasing its latest prototype “Half Dome”. It will be interesting to see what VR announcements are saved for Oculus at its own developer centric event and whether they use the opportunity to talk more about prototypes like its positionally-tracked “Santa Cruz” standalone which they have discussed the development of for the past two years. Registration details for OC5 aren’t available yet but the
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Apple gives users control of Siri with new Shortcuts tool

Siri has long been one of the most broken experiences on iOS. Apple didn’t have much to say about improvements to quality, but at WWDC the company did highlight updates to the interface making it easier for users to create their own commands and get proactive updates from Siri. Siri suggestions allows the digital assistant to learn from user behavior. If you have a regular coffee order, Siri can suggest that you place your order around the time of day that you would usually get it. If you’re running late to a meeting, Siri may recommend that you shoot a message to someone letting them know you’re going to be a few minutes. Shortcuts is a separate app that allows users to take control of Siri and build custom commands that integrate with third-party apps though an “add to Siri” button. With this, users could jump to information about an
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Apple’s Memoji brings an animated you to your iPhone

Apple showcased a big update to Animojis today, adding a human look called Memoji alongside tongue detection on the silly iPhone X animals. The company’s Animoji feature was one of the big highlights of the iPhone X reveal in September. The goofy cartoon pigs and chickens utilized the phone’s new front-facing camera array to track a user’s face and deliver recorded messages in a fun way. Since the initial launch, the company has added a few more characters to the animated repertoire; today is the first big change in how they look and operate. The company announced today it was adding ghost, koala, tiger and t-rex Animojis (with tongue tracking!), but more interestingly the company added Memoji, a custom Animoji tool that allows users to build their own more similar to the feature on Samsung’s Galaxy S9. You’ll be able to customize your face to an almost startling amount
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Apple delivers big updates to its augmented reality platform

Apple began WWDC talking all about the update it’s delivering to its augmented reality platform, introducing ARKit 2 with iOS 12 which brings several big tech upgrades.

The company didn’t get a chance to showcase all of the things it’s adding to ARKit, but did touch on the big additions, which include improved face tracking, realistic rendering, 3D object detection, persistent experiences and shared experiences. Multiplayer is a big update for AR at Apple, the multiplayer addition will be big for gaming and Apple will certainly try to bring the functionality to other categories moving forward.

At Google I/O, we saw a new technology called Cloud Anchors which matches up what a pair of smartphone users are seeing in the cloud to allow for multiplayer, it’s not clear how Apple is doing this, but  what’s interesting about Google’s approach is that

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Student developers arrive in full force for Apple’s WWDC

As the developer community prepares for Apple to unveil its latest software efforts at the company’s WWDC keynote later this morning, there are a younger subset of student developers feverishly roaming about excited to see what they can build next too. WWDC is a pretty pricey affair at $1,599 per ticket. Like some other tech companies, Apple has opted to make it a bit easier for students to attend their conference. They’ve done so through a scholarship where younger developers can submit applications and, if selected, get into the event for free with their lodging paid for as well. The more than 350 scholarship recipients this year represented 42 different countries and 34 languages. This year, those students got another added perk as their regular agenda was interrupted by a trip to Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus and a meet-and-greet with CEO Tim Cook. Later, the exec 
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Apple’s AR bet still has a lot to prove

As Apple gears up for its developer keynote conference tomorrow, one of its bigger announcements is likely to be new changes coming to its augmented reality platform. Since announcing ARKit last year, the tech giant has hardly been sheepish about its belief in AR’s potential.
  • “I think AR is big and profound,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told CNBC.
  • “I don’t think there is any sector or industry that will be untouched by AR,” he told Vogue.
  • “I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives,” he told The Independent.
Behind a lot of that talk is belief in the tech’s utility down the road, but until Apple is ready to experimenting with AR tech in core iOS features, all of the chatter around AR having plenty of utility today feels a bit half-hearted.
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Google builds its cross-platform multiplayer AR tech into a doodling app

At Google I/O earlier this month, the company announced Cloud Anchors, a tool that shares with the cloud 3D data captured by a user’s smartphone — and can match that data with another user to create a shared AR experience where each person’s phone is seeing the same things in the same places. Today, Google is rolling out Cloud Anchor functionality to its AR drawing app called Just a Line, which it released a couple of months ago. Just a Line is hardly a breakout hit for Google, but the simplistic app that lets users paint the 3D world with a white line offers a nice testbed for early AR functionality that’s just as experimental. What will likely differentiate Google’s offering from whatever Apple ends up shipping is that Cloud Anchor is cross-platform. The Just a Line app is available on both Android and iOS, and with today’s
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