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YouTube considers jumping on the NFT bandwagon

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YouTube is the latest platform eyeing a move into NFTs. In a new letter to creators about YouTube’s 2022 priorities, CEO Susan Wojicki said the company is exploring how its creators could benefit from the digital collectibles.

In the letter, Wojicki said that Web3 — a term used by crypto enthusiasts to refer to the collection of blockchain based technologies they believe will usher in a new era of the internet — has been a “source of inspiration” for the company. She didn’t say exactly how YouTube may integrate NFTs into its platform, but suggested the technology could be a new source of revenue for creators.

“The past year in the world of crypto, nonfungible tokens (NFTs), and even decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) has highlighted a previously unimaginable opportunity to grow the connection between creators and their fans,” she wrote. “We’re always focused on expanding the YouTube ecosystem to help creators capitalize on emerging technologies, including things like NFTs, while continuing to strengthen and enhance the experiences creators and fans have on YouTube.”

If YouTube allowed creators to sell NFTs directly to their fans, it would be a major boon for the technology, which in popularity over the last year, but hasn’t been widely adopted by major social platforms. But there are already signs that could change in 2022.

Twitter just introduced its first experiment with NFTs, with Instagram’s top executive has also expressed an interest in the technology, and The Financial Times last week that Facebook and Instagram are working on an NFT marketplace and other features,

NFT aren’t the only new monetization opportunities YouTube is looking at in the coming year, though. Wojicki also said the company is “excited” about podcasts and that “we expect it to be an integral part of the creator economy.” She also confirmed that YouTube would expand its shopping features to more creators, and test “how shopping can be integrated into Shorts.”

The CEO also touched on the controversy surrounding YouTube’s decision to remove public from its platform. She noted that the dislikes was often used to target smaller creators for harassment, and that the feature could still be used to inform individuals’ recommendations. “Every way we looked at it, we did not see a meaningful difference in viewership, regardless of whether or not there was a public dislike count,” she said. “And importantly, it reduced dislike attacks.”

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Shadow adds latest generation Nvidia and AMD GPUs to cloud gaming service

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Shadow is adding a new subscription tier to its cloud gaming service with access to the equivalent of Nvidia and AMD’s latest generation of graphics cards for an additional $14.99 a month. The new Power Upgrade tier is an optional add-on to Shadow’s existing $29.99 subscription service, bringing the total cost to a little under $45. Alongside it, the company is announcing an expansion to more countries, a new online storage service, and a service that makes its cloud-based machines available to professional users.

Unlike Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service or Google Stadia, which only let you stream their games, Shadow’s functionality is a lot broader. It essentially offers you remote access to a Windows 10 desktop in the cloud running on powerful hardware. From there, you can install games from whatever gaming storefront you choose and run them on a machine that might be a lot more powerful than the device you’re streaming it to.

Shadow says the Power Upgrade will get users cloud-based access to a machine running an AMD EPYC 7543P CPU with four cores and eight threads, 16GB of RAM, and a “high-end GPU.” Example GPUs listed include an “Nvidia RTX 3070-class” graphics card, an equivalent Nvidia GPU “tailored for professionals,” and AMD’s latest RDNA 2-based GPUs including the Radeon Pro V620. However, you won’t be able to pick the exact GPU at checkout — it’ll be assigned based on data center availability. In contrast, Shadow’s current $29.99 tier lists the equivalent of a much older GTX 1080 GPU as its graphics card.

Shadow’s new pricing tier makes it more expensive than Nvidia’s equivalent high-end tier for its own GeForce Now streaming service, which is designed to offer RTX 3080-level hardware for $19.99 a month. Shadow is less restrictive than Nvidia, which offers a curated selection of games to play from Steam or the Epic Games Store. If you can install a game on a Windows 10 machine, you should theoretically be able to play it on Shadow.

Shadow previously launched more powerful tiers — Ultra and Infinite — back when its base plan cost just $11.99 a month. But a year later, the company increased the price of this standard tier to $29.99 a month, and, as of late 2021, its FAQ notes that Shadow has officially canceled the US launch of the two upgraded subscriptions. Spokesperson Thomas Beaufils tells The Verge that the company still has users subscribed to its Ultra and Infinite plans and that they’ve not been discontinued entirely, but it’s not accepting new signups.

Alongside the new Power Upgrade, Shadow is also announcing that it’s expanding to Canada and Austria this fall, joining existing markets like the US, UK, France, and Germany. It also has a new standalone cloud storage feature coming to Europe this fall that offers 20GB of storage for free or 2TB for €8.99 a month. Finally, the company is also offering its cloud-based machines to professional users with “custom built projects” designed to be used by anyone — from 3D artists to architects or engineers in need of powerful hardware in the cloud.

Shadow says its new Power Upgrade will be available to preorder this summer and aims to launch across all its markets in the fall.



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‘Saints Row’ developers promise that the reboot will still be fun

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It was last August that Saints Row developer Volition . The new title was intended as a swerve away from the series’ trademark preposterousness and juvenalia. Now, , the team would like to clarify that just because it’s grounded, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be fun. Saints Row hasn’t suddenly become a po-faced exploration of organized crime, and it remains just as cartoonish as you may expect, it’s just a bit more grounded in its cartoonishness.

Last year, Chief Creative Officer Jim Boone and Lead Mission Designer Jeremy Bernstein said that the Saints Row series had burned out its narrative runway. After all, when your character has conquered the Earth, descended into Hell and fought a hair-rock opera duel with the Devil, street-level crime is going to feel like a big comedown. “I’ve been wanting to clarify that!” said Creative Director Brian Traficante, “I believe you can continue that runway […] but we didn’t want to.”

“In terms of going back to the grounded tone, it took some time,” said Traficante, as the team sought to analyze and define “what is Saints Row?” That series-defining formula seems to focus on meshing fun gameplay, silly jokes, cartoonish violence and a hefty dose of reference gags. “At times, it’s a gag for a gag’s sake, but there’s a consciousness of making sure that it’s exactly what we want to do, and it’s the right time to do it,” he said. There was a focus on ensuring that there’s plenty of light moments to balance out the times in the story when things go dark.

Writer Jennifer Campbell said that the team abides by “the rule of making sure that you’re punching up, not punching down.” Campbell added that “we’re exploring a more diverse group of characters so it gives us a lot more avenues to explore, anyway.” Traficante said that the developers created “internal mechanisms” to help ensure that a broad group of people could weigh in on some of the edgier gags in the game. He added that the team wanted to craft jokes that would enable “everyone [to] be a part of the joke.”

Saints Row’s use of parody reached a fairly extreme level during the fourth game, where it ran a series of relationship-simulation sequences in the vein of Mass Effect. (Except, of course, the camera wasn’t cutting away as quickly when two characters decided to spend some alone time together.) These parodies are “definitely in the recipe,” said Traficante, but that they aren’t “front and center” in the new title, so players will need to hunt out the nods.

A pair of friends dance along inside a Cowboy-themed bar.

Volition

And players will spend a lot of time being encouraged to hunt through the world of Santo Ileso in pursuit of storytelling, gameplay and entertainment. The team has laced the city with randomly spawning discoverables, like a security fan loaded with cash, for you to find as you walk around. Traficante said that it takes testers around a week, playing full time, to work their way through the bulk of the title, which is vast and ever-growing.

As well as the breadth of the city, Volition also wanted to emphasize the depth of features like character customization. Users can expect a level of tweaking that looks to be beyond the level offered in, say, Cyberpunk 2077. You’ll be able to customize your appearance, voice and clothing, as well as the looks of your cars and weapons. And none of these features will be pay-to-use, mercifully, with everything instead unlocking the further into the game you progress.

Interestingly, the new title has a little less narrative freedom than some of its predecessors as a consequence of this richer, deeper world. This, says Jennifer Campbell, is to help imbue the game with a greater sense of purpose and meaning, bolstering the story. “We were really focused on keeping a causal chain, because you’re doing things in response to something,” she said. “You’re shooting at things because you did something earlier in the mission to elicit a response from an enemy faction,” she added, with the aim of putting “reason behind the things that we asked the player to do.” Players will feel that “their actions are affecting the game state.”

Having now seen around 45 minutes of gameplay footage, I can say that the new title focuses on a narrower definition of silly. You can melee an opponent, stick a grenade down their throat and then throw their body over to a group of enemies to blow them up. Or you can ask a friend in co-op play to pick up your car with a helicopter’s trailing electromagnet and drop you off at a mission location. There are piñata guns and footballs that stick to people hurling them up into the air, as well as a new wingsuit mechanic that enables you to bounce off a pedestrian to give yourself more flight time.

Certainly, the arrival of this Saints Row game feels like it’s going to be more of an event than it did previously. The enduring success of GTA Online’s ever-present crime simulation sandbox has sucked so much air out of the genre that having a new alternative should be a big deal: We haven’t had a true “GTA-like” game since 2016’s Watch Dogs 2. The one risk is that Saints Row is looking to perfect a game that users have now moved on from.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Liveness tests used by banks to verify ID are ‘extremely vulnerable’ to deepfake attacks

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Automated “liveness tests” used by banks and other institutions to help verify users’ identity can be easily fooled by deepfakes, demonstrates a new report.

Security firm Sensity, which specializes in spotting attacks using AI-generated faces, probed the vulnerability of identity tests provided by 10 top vendors. Sensity used deepfakes to copy a target face onto an ID card to be scanned and then copied that same face onto a video stream of a would-be attacker in order to pass vendors’ liveness tests.

Liveness tests generally ask someone to look into a camera on their phone or laptop, sometimes turning their head or smiling, in order to prove both that they’re a real person and to compare their appearance to their ID using facial recognition. In the financial world, such checks are often known as KYC, or “know your customer” tests, and can form part of a wider verification process that includes document and bill checks.

“We tested 10 solutions and we found that nine of them were extremely vulnerable to deepfake attacks,” Sensity’s chief operating officer, Francesco Cavalli, told The Verge.

“There’s a new generation of AI power that can pose serious threats to companies,” says Cavalli. “Imagine what you can do with fake accounts created with these techniques. And no one is able to detect them.”

Sensity shared the identity of the enterprise vendors it tested with The Verge, but it requested that the names not be published for legal reasons. Cavalli says Sensity signed non-disclosure agreements with some of the vendors and, in other cases, fears it may have violated companies’ terms of service by testing their software in this way.

Cavalli also says he was disappointed by the reaction from vendors, who did not seem to consider the attacks significant. “We told them ‘look you’re vulnerable to this kind of attack,’ and they said ‘we do not care,’” he says. “We decided to publish it because we think, at a corporate level and in general, the public should be aware of these threats.”

The vendors Sensity tested sell these liveness checks to a range of clients, including banks, dating apps, and cryptocurrency startups. One vendor was even used to verify the identity of voters in a recent national election in Africa. (Though there’s no suggestion from Sensity’s report that this process was compromised by deepfakes.)

Cavalli says such deepfake identity spoofs are primarily a danger to the banking system where they can be used to facilitate fraud. “I can create an account; I can move illegal money into digital bank accounts of crypto wallets,” says Cavalli. “Or maybe I can ask for a mortgage because today online lending companies are competing with one another to issue loans as fast as possible.”

This is not the first time deepfakes have been identified as a danger to facial recognition systems. They’re primarily a threat when the attacker can hijack the video feed from a phone or camera, a relatively simple task. However, facial recognition systems that use depth sensors — like Apple’s Face ID — cannot be fooled by these sorts of attacks, as they verify identity not only based on visual appearance but also the physical shape of a person’s face.



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