343 is reportedly ‘starting from scratch’ on Halo development after layoffs

343 Industries and Halo may be here to stay despite Microsoft's mass layoffs, but that doesn't mean it's business as usual for the franchise. Bloombergsources claim 343 is effectively restarting Halo development between multiple changes that include the loss of "at least" 95 jobs, including directors and key contractors. Notably, the studio is reportedly switching to Epic's Unreal Engine after both a leadership shuffle and struggling with its aging in-house platform (Slipspace) — it's even breaking from its familiar story-driven gameplay, according to the tipsters.

The 343 team is understood to be using Unreal for an unannounced game, nicknamed "Tatanka," developed with the help of long-time ally Certain Affinity. It was originally built as a battle royale title but might "evolve" into other forms, the sources say. While some at 343 are supposedly worried Unreal might affect how Halo feels to play, Slipspace's glitches and hard-to-use tech have apparently held back multiplayer features in Halo Infinite that include past favorites like Assault and Extraction.

Many of the laid off workers were crafting game prototypes in Unreal rather than producing new missions for Halo Infinite, Bloomberg says. 343 had considered switching engines for the past decade, the insiders claim, but it wasn't until studio lead Bonnie Ross and engine overseer David Berger left in late 2022 that the company committed to the change. Pierre Hintze, who replaced Ross, is said to have focused the company on "greenlighting" new tech while expanding Infinite.

Microsoft has declined to comment. A revamped strategy wouldn't be surprising even without layoffs. While Infinite was well-received on launch, delayed modes, seasons and even a cancelled split-screen mode haven't helped its reputation. 343 has also played a role in some of the Halo series' less-than-stellar projects, including the problematic Halo: Master Chief Collection and offshoots like Halo Wars 2. A fresh start isn't guaranteed to reinvigorate the sci-fi shooter, but it may address lingering concerns.

The DOJ is looking into Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving claims

The rumors of Tesla facing a Justice Department investigation were true. The EV designer has confirmed in an SEC filing that the DOJ has requested documents linked to Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD) features. Tesla says that no government body has determined "wrongdoing" as part of an active investigation, but warns that enforcement could have a "material adverse impact" on its business.

Tesla didn't detail the nature of the request, and doesn't usually comment on issues since disbanding its communications team. We've asked the DOJ for comment. However, it comes after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated 35 crashes where Autopilot or FSD was reportedly involved, including collisions with emergency vehicles. California's DMV and other officials have accused Tesla of falsely suggesting that its cars are truly driverless when even FSD frequently requires intervention. The state DMV and the NHTSA are worried Tesla drivers might grow complacent and fail to take evasive action when necessary.

The brand has issued mixed messages on its cars' abilities. While Tesla's support site make clear that Autopilot and FSD don't represent complete autonomy and require a "fully attentive driver," the FSD marketing page claims that you'll only need to "tell your car where to go." Company chief Elon Musk has long promised that true self-driving is just around the corner, but mentioned in October 2022 that Tesla was "not saying it's quite ready" to go driverless. FSD remains in beta, although it's now open to anyone who has paid to unlock the functionality.

The DOJ investigation comes as Tesla and its leadership face mounting scrutiny over their practices. Musk is embroiled in a shareholder lawsuit over his tweets about taking Tesla private. The National Labor Relations Board recently accused Tesla of breaking the law by asking Florida staff to keep quiet about pay and a firing. There are also lingering questions about build quality following a string of recalls. Tesla is facing growing pressure to alter its practices, and potential DOJ charges are just the latest concern.

EU vows to get tougher on Big Tech privacy violations

The European Union is eager to crack down on Big Tech's alleged privacy abuses, but the reliance on individual countries to enforce General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules has led to lengthy cases with punishments that are frequently modest. There will soon be pressure to act decisively, however. The European Commission will now require that EU nations share overviews of "large-scale" GDPR investigations every two months. This includes "key procedural steps" and actions taken — national regulators will have to show they're moving forward.

The tougher approach comes after the EU Ombudsman recommended closer monitoring of Big Tech cases that fall under the Irish Data Protection Commission, which regulates Meta and other industry giants. The rights group Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) made a complaint to the Ombudsman accusing Ireland's commission of being too slow and lenient against privacy violations. Just weeks ago, Europe's Data Protection Board forced Ireland to raise a data processing fine against Meta from €28 million to €390 million ($30.4 million to $423.3 million).

As Bloombergobserves, the European Commission is already issuing reports every two years on the overall status of GDPR enforcement. However, it hasn't conducted thorough, frequent reviews of individual countries' privacy regulators. This new requirement will theoretically hold all EU member states accountable if they delay investigations or don't apply the law when necessary. This could include legal repercussions at the European Court of Justice.

Critics might not be happy with the transparency. Ireland and other nations will share their progress on a "strictly confidential basis," according to the Commission. The public might not know if a regulator is mishandling a case unless the EU takes visible action in response. Nonetheless, this may encourage Meta, Amazon, Google and other tech heavyweights to take European privacy laws more seriously — they may see quicker investigations and stiffer fines.

Frontier rolls out 5Gbps fiber internet across the US

You're now more likely to have meaningful choice for fast fiber internet service. Frontier has introduced a symmetrical 5Gbps plan (that is, 5Gbps for uploads and downloads) across all its fiber markets in the US. The company claims it's the first "major" provider to manage the feat. You'll have to pay $155 per month (which includes installation and a router), or $55 more than the 2Gbps tier. However, it might be worth the outlay if you regularly download massive files or share your data with other heavy-duty users in your household.

You'll need a WiFi 6e router and supporting devices, like the Pixel 7 or 2023 MacBook Pro, to make use of the extra speed without relying on 10Gbps Ethernet. Frontier estimates that it takes less than two minutes to download a 100-minute 8K movie.

Whether or not Frontier offers the best deal depends on the rivals in your area. AT&T's 5Gbps plan has been available for a year, but will cost $180. Google Fiber is on the cusp of offering 8Gbps for $150, but it covers only a handful of cities. Frontier may well beat cable companies, though. Comcast already has 6Gbps service in some areas, but the $300 per month pricing and non-symmetric uploads make it less practical.

The higher price for 5Gbps service may not be thrilling if 2Gbps already seemed expensive. Even so, the rollout suggests competition is heating up among multi-gig internet providers. That's good news for customers — you may see more aggressive performance or pricing as telecoms jockey for your business.

Amazon is reportedly making a Tomb Raider TV series

Hollywood may be taking another stab at a Tomb Raider production, but this time for the small screen. The Hollywood Reportersources say Amazon is creating a Tomb Raider TV series for Prime Video, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of Fleabag fame) set to be an executive producer and write the script. It's not certain who would star, but we wouldn't count on movie stars Angelina Jolie or Alicia Vikander reprising the role of Lara Croft. The show is reportedly still in the development stage.

We've asked Amazon for comment. A collaboration like this wouldn't be surprising, at least. Amazon is publishing the next Tomb Raider game, and Waller-Bridge previously struck a three-year deal with Amazon that includes projects like the novel adaptation Sign Here. Sources for The Reporter claim Amazon was "aggressive" in pursuing a deal renewal late last year.

The rumor comes as game-based TV shows have their moment in the spotlight. HBO's The Last of Us has already been successful enough to get a second season. Sony, meanwhile, is prepping God of War, Gran Turismo and Horizon titles for Netflix and Prime Video. A Tomb Raider series would bolster Amazon's game-themed catalog and help it compete against rivals like Netflix, which already has hits like the League of Legends offshoot Arcane.

Amazon also hasn't been shy about chasing after potential blockbusters. The company reportedly spent $1 billion on The Lord of Rings: The Rings of Power, for instance. While a Tomb Raider show isn't likely to be as lavish, Waller-Bridge's involvement suggests Amazon is eager for a hit. Amazon struggled to breach the top streaming charts last year — this might give it better ammunition against Netflix successes like Stranger Things.

Amazon is reportedly making a Tomb Raider TV series

Hollywood may be taking another stab at a Tomb Raider production, but this time for the small screen. The Hollywood Reportersources say Amazon is creating a Tomb Raider TV series for Prime Video, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (of Fleabag fame) set to be an executive producer and write the script. It's not certain who would star, but we wouldn't count on movie stars Angelina Jolie or Alicia Vikander reprising the role of Lara Croft. The show is reportedly still in the development stage.

We've asked Amazon for comment. A collaboration like this wouldn't be surprising, at least. Amazon is publishing the next Tomb Raider game, and Waller-Bridge previously struck a three-year deal with Amazon that includes projects like the novel adaptation Sign Here. Sources for The Reporter claim Amazon was "aggressive" in pursuing a deal renewal late last year.

The rumor comes as game-based TV shows have their moment in the spotlight. HBO's The Last of Us has already been successful enough to get a second season. Sony, meanwhile, is prepping God of War, Gran Turismo and Horizon titles for Netflix and Prime Video. A Tomb Raider series would bolster Amazon's game-themed catalog and help it compete against rivals like Netflix, which already has hits like the League of Legends offshoot Arcane.

Amazon also hasn't been shy about chasing after potential blockbusters. The company reportedly spent $1 billion on The Lord of Rings: The Rings of Power, for instance. While a Tomb Raider show isn't likely to be as lavish, Waller-Bridge's involvement suggests Amazon is eager for a hit. Amazon struggled to breach the top streaming charts last year — this might give it better ammunition against Netflix successes like Stranger Things.

Google AI can create music in any genre from a text description

Never mind ChatGPT — music might be the next big frontier for AI content generation. Google recently published research on MusicLM, a system that creates music in any genre with a text description. This isn't the first AI music generator. As TechCrunchnotes, projects like Google's AudioML and OpenAI's Jukebox have tackled the subject. However, MusicLM's model and vast training database (280,000 hours of music) help it produce music with surprising variety and depth. You might just like the output.

The AI can not only combine genres and instruments, but write tracks using abstract concepts that are normally difficult for computers to grasp. If you want a hybrid of dance music and reggaeton with a "spacey, otherworldly" tune that evokes a "sense of wonder and awe," MusicLM can make it happen. The technology can even craft melodies based on humming, whistling or the description of a painting. A story mode can stitch several descriptions together to produce a DJ set or soundtrack.

MusicLM has its problems, as with many AI generators. Some compositions sound strange, and vocals tend to be incomprehensible. And while the performances themselves are better than you'd expect, they can be repetitive in ways human works might not. Don't expect an EDM-style drop or the verse-chorus-verse pattern of a typical song.

Just don't plan on using the tech any time soon. As with other Google AI generators, the researchers aren't releasing MusicLM to the public over copyright concerns. Roughly one percent of the music produced at the time of publication was copied directly from the training songs. While questions regarding licensing for AI music haven't been settled, a 2021 whitepaper from Eric Sunray (now working for the Music Publishers Association) suggested that there's enough "coherent" traces of the original sounds that AI music can violate reproduction rights. You may have to get clearances to release AI-created songs, much like musicians who rely on samples.

AI already has a place in music. Artists like Holly Herndon and Arca have used algorithms to produce albums and museum soundtracks. However, those are either collaborative (as with Herndon) or intentionally unpredictable (like Arca's). MusicLM may not be ready for prime time, but it hints at a future where AI could play a larger role in the studio.

Google AI can create music in any genre from a text description

Never mind ChatGPT — music might be the next big frontier for AI content generation. Google recently published research on MusicLM, a system that creates music in any genre with a text description. This isn't the first AI music generator. As TechCrunchnotes, projects like Google's AudioML and OpenAI's Jukebox have tackled the subject. However, MusicLM's model and vast training database (280,000 hours of music) help it produce music with surprising variety and depth. You might just like the output.

The AI can not only combine genres and instruments, but write tracks using abstract concepts that are normally difficult for computers to grasp. If you want a hybrid of dance music and reggaeton with a "spacey, otherworldly" tune that evokes a "sense of wonder and awe," MusicLM can make it happen. The technology can even craft melodies based on humming, whistling or the description of a painting. A story mode can stitch several descriptions together to produce a DJ set or soundtrack.

MusicLM has its problems, as with many AI generators. Some compositions sound strange, and vocals tend to be incomprehensible. And while the performances themselves are better than you'd expect, they can be repetitive in ways human works might not. Don't expect an EDM-style drop or the verse-chorus-verse pattern of a typical song.

Just don't plan on using the tech any time soon. As with other Google AI generators, the researchers aren't releasing MusicLM to the public over copyright concerns. Roughly one percent of the music produced at the time of publication was copied directly from the training songs. While questions regarding licensing for AI music haven't been settled, a 2021 whitepaper from Eric Sunray (now working for the Music Publishers Association) suggested that there's enough "coherent" traces of the original sounds that AI music can violate reproduction rights. You may have to get clearances to release AI-created songs, much like musicians who rely on samples.

AI already has a place in music. Artists like Holly Herndon and Arca have used algorithms to produce albums and museum soundtracks. However, those are either collaborative (as with Herndon) or intentionally unpredictable (like Arca's). MusicLM may not be ready for prime time, but it hints at a future where AI could play a larger role in the studio.

‘Stranger Things’ helped Netflix dominate the streaming charts in 2022

You might not be stuck inside watching shows like you were at the height of the pandemic, but there were clearly some favorite online titles last year. Nielsen has shared its top streaming shows of 2022 in the US, and the most-streamed by far was Stranger Things — the fourth season helped Netflix's signature show rack up 52 billion viewing minutes. For context, the second-place crime drama NCIS managed 'just' 38.1 billion minutes.

Netflix otherwise dominated the charts, though not completely. It was responsible for 10 out of the top 15 overall shows, and 13 of the 15 most popular originals. However, there was some competition. The vast back catalog at Disney+ helped it claim three places on the overall chart (including Encanto in fifth place), and its kid-friendly library gave it 10 spots in the movie rankings. Amazon Prime Video only had two titles break into the top 15 originals, The Boys and The Rings of Power.

Stranger Things didn't manage an all-time high. That honor goes to The Office, which managed 57.1 billion minutes thanks to many more episodes (192 versus 34) and 2020 pandemic lockdowns. It's still a significant feat, though, and Nielsen points out that some shows took much less time to climb the ranks than others. Encanto had all year, while the Addams Family spinoff Wednesday managed a similar achievement (12th overall) in 36 days.

Nielsen also found that streaming was up as a whole. Americans streamed over 19.4 million years of content in 2022, a 27 percent jump versus the year before. That was largely due to both the wider range of services and, crucially, a wider range of originals. Audiences were more likely to stream internet-only shows than dive into licensed TV material, and that boosted the industry as a whole.

‘Stranger Things’ helped Netflix dominate the streaming charts in 2022

You might not be stuck inside watching shows like you were at the height of the pandemic, but there were clearly some favorite online titles last year. Nielsen has shared its top streaming shows of 2022 in the US, and the most-streamed by far was Stranger Things — the fourth season helped Netflix's signature show rack up 52 billion viewing minutes. For context, the second-place crime drama NCIS managed 'just' 38.1 billion minutes.

Netflix otherwise dominated the charts, though not completely. It was responsible for 10 out of the top 15 overall shows, and 13 of the 15 most popular originals. However, there was some competition. The vast back catalog at Disney+ helped it claim three places on the overall chart (including Encanto in fifth place), and its kid-friendly library gave it 10 spots in the movie rankings. Amazon Prime Video only had two titles break into the top 15 originals, The Boys and The Rings of Power.

Stranger Things didn't manage an all-time high. That honor goes to The Office, which managed 57.1 billion minutes thanks to many more episodes (192 versus 34) and 2020 pandemic lockdowns. It's still a significant feat, though, and Nielsen points out that some shows took much less time to climb the ranks than others. Encanto had all year, while the Addams Family spinoff Wednesday managed a similar achievement (12th overall) in 36 days.

Nielsen also found that streaming was up as a whole. Americans streamed over 19.4 million years of content in 2022, a 27 percent jump versus the year before. That was largely due to both the wider range of services and, crucially, a wider range of originals. Audiences were more likely to stream internet-only shows than dive into licensed TV material, and that boosted the industry as a whole.