Microsoft vows to bring ‘Call of Duty’ to Nintendo consoles

Microsoft vows to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo and to continue making it available on the latter's consoles for 10 years if its Activision Blizzard acquisition pushes through. Phil Spencer, Microsoft Gaming's CEO, has announced the company's commitment on Twitter, adding that "Microsoft is committed to helping bring more games to more people — however they choose to play." Spencer previously said during an interview that the company intends to treat Call of Duty like Minecraft that's available across platforms and that he would "love to see [the game]" on the Switch. A 10-year commitment potentially means that the franchise will also be released for the current Switch's successors. 

In addition, Spencer has announced on Twitter that Microsoft will continue to offer CoD on Steam, alongside the Xbox, after the deal is closed. As The New York Times says, this announcement could be a move to appease the Federal Trade Commission and to get regulators on their side. The publication says the FTC is expected to discuss the acquisition in a closed-door meeting on Thursday, where the agency will decide whether to take steps to block the deal. 

A recent report by Politico claimed that Microsoft failed to convince the FTC staff reviewing the acquisition with its arguments and that the commission will likely file an antitrust lawsuit to block it as soon as this month. The FTC is reportedly concerned the purchase would give Microsoft an unfair advantage and that it would reduce competition in the market. 

In an opinion piece written for The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft President Brad Smith defended the acquisition and argued that it's good for gamers. FTC suing to block the deal "would be a huge mistake," he said, and would hurt competition in the industry instead. Smith also said that Microsoft offered Sony, the loudest dissenting voice to the merger, a 10-year contract ensuring all new CoD releases would be available on the PlayStation the same day they go out for the Xbox. "We're open to providing the same commitment to other platforms and making it legally enforceable by regulators in the US, UK and European Union," he wrote. Whether these efforts are enough to assure regulators that the purchase wouldn't be detrimental to the industry remains to be seen. 

Google Search results now continuously scroll on desktop

Google is giving its search results on desktop the "continuous scrolling" treatment over a year after launching the feature on mobile. Continuous scrolling will eliminate the need to click "Next" or the page numbers at the bottom of your search results. Instead, Google will automatically load the next batch of results on the page once you've scrolled to the bottom of the current list. If you use Google on mobile, the feature will feel very familiar. 

The tech giant has confirmed the rollout to Search Engine Land and told the publication that its website will automatically show up to six pages of results before you need to click a "More results" button to load the next batches. Its arrival on desktop will make the Google search experience more consistent across devices and platforms. "So starting today, we're bringing continuous scrolling to desktop so you can continue to see more helpful search results with fewer clicks. It's now even easier to get inspired with more information at your fingertips," a company spokesperson said. 

Similar to the mobile version of the feature, it will initially be available for English queries in the US and will most likely make its way to more people and more regions in the future. 

NLRB says Apple violated federal law with anti-union meetings in Atlanta

Apple's attempts to quell employees' unionization efforts violated federal law, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB's Atlanta regional director concluded that Apple held mandatory "captive audience" meetings and made coercive statements with anti-union messaging. The workers at Apple's Cumberland Mall store filed for a union election with the NLRB earlier this year in a bid to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA). In May, however, they withdrew their petition, and the CWA submitted an Unfair Labor Practice complaint on their behalf. 

The CWA said in its complaint at the time that Apple had "conducted mandatory 'captive audience' meetings with bargaining unit employees regarding the upcoming election." In a newer statement sent to Bloomberg, the organization said that holding meetings like that is "not only union-busting, but an example of psychological warfare." As the news organization notes, the NLRB had previously allowed companies to require employees to attend mandatory meetings prior to union elections. But Jennifer Abruzzo, the labor board's current general counsel, sees them as coercive and in violation of the law. 

The NLRB said that it will issue a complaint if the tech giant doesn't settle. While the labor board's regional director has sided with the workers and with CWA, it's still up in the air whether Apple will be required to change its policies or suffer any sort of punishment. Complaints issued by regional directors will have to go through the board's judges, and companies could approach the NLRB's board members in Washington to appeal rulings they hand down. The case could go to federal court after that. 

Apple is facing another complaint by the NLRB, which found enough merit in a report also filed by the CWA on behalf of the company's World Trade Center workers in NYC. For that particular case, Apple was accused of surveilling staff, limiting their access to pro-union fliers and forcing them to listen to anti-union speeches. If Apple doesn't settle, a judge will hear the case on December 13th. 

Neuralink is reportedly under federal investigation over animal testing

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Inspector General is reportedly investigating Neuralink over potential animal welfare violations related to research testing. According to Reuters, internal documents show that staff members have been raising concerns that the company has been rushing animal testing and causing needless suffering and death. 

The news organization said the company has killed 1,500 animals, including more than 280 sheep, pigs and monkeys, since 2018. Those numbers don't automatically mean Neuralink is violating the law, and the company has passed all USDA inspections of its facilities. Former and current employees told Reuters, however, that pressure from Neuralink founder Elon Musk to accelerate development has led to faulty experiments and, hence, death rates higher than they need to be. 

Musk has reportedly been telling employees since the company was launched in 2016 to imagine that they had a bomb strapped to their heads in an effort to make them move faster. He also reportedly told staff that he would trigger a "market failure" unless they made progress, which some employees interpreted as a warning that he would shut down the company. Earlier this year, Musk also sent staff members an email with an article about Swiss researchers who created an implant that helped a paralyzed person walk again, Reuters said. "In general, we are simply not moving fast enough. It is driving me nuts!" he reportedly wrote in a follow-up email.

Upon reviewing internal testing documentation, Reuters said it found four experiments involving 86 pigs and two monkeys with results that were rendered questionable by human errors. Neuralink had to repeat those experiments, leading to more deaths. A message written by an angry employee talked about how rushed animal surgeries had led to under-prepared and overstressed employees who ended up making mistakes. A couple of examples Reuters found in the documents detailed how Neuralink staff implanted the company's brain-machine interface device on the wrong vertebra of two different pigs — something that could've been easily prevented by counting the animals' vertebrae — forcing the team to kill them to end their suffering. 

Earlier this year, the animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine accused the company botching surgeries that killed monkeys. Neuralink admitted that it had killed six monkeys in its joint study with the University of California, Davis due to issues caused by their experiments. However, they defended their research and said that it didn't break any laws. 

Neuralink recently held an event announcing that it could start human trials within the next six months. During the program, company founder Elon Musk directly responded to the Phyisicians Committee accusations: "Before we would even think of putting a device in an animal, we do everything possible we with rigorous benchtop testing, We're not cavalier about putting these devices into animals. We're extremely careful and we always want the device, whenever we do the implant — whether into a sheep, pig or monkey — to be confirmatory, not exploratory," he said. 

Reuters, however, said it found Neuralink records with numerous references to "exploratory surgeries." Autumn Sorrells, Neuralink's Animal Care Program Director, also reportedly ordered employees in October to remove "exploration" from their study titles and to stop using the term going forward. 

Pentagon unveils B-21 Raider aircraft with advanced stealth technology

The US military has unveiled the B-21 Raider, its first new stealth bomber in 30 years. Northrop Grumman, which developed the aircraft, first showed us a silhouette of the plane covered by a shroud way back in 2015. Now, the Pentagon has officially presented the B-21 at an event at Northrop Grumman's plant in Palmdale, California, but most of its details still remain a secret. Prior to the event, though, the company called it the "world’s first sixth-generation aircraft," which means it's a lot more technologically advanced than the military jets in service today.

According to ABC News, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the event that "no other long range bomber can match [the B-21's] efficiency." Austin also said that "fifty years of advances in low observable technology" have gone into the aircraft and that even the most sophisticated air defense systems will have a hard time detecting a B-21 in the sky. 

The aircraft was designed using next-generation stealth technology so that it can remain undetectable even to advanced radars and air defense systems, Northrop Grumman said in a previous announcement. A Northrop Grumman official also said that the B-21 can fly in full stealth mode every day, according to Air and Space Forces Magazine, unlike the current model that needs hundreds of hours of maintenance between missions. The aircraft will use a cloud-based digital infrastructure that's cheaper and easier maintain, and the military can also roll out rapid upgrades for separate components so that it's always protected against evolving threats. 

Northrop Grumman is currently working on six B-21 units, which are in various stages of production, but the Air Force is expected to order at least 100 of them. The military will start testing the stealth bomber in California sometime next year before the first units go into service by mid-2020s.

Pentagon unveils B-21 Raider aircraft with advanced stealth technology

The US military has unveiled the B-21 Raider, its first new stealth bomber in 30 years. Northrop Grumman, which developed the aircraft, first showed us a silhouette of the plane covered by a shroud way back in 2015. Now, the Pentagon has officially presented the B-21 at an event at Northrop Grumman's plant in Palmdale, California, but most of its details still remain a secret. Prior to the event, though, the company called it the "world’s first sixth-generation aircraft," which means it's a lot more technologically advanced than the military jets in service today.

According to ABC News, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during the event that "no other long range bomber can match [the B-21's] efficiency." Austin also said that "fifty years of advances in low observable technology" have gone into the aircraft and that even the most sophisticated air defense systems will have a hard time detecting a B-21 in the sky. 

The aircraft was designed using next-generation stealth technology so that it can remain undetectable even to advanced radars and air defense systems, Northrop Grumman said in a previous announcement. A Northrop Grumman official also said that the B-21 can fly in full stealth mode every day, according to Air and Space Forces Magazine, unlike the current model that needs hundreds of hours of maintenance between missions. The aircraft will use a cloud-based digital infrastructure that's cheaper and easier maintain, and the military can also roll out rapid upgrades for separate components so that it's always protected against evolving threats. 

Northrop Grumman is currently working on six B-21 units, which are in various stages of production, but the Air Force is expected to order at least 100 of them. The military will start testing the stealth bomber in California sometime next year before the first units go into service by mid-2020s.

Meta faces lawsuit for harvesting financial data from tax prep websites

A group of anonymous plaintiffs who filed their taxes online in 2020 using H&R Block has sued Meta, accusing the company of violating users' trust and privacy. If you'll recall, a recent Markup investigation revealed that H&R Block, along with other popular tax-filing websites like TaxAct and TaxSlayer, have been sending users' sensitive financial information to Meta through its Pixel tracking tool. 

Pixel is a piece of code companies can embed on their websites so they can track visitors' activities and identify Facebook and Instagram users to target with ads. Apparently, the aforementioned tax prep websites had been transmitting personal information, such as income data, filing statuses, refund amounts and dependents' tuition grants, to Meta through that code. The tax-filing services had already changed their Pixel settings to stop sending information or had been reevaluating how they used Pixel by the time Markup's report came out. 

In a statement sent to Engadget when the news first came out, Meta said that advertisers are prohibited from sharing personal information and that it uses an automated system that can filter out sensitive content sent through Pixel. The plaintiffs acknowledged in their complaint (PDF, courtesy of The Markup) that Meta does require businesses that use Pixel to "have lawful rights to collect, use and share" user data before providing the company with any information. However, the plaintiffs argue that Meta makes no effort to enforce that rule and instead relies on a "broken honor-system" that has resulted in "repeated, documented violations."

According to The Markup, the lawsuit is seeking class action status for people who used the tax prep services mentioned in the publication's report. The services themselves, however, were not named as defendants in the case. 

Meta faces lawsuit for harvesting financial data from tax prep websites

A group of anonymous plaintiffs who filed their taxes online in 2020 using H&R Block has sued Meta, accusing the company of violating users' trust and privacy. If you'll recall, a recent Markup investigation revealed that H&R Block, along with other popular tax-filing websites like TaxAct and TaxSlayer, have been sending users' sensitive financial information to Meta through its Pixel tracking tool. 

Pixel is a piece of code companies can embed on their websites so they can track visitors' activities and identify Facebook and Instagram users to target with ads. Apparently, the aforementioned tax prep websites had been transmitting personal information, such as income data, filing statuses, refund amounts and dependents' tuition grants, to Meta through that code. The tax-filing services had already changed their Pixel settings to stop sending information or had been reevaluating how they used Pixel by the time Markup's report came out. 

In a statement sent to Engadget when the news first came out, Meta said that advertisers are prohibited from sharing personal information and that it uses an automated system that can filter out sensitive content sent through Pixel. The plaintiffs acknowledged in their complaint (PDF, courtesy of The Markup) that Meta does require businesses that use Pixel to "have lawful rights to collect, use and share" user data before providing the company with any information. However, the plaintiffs argue that Meta makes no effort to enforce that rule and instead relies on a "broken honor-system" that has resulted in "repeated, documented violations."

According to The Markup, the lawsuit is seeking class action status for people who used the tax prep services mentioned in the publication's report. The services themselves, however, were not named as defendants in the case. 

Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset will reportedly run ‘xrOS’

Apple has internally changed the name of its upcoming mixed reality headset's accompanying software from "realityOS" to "xrOS," according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As the reporter notes, the new name better represents the software's capabilities: "XR," after all, stands for extended reality, and the headset is expected to have both augmented and virtual reality features. 

In addition to the internal name change, Gurman says a shell corporation named Deep Dive LLC has also filed a trademark for the brand "xrOS" in the US and in other countries, including ones in the European Union and in Asia, the UK, Australia, Mexico, Ukraine, Japan and Canada. In its application, Deep Dive wrote that it's applying for a trademark for "head-mounted displays" and devices that provide "virtual reality and augmented reality experiences." Apple hasn't confirmed whether it's behind this filing. 

Earlier this year, though, Vox Media product manager Parker Ortolanifound a patent application for "realityOS" filed by a shell company called Realityo Systems LLC. Bloomberg also reported back in August that yet another shell company with a different name filed applications for "Reality One," "Reality Pro" and "Reality Processor."

This recent name change could indicate that Apple is ironing out the details of the project for its approaching launch. Gurman says Apple plans to debut the headset, its dedicated operating system and its app store sometime next year. According to previous reports, the device will feature virtual versions of the company's apps, including Messages, FaceTime and Maps, and will use iris scanning for app purchases and sign-ins. Apple's recent job listings also indicate that the tech giant is working on its own 3D mixed reality world, which could become a rival to Facebook's vision of the metaverse

Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset will reportedly run ‘xrOS’

Apple has internally changed the name of its upcoming mixed reality headset's accompanying software from "realityOS" to "xrOS," according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As the reporter notes, the new name better represents the software's capabilities: "XR," after all, stands for extended reality, and the headset is expected to have both augmented and virtual reality features. 

In addition to the internal name change, Gurman says a shell corporation named Deep Dive LLC has also filed a trademark for the brand "xrOS" in the US and in other countries, including ones in the European Union and in Asia, the UK, Australia, Mexico, Ukraine, Japan and Canada. In its application, Deep Dive wrote that it's applying for a trademark for "head-mounted displays" and devices that provide "virtual reality and augmented reality experiences." Apple hasn't confirmed whether it's behind this filing. 

Earlier this year, though, Vox Media product manager Parker Ortolanifound a patent application for "realityOS" filed by a shell company called Realityo Systems LLC. Bloomberg also reported back in August that yet another shell company with a different name filed applications for "Reality One," "Reality Pro" and "Reality Processor."

This recent name change could indicate that Apple is ironing out the details of the project for its approaching launch. Gurman says Apple plans to debut the headset, its dedicated operating system and its app store sometime next year. According to previous reports, the device will feature virtual versions of the company's apps, including Messages, FaceTime and Maps, and will use iris scanning for app purchases and sign-ins. Apple's recent job listings also indicate that the tech giant is working on its own 3D mixed reality world, which could become a rival to Facebook's vision of the metaverse