Meta tests easier account switching between Facebook and Instagram

Meta is testing two features that integrate Facebook and Instagram more closely together. On Monday, the company began rolling out a new interface on Android, iOS and on the web for switching between accounts. Provided you’ve added your Facebook and Instagram credentials to the same Accounts Center, you can use the feature to switch between the two apps without navigating to your phone’s home screen, multitasking menu or app drawer. The interface also allows you to see a count of all your notifications in one place.

At the same time, Meta is introducing a redesigned login and onboarding experience on Android and iOS. If you’re new to the company’s social networks, you can create one account and then use it to create additional ones. For those who already have both Facebook and Instagram accounts, it’s now possible to use the login information associated with one app to access the other – though you first need to add them to the same Accounts Center.

The new interface flow for creating Facebook and Instagram accounts
Meta

Meta will notify you every time you use an existing account to create a new one or you add an account to the Accounts Center. Additionally, security features like two-factor authentication will still work, preventing, for instance, someone from using your Instagram credentials to access your Facebook account.

While the new features are “currently limited to Facebook and Instagram,” Meta notes it will “continue to explore how to improve connected experiences across all of our technologies.” They arrive following the debut of Meta accounts in August and a recent downturn in both revenue and user growth for the company.

Lenovo’s Smart Clock Essential with Alexa falls to an all-time low of $35

If you’re looking to add some digital smarts to your bedroom without buying a device that features a camera, smart clocks are the way to go. One of the better options out there is the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential with Alexa, and it’s currently on sale. Lenovo has discounted the device by 50 percent, making it $35 at the moment. We’ve seen the Smart Clock Essential go on sale frequently in the past. However, $35 matches an all-time low for the device.

Buy Smart Clock Essential in Misty Blue at Lenovo - $35Buy Smart Clock Essential in Clay Red at Lenovo - $35

Lenovo released the Smart Clock Essential with Alexa earlier this year. The main addition the new model introduced was support for Amazon’s digital assistant instead of its Google counterpart. Along the top, you’ll find four buttons for volume control, activating Alexa and setting an alarm. The front of the Smart Clock features a dedicated 4-inch LED screen that displays the time, weather, ambient noise level and other information. What the device doesn’t include is a camera. You also can’t use the display to stream video. The Smart Clock Essential is available in two colors: Misty Blue and Clay Red. Both are discounted as part of the current sale.    

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E3 will return to LA on June 13th, 2023

After missing 2022 altogether, one of the most important gaming trade shows will return next year. On Monday, the Entertainment Software Association announced that E3 2023 will take place between June 13th and June 16th at the Los Angeles Convention Center, with the event open to the public starting on June 15th. Ahead of the show proper, there will also be partner showcases that will start on June 11th.

Before announcing last year’s cancelation, the ESA had planned to host a digital-only event but later changed course. At the time, the organization said it would devote its resources to delivering a “revitalized physical and digital E3 experience next summer.” For next year’s show, the ESA has recruited the help of ReedPop, a company with experience organizing events like PAX, EGX and Star Wars Celebration.

The 2023 show will be an important one for the ESA. Even before the pandemic, E3 had waned in importance as companies like Sony decided not to take part in the 2019 edition. In many ways, the ESA also has yet to regain the trust of the industry after it inadvertently leaked the contact information of more than 2,000 journalists, analysts and content creators that same year.

iPhone 15 ‘Ultra’ could replace next year’s Pro Max model

Next year’s iPhone could introduce a change to Apple’s naming convention. According to Bloombergreporter Mark Gurman, the company could call its largest and most expensive device in 2023 the iPhone 15 Ultra instead of the iPhone 15 Pro Max as you would expect given its recent track record. The shift would reportedly coincide with the most significant redesign of the iPhone since Apple released the iPhone 12 in 2020. Gurman expects the iPhone 15 to feature USB-C, among other “bigger changes.”

Apple’s smartphone line has seen a couple of branding tweaks over the years. In the early days of the iPhone, when the company released a substantial update every two years, iterative models carried an “S” designation. Since 2019 and the diversification of the line to include separate mainstream and premium variants, the company has employed “Pro” and “Pro Max” designations to market its most advanced phones. Moreover, earlier this year saw the return of the Plus branding, which Apple had not used since 2017. Dropping Pro Max in favor of Ultra would make a lot of sense since the Apple Watch line now includes an Ultra model.

The iPhone 15 rumor mill has already produced a few interesting predictions. Gurman previously reported that Apple was testing USB-C iPhones ahead of the European Union implementing a law requiring all new smartphones made after 2024 to feature the port. More recently, display analyst Ross Young said the entire iPhone 15 line would feature the iPhone 14 Pro’s Dynamic Island display cutout.

Looking to the more immediate future, Gurman also wrote today that Apple might not hold another event this fall. He says the company plans to announce new Mac mini, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro models before the end of the year. However, as those will be primarily iterative updates to existing devices, Gurman suggests Apple is “more likely” to share the existence of those products with the world through a series of press releases.

NieR: Automata’s spinoff anime arrives this January

NieR: Automata’s anime spinoff will arrive early next year. The adaptation, now titled NieR: Automata Version 1.1a, will debut in January 2023. NieR creator Yoko Taro shared the release window during Aniplex Online Fest over the weekend (via Gizmodo), revealing at the same time that the story of the anime would differ from its source material. The two will at least share the same premise. NieR: Automata opens with a ruined Earth and a proxy war involving human-made androids. "Nier: Automata was a story we created to be a game, so copying it as-is wouldn’t make an interesting story for an anime," Taro said during the panel.

A-1 Pictures, best known for its work on series like Erased, From the New World and Your Lie in April, is producing the project, with Ryouji Masuyama co-writing the script alongside Taro. Masuyama’s previous credits include Gurren Lagann and Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. "I'm the one going around and breaking things for [A-1 Pictures], so if anyone is dissatisfied [with the anime's story], it's likely to be my fault," Taro warned fans. Given that NieR: Automata features multiple endings, it’s probably for the best the anime won’t hew too closely to the game.

The panel didn’t mention details about distribution outside of Japan. However, since Sony owns both Aniplex and Crunchyroll, there’s a good chance simulcast rights will go to the streaming service. It will be interesting to see if the anime brings renewed interest to NieR: Automata, much like the recent release of Edgerunners on Netflix did for Cyberpunk 2077. Commercially, Automata performed better than publisher Square Enix expected, but the company has yet to announce a proper sequel – though we did get a mobile spinoff and remaster of the original NieR last year.

‘Oxenfree II: Lost Signals’ is delayed until 2023

Night School Studio has delayed the release of Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. The sequel to 2016’s Oxenfree won’t arrive until next year, the developer announced on Saturday. “To make Oxenfree II truly special and add more localizations, we’re moving our release window to 2023,” the studio posted on Twitter. News of the delay came shortly after Netflix announced subscribers could download the original game for free.

The streaming giant acquired Night School Studio in 2021. Given Netflix’s global audience, taking more time to localize the game in more languages makes a lot of sense. To that point, the new “Netflix Edition” features subtitle support in more than 30 languages. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch when it arrives next year.

Apple Pay Later may not arrive until next year due to ‘technical and engineering’ setbacks

Apple Pay Later may not arrive until next spring, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. As you may recall, Apple announced the buy now, pay later feature at WWDC 2022 and said, at the time, that it would arrive alongside iOS 16. Well, the latest version of the company’s mobile operating is here and Apple Pay Later is nowhere to be found.

A footnote on Apple’s website states the feature will arrive “in a future update.” As Gurman notes, other previously announced iOS 16 features that aren’t available yet are listed as coming “later this year.” Gurman believes the discrepancy is due to the fact Apple doesn’t know when Pay Later will be ready, and the feature may not arrive until iOS 16.4 ships in 2023. “I’m hearing there have been fairly significant technical and engineering challenges in rolling out the service, leading to delays,” he notes.

It’s interesting to learn Apple is encountering technical challenges implementing a Pay Later service. Based on Gurman’s previous reporting, the company has been working on such a feature for more than a year. It even went out of its way to create a subsidiary called Apple Financing to conduct credit checks and customer approvals. All those moves suggest the company sees financial services as a significant part of its future. 

Netflix’s adaptation of ‘The Three-Body Problem’ will arrive in 2023

At its Tudum event today, Netflix shared an update on its highly-anticipated adaptation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. First announced in 2020, the upcoming live-action series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will arrive sometime next year. Netflix shared a behind-the-scenes teaser showing off a few character moments.

Some of the actors set to star in the project include Benedict Wong (The Martian, Doctor Strange), Eiza González (Baby Driver), as well as John Bradley and Liam Cunningham of Game of Thrones fame. Considered a modern sci-fi masterpiece, The Three-Body Problem was first published in China in 2008. It took another six years before the novel arrived in the west, and it subsequently became the first Asian novel to win a Hugo Award. Cixin and Ken Liu, who translated two of the novels in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy into English, are consulting on the live-action adaptation.

Netflix signed Benioff and Weiss to a lucrative $200 million deal in 2019. The 3-Body Problem is the first project the duo is writing for the company – though they also produced a series with Sandra Oh. Netflix is likely to share more information about the 3-Body Problem in the coming months. 

An AI program voiced Darth Vader in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ so James Earl Jones could finally retire

After 45 years of voicing one of the most iconic characters in cinema history, James Earl Jones has said goodbye to Darth Vader. At 91, the legendary actor recently told Disney he was “looking into winding down this particular character.” That forced the company to ask itself how do you even replace Jones? The answer Disney eventually settled on, with the actor’s consent, involved an AI program.

If you’ve seen any of the recent Star Wars shows, you’ve heard the work of Respeecher. It’s a Ukrainian startup that uses archival recordings and a “proprietary AI algorithm” to create new dialogue featuring the voices of “performers from long ago.” In the case of Jones, the company worked with Lucasfilm to recreate his voice as it had sounded when film audiences first heard Darth Vader in 1977.

According to Vanity Fair, Jones had signed off on Disney using recordings of his voice and Respeecher’s software to “keep Vader alive.” Lucasfilm veteran Matthew Wood told the outlet that James guided the Sith Lord’s performance in Obi-Wan Kenobi, acting as “a benevolent godfather,” but it was ultimately the AI that gave Vader his voice in many of the scenes.

While there’s something to be said about preserving Vader’s voice, Disney’s decision to use an AI to do so is likely to add fuel to disagreements over how such technology should be used in creative fields. For instance, Getty Images recently banned AI-generated art over copyright concerns. With Jones, there's the possibility we could hear him voice Vader long after he passes away. 

‘Oxenfree’ is now free to download for Netflix subscribers

More than six years after its PC debut and five years after arriving on iOS and Android, Netflix is making Oxenfree freely available to those with a subscription to its streaming service. Starting today, you can download the new "Netflix Edition" of the game from the iOS and Android app stores. New to this version of Oxenfree is expanded localization support. All told, you can now play the game with subtitles in more than 30 languages.  

Oxenfree joins Netflix's growing catalog of games but is particularly notable for being an in-house release. The company acquired Oxenfree developer Night School Studio last year. Despite what seems like little interest from subscribers, Netflix is moving forward with its gaming ambitions. The company will release Desta: The Memories Between, the latest project from Monument Valley developer Ustwo, on September 27th. It also teased that the critically acclaimed Kentucky Route Zero would "soon" be available for free as well.