Substack adds new video tools to compete with Patreon and YouTube

Content platform Substack just released a spate of new video capabilities, placing it in direct competition with YouTube and Patreon, among others. The video tools include a direct upload option, which is handy, and customizable paywalls for content creators. Before this, users were forced to upload videos to YouTube and embed a link. The upload tool is now readily accessible via the dashboard. It’ll even automatically split the audio and video for podcasters who want to court both audiences. 

As for the paywall options, you now get the same level of flexibility available to non-video users. Content creators can select a slice of the video to give away for free, locking the rest behind a paywall. The free preview segment should transition smoothly into a prompt to become a paying subscriber.

There’s also a new AI tool that generates transcripts from videos, for those who like to, gasp, read. The transcript is automatically created alongside the video upload and users can post it to the main feed. Additionally, viewers can click anywhere on the transcript to jump to that section of the video.

Video sharing has gotten a much-needed upgrade. Viewers can create their own custom clips sourced from any video. This creates a shareable link that includes branded visuals at the end featuring the creator’s logo and URL, so there will be no obvious thievery. Obviously, viewers can quickly share links to the entire clip if they want. Users can even directly download videos for publication on services like TikTok and Instagram. Again, that bumper will be there to give credit to the original creator.

The company wrote in a blog post that these new tools, taken together, make it so “the friction in starting a media business based on video has been reduced to almost zero.” To commemorate the launch, Substack is rolling out a number of exclusive video shows. There’s a food culture program with chef Nancy Silverton, a talk show starring actress Amber Tamblyn and a news program anchored by Chris Cuomo, among many others.

Substack has certainly been busy adding new features. The platform recently unveiled a Twitter-esque feature called Notes and last year launched a chat feature to make it more of a social space.

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Netflix is adding the GTA Trilogy to its games library on December 14

Netflix continues to bet big on gaming. The streamer just announced that Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition will hit its platform on December 14. The game will be free to play for Netflix subscribers, like the rest of its library. Each of the three titles included in the collection have been updated for mobile. These games include the iconic Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. They'll be playable via the Netflix app, but also available as standalone apps on Android and iOS.

The gameplay’s a bit dated by modern standards but Grand Theft Auto III basically invented the open-world genre, and the sequels further refined the model. Many players actually point to San Andreas as being a high watermark for the series, even outpacing more recent titles. In any event, this trilogy can hold you over until the eventual release of Grand Theft Auto VI. To that end, the forthcoming Rockstar sequel should be getting a trailer any day now.

Netflix has been snagging all kinds of games for its ever-growing library, from the massively popular roguelike Hades to the equally popular, uh, roguelike Dead Cells. The platform’s library also includes Braid, Death’s Door, Katana Zero and other hit indies.

The company’s also developing its own games, thanks to snatching up developer Night School, the team behind Oxenfree and Afterparty. This acquisition has already borne fruit, as Oxenfree II: Lost Signals released earlier this year to wide acclaim. Incidentally, the sequel isn’t stuck on Netflix, as it’s also available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5 and PC via Steam. So the streamer might not be using games as just a way to lure in new subscribers. Netflix could be in it for the long haul.

Beyond Oxenfree II, other original games to hit the platform include Slayaway Camp 2: Netflix & Kill and a whole lot of titles based on pre-existing TV shows. There’s a game based on the recently-canceled fantasy epic Shadow and Bone and forthcoming titles inspired by Money Heist and The Dragon Prince, among others.

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December’s PlayStation Plus monthly games include Sable and PowerWash Simulator

Sony has revealed the PlayStation Plus monthly games lineup for December, and it’s a doozy. There’s no clear headliner here, but a trio of interesting games are about to drop, including the gorgeous open-world exploration game Sable and the cleaning-based tour de force Powerwash Simulator.

First up, there’s Sable, a game that was on everyone’s radar for years before an official release, thanks to the eye-catching graphical style. The "coming-of-age adventure and exploration game” casts you as the titular hero Sable as you ride a hoverbike through vast deserts and mysterious landscapes, encountering the remains of spaceships and other ancient artifacts. The art style is incredible and the soundtrack is by Japanese Breakfast, if that’s your bag (and it should be.) The game’s only available for PS5.

Powerwash Simulator, as the name suggests, is a cleaning sim that has you clearing grime from just about anything you can think of, from Back to the Future’s Delorean to Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar. Most of the game, however, takes place in the town of Muckingham and boasts plenty of upgrade options for your power washer and the ability to play with friends via online co-op. The gameplay is relaxing, though more complex than it lets on at first. It’s available for both PS4 and PS5.

Finally, there’s Lego 2K Drive. This is an open-world driving game comprised entirely of Lego vehicles. There are races just about everywhere you look and, of course, the ability to make your own vehicles by connecting virtual blocks. There’s local couch co-op and online play, with the latter allowing access to the entire game map. Both PS4 and PS5 players can access this game.

It’s also worth noting that some games are about to leave the service, so get those downloads ready. PlayStation Plus members have until December 4 to snag Mafia II: Definitive Edition, Dragon Ball: The Breakers and Aliens Fireteam Elite.

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GM to cut spending on Cruise driverless vehicles by ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’

GM is massively slashing spending on its self-driving vehicle subsidiary Cruise after a string of debilitating setbacks, according to a conference call by company executives transcribed by TechCrunch. GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra said that operations would resume in some capacity, but that any plans for Cruise moving forward would be more “deliberate.”

To that end, the cuts will amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in the next year. This is expected to result in widespread layoffs at the San Francisco-based company that currently employees nearly 4,000 people. Earlier this month, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt told staffers at an all-hands meeting that he’d have information regarding layoffs in the coming weeks, but he resigned shortly thereafter along with co-founder Dan Kan.

It looks like the entire company may get an overhaul, with CFO Paul Jacobson saying in today’s conference call that there would be specific restructuring information in the coming weeks after two independent safety and incident review boards finish their work. These boards were instituted after a collision between a Cruise robotaxi and a pedestrian. It was also found that the company’s driverless algorithm had trouble recognizing children, which is never good.

GM has invested billions of dollars in Cruise since acquiring the company in 2016. This spending has increased in recent years as the company had planned an aggressive launch in more than a dozen cities throughout the US before everything fell apart. To that end, GM’s latest earnings report indicates that Cruise spent $732 million in the first three quarters of 2023.

The point of today’s call wasn’t just to offer ill tidings for Cruise. Barra and Jacobson also noted that the recently-penned labor deal with United Autoworkers would cost GM $9.3 billion in the long-term, but the company remains optimistic about future growth, noting an adjusted earnings of $12.7 billion in 2023 and an accelerated $10 billion share buyback program.

GM has also named new executives to run Cruise. Mo Elshenawy was promoted from VP of engineering to co-president, with GM’s previous EVP of legal and policy taking up the other co-president role. GM’s CEO said that the company has “a lot of confidence with what the two co-presidents will do,” but notes that “GM will be leaning in to make sure that it meets our strict requirements from a safety perspective.”

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Amazon says its next-gen chips are four times faster for AI training

Amazon Web Services (AWS) just kicked off its Las Vegas-based re:Invent conference with a stream of announcements, most of which involve the year’s most popular technology, AI. These news items, taken as a whole, give us a sneak peek at the company’s long-term goals for artificial intelligence platforms.

First of all, AWS unveiled its latest-generation of AI chips intended for model training and for running trained models. Trainium2, which is obviously for model training, has been designed to deliver up to 4x better performance and 2x energy efficiency when compared to its forebear. Amazon promises these chips will allow programmers to train models quickly and at a lower cost, due to a reduction in energy use. Anthropic, an Amazon-backed OpenAI competitor, has already announced plans to build models using Trainium2 chips.

Graviton4, on the other hand, is more for general use. These processors are based on Arm architecture, but consume less energy than Intel or AMD chips. Amazon promises an increase of 30 percent in general performance when using a trained AI model embedded within a Graviton4 processor. This should lower cloud-computing costs for organizations that regularly employ AI models and offer a slight uptick in speed for regular users just looking to make some fake photos of Harry Potter at a rave or whatever.

All told, Graviton4 should allow AWS customers to “process larger amounts of data, scale their workloads, improve time-to-results and lower their total cost of ownership.” It’s available today in preview with a wider release planned for the coming months.

Typically, when a company announces new in-house chips, that spells trouble for current third-party providers like NVIDIA. The company is a huge player in the enterprise AI space, thanks to companies using its GPUs for training and its Arm-based datacenter CPU Grace. Instead of eschewing the partnership in favor of proprietary chips, Amazon is further cementing the relationship by offering enterprise customers cloud access to NVIDIA’s latest H200 AI GPUs. It’ll also operate more than 16,000 Nvidia GH200 Grace Hopper Superchips expressly for NVIDIA’s research and development team. This is a similar approach to its chief AI rival, Microsoft, which also announced an enhanced partnership with NVIDIA at the same time it revealed its proprietary AI chip, Maia 100.

Amazon also announced a new business-focused AI chatbot called Q, a name that was likely inspired by the Star Trek demigod and not the Trump-adjacent conspiracy peddler. It’s described as a “new type of generative AI-powered personal assistant” and is specifically designed to help streamline work projects and customer service tasks. It can be tailored to suit any business and offers relevant answers to commonly-asked questions. Amazon Q can also generate content on its own and take actions based on customer requests. It’ll even customize interactions based on a user’s role within a company.

It’ll exist on communication apps like Slack and in text-editing applications commonly-used by software developers. To that end, Q can actually change source code and can connect to more than 40 enterprise systems, including Microsoft 365, Dropbox, Salesforce and Zendesk, among others. Amazon Q is currently available in preview, with a wider release coming soon. It’ll cost anywhere from $20 to $30 per user each month, depending on available features.

So what have we learned here? Amazon is betting big on AI, like everyone else. More specifically, it’s battling with old cloud rival Microsoft to be the go-to company for enterprise-based AI. It’s also using AI to continue its dominance in the cloud computing space, hoping to minimize any increase in market share for Microsoft and other players like Google and Alibaba.

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Universal Audio is giving away Volt 2 audio interfaces with Spark subscriptions

Many companies give away free plugins in honor of the holiday season, but Universal Audio is taking things a step further. The audio giant is giving away free Volt 2 hardware interfaces with the purchase of a yearly subscription to its Spark plugin platform. These interfaces typically cost $170, so this is a pretty great deal for beginners, as the hardware plus the Spark software is pretty much everything you need.

Spark subscriptions are also on sale for the holidays, at $150 instead of $240, though this price point is fairly common. The end result? You pay $150 and you get a year of access to every available plugin on the service, plus the Volt 2. Not bad. The company’s subscription-based Spark platform allows access to dozens of popular UAD plugins, from iconic compressors like the 1176 to virtual instruments like the company’s Minimoog reproduction.

As for the Volt 2, this diminutive audio interface features a pair of TRS / XLR inputs on the front and associated gain control knobs. There’s a phantom power button for condenser mics and a proprietary Vintage Mode that runs the signal through a simple tube preamp emulation. These interfaces are powered via USB-C, though ship with a 5V jack for when you’re plugged into an iPad or another mobile device.

In our official review, we praised the Volt 2 audio interface for its low noise floor, simple controls and low latency, particularly when compared to rival Windows-based products. The biggest con was the price, which is normally the case for UAD products. Now that it’s down to $0 for this promotion, that worry has dissipated.

This isn’t the first time that UAD has leveraged the holiday season to give away free hardware. The company used to hand out free Satellite DSP accelerators to run its plugins with the purchase of higher-priced hardware items like the multi-channel 4-710d preamp and compressor.

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Adobe and Figma deal will ‘harm’ digital design sector, UK report suggests

Back in June, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began an in depth investigation into the planned $20 billion Adobe and Figma merger. The organization has released its findings and, well, they don’t paint a rosy picture. The probe tasked independent experts to determine whether or not the merger would reduce competition in the design space and the results suggest that, in fact, it’ll do just that.

It must be noted, however, that these are provisional findings. With that said, the CMA’s message is clear. The group states that the merger will “eliminate competition between two main competitors”, which is fairly obvious given Figma and Adobe’s standing in the industry. The findings also state that the deal would “reduce innovation” and the development of competing products. Finally, it’ll also “remove Figma as a threat” with regard to Adobe’s flagship software suites like Photoshop and Illustrator.

Figma is a giant player in the UK design space, accounting for 80 percent of the market. It’s also a major part of the country’s $19.4 billion app development sector. Without the merger, the CMA suggests, Figma would continue to develop or expand products that challenge Adobe. That goes away once the merger is in place because, you know, why challenge yourself?

The investigation concludes that the merger would eliminate competition between these two major players across multiple fields, including product design, image editing and illustration. These sectors account for $60 billion in annual revenue across the UK, adding up to nearly three percent of the national economy, with 850,000 skilled workers across the impacted industries. Another intent of the investigation was to suss out if the merger would damage the UK’s economy and it concluded it most likely will.

Again, these are provisional findings and the CMA has yet to consult the data to reach a final decision as to whether or not it’ll allow the sale to go through. It plans on taking some time to “listen to any further views,” likely referring to Adobe. To that end, Adobe argues that buying Figma would strengthen both companies, saying that the Creative Cloud apps would get some of Figma’s collaborative features and vice-versa. The company says it’s “deeply committed” to keeping Figma an independent entity and that it has no plans to change the pricing, including Figma’s free tier.

If the deal’s approved by the UK, which looks more unlikely with this report, Adobe still has some other battles to fight before this merger officially goes through. The acquisition still faces a US investigation, and the EU has issued its own dire warning.

This would be the larger-ever-purchase for Adobe in its storied 41-year history. Figma, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to the market, springing forth in 2012.

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What we bought: Casio’s latest flagship digital piano doubles as drool-worthy furniture

Casio’s instrument division has been around a long time, as anyone who got into music as a kid by making fart noises into an SK-1 knows. However, the company is mostly known for entry-level digital pianos that get the job done, but don’t offer much by way of modern conveniences. In recent years, Casio has been dipping its toes into the waters of high-end instruments like the Privia PX-S7000.

The latest Privia entry is a sizable leap over most starter pianos. This is a serious instrument for serious players, with that quad-speaker system, 88 hybrid hammer action keys that feel fantastic, plenty of high-tech bells and whistles and, most importantly, access to three realistic-sounding piano models, along with 400 other instruments. Oh, and it has a hefty $2,400 price tag to match.

All of that is well and good, but let’s talk about why I really decided to splurge on this thing over the myriad of other digital pianos out there — it’s absolutely gorgeous. It hits that sweet spot between a musical instrument and a piece of high-end furniture. I fell in love pretty much instantly when I saw it online. I wasn’t able to try it out ahead of time, as my options here in Minnesota are limited when it comes to testing synths and digital instruments, so I just went for it. My plan was to return the thing if it was a lemon but, as you can see, it’s still there. It’s not a lemon. Maybe it’s a strawberry? Those are pretty.

I had just moved into a mostly-bare new home and had an entire house to fill for the first time in my life. I wanted something that tied the living room together and I don’t really understand visual art, so I went with what I know: expensive musical instruments. It did the trick. It looks stunning sitting there and almost makes up for the lack of wall art.

Casio PX-S7000 out of the box

The piano itself has elegant spruce sides, and it ships with a sleek and sturdy wooden beech stand. There’s also a nice-looking three-pedal unit that attaches near the bottom, providing yet another feature that makes this digital piano feel, well, not-so digital. It weighs just 60 pounds, so it was easy for me to try out different placements on the fly without destroying my back. Real pianos weigh hundreds and even thousands of pounds — I’ve ruined enough friendships in my life asking people to help me move them around, thank you very much.

I ended up with the black model, though it’s also available in white and “harmonious mustard.” Personally, I think the mustard is the most attractive option, but the eye-popping paint job adds another $200 to the price. I’m financially irresponsible, but even I have my limits. I still lust over that warm and luscious yellow, though.

The Privia PX-S7000 is not just a conversation piece, it also sounds and feels eerily similar to playing the real thing. The three primary piano models are excellent, but digital recreations of classic instruments are nothing new. This instrument combines those excellent piano models with a realistic-sounding speaker system and a keybed that’s incredibly satisfying to play.

How it sounds: The tech inside the Casio PX-S7000

Casio Privia PX-S7000
Photo by Lawrence Bonk / Engadget

The keybed feels great, with a textured surface on each key that calls to mind, you guessed it, an actual piano. There’s a proprietary technology here, called Smart Hybrid Hammer Action, but I don’t really understand the specifics. All I know is that the keys spring back nicely and do their part to keep the illusion going that you’re playing an analog instrument. There’s a heaviness to the key presses and an oh-so-satisfying thunk as each press returns to the resting position. It’s just plain fun to play. (Though I’m not exactly Rachmaninoff. I’m more of a dime-store Paul McCartney.)

Another proprietary system, Casio’s Multi-Dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source, helps increase the fun factor by adding a bit of damper, string and aliquot resonance with each press. This tech is based on the sound engine from the even more expensive Celviano line of digital pianos, so it’s nice to see it pop up in a cheaper model. There’s also some counterweight and damping voodoo going on underneath the hood. This is the closest I’ve ever felt to the “real thing” with a digital instrument, though I haven’t spent any time with ultra-high-end digital pianos as a comparison point. I have, though, spent hundreds and hundreds of hours playing real pianos, starting in my grandmother’s den as a wee tyke.

When I’m playing the Privia SX-7000, it sounds like the tones are coming from everywhere at once, thanks to the quad-speaker spatial sound system. They really put me in the center of the action and, believe it or not, this actually makes me play better, especially when compared to my caveman plunks on a MIDI controller.

The main draws here are the three piano models, but this is a digital instrument in the year 2023, so there’s some high-tech fun to be had. Casio has introduced a new feature that pairs analog piano sounds and electric tones with on-board effects to recreate the vibe of classic songs. For instance, you can tap away at a piano that sounds like John Lennon’s Imagine, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, Stevie Wonder's Superstition and dozens more. There’s even a microphone input and 25 vocal effects options for sing-alongs. I’ve used both to great effect. Starting with a famous piano sound helps me drum up song ideas and plugging a mic in lets me hear my vocals at a decent volume without having to emote like Whitney Houston during the last key change of I Will Always Love You.

Sound settings

All modern digital pianos have a few hundred additional sounds for those times you want to hear an average-sounding bass, and the Privia’s no different. There are 400 sounds to choose from, ranging from good to barely OK. All of the usual bases are covered here, from synth-heavy pads to drum kits and woodwinds. None of these sounds are truly mind-blowing, but they can help generate ideas in a pinch. If I’m recording, however, I prefer a virtual instrument with more control options.

One modern convenience that I enjoy is the included Bluetooth adapter. This is only for incoming sounds, but it’s still pretty cool. I’ve spent many hours streaming music from my phone to the piano and playing along with it. It’s an efficient way to learn new songs.

Casio app

The piano integrates with a Casio app that offers piano lessons and the like, which I haven’t tried because I like learning in my own way. The app also displays PDF scores on your phone or tablet that you can play along to, though I haven’t experimented much with this feature because I (ducks) can’t read music.

The added features are cool — it’s 2023 after all — but the true draw of the Privia SX-7000 is three-fold: it looks great, it sounds great and it feels like playing a real piano. It’s also really expensive, costing around $2,400, so this isn’t for casual hobbyists. I bought it fully expecting to regret my purchase, but that regret never came. Instead, I feel a spark of joy whenever I see it sitting there, inviting me to play Imagine until I’m blue in the face.

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Bungie confirms Destiny 2 expansion delay after team layoffs

Bungie has officially delayed the forthcoming Destiny 2 expansion, The Final Shape, until June 4 of next year, according to a video posted by game director Joel Blackburn. This delay has been rumored for a couple of months, ever since the company laid off an unknown amount of staffers working on the project. The expansion was originally supposed to come out in February and will act as an end to the game’s main storyline.

Bungie, however, says the expansion's delay is just because it “needs more time to become exactly what we want it to be,” going on to note that staffers are polishing the title “to deliver an even bigger and bolder vision.” To that end, the company’s rejiggering its release calendar a bit to ease the burden of the just-announced delay.

Season of the Wish, the final season in the game’s calendar before it moves onto an episodic model, starts tomorrow and will now include more content than previously anticipated to offset the delay. Starting in February, there will be weekly progression-based quests called Wishes that offer unique rewards. Bungie’s also moving the Guardian Games up to March with a renewed focus on class vs. class combat. Finally, in April players will get a two-month content update called Destiny 2: Into the Light that will act as something of a bridge to The Final Shape.

The forthcoming expansion wasn’t the only title slapped with the delay hammer after those layoffs. The studio has also pushed back the release date for the extraction shooter Marathon all the way until 2025. This is a rebooted IP for Bungie that first came to Macs all the way back in 1994.

As for The Final Shape, the expansion will include new dungeons, new maps, new character classes and much more. You’ll also get a final bow wrapped on the story, for those who play online shooters for the narrative arc.

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Dyson Cyber Monday deals for 2023: Save up to $250 on cordless vacuums, plus the Airwrap for its lowest price yet

It’s Cyber Monday and Dyson is celebrating with deep discounts on a wide variety of cordless vacuums and related products, with a sale that’s basically an extension of its Black Friday offerings. The highlight is $250 off the V15 Detect Absolute stick vacuum, which is now $500 instead of $750. This is actually a better deal than the company presented for Black Friday.

The V15 boasts an integrated laser light and a dust particle counter to show you just how much dirt and grime it has picked up from your floor, which is great from a cleanliness perspective but bad from an “out of sight, out of mind” perspective. We really enjoyed the vacuum when we tried it back in 2021, touting its superior cleaning abilities and calling it “reliable, powerful and habit-forming.”

The V15 Detect Absolute also includes a laser-powered optic cleaner head and a handy LCD on the handle that displays the level of dust particles rummaging around the floor, along with battery life and other important metrics. To that end, you get around an hour of use per charge, with an eco mode to conserve battery life and a boost mode to do the opposite. Of course, you can also convert this little bud into a stubby handheld for hard-to-reach areas.

If $500 is just a bit too spendy for a vacuum, Dyson is also holding a sale on the V8 Absolute, bringing it down to $280 from $520. The motor isn’t as powerful as the V15, but there are plenty of other bells and whistles. This is a lighter model than the V15 that ships with two cleaner heads, with a battery that gets 40 minutes of use per charge.

Finally, Amazon is selling the Dyson Airwrap for $480, instead of the typical asking price of $600. This hair styler features a powerful motor that constantly moves air around, so there’s a reduced risk of accidental follicle damage when compared to rival products. This set comes with several accessories, including two different barrels, a smoothing brush, a round brush, a protective case and more.

Your Cyber Monday Shopping Guide: See all of Yahoo’s Cyber Monday coverage, here. Follow Engadget for Cyber Monday tech deals. Learn about Cyber Monday trends on In The Know. Hear from Autoblog’s experts on the best Cyber Monday deals for your car, garage, and home, and find Cyber Monday sales to shop on AOL, handpicked just for you.

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