SpaceX starts selling the Starlink Mini for $599 in select locations

SpaceX has started offering some users a new Starlink kit that's small enough to fit in a backpack, so users can take it wherever they want to and get access to the company's satellite internet service. The Starlink Mini will cost users $599 up front, according to the emails SpaceX has sent out. That's $100 more than the standard dish kit, and users will need to have an existing standard service plan because they can only tack on the Mini Roam service for an additional fee of $30 a month. As TechCrunch notes, a Starlink residential customer will have to pay $150 every month in all if they also get the Mini. 

The smaller dish may not cost that much forever, though. SpaceX said in its message that it's working to make Starlink more affordable as a whole, and that it's only offering a limited number of Mini kits "in regions with high usage" for now. A few days ago, company chief Elon Musk talked about the Mini on X (formerly known as Twitter) and called it a "great low-cost option." He also said that it will cost "about half the price of the standard dish to buy and monthly subscription."

In SpaceX's message, it said the Starlink Mini dish comes with a built-in Wi-Fi router, so it's not only smaller than the standard version, it also needs fewer components to access the internet. It also consumes less power, has DC power input and is capable of download speeds that go over 100 Mbps. In addition to the dish itself, the kit will ship with a kickstand, a pipe adapter, a power supply and a cord with a USB-C connector on one end and a barrel jack on the other. 

As the company mentioned in its message, it's only rolling out to select areas with high usage at the moment. But Michael Nicolls, VP of Starlink Engineering, said on X that the company is ramping up production of the Mini and that it will be available in international markets soon. 

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The Beyond Good and Evil remaster will be released next week (for real)

After a bit of a false start, Ubisoft has released a trailer for its remake of the cult classic game Beyond Good and Evil. The video first appeared in a tweet from the game studio that was later deleted. But the new announcement seems to be sticking around, and that means we really will be getting the Beyond Good and Evil - 20th Anniversary Edition on June 25. It will be available on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Limited Run Games will also be selling physical copies of the remaster starting July 12; those will be for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S and Switch.

The two-minute long trailer showcases the newly updated art assets. The remaster will run at up to 4K and 60 FPS, and it has a re-orchestrated soundtrack. Plus it also promises "exclusive new content," but it's unclear what that might include. Check out the whole video for yourself:

Today's back-and-forth on X echoes back to how the world learned about the planned remaster in the first place. A listing for it appeared on the Xbox Store and an incomplete version was briefly on Ubisoft Plus back in 2023 thanks to a technical glitch. Also, any time Beyond Good and Evil comes up, regular readers might find themselves wondering about the sequel that has been revealed and teased and promised and seen for more than a decade. No, this update doesn't seem to bring any new information about that project.

What a long, strange development cycle it's been.

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Sony will terminate its Sony Rewards program

Sony has announced that it will be ending its rewards program at the end of this year. No, it’s not PlayStation Stars, the loyalty program that rewards you digital collectibles for completing certain gameplay tasks. Nor is it the defunct PlayStation Rewards program, which offered PSN bonuses for the most voracious PlayStation gamers. It’s terminating the Sony Rewards program offered through the Sony and PlayStation-branded Visa credit cards.

The company updated the FAQ and Terms and Conditions pages to reflect that it will sunset the Sony Rewards website and mobile app on December 31, 2024, and new members will no longer be accepted into the program effective immediately. Pre-existing Sony and PlayStation cardholders will still be able to redeem points, access their account and submit bonus points and purchase credit request forms through the app between now and New Year’s Eve. However, they cannot send physical bonus points and credit request points by mail after July 21.

Additionally, members can no longer earn points through offers or partner offers, and they can’t link their accounts to the Sony Store or Movies Anywhere. The Sony Rewards customer service will cease operation on February 14, 2025. As far as the Sony and PlayStation credit cards are concerned, cardholders will be contacted by Comenity Bank in due time about changes to the credit card programs but they can keep using them until December 31.

The Sony Rewards program launched in 2017, allowing you to accrue enough points through your Sony or PlayStation credit card to redeem items only from the Sony brand. Redeeming points for PlayStation games seems like a great perk at first glance, but the redemption process is inflexible and the APR for purchases sits at a high 27.99%. The Xbox Mastercard, which Microsoft introduced last year, has the same issue but the APR can be 20.99%, 26.99% or 31.99%, depending on your balance. Plus, there’s no cash back.

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Amazon says it’s cut down on those plastic air pillows in packages

You know those little plastic air bags in your more fragile Amazon purchases that make perfect popping noise makers when you crush them? Amazon says it's reduced its usage of them and plans to completely eliminate using them by the end of the year.

The ecommerce behemoth announced on its news blog that it has reduced the use of plastic air pillows by 95 percent and switched to crumbled paper filler instead. Amazon also says it plans to use paper filler for “nearly all” of its customer deliveries on Prime Day.

The company says its decision to phase out the use of plastic air cushions at its distribution centers aims to eliminate unnecessary waste and focus more on using recycled materials.

Plastic pollution has always been a concern when it comes to our environment but it has dramatically increased as a result of Amazon’s meteoric rise especially during the COVID pandemic. The nonprofit ocean conservation group Oceana released a study in 2021 showing that Amazon produced 599 million pounds of plastic waste in 2020. The group also estimated that the waste produced from plastic air pillows alone “would circle the Earth more than 600 times.”

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New York Governor signs two new bills into law protecting kids from social media

New York has passed two new laws restricting how social media companies interact with and collect data from users under the age of 18.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed two bills into law on Thursday including the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act.

SAFE requires social media companies like Facebook and X to restrict addictive feeds to minors on its platforms. These include feeds that are “algorithmically driven” to prevent “unhealthy levels of engagement,” according to a press release.

The New York Child Data Protection Act also prevents online sites and devices from collecting, sharing or selling the personal data of anyone under the age of 18.

Both laws require companies to obtain consent from parents before allowing kids to access feeds driven by algorithms or collecting data from them. The new laws also require social media companies to create age verification and parental consent controls for its platforms based on guidelines set by New York’s Attorney General.

New York passed two new laws restricting how social media companies interact with and collect data from users under the age of 18. Governor Hochul said in a released statement that these new policies will “provide a safer digital environment, give parents more peace of mind and create a brighter future for young people across New York.”

Other parts of the country have passed laws restricting or limiting children’s access to phones and online platforms. The California State Senate approved a bill similar to New York’s SAFE Act that would also prevent social media apps from sending notifications to minors during school hours and from midnight to 6 a.m. throughout the year. The Los Angeles Unified School District instituted a ban that restricts students’ phone usage during school hours. California Governor Gavin Newson responded to the decision by promising to work with lawmakers on a similar statewide law.

These new policies and laws aren’t just about keeping kids off of their phone while they’re in school. They are designed to address mental health issues caused by social media platforms. The New York Times published an op-ed on Monday from US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calling social media an “important contributor” to the detriment of mental health in teenagers and called for social media companies to post a warning label for adolescents on its platforms and apps.

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The Webb Telescope’s dazzling nebula image supports a long-held theory

The image of the Serpens Nebula you see above, taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), not only looks mesmerizing but also captures a never-before-seen phenomenon. The aligned, elongated “protostellar outflows” visible in the top left support a longstanding theory. As suspected, the jets shoot out in alignment from the swirling disks of surrounding material, showing evidence that clusters of forming stars spin in the same direction.

NASA says the bright and clumpy streaks in the image’s upper-left area, which somewhat resemble JJ Abrams-style lens flare, represent shockwaves caused by outward-shooting jets that emerge when the interstellar gas cloud collapses inwards. As forming stars condense and twirl more rapidly, some material shoots out perpendicular to the disk.

“Astronomers have long assumed that as clouds collapse to form stars, the stars will tend to spin in the same direction,” Klaus Pontoppidan of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a blog post. “However, this has not been seen so directly before. These aligned, elongated structures are a historical record of the fundamental way that stars are born.”

Perpendicular jets (seen as thin beams of light, similar to lens flare) beaming out from a reddish forming cluster of stars.
The aligned jets (which look a bit like JJ Abrams-style lens flare) indicate the forming stars spin in the same direction.

The Serpens Nebula is only one or two million years old and sits around 1,300 light years from Earth. NASA says the dense cluster of protostars at the image’s center includes stars less than 100,000 years old. Serpens is a reflection nebula, meaning the gas and dust cloud shines by reflecting light from stars inside or nearby.

The JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured the image, which covers about 16 trillion miles by 11 trillion miles. The black rectangles you see at the full image’s lower left and upper left represent missing data. NASA says its next step is to use the telescope’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) to study the Serpens Nebula’s chemical breakdown.

You can check out NASA’s instructional video below for a closer look at specific details from the glorious image.

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The US will ban sales of Kaspersky antivirus software next month

The Biden administration has taken a sweeping action to ban Kaspersky Labs from selling its antivirus products to US customers. The Russian software company will not be able to sell to new customers starting in July and cannot provide service to current customers after September.

Ahead of the official news, a source told Reuters that the company's connections to the Russian government made it a security risk with the potential to install malware, collect privileged information, or withhold software updates on American computers. US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced the ban at a briefing today.

"You have done nothing wrong, and you are not subject to any criminal or civil penalties," she said to current Kaspersky customers. "However, I would encourage you, in as strong as possible terms, to immediately stop using that software and switch to an alternative in order to protect yourself and your data and your family."

The Russian company has been the topic of cybersecurity questions many times over the years. The Federal Communications Commission put Kaspersky on its list of companies posing unacceptable security risks in 2022. In 2017, Kaspersky products were banned from use in US federal agencies, and the business also drew scrutiny from the UK's cybersecurity leadership.

This level of presidential order to block or limit access to tech and software from countries deemed foreign adversaries dates from the Trump administration. In 2020, he made an effort to ban TikTok and WeChat on the grounds that the Chinese-owned apps could be a security risk. That action was overturned in 2021, but it sparked a review of the apps that has culminated in legislation Biden signed in April that could force TikTok to find a new owner to continue operating in the States.

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One of our favorite webcams is on sale for only $48

If you’re in the market for a new webcam, you can save 20 percent on one of Engadget’s top picks for video calls. The Anker PowerConf C200, our top budget pick even at its standard price, is on sale for only $48.

Anker PowerConf C200 Webcam captures video in up to 2K resolution. Although 1080p will suit most people just fine (and you can lower it to that, 720p or 360p if you want), we appreciated the extra sharpness and clarity the 2K feed brought to our calls. The plug-and-play webcam has a fast autofocus and an ƒ/2.0 aperture to let in more light and help brighten up darker scenes.

It has dual stereo microphones built in, and you can use its companion software (AnkerWork) to change its pickup sensitivity from the default directional to omnidirectional (the latter for when more than one person is in your room). The webcam has a 95-degree field of view, but you can adjust it to 78 degrees if you prefer a tighter shot.

As far as tradeoffs, it’s a surprisingly short list for this price point. The Anker C200 lacks the fancy AI framing in some of the latest flagship models, and its cube-like shape makes it a bit more challenging than some competitors to adjust while on top of your screen. Its bundled USB-C to USB-A cable is also annoyingly short — not a big deal for laptops, but folks with standing desks or more sprawling desktop setups may need to swap it out for a longer one.

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Anthropic’s newest Claude chatbot beats OpenAI’s GPT-4o in some benchmarks

Anthropic rolled out its newest AI language model on Thursday, Claude 3.5 Sonnet. The updated chatbot outperforms the company’s previous top-tier model, Claude 3 Opus, while working at twice the speed. Claude users (including those on free accounts) can check it out beginning today.

Sonnet, which tends to be Anthropic’s most balanced model, is the first release in the Claude 3.5 family. The company says Claude 3.5 Haiku (the fastest in each generation) and Claude 3.5 Opus (the most powerful) will arrive later this year. (Those models will stay on version 3 in the meantime.) The Sonnet update comes only a few months after the arrival of the Claude 3 family, showcasing the breakneck speed AI companies are working to spit out their latest and greatest.

Chart showing benchmarks comparisons between recent AI chatbot models: Claude 3.5 Sonnet, Claude 3 Opus, GPT-4o, Gemini 1.5 Pro and Llama-400b.

Anthropic claims Claude 3.5 Sonnet marks a step forward in understanding nuance, humor and complicated prompts, and it can write in a more natural tone. Benchmarks (above) show the new model breaking industry records for graduate-level reasoning, undergraduate-level knowledge and coding proficiency. It beats OpenAI’s GPT-4o on many of the benchmarks Anthropic published. However, the latest Claude, ChatGPT, Gemini and Llama models tend to score within a few percentage points of each other on most tests, underscoring the tight competition.

The company claims Claude 3.5 Sonnet is also better at interpreting visual input than Claude 3.0 Opus. Anthropic says the new model can “accurately transcribe text from imperfect images,” a skill it hopes will attract customers in retail, logistics and financial services who need to grok data from charts, graphs and other visual cues. 

Claude’s update also brings a new workspace the company calls Artifacts (above). When you prompt the chatbot to generate content like code, text documents or web designs, a dedicated window appears to the right of the chat. From there, you can prompt Claude to make changes, and it will keep the Artifacts window updated with its latest output.

The company sees Artifacts as a first step towards making Claude a space for broader team collaboration. “In the near future, teams — and eventually entire organizations — will be able to securely centralize their knowledge, documents, and ongoing work in one shared space, with Claude serving as an on-demand teammate,” the company wrote in a press release.

Claude 3.5 Sonnet is available now for anyone with an account to try on its website, as well as in the Claude iOS app. (On both of those platforms, Claude Pro and Team subscribers get higher token counts.) You can also access it through the Anthropic API, Amazon Bedrock and Google Cloud’s Vertex AI. It costs $3 per million input tokens and $15 per million output tokens — the same as the previous model.

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Embracer Group plans to use AI in game development

Embracer Group is making the move to using AI in game development following the mass layoff and game cancellations months ago. The parent company of THQ Nordic, Gearbox Entertainment and Crystal Dynamics - Eidos Montreal detailed in its annual report (via Game Developer) that it is adopting an AI policy to its game production model, despite the controversy around the use of AI in the games industry and beyond. It said that not using AI will lead to the company lagging behind other major game developers and publishers like EA, Sony, Square Enix and Ubisoft, claiming that the tech will help expedite the development process and give players an optimized gameplay experience.

“AI has the capability to massively enhance game development by increasing resource efficiency, adding intelligent behaviors, personalization, and optimization to gameplay experiences,” Embracer said in the report. “By leveraging AI, we create more engaging and immersive experiences that provide each player with a unique, dynamic and personalized experience.”

Along with listing the benefits of using AI in and outside of game development, Embracer said it understands that adopting the technology is not without risks. It noted that AI may “produce unethical, biased, discriminatory or completely wrong results if it has not been properly trained, instructed or used for purposes it was not designed.”

Embracer’s plans to adopt AI comes several months after it laid off 1,500 employees and canceled 80 games over the past year, along with shuttering studios like Volition of Saints Row fame. Despite concerns that AI will replace human workers, Embracer says it doesn’t intend to use it that way. It went so far as to say AI will open doors to entry into the games industry for some developers, including those with disabilities who can’t operate certain equipment the same way as non-disabled people. Only time will tell if they’ll keep that promise.

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