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News February 24, 2023

PlayStation VR2: A Watershed Moment for VR Gaming?



PlayStation VR2: Watershed Moment for VR Gaming?

Yesterday, the gaming world had the chance to get to grips with PlayStation VR2, the console giant’s long-anticipated follow-up to its original VR headset released in 2016. While that device reportedly sold five million units, the VR space has come a long way since and hopes are undoubtedly high for its costly successor.

As we covered during last week’s roundup, the VR2 carries a price tag of $549.99, making it a good bit cheaper than high-end headsets from the likes of Meta and Google. 

Equipped with a 4K, HDR-enabled OLED screen capable of a 110-degree field of view, not to mention hand controllers with adaptive triggers and haptic feedback, plus eye-tracking so you can select menu items by glancing at them, the PS VR2 is, in electronic store parlance, a “serious bit of kit.”

A new generation of VR games

The VR2 is designed to be used with a PlayStation 5, which retails at $499.99, and PlayStation has said it will provide “glimpses into the next generation of virtual reality gaming, which will allow you to escape into new worlds while feeling a groundbreaking sense of immersion.”

Although the cutting-edge VR headset has only been available to buy for 24 hours, it has already generated endless talking points and reviews. Ardent gamers have wasted no time in describing the experiential sensations of donning the VR2 and jumping into Horizon: Call of the Mountain, the project’s only “true true PS VR2 exclusive” according to games journalist Jordan Middler. 

In its press release to announce the device, PlayStation said it expected game developers to take advantage of the headset’s features to “design the next generation of VR games,” adding that it was “expecting more than 20 titles at launch.” 

The growing list of PSVR2 games include Gran Turismo 7, Moss & Moss: Book II, Star Wars: Tales from the Galazy’s Edge, and Resident Evil Village, though early reviews have tended to focus on Horizon: Call of the Mountain, described by Middler as “absolutely beautiful.”

Another reviewer, Clare Jackson at Kotaku, was less complimentary. “When playing Horizon Call of the Mountain, you spend a lot of time climbing and looking up,” she noted. “The second I’d look up, I’d feel the weight of the PS VR2 pressing against my face, again specifically that upper region of my nose where I’d almost always have marks afterwards. This ruined a fair few sessions I had initially thought would go more smoothly.”

Cost, of course, will be a bugbear for many in light of such complaints. “The illusion of the game world broke and I’d think, ‘There’s a thing on my head that hurts and it costs half a grand,’” Jackson wrote.

Horizon: A technical showcase for VR

Developed by Sony’s first-party Guerrilla Games and Firesprite Studios, Horizon is an action-adventure video-game lets users scale mountains and hunt in a post-apocalyptic world armed with a bow and arrow. Middler extolled the release’s gameplay, saying “There are moments when you go under a Tall Neck, which is a massive kind of mechanical giraffe, and the game really tricks your brain to make you think you’re in that world.”

Guardian writer Keza MacDonald, meanwhile, had mixed feelings, saying that while she had fun with the VR2, she wouldn’t buy one – “it has done nothing to change my feeling that this is a niche technology for wealthy nerds.”

A review by Henry Stockdale UploadVR, on the other hand, said the headset provides “high-end VR with the ease-of-use inherent to console gaming,” adding that Sony “remains the only console manufacturer committed to VR at this level.”

Stockdale’s sentiments were echoed by Ian Higton in Eurogamer, who called Horizon “a technical showcase for what’s possible with PSVR2,” adding that the game “delivers some of the greatest virtual vistas I’ve ever witnessed.”

Most hardcore gamers, particularly those already using PlayStation, are likely to gravitate towards PlayStation’s latest release, drawn by its exclusives, solid hardware features, and a swathe of largely positive reviews. If suitably impressed, it’s sort of hard to imagine such players returning to the non-VR gaming world, which could seem anodyne by comparison.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.


Podcast Created Entirely with AI Debuts on Spotify, Apple



Podcast Created Entirely with AI Debuts on Spotify, Apple

Podcast agency This is Distorted has revealed that its latest podcast was made entirely using artificial intelligence. Entitled Synthetic Stories, every aspect of the series “from the writing to the sound design, artwork to the music and even this very description was created entirely by AI.”

A ‘cool and creepy’ AI short story

The UK-based podcast producer unveiled the series on Twitter, revealing that the idea had just come to its team last week while playing around with popular AI tools. The first episode of the series, an eight-minute long “chilling horror tale” called Amelia, has now appeared on Apple and Spotify.

“We started simple, asking ChatGPT to write us a short story,” said producer Sian. “We asked it to base it on AI and podcasts and added some keywords, like apps, horror, dark twists and ‘end on a cliffhanger.’”

As well as ChatGPT, This is Distorted’s team used AI photo generator Midjourney to design the artwork. ElevenLabs’ AI-powered text-to-speech software was also recruited to create two narrators, while AI music generator Soundraw handled the audio.

“By Thursday evening we had a very cool and creepy little short story, a name, a narrator, some incredible theme music, brilliant artwork, all created by AI, all within the space of 24 hours,” enthused Founder Andi Durrant, adding that the plan was to release a few episodes each week.


The debut podcast, Amelia, is a fairly run-of-the-mill horror short story about a young woman, the titular Amelia, who becomes obsessed with a new mobile app called Horror World. Gradually, she senses the app is adapting to her likes and dislikes and crafting a terrifying personalised experiences just for her (“Even the most avid horror fans would find themselves trembling in fear”). In a twist no-one saw coming, the app develops a life of its own and the more she uses it, the more she starts to distrust it…

While the story isn’t exactly complex, it’s not hard to imagine the series gaining listeners, mainly those keen to satisfy their curiosity about just what an AI-created podcast sounds like. Considering episode one was apparently produced in just 24 hours, one wonders how much more elaborate tales could be as the team gets to grips with the technology.

It’s perhaps fitting that the first podcast was about a deranged ‘AI Syndicate’, though the Synthetic Stories press release suggests future stories will include “sci-fi thrillers and heartwarming dramas.”

Generative AI’s quest for world domination

This is not, of course, the first time AI has been leveraged to produce creative work. Last month, we reported on the spate of Amazon e-books listing ChatGPT as either the sole author or co-author.

At the time Mary Rasenberger, executive director of writers’ group The Authors Guild, stated her belief that AI-created books would “flood the market” and put many professional writers out of work.

Synthetic Stories isn’t the only AI-produced podcast, either. Another series,, is entirely generated by the technology and features invented conversations and contributions of famous people, including Oprah Winfrey, Quentin Tarantino, and Joe Rogan.

The creative industries certainly seem ripe for AI exploration, with multiple AI-powered content-creation tools available to enhance productivity, improve writing, and produce multimedia such as videos, images and sounds.

One company that has been generating headlines is Runway, a software startup that helped develop text-to-image model Stable Diffusion. Its upcoming Gen-2 tool lets users generate videos from scratch, based on just a few prompts. 

Close-up footage of an eye.

AI video generated using Gen-2, the prompt: “A close-up of an eye.” Credit: Runway

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Security Hole Found in Google Pixel Devices: Redacted Photos Recovered



Security Hole Found in Google Pixel Devices

A dangerous security hole has been discovered in the default screenshot editing application on Google’s flagship smartphone, Google Pixel.

The editing utility called ‘Markup’ allows images to become partially “unedited,” which may reveal details the sender wanted to hide.

“Introducing acropalypse: a serious privacy vulnerability in the Google Pixel’s inbuilt screenshot editing tool, Markup, enabling partial recovery of the original, unedited image data of a cropped and/or redacted screenshot,” tweeted Simon Aaarons, the reverse engineer who discovered the vulnerability along with David Buchanan.

Also Read: India to Reportedly Crack Down on Pre-Installed Apps

Although Google has fixed the vulnerability, its impact is still far-reaching, particularly for the edited screenshots that were shared before the update.

According to Aaarons’ Twitter thread, a vulnerability known as the “acropalypse” flaw can partially recover edited PNG screenshots in Markup. This poses a risk for users who may have used the tool to crop or scribble out sensitive information, such as their personal details or credit card number, as a malicious actor could exploit the flaw to reverse the changes and obtain the hidden information.

According to Aarons and Buchanan, the flaw is due to Markup’s behavior of storing the original screenshot in the same file location as the edited one, without deleting the original version. As explained, if the edited version of the screenshot has a smaller file size than the original, “the trailing portion of the original file is left behind, after the new file is supposed to have ended.”

“This bug is a bad one. You can patch it, but you can’t easily un-share all the vulnerable images you may have sent. The bug existed for about 5 years before being patched, which is mind-blowing given how easy it is to spot when you look closely at an output file,” wrote Buchanan.

iPhone has a feature to remove Medadata

The problem only exists in the Google Pixel devices, whereas Apple’s iPhone has the feature to share files with or without metadata.

iPhones provide three options: “save without metadata, share without metadata, and share with metadata.”

Although some websites like Twitter re-process the images uploaded on their platforms to remove the flaw, others like Discord do not. Discord only addressed the vulnerability with a recent update released on January 17th, meaning any edited images shared before that date may still be at risk.

It remains uncertain whether there are any other sites or applications that are affected by the flaw. Buchanan has explained this issue with technical details in a blog post.

“IMHO, the takeaway here is that API footguns should be treated as security vulnerabilities,” wrote Buchanan.

The discovery of this flaw occurred shortly after Google’s security team uncovered a vulnerability in the Samsung Exynos modems found in devices like the Pixel 6, Pixel 7, and specific models of the Galaxy S22 and A53.

The security flaw could enable hackers to remotely compromise devices using just the phone number of the victim. Google has released a patch for this issue in its March update, but the update is not yet available for the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, and 6A devices.

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Musk Will Leverage AI to Detect Manipulation of Public Opinion on Twitter



Musk Will Leverage AI to Detect Manipulation of Public Opinion on Twitter

Twitter boss Elon Musk is putting AI to a fresh use: over the weekend, the outspoken billionaire tweeted that he would use the technology “to detect & highlight manipulation of public opinion on this platform,” adding, “Let’s see what the psy ops cat drags in.”

Musk has voiced support for ex-Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi, who has been one of several journalists documenting countless instances of censorship and suppression via the so-called Twitter Files.

In response to a tweet suggesting “Twitter will be the gold standard of discovering the truth about anything,” Musk replied “That’s the goal!”

A new era for Twitter?

Unsurprisingly, Musk’s tweet received quite a response having racked up 27 million views, 163.8k likes and 22.7k retweets by the time we went to press.

While it remains to be seen whether the San Francisco-based company can achieve such lofty ambitions, the idea of leveraging AI to address manipulation of public opinion is an interesting concept.

To get a sense of how this might work, we turned to AI-powered ChatGPT, which suggested AI could “analyze patterns of activity and behavior” to look for “anomalies that might indicate manipulation, such as the use of certain keywords, phrases, or hashtags.”

ChatGPT went on to suggest that AI could “flag accounts and tweets that appear to be engaged in manipulation or spreading disinformation, highlighting them for further review by human moderators.”


The question, of course, becomes: who gets to decide what is disinformation? During the pandemic, Twitter’s content moderation efforts kicked into overdrive as numerous accounts were banned after being deemed to have spread misinformation – though Musk rolled back the company’s Covid-19 misinformation policy back in November.

Twitter’s naughty step

Those who saw their accounts banned included top cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone, who was heavily involved in early mRNA research. (Both had their accounts reinstated in December.) Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a signatory of the Great Barrington Declaration that opposed lockdowns, was also placed on a Trends Blacklist that prevented his tweets from trending, while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) saw her account suspended for casting doubt on the efficacy of vaccines.

In total, Twitter suspended over 11,000 accounts and purged over 100,000 pieces of content for violating its policy. While many cheered the suppression of what they perceived as misinformation – even if it came from doctors or scientific experts – others were uncomfortable about a top-down policy that saw Twitter lose its status as a free, fair, and open public forum for discussion and debate.

Also Read: Musk Wants a Twitter for Everything, Pushes Payments Button

Twitter Files reveal extent of censorship

The Twitter Files have laid bare the extent of the censorship Musk says he wants to combat, including efforts by both the Trump and Biden administrations to pressure company executives to censor information that was “true but inconvenient” during the pandemic.

Early in the crisis, the Trump administration sat down with executives at Twitter, as well as those from other tech giants like Google and Facebook, to solicit “help to combat misinformation” concerning “runs on grocery stores… that could stoke panic buying and behaviours.”

Journalist David Zweig, who has disseminated the Twitter Files alongside Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, Leighton Woodhouse, Abigail Shrier, and Lee Fang, accused legacy media of “largely operating as a messaging platform for our public health institutions” who “operated in near lockstep, in part by purging internal dissidents and discrediting outside experts.”

Last week, Elon Musk revealed that Twitter would open source all code used to recommend tweets on March 31, calling the algorithm “overly complex and not fully understood internally.” 

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