Tag: microsoft

Microsoft offers developers a preview of its quantum computing kit

Developers hoping to get on the quantum computer train early can now get started with Microsoft's Quantum Development Kit, a free preview version of which was released today. The kit, which was first announced at Microsoft's Ignite conference in September, includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator that can simulate 30 logical qubits of power and a companion collection of documentation, libraries and sample programs that will help developers get a better foothold on the complex science behind quantum computing.

The simulator will allow developers to test programs and debug code with their own computers, which is necessary since there really aren't any quantum computers for them to test their work on yet. Microsoft is also offering a more powerful simulator -- one with over 40 logical qubits of computing power -- through its Azure cloud computing service. And because the kit is integrated into Microsoft's Visual Studio developer tool suite, many aspects of the new kit will be familiar.

"What you're going to see as a developer is the opportunity to tie into tools that you already know well, services you already know well," Todd Holmdahl, Microsoft's VP in charge of its quantum effort, said in a statement. "There will be a twist with quantum computing, but it's our job to make it as easy as possible for the developers who know and love us to be able to use these new tools that could potentially do some things exponentially faster – which means going from a billion years on a classical computer to a couple hours on a quantum computer."

Source: Microsoft (1), (2)


Xbox One can now stream YouTube video in 4K

The Xbox One X and S both allow you to watch 4K video, but the consoles didn't have a way to watch YouTube in 4K. That is, until now. This week, Microsoft is rolling out an app for both versions of the Xbox One console that provides support for 4K videos at up to 60 fps -- but not HDR.

While the Xbox One X is a tough sell for us, we think the 4K experience on the Xbox One S (which doesn't allow for 4K gaming, but does upscale graphics and supports HDR) is definitely worth it if you're in the market for a new console. Adding (long overdue) 4K YouTube support just makes it even better. If you have the console, you'll see the updated YouTube app this week, or if you're impatient, you can download it from the Windows Store today.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft Store


The best gifts for a console gamer

Don't worry, we're not out to start a console war in our comments: If you're in the market for a new games system, the Xbox One S, PlayStation VR, Nintendo Switch and 2DS XL all made it into our holiday gift guide, for different reasons. Once you figure out which platform is best for your intended, we have a wide assortment of games and accessories, from a 400GB microSDXC card to a custom Xbox controller to the PlayStation Gold wireless headset, among other things. Find all that and more in our gift guide at the link below.

Source: Engadget Holiday Gift Guide 2017


Pirate simulator ‘Sea of Thieves’ hits Xbox on March 20th

Rare's cartoony pirate simulator Sea of Thieves sets sail for your Xbox One and Windows 10 March 20th. Microsoft's stab at breaking out of its Forza, Gears of War and Halo release cadence can't get here fast enough, and if you're feeling impatient you can preorder right now to unlock some bonus bits. What're those, pray tell? Access to the shared-world's closed beta in addition to some cosmetic items, according to Xbox Wire.

Oh, and the game is also getting a custom translucent purple controller with laser etched "barnacles." It's oddly reminiscent of the Atomic Purple N64 Nintendo released near the end of that console's life-cycle. It's fitting considering Rare used to make games exclusively for the house that Mario built.

So far, there have been multiple alpha tests for the game (deadline to sign up for the most recent one was December 1st), which is a good sign. It's Rare's first stab at something along the lines of Destiny, and there are a ton of moving pieces here. Perhaps unfairly, Sea of Thieves has a lot riding on it. It's Rare's most ambitious game to date, sure, but Microsoft desperately needs a hit as well. And for that hit to not be Forza, Gears of War or Halo related. No pressure here, folks.

Source: Xbox Wire


‘The Game Awards’ round-up: catch all the best bits

Geoff Keighley has been touting this year's The Game Awards as the gaming industry's answer to the Oscars. Now that the ceremony has concluded, we can safely say that he delivered. It had all the hallmarks of a lavish awards show: Live orchestra (check), fervent spiels (check), Hollywood a-listers (check). And, there was the return of the hotly-anticipated game reveals that -- in part -- helped nab 8.6 million viewers last time round. If you didn't catch the action online, we've got your back. Below you'll find a list of the night's winners and the game trailers that went out live from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. As always, there were touching moments too, like a noticeably awestruck Melina Juergens getting the Best Performance award for Hellblade from Andy Serkis.

Highlights this year included Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro's ongoing bromance (which came with a side-helping of Death Stranding) -- the game's star Norman Reedus was also on hand to help out. The ceremony's most WTF moment came from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons dev Josef Fares, whose expletive-filled intro for his next project A Way Out included a middle-finger to the Oscars and props to current enemy number one EA (the game's publisher).

Nintendo was the big winner on the night, courtesy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild's game of the year win, for which it beat out Persona 5, Horizon: Zero Dawn, Mario Odyssey, and Steam record-breaker PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The gaming giant also bagged an additional four gongs, bringing its final tally to five.

  • Game of the Year - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Best Game Direction - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Best Narrative - What Remains of Edith Finch
  • Best Art Direction - Cuphead
  • Best Score / Music - NieR: Automata
  • Best Audio Design - Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
  • Best Performance - Melina Juergens, Hellblade (as Senua)
  • Games for Impact - Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
  • Best Ongoing Game - Overwatch
  • Best Independent Game - Cuphead
  • Best Mobile Game - Monument Valley 2
  • Best Handheld Game - Metroid: Samus Returns
  • Best VR/AR Game - Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  • Best Action Game - Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
  • Best Action/Adventure Game - The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Best Role-Playing Game - Persona 5
  • Best Fighting Game - Injustice 2
  • Best Family Game - Super Mario Odyssey
  • Best Strategy Game - Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
  • Best Sports/Racing Game - Forza Motorsport 7
  • Most Anticipated Game - The Last of Us Part II
  • Trending Gamer - Guy Beahm ("Dr. Disrespect")
  • Best eSports Game - Overwatch
  • Best eSports Player - Lee Sang-hyeok "Faker" (SK Telecom 1, League of Legends)
  • Best eSports Team - Cloud 9
  • Student Game Award - Level Squared
  • Best Debut Indie Game - Cuphead
  • Chinese Fan Game Award - jx3 HD《剑网3》重制版

Source: The Game Awards (YouTube)


Why Qualcomm’s Tech Summit this week mattered

Qualcomm had so much news to share this year that it decided to throw a three-day "Tech Summit" in Hawaii for hundreds of press and analysts. In addition to unveiling the latest generation of its high-end mobile processor, Qualcomm also announced new Snapdragon-powered laptops from HP and ASUS, a new dedicated Hi-Fi audio DAC and a partnership with AMD. Speaking of partnerships, many of the companies that work with Qualcomm also attended the event to discuss the future of technologies like AI, 5G, AR and VR.

Given the battle Qualcomm is waging against Apple, as it fends off a potential takeover from rival Broadcomm, the Tech Summit has been as much a news announcement event as it was a show of force. Qualcomm isn't just a mobile chip maker, and it sure as hell wants you to know. Catch up on all you may have missed from the company's big event this week in under four minutes with this short video!


The best VR headsets

It's crazy to think how far VR has come over the past few years. While the technology made its big consumer debut in 2016, with the launch of the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, we also spent plenty of time anticipating their arrival. It promised to be the biggest technological shift since the rise of smartphones -- and potentially since the dawn of the internet.

This year, VR headsets got cheaper, simpler (especially with Microsoft's new Mixed Reality platform) and more worthwhile, thanks to the launch of new immersive titles like Rez Infinite. We've gone from having too few VR options to too many. These are the best.

The best mobile VR headset

You don't need an expensive computer or PlayStation 4 to dip your toes into virtual reality. If you have a compatible Android smartphone, you can also choose from Google's DayDream View, or Samsung's Gear VR. Thanks to a bit of help from Oculus, Samsung had enjoyed a big head start in this arena. The Gear VR has been around since 2015, and it's steadily evolved alongside the company's smartphones.

This year, Samsung finally released a motion controller for the Gear VR, which impressed us with its accurate tracking and comfortable design. It also costs just $40 on its own, making it a no-brainer upgrade for anyone who already owns Samsung's headset. (You can get the Gear VR and controller together for $140.) While Google launched the Daydream View with a controller before Samsung, the Gear VR's version is better overall. In particular, it has a trigger button, which is essential for interacting with virtual reality environments.

Unfortunately, the Gear VR still only works with Samsung smartphones, so it's not the best option if you've recently upgraded to another model. The main advantage with Google's Daydream platform is that it supports multiple phones: In addition to the Pixel phones, it also works with the Moto Z and Z2, LG V30 and a few others. If you own a Galaxy S8, S8+ or Note8, though, you can choose between either VR platform.

While you'd have a good experience with the Gear VR and Daydream View, if you have the option, we'd recommend sticking with Samsung's platform. Not only does it have a better controller, but it also has a larger software library, thanks in part to some help from Oculus.

Winner:

  • Samsung Gear VR

The best PC headset


Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Things get a bit more interesting when you look at high-end, PC-powered VR headsets. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are still the main contenders, and while they haven't seen any major hardware upgrades since last year, they're both considerably cheaper than they were at launch. The Rift is now just $399 bundled with its excellent Touch Controllers. The HTC Vive costs $599, which is pricey, but still a solid discount from its original $799 MSRP.

While the Vive still has the advantage when it comes to room scale VR experiences, overall the Oculus Rift remains the better option for most gamers. It's more comfortable, its controllers are far more compact and easy to hold, and it still works with SteamVR titles. You can always get room-scale performance later by adding another sensor.

The Oculus Rift is also easier to set up than the Vive, since its two sensors can be placed right around your monitor. The Vive's tracking base stations, meanwhile, need to be placed high up in opposite corners of your room -- which could involve drilling mounts into your walls if you don't have bookcases nearby. And, of course, the fact that the Rift still costs $200 less than the Vive is worth keeping in mind.

Windows Mixed Reality headsets are yet another PC VR option, but they're not worth the investment yet. While they were initially pitched as cheaper competitors to the Rift and Vive, they've ended up around $400 when paired with Microsoft's motion controllers. Windows also needs more VR apps to be truly competitive with Oculus and the Vive. (Wisely, Microsoft also partnered with Valve to support SteamVR on its headsets, but they still don't work with every title on that platform.)

Winner:

  • Oculus Rift

The best headset for most consumers


Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Sony's PlayStation VR headset was a huge surprise. It delivers solid virtual reality performance without the need for a PC; it just plugs right into a PlayStation 4. While you won't get the same level of immersion as you would with the Rift or Vive, it's a much more accessible path to VR. Thanks to Sony's consumer electronics know-how, the PlayStation VR is also incredibly comfortable to wear. Perhaps most importantly, Sony has managed to get over 100 VR games on its platform. That includes popular titles like Superhot, as well as exclusive experiences like Resident Evil VII, Ace Combat 7 and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood.

The PlayStation VR is also easier to set up in your living room than any other platform. It just requires a PlayStation Camera and two Move controllers. You'll still have to deal with lengthy cables plugging everything in together, but that's more manageable than configuring the Rift or Vive.

Winner:

  • PlayStation VR

The road ahead

While it's easier than it was a year ago to get into VR, it's still not something meant for everyone. Over the next year, headsets will get cheaper, and there will be even more VR experiences to try out. Most folks would be better off waiting for the industry to mature. But if you're eager to jump into immersive experiences, at least you have plenty of options.


Microsoft’s Whiteboard Preview app is all about collaboration

In the quest to release better collaboration tools, Microsoft released its Whiteboard Preview app in a private beta. The software lets teams mark up multiple boards with cute skeumorphic details to ease users into working on a shared digital canvas. Now Microsoft is publicly rolling it out for all Windows 10 users to download, which will soon go live on the Windows Store.

As one would expect, the app lets users draw, erase, edit and otherwise mark up boards, essentially simulating the group meeting-with-a-white-board experience for distant coworkers. Any work is automatically saved and users can see their peers making their additions, ideally preventing coworkers from writing over each other.

Anyone with a Windows 10 device can use Whiteboard Preview for free, but multiple collaborating users will need at least one person with an Office 365 subscription. This app will eventually replace the existing whiteboard app running on SurfaceHub, but for now, they'll run in tandem. The Windows 10 Whiteboard Preview is out for English users with plans to expand it to more languages in the coming months.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft Office Blog


AMD and Qualcomm join forces to power higher-end connected PCs

Qualcomm may have found a worthy ally in its quest to take on the PC market. After unveiling a new stable of Snapdragon 835-powered "Always Connected" PCs from HP and ASUS, the chip-maker revealed a surprise partner: AMD. The two companies are teaming up to make Always Connected PCs on AMD's "Ryzen" mobile platform while using Snapdragon LTE modems to enable gigabit connection speeds. On gigabit LTE, you could potentially download a feature-length movie over cellular data in less than 30 seconds.

AMD unveiled its Ryzen mobile chips, which feature integrated Radeon Vega graphics, in October. Ryzen CPUs were designed to provide desktop-class performance while still allowing for a small enough footprint for thin-and-lights. The company has revealed two Ryzen mobile processors so far, both of them quad-core chips with eight threads -- a similar architecture to Intel's eighth-generation laptop chipsets.

The higher-end Ryzen has 10 Vega graphics cores, helping it blow away Intel's integrated graphics on benchmarks that AMD ran. For gamers on the go, the Ryzen chipsets can provide decent frame rates for midrange games like League of Legends or Overwatch. Intel's chipsets can go up to 4.2GHz, though, while the higher-end model can only reach 3.8GHz, so AMD's chips may not be as fast in bursts.

Marrying this performance with Snapdragon's X16 LTE modems means that laptops borne from this union could be powerful enough for online gaming over cellular connections. AMD's director of product management, David McAfee, described some of the "unprecedented" possibilities to Engadget. You could, for instance, play an esports game or an MMO title while you're on the road over LTE, thanks to low latency and high bandwidth over today's LTE connections.

McAfee also expects AMD and Qualcomm's collaboration to facilitate "fundamentally transformational user experiences" for business travelers, thanks also to technologies like eSIM, and the ability to switch between carriers or buy packs of data around the world. These are all concepts that were discussed when Microsoft and Qualcomm announced Always Connected PCs at WinHEC last year.

Today, we finally saw actual devices designed for Windows on Snapdragon. ASUS's NovaGo and HP's Envy x2 are laptops that pack Snapdragon 835 processors and can run full Windows 10 (although they'll ship with Windows 10S), complete with x86 app compatibility and support for Windows Ink, Hello and Cortana. They both tout 20-hour battery lives, far more than traditional notebooks, and support Gigabit LTE where available.

But even though the Snapdragon 835 chipset is a capable processor for smartphones, it's not going to help Qualcomm compete with Intel, the other chip maker working on Always Connected PCs. In May, Intel announced it would support eSIM in all its existing and upcoming modems, making itself compatible with the Always Connected PC ecosystem.

A 14nm chip (left) versus the 10nm Snapdragon 835 (right)

With AMD's participation, Qualcomm now has the means to provide more power for laptops that can handle more intensive multitasking beyond the limits of a chip designed for smartphones.

But because no actual product has been unveiled, it's hard to know exactly what to expect. McAfee said AMD's part in this collaboration "is to engineer the experience with Qualcomm so all the parts about stability and software stacks are second to none." That means it'll spend days in labs, testing the mainboards it created with Qualcomm's radios to make sure the parts play nice with each other and work well with the Windows software.

It's been an interesting year for AMD, which seems to be emerging from Intel's shadow. Its Ryzen desktop and mobile processors launched in February and October to positive reception in the industry. Even Intel, AMD's archrival, is now asking for occasional help. A few weeks ago, Intel unveiled a series of enthusiast chipsets that combine its CPU with semi-custom AMD GPUs for stronger graphics performance.

Neither AMD nor Qualcomm has revealed many details beyond confirming their partnership. They've been working together for years. Since 2011, Qualcomm has provided the wireless wan components for AMD's platform. McAfee said this is meant to be an evolving collaboration that will "play out over generations." In other words, in years to come we might even see them make a chip together. "Maybe that's in the cards in the future," McAfee said.

Still, as it stands, this is intriguing news for the Always Connected PC ecosystem, since it means that future laptops built with Qualcomm radios won't be restricted to smartphone-level performance. At the very least, this gives Intel some competition in this space, and that's good news for consumers.


HP and ASUS unveil Snapdragon-powered laptops

Since teasing us with a preview of what Windows on Snapdragon will look like at Computex this year, Qualcomm and its partners are ready to reveal actual devices. Today, at Qualcomm's second annual tech summit, we saw the HP Envy x2 and the ASUS NovaGo -- two of the "Always Connected PCs" that Microsoft has talked about since last year. In fact, the ASUS is calling the NovaGo the first Gigabit LTE laptop, since it uses the Snapdragon chipset that enables those speeds.

Both laptops use the Snapdragon 835 chipset which you'll find on this year's premium smartphones like the Pixel 2, Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, Xperia XZ Premium and Razer Phone. The chip comes with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X16 modem which supports gigabit LTE where available. Although Windows on Snapdragon PCs are meant to support eSIM for easier switching between carriers while traveling, the models announced today will still have a standard nano SIM card slot. It's currently unclear when the eSIM built into the NovaGo's wireless modem will be activated for use, but at least it has one -- the HP laptop will rely solely on a traditional nano SIM.

At just 1.54 pounds, the HP Envy x2, which is the company's latest Surface clone, is lighter even than the 12-inch MacBook (2016), which weighs a mere 2 pounds. The Envy has a similarly sized 12-inch display, though its 1,920 x 1,280 resolution isn't as sharp as the MacBook, and to be fair the Envy is more of a tablet convertible while the Macbook is a more traditional laptop. Still, it's pretty thin and light. We already had a chance to check the Envy x2 out -- check out our hands-on here. Meanwhile, the ASUS NovaGo weighs 1.39 kg (or 3.06 pounds) and packs a slightly larger 13.3-inch full HD LTPS touchscreen with ASUS Pen support (1024-level pressure).

Both the ASUS and HP convertibles offer up to 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, although the NovaGo uses UFS 2.0 that should allow for faster memory access and lower power consumption. The ASUS laptop also sports a full HDMI socket and a microSD slot, while we don't yet know for sure if the Envy x2 has those ports.

The main thing to note here is that these are two Snapdragon-powered PCs that can run full Windows 10 while providing smartphone-like connectivity to gigabit LTE networks. Both devices will ship with Windows 10S, but ASUS and HP are offering free upgrades to Windows 10 Pro before Sept. 30, 2018.

The HP Envy x2 will be available in spring next year, while no timeframe has been shared for the ASUS NovaGo yet. ASUS will offer the device for $599 ($799 for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage) first in the US, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Mainland China and Taiwan, and is working with T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon to offer the NovaGo. We'll be checking out the new ASUS laptop later today, so stay tuned for our hands-on impressions to find out if this is a device worth your time.