Roblox hits 100 million monthly active users

Roblox hits 100 million monthly active users

10:44am, 4th August, 2019
Roblox is big. Bigger than Minecraft big. The massively multiple online title has been around since 2006, but the game has been achieving a crazy amount of momentum of late. On Friday, it announced that it’s grown past 100 million monthly active users, pushing past Minecraft, which is currently in the (still impressive) low-90s. Here’s the service’s dizzying growth since February 2016, who it was hovering around 9 million players. That’s more than 10x growth in a three and a half year span. User-Generated content is a big part of that number, and the company notes that it has around 40 million user created experiences in the game at present. Sources: TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Roblox “We started Roblox over a decade ago with a vision to bring people from all over the world together through play,” founder and CEO David Baszucki said of the big new round number. “Roblox began with just 100 players and a handful of creators who inspired one another, unlocking this groundswell of creativity, collaboration, and imagination that continues to grow.” The company behind the game has also been pumping some big money into development. It paid $30 million in 2017 and $60 million in 2018. Next week, it will be hosting hundreds of attendees at its fifth Roblox Developer Conference. Per the new numbers, around 40 percent Roblox users are female, with players spread out across 200 countries.
E3’s organizer apologizes after revealing information for thousands of journalists

E3’s organizer apologizes after revealing information for thousands of journalists

11:06am, 3rd August, 2019
The Entertainment Software Association issued an apology of sorts after making available the contact information for more than 2,000 journalists and analysts who attended this year’s E3. “ESA was made aware of a website vulnerability that led to the contact list of registered journalists attending E3 being made public,” the organization said via statement. “Once notified, we immediately took steps to protect that data and shut down the site, which is no longer available. We regret this this occurrence and have put measures in place to ensure it will not occur again.” It’s not clear whether the organization attempted to reach out to those impacted by the breach. In a kind of bungle that utterly boggles the mind in 2019, the ESA had made available on its site a full spreadsheet of contact information for thousands of attendees, including email addresses, phone numbers and physical addresses. While many or most of the addresses appear to be businesses, journalists often work remotely, and the availability of a home address online can present a real safety concern. After all, many gaming journalists are routinely targets of harassments and threats of physical violence for the simple act of writing about video games on the internet. That’s the reality of the world we currently live in. And while the information leaked could have been worse, there’s a real potential human consequence here. That, in turn, presents a pretty compelling case that the ESA is going to have a pretty big headache on its hands under GDPR. Per the rules, In the case of a personal data breach, the controller shall without undue delay and, where feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of it, notify the personal data breach to the supervisory authority competent in accordance with Article 55, unless the personal data breach is unlikely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons. Where the notification to the supervisory authority is not made within 72 hours, it shall be accompanied by reasons for the delay. There is, indeed, a pretty strong argument to made that said breach could “result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons.” Failure to notify individuals in the allotted time period could, in turn, result in some hefty fines. It’s hard to say how long the ESA knew about the information, though YouTuber Sophia Narwitz, who first brought this information to light publicly, may have also been the first to alert the organization. The ESA appears to have been reasonably responsive in pulling the spreadsheet down, but the internet is always faster, and that information is still floating around online and fairy easily found. that spreadsheets like these are incredibly valuable to convention organizations, representing contact information some of the top journalists in any given industry. Many will no doubt think twice before sharing this kind of information again, of course. Notably (and, yes, ironically), the Black Hat security conference this time last year. It chalked the issue up to a “legacy system.” Natasha Lomas contributed to this report
The spectacle of Gen Con, the country’s largest (and possibly friendliest) tabletop game convention

The spectacle of Gen Con, the country’s largest (and possibly friendliest) tabletop game convention

11:50am, 4th August, 2019
Your intrepid Seattle-based gaming correspondent Tim Ellis (that’s me) hit the road this weekend to visit Indianapolis, home of , the nation’s largest and oldest tabletop gaming convention. The main Expo Hall at Gen Con The convention spreads out across the entire Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts), and the ballroom space of several large nearby hotels. More than 60,000 attendees crowd the venues, seeking out classic games, tabletop role-playing, brand new releases, upcoming titles, and prototypes of games still being developed. The scene at the con is crowded, but super friendly. Even in the jam-packed hallways waiting for the main expo hall to open, the crowd is upbeat and joins together in a cheerful chant of “here we come!” Although people come from all over the country (and world) to attend Gen Con, the famous really comes through as you interact with your fellow attendees. Strangers will strike up a conversation with you in the elevators! I sat down to play a demo of one two-player game and the company rep running the demo had no problem at all getting a random passer-by to happily join me. As I played through another game demo, a stranger came up and started asking me questions about it! These are all experiences I don’t think I’ve ever had at the similar Seattle-based gaming convention West, where the Seattle freeze seems to extend into the convention center. A giant game of Catan takes place at Gen Con Speaking of PAX, the expo hall at Gen Con is focused on low-tech physical games made mostly of cardboard, wood, and plastic, and thus has a very different feel from the equivalent space at PAX (which includes tabletop gaming but is dominated by video games). The Gen Con expo hall is bright and relatively quiet. Rather than a cacophony of game demos blasting at your ears from every direction, there’s just the quiet murmur of the crows. It also lacks the giant displays, massive props, and enormous video screens that make up the bulk of the vendor booths in the PAX expo hall. There are a few traces of video gaming at Gen Con, including a classic arcade room and an appearance from the controversial arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell, of “King of Kong” fame, the classic documentary that pitted him against Seattle-area teacher Steve Wiebe. Mitchell is here to make a live attempt at a “perfect game” on Pac-Man. Controversial arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell, of “King of Kong” fame, attempts a “perfect game” on Pac-Man at Gen Con Many Seattle-based game companies also made the trip out to Indianapolis to show off their latest, including Funko Games, Ravensburger, , and many small indie game publishers and developers like and (run by former ). Even Penny Arcade (creators of PAX) have a small booth focused on . Here’s a look inside the show this weekend, for everyone who isn’t here in Indianapolis:
Earmuffs, Alexa! Amazon to let users opt out of human review of voice recordings, amid scrutiny

Earmuffs, Alexa! Amazon to let users opt out of human review of voice recordings, amid scrutiny

10:44pm, 2nd August, 2019
(GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) Amazon became the latest tech giant to let users of its voice assistant opt out of human review of their voice recordings, after similar announcements from Apple and Google. The move Friday afternoon about an Amazon team consisting of thousands of people who listen to Alexa voice recordings as part of a program designed to improve the company’s voice assistant. It’s the latest sign of growing public awareness of the listening and recording capabilities of Amazon Echo speakers and smart home devices from other tech companies. Amazon rolled out the change Friday in the settings of the Alexa app. Previously, users were able to change a privacy setting to prevent the company from using voice recordings to help develop new Alexa features. Now, that same opt-out also lets users prevent humans from listening to the recordings to improve existing Alexa features. Here’s the company’s statement on the issue. “We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures. For Alexa, we already offer customers the ability to opt-out of having their voice recordings used to help develop new Alexa features. The voice recordings from customers who use this opt-out are also excluded from our supervised learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small sample of Alexa requests. We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.” The opt-out is accessible by going to the privacy settings under the menu in the Alexa app, then selecting “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.” Here’s what the setting looks like, including the new language about opting out of “manual review,” aka people listening to what you say. Amazon didn’t address a question about whether it has been contacted by regulators regarding human review of voice recordings. The changes come amid heightened government scrutiny of tech giants, by the U.S. Justice Department and others, over issues including privacy and competition. Apple after the Guardian reported that contractors reviewing Siri recordings for quality control “regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.” Apple says it’s working on a feature to let Siri users opt out of the human review, and says it has . Along the same lines, Google said it “paused” human review of Google Assistant recordings after
Earmuffs, Alexa! Amazon to let users opt out of human review of voice recordings, amid scrutiny

Earmuffs, Alexa! Amazon to let users opt out of human review of voice recordings, amid scrutiny

10:44pm, 2nd August, 2019
(GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) Amazon became the latest tech giant to let users of its voice assistant opt out of human review of their voice recordings, after similar announcements from Apple and Google. The move Friday afternoon about an Amazon team consisting of thousands of people who listen to Alexa voice recordings as part of a program designed to improve the company’s voice assistant. It’s the latest sign of growing public awareness of the listening and recording capabilities of Amazon Echo speakers and smart home devices from other tech companies. Amazon rolled out the change Friday in the settings of the Alexa app. Previously, users were able to change a privacy setting to prevent the company from using voice recordings to help develop new Alexa features. Now, that same opt-out also lets users prevent humans from listening to the recordings to improve existing Alexa features. Here’s the company’s statement on the issue. “We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures. For Alexa, we already offer customers the ability to opt-out of having their voice recordings used to help develop new Alexa features. The voice recordings from customers who use this opt-out are also excluded from our supervised learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small sample of Alexa requests. We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.” The opt-out is accessible by going to the privacy settings under the menu in the Alexa app, then selecting “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.” Here’s what the setting looks like, including the new language about opting out of “manual review,” aka people listening to what you say. Amazon didn’t address a question about whether it has been contacted by regulators regarding human review of voice recordings. The changes come amid heightened government scrutiny of tech giants, by the U.S. Justice Department and others, over issues including privacy and competition. Apple after the Guardian reported that contractors reviewing Siri recordings for quality control “regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.” Apple says it’s working on a feature to let Siri users opt out of the human review, and says it has . Along the same lines, Google said it “paused” human review of Google Assistant recordings after
Earmuffs, Alexa! Amazon to let users opt out of human review of voice recordings, amid scrutiny

Earmuffs, Alexa! Amazon to let users opt out of human review of voice recordings, amid scrutiny

10:44pm, 2nd August, 2019
(GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy) Amazon became the latest tech giant to let users of its voice assistant opt out of human review of their voice recordings, after similar announcements from Apple and Google. The move Friday afternoon about an Amazon team consisting of thousands of people who listen to Alexa voice recordings as part of a program designed to improve the company’s voice assistant. It’s the latest sign of growing public awareness of the listening and recording capabilities of Amazon Echo speakers and smart home devices from other tech companies. Amazon rolled out the change Friday in the settings of the Alexa app. Previously, users were able to change a privacy setting to prevent the company from using voice recordings to help develop new Alexa features. Now, that same opt-out also lets users prevent humans from listening to the recordings to improve existing Alexa features. Here’s the company’s statement on the issue. “We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures. For Alexa, we already offer customers the ability to opt-out of having their voice recordings used to help develop new Alexa features. The voice recordings from customers who use this opt-out are also excluded from our supervised learning workflows that involve manual review of an extremely small sample of Alexa requests. We’ll also be updating information we provide to customers to make our practices more clear.” The opt-out is accessible by going to the privacy settings under the menu in the Alexa app, then selecting “Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa.” Here’s what the setting looks like, including the new language about opting out of “manual review,” aka people listening to what you say. Amazon didn’t address a question about whether it has been contacted by regulators regarding human review of voice recordings. The changes come amid heightened government scrutiny of tech giants, by the U.S. Justice Department and others, over issues including privacy and competition. Apple after the Guardian reported that contractors reviewing Siri recordings for quality control “regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex.” Apple says it’s working on a feature to let Siri users opt out of the human review, and says it has . Along the same lines, Google said it “paused” human review of Google Assistant recordings after
The spectacle of Gen Con, the country’s largest (and possibly friendliest) tabletop game convention

The spectacle of Gen Con, the country’s largest (and possibly friendliest) tabletop game convention

11:50am, 4th August, 2019
Your intrepid Seattle-based gaming correspondent Tim Ellis (that’s me) hit the road this weekend to visit Indianapolis, home of , the nation’s largest and oldest tabletop gaming convention. The main Expo Hall at Gen Con The convention spreads out across the entire Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts), and the ballroom space of several large nearby hotels. More than 60,000 attendees crowd the venues, seeking out classic games, tabletop role-playing, brand new releases, upcoming titles, and prototypes of games still being developed. The scene at the con is crowded, but super friendly. Even in the jam-packed hallways waiting for the main expo hall to open, the crowd is upbeat and joins together in a cheerful chant of “here we come!” Although people come from all over the country (and world) to attend Gen Con, the famous really comes through as you interact with your fellow attendees. Strangers will strike up a conversation with you in the elevators! I sat down to play a demo of one two-player game and the company rep running the demo had no problem at all getting a random passer-by to happily join me. As I played through another game demo, a stranger came up and started asking me questions about it! These are all experiences I don’t think I’ve ever had at the similar Seattle-based gaming convention West, where the Seattle freeze seems to extend into the convention center. A giant game of Catan takes place at Gen Con Speaking of PAX, the expo hall at Gen Con is focused on low-tech physical games made mostly of cardboard, wood, and plastic, and thus has a very different feel from the equivalent space at PAX (which includes tabletop gaming but is dominated by video games). The Gen Con expo hall is bright and relatively quiet. Rather than a cacophony of game demos blasting at your ears from every direction, there’s just the quiet murmur of the crows. It also lacks the giant displays, massive props, and enormous video screens that make up the bulk of the vendor booths in the PAX expo hall. There are a few traces of video gaming at Gen Con, including a classic arcade room and an appearance from the controversial arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell, of “King of Kong” fame, the classic documentary that pitted him against Seattle-area teacher Steve Wiebe. Mitchell is here to make a live attempt at a “perfect game” on Pac-Man. Controversial arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell, of “King of Kong” fame, attempts a “perfect game” on Pac-Man at Gen Con Many Seattle-based game companies also made the trip out to Indianapolis to show off their latest, including Funko Games, Ravensburger, , and many small indie game publishers and developers like and (run by former ). Even Penny Arcade (creators of PAX) have a small booth focused on . Here’s a look inside the show this weekend, for everyone who isn’t here in Indianapolis:
Backed by Bill Gates, Echodyne plays role in a pioneering flight of a drone on its own

Backed by Bill Gates, Echodyne plays role in a pioneering flight of a drone on its own

1:27pm, 2nd August, 2019
A Skyfront Perimeter drone takes off from the Alyeska trans-Alaska pipeline right of way near Fox for a milestone flight beyond the operator’s visual line of sight. The drone flew 3.87 miles along the pipeline corridor. (University of Alaska Photo / Sean Tevebaugh) A public-private consortium led by the University of Alaska has conducted the first-ever federally authorized test flight of a drone beyond the operator’s line of sight without on-the-ground observers keeping watch – with Echodyne, the radar venture that’s backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and headquartered in Kirkland, Wash., playing a supporting role. Autonomous flight beyond visual line of sight will be key to the kinds of drone delivery operations envisioned by Amazon, Walmart and other retailers. During Wednesday’s flight, a multirotor drone as part of the University of Alaska’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program, from the Federal Aviation Administration last year. The big thing about this flight is that the drone made use of , paired up with Echodyne’s ground-based MESA airspace management radar system, without having a human on the route. Current FAA regulations limit drone flights to the operator’s visual line of sight. Pilot projects have been experimenting with technologies that can ensure safe operations beyond the visual line of sight, known as BVLOS. But until now, the FAA’s waivers still required a ground-based observer to look out for non-cooperative aircraft coming into the test area. This week’s flight of a drone totally on its own was authorized after it flew the same route with visual observers. “The test mission designed by the team at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks is an excellent demonstration of the potential for commercial UAS,” Eben Frankenberg, the founder and CEO of Echodyne, . “With Iris Automation and Echodyne sensor technologies, routine commercial missions like linear inspection and medical deliveries to remote communities are both practical and safe.” The radar system developed by Echodyne relies on metamaterials technology, which uses specially structured electronics to bend electromagnetic waves. Circuits based on metamaterials can allow for the construction of flat-panel radar devices that match the performance of larger, more expensive phased array antennas. Echodyne is one of several metamaterials-based startups that have been spun out from Bellevue, Wash.-based Intellectual Ventures with Gates’ financial backing. Its most recently reported funding round from Gates as well as Silicon Valley’s New Enterprise Associates, the Kresge Foundation, Lux Capital, Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group and Vulcan Capital. The company is playing a role in several tests of detect-and-avoid technologies for drones. In March, Echodyne announced that its as part of NASA’s UAS Traffic Management program, in Texas and Nevada. Meanwhile, the tests in Alaska will continue, focusing on pipeline inspection as well as other applications potentially including medical device delivery, search and rescue, road monitoring and surveys of fish and wildlife.