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Google takes new route to face recognition on Pixel phones

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Facial recognition returned to the latest Google Pixel phones on Thursday after a short hiatus due to challenges on cost and performance, according to three former employees at the Alphabet Inc unit knowledgeable about the efforts.

The feature on the new Pixel 7 is not as good Apple Inc’s Face ID unlocking mechanism, as it can struggle in low light and is more vulnerable to being spoofed. In addition, Google has said it is not secure enough to enable signing into apps or making payments.

The return comes after Google became stricter about launching products with facial recognition, in part due to questions about its performance on darker skin. The company took time to review its approach to training and testing facial recognition since the previous Pixel with the capability launched in 2019, one of the sources said.

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Google declined to comment on several specific questions about its history with face unlock. It said generally, “Thanks to advanced machine learning models for face recognition, Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro feature Face Unlock, but we’re doing it a little differently.” It added, “We achieve good facial accuracy performance with the front-facing camera.”

Google’s pursuit of face unlock for Android smartphones spans at least a decade, but it came under greater pressure when Apple released Face ID in September 2017, the sources said.

To that point, Google struggled to devise a system that both performed quickly and was impervious to spoofing, or the use of photos or hyper-realistic costumes to fool someone else’s phone into unlocking, one of the sources said. Engineers toyed with requiring a smile or a blink – proving a person’s “liveness” – to combat spoofing but it was awkward and slow, the source said.

Another source noted that after the arrival of Apple’s Face ID, which uses a depth-sensing and infrared camera called TrueDepth to map a face, Google executives signed off on a comparable technology. Google’s Pixel 4, released in 2019, called its infrared depth-sensing setup uDepth.

It performed well, including in dark conditions, with no more than a 1-in-50,000 chance that it would unlock a phone for an unauthorized face, according to Google.

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But the gear was expensive. And while Apple sells 240 million iPhones annually, Google has topped out at a few million, preventing it from buying parts at the volume discounts Apple does.

Google dropped uDepth in the Pixel 5 in 2020 due to costs, the sources said.

Face masking because of the pandemic gave Google reason to exclude the feature from last year’s Pixel 6 and additional research time, two sources said.

Face unlock on the new phones relies on a typical front camera. But unlike the previous system, it cannot securely unlock apps and payments because Google says spoofing chances – such as by holding up a user’s photo – are greater than 20%, above the 7% threshold it requires to be considered most “secure.”

Low light and sunglasses also can cause trouble, Google says, noting fingerprint unlock remains an alternative.

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Microsoft admits Sony has has ‘better’ exclusive games

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Microsoft has recently admitted that its rival, Sony, has “better quality” games than Xbox in a filing with UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The assertion was made on October 31, but the document was recently made public, Eurogamer noted.

Microsoft elaborated its stance, saying that Sony was “the dominant console provider” and ” a powerful game publisher”. It explained that “Sony is roughly equivalent in size to Activision and nearly double the size of Microsoft’s game publishing business.”

Read: Global regulators to target crypto platforms after FTX crash

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Comparing data, Microsoft wrote in the filing that Sony had five times as many of their 280 exclusive first- and third-party titles, on PlayStation. Besides just owning franchises like God of War and Spider-Man, Sony has signed deals with third-party publishers for exclusive rights to games.

Microsoft also claimed that console exclusives accounted for a higher percentage of global game sales for Sony than their own company. The company detailed review scores for PlayStation and Xbox, saying “the average Metacritic score for Sony’s top 20 exclusive games in 2021 was 87/100, against 80/100 for Xbox”.

CMA is conducting an in-depth investigation into Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which has raised concerns by Sony, particularly over the franchise Call of Duty, which could be made exclusive to Xbox only, if the deal goes through.

 





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Netflix is working on a ‘brand-new AAA PC game’

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Netflix is currently hiring game directors and engineers to work on a “brand-new AAA PC game” at its new Los Angeles games studio.

The project has yet to be announced by the streaming platform itself. However, as per a job listing spotted by Mobilegamer.biz, Netflix needs a game director who “will be the creative leader of one of Netflix’s first generation of internally developed original games”.

 Apart from multiple job listings, there are not many details available regarding the new project.

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Read Global regulators to target crypto platforms after FTX crash

The digital platform has previously launched some games, but they were specifically suited for mobile phones. While many users are unaware of the games on Netflix, the platform plans to venture into PC gaming and expand its audience.

 

 





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Global regulators to target crypto platforms after FTX crash

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LONDON:

The crash of FTX exchange has injected greater urgency into regulating the crypto sector and targeting such ‘conglomerate’ platforms will be the focus for 2023, the new chair of global securities watchdog IOSCO said in an interview.

Jean-Paul Servais said regulating crypto platforms could draw on principles from other sectors which handle conflicts of interest, such as at credit rating agencies and compilers of market benchmarks, without having to start from scratch.

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Cryptoassets like bitcoin have been around for years but regulators have resisted jumping in to write new rules.

But the implosion at FTX, which left an estimated one million creditors facing losses totalling billions of dollars, will help change that, Servais told Reuters.

“The sense of urgency was not the same even two or three years ago. There are some dissenting opinions about whether crypto is a real issue at the international level because some people think that it’s still not a material issue and risk,” Servais said.

“Things are changing and due to the interconnectivity between different types of businesses, I think it’s now important that we are able to start a discussion and that’s where we are going.”

IOSCO, which coordinates rules for G20 countries and others, has already set out principles for regulating stablecoins, but now the focus is turning to platforms which trade in them.

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In mainstream finance there is functional separation between activities like broking, trading, banking services and issuance, with each having its own set of conduct rules and safeguards.

“Is it the case for the crypto market? I would say most of the time not,” Servais said.

Crypto ‘conglomerates’ like FTX have emerged, performing perform multiple roles such as brokerage services, custody, proprietary trading, issuance of tokens all under a single roof that give rise to conflicts of interest, Servais said.

“For investor protection reasons, there is a need to provide additional clarity to these crypto markets markets through targeted guidance in applying IOSCO’s principles to crypto assets,” Servais said.

“We intend to publish consultations report on these matters in the first half of 2023,” he added.

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Madrid-based IOSCO, or International Organization of Securities Commissions, is an umbrella body for market watchdogs like the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States, Bafin in Germany, Japan’s Financial Services Agency, and the UK Financial Conduct Authority, who all commit to applying the body’s recommendations.

The European Union’s new markets in cryptoassets or MiCA framework is an “interesting starting point” for developing global guidance as it focuses on supervision of crypto operators, said Servais, who also chairs Belgium’s financial regulator FSMA.

“I think that the world is changing. We know there is some space for developing new standards about supervision of this kind of crypto conglomerates. There is an obvious necessity,” Servais said.





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