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Hackers have stolen a ton of EA data, including valuable source code



Today electronic arts confirmed that hackers stole massive amounts of data from the video game publisher. A poster from the Dark Web Forum claimed to have obtained 780 gigabytes of data during the attack, including the source code of FIFA 21 and EA’s Frostbite game engine, the engine used by FIFA, Madden, Battlefield, Star Wars: Squadrons and Anthem.

“We are investigating a recent intrusion incident into our network where a limited amount of game source code and related tools have been stolen,” EA said in a statement. The representative added that “no player data has been accessed and we have no reason to believe that there is a risk to player privacy.” VICE first reported the attack. EA confirmed with WIRED that there was no ransomware.

The EA hack is the latest in a series of high profile video game source code leaks. Last year, Valve, Capcom, Nintendo and Ubisoft have reportedly suffered similar data breaches. And earlier this year, a ransomware attack hit Cyberpunk 2077 Creator Red Project CD. (The developer mentionned Thursday that he has reason to believe the data has made its way onto the internet.) The source code is an attractive target for hackers because it describes exactly how the sausage is made – why push this the button deactivates this trap, or exactly or on an opponent’s head, your ball should land for optimal damage. When it falls into the wrong hands, source code has the potential to threaten the integrity of online video games, their servers, and even the safety of players.

“Hackers are definitely targeting more top games and companies in recent years than they’ve ever done before,” says OverkillLabs, who ran the CrackWatch subreddit focused on game piracy. “Either for its reputation, or to prove to large companies that their security is flawed, or simply to make money out of it. “

While ransomware has been the dominant theme in recent high-profile hacks, video game source code is a very expensive commodity in and of itself, especially for cheaters. Popular cheats are often designed by injecting pieces of the original game’s source code into other software. One of the reasons that video game companies pursue fraudsters is that they use aspects of the game code in their illegal products. (These costumes often quote copyright infringement, or more specifically, using copyrighted code without official permission.)

“When they have access to the source code, they can easily see what makes the game work and how they can adapt their tips to the game,” says OverkillLabs. “If the game had anti-cheat, for example, they could easily find a way to use it.”

A member of the game leak scene we’ll call Ridley says shooters like EA’s Battlefield are popular targets for cheaters and hence source code hackers. In these games, he says, “the hacks are much more meaningful,” allowing superpowers like auto aim and the ability to see through walls.

Another use of this source code is for modding. Designing tools and fan-created content is easier when fans don’t have to reverse engineer games code.

Not all leaked source code is being used for evil. Video game historians and curators alike covet these schematics for the inner workings of games. The increased control of gaming companies over their products, whether it’s digital-only downloads or forced internet connectivity, is sketching out gamers who view games as cultural products. And a lot of game companies don’t have a great track record for keeping their own games alive. “How many times have we seen a game go offline for good because the developer or publisher has gone bankrupt, or simply deemed it unprofitable,” says Jaycie, a player who collects the source code.



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“The Hidden Palace”, Galaxy’s Edge and what makes invented places work



At Disneyland, however, most of the weird historical details are also compound. In Disney parlance, the subject-bound sections of theme parks are called “lands” (like Tomorrowland), and the news is Avengers Campus, based not on a fairy tale but on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Marvel Comics spin-off movies and TV shows that began in 2008 with Iron Man and continue, this week, with the Disney + show Loki. Like the movies, this physical universe version of the decades-long comic book story has all kinds of dummy stories built into it. One of the attractions is built, in the story, inside a former flying car factory owned by Howard Stark, father of Tony Stark, the man inside Iron Man’s armor . This is a historic gesture that is not implausible for this part of Southern California, even if it is not true – an imaginary brilliance on Philip K. Dick’s concept of “historicity,” of shattered details like history. which add a patina of authenticity. Amusing!

During this time you can walk about 20 minutes through the theme park to another land centered on a different Disney-owned Shared Stories Universe—Edge of the galaxy, based on the Star Wars franchise of movies, TV shows, books, and more. Both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars Universe have prescribed timelines and geographies, even given the occasional shenanigans you would expect in any sci-fi universe movie. They both have their own ownership stories.

Except Avengers Campus is like other things to do and see in Disneyland in that it has a certain timelessness to it. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is not set on a timeline in the mrtoadiverse. But Galaxy’s Edge takes place not only on a specific planet in the Star Wars universe (“Batuu”) but at a specific time. On a specific day, even – repeat, reset. He has what I described when it was opened as chronotopic properties – a temporal narrative like the books and movies, and also a spatial narrative like other immersive theme park environments. It’s ambitious, but it also means that, for example, all artists walking around dressed as stormtroopers must wear the new, more angular white armor from the most recent film trilogy – the old style seen in Star wars or the clone armor from the previous trilogy would be anachronistic.

Well, I got it: a book is not a theme park. But let me go over all three possibilities here: you have historical fiction, real-world sci-fi stuff set in the past, with the familiar physics of our universe and actual historical events as guides. For my purposes here it is The Hidden Palace. You have spatial, immersive storytelling in an invented place and time, but with rigid (albeit fictitious) events and guide rails. It’s Galaxy’s Edge, or any fictional or future universe – the Expanse, perhaps, or Middle-earth. And you have Avengers Campus, set in a fictional universe with spatial but not temporal guide rails. The timey-wimey is wibbley-wobbley.

It’s the digital ectoplasm that fights Twitter. Do the details of the lands respect the canon and the chronology? And you can kind of see the point. Well actually let me revise that – no you can’t, that’s nonsense. But it may be true that Galaxy’s ruthless application of chronotopic status reinforces loyalty – critically important to the transnational corporation that owns the intellectual property – while limiting narrative flexibility. At the Avengers Campus, someone disguised as Iron Man can “coexist” with an actor in the Sam Wilson version of the Captain America costume, although in the story, Sam only became Captain America after the death of Iron Man. You just go with it. But at Galaxy’s Edge, Darth Vader can’t just show up; he died a few movies ago and disappeared with a pop at the entrance. (Even though Vader can participate in Jedi training at Tomorrowland, as it’s out of the timeline.)

When an aspect of a game’s mechanics, its rules and its mode of play, contradicts the history, this is called “ludonarrative dissonance”. It’s when the pieces, the cards, anything that can do something within the rules that violates the narrative superstructure. (If chess is a battle between two opposing armies, are the players the generals? And if so, why can they command the king? Maybe that’s a ludonarrative dissonance; that’s the sort of thing about which players have some exciting fights.) Then Darth Vader in Galaxy’s Edge would be the equivalent of a theme park – chronotopic dissonance, perhaps. But Iron Man in a supposedly remodeled Stark factory wouldn’t.



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Amazon Echo Buds (2021) Review: Summon Alexa Easier Than Ever



If you are in love with Alexa, Amazon First Generation Echo Buds were a great pair of headphones. Sure, they didn’t have the same sound quality or noise-canceling capabilities as premium options from Apple and Samsung, but they were cheap, decent, and worked better with Amazon’s voice assistant than they did. any other pair.

With its second generation, the Seattle-based tech giant is refining its heads for something even more competitive. Wireless charging and noise cancellation join an all-new pair of 5.7mm drivers and beamforming microphones to create what is arguably the best overall experience in wireless headphones under $ 150.

Add to that some of the best app integrations available today, and the new Echo Buds are some of my favorite all-around headphones.

New for the second generation

The new Echo Buds don’t really look like their predecessors other than being made from the same matte plastic. The old case was flatter than it was tall, with the headphones placed at an angle on the inside, while the new wireless charging case is tall and thin.

They look and feel more streamlined. The buds themselves are now fully round on the outside, and what were previously two glossy, raised touch controls are now indistinguishable from the rest of the earbuds except for the Amazon arrow logo.

Noise-canceling chips, new pickups, and better drivers mean the new Echo Buds feel a bit chunky, despite being still 21% smaller than their predecessors. Still, I had no problem with them in my medium sized ears; they land firmly in the post-Frankenstein’s monster the era of wireless headphones.

Finding the right fit is a high priority for Amazon. Open the case, pair it with the Alexa app on your phone, and you’ll be sure you’ve chosen the right size tip (Amazon offers four options, as well as two sizes of silicone tips), thanks to a fit test inside the app.

Photography: Amazon

I like the cut of the Echo Buds a bit more than AirPods Pro (8/10, WIRED recommended)because they don’t have the little elephant trunks of the AirPods, but I have to hand it over to Apple for noise cancellation. Even with the wrong size of tips on Apple’s flagship headphones, they reduce background noise noticeably better than those Amazon headphones. Still, the Echo Buds beat the AirPods Pro on battery life (5 hours with noise canceling for Apple 4), and they come with a fast-charging capability that will give you 2 hours of listening time on a 15 minute ride to the wall.

As with most non-Apple headphones, the Echo Buds work better with Android phones than iPhones, although they are compatible with Siri and Google Assistant, in addition to Amazon’s Assistant. I spent the vast majority of my listening time using a Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G that Samsung provided me with on a long term loan, and they worked perfectly. I even paired them with my Galaxy Watch with ease.

Alexa on board

If you like Alexa. the best part about the buds is how easy they are to invoke Amazon’s AI assistant. I enjoyed using the Echo Buds to set timers, check the weather before races, and check my schedule hands-free.

Obviously your mileage will vary depending on your appreciation of voice assistants and Alexa in particular, but it’s worth trying the voice activation feature before you turn it off.



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How to celebrate LGBTQ pride month 2021 – online or in person



Last year for Pride, instead of waving resistance flags and dancing in the streets, we stayed at home, hidden behind masks and unsure of when we could be together again. For older generations of LGBTQ people, it brought back shockwaves reminiscent of the frightening early days of the AIDS epidemic, when gays had to look after each other when no one else, including the government. , would not.

The mood of Pride is generally bright and cheerful, but its origins are anything but. It commemorates a riot in which gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans fought back a violent police raid on Stonewall Bar late on the night of June 28, 1969. At the time, raids on the few gay clubs that existed were commonplace and anti-gay laws were in effect from coast to coast. The clashes continued for several more days with a growing and fierce crowd.

The powerful six-part docu series Pride, streaming on Hulu, shows the impact of the riots as it chronicles the struggle for LGBTQ civil rights in America from the 1950s to the present day. Here is the trailer.

Over the years, Pride has grown in size. Over 5 million people in New York City celebrated Stonewall’s 50th anniversary in 2019. That year, around 150,000 people marched with 700 groups in a parade through the streets of Manhattan that lasted 12 hours. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of global events that were scheduled for 2020.

The good news in 2021 is that vaccination rates are changing faster than imagined, with half of Americans who have received at least one dose. It’s a bright spot in what has been a dark time, but it’s coming a bit too late for event planners who need months to plan the festivities. That means there will be little in-person activity this month for the millions of people recently vaccinated with pent-up queer energy to overflow.

This year, there is still some uncertainty with the ongoing pandemic over who can and cannot get out. Luckily, there are a lot of amazing things happening online that you don’t have to go outside to experience. “We have something for everyone,” said Dan Dimant, who has become media director for Pride of New York last September after serving for years as a volunteer. “Everything is listed on nycpride.org. There are events for young people, for families, for food lovers, for moviegoers. We have tried to reach out to a range of different interests and segments of our community.

Here’s a taste of the glitz, glamor, and online glory planned for what will hopefully be the final pandemic Pride. Most events are free.

June 10

The launch of LA Pride is free “Prosper with pride” concert with pop sensation Charli XCX and promising LGBTQ artists. Performances will be presented and streamed live exclusively on TikTok, making it easy for you to have fun from your phone. For programming updates, visit Pride website. LA Pride also suggests that you follow @tiktokforgood for updates.

June 15

I have been a world famous fan New York Gay Men’s Choir and Youth Pride Choir for years, therefore, I have been excited about the premiere of their new video “Outside Voice”, about the experiences of young homosexuals. It will be followed by a panel discussion with composer Julian Hornik and artistic director Gavin Thrasher. You can watch live at 8 p.m. ET on their YouTube channel.

June 21-23

Pride of New York will present its fourth edition Human Rights Conference From June 21 to 23. This year’s conference will feature a series of interactive masterclasses with transformative experts in queer activism, fashion, culture and history sharing their perspectives with guests in live seminars. You can register for the Masterclass here. Tickets cost around $ 5.

The symposium will offer free open mainstage conversations on a wide range of topics designed to connect communities, including trans empowerment, mental health and wellness, and collective power for people of color. You can register for free discussions on Mainstage here.

June 26

Pride of New York Youth, a celebration of and for LGBTQ teens and allies, is back as a virtual gathering. For this year’s experience, NYC Pride has partnered with youth-focused centers, organizations and programs nationwide to present the annual Youth Pride virtual event.

You can register for the free event here.



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Political feuds prolong the digital divide



The digital divide brings together strange bedfellows. Satya nadella worried about it; his company, Microsoft, finds that half of the country does not use the internet at speeds capable of maintaining a half-decent Zoom call. In the home state of Republican Congressman Nadella, Washington Cathy McMorris Rodgers shares her concern, even though she is introduced a law prohibiting municipalities from building their own networks to help bridge the gap. She is not a fan of President Joe Biden and Joe biden is also not a fan of the division. Joe Biden is however a fan municipal networks.

Among the Democratic and Republican proposals, a nice round number keeps popping up on what it would cost to give all Americans access and full use of digital technologies: $ 100 billion. As spectacular as that sum is, it is also spectacularly offbeat and a mirage.

But if we’re honest about the true extent of the digital divide, we can begin the creative engineering needed to bridge it.

Eight-year, $ 100 billion budget to bridge the digital divide, echoing $ 94 billion Democrats’ proposal to Congress– was one of the pillars of President Biden’s original initiative American employment plan. Since negotiations with the Republicans, the Biden team has retreated to a more modest amount of $ 65 billion. The problem was that $ 100 billion was already insufficient. This figure is taken from a 2017 FCC estimate of what to give broadband access to all Americans. But the FCC grossly underestimates those who don’t have high-speed internet, incorrect mapping outside less than 14.5 million people disconnected. The most reliable “manual” control by research firm BroadbandNow puts the number at 42 million. And, of course, according to Microsoft, the number of people who do not use broadband, either because of inadequate access or equipment, or because it is too expensive, is much higher. Even FCC Interim President Jessica Rosenworcel recognize undercoverage and ordered a voucher cartography broadband nationwide.

Take that 42 million account alone. By applying the FCC cost structures, my Imagining a Digital Economy for All (IDEA) 2030 research team analyzes that the government must spend at least $ 240 billion. Far from shrinking the budget, the Biden team must increase it even more.

A complication is the rural-urban divide within the digital divide. The Democratic and Republican proposals focus on the lack of internet access in rural areas, where they want to attract voters. however, thrice as many urban households as rural households do not have a broadband subscription. While the rural gap is due to the high costs and low income potential for building infrastructure in sparsely populated and dispersed areas, urban households generally lack broadband because it is unaffordable. This means that we must not only develop infrastructure, but also lower the price of broadband access.

The renewed focus on racial justice may offer a way to devote more resources to the urban divide. The harsh reality is that the digital divide reflects a racial divide, with cities like Detroit, Philadelphia and Cleveland as main case studies. Nationally, there is a 14 points difference in broadband access between white and black households with school-going children. Black households have less access to higher paying and tech-oriented professions; no wonder black communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic and the economic downturn. If these conditions persist, with increasing automation and remote working, the majority of blacks and Hispanics could be excluded from 86% of jobs by 2045. The digital divide is at the center of many pressing racial inequalities in health care, education, job security and well-being.

Although Biden has made racial justice a priority, can he expect some support from Republicans to ease the way? At first glance, it would appear that bridging the digital divide is a bipartisan priority, again in part due to a shared push to win over rural voters. Some Republicans even Argue that the current compromise budget of $ 65 billion on the Biden plan is essentially $ 100 billion when you include what is already “in the works” and passed by Congress. Whether or not it’s fun math, it seems remarkable to find so much harmony in Washington, DC, in 2021, on both the problem and the money for a solution.





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How risky is it to send Jeff Bezos to the edge of space?



A spokesperson for Blue Origin declined to answer WIRED’s questions about what kind of training the Bezos brothers will receive before their flight and how the capsule’s control and navigation works, telling us instead a page on their site which indicates that New Shepard made 15 successful flights, including three tests of its capsule dropout system that will allow it to detach from the rocket in the event of a problem on the launch pad or at altitude.

Virgin Galactic VSS Unit more like a rocket plane with wings. The polished chrome six-seater is transported to approximately 50,000 feet above sea level by a specially built twin-fuselage aircraft called the WhiteKnightTwo. The rocket plane is released from underneath the plane, then fires its engines for 60 seconds to explode to the edge of the 50-mile-high space, drifting there for a few minutes of joy. Once it reaches its highest point, the rear half of the vehicle folds upwards, creating a high drag and aerodynamically stable layout which allows the craft to float like a badminton shuttlecock. The increased drag keeps the boat speed low, while the folded shape ensures that the boat maintains the correct attitude. Then, after slowing down and reaching a lower altitude, the wings fold up. The spacecraft returns to its home position and lands like an airplane on a runway, in this case, at the Virgin Spaceport in New Mexico. The entire trip takes around 90 minutes from start to finish, and there is no bathroom on board.

Virgin Galactic’s path to this year’s human flights has seen fatal setbacks. Unit is the company’s second SpaceShipTwo space plane. In 2007, three employees of Scaled Composites, a company that built the craft for Virgin, were killed at a facility in the Mojave Desert during the first tests of SpaceShipTwo’s rocket engines. Scaled Composites was funded by Branson at the time.

In 2014, a later version of SpaceShipTwo exploded into the air, killing a co-pilot and seriously injuring the pilot during a test. Federal accident investigators found inadequate design guarantees, lax regulatory oversight, and a potentially anxious co-pilot lacking recent flight experience as significant factors in the crash. At the time, Virgin officials said they were making changes to the system so that the the wing position could not be released prematurely by either of the pilots, an event that led to the crash, according to the federal investigation.

Despite these incidents, Virgin Galactic did not give up and did its most recent—and successful – crew flight by VSS Unit at the end of May. Unit, the latest version of SpaceShipTwo, has been modified to increase safety measures, including a cabin pressurization system that will maintain life support should anything happen during part of the trip. The spacecraft also includes an evacuation system for crew and passengers, according to Aleanna Crane, vice president of communications for Virgin Galactic.

Just before takeoff, Branson and the other passengers will undergo three days of training at Virgin’s Spaceport in New Mexico to familiarize themselves with flight and review procedures, Crane added.

Virgin is analyzing data from the May 22 flight before planning the next one, which will require an FAA license. This means it’s still unclear whether Branson will arrive in space ahead of Bezos’ scheduled excursion on July 20. “We will have three more test flights, including two this summer,” Crane said from London. “One of which will have Richard on board.”

The third test flight will include three members of the Italian Air Force for a search mission.

NASA astronauts say flying on a short suborbital trip is not the same as getting to the International Space Station. NASA vehicles like the now retired Space Shuttle or the new SpaceX Crew Dragon depend on multiple booster rockets to get them into orbit, as well as a complex survival system, propulsion, navigation and avionics systems who tell the rocket where to go. Some of these systems are automated; others require a trained pilot, such as when docking to the ISS. In contrast, the two new commercial spacecraft are simpler in design and operation, according to Doug Hurley, a NASA astronaut who flew the First Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS in May 2020, with his colleague Bob Behnken.



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The joy and misery of video game trophy hunting



Easter eggs like this can be a lot of fun, but many are so obscure you’ll never find them in a normal game. I played Hitman 2 to death and I never realized that you can summon a Kraken on the Sapienza map.

Gamification and rivalries

Leaderboards and the pursuit of high scores have always been a part of the game, but trophies and achievements as we know them today started with Microsoft’s Gamerscore system for the Xbox 360 in 2005. This was extended to games. for Windows in 2007, the same year Valve added achievements in Steam. The following year, Sony jumped on board with the PlayStation trophies, and a few years later, Apple and Google added achievements to their respective mobile game services. Nintendo is the only major gaming platform that doesn’t have an achievement system.

Trophies often extend the life of a game, encouraging players to look beyond the main story, but ultimately they are arbitrary challenges for bragging rights. And trophy hunters can get lost in the chase. Better known by his PlayStation Network pseudonym, Hakoom, Hakam Karim has been the world leader in the PlayStation Trophy Collection for a few years now. He has 105,828 trophies at last count, according to PSN Profiles, the most popular unofficial ranking.

“I spend around 10 to 15 hours a day playing and unlocking trophies,” explains Karim. “Let’s say about 90 hours a week or so. “

While there are players with a higher overall trophy count, Karim’s lead is largely based on platinum trophies (he has 3,188 at the time of writing). To win a Platinum trophy, you must unlock all the other trophies in the game. The trophies are assigned different scores according to their level of difficulty: 15 points for a bronze, 30 for silver, 90 for gold and 300 for platinum (instead of 180 by Sony last year).

Sony does not maintain an official ranking, and there is debate in the trophy hunter community as to who should be the best. PSN Trophy Officers, for example, lists Roughdawg4 (who prefers not to share his real name) as the current leader with 110,631 trophies and 3,360 Platinum trophies. He hunts for trophies about 20 to 40 hours per week.

“I got hooked very early on in the PS3 era,” says Roughdawg4. “I’ve always been an accomplished player so winning trophies and doing all you can in a game came naturally to me. He withdrew from PSN Profiles after a disagreement with the owner. “Personally, I think he made some unethical decisions about how the site is run,” he says, before claiming that Karim hacked some trophies.

When browsing the forums on trophy hunting sites, these kinds of complaints are common. People are accused of hacking trophies or working as a team under one account, but these claims are difficult to prove.

The endless grind

Just as there are many highly sought after trophies, the vast majority haven’t given them much thought.

“It’s all about unrealistic goals, at both ends of the scale,” says Webb. “Any achievement or trophy that appears when you start a game is a waste of oxygen. Then there are the achievements that you get from dying a number of times – how is that even fun or an accomplishment? “

There are also virtually impossible achievements, such as completing a game multiple times, reaching number one in the world leaderboard, or reaching an unreachable level of play.

“We want players to feel accomplished when they complete difficult trophies, so we try to avoid repetitive or tedious tasks because the only thing players feel after completing them is a sense of relief,” says Timmins. . “Creating a difficult but engaging trophy is not easy.”



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Remember when multiplayer gaming needed envelopes and stamps?



Landes began making computer games in 1980, but when missed release dates killed the company, he launched his own brand PBM in 1984. Based in Oregon, his designs included Pelarn Swords, that Landes first moderated by hand, an “arduous” process that could take 20 to 30 minutes for each player’s turn. Even with the help of computers, data entry and mailing remained labor-intensive.

“We had a bank of dot-matrix printers running through the night to print the results and the next day we would pack the towers, do the accounting and mail them,” Landes said. “At our peak in 1991, we were spending over $ 25,000 per month on postage. The local post office joked that we should have our own zip code. Today, that would represent over $ 49,000 per month.

Landes sold his business in 1992, and today he teaches game design while working on his own projects, including the popular Mount & Blade fashion Prophecy of Pendor and the next one StariumXCV. Pelarn swords can still be played online via the company PBM Harlequin Games, and that its current guide is 117 pages long shows just how complicated these games can get. But what keeps players coming back after all these years?

Unparalleled complexity, if you can wait a few years

For Raven Zachery, the appeal of PBM is “the level of depth, complexity, sense of long-term commitment and the epic nature of the games.” Zachery is a member of PlayByMail.net, a community where fans trade their letter carrier stalking stories for updates, and it helps manage their Facebook group, maintain an index of active games and write for their blog, among other efforts. As a child, Zachery saw PBM ads in Dragon magazine, and played from the early ’80s until 1993. He returned in 2018, because although his busy work schedule had made it difficult for him to have long board game sessions with friends, PBM could to be played in free moments while engaging its love of long-term planning and diplomacy. He is now active in seven different matches.

While PBM cannot offer the intimate role play of D&D along with friends, Zachery explains that they “excel at diplomatic, strategic, and large-scale endeavors that are not achievable in board or computer games.” Long waits between turns can be spent strategizing and coordinating with allies, giving players more time to invest in the results. Calling it an “experience you just can’t get in any other format,” Zachery says, “I find myself thinking about my plans for the next turns throughout my day. When it comes time to commit, I have really accepted what I’m going to do.

This corresponds to the design philosophy of Landes. “The strength of a game is not to play it,” he explains. “That’s how much the player thinks about it when he’s not playing. It’s about that “what if” scenario that happens like a light bulb going out and causing them to want to come back to the game to see the results of their insight. Conversely, he argued that a bad PBM game produces predictable results; if a player can sense how the game is going to end, why would they have to pay to keep playing? To keep players engaged, Landes “avoided closing the path to success until the end of the game” and tried to prevent “the perception of loss” by focusing on games where players compete against each other. to accumulate resources, rather than trying to reduce each other. nothing.



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What makes the Delta covid-19 variant more contagious?



Once the virus has bound to ACE2, the next step is to fuse with the cell, a process that begins when the host cell’s enzymes cut the tip at two different sites, a process known as of cleavage. This kick starts the fusion machinery. If the binding is like the key that goes into the lock, the cleavage is like the key that turns the deadbolt. “Without cuts at both sites, the virus cannot enter cells,” says Vineet Menachery, a virologist in the medical branch of the University of Texas.

One of the mutations present in Delta actually occurs in one of these cleavage sites, and a new study that has not yet been peer reviewed shows that this mutation improves cleavage. And Menachery, who was not in the study, says he’s replicated those results in his lab. “So it’s a little easier to activate the virus,” he says.

It is not yet known if this improves transmissibility, but it could. When scientists remove these cleavage sites, the virus becomes less transmissible and less pathogenic, Menachery explains. It stands to reason, therefore, that changes which facilitate cleavage would increase transmissibility.

It is also possible that Delta’s ability to evade the body’s immune response may help fuel transmission. Immune escape means more cells are infected and produce more virus, potentially allowing a person with that virus to infect someone else.

But vaccines still work

The good news is that vaccination offers strong protection against Delta. A new study from Public Health England shows that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective in preventing symptomatic Delta disease in fully vaccinated individuals. The AstraZeneca vaccine provided slightly less protection. Two shots were 60% effective against the variant. The effectiveness of a dose of either vaccine, however, was much lower – only 33%.

Either way, in the US and UK, around 42% of the population is fully vaccinated. In India, where the virus has increased in part thanks to the rapid spread of Delta, only 3.3% of the population has achieved full vaccination.

During the press conference, Fauci urged those who have not been vaccinated to get the first shot and reminded those who are partially vaccinated not to skip their second dose. The Biden administration hopes that 70% of the population will be at least partially vaccinated by July 4. In the UK, Delta quickly replaced Alpha to become the dominant strain, and cases are now on the rise. “We can’t let this happen in the United States,” Fauci said.



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Clinical trials are better, faster and cheaper with big data



“One of the most difficult parts of my job is enrolling patients in studies,” says Nicholas Borys, chief medical officer of Lawrenceville, NJ, biotechnology company Celsion, which develops chemotherapy and immunotherapy agents from new generation for liver and ovarian cancer and certain types of brain tumors. Borys estimates that less than 10% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials. “If we could reach 20% or 30%, we would probably have beaten several cancers by now.”

Clinical trials test new drugs, devices and procedures to determine if they are safe and effective before they are approved for general use. But the road from study design to approval is long, winding, and costly. Today, researchers are using artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics to speed up the process, reduce costs, and deliver effective treatments to those who need them faster. And they’re tapping into an underutilized but rapidly growing resource: patient data from past trials

Build external controls

Clinical trials typically involve at least two groups, or “arms”: a test or experimental arm that receives study treatment and a control arm that does not. A control arm may not receive any treatment, placebo, or the current standard of care for the condition being treated, depending on the type of treatment being studied and what it is compared to under the study protocol. It’s easy to see the recruitment problem for researchers studying therapies for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses: Patients with life-threatening illnesses need help now. While they may be willing to take a risk with a new treatment, “the last thing they want is to be randomized into a control arm,” Borys says. Combine this reluctance with the need to recruit patients with relatively rare diseases – for example, a form of breast cancer characterized by a specific genetic marker – and the time to recruit enough people can stretch over months or even weeks. years. Nine out of ten clinical trials around the world, not only for cancer but for all types of conditions, fail to recruit enough people on time. Some trials fail completely for lack of a sufficient number of participants.

What if the researchers did not need to recruit a control group at all and could offer the experimental treatment to everyone who agreed to participate in the study? Celsion is exploring such an approach with New York-headquartered Medidata, which provides electronic data capture and management software for more than half of the world’s clinical trials, serving most of the major pharmaceutical companies and medical devices, as well as university medical centers. Acquired by French software company Dassault Systèmes in 2019, Medidata has compiled an enormous “big data” resource: detailed information on more than 23,000 trials and nearly 7 million patients dating back approximately 10 years.

The idea is to reuse patient data from previous trials to create “external control arms”. These groups perform the same function as traditional control arms, but they can be used in contexts where a control group is difficult to recruit: for extremely rare diseases, for example, or conditions such as cancer, which involve life threatening imminently. They can also be used effectively for “one-arm” trials, which make a control group impractical: for example, to measure the effectiveness of an implanted device or of a surgical procedure. Perhaps their most valuable immediate use is in rapid preliminary trials, to assess whether a treatment is worth pursuing until a full clinical trial.

Medidata uses artificial intelligence to probe its database and find patients who have served as witnesses in previous treatment trials for a certain condition to create its proprietary version of external control arms. “We can carefully select these historical patients and match the current experimental arm with historical test data,” says Arnaub Chatterjee, senior vice president of products, Acorn AI at Medidata. (Acorn AI is the data and analytics division of Medidata.) Trials and patients are matched for study objectives – so-called endpoints, such as reduction in mortality or how long patients stay cancer-free – and for other aspects of the study designs, such as the type of data collected at the start of the study and along the way.

When creating an external control arm, “We do everything we can to mimic an ideal randomized controlled trial,” says Ruthie Davi, vice president of data science, Acorn AI at Medidata. The first step is to search the database for potential candidates for the control arm using the main eligibility criteria of the investigational trial: for example, the type of cancer, the main characteristics of the disease and its stage of development. progress, and whether this is the patient’s first time to be treated. It’s essentially the same process used to select control patients in a standard clinical trial, except that data recorded at the start of the previous trial, rather than the current trial, is used to determine eligibility, says Davi. “We are finding historic patients who would be eligible for the trial if they existed today.”

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This content was produced by Insights, the personalized content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by the editorial staff of the MIT Technology Review.



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