• Harrison Jones

Fresh on IT Block's radar 28th July

Using Teams to watch the NBA, record breaking Playstation releases, and much more in today's news fresh on our radar...

Fans can now watch the NBA virtually from court side using Microsoft Teams

In a bid to utilise the new "together mode" feature, the NBA is bringing fans back into its matches. Although this isn't literally real fans, it is an AI feature that brings together customised backgrounds and Teams users to create a virtual environment, where fans appear to be attending the game.

The feature works by having large LED screens sat around the basketball court, and up to 300 fans can attend a Teams meeting to each watch the match from the view of the TV cameras, just like they would at home. The bonus for the fans, and the players, is that they can be heard by the NBA stars, they can make virtual chant sounds via the NBA app as well as sing songs like they would normally in the arena.

Fans can now watch the NBA virtually from court side using Microsoft Teams

The NBA season is set to restart on Thursday 30th July, with this feature being one of the biggest things that fans can look forward to - The experience has also been used in the Major League Baseball season that started on Saturday 25th July. Not only can fans look forward to this virtual experience, but Microsoft is teaming up with the likes of the NBA to deliver live broadcasts via their Azure services, these updates will be the first of many, with Microsoft announcing it has agreed a multi-year deal with the NBA to become their official AI, cloud, and laptop provider.

Ghost of Tsushima smashes Japan Playstation sales record

As you'll be well aware, console gaming has edged further in popularity due to the stay at home orders - Sony's Playstation 4 game sales reached a new record in Japan recently for an individual (new) gaming brand. Ghost of Tsushima, developed by Sucker Punch Productions from Washington, managed to break the record for the most sales of a PS4 gaming title within its first week of release. More than 220,000 copies were sold in Japan alone within the first week, and Sony reported over 2.4 million copies from sales worldwide in the first 3 days after release.

The sales figures arrived in line with an impressive array of positive reviews - The new game from Sucker Punch Productions received a Metacritic score of 9.3/10, something not seen for a long time, if not ever...

Ghost of Tsushima smashes Japan Playstation sales record

Red Dead Redemption 2 only received a score of 8.4/10, while the Last of Us came closest, hitting a rating of 9.2/10. Could it be argued that Ghost of Tsushima is the greatest game of all time? Probably not - But it is definitely up in the top 5%. More importantly, the Metacritic score is based off more than 11,000 reviews, no game has ever reached that amount of reviews altogether, let alone within its first week.

As we draw ever closer to the time of the Playstation 5 console release, this is a positive sign that new releases are still drawing in gaming fanatics, instead of people deciding to stay with older titles - It is estimated that other new generation games could also see sales head into the 7 figure mark, with titles such as Gran Turismo 7 and Godfall set to hit the shelves in line with the release of the new generation of console, these titles will also be available on the new Xbox Series X.

Amazon Alexa is being made smarter than ever before

If you though Alexa might be listening in on you, you're probably wrong... But if you were wondering why Alexa is so good at understanding your requests, then read on:

Amazon has been working on 31 new features to their voice service, namely Amazon Alexa, which operates on devices like the Amazon Echo. As for people who own the Echo device, there are only a couple of key features you might want to know.

Amazon Alexa is being made smarter than ever before

Amazon's Alexa has been with us since 2014, included in products such as smart speakers and TVs, with the tech giant selling millions of copies of the service. The newest updates are said to be under-the-hood AI focused, and will give Alexa the ability to understand user's voice commands with 15% higher accuracy. Amazon are also rolling out "Apps for Alexa", so that mobile users can benefit from going hands-free for certain app use. This is especially helpful for those customers who already have Amazon Echo Buds or an Alexa built into their phone's configuration.

It is now possible to make voice-controlled instructions such as UberEats orders from smart screen devices - What's even more impressive is that Amazon's developers have made it possible to provide notifications and live tracking of your order, without the need to manually request your order status. Alexa will simply announce when your driver is a certain number of minutes away, as well as when the driver has arrived at your door. This feature is thanks to Amazon's implementation of a "skill resumption", which is programmed into smart devices to automatically determine the next announcement to make after a certain request (Such as the UberEats ordering process).

Facebook steps ahead in social media device security

In the world of social media, security has been brought to light as arguably the most important aspect. We've seen theories surrounding the safety of using TikTok, and now we've also witnessed Twitter get attacked directly by a group of skilled hackers, who logged into celebrity accounts and played a bitcoin scam to try and profit from the swift breach - They posted on accounts such as Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, as well as Tesla founder Elon Musk and the US Democratic leader Joe Biden.

Facebook steps ahead in social media device security

Facebook has seemingly been able to keep their security stance in a somewhat fair state this year - Well, besides THAT one breach back in February...But that was on Facebook's Twitter account, and not Facebook itself (ironically enough).

Facebook has implemented a face ID or touch ID security step for iPhone and iPad users. This now means that these users can activate fingerprint sensors or facial detection when opening or after closing off either their Facebook or Facebook Messenger application. This is especially useful when you don't want friends, family, or even a potential thief accessing your messaging activity.

If you're an Android user, don't worry! Sit tight, as we expect Facebook to release this in the next couple of months, and yes, those reports of it arriving for Android users are true, you can check the full announcement here if you'd like.

Webcam shortages are still a big problem

When it comes to working remotely, or simply being able to keep in touch with loved ones and family while you are miles apart, there's an ongoing issue with getting your hands on the all important webcam.

Global webcam supplier Logitech has been one of many brands seeing a continued surge in demand. A spokesman for the company said they were still struggling with increased demand. Having only just satisfied all of their March orders, they now expect supply levels to be more manageable, as they switch to air freight instead of using boats and ferries for some courier links.

Webcam shortages are still a big problem

Due to a lot of people taking their equipment home from the office, remote workers have been facing struggles to get hold of webcams as their monitors generally don't supply them. Laptop users are lucky enough to have these features built into their devices, but some people like to upgrade, and webcam suppliers will also be dealing with customers wanting to purchase their mid-to-high ranges of products, as they want to be seen in HD in either work call or meetings, or even remote family gatherings.

Those hunting for the webcams, the products now being commonly referred to as "gold dust", have found that prices are badly inflated, and a lot of the big name brands are hard to find stock of. It is even harder to get them delivered within days, as supply chains are being stretched past their normal limits.

The surge in demand is for people wanting to use webcams through collaboration and calling services like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Not only those, but for avid streamers as well, where Twitch has seen a big uptick in both new streaming accounts, as well as the number of viewers on the platform.

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