Epic Games, creators of the wildly popular video game Fortnite, just got a $2 billion investment from legacy entertainment giants Sony Group Corp. and Kirkbi, the family-owned company behind The Lego Group. Sony and Kirkbi will each invest $1 billion in Epic.
Headquartered in Cary, N.C., Epic Games was founded by CEO Tim Sweeney in 1991. In addition to Fortnite, Epic developed the 3D game engine Unreal Engine. Today the company has some 40 offices around the world.
“This investment will accelerate our work to build the metaverse and create spaces where players can have fun with friends, brands can build creative and immersive experiences and creators can build a community and thrive,” Sweeney says in a statement.
More simply put, the partnership of Lego and Epic will “build a fun place for kids to play in the metaverse!” as Epic tweeted when it announced a partnership with Lego a few days ago.
Jose Najarro, a contributing analyst at The Motley Fool who covers the tech and gaming industries, tells NPR the $2 billion investment “affirms that the metaverse has a future for the gaming community.” He adds that it could also further Epic’s game engine development: “Unreal Engine is a software tool to create and design video games, and could be an essential tool for creating the metaverse.”
For Sony the investment will advance its “development of new digital fan experiences in sports and our virtual production initiatives,” says Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, president and CEO of Sony Group Corp.
Najarro says Epic’s main competitors, Unity Software and Roblox, will face a competitor with more money and greater resources: “The partnership with Sony and Lego could provide Epic Games with other forms of assets (trademarks, digital products, physical products).”
A rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin carried its fifth group of passengers to the edge of space, including the first-ever Mexican-born woman to make such a journey.
The 60-foot-tall suborbital rocket took off from Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas at 9:26am ET, vaulting a group of six people to more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface — which is widely deemed to make the boundary of outer space — and giving them a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting to landing.
Most of the passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity to join this mission from a pool of thousands of applicants. The organization’s goal is to send “exceptional leaders” to space and allow them to experience the overview effect, a phenomenon frequently reported by astronauts who say that viewing the Earth from space give them a profound shift in perspective.
Echazarreta told CNN Business that she experienced that overview effect “in my own way.”
“Looking down and seeing how everyone is down there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything — everything is there,” she said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I need people to see this. I need Latinas to see this. And I think that it just completely reinforced my mission to continue getting primarily women and people of color up to space and doing whatever it is they want to do.”
Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space and the second Mexican after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in 1985.
She moved to the United States with her family at the age of seven, and she recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back.
“It just really fueled me and I think ever since then, ever since the third grade, I kind of just went off and have not stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram interview.
When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said she was also the main breadwinner for her family on a McDonald’s salary.
“I had sometimes up to four [jobs] at the same time, just to try to get through college because it was really important for me,” she said.
These days, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She also boasts a following of more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series and is a presenter on the weekend CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”
Space for Humanity — which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight himself — chose her for her impressive contributions. “We were looking for some like people who were leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are doing really great work in the world already, and people who are passionate about whatever that is,” Rachel Lyons, the nonprofit’s executive director, told CNN Business.
The film, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 23, will follow three generations of a family of explorers and take viewers “to a place of infinite mystery unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” according to a trailer released by the studio earlier this month.
Several Hollywood powerhouses have been confirmed as part of the voice cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Dennis Quaid and Jaboukie Young-White.
On Friday, Disney screened three sequences from the film at the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, one of the world’s most important festivals for the film animation industry that takes place in the city of Annecy, in southeast France.
In one of them, Ethan (Young-White) flirts with a boy named Diazo in front of his friends, who tease him in a friendly way.
His father, Searcher Clade (Gyllenhaal), later joins in and embarrasses him in “an overeager show of acceptance,” as the scene is described by Variety.
Emmy Award-winning producer Matthieu Saghezchi, who also saw the sequence, wrote on Twitter that the scene is “very endearing” and it’s “treated as the most natural thing in the world.”
“The scene describes the son being very shy in front of his boy crush, and his dad comes in and says “so nice to meet you! my son talks about you all the time” and further embarrasses his son,” Saghezchi wrote. “Very cute.”
The refreshing nod to inclusivity comes as “Lightyear,” the much-anticipated “Toy Story” spinoff, was reportedly banned in 14 countries over a brief same-sex kiss.
The Disney-Pixar computer-animated adventure film starring Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear features a kiss between Alisha, voiced by the actress Uzo Aduba, and her wife Kiko.
On Monday, the United Arab Emirates announced that the film would not be shown in the country “due to its violation of the country’s media standards.”
According to Reuters, at least 13 other countries in Asia and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and Lebanon, have also banned the film.
“Lightyear,” which opens in 4,200 North American theaters this weekend, is expected to make between $70 million and $80 million.
Click here to read the full article on Love B Scott.
When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.
To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.
The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.
Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.
Mayim Bialik, best known as the current host of Jeopardy! and as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the smash series The Big Bang Theory, is an honest-to-goodness Renaissance woman.
She’s a neuroscientist, a mother, an animal rights activist and mental health advocate.
An author, actor, game show host and, with the release this spring of As They Made Us, a movie director.
And she’s not done yet.
The Renaissance Woman
In the tradition of Renaissance women from all eras, Bialik is ever diversifying her ambitions, her skill-set, her scope. They’re grounded in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Bialik said she didn’t take to science until her teens, when a tutor helped her build a model of a cell out of Styrofoam.
“I could touch that Styrofoam cell,” she told ScienceNewsforStudents. “It was just amazing. It was amazing that it thrilled me the way looking at art thrilled me.”
Nowadays, she added, “I try to put a positive face on STEM and a female face in STEM.”
Bialik, 46, who is modern Orthodox Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, earned a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and a doctor of philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA. Her dissertation was titled, “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome.” We’ll break that down later.
She started her acting career as a teen, with roles in Pumpkinhead and Beaches, as well as guest appearances on The Facts of Life, Beauty and the Beast and Webster. In 1994, she earned a major role in Woody Allen’s comedy film, Don’t Drink the Water. She also played the title character of the NBC sitcom, Blossom.
She worked steadily in Hollywood for the next decade before landing her role on The Big Bang Theory, in which she played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler. She was nominated for Emmy awards in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2017.
In 2021, it was announced that Bialik would host the primetime version of Jeopardy! After Mike Richards stepped down from hosting the syndicated version of the show, Bialik started hosting that version, too, sharing duties with Ken Jennings. Moving forward, it’s unclear how producers will handle the hosting situation, but Bialik said it’s a joy working on the show.
“One of my biggest challenges is I’m so impressed that people know the answers that they’ve asked me to tone down how excited I am when people get them right, which I think is a great note to get,” she told DailyBeast.
Advancing STEAM Through Activism
She also hosts a podcast, Mayim Bialik’sBreakdown, that focuses on debunking the misconceptions surrounding mental health and neurodivergence with the help of friends, guest experts and media personalities.
Bialik is a vegan and a founding member of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, a Jewish organization that advocates for the ethical treatment of animals.
Another cause close to her heart is increasing opportunities for girls and women to pursue STEAM educations and careers.
“It’s an incredibly enlightening way to view the world once you’ve been trained in STEM,” Bialik has said. “It’s a smart career choice, and it’s a creative and exciting lifestyle to be a scientist.”
Bialik has written books — such as Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular — geared toward empowering girls and women, partnered with toy companies to create STEAM-friendly toys for girls and teamed with DeVry University and the HerWorld Initiative to get high school girls excited about STEAM, among other ventures.
“I love encouraging young women to embrace the sciences,” she has said.
What’s her advice to parents and counselors?
“Educate ourselves by using the resources in libraries and online to find new ways to understand our world. Also, encouraging kids to see the hidden STEM opportunities all around them. When we cook or bake, it’s math and chemistry. When we observe weather patterns or even changes in our body, these are all wonders of the STEM awareness kids naturally have!”
Bucking the Stereotypes
Remember her dissertation? In case you scientists, or budding scientists, are wondering what “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome” means, here’s a breakdown: Abstract Prader–Willi Syndrome is a neurogenetic disorder that causes obesity. The hypothalamus regulates aspects of the nervous system. “Satiety” refers to satiated, or absence of hunger. So Bialik was intrigued by the links between the nervous system, consumption behaviors and obesity in those who deal with Prader–Willi Syndrome.
A mouthful, for sure. But interesting, yes?
Bialik, it seems, bucks easy, simplistic stereotypes, intersecting her social, emotional passions and strengths with the two roles she’s most famous for: actor and scientist.
Has the film she’s directed furthered that tendency? That’s up to viewers to decide, as is a thumbs-up-or-down.
The movie centers on a divorced mother juggling her family’s needs and her own quest for love. Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen and Simon Helberg star.
“It’s very vulnerable,” she told TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest. “It’s not an autobiography, but it’s totally things that are based on my life and some things did happen and other things didn’t and… here we go!”
Here’s a passage from film critic Christy Lemire’s review in RogerEbert.com: “As They Made Us is most effective in its gentle, intimate, everyday moments, and Bialik mercifully refrains from melodrama…”
Lemire continues, saying the film “is clearly a personal debut effort for Bialik, but she shows enough confidence behind the camera to make you curious about whatever other stories she has to tell.”
Which provokes, for Bialik fans, a pressing question: What’s her next chapter?
There is no point in denying it, but automation is the future. Imagine a world where your TV pauses the movie or the show that you’re watching when it senses that you’ve stood up to fetch a fresh bowl of popcorn, and resumes playing the content when you return. Or how about a computer that senses you’re stressed out at work and starts playing some mellow and relaxing tunes?
Well, as futuristic as these ideas seem, most of these things are happening now. However, one of the biggest reasons why it hasn’t taken off with a bang, is that these systems use cameras to record and analyse user behaviour. The problem with using cameras in such systems is that it raises a ton of privacy concerns. After all, people are actually paranoid about their computers and smartphones, keeping an eye on them.
Google is actually working on a new system, that records and analyses users’ movement and behaviour, without using cameras. Instead, the new tech uses radar to read your body movements and understand your mood and intentions, and then act accordingly.
The basic idea for the new system is, that a device will use radar to create spatial awareness, and will monitor the space for any changes, and then send out instructions in compliance with what the user would want the system to do.
This isn’t the first time that Google has played with the idea of using spatial awareness-based stimuli for its devices. In 2015, Google unveiled the Soli sensor, which used radar-based electromagnetic waves to pick up precise gestures and movements. Google first used the sensor in Google Pixel 4, when it used simple hand gestures for various inputs, like snoozing alarms, pausing music, taking screenshots etc. Google has also used the radar-based sensor, in the Nest Hub smart display, to study the movement and breathing patterns of a person sleeping next to it.
Studies and experiments around the Soli sensor are now enabling computers to recognize our everyday movements and make new kinds of choices.
The new study focuses on proxemics, the study of how people use space around them to mediate social interactions. This assumes that devices such as computers and mobile phones have their own personal space.
So when there are any changes in the personal space, the radar picks this up and sends out instructions. For example, a computer can boot up, without you needing to press a button.
Just days after “Obi-Wan Kenobi” debuted on Disney+ May 27, star Moses Ingram has already received countless hateful social media messages.
Ingram plays a Jedi hunter Inquisitor named Reva, who actively tracks down Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. While Lucasfilm and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” director Deborah Chow anticipated fan hate toward a Black female character, Ingram addressed the onslaught of DMs and comments she has received thus far.
“Long story short, there are hundreds of those. Hundreds,” Ingram said in an Instagram video after screenshotting messages that threatened her and called her racial slurs. “And I also see those of you out there who put on a cape for me and that really does mean the world to me because, you know, there’s nothing anybody can do about this. There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. And so I question my purposes even being here in front of you saying that this is happening.”
Ingram continued, “I don’t really know. I don’t really know. But I think the thing that bothers me is that like, sort of this feeling that I’ve had inside of myself. This feeling that no one has told me, but like I just got to shut up and take it. I just got to bury it. And I’m not built like that. So I really just wanted to come on, I think, and say thank you to the people who show up for me in the comments and the places I’m not going to put myself. And to the rest of y’all, y’all weird.”
Ingram’s Instagram Stories included threats saying her days were “numbered” and slamming her for not being the first Black person in “Star Wars” history.
“You suck, loser. You’re a diversity hire and you won’t be loved or remembered for this acting role,” one message read.
Another said, “How the f**k does an alien know eubonics?”
The “Queen’s Gambit” alum also included a soundbite from “The Read” podcast during which she said: “You know what’s really crazy, you would think sci-fi and fantasy would be the most welcoming, the most accepting genres because they are so often storylines that are ridiculous and made up of like, aliens and weird shit, comic book shit, and n***** having special powers and all that.”
The official “Star Wars” Twitter addressed the backlash to Ingram early Tuesday, posting, “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist.”
The “Star Wars” page continued, “There are more than 20 million sentient species in the Star Wars galaxy, don’t choose to be a racist.”
Ingram previously acknowledged that Lucasfilm “actually got in front” of the anticipated racism to her casting. “‘This is a thing that, unfortunately, likely will happen. But we are here to help you; you can let us know when it happens,’” Ingram said earlier this month. “Of course, there are always pockets of hate, but I have no problem with the block button.”
John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran formerly received racist fan harassment following their respective roles in the recent Skywalker trilogy, leading to Boyega having a “very honest, a very transparent conversation” with Disney executives to not sideline Black and POC characters in the franchise.
Click here to read the full article on Indie Wire.
The race to resume supersonic passenger flights decades after the retirement of Concorde was offered a glimmer of excitement on Monday when plane manufacturer Bombardier revealed high speed achievements while confirming the launch of its new business jet.
The Canadian company said the in-development Global 8000 will be “the world’s fastest and longest-range purpose-built business jet.”
With a capacity for up to 19 passengers, a range of 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 kilometers) and a top speed of Mach 0.94, the upcoming plane is expected to enter service in 2025, according to a statement from Bombardier.
The news comes after a Global 7500 test vehicle broke the sound barrier during a demonstration flight last May, achieving speeds of more than Mach 1.015.
The aircraft, accompanied by a NASA F/A-18 chase plane, also became the first Transport Category airplane to fly supersonic with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as a result of the flight, says Bombardier.
“The Global 8000 aircraft leverages the outstanding attributes of the Global 7500 aircraft, providing our customers with a flagship aircraft of a new era,” Éric Martel, president and CEO for Bombardier, said in a statement released on Monday.
Flight testing for the Global 8000 has already begun on Global 7500 flight-test vehicles. Bombardier says the upcoming aircraft will also have a cabin altitude equivalent to 2,900 feet.
Airbnb’s billionaire cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky is making his biggest philanthropic donation so far: a $100 million pledge to former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s charitable foundation for an initiative that links education and travel. The funds will go toward scholarships for college students pursuing careers in public service, according to an announcement from the Obama Foundation on Monday. The program, called the Voyager Scholarship, is intended to relieve students of college debt, enable them to travel and expand their horizons—and provide them with mentors.
The two-year program will provide students with up to $25,000 in financial aid for their junior and senior years of college. Recipients will also be given $10,000 and free Airbnb housing to go on a “summer voyage” where students will design their own work-travel program to “gain exposure to new communities.”
It doesn’t end there. For a decade after graduation, students will get $2,000 per year on Airbnb to travel where they wish and “forge new connections throughout their public service careers.” The first cohort of Voyager scholars will include 100 students.
“If we want this next generation of leaders to be able to do what they need to do, they have to meet each other. They have to know each other. They have to understand each other’s communities,” the former president says in a video announcing the scholarship.
Chesky, who Forbes estimates is worth $9 billion, will donate the $100 million for the Voyager Scholarship over a period of five years to the Obama Foundation, which will be in charge of the program.
The goal of the scholarship is to open the world to young leaders who would normally be too cash-strapped to travel. “There are young people across the country who have a passion for public service, but can’t pursue it because of their student loan debt. We want to help reduce that burden,” Chesky says in the video announcement.
Yaritza Velazquez-Medina took a chance on a major career turn when she decided to drop her work as a crisis counselor in 2018 to pursue her artistic passions. She enrolled at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles to become a graphic designer — even though she racked up about $70,000 in college debt to do so.
But after she crossed the stage Sunday to receive her diploma at commencement ceremonies, she and 284 other graduates in the Class of 2022 received stunning news: Their college debt would be completely paid off through the largest donation in the school’s century-old history by Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, who is founder of the beauty company Kora.
Charles Hirschhorn, Otis president, made the announcement during the commencement ceremony at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel, drawing gasps and cheers from the audience. Some graduates hugged, cried and jumped for joy.
“I’m speechless,” Velazquez-Medina said, tears streaming from her eyes.
Spiegel — whose creation of the popular instant messaging app with two former Stanford University classmates made him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015 — took summer classes at Otis during high school.
“It changed my life and made me feel at home,” Spiegel told the graduating class. “I felt pushed and challenged to grow surrounded by super talented artists and designers, and we were all in it together.”
Spiegel and Kerr are founders of The Spiegel Family Fund. They said in a statement that the college is “an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers.
“It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”
The donation comes as student loan debt has soared in the last few decades, driven by rising college costs and less public funding to cover them. More than 43 million Americans owe the federal government $1.6 trillion — an average $37,000 per person — making up the biggest share of consumer debt in the U.S. after mortgages.
In California alone, 3.8 million residents owe $141.8 billion, the largest share of any state. Those struggling most with crushing debt are disproportionately students who are low-income, underrepresented minorities and the first in their families to attend college.
The financial burden is harming mental health, delaying marriages, preventing home ownership and discouraging new businesses, researchers have found. The widespread effects are intensifying pressure on the Biden administration to craft a student debt relief plan; one proposal under consideration is federal forgiveness of at least $10,000 in debt for people making less than $125,000 a year.
The crisis has also prompted some donors to pay off student loan debt. In 2019, billionaire Robert Smith made national headlines when he announced he would cover the loan debt of the entire graduating class at Morehouse College by donating $34 million to the historically Black men’s school in Atlanta.
Hirschhorn did not disclose the size of the Spiegel family gift but said it surpassed the college’s previous largest gift of $10 million. Spiegel and Kerr offered their historic donation after Hirschhorn told them the college wanted to award the couple honorary degrees and invited them as commencement speakers this year. The couple was not available for an interview.
Click here to read the full article on Los Angeles Times.
In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, Panda Express has come together with designer Phillip Lim and his 3.1 Phillip Lim for a collection benefitting charity. The “Eat More, Share More, Love More” limited-edition apparel range not only marks Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month but also highlights the prevalent, yet often overlooked issue of food insecurity in the AAPI community. Proceeds from the collaboration will go towards ensuring that those in need will have access to safe and nutritious food.
100 percent of net proceeds will be donated to local organizations focused on food security, including Heart of Dinner, More Than a Meal, OCA-Greater Houston, Radical Family Farms, Respect Your Elders, and Welcome to Chinatown. Additionally, Panda Express and 3.1 Phillip Lim have launched the “Eat More, Share More, Love More” Fund, in partnership with GoFundMe. The fund invites people to add to Panda Express’ $20,000 USD donation to pledge for initiatives dedicated to AAPI culture and community.
Inspired by the importance of food in Asian cultures, the collaboration features a crewneck sweatshirt, T-shirt and cap. Each piece found in the range is marked with designs centered around family-style plate sharing an homage to tradition and cultural appreciation. The circular shape of the dish motif also represents unity during testing divisive times.
“As we continue to combat hate and fight for representation, we must also balance this out with nourishment and love. Food is the best way to bring people together. Bring bread to a table and you can create an instant community. Across cultures and throughout history, food is the universal love language. Through the simple act of sharing a meal, we give each other the space to experience humanity in its quintessence,” said Phillip Lim.
“We are proud to be spotlighting our community partners and collaborating with Phillip Lim, a powerhouse for AAPI advocacy, on an initiative that’s anchored in the power of food and its ability to bring healing and togetherness,” said Andrea Cherng, Chief Brand Officer at Panda Express. “The beauty of what we get to do every day at Panda is bridging cultures and providing care through food, and this collaboration is an extension of that mission as well as an invitation for all to come to the table, to see past labels, and to hear and help those in need.”