The top ten games from E3 2018

In spite of countless leaks and pre-show announcements, this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) still managed to surprise us. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the presence of so many well-crafted, single-player delights. We were also happy to see way fewer battle royale cash-ins than we’d feared—though maybe they are just taking longer to develop.

Since attending the show last week, our E3 brain trust (Kyle Orland, Sam Machkovech, Samuel Axon) has been arguing over our favorite hands-on and hands-off demos. We managed to settle on this definitive top-ten list, along with a slew of honorable mentions.

Our selected games are listed in alphabetical order, not ranked.

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Sherpa, the Spanish personal assistant, launches an API for its predictive AI with Porsche as 1st customer

Sherpa, a personal assistant startup that has carved out a niche for itself by focusing on the Spanish-language market (alongside English) and predictive suggestions, is expanding. The company is launching a set of APIs called the Sherpa Platform, which will let other businesses tap into its predictive recommendations and use them in their own consumer-facing services. Sherpa — based out of Bilbao, Spain and Palo Alto — is also announcing its a customer for the service: Porsche, which plans to use the service in its connected car services in its luxury vehicles.

In addition to the automotive sector, Sherpa plans to target the home and mobile segments with its Platform APIs, and it has some deals specifically with other automotive companies and telecoms carriers in the works.

The expansion comes at the same time that Sherpa has passed three million downloads of its app, which currently has 800,000 active users, with 80-90 percent of those Spanish. Founder and CEO Xabi Uribe-Etxebarria said that growth has been largely word-of-mouth, and that the primary aim up to now has been not scaling out — the app has been free and not trying to monetise — but gathering enough users to help train its systems as it continued to build out its product.

“There were two reasons for launching Sherpa Platform: one to start monetising since we hadn’t before,” said Uribe-Etxebarria, “and two because we saw that we had a lot of interest from telcos and car manufacturers for a B2B2C product.”

It’s also in the process of raising money. Sherpa has so far grown up on a very modest $6.5 million of funding, from Alma Mundi Innvierte Fund, FCRE, and unnamed private investors (“celebrities” says Uribe-Extebarria). The company is close to completing a bridge round for later this year of around $8 million, ahead of a larger Series B. Uribe-Extebarria says he has spoken to “all the usual names” in the US — he splits his time between Spain and California — and also a number of investors in Europe.

There have been a number of companies doubling down on using machine learning and natural language processing to develop personal AI systems that respond to voice commands to either provide information or carry out simple digital tasks, either on their own devices or on those of third party hardware makers: Amazon has its Echo speakers and Alexa; Apple has Siri and a range of hardware that runs it; Google’s Assistant goes everwhere that Android does; Microsoft has Cortana; and even Samsung (once a close partner of Sherpa’s) has rolled out its own Bixby assistant.

Sherpa has, in that context, worked to differentiate itself in a few ways.

The first of these was being an early mover — Sherpa was founded in 2012 — in building out a system for Spanish speakers, covering a number of different regional dialects in what is considered to be the world’s second-most popular language after Chinese. Several of the large tech companies that have built personal assistants, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, all now also support Spanish, although Alexa does not; but none have as extensive support as Sherpa, which currently has seven types of Spanish dialects, and four for English. “We are focusing more on quality than quantity of languages,” he said. That said, the company does have plans to add more languages next year — an effort that it will be raising money to target 

The second of these has been a focus on predictive technology, not just answering questions dictated into the app, or carrying out small tasks, but also providing a voice-based interface that talks to the user in the same way that a human personal assistant might do: it learns what kinds of things you might want to know about, and then it proceeds to tell you about these, before you ask. This could be notifications about new incoming emails from specific people that are then read out to you — a handsfree experience that comes in handy in situations like driving — or news about subjects that you follow.

Uribe-Etxebarria says that the predictive engine is currently the crux of the company’s technical development: it actually uses third-party technology for automatic speech recognition and text-to-speech capabilities. “What we focus on is using natural language processing for predictive recommendations and conversation,” he said. “For us, the other tools are now commodities, since there are other companies that do these well, and their are cheap. That’s why we want to focus on things that others do not do, and providing recommendations, and cross-domain recommendations, is what we are good at.”

The third way that Sherpa has differentiated itself to date is that it doesn’t have any skin in the game in the way that the other businesses that have launched personal assistants do.

“We only focus on personal assistants that provide predictive capabilities,” he said. “And I’m sure that the others will do this better and better, so even this isn’t our complete advantage. Ours is that we are an independent platform. It means that companies like Porsche or others do not see us as a potential competitor, but a partner.” This is especially notable, considering that the larger tech companies have long been seen as competitors among carriers, and now more recently automotive makers, who may need to rely on them for some connected car capabilities but do not want to fully relinquish ownership of their customers in the process.




Air Force tests two turboprops as potential A-10 “replacements”

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The US Air Force has kicked off the procurement for another round of wing replacements for A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, known affectionately by many as the Warthog. With new wings, the A-10s will help fill a gap left by the delayed volume delivery of F-35A fighters, which were intended to take over the A-10’s close air support (CAS) role in “contested environments”—places where enemy aircraft or modern air defenses would pose a threat to supporting aircraft. For now, the A-10 is being used largely in uncontested environments, where the greatest danger pilots face is small arms fire or possibly a Stinger-like man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) missile. But the Warthog is also being deployed to Eastern Europe as part of the NATO show of strength in response to Russia.

While the A-10 will keep flying through 2025 under current plans, Air Force leadership has perceived (or was perhaps convinced to see) a need for an aircraft that could take over the A-10’s role in low-intensity and uncontested environments—something relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain that could be flown from relatively unimproved airfields to conduct armed reconnaissance, interdiction, and close air support missions. The replacement would also double as advanced trainer aircraft for performing weapons qualifications and keeping pilots’ flight-time numbers up.

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North Korea’s Kim visits Beijing; South Korea, U.S. halt military drill

BEIJING/SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, where he will likely brief Chinese President Xi Jinping on his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last week, as Washington and Seoul agreed to suspend a major joint military exercise.

How to Change a File Type’s Default App in macOS

Each document that you have on your Mac is associated with a default application which macOS uses to open the file whenever you double-click on its icon in Finder.

Sometimes you may have a legitimate reason for changing which app your Mac automatically launches when you open a common file type – when a newly installed app assumes control of it, or when you want to open AVI video files in VLC instead of QuickTime, for instance. The following steps show you how to do just that.

  1. In a Finder window, right-click (or Ctrl-click) the file whose default launch app you want to change.

  2. From the contextual menu, select Open With -> Other….

  3. A new navigation window will appear for you to select an alternative app to open the selected file. In our example, we’re selecting the VLC media player app.

  4. Tick the checkbox next to Always Open With to ensure your selection applies in future to all files with the same extension (AVI files, in our case). If you don’t see the checkbox, click the Options button at the lower left of the window and it should appear.

  5. Click Open.

If the app that you want to use to open the file type is greyed out, it’s because macOS doesn’t think there’s a valid association between the two. In most cases this is correct, but you can still override it by changing the Recommended Applications view to All Applications using the Enable: dropdown menu.

There’s another way you can change a file type’s associated app in macOS: Right-click (or Ctrl-click) on the file in a Finder window and select Get Info.

In the information dialog that appears, you should see the Open with: section immediately below the Comments: section (click the chevron buttons to expand individual sections). Select Other… in the drop-down menu of apps to select one not already in the list, and then click Change All… to apply the association to all files with the same extension.

Related Roundups: macOS High Sierra, macOS Mojave

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Rare Japanese unicorn Mercari sparkles in market debut, looks to U.S.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Flea market app operator Mercari Inc’s shares surged 77 percent in their Tokyo stock market debut on Tuesday, underscoring strong investor appetite for a rare Japanese unicorn bent on U.S. expansion.