Blizzard Balance Gifting is Now Available



Blizzard Entertainment is now allowing players to send Blizzard Balance to their friends. This is a brand new change that will give players the option to send some of their own Blizzard Balance to a friend who also plays Blizzard’s games.

We’re expanding our gifting service by allowing you to send Blizzard Balance to your friends, offering you the benefits of retail gift cards in a new and easy-to-use digital format.

Blizzard Balance is an electronic balance players can use to purchase Blizzard Entertainment games and services. Funds added to Blizzard Balance are not refundable and cannot be converted into cash. Blizzard Balance can only be used to buy designated Blizzard Entertainment products and services.

You cannot use Blizzard Balance to make a purchase on the PlayStation Store or Xbox Marketplace. This is worth pointing out because some players are playing Overwatch and Diablo III on consoles.

To send a Blizzard Balance gift, the first thing you need to do is visit the Blizzard Shop. Select one of the suggested values – or enter a custom amount. Click the “Gift Balance” button and select the friend you want to send it to.

Blizzard will deliver your gift to your friend, along with a notification and personalized message. Your friend will then be able to claim the digital gift card balance onto their account. Players will also be notified on the Blizzard App when a friend has sent them Blizzard Balance – and can claim that gift through the app.


Activision Launched a Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill



Activision has launched the Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill. It is currently available in Beta, and will function as an additional ally for Call of Duty: WWII players.

The Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill features an array of support options, including personalized player recommendations, updates on in-game achievements and the ability to stay connected with and compare your play with friends.

Did you just play a match of Call of Duty: WWII and want to know how you did as well as how to improve your chances next time? Ask Alexa how to improve your skills, and you’ll get a personalized recommendation ready for your next match. Want to know if your friends are online and playing Call of Duty: WWII? Just ask Alexa. The skill supports Call of Duty: WWII and is available free of charge, through the Alexa companion app.

The Call of Duty: WWII Alexa Skill employs AI and machine learning to create personalized recommendations, including specific loadouts, play styles, maps, modes, perks and divisions for each player. Using cluster analysis, the machine learnng model analyzes more than 20 factors, including accuracy, movement, engagement distance, K/D, shots, score per minute, time played, and relationships to other players to make personalized recommendations for each player.

The Skill then employs natural language generation to create personalized responses to 2,500 questions about the game and an individual’s performance. Using a soldier-like voice, the Skill can deliver 250,000 distinct responses that incorporate real-time statistics, status and recommendations from the game.

There are 15 categories of features in the Call of Duty Alexa Skill for Call of Duty: WWII, including:

  • Personalized recommendations to improve your skills
  • Match summaries, and highlights of your recent gameplay
  • Social features, including whether friends are currently playing, and comparing your stats and achievements to theirs.
  • Contract and order status, both during and after a match, so that you see how close you are to completing the contract and earning a reward
  • Latest in-game news, including events and game updates
  • Game and feature descriptions

Hospital VR Experience for Children at Wearable Technology Show



It’s stressful enough as an adult to go into hospital for an operation or procedure. Much as you know it’s for your own good and the doctors are there for your benefit, hospitals are still unfamiliar territory for most people and there are machines which you’re not quite to sure what they do and whether the beeping noise is normal.

Imagine how much worse it is for children when they go into hospital: they’re already unwell and in pain, and now have to cope with strangers and scary machines. It’s all very intimidating – the child will be afraid and uncooperative.

To help with this, the team at JSC have developed a game-based VR experience for children where the child is taken through a medical procedure with the help of a friendly in-game character. The child gets a 1st person view, interacting with the characters and exploring the hospital in a fun way. The child sees it as a game and enjoys the experience, instead of being afraid.

When it comes to the real thing, the VR pre-experience increases the success of the procedure, reduces the child’s stress and anxiety, and increases the active participation of the child. Currently the medical procedures include injections, blood-taking, x-ray, anaesthesia and surgery.

JSC is a South Korean company and the interview at the Wearable Technology Show took place with the assistance of a translator. I spoke with SeHwan Lee, JSC’s Chief Business Development Officer, but it’s the translator’s voice in the interview.


Steam Spy is Shutting Down



Steam Spy announced that it will be shutting down. This decision comes as a result of Steam’s new Profile Privacy Settings. The result is that Steam Spy will no longer be able to obtain the information it needs to keep going.

Ars Techinca reported that Steam Spy was a sales-estimate service, born from an Ars data project. The service launched in 2015, nearly a year to the day that Ars senior gaming editor Kyle Orland published his extensive, data-sampling “Steam Gauge” feature. That feature measured game ownership and playtime estimates based on the huge sampling size afforded by Steam’s default privacy settings.

Valve recently updated Steam’s Profile Privacy Settings. The update expanded upon user’s Profile Privacy Settings page, and is intended to give user’s more control over the privacy of their Steam account.

You can now select who can view your profile’s “game details”, which includes the list of games you have purchased or whitelisted, along with achievements and playtime. This setting also controls whether you’re seen as “in-game” and the title of the game you are playing.

Additionally, regardless of which setting you choose for your profile’s game details, you now have the option to keep your total game playtime private.

The Steam Spy Twitter account (which is run by Sergey Galyonkin) posted a tweet in response to Steam’s Profile Privacy Settings update. The tweet said “Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default. Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default and won’t be able to operate anymore.”

A follow up tweet provide some clarification. “To reiterate – it’s not because of the new privacy settings. It’s because Steam just made everyone’s gaming library hidden by default (this wasn’t in their blog post).”


Back in the Saddle #1274



Ok gang back in the saddle thanks to Kirk for hosting the last show. I have a monster show for you and there are some topics in the show notes today that I could not cover so enjoyu the extra cobntent. Remember audio only shows for the next 3 weeks.

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Phoenix Labs Announced Date of Dauntless Beta



Phoenix Labs has announced the date of the Dauntless Open Beta. Phoenix Labs thanked everyone who had joined the Closed Beta and shared their feedback.

We’re dedicated to expanding the world of Dauntless with your continued feedback and inspiration. Open Beta is an exciting milestone, but we’re still far from done. We will continue to create the game that Slayers will be proud to call their own for years to come. You can stay up to date with what’s coming to Dauntless at the Dauntless Road Map.

Phoenix Labs said that the Open Beta signals a foundational level of stability and permanence. They will be looking to players to provide hands-on feedback with the new improvements and systems that are coming to the game.

In order to fully Beta test the changes that Phoenix Labs is making to progression, island exploration, and other systems, they will be performing two full-server wipes in the coming months. The first one will happen on May 2, coinciding with the release of a major update to progression and Evergame content. The second full-server wipe will take place on May 22, in preparation for the Open Beta.

Phoenix Labs will be announcing a reward structure for current Beta testers. “Depending on your progress in the current and future stages of the Closed Beta, you will receive special cosmetic items as a reward for your support.” More details about that will be coming soon.


Advanced Textiles Research at Wearable Technology Show



I’ve been attending the Wearable Technology Show for a couple of years now and it’s been interesting to see the change in fabrics, yarns and threads. In particular, the conductive wires for LEDs have gone from being obvious to almost invisible. If the LED wasn’t powered up, it would be unnoticeable except close up.

The Advanced Textiles team at Nottingham Trent University in England were demonstrating some of their latest yarns and explaining how their research had helped create yarns with LEDs and other electronics inside. M-Nour from the team took me through their latest developments.

The basic idea is that by encapsulating small electronics within resin and connecting with very flexible wires, the yarn can be used in a wide range of fabrics and clothing without affecting the drape, wash-ability and durability.

Although LEDs are eye-catching, there’s much potential with sensors, such as socks with woven-in thermistors (temperature sensors) for people with diabetes, or gloves with accelerometers to measure vibration for workmen using pneumatic drills. There’s even the possibility to embed RFID chips for the tracking of clothing (and their wearer).

It’s all impressive stuff and I wonder what will be available next year.


ProGlove Scans from the Back of the Hand at Wearable Technology Show



Laser barcode scanners have revolutionised stock management and inventory processing in a wide range of industries and they’re ubiquitous at the supermarket checkout. Many of these scanners are handheld models that are constantly picked up and put down as needed, but ProGlove offers an alternative with the barcode scanner that’s fitted on the back of a glove. I chat with Aaron from ProGlove as the company brings to the scanner to the UK.

Even to someone who doesn’t work in this space, the benefits are obvious. A worker isn’t constantly picking up and putting down the scanner and the scanner comes with the worker without any thought; it doesn’t get left behind on a shelf. It’s ingenious and solves a couple of problems in one go. The scanner follows all the major standards and integrating the ProGlove scanner into an existing setup should be straightforward.

ProGlove have already worked with a number of big names – Audi, BMW, Skoda, John Deere, Bosch – so it looks like they’ve a good thing going here.


The Plex Skill for Alexa has been Updated



The Plex Skill for Alexa has been updated to improve the way you listen to your music library by including support for Artist, Time Travel, and Library radio stations, recently introduced in Plexamp.

You can now make your very own radio stations out of your own music collection. Library radio plays popular songs from artists throughout your entire music library. Time Travel radio starts with the earliest released music and works forward. And the all-new Artist radio plays tracks inspired by your favorite artists.

It should be noted that Plex is offering free radio stations for a limited time. Radio stations will become a Plex Pass only feature at a later time.

Plex on Alexa has been available in the U.S. and U.K. It is now available for people who live in Canada, Australia, and India. With Plex on Alexa, explore all of these cool new features, totally hands-free, and fall in love with your music all over again!

The Plex website has more details about supported Alexa devices, voice commands you can give Alexa, officially supported Plex apps, and details about getting Plex for free.


FacebookPalooza! #1273



Hi everyone, Kirk here filling in for Todd while he is away in Las Vegas for NAB. I am sorry that I did not have an episode recorded for Monday. I was sick this past weekend and Monday. I am feeling better and I got a great episode for you all!