Monday, November 29, 2021

What If An A.I. Wrote Your Favorite Games

You've probably heard that the machines are coming for our jobs … and eventually our bodies. But what does this strange, machine-run future look like? To gain a sneak-peek into that world, we asked the A.I.-based text generator InferKit to rewrite some of our favorite games, and the results ranged from hilarious to outright eerie. Below are the A.I. rewrites – the seed text is in bold, and everything else is machine-generated. Batman: Arkham Asylum The inmates of Arkham Asylum have been set free – and it's up to Batman to bring order to the chaos and take back the asylum. Along the way, he reunites with some old allies and discovers an even deeper secret: he isn't the only one with a destiny, and this time, his isn't a fairy tale. What you don't know? It was designed by God to save his people. It has the power to send every human back to Heaven and reunite them with God. So why does the Great Spirit keep it locked away? And what's with that smell, anyway?  The Last of Us Joel and Ellie, brought together by harsh circumstances, must survive a brutal journey across the U.S. in a dangerous post-pandemic world. Two best friends, Joel and Ellie, survive the end of the world in a semi-ancient survivalist park. Traveling across the United States in search of food and water and finding more unexpected friends along the way. Endlessly imaginative, inspiring, and sometimes terrifying, this is an original survival adventure, like no other. This is the first book in a trilogy. There are four books. Super Mario Bros. The Mushroom Princess is being held captive by the evil Koopa tribe. It's up to you to rescue her before time runs out. The green plumber's missions also include helping a doll-like Princess Kameeze find the Unicorn Rod. Going back to the original Super Mario Bros., Yoshi's sidekick is Super Mario Bros. 3's Yoshi. And in Super Mario World, the mushroom-shaped dinosaur is the gamer's little brother. These companions give Mario new abilities when he picks up the controllers or stomps on certain power-ups in games. Copyright 2017 WTVM. All rights reserved. Alan Wake A dark presence stalks the small town of Bright Falls, pushing Alan Wake to the brink of sanity in his fight to unravel the mystery and save his love. Based on the comic book series If I Hadn't Met You Eduard, a husband and father who loses his family in a tragic accident, travels to parallel universes to seek a better fate for his beloved wife. This drama series tells the astonishing true story of Israel's most prominent spy who infiltrated the Syrian government in the 1960s.  Red Dead Redemption II America, 1899. The end of the wild west era has begun. After a robbery goes badly wrong in the western town of Blackwater, Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang are forced to flee. But at every turn, the traveling robbers find themselves faced with unintended challenges. Deep in the wilds of Iowa, they encounter the terrifying Mandrake, whose head is a hive of ravenous monsters … and who are on the lookout for fresh bodies. One by one, the members of the gang are picked off, revealing the truly terrible fate that awaits those who cross the Mandrake. Despite his unstable nature, Arthur is a gifted con man, as well as an expert marksman, skilled guitarist, master carpenter, and above all, a man of extraordinary cunning and resourcefulness. Trapped in a world where he never seems to fit in, can the mysterious detective help the dark-haired, blue-eyed half-Irish half-African boy realize his destiny, or will he become another statistic? Half-Life: Alyx The loss of the Seven-Hour War is still fresh. In the shadow of a rising Combine fortress known as the Citadel, residents of City 17 learn to live under the rule of their invaders. But among this scattered population are two of Earth's most resourceful scientists: Dr. James Vega and John Baxter. Dr. Vega builds a time machine and contacts John, offering his assistance and guaranteeing his safety. Together, the two of them make a plan: they will travel back to 1984, to try to convince then-President Elizabeth Shower to negotiate with the Combine. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt This world doesn't need a hero. It needs a professional. Enter the witcher, one of the last monster slayers for hire. Joslyn Mael: Most famous for the notorious Hollows murder case. I will not get too much into my life and profession. You'll have to make your own judgments. It's a long story and a very long time ago. Suffice to say, I grew up as a very strong child, and even though my parents were terrified of me, they also wanted me to know how to defend myself and use my right hand for good. I grew up, bought my own gun, got a job, and the rest is history. BioShock Infinite Indebted to the wrong people, with his life on the line, veteran of the U.S. Cavalry and now hired gun, Booker DeWitt has only one opportunity to wipe his slate clean. Escape the dark lands of Borderlands, a politically unstable nation in the not-too-distant future and repair his marriage before it's too late. His target? The mysterious anarchist villain Cipher. The result was Titanfall, a rebooted brand-new shooter where different modes could be combined together seamlessly. Set in the city-sized spaceport of Forward Operating Base, the map editors allowed for a dozen ways to play the game, from quick engagements to mission-based battles. Halo: Combat Evolved Bent on humankind's extermination, a powerful fellowship of alien races known as the Covenant is wiping out Earth's fledgling interstellar empire. It is a fight for survival. For their children's future. For the survival of the entire universe. A fight they are counting on you to join. In the original Halo, Master Chief leads a team of expert Spartans – along with an armored knight from an alien civilization – to face the Covenant in an epic struggle that will test your abilities, test your brotherhood and test the fate of the entire universe. Final Fantasy VII In Midgar, a city controlled by the mega-conglomerate Shinra Inc., the No. 1 Mako Reactor has been blown up by a rebel group, Avalanche. Avalanche leader Taiki Masaki has been seen walking amongst the ruins and filming the wreckage. In the Shinra Control Room, Shinra Corporate Executive Officer Hiroshi Amano tries to stop Shinra's CEO Tetsuya Tojo from starting a catastrophic weapon of mass destruction. Founded by three children born of Digimon-like monsters, Avalanche was believed to be destroyed when Mako Reactor 1 exploded, but the video footage proves otherwise. What do you think? Will we be playing A.I.-written games next year?
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    The best gear to give to the photographer in your life

    If your favorite person has a love of video or photography, a camera may be the best gift they’ll ever get. Some may want to capture their adventures with an action camera, while others may desire a mirrorless camera for portraits, movies or artistic shots. The technology is better than ever as camera makers try to stay ahead of smartphones with faster shooting speeds, sharper video and incredible autofocus. We found the best models for budgets ranging from $400 to $2,500, along with top accessories to complement their existing gear.GoPro Hero 10 BlackWill Lipman Photography for EngadgetFor the adventurer on your gift list, there’s no better action camera than the GoPro Hero 10 Black. It bests the previous Hero 9 Black model in a number of key ways, thanks mainly to the faster GP2 processor. That helps it deliver improved image quality, with higher resolution at up to 5.3K/30fps instead of 5K as before. It also offers improved noise reduction, smoother stabilization, more faithful color reproduction and better handling.Buy GoPro Hero 10 Black at Amazon - $499Buy Hero 9 Black at GoPro - $350Sony Alpha A6100Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / SonySony’s A6100 is a great gift idea for budding photographers, as it offers the best features of its APS-C mirrorless camera series at the best price. Chief among those is the incredibly reliable autofocus system with eye-detection and other AI tricks. Even with fast-moving action, the A6100 will nail focus for video or photos most of the time thanks to the extremely rapid tracking system. It also offers accurate colors, good low-light performance and a flip-up display that allows for selfies and vlogging, with sharp video capture at up to 4K. It’s also one of the best mirrorless camera deals around at $748, or $848 with a 16-50mm kit lens.Buy Sony Alpha A6100 at B&H - $848DJI Ronin SC gimbalDJIA gimbal is a great gift idea for video shooters, helping them boost production value with smooth tracking, panning and other shots. If your loved one has a mirrorless camera, the best option is DJI’s Ronin-SC model. It weighs just 2.4 pounds, 41 percent lighter than DJI’s original Ronin-S — making it easier to use for longer periods. It can stabilize just about any type of video as well, thanks to the ActiveTrack 3.0 mode and AI that can lock onto and track human or other subjects.Buy DJI Ronin SC at Amazon - $439Panasonic GH5Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetIf your gift recipient is into making YouTube videos, the Panasonic GH5 has been the vlogging camera of choice since it first came out . The 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor delivers pin-sharp 4K video downsampled from the full sensor at up to 60fps, with a 10-bit high-color option that makes editing easier afterwards. It also includes other necessities for vlogging like a flip-out display, in-body stabilization and dual high-speed card slots. With the arrival of the $1,700 GH5 II, the original GH5 is cheaper than it’s ever been at $1,300, giving your loved one a lot of camera for the money.Buy Panasonic GH5 at Amazon - $1,300Magnus VT-4000 TripodEngadgetIf your giftee is starting to get serious about video, the Magnus VT 4000 is the best budget tripod option out there. It’s lightweight at 8 pounds, but the anodized aluminum construction is strong enough to handle a mirrorless camera and accessories weighing up to 8.8 pounds. The lack of heft makes it practical for travel, while the fluid head allows for smooth tilts and pans. Other features include a middle spreader to keep things steady and legs that extend up to 64 inches so you can match the eyeline of your subjects.Buy Magnus VT-4000 tripod at Amazon - $199Canon EOS R6Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / CanonFor a serious camera gift that’s around $2,500, Canon’s 20-megapixel EOS R6 is the best hybrid model out there. It delivers up to 20 fps burst shooting speeds while the Dual Pixel AF nails focus on nearly every shot, whether in bright sunlight or dim lighting. It’s also a solid pick for video, letting you shoot 4K supersampled video at 60 fps with 10-bit log and HDR options for maximum editing flexibility — again, with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system that’s second to none. The caveat to that is overheating, which limits use for things like weddings and journalism.Buy Canon EOS R6 at Amazon - $2,499Joby GorillaPod 3KJobySome of the most useful gifts out there for vloggers are Joby’s famous mini-tripods, and the best one for the money is the GorillaPod 3K. Attaching your camera using the secure clip-in mounting plate is dead simple, and you can ensure that everything is even with the built-in level. The flexible legs let you set your camera anywhere to shoot or even wrap it around a tree or other object. The most common usage is as a vlogging handle, as vloggers can bend the legs forward to fit themselves into the video and steady out their shooting.Buy GorillaPod 3K at Amazon - $85SanDisk Extreme Pro SD cardWill Lipman Photography for Engadget / SanDiskYour favorite camera nerd can never have enough memory cards, but they can be a pretty pricey gift. SanDisk’s ExtremePro UHS-I SD cards are cheaper than UHS-II cards, but the 90 MB/s read/write speeds are fast enough for most types of photography and video. If your loved one needs that extra UHS-II speed, Lexar’s UHS-II SD 1667X (250MB/s) and 2000X (300MB/s) SD cards are solid picks.Buy SanDisk Extreme Pro (128GB) at Amazon - $25Buy Lexar 1667X (128GB) at Amazon - $50Buy Lexar 2000X (128GB) at Amazon - $95Rode VideoMic Go and Wireless GoRodeIf the vlogger in your life doesn’t already have one, Rode’s wireless and shotgun microphones are solid, affordable gifts. The VideoMic Go is ideal for interviews and run-and-gun shooting, thanks to the crisp directional audio and relative ease of use. It comes with a shock mount to eliminate bumps or vibrations that could interfere with sound and doesn’t require a battery, unlike past Rode models. Meanwhile, Rode’s Wireless Go is one of the most popular wireless lavalier mics out there, functioning as both a microphone and wireless transceiver. It offers a reliable connection and good audio quality, or you can maximize clarity by connecting an external 3.5mm microphone like Rode’s $40 SmartLav+, the Sennheiser Pro Audio ME2 or others.Buy Rode VideoMic Go at Amazon - $79Buy Wireless Mic Go at B&H - $199Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED PanelWill Lipman Photography for Engadget / NanliteA good light is an awesome tool in your favorite photographer or videographer’s arsenal, and a relatively affordable gift to boot. One of the best all-around models is the Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED Panel. It weighs just 4.8 ounces, but offers dimmable lighting across a range of colors, with adjustments either on the fixture or via a smartphone app. It mounts on any wall or light stand via a magnet or quarter-inch threads, has cordless operation and a battery that runs for 1.5 hours at full power (charged via USB). The most interesting feature is special effects that range from a cop car’s flashing lights, flames, candlelights, a lightning storm and more.Buy LitoLite mini LED panel at Amazon - $75Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20LWill Lipman Photography for EngadgetBackpacks are life for photographers and video shooters, so they make great gifts — if you get the right one. Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack 20L is a good choice, thanks to the stylish weatherproof design, internal dividers for laptops, cameras, lenses and more, a wrap-around zipper and a protected laptop sleeve. It offers excellent build quality and Peak Design backs that up with a lifetime warranty.Buy Peak Design Everyday Backpack at Amazon - $220Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 17.2Blackmagic DesignAs someone who used to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC exclusively, I never thought I’d switch to another app. I did, though, and can’t recommend Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17.2 enough (either the free or $295 studio version). You get a lifetime of updates, so it’s far cheaper than Adobe’s subscription program that runs $630 per year. Resolve is slightly trickier to learn, but far more powerful than Premiere for key tasks like color grading and effects. Most importantly, I’ve found Resolve to be far, far more reliable than Premiere on a wide range of computers, which is easily the most important “feature” on an editing app.Buy DaVinci Resolve 17 at B&H - $295Engadget's 2021 holiday gift guideThe best laptops and tablets to give as giftsThe best tech toys for kidsSeven tech charities to support this holiday seasonThe home theater gear worth gifting this year (even if the giftee is you)The best smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables to giftThe best board games to gift this holiday seasonSmall, affordable gadgets that make great stocking stuffersThe best gifts for the aspiring influencer in your lifeThe best gifts for the coffee nerd in your lifeAll the gear you need to game-stream like a proThese are the audio gadgets to gift this seasonThe best digital gifts to send your friends and familyThe books and movies we’re gifting this yearThe video games we wish someone would gift usThe best gadgets for your petsSmart home gadgets and kitchen tech that make great giftsThe best gifts for the creatives in your lifeThe best snow and winter sports gear to gift this yearAll the 'fun' gifts our grown-up staff would like to receiveThe best gear to give to the photographer in your lifeEverything in our gift guide under $100

    The best gaming laptops you can buy, plus how to pick one

    For a few years now, gaming laptops have been some of the most intriguing PCs around. They’ve gotten thinner and lighter, naturally — but they’ve also become vastly more powerful and efficient, making them suitable for both work and play. They’ve adopted some bold innovations, like rotating hinges and near desktop-like customizability. Gaming laptops are where PC makers can get adventurous.If you’re a professional in the market for a beefy new computer, and you like to play a few rounds of Apex Legends on occasion, it may make more sense to go for a gaming notebook instead of a MacBook Pro-like workstation. You’ll still get plenty of power for video encoding and 3D rendering, plus you may end up paying less than you would for some comparable workstations.Devindra Hardawar/Engadget What's your budget? Your laptop buying journey starts and ends with the amount of money you're willing to spend. No surprise there. The good news: There are plenty of options for gamers of every budget. In particular, we're seeing some great choices under $1,000, like Dell's G15, which currently starts at $930. PCs in this price range will definitely feel a bit lower quality than pricier models, and they'll likely skimp on RAM, storage and overall power. But they should be able to handle most games in 1080p at 60 frames per second, which is the bare minimum you'd want from any system.Stepping up to mid-range options beyond $1,000 is where things get interesting. At that point, you'll start finding PCs like the ASUS Zephyrus ROG G14, one of our favorite gaming notebooks of the last few years. In general, you can look forward to far better build quality than budget laptops (metal cases!), improved graphics power and enough RAM and storage space to handle the most demanding games. These are the notebooks we'd recommend for most people, as they'll keep you gaming and working for years before you need to worry about an upgrade.If you're willing to spend around $1,800 or more, you can start considering more premium options like Razer's Blade. Expect impeccably polished cases, the fastest hardware on the market, and ridiculously thin designs. The sky's the limit here: Alienware's uber customizable Area 51m is an enormous beast that can cost up to $4,700. Few people need a machine that pricey, but if you're a gamer with extra cash to burn, it may be worth taking a close look at some of these pricier systems.What kind of CPU and GPU do you want?The answer to this question used to be relatively simple: Just get an Intel chip with an NVIDIA GPU. But over the last two years, AMD came out swinging with its Ryzen 4000 and 5000-series notebook processors, which are better suited for juggling multiple tasks at once (like streaming to Twitch while blasting fools in Fortnite). In general, you’ll still be safe getting one of Intel’s latest 10th or 11th-gen H-series chips. But it’s nice to have decent AMD alternatives available for budget and mid-range laptops, especially when they’re often cheaper than comparable Intel models.When it comes to video cards, though, AMD is still catching up. Its new Radeon RX 6000M GPU has been a fantastic performer in notebooks like ASUS’s ROG Strix G15, but it still lags behind NVIDIA when it comes to newer features like ray tracing. I’ll admit, it’s nice to see a Radeon-powered notebook that can approach the general gaming performance of NVIDIA’s RTX 3070 and 3080 GPU.If you want to future-proof your purchase, or you’re just eager to see how ray tracing could make your games look better, you’re probably better off with an NVIDIA video card. They’re in far more systems, and it’s clear that NVIDIA has had more time to optimize its ray tracing technology. RTX GPUs also feature the company’s DLSS feature, which uses AI to upscale games to higher resolutions. That’ll let you play a game like Destiny 2 in 4K with faster frame rates. That’s useful if you’re trying to take advantage of a high refresh rate monitor.NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 is a decent entry point, but we think you’d be better off with at least an RTX 3060 for solid 1080p and 1440p performance. The RTX 3070, meanwhile, is the best balance of price and performance. It’ll be able to run many games in 4K with the help of DLSS, and it can even tackle demanding titles like Control. NVIDIA’s RTX 3080 is the king of the hill; you’ll pay a premium for any machine that includes it.It’s worth noting that NVIDIA’s mobile GPUs aren’t directly comparable to its more powerful desktop hardware. PC makers can also tweak a GPU’s voltage to make it perform better in a thinner case. Basically, don’t be surprised if you see notebooks that perform very differently, even if they’re all equipped with the same RTX model.What kind of screen do you want?Screen size is a good place to start when judging gaming notebooks. In general, 15-inch laptops will be the best balance of immersion and portability, while larger 17-inch models are heftier, but naturally give you more screen real estate. There are some 13-inch gaming notebooks, like the Razer Blade Stealth, but paradoxically you'll often end up paying more for those than slightly larger 15-inch options. We’re also seeing more 14-inch options, like the Zephyrus G14 and Blade 14, which are generally more powerful than 13-inch laptops while still being relatively portable.But these days, there are plenty more features to consider than screen size alone. Consider refresh rates: Most monitors refresh their screens vertically 60 times per second, or 60Hz. That's a standard in use since black and white NTSC TVs. But over the past few years, displays have evolved considerably. Now, 120Hz 1080p screens are the bare minimum you'd want in any gaming notebook — and there are faster 144Hz, 240Hz and even 360Hz panels. All of those ever-increasing numbers are in the service of one thing: making everything on your display look as smooth as possible.For games, higher refresh rates also help eliminate screen tearing and other artifacts that could get in the way of your frag fest. And for everything else, it just leads to a better viewing experience. Even scrolling a web page on a 120Hz or faster monitor is starkly different from a 60Hz screen. Instead of seeing a jittery wall of text and pictures, everything moves seamlessly together, as if you're unwinding a glossy paper magazine. Going beyond 120Hz makes gameplay look even more responsive, which to some players gives them a slight advantage.Steve Dent/Engadget Not to make things more complicated, but you should also keep an eye out for NVIDIA's G-SYNC and AMD's FreeSync. They're both adaptive sync technologies that can match your screen's refresh rate with the framerate of your game. That also helps to reduce screen tearing and make gameplay smoother. Consider them nice bonuses on top of a high refresh rate monitor; they're not necessary, but they can still offer a slight visual improvement.One more thing: Most of these suggestions are related to LCD screens, not OLEDs. While OLED makes a phenomenal choice for TVs, it's a bit more complicated when it comes to gaming laptops. They're limited to 60Hz, so you won't get the smoother performance you'd find on a high refresh rate screen. And they're typically 4K panels; you'll need a ton of GPU power to run games natively at that resolution. OLED laptops still look incredible, with the best black levels and contrast on the market, but we think most shoppers would be better off with an LCD gaming laptop.Devindra Hardawar/Engadget A few other takeaways:Get at least 16GB of RAM. And if you're planning to do a ton of multitasking while streaming, 32GB is worth considering.Storage is still a huge concern. These days, I'd recommend aiming for a 1TB M.2 SSD, which should be enough space to juggle a few large titles like Destiny 2. Some laptops also have room for standard SATA drives, which are far cheaper than M.2's and can hold more data.Normally we'd recommend getting your hands on a system before you buy, but that's tough as we're in the midst of a pandemic. I'd recommend snagging your preferred system from a retailer with a simple return policy, like Amazon or Best Buy. If you don't like it, you can always ship it back easily.Don't forget about accessories! You'll need a good mouse, keyboard and headphones.Engadget picksDevindra Hardawar/Engadget The best gaming laptop for most people: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14Starting price:$1,599 (Current model with RTX 2060)Recommended spec price (Ryzen 9, RTX 3060): $1,799If you can't tell by now, we really like the Zephyrus G14. It's compact, at just 3.5 pounds, and features AMD's new Ryzen 5000-series chips paired together with NVIDIA's latest graphics. It's a shockingly compact machine, and while its 14-inch screen is a bit smaller than our other recommendations, it looks great and features a fast 144Hz refresh rate. We also like its retro-future design (some configurations have tiny LEDs on its rear panel for extra flair). While the G14 has jumped in price since last year, it’s still one of the best gaming notebooks around. The only downside: It doesn't have a webcam, which can be inconvenient in the era of never-ending Zoom calls. Still, it's not that tough to attach an external camera. (If you want something bigger, consider the Zephyrus G15.) Buy ASUS Zephyrus G14 at Amazon - $1,599DellThe best budget option: Dell G15Starting price:$1,029We've been fans of Dell's G5 line ever since it first appeared a few years ago. Now dubbed the G15, it starts at just over $1,000 and features all of the latest hardware, like Intel's 11th-generation CPUs and NVIDIA's RTX 30-series cards. (You can also find AMD's Ryzen chips in some models.) It's a bit heavy, weighing over five pounds, but it's a solid notebook otherwise. And you can even bring it into mid-range gaming territory if you spec up to the RTX 3060.Buy G15 at Dell starting at $1,029Devindra hardawar/Engadget The best premium gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15Starting price:$1,700Recommended model (QHD, RTX 3070): $2,200Razer continues to do a stellar job of delivering the latest hardware in a sleek package that would make Mac users jealous. The Blade 15 has just about everything you'd want, including NVIDIA's fastest mobile GPU, the RTX 3080, as well as Intel's 11th-gen octa-core CPUs and speedy quad-HD screens. You can easily save some cash by going for a cheaper notebook, but they won't feel nearly as polished as the Blade.Buy Blade 15 at Razer starting at $1,700AcerA solid all-around option: Acer Predator Triton 500 SEStarting price:$1,749While we've seen some wilder concepts from Acer, like its 360-degree hinge-equipped Triton 900, the Triton 500 is a more affordable bread and butter option that doesn't break the bank. This year, it’s bumped up to a 16-inch display, giving you more of an immersive gaming experience. It’s relatively thin, weighs just over five pounds , and it can be equipped with Intel's 11th-gen CPUs and NVIDIA's RTX 30-series GPUs. Acer's build quality is as sturdy as ever, and it has most of the standard features you’d need in a gaming notebook.Buy Acer Triton 500 SE at Best Buy - $1,749RazerThe best way to go big: Razer Blade 17Starting price:$2,399Take everything we loved about the Razer Blade 15, scale it up to a larger 17-inch screen, and you’re pretty much in gamer paradise. If you can live with its six-pound weight, the Blade 17 will deliver the most desktop-like gaming experience that you can find in a notebook. It’s relatively slim, and it’s perfect for binging Netflix in bed. The Blade 17 is also a smart choice if you’re editing media, as its larger screen space makes it perfect for diving into larger timelines. It’s not for everyone, but sometimes you just want to go big or go home, right?Buy Blade 17 at Razer starting at $2,399

    The very best smart lights for the bedroom

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Waking up to the sound of a blaring alarm can be jarring, especially if you have to do so in pitch black. That’s why some people have turned to devices that mimic the arrival of daylight as a gentler way to stir from slumber. So-called sunrise or wake-up-light clocks typically start out with a dim light and then gradually brighten to full brightness in order to match your body’s circadian rhythms. If you have a particularly tough time waking up, you probably do still need an alarm, but the sunrise light should at least make it easier. There are several products on the market that have this feature; some are alarm clocks, some are smart displays, while others are simply programmable lights. Some only have sunrise features, while others have sunset features too (where the lights gradually dim and go dark), which could help you get to sleep in the first place. Sunrise and wake-up clocks Philips Philips SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-up Light Philips sells a whole range of sunrise alarm clocks, and the one with the most bells and whistles is the SmartSleep Connected Sleep and Wake-Up Light. You can use a companion app to program your sunrise and sunset times as well as set different alarms for different days of the week. You can do that manually too, but the app makes it a lot easier. You can use the app for logging your sleep and wake times. The SmartSleep also offers several alarm sounds, customizable sunrise themes and a red-tinted light setting that’s more soothing than the default white light. In addition, you’ll find specialized sunset features that can help you wind down before bed. The light can be set to gradually dim over time, and it comes with relaxation cues like breathing exercises and calming sounds, like rainfall and ocean waves. As a bonus, the SmartSleep HF3670 also has sensors for humidity, light and noise levels, and the app will let you know if you need to adjust them to achieve ideal sleeping conditions. For a cheaper and more stripped-down option, consider Philips’ $100 Wake-Up Light HF3520. It lacks WiFi capabilities so there’s no companion app and it doesn’t have the extra relaxation settings of the SmartSleep, but it still includes that red-tinted light setting, along with similar sunrise and sunset features and a decent array of alarm sounds. Buy Smart Sleep light at Amazon - $180 Buy Wake-up light at Amazon - $100 Hatch Restore Hatch If getting to sleep is just as challenging as waking up, if not more so, you might want to consider the Hatch Restore, which brings a bunch of sleep-friendly features. It has Bluetooth and WiFi, which you can use to connect to a companion app. That app in turn lets you customize your sunrise and sunset routines as well as set different alarms for different days. On top of that, the Hatch Restore has several color lighting options that range from Warm White to Peach and Raspberry. True to its name, the Restore has various wind-down features that could help you fall asleep more easily. It has over 31 sleep sounds to block unwanted noise, plus a library of over 50 meditations and eight sleep stories. The caveat here is that the meditations and stories aren’t free. Hatch will offer owners a free trial of the full library for six months, but it costs $5 a month or $50 a year thereafter. That said, if you wanted an all-in-one machine to help address your sleep and wake issues, the Hatch Restore might be worth a look. Buy Hatch Restore at Amazon - $130 Smart display clocks Engadget Lenovo Smart Clock Almost all smart displays have some kind of sunrise alarm feature, especially the ones that are designed to sit on your nightstand. The Lenovo Smart Clock is one of our favorites, even if it lacks many of the usual smart display features like the ability to play videos. That’s because it’s adorable, won’t take up a lot of space and it’s affordable, to boot. Plus, it comes with eight different clock faces, six alarm tones and you can smack the top of it to either snooze or dismiss the alarm. When enabled, the sunrise alarm will gradually brighten the display for 30 minutes before the set time. Since it’s a Google-powered device, it also works with all the usual Google Assistant features like telling you the five-day weather forecast or your upcoming appointments. It surfaces reminders of future events plus offers to set alarms so you don’t miss them. You can use it to display your Google Photos and it works with other smart home devices you might own, like Philips Hue lights or a Nest Hello video doorbell. Buy Lenovo Smart Clock at Best Buy - $80 Google Nest Hub Engadget As mentioned, the Lenovo Smart Clock is really more of , well, a clock than a smart display. If you do want more of a typical smart display, the Google Nest Hub is a much better bet. It has all of the features of the Lenovo Smart Clock and then some. The screen is sharp and colorful, making it great for displaying photographs and for watching videos. The on-screen controls are also a lot more intuitive, with shortcuts to your smart home devices and your favorite YouTube videos. The sunrise alarm on the Nest Hub is also more customizable. You can have the screen gradually brighten just like the Smart Clock, but you can also have it so that a soothing “pre-alarm” sound plays as the sunrise alarm begins. If you have smart lights installed, you can have those lights gradually brighten as well. Last but not least, you can adjust the sunrise alarm window anywhere from five to 30 minutes. Buy Google Nest Hub at Best Buy - $90 Amazon Echo Show 5 Engadget If you happen to use other Amazon products like Ring cameras or Alexa-powered microwave ovens, the Echo Show 5 might be a better choice. The screen is bright and colorful, it has a stylish streamlined design, and it can display photographs just like the Nest Hub. It can also play videos from sources such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, and it has a built-in browser for surfing the web. Unlike the Nest Hub, the Echo Show 5 does have a camera, which might be disconcerting if you don’t want a camera by your bedside. At the same time, this does mean the Echo Show 5 is capable of video calls, which the Nest Hub is not. The Echo Show 5 works nicely as an alarm clock, with several clock faces and the ability to tap the top of it to hit snooze. There’s a sunrise alarm feature as well, which slowly brightens the display 15 minutes before the set time. Unfortunately, the sunrise feature on the Echo Show is a bit more limited than its rivals, as it only works when the alarm is set between 4am and 9 am. But if that works for you and you’re an Alexa fan, the Echo Show 5 is worth considering. Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $65 Other smart light choices Engadget Casper Glow The Casper Glow is a unique lighting device that can be programmed via a companion app to brighten at specific times just like a sunrise clock, except, well, there’s no clock at all. Plus, there aren’t any speakers, so it can’t play alarm sounds either. Instead, it’s really more of a portable smart lamp. It can also be used as a late-night reading light before bed. (It’ll gradually dim over 30 minutes.) Yet, the Glow does have several innovative features that make it stand out. The Glow is highly portable, and can be held easily in one hand. Turning it on or off is a matter of flipping it over. You can twist it clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust its brightness. At night you can lift it, give it a shake, and it’ll emit a soft glow that’s bright enough to guide you through a dark hallway. If you have two Casper Glow lights, you can have them synchronized to turn on or off at the same time. And, since it runs on rechargeable batteries, you can use it as emergency lights in the event of a blackout. The Glow is probably not a good choice if you need more than just a bright light to wake you up. But If you already have an existing alarm clock, or you just prefer using your phone for the alarm, the Glow could be a nice addition to your nightstand. Buy Glow Light at Casper - $130 Philips Hue smart lights Philips Programmable smart lights like the Philips Hue bulbs are another way to help you sleep and wake up a little more easily. Plus, certain white and color ambiance lights offer color temperatures that mimic natural light, which help you sleep more naturally. You can then set up routines within the companion app that will either slowly turn on the lights in the morning or gradually turn them off at night. Of course, the Philips Hue lights can be used in other lighting scenarios too; you can have them automatically come on at night or when you’re out of the house. Plus, Hue bulbs are compatible with nearly every smart assistant out there, so turning on or off the lights is as easy as telling Google, Alexa or Siri to do so. Buy Philips Hue smart lights set at Amazon - $180

    ICYMI: We review Samsung’s improved Galaxy Chromebook 2

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This week we got our hands on Samsung’s new Galaxy Chromebook 2, and Nathan Ingraham details the ways that the new model makes significant improvements over last year's laptop. Also, Steve Dent takes another look at the Canon EOS R5 to see how firmware upgrades have fixed the cameras overheating problems. Lastly, I used an online sleep training system to see if it could help my twins sleep better, and got some pretty positive results. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Although the new Galaxy Chromebook 2 looks much the same as its predecessor, Samsung made some internal changes that make this a better laptop for more people. The body of the Chromebook 2 is slightly bigger at 13.9mm thick and 2.7 pounds, but Nathan Ingraham said it both feels well-made and light enough to easily carry around all day. The new model eschews the previous stylus, camera on the keyboard deck, and fingerprint sensor — and Samsung changed the display resolution from 4K to 1080p. Nathan said that didn’t impact the quality of the screen, which still looked outstanding with bright and saturated colors and solid viewing angles. One of the biggest upgrades was battery life: the Chromebook 2 lasted an impressive 11 hours and 49 minutes in testing, compared to the paltry 5 hours and 11 minutes he got out of last year’s model. Still, he said he wished it would last an hour or two longer. Overall though, Nathan felt that the Chromebook 2 was much easier to recommend, and not just because of the upgrades, but also because the new model has a lower price of $699. Now if they could just do something about that giant promotional sticker on the palm rest.... Owlet Every new parent has one common question: How can I get my baby to sleep better? To answer that, Owlet — the company that makes the smart sock monitor — has Dream Lab, an online sleep training system that helps parents teach their children healthy, consistent sleeping habits. A series of assessments and questionnaires will match your child with one of three methods to use to help them learn to self-soothe. The program also offers videos that give step-by-step instructions, motivational advice and information on sleep training. I tried out the program with my infant twins, and saw some immediate improvements — even though I admittedly did not follow the system as strictly as I should have. I liked the way the system was tailored to my babies needs, and after trying the “Stay” method noticed the children sleeping more soundly, for longer periods and with fewer overnight wakings. However, I would have preferred to see the service available as part of Owlet’s existing app, as opposed to a separate, less convenient website. Steve Dent/Engadget When Canon initially released the EOS R5 and R6, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The EOS R5 offered 8K 4K 120p video, accurate autofocus, fantastic image stabilization and sharp images. Steve Dent also liked the way the full-frame mirrorless camera handled during shoots. However, the R5 suffered from overheating issues, which disappointed many fans. In response, Canon has released firmware updates that have improved — but not entirely solved — the heat problems. Steve still experienced a few hiccups while shooting video: he was able to shoot in 8K for roughly 25-30 minutes before he needed to stop because the camera got too hot. But he pointed out that it also recovers more quickly now, so when he was able to shoot for a few minutes at a time and shut down the camera between takes, he was able to keep the camera running for several hours without issue. Despite the heat challenges, Steve said he really likes the $3,900 EOS R5 as it’s the only pure, high-megapixel hybrid camera that does both photography and video equally well.

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