Google touts ‘digital wellbeing’ tools to help users disengage from phones

As firms face scrutiny over habit-forming technologies, Google unveils system to show users how much time they spend on their devices

Google has unveiled a range of tools focused on “digital wellbeing”, designed to help people disconnect from their phones.

“Our team has heard so many stories from people trying to find the right balance with technology,” said Sameer Samat, vice-president, product management, adding that although people find their devices useful, they would prefer to spend some of the time spent staring at a screen “on better things”.

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Google’s robot assistant now makes eerily lifelike phone calls for you

Google Duplex contacts hair salon and restaurant in demo, adding ‘er’ and ‘mmm-hmm’ so listeners think it’s human

Google’s virtual assistant can now make phone calls on your behalf to schedule appointments, make reservations in restaurants and get holiday hours.

The robotic assistant uses a very natural speech pattern that includes hesitations like “er” and affirmations like “mmm-hmm” so that it is extremely difficult to distinguish from an actual human phone call.

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Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire review – swashbuckling retro fun

PC/Mac; Obsidian Entertainment
The fights are less fearsome, but if you liked Baldur’s Gate or Planescape: Torment you’ll enjoy this retro role-playing game

Pillars of Eternity is an ambitious and successful gamble on role-playing game nostalgia, aimed squarely at people who enjoyed Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. The first game, released in 2015, brought in $4m in funding on Kickstarter. Its sequel, Deadfire, also raised over $4m in crowdfunding, and has just been released. Unlike its predecessor, Deadfire is arriving into a market with many similar games attempting to leverage 90s RPG nostalgia while adding their own twists to the genre. It doesn’t rock the boat too much, but a fresh theme, clever writing and improvements to the look and feel make it a very enjoyable play.

Speaking of boats, in Deadfire you are a naval explorer: you choose where you go, on land or at sea, and what route you take. Expeditions into the unknown are fun, but each day spent sailing costs resources; as you travel your stores deplete, your crew’s morale fails and you’re soon searching for the next city to resupply. It’s no carefree cruise across the high seas. You spend a lot of time maintaining your ship, exploring the seas and fighting turn-based, choice-driven naval battles – as well as chaotic on-deck battles involving your entire crew. Ship combat can be frustrating when cannons repeatedly miss; and when your ship’s cook charges headlong into a fireball, it is sometimes more of a hassle than swashbuckling fun, especially because injuries from such fights affect your ability to sail.

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Facebook to block foreign spending on Irish abortion vote ads

Company accused of being late with move to help curb outside attempts to sway referendum

Facebook is blocking all foreign spending on advertising around Ireland’s upcoming referendum on abortion in an effort to adhere to the “principles” of the country’s election spending laws.

With just over two weeks to go until the 25 May vote on liberalising Ireland’s strict abortion laws, Facebook announced it would restrict advertising to organisations and individuals based in the Republic. The move follows accusations that attempts have been made to swing votes across the world through foreign-funded campaigns and so-called astroturfing.

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