How Fortnite conquered the world

Millions of teenagers have turned this unheralded video game into a cultural giant – and even parents are relaxed about it

Fortnite, a video game released without much fanfare last July, is now arguably the most popular diversion in the world; a cultural juggernaut on a par with Star Wars, or Minecraft – though one now also attracting players with a $100m prize fund. Playgrounds jostle as children showboat dance moves copied from the game, while parents tip from mournful anxiety about screentime quotas, to blessed relief that here is a game that encourages teamwork, compromise and communication between their otherwise monosyllabic adolescents.

Fortnite borrows the premise of the Japanese novel Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, in which contestants are sent to an island where they must scavenge and fight until only one remains. In Fortnite you are dropped along with 99 other players from a flying bus, and parachute on to a candy-coloured island. Every few minutes a lethal electrical storm draws closer, herding survivors toward a final standoff.

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Police trial AI software to help process mobile phone evidence

Move to use software capable of facial recognition prompts concerns over privacy and the introduction of bias

Artificial intelligence software capable of interpreting images, matching faces and analysing patterns of communication is being piloted by UK police forces to speed up examination of mobile phones seized in crime investigations.

Cellebrite, the Israeli-founded and now Japanese-owned company behind some of the software, claims a wider rollout would solve problems over failures to disclose crucial digital evidence that have led to the collapse of a series of rape trials and other prosecutions in the past year. However, the move by police has prompted concerns over privacy and the potential for software to introduce bias into processing of criminal evidence.

As police and lawyers struggle to cope with the exponential rise in data volumes generated by phones and laptops in even routine crime cases, the hunt is on for a technological solution to handle increasingly unmanageable workloads. Some forces are understood to have backlogs of up to six months for examining downloaded mobile phone contents.

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Technology is driving us to distraction | James Williams

How often are you diverted from a task by the seductive lure of your mobile phone? And does it matter? In a landmark book, James Williams argues we’re losing the power to concentrate

Imagine that you’ve just bought a new GPS device for your car. The first time you use it, it works as expected. However, on the second journey, it takes you to an address a few blocks away from where you had wanted to go. On the third trip, you’re shocked when you find yourself miles away from your intended destination, which is now on the opposite side of town. Frustrated, you decide to return home, but when you enter your address, the GPS gives you a route that would have you driving for hours and ending up in a totally different city.

Like any reasonable person, you would consider this GPS faulty and return it to the store – if not throw it out of your car window. Who would continue to put up with a GPS that they knew would take them somewhere other than where they wanted to go? What reason could anyone possibly have for continuing to tolerate such a thing?

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Six reasons why social media is a Bummer

Jaron Lanier, pioneer turned digital sceptic, explains in an extract from his new book why we must take back control

It might not seem like it at first, but I’m an optimist. I don’t think we have to throw the whole digital world away. But there is one particular hi-tech thing that is toxic even in small quantities.

The issue isn’t only that internet users are crammed into environments that can bring out the worst in us, or that so much power has concentrated into a tiny number of hands that control giant cloud computers. A bigger problem is that we are all carrying around devices that are suitable for mass behaviour modification. For example, with old-fashioned advertising, you could measure whether a product did better after an ad was run, but now companies are measuring whether individuals change their behaviours as they browse, and the feeds for each person are constantly tweaked to get the desired result. In short, your behaviour has been turned into a product – and corporate and political clients are lining up to modify it.

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Five fantastic new apps for you to try this week

Apps are what make our smartphones magic, and as usual, we’ve scoured the Play Store for the best new and updated apps to enhance your life this week. This time, we have apps to help with home design, pet care, sleep, gaming and photo slideshows, as well as a bonus game recommendation!

(This is a preview – click here to read the entire entry.)

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