Archive for March 17, 2020

This Phone App Might Help Identify Possible Coronavirus Encounters

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Scientists and software engineers have developed a mobile app that informs users about locations that they and a coronavirus-infected person have both visited. With the virus now declared a pandemic and spreading fast, many have turned to developing technology-based solutions to fight the spread, and this new app seems to be the latest.

The coronavirus outbreak that began in China has now reached well in excess of 100 countries and resulted in considerably more deaths. The speed of the spread has made it all the more challenging for governments to track or curb the pandemic, and that is where technology can help. Research teams and tech companies have been working round the clock to come up with various large-scale solutions, such as a screening website, drug development, awareness campaigns, and even keeping people at home. For instance, Microsoft recently launched a coronavirus mapping tool that updates users on the various virus hotspots, both locally and internationally. Some companies have also been working on controversial mass-surveillance systems to contain the spread, and it is these latter ones that are proving a real concern for some, due to the threat to privacy they could become - even if they are being developed to help contain the outbreak.

Related: How Big Data Can Be Used To Slow Coronavirus Outbreak

In this instance, the privacy concern has been addressed by the developers of Private Kit: Safe Paths app, according to MIT Technology Review. The app only uses encrypted location information to make sure user privacy remains protected. It has been jointly developed by MIT and Harvard researchers, along with software engineers from companies including Facebook and Uber. The app is currently in an early state, although it is expected to be enriched in due course.

One of the biggest challenges that both people and governments face is contact tracing - identifying who may have come into contact with an infected person. Private Kit: Safe Paths, in a way, solves that issue by letting users anonymously log the GPS trails of their phones. With this approach, an infected person can actively let other users know where they have been. Once a user gives permission, the app will log live location information every five minutes although this can be stopped if the user is planning to stay at one place for a longer period. The infected users will also have the choice to share their location information with health officials, if they want to. Unfortunately, for this app to work properly, it will need to be used by as many people as possible, otherwise it is likely to create a grossly underrepresented map that will designate large portions of a region as safe, when they might not be.

If used well, this app could prove to be a crucial tool for the public (and the authorities) to track the virus outbreak and take appropriate measures to slow it down. A prototype of the app is available for installation under the name 'Private Kit (Prototype)' via Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store (for users of Android 8.0 or above). The coronavirus data collected from this version will only be used for MIT projects and users will have to wait for a future version for the option to share location data with others, with updates promised soon.

Next: Coronavirus Reveals Sci-Fi Movies Got A Lot Right About The Tech Future

Source: MIT Technology Review

The Way Back Is Ben Affleck’s Most Important Movie Of His Career

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Ben Affleck is getting praise for his role in The Way Back, and considering the way things have gone for Affleck over the last five years, it could prove to be one of the most important roles of his career. Fresh out of rehab after his own very public struggle with alcohol following a streak of bad reviews and his Batman departure, Affleck's movie about a down-on-his-luck alcoholic who becomes a high-school basketball coach is exactly the role Affleck, and his career needed.

Like the movie's name, it's a bit of a comeback story for him as well. Affleck has already gone through several personal evolutions. With an early career dominated by cult classic Kevin Smith movies, Affleck hit it big with best friend Matt Damon when the duo won an Academy Award for their Good Will Hunting screenplay. Affleck became the Hollywood leading man everyone loved to hate, which was reflected in his coverage in the tabloids, and he played the part well. But after some high profile flops, most notably Daredevil, Gigli, and Surviving Christmas, he thought his career as he knew it was over.

Related: Ben Affleck Spoiled The Way Back's Biggest Twist in Multiple Interviews

During a recent interview with Erwin McManus, Afleck said it was after a studio screening for Surviving Christmas where the movie ended and he found everyone hadn't just left the theater, but gotten in their cars and driven away, that he knew it was time for a course change and to finally start directing. A moment in he says he recalled as he accepted his Academy Award for Best Director for Argo 8 years later.

Affleck had (mostly) shaken his old image and was now being taken more seriously after writing, directing, and starring in multiple highly praised projects from Gone Baby Gone and The Town to Argo. He was also highly praised for his role in David Fincher's Gone Girl, but was once again courting high profile controversy after being cast as Batman in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Affleck speaks highly of Batman v Superman and Snyder's take on the Batman, which is what convinced him to sign on. While his performance was praised, negative reviews and the subsequent DCEU course correction and behind the scene drama led to a bad experience during Justice LeagueDuring that time he was also crafting a screenplay for a solo Batman movie he planned to direct as well as writing and directing Live by NightAs the DCEU troubles continued, Live by Night also flopped.

By the time Justice League was done, Affleck was burned out as Batman and had to return to rehab and didn't have any new releases in 2018, and according to The Wrap, his alcohol issues may have made him a major studio liability. He saw generally positive reception for his role in Netflix's Triple Frontier on Netflix, but, while the movie generally got good reviews, Netflix ruled it a flop and it didn't do much to alter the narrative. While he had walked away from Batman, the uncertain state of the DCEU meant the world wasn't done talking about him as The Dark Knight, especially with the persistent Snyder Cut movement calling for the release of Zack Snyder's Justice League which Affleck understandably strongly supports considering the nature of his exit, but it also meant the focus was exclusively on his past.

That's where The Way Back comes in. Originally titled The Has Been, it underwent a name change to give it a more positive slant, as Affleck himself needed to prove he wasn't a has-been either. The movie hit so close to home, it didn't only result in the most vulnerable and emotional role of his career, even generating some early awards buzz, but its release was also accompanied by a PR blitz. For a few weeks, Affleck was everywhere from the New York Times to Diane Sawyer to ESPN and Jimmy Kimmel and GQ talking about The Way Back, which also meant talking about his own "way back" and was finally able to paint a bright picture of his current health and future outlook.

While people still want to talk about Batman, and that likely won't stop, Affleck now has a number of high-profile projects on the horizon and potentially more to come. Thanks to The Way Back, Affleck has shown he still has a lot to offer, getting people excited about his future projects once more.

Next: Every Warner Bros. Movie Coming In 2020

Elder Scrolls 6 Location & Release Date Rumors Proven False

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A recent Reddit post unveiling new supposed 'leaks' about the upcoming video game The Elder Scrolls 6 has been proven fake, but its ideas still have fans talking. Bethesda Game Studios has been quiet about the game since surprising fans with a teaser trailer at E3 2018. The trailer unveiled The Elder Scrolls 6's logo and aerial views of the setting, which was enough to get Elder Scrolls enthusiasts speculating about exactly where the game will take place. Still, nothing has been confirmed during Bethesda's long period of silence.

The latest information from Bethesda came from an IGN interview with game director Todd Howard in June 2019. In the interview, Howard said that The Elder Scrolls 6 will be bigger than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and as such will be playable for over a decade. Seeing as Elder Scrolls games of the past have tended to be large open-world games with plenty to keep players coming back for more adventures, it's exciting for long-time fans to learn that The Elder Scrolls 6 will continue in this tradition, offering a vast world to explore and likely a great number of side quests to keep them in the thick of the action for hundreds of hours.

Related: Where Could The Elder Scrolls 6 Be Set?

Still, players have been craving new details, and they recently came in the form of a Reddit post. The Reddit leaker, who goes by ToddIsMyMom, claimed to work closely with Bethesda Game Studios. One of the user's claims about the game was that it would likely see release in 2025, based on the roughly 200 people working on the game and its ambitious design. The other big rumor centered on the game's setting. According to the Reddit post, the story would focus on political tension between Hammerfell and High Rock, as well as Thalmor threats to Hammerfell. Additionally, the Reddit user writes about "beefed up" magic spells, improved crafting, and better guilds including a vampire guild.

After some digging, Reddit determined that these rumors are fake, but they have still managed to excite fans thirsty for more details about the upcoming Elder Scrolls title. Since the E3 teaser trailer featured a coastal landscape with large rocks jutting towards the sky, some have speculated that it's a view of High Rock. Meanwhile, in 2018 Zenimax Media Inc., Bethesda's parent company, filed for a trademark on the title "Redfall." Although Redfall is not a known location in Elder Scrolls lore, this name sparks connections to the Redguard race in the game and perhaps their homeland, Hammerfell. Since both of these ideas have been floating around the Elder Scrolls fan community since before these recent Reddit rumors, they could be part of the inspiration for the fake leaks.

In any case, Bethesda has stated it has planned on the setting for The Elder Scrolls 6 since long before the teaser trailer was released. While fans wait for more details about that location, they can at least hold out hope that, with the 2025 release date rumor proven fake, The Elder Scrolls 6 could possibly hit a little sooner than 2025. Fingers crossed.

Next: The Elder Scrolls 6: Features We Want To See In The Next Game

Source: Reddit

Axel Alonso Interview: Creating UPSHOT, A Brand New Comic Universe

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AWA Studios is the newest comic book publisher to arrive on the market, bringing an impressive plan for a brand new superhero shared universe – with room room for all manner of stories and storytellers, as well. Standing for Artists, Writers, and Artisans, the company is headed by the former leadership of Marvel Comics: CEO Bill Jemas, Marvel’s chief operating officer and publisher from 2000 to ’04, and its chief creative officer Axel Alonso, who acted as Marvel’s editor-in-chief from 2011 to 2018 after a decade as executive editor.

AWA’s central thrust revolves around the imprint dubbed Upshot, with planned stories ranging from the traditional superheroes to action-adventure and horror, geared towards a variety of audiences. The flagship title in this Upshot effort is a six-issue miniseries called The Resistance; releasing its first issue on March 18th, 2020. Written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Mike Deodato (the creative team behind The Amazing Spider-Man during Axel’s tenure at Marvel), it tells the story of a disease that suddenly infects humanity, claiming 400 million people worldwide within a month... before suddenly stopping. The fantasy comes from the side-effect: of the 5% of infected individuals who survive, roughly 20 million people in total, many begin to manifest superpowers, and a traumatized world now needs to contend with them, as well as their near-extinction.

Related: AWA Studios Creators and Execs Preview Upshot Imprint Titles

It’s an intriguing premise for AWA Studios’ new shared universe – and the perfect reason for Screen Rant to speak with Axel Alonso about what it all means, from the Creative Council leading this new universe's creation, to the first book setting it in motion: The Resistance. Readers can find the full interview below:

Screen Rant: Can you explain the rationale for launching the "Upshot" imprint, instead of using the blanket AWA name up front?  Are there going to be other imprints planned alongside it?

Axel Alonso: Upshot is our core imprint, focused on producing entertaining comics for comic-lovers, teenaged and above. There will be other imprints with very different creative goals and mission statements coming in the future.

You aren't making all of the story calls yourself, but have assembled a Creative Council. How did this group come into being, and how are they changing the way these stories are shaped?

I thought it made sense to have a core group of creators lay down the foundation for the shared universe, with Joe Straczynski at the center, because there is no one better at laying down the foundation for a new universe than him. From Babylon 5 to Rising Stars to Midnight Nation to Sense8, with mind-bending re-imaginings of Squadron Supreme, Spider-Man and Thor along the way, Joe is without peer when it comes to world-building.

Why a Creative Council? As Editor-in-Chief at Marvel, I found the editorial summits, where writers and editors did macro story-planning, to be very helpful in planning intricate stories that overlapped multiple characters, so I thought, why not do that here? AWA’s Creative Council is six creators who’ve conquered comics and other media: film, TV, animation, video games, novels, YA lit. They’re six distinct voices, and none of them are tourists. They love this medium.

I understand that the so-called Axel-verse follows closer to the model of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you will, with multiple stories that can piggyback off one another, than the Marvel Comics model, where big crossover events bring characters together. Is there still a master storyline plotted out somewhere -- and, if so, how far into the future does it extend?

There is a master story playing out in the background of “The Resistance” that will reveal itself over time.  That said, while there will be clear connectivity between our series and characters, we went out of our way to avoid boxing in our creators. “The Resistance” provides an easy on-ramp for readers to understand our universe, a simple origin story that allows for the creation of diverse superhuman characters that span the globe, but also for creators to participate in that universe. We want writers and artists to have maximum creative freedom and the ability to take advantage of the benefits of shared universe, which allows for well-timed guest stars, team-ups and crossovers.

Why concentrate on launching Upshot with a collection of miniseries at first? Is there a plan for any monthly releases?

Our plan is to publish limited series, each of which tells a complete story arc that brings one huge story to a close, with a few loose threads to be played with later. Think of it as a “season one” that sets up subsequent seasons. Joe Straczynski has already started writing the second arc of The Resistance; his spinoff, Moths, is fully written and mostly illustrated; and other creators are well underway with their own shared universe stories. The same is true for Year Zero – arc one is completely finished, Ben Percy has already written the second arc, and three issues are drawn.

There are several advantages to this plan: retailers get to sell a new issue-one every few months, a steady flow of trade paperbacks supports the monthlies, and freed from the monthly grind, we can avoid fill-in artists and schedule our launches to avoid late ships; we won’t solicit a series until we are absolutely sure every issue will ship on time.

Launching alongside the debut of The Resistance on March 18th comes a whole host of additional miniseries: Archangel 8, following the eighth archangel from the Biblical Apocrypha who wages a Punisher-esque war on Earth; Red Border, about a young, middle-class Mexican couple that flees from the Juarez Cartel and ends up in a house of horrors in Texas; and Hotell, a Twilight Zone-esque tale that centers on a small hotel on Route 66 that mysteriously appears only to those in desperation. Following this initial line-up are two additional titles that debut in April and May, respectively: Year Zero, which tells the worldwide story of the zombie apocalypse, and Old Haunts, a Mafia yarn that sees three made men on the brink of retirement get assaulted by the ghosts of their past.

The Resistance #1 – and the rest of AWA Studios’s Upshot imprint – launches on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020.

Next: The Best Comic Book Character Comebacks of the Year

James Gunn Is Torn Between Choosing His Favorite Joker, But It’s Not Jared Leto

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James Gunn just can't decide which Joker actor is his favorite, but it's between Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix.
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