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GamesBeat news writer Rachel Kaser’s favorite games of 2021

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If you listened to the 231st episode of GamesBeat Decides, you’ll already know what my picks are. I explained my thought process somewhat on that show, but I’d like to expand upon it here.

For my personal list, I don’t want to just spit back the same list the Gamesbeat team put out earlier this month. So the games on this list are the games that gave me the most enjoyment this year, not necessarily the most technically exceptional. 2021 was a rough year, and if I made it through a game, it must have been special.

He's not Phoenix Wright, but I still like him.
He’s not Phoenix Wright, but I still like him.

I’m a huge fan of Ace Attorney to begin with, so I was already excited for The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles before it launched. It scratches two of my itches: Mystery and historical fiction. Getting both with the distinctive Ace Attorney flair – earnest defense attorneys, flamboyant prosecutors, and the most extra side characters ever – was everything I wanted.

I agree with Mike, in that the game does take a little while to pick up steam (ironically), but when it’s in full Ace Attorney swing, it’s such fun. I enjoy the inclusion of a Sherlock Holmes-adjacent character, especially as he’s just as baffling to hero Ryunosuke as I imagine he would be to anyone not named Watson. The mysteries and story also have surprising depth, touching on issues of racism and xenophobia.

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Nice family.
Nice family.

I’ve already honored Village in my year-end awards, in which I acknowledged that it’s not perfect, though it is memorable. But I didn’t need it to be perfect – I needed it to be Resident Evil. While Village does smack of Capcom revisiting the series greatest hits – the Gothic European setting of RE4, the gameplay of RE7, the villain design of RE2 Remake – I can’t say I minded. I enjoyed all of those games, just as I enjoyed Village.

There’s something earnest about an on-form Resident Evil game that really hooks me. It may not be doing everything right, but it presents even its most ridiculous ideas and plots with such conviction and passion. That’s enough to keep me playing right to the end, despite the occasional stumble or unwanted appearance by Chris Redfield.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is going to define the PS5 generation.

When Rift Apart was first announced, the major focus was on how it would test the limits of the PlayStation 5’s SSD. Before I played the game, I could have told you nothing about the story other than that there was a female Lombax and another universe in it. Once I booted it up and started playing, I was having so much fun that the last thing I noticed was the lack of loading times. The game is quite charming and simple, uncomplicated fun to play.

Rift Apart feels like a return for me to a simpler time – my PS2-era Spyro the Dragon days, when I would look for the lava level or the forest level in every game. For the record, Rift Apart has both. The game also experiments with different kinds of level design, with one level being a funny-but-unnerving shout-out to Alien Isolation. It has its drawbacks: I still say Rivet needed to have different gameplay than Ratchet. But 2021 was a rough year, and if I cared enough about a game to see it through to the end, it must have been doing something right.

Life is Strange: True Colors
Life is Strange: True Colors’ Alex Chen.

I was not a fan of the first few Life is Strange titles. I appreciated what they were trying to do – and goodness knows there are not enough video games aimed at exploring the trials of being a teenage girl. But something about them rang inauthentic. I blame the dialogue, personally. Then True Colors comes along and does everything the first game did, but better. Alex Chen is a delightful character, dealing with a whole cadre of personal demons while being empathetic and supportive of those around her. You love to see it.

I love adventure games and small-town mysteries, so the combination of both was already a tick in the pro column for me. True Colors is a great example of the latter genre, with everyone having their secrets and complex interior lives. Like almost all the other titles on this list, it’s not a complicated game or a long one. But it does what it needs to do right and well, and it puts a smile on my face.

While I enjoy a massive open world, or a smorgasbord of enemies to kill, I enjoy more games that can give me a full experience without needing a lot of extra fanfare and padding. Unpacking manages to tell a complete, moving story with very little text, no dialogue, and with only the briefest appearance of the characters on screen. Instead, it tells you about characters through the medium of their stuff. I had the George Carlin monologue about “Stuff” in mind while playing: “Your house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

Unpacking is complete without feeling short, relaxing without being boring, and deep without being padded. No, it won’t get your blood pumping or test the limits of your hand-eye coordination. But I was more invested in the life and problems of the unnamed main character than I have been in just about anything else I’ve played in 2021. Unpacking sets out to be a very specific kind of game, and it achieves that almost perfectly.

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Down rounds are still rare by historical standards • TechCrunch

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If you thought that the recent venture capital market was tough, let me tell you about 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

With the first week of December under our belts, we’re not too far away from the end of the year. And that means that 2022’s venture capital story has largely been written. It’s not a single narrative; instead, this year started on a high, with momentum from the monstrous 2021 funding period persisting into the new year. From that point, we’ve seen a slowdown accelerate into what some consider a downturn.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Startups raised lots of capital this year. Less, yes, than last year, but more than in nearly any year in recent memory. It’s still a good time to build a tech upstart.

Does that perspective feel too sunny when we hear so much doom and gloom on Twitter regarding startup prospects in a more conservative investing climate?

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Howie Mandel gets a digital twin from DeepBrain AI

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Howie Mandel is stepping into the metaverse. DeepBrain AI has created a pretty realistic AI version of comedian and actor Mandel.

Deepbrain AI, based in South Korea and Palo Alto, California, calls its creation “AI Howie,” and it’s an interactive virtual human and digital twin for immersive and personalized fan experiences. AI Howie mentions VentureBeat and talks to me in the attached videos.

Unlike the “deepfakes” of Tom Cruise and other actors, the real Howie Mandel cooperated with DeepBrain AI to create the virtual human AI replica of the famous comedian, actor, host, and technology enthusiast. We used “virtual Paris” AI character at our recent MetaBeat event in San Francisco.

“I am equally thrilled, excited, and terrified to finally have the ability of showing up and doing things without going anywhere or doing anything,” said Mandel, in a statement. “Thank you, DeepBrain.”

DeepBrain AI applies deep learning technology to create hyper-realistic virtual humans through its AI Studios and the AI Human platforms. These virtual humans are digital twins of the real person, with the same appearance, voice, gestures, and subtle mannerisms. The AI Studios platform enables script-to-video software that synthesizes dynamic video content in seconds, producing the quickest and most
realistic AI-generated videos. The script-to-video editor makes it easy for customers to select a model and then make it say something based on a script. Within a minute or so the video is made.

This is a powerful communication and marketing tool for celebrities, professional athletes, news anchors, and even politicians. Before working with Howie Mandel, the DeepBrain AI team created digital twins of Premier League soccer superstar Son Heung-Min, multiple news anchors across Asia, and South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol.

Joe Murphy, business development manager for DeepBrain AI, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the virtual Howie is a conversational model that you pepper with questions. DeepBrain AI designs and develops these virtual humans for the purpose of creating digital twins (like Howie Mandel), digital people, and avatars.

It takes about four weeks of machine learning work to create a Howie Mandel digital twin.

“We create models of real people,” Murphy said. “We also have completely synthetic virtual humans. That is what we’ll call digital people. And then avatars are just the basic Roblox type of avatars. But where our technology comes in with the digital twins is we go through a deep learning process to clone the person’s voice, their mannerisms, their face, the way their eyes move, the way their lips move.”

He added, “So we create what we call the digital twin of the real person with all the uniqueness of that person. Our mission is to use this technology that we’ve developed throughout Asia and bring it to America.”

In addition to the script-to-video capabilities, the company provides fully conversational experiences with its AI Human software. The AI Human solution enables fans to interact and engage with AI Howie by simply asking questions. For example, when asked, “What was your favorite act on AGT this season?” the AI Howie model responds in real-time to support interactive, fun, and engaging fan experiences.

AI Humans are available within mobile apps, web browsers, or voice-activated kiosks.

“Our vision is to humanize digital experiences and empower creative teams to generate immersive content at scale,” said Eric Jang, DeepBrain AI CEO. “Working with Howie Mandel was a fun experience, and we are excited to see how the AI Howie collaboration will connect with his fans worldwide.”

DeepBrain AI, (formerly Moneybrain), a conversational AI startup based in Seoul, South Korea, has raised $44 million in a series B round led by Korea Development Bank at a post-money valuation of $180 million. The company started in 2016 and it has raised $54 million to date. The company has 130 employees.

The AI is being used for AI news anchors in South Korea and China at four different television networks. The networks flag that the anchor is an AI avatar so that no one gets confused.

The real Howie Mandel spent about a day shooting video with DeepBrain AI.

While multiple companies are working on virtual humans, DeepBrain AI’s avatars are hyperrealistic. One of Asia’s largest insurance companies is also using it, as is a “brand ambassador” for a soccer team.

“When we worked with Howie Mandel, we went down to his studio in Los Angeles, we provided a script, and fed our training data into our neural network,” Murphy said.

It took about a day to do a video shoot with Mandel and about three to four weeks of machine learning time on the computers to generate the first AI model.

Back in January, DeepBrain AI opened its office in Palo Alto, California, and it is talking to partners in Silicon Valley and the rest of the U.S. Over time, Murphy said that the hope is to create AI avatars in realistic 3D for the metaverse. In South Korea, kiosks are appearing in places like banks with both 2D avatars and 3D avatars.

Over time, Murphy said the avatars have gotten better at mannerisms, lip sync, and subtle gestures. The speed of real-time responses in conversations has also gotten faster. The company is talking about doing more with game companies and major brands.

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These are the 12 big bets of future disruptive technologies

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The 12 big bets on future technologies as per Nasscom report

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) have identified 12 big bet technologies that can potentially disrupt markets in the next 3-5 years.

A report titled “Sandboxing into the Future: Decoding Technology’s Biggest Bets”, has identified these technologies of the future: autonomous analytics, Artificial Reality and Virtual Reality, autonomous driving, computer vision, deep learning, distributed ledger, edge computing, sensortech, smart robots, spacetech, sustainability tech, and 5G/6G.

AR VR concept image

The report noted that these 12 technologies will unravel in diverse ways, giving way to regional and vertical-specific big bets. While buyers in North America and Europe are betting on technologies such as autonomous analytics, APAC is likely to focus more on 5G/6G technologies, sensortech and smart robotics. Overall, technology buyers anticipate that investments in emerging technologies will account for 70%- 80% of tech spending by 2030.

“Going forward, it will be interesting to see how businesses will put their bets on emerging technologies and how they would be taking ahead the tech revolution for the larger good of the society,” said NASSCOM President Debjani Ghosh.

Cognizant acquires Utegration

Leading technology services company Cognizant has said it bought Houston-based Utegration LLC, a full-service consulting and solutions provider specializing in SAP  technology and SAP-certified products for the energy and utilities sectors.

Cognizant will gain approximately 350 employees in North America and India upon the close of this acquisition.

“We believe Utegration’s rich industry expertise and differentiated portfolio of energy and utilities-focused products and accelerators is a perfect complement to our SAP practice,” said Rob Vatter, Executive Vice President of Cognizant’s Enterprise Platform Services.

Utegration serves over 50 North America-based clients in the energy and utilities sector with solutions across four domains aligned to market needs: customer experience, billing and advanced metering infrastructure, managed services, data science and analytics, and finance and asset performance management.

HCLTech partners with Intel and Mavenir for 5G solutions

HCLTech, a leading Indian technology services company revealed a new collaboration with Intel Corporation and Mavenir to develop and provide scalable private 5G network solutions for communication service providers (CSP) and broader cross-vertical enterprises.

Through this new collaboration, the companies will work closely on a range of projects and activities across enablement, go-to-market and sales acceleration, with the goal of delivering more 5G solutions to CSPs, Internet of Things (IoT) and enterprise verticals, a statement said.

HCL

The three companies will work cross-functionally to add new offerings and help generate greater value for enterprises. The companies will develop a cloud-native enterprise-to-enterprise (E2E) architecture of an Intel Xeon processor-based 5G solution leveraging Mavenir RAN, Intel SmartEdge and HCLTech’s management, orchestration and automation services.

“There is currently a great need for scalable, reliable 5G solutions across nearly every enterprise and industry,” said Kalyan Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, HCLTech. “This need represents a major opportunity to innovate and deliver solutions that will have a major impact on business operations and outcomes.”

Collins Aerospace to expand operations in India

Collins Aerospace, which is part of Raytheon Technologies has announced that it will be expanding its operations in India. The company inaugurated its Global Engineering & Tech Centre and a new India Operations Centre to mark its 25th year in Bengaluru.

Collins Aerospace has also pledged significant capital and manpower investments over the next five years given that the Indian aerospace & defence (A&D) market is projected to reach $70 billion by 2030.

The team at Collins India is actively collaborating with Indian R&D organisations like NAL, CMTI, DRDO for study into materials, additive manufacturing, pre-qualification tests and other important projects.

Wipro bags top honour for workplace inclusion

Wipro Limited, a leading Indian technology services and consulting company, has been recognised as a ‘Gold’ employer by the India Workplace Equality Index (IWEI) 2022.

Awarded to the top employers by IWEI, the gold employer is the highest of 3 levels, where an organisation is credited with ‘embedding inclusion in the workplace.’ Highlights of Wipro’s efforts in this journey include recognition of Wipro’s leadership in India to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, from organisational policies to external communications.

wipro

It also demonstrates a long-term and in-depth commitment towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, where Wipro has implemented several initiatives enabling its employees to become active allies for the community.

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