Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1 ‘USS Callister’ Shows How Technology Enables Creeps

Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1 'USS Callister' Shows How Technology Enables Creeps

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Black Mirror season 4 is available on Netflix
  • “USS Callister” is the first episode of new season
  • Charlie Brooker co-wrote, stars Jesse Plemons

Spoilers ahead for Black Mirror season four episode one, “USS Callister”. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn away and come back later.

At its surface, “USS Callister” – the first episode of anthology sci-fi series Black Mirror’s fourth season, out since Friday on Netflix worldwide – seems like a parody of Star Trek. It’s how the poster, stills, trailer, and the title have been set up, but that’s merely because marketing any episode of Black Mirror is a challenge, given its reliance on twists. (It’s also why Netflix prohibited us critics from revealing much about it.) The one in “USS Callister” appears less than 10 minutes into the episode, when it’s revealed that it’s all just a locally-stored Trek-themed fork of a popular virtual reality game.

From that moment on, the Trek inspiration turns merely into elaborate dressing, from the clothes to the sets, which hews as closely as possible to Gene Roddenberry’s vision with the 60s original series, without getting the CBS lawyers off their cushy seats. The real target of the episode are the power fantasies of human beings, and how can they can go very quickly from harmless to beyond creepy with advances in technology. Black Mirror has always been fascinated with digital consciousness – first with “White Christmas”, then “San Junipero”and now this – though it gets a much heavier focus on “USS Callister”.

Out in the real world, Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) is the brains behind the online multiplayer VR creation, but he’s always been the ignored nice guy. He doesn’t get the credit unlike the public-facing Walton (Jimmi Simpson) – the CEO calls himself the “shiny front-end”, and refers to Daly as the back-end – he’s laughed at by his colleagues at the company, and he doesn’t get the reception he expects from the receptionist. Black Mirror makes it easy to sympathise with him, and view him as someone who can’t catch a break, but then turns that image on its head over the next hour.

black mirror season 4 uss callister nanette Black Mirror season 4 USS Callister

Annoyed and incensed by how he’s treated, Daly has created a modded version of the game, and he’s slowly introduced digital clones of his co-workers by stealing their DNA from the office, and using high-end tech to recreate them in the virtual reality. New employee Nanette (Cristin Miloti), who admires Daly professionally, is pulled in after he overhears her dismissing the idea of liking him in personal capacity. There, he expects her to be nice to him and forces her to comply when she refuses, like he’s already done with everyone else. In short, he’s the God.

But unlike, say, in a game of The Sims, his actions are far from harmless. The digital clones can think and feel pain like their counterparts outside, so when Daly demands a kiss from every female crew member at the end of each playthrough, or torments someone by creating a clone of their son and killing him in front of them repeatedly, that carries a lot more weight than starving a Sims baby to death. Black Mirror has always tried to warn us about the unanticipated dangers of new technology, and “USS Callister” posits how it can enable harmless creeps – Daly doesn’t seem bold enough to be a criminal – from acting out their fantasies.

That doesn’t make his actions any less criminal, though whether the laws in “USS Callister” have caught up to the available technologies is entirely unknown. Is Daly as bad as someone who would torture people in real life? Since the in-game versions of his co-workers have consciousness too, should Daly pay the same price as a criminal would in our world? And should a citizen be allowed to own a device that can help you digitally clone someone in the first place? Those are all questions raised by the episode, which has been directed by Toby Haynes (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

But Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror and co-writer on “USS Callister”, is more interested in creating an empowering story. Nanette is the true protagonist here, as it becomes clear, but the episode hides that by introducing us to the world from Daly’s eyes. We’ve all experienced situations where we’ve wanted to have control over someone, and that makes seeing Daly go through with that all the more harrowing, because there’s a bit of him in all of us.

black mirror season 4 uss callister deck Black Mirror season 4 USS Callister

“USS Callister” also ends up being accidentally timely, what with a woman having to escape from the clutches of a man who views her as an object serving as an allegory for the ongoing #MeToo social movement that erupted across the globe in the wake of sexual assault allegations levelled against major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the episode, the video game versions of Callister employees are stuck in a universe where Weinstein is the only movie producer, so they have to work within those restrictions or face retribution.

While her other co-workers have chosen to give in, Nanette comes up with a strategy to free themselves from Daly’s control, which involves blackmailing her own self out in the real world. By doing so, she actually makes the original version of her self commit a crime – breaking and entering – who remains completely oblivious to how she’s helping a few digital souls escape their tormentor. We aren’t told how this impacts real-Nanette when Daly is inevitably found dead, but clone-Nanette ends up in a procedurally-generated world with infinite possibilities.

Black Mirror also gets in a dig about online gaming, with the first encounter for the digital clones being a conceited gamer – cheekily voiced by Aaron Paul’s distinctive voice – who threatens to blow them up for not serving his purpose. As an exasperated Nanette instructs her crew to warp away, he proclaims himself as ‘the king of space’, the words sounding hollow as you look at the vast virtual emptiness. The world will never be perfect, “USS Callister” argues, but you’ve always got to fight to make it better.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Review

Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Review

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie has a 13-megapixel front camera
  • It is powered by a Snapdragon 430 SoC and has 3GB of RAM
  • It runs ZenUI 4 on top of Android Nougat

Asus launched its ZenFone 4 series in India earlier this year, with the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro, ZenFone 4 Selfie Dual Camera and the ZenFone 4 Selfie all aimed at selfie-loving buyers. We have already put the range-topping ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro (Review) to the test, and now we have our hands on the entry-level model, the ZenFone 4 Selfie. This smartphone is the entry point into Asus’ latest series and is priced at just Rs. 9,999. While this lower price makes it accessible to a lot of people, does it deliver on the promise of its name, and measure up to its competition? We review to find out.

 

Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie looks and design

The Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie carries the family look and has a familiar design. In fact, the ZenFone 4 Selfie, Zenfone 4 Selfie Dual Camera and the ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro would look the same to a casual observer. Asus offers this model in Deep Sea Black, Rose Pink, and Sunlight Gold. We had a Sunlight Gold review unit which is nice enough to look at.

While the body of the smartphone is made of plastic it does look and feel premium. The 5.5-inch IPS display has 2.5D curved glass. Asus hasn’t specified any sort of protection for the display so you might want to be careful while handling this phone. Below the screen is a fingerprint sensor with capacitive touch buttons on either side. The front camera has its own flash, and the usual sensors are positioned right next to it.

At the back, the primary camera is positioned at the centre, with a single LED flash next to it. The phone has curved sides and rounded edges which makes it comfortable to hold. The power and volume buttons are placed on the right. We found the volume buttons to be placed a little too high, which forced us to shuffle the phone in our hand to reach them.

There’s a Micro-USB port and speaker grilles at the bottom, while the headphone jack and secondary microphone are placed on the top of the phone. It weighs 144g and measures 7.8mm in thickness which is manageable. The finish on the body makes the phone easy enough to grip, and we never dropped it accidentally.

Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie specifications and software

Smartphones in the sub Rs. 10,000 segment come packed with good hardware these days, and the ZenFone 4 Selfie is no exception. Asus has equipped this phone with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, which is efficient and is found in the likes of the Nokia 6 (Review) and Moto G5S (Review). The processor has four CPU cores clocked at 1.1GHz and another four clocked at 1.4GHz. The Zenfone 4 Selfie also has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage which can be expanded by up to 2TB using the dedicated microSD card slot.

The ZenFone 4 Selfie is a dual-SIM device and has two Nano-SIM slots. It has support for 4G and VoLTE on both SIMS but only one can latch onto a 4G network at a time. Asus has packed in a 3000mAh battery which is the average capacity we expect from most smartphones today. You get a 7W charger in the box, which takes over two and a half hours to charge the battery fully.

Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie Display Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Review

The screen measures 5.5 inches and has a resolution of 720×1280 pixels. It has good colour reproduction and viewing angles, and we even found it to be usable under sunlight. However, if you like saturated displays, you might be left wanting as there is no way to tweak the output. The fingerprint scanner is fairly accurate and apart from a few misses, we were able to unlock the smartphone easily. The phone is quick to register a fingerprint but takes a little longer than we would like to unlock itself.

Asus ships the ZenFone 4 Selfie running Android Nougat with Zen UI 4.0 on top. We found Zen UI to be easy to use as it has minimal changes compared to stock Android. Asus has chosen a bright theme which makes it look different, but you do have the option to change themes as per your liking. The company has also integrated shortcuts that let you launch apps and interact with the phone using only touch and motion gestures. These are disabled by default and you will need to enable them through the Settings app if you choose to use them.

You can also enable a one-handed mode by double-tapping the Home button, which shrinks the contents of the screen such that it is easier to reach everything with one thumb. The phone lets you run two instances of several apps, and has a mode called Game Genie which clears RAM before launching a game. Asus has also integrated Go2Pay into the Settings, which is a payments app that can be used to pay for bills and recharges.

There are a few preinstalled social media apps such as Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Asus also has its own Mobile Manager app which gives you details of resource usage for the RAM, battery and storage. Selfie Master is a simple shortcut that launches the camera in beautify mode directly. The same app also includes BeautyLive which lets users stream to Facebook and YouTube with beautification on. Our review unit also had a few preinstalled Japanese apps, and hopefully, retail units will not have these.

Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie Camera Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie Review

Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie performance, cameras, and battery life

While the ZenFone 4 Selfie is an entry-level phone, it does pack in powerful hardware. The Snapdragon 430 is good enough to handle day-to-day tasks without any lag or stutter. With 3GB of RAM, we rarely saw apps getting closed. The phone could multitask even with games running in the background. The ZenFone 4 Selfie managed to run most of our usual games without any issues.

We also ran this phone through a few benchmarks to see how it fares against the competition. In AnTuTu, it managed to score 44,276, and the single-core and multi-core tests in Geekbench 4 gave us 668 and 2,563 respectively. We got 10,020 in 3DMark Ice Storm Standard. Battery life is decent and the phone could deliver one day of light to medium use. In our HD video loop test, the phone managed to clock 10 hours, 3 minutes.

The Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie sports a 13-megapixel camera with phase detection autofocus at the back, and a 13-megapixel selfie camera with an f/2.0 aperture at the front. The camera app has shortcuts for HDR, Portrait mode, the timer, and the flash. There are multiple modes including panorama, time-lapse, beauty, pro, and super resolution. Pro mode gives you complete control of the camera which includes the ISO, shutter speed, exposure, white balance, and focus.

Tap to see full-sized Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie camera samples

The phone takes some time to focus and we found it to have a bit of shutter lag. Photos taken with the ZenFone 4 Selfie were just average. We observed that daylight shots lacked detail and some also had a bit of purple fringing. Zoom into a shot and you can see a watercolour-like effect to it. Taking macros is slow as you have to wait for the phone to lock focus. With portrait mode enabled, the smartphone blurs backgrounds digitally in an attempt to make subjects stand out. We found this mode to be inconsistent but it could manage good separation when it worked.

Night shots are barely usable – the phone keeps noise in check but oversharpens photos, resulting in poor output. Selfies are good though and have a good amount of detail. Selfie beautification is somewhat helpful and can improve photos. The selfie flash makes it easy to take shots in low light. Video recording maxes out at 1080p at 30fps, and there is electronic video stabilisation but we did not find it to be very effective.

Verdict
With the Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie, the Selfie series is accessible to a lot of people. Users get a decent front camera and live beautification mode can be useful if you are into vlogging or doing Facebook Live videos. For the price, the ZenFone 4 Selfie has decent hardware, but the performance of the rear camera is below average. If you intend to take a lot of selfies or use the live beautification mode, then the Zenfone 4 Selfie works as a good tool. If you don’t mind spending more, the ZenFone 4 Selfie Dual Camera at Rs 14,999 has dual front cameras consisting of one 20-megapixel selfie shooter and another 8-megapixel one with a wide-angle lens. You also get more RAM and storage, though we haven’t tested the phone out yet, so we can’t speak for its real world performance. If you are on a strict budget and looking for an all-rounder, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (Review) would be our pick.

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Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie (ZB553KL)

Asus ZenFone 4 Selfie (ZB553KL)

  • REVIEW
  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Good battery life
  • Dedicated microSD card slot
  • Bad
  • Average camera performance
  • Slow fingerprint scanner
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  • Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie (Gold, 32GB, 3GB RAM) – OFFER
    Rs.9,999
  • Asus Zenfone 4 Selfie (Black, 64GB, 4GB RAM) – OFFER
    Rs.14,999

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Google Announces 4 New Indian Startups for Fresh ‘Launchpad Accelerator’ Batch

Google Announces 4 New Indian Startups for Fresh 'Launchpad Accelerator' Batch

Google on Friday announced the four shortlisted Indian startups for its hands-on mentorship programme ‘Launchpad Accelerator’. With this batch, a total of 30 Indian startups have so far joined the class.

The shortlisted startups – BabyChakra, m.Paani, NIRAMAI and SocialCops – will join a group of startups shortlisted from all over the world at the Google Developers’ Launchpad Space in San Francisco in the US.

Class 5 of the mentorship will kick off on January 29 and will include two weeks of all-expenses paid training, as part of the the full six-month programme.

“These startups have been shortlisted based on their unique value proposition and use of latest technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Roy Glasberg, Global Lead, Google Developers Launchpad, said in a statement.

BabyChakra is a trusted care companion to Indian parents, from pregnancy to parenting.

m.Paani powers real-time, direct to consumer engagement, marketing, loyalty and insights for mass market consumers and retailers.

NIRAMAI is a healthtech startup that has developed a novel breast cancer screening solution while SocialCops empowers organisations to make better decisions through data.

Launchpad Accelerator is Google’s six-month programme that includes an intensive two-week boot camp in San Francisco and mentoring from over 30 teams across Google and expert mentors from top technology companies in Silicon Valley and globally.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Last night’s insights: Round 4: Thursday

Image result for Last night's insights: Round 4: Thursday

There is always a question on the back end of the two-games-in-48-hours in packed EuroLeague weeks as to how will players hold up. Well we certainly saw some young guns at their best with Luka Doncic and Nikola Milutinov leading their respective undefeated squads, Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus, to victory. But veteran Taylor Rochestie played a leading role as Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade came from behind to win as home, as did Jordan Theodore in a similar situation for AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan. Want more insights on Thursday’s games? The EuroLeague Gurus have you covered.

Crvena Zvezda. Where everybody knows their role

When building a team and team chemistry, among the many things that coaches look for is for every player to understand his role. That is the case for Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, for which 10 players contributed in their come-from-behind victory over Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv. Some roles are easy to spot and define. Taylor Rochestie is the ball handler and go-to scorer; he delivered with 22 points and 5 assists. Milko Bjelica is the savvy big man with a sweet outside shot; he produced 16 points on 4-of-4 shooting from behind the arc. Center Mathias Lessort is the physical presence in the paint; he neutralized Maccabi’s starting center, Art Parakhouski, who came into the game leading the lead in blocks and finished with just 4 points and no blocks in 12 minutes. And then there are the starting wings, James Feldeine and Branko Lazic, who made sure that Maccabi’s prime scorers, Pierre Jackson and Norris Cole, had limited impacts for much of the night. On top of that, Feldeine produced the best offensive game of his EuroLeague career with 19 points, 8 assists and 4 steals, which were all career bests. And then there’s the bench… Nikola Jovanovic’s physical presence inside made things tough on the Maccabi centers. He also soared for the rebound on Maccabi’s last possession to in essence wrap up the victory. Pero Antic buried a pair of three-pointers and helped set the defensive tone with a tough foul on Maccabi power forward Jonah Bolden, who had 10 first-quarter points and none in the second half. And then there was Stefan Lazarevic, who spent less than six minutes on the court, but his defense on Michael Roll inbounding the ball on Maccabi’s final possession forced the visitors to inbound the ball three times and allowed his team to prepare its defense accordingly.

Zvezda is a young and hungry team, but kudos to Coach Dusan Alimpijevic for harnessing the skills of his players and making sure they all know their roles and are ready, able and willing to contribute everything they have from the opening minute till the final buzzer. And don’t forget, Zvezda won last night with injured forwards Marko Keselj and Nemanja Dangubic. So this team can only get better!

Madrid’s domination comes from different sources

Real Madrid is the most dominant team in the early stage of the new EuroLeague season. If for some unknown reason previous wins of 14 points on the road against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, by 13 at home against CSKA Moscow, and scoring 100 points against Milan on Tuesday left any doubts, the way Madrid handled Zalgiris in Kaunas on Thursday really stands out. Yes, Luka Doncic shined again, scoring 24 of his career-high 28 points in the second half, and had a run of 9 consecutive points midway through the third quarter when he singlehandedly extended Madrid’s lead from 9 to 16 points. However, even though the 18-year old was unstoppable in the second half, Madrid had a 31-40 lead at halftime despite Doncic not being that big of a factor in the first two quarters.

“I think tonight Doncic had a great game because he was hot shooting,” Coach Pablo Laso explained after the game. “But Campazzo played a great game for us, he controlled the rhythm. Felipe and Ayon were awesome underneath the basket, Maciulis, Radoncic, Taylor on defense. It’s more of a team thing, although Luka rises a little bit above the rest.”

In those first two quarters it was Gustavo Ayon and Rudy Fernandez making plays, while Facundo Campazzo hit long distance shots. Already in the first half Madrid had a 6 to 13 advantage in assists, and finished the game with 23 assists to only 13 by Zalgiris. The ball movement allowed the offense to repeatedly score with ease and find open players who nailed the open jumpers and three-pointers, a total of 15 shots behind the arc to be precise. Four different players had at least 3 dishes, with Campazzo leading the way with 6, and Ayon right behind with 5 passes his teammates turned into baskets. Doncic had 4 and Rudy Fernandez 3 assists. Madrid wins, and wins big, but evidence is there that it is a lot more to its 14.5-point margin of victory than just Doncic’s fantastic numbers.

Rebounds and sharing the ball keeps Olympiacos undefeated

Khimki Moscow Region arrived undefeated to Peace and Friendship Stadium after three big home wins, but Olympiacos Piraeus was ready to show the Russian powerhouse that life on the road is not easy for anyone in the EuroLeague. Not only did Olympiacos live up to the expectations with its trademark defense, but the Reds were able to run the floor and share the balls like few times before. Indeed, Olympiacos limited Khimki to very low shooting percentages – a season-low 44.4% from two-point range and 28.6% from downtown. Khimki averaged 24.5 assists in the last two games, but only dished 12 against Olympiacos. On the other hand, 10 Olympiacos players had at least 1 assist in this game – all but center Nikola Milutinov and, surprisingly, playmaker Vangelis Mantzaris. Sharing the ball (17 assists) and controlling the defensive boards (a season high 30 defensive rebounds for Olympiacos and the fourth-best mark this season) allowed the Reds to dominate the game, especially in the third quarter, in which Georgios Printezis and Nikola Milutinov combined for 14 points to break it open. Milutinov hit all 8 of his two-point shots to finish the game with 17 points, while Printezis added 15, but 11 Olympiacos players scored in this game. Olympiacos made 27 of 42 two-point shots, with the fourth-best percentage of the season (62.8%).

“In the third period, we showed all of our quality, defensively and offensively. We played great defense, they scored only 15 points and we had the chance to run in the open court and score fast break and transition points,” Olympiacos head coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos said after the game. “That gave us a bigger lead. After that, we controlled the tempo of the game in the fourth period and continued to be focused on both ends of the court,” he added.

“We allowed, in the beginning of the game, 32 points in the first half from low post offense and transition through our turnovers,” Khimki head coach Georgios Bartzokas, who won the EuroLeague title with Olympiacos in 2013, added. “We tried to prepare our players for the different style of basketball that Olympiacos plays, especially in its home court but obviously, our approach was completely wrong.”

Milan’s Theodore joins the elite

AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan’s meeting with FC Barcelona Lassa on Thursday night was one of those games that kept you guessing. As the final minutes approached, nobody could have said with any confidence which team was going to win, or who would take the starring role. Apart from a bizarre second quarter which saw Barcelona race into a 15-point lead, but Milan immediately fight back to level before the break, the game had been closely contested all the way. Several players had briefly shined, notably Barcelona veteran and EuroLeague scoring king Juan Carlos Navarro with 11 points in less than four minutes during that second quarter charge, but as the final minutes arrived the game was very much in the balance and something – or someone – had to give.

In the end, that something proved to be Milan point guard Jordan Theodore, who delivered a masterful fourth quarter to round off an excellent all-round display and emphatically announce his arrival in Europe’s elite competition. It’s taken a while for Theodore to get there. At the age of 28, he is certainly not a fresh-faced novice, and his journey to the top level encompassed six different clubs in the last five years. The most recent of those was Banvit, where he finished last season as the Turkish League’s leading assister. His performances over the last two or three seasons more than warranted an opportunity to shine on the EuroLeague stage, and with Milan’s main scoring threat Andrew Goudelock watching from the stands through injury against Barcelona, he seized that opportunity with both hands. Theodore was particularly impressive in crunch time, scoring 9 points in two minutes midway through the final period to establish a lead that Milan would not relinquish, and his overall stats of 19 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals reveal everything about his effectiveness all over the court. As a late arrival into the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, Theodore is making up for lost time – and he’s doing it in a hurry.

[“Source-euroleague”]