Google’s flagship smartphone, Fortnite’s second chapter, and the HACC is on

My latest Techspotting segment on KITV, where Maleko McDonnell and I discuss the Google Pixel 4, the latest reboot of Fortnite, and the Hawaii Annual Code Challenge.

Q: Let’s start local. You’re involved in a lot of hackathons, but this past weekend was one of the largest, and it’s organized by the state, right?

A: Right. It was the fourth annual HACC, the Hawaii Annual Code Challenge. It’s a hackathon, but it’s one that uses government services as a framework, and taps developers and entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers to come up with better ways for government agencies to support their communities. It’s organized by the state Office of Enterprise Services, but it brings in state agencies to “reverse pitch” a problem that creative and technical people can try to solve.

Instead of forcing people to build a solution in a weekend, this hackathon lasts four weeks, and there’ll be a couple of workshops during that time to help participants develop their solutions. Finally, on November 16, teams will pitch their ideas at HPU at Aloha Tower, and winners will get cash prizes as well as an opportunity to further build their solution into something solid that the state might actually use.

This year the challenges came from the Department of Education, the State Energy Office, the Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), Hawaii Green Growth, and the sponsoring department, ETC. Participants can work on things ranging from electric vehicle charging stations to story maps to loan applications.

Q: Bringing up the rear behind Apple and Microsoft, it was Google’s turn to announce its latest hardware. What did they unveil?

A: Like its big tech brothers, the headline from Google’s hardware event is its flagship smartphone, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, which ship on Thursday. And like the new Apple iPhone 11 Pro, the upgrades in the Pixel phone this year are focused on the camera.

Night Sight got a machine learning boost, allowing you to take pictures of a starry sky without a blur. The camera can show HDR effects live, before you trigger the shudder, and it gives you dual exposure controls for easy adjustments of brightness and shadows. These phones are $799 and $899.

Google also updated its laptop, the Chromebook, with the Chromebook Go, which is priced at a reasonable $649. A lot of people say it looks a lot like Apple’s MacBook, which is not a bad thing.

Google is also updating its Pixel Buds earbuds, priced at $179. These are wireless, but won’t be available until next spring.

Finally, in its smart home line, Google announced a mesh Wi-Fi router (Nest Wi-Fi) and a $49 smart speaker called the Nest Mini… which is basically the new Google Home Mini.

Q: Last week also brought big news in the world of online gaming. What’s this about a black hole?

Q: Well, if you have younger kids, they’re probably familiar with Fortnite, which is one of the largest ‘battle royale’ games out there. It’s owned by Microsoft, and has more than 250 million players, earning the company more than $2 billion a year. Well, last week brought the end of what the company has called the first chapter of this game, and it went out with a bang.

As millions of players watched live, a meteor that had been hovering in the sky of the game world finally crashed down, and the whole in-game universe got sucked into a black hole. And that glowing black hole was all anyone saw on screen for hours. The company didn’t put out any news, and left everyone wondering what was going to happen.

Fortunately, the game came back with what they’re calling Chapter Two. The game still takes place on an island, but the map is completely new, where long-time players had pretty much memorized the old map. And in Chapter Two, you can leave the island and battle on boats in the ocean or on rivers. Overall the game seems more natural, more simple, and a lot of players are enjoying the simpler gameplay.

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