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By Jay Bonggolto
Xbox Party Chat now supports speech transcription and text-to-speech for Insiders
by Jay Bonggolto
Xbox' accessibility for everyone, including those with speech and hearing difficulties, has gained new improvements. Microsoft announced today that Xbox Party Chat has added support for speech-to-text transcription and text-to-speech synthesis for Insiders.
Party Chat was introduced a couple of years ago to Xbox One in order to let gamers communicate with other players on the platform using text in addition to voice chat. With the speech-to-text feature, everything you say in the party will be transcribed and the resulting text will show up in an overlay while you're playing a game. Text-to-speech, on the other hand, lets your text be read out loud to others in the party by a synthetic voice. You can even choose multiple voices for every supported language.
To get started with the new accessibility features, you can simply head over to the Settings menu and then choose "Ease of Access". From there, you can click on Game and then select chat transcription. Alternatively, when you're in a party, you can just click on options to open the settings and then choose "Configure ease of access."
Speech transcription and text-to-speech capabilities were rolled out to Xbox One (along with Windows 10) in 2017 for some games. Their addition to Party Chat is a welcome development for those using the communication feature during a party.
The Xbox May 2021 Update is now available with better Quick Resume and passthrough audio
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft is back at it with another monthly update for the Xbox family of consoles, and as usual, this one brings some notable improvements that should make your experience that much better. These updates are available for both the Xbox One and the recently-launched Xbox Series X|S, and there's also some updates related to Xbox apps on other devices.
First off, one of the more notable improvements is in Quick Resume, which is a feature only available on the Xbox Series X|S. This feature lets users quickly jump between different games without having them load all over again, and Microsoft says this update makes the feature more reliable and faster. What's more, games that support Quick Resume will have a new tag next to them to make them easier to identify, and there's also a new group in your games library that lists all the game currently stored in Quick Resume so you can launch them more quickly.
Next is support for passthrough audio for media apps such as Disney+, Apple TV, Plex, and Vudu. This setting allows audio decoding to bypass the console and head straight into your HDMI-connected speakers for better audio quality. You can enable audio passthrough in the Xbox console's sound settings, and the guide will show an indicator when you use an app that supports passthrough audio if the feature is enabled.
Another update has to do with parental controls, and it allows children to request access to multiplayer games on a per-title basis. The Xbox Family Settings app allows parents to disable multiplayer features altogether, but now parents can enable it for specific games if they deem them more appropriate. Other smaller updates include a new dynamic background called Motes, and for Xbox Game Pass users, the spotlight section of the Game Pass hub will now automatically play trailers for games when you focus on them, without having to open the game's page.
Aside from console-specific features, Microsoft also announced today that the Xbox app for Android and iOS can now notify users when their friends are online, The achievements page has been updated with new game stats such as time played, and finally, the performance and reliability of sending messages in the Xbox app has been improved.
Finally, Microsoft also announced today that the Xbox One SmartGlass app for PC will be discontinued in June, meaning you won't be able to download it and no new updates are planned. Microsoft recommends using the Xbox app for messaging friends and managing Game Pass downloads.
There are some known issues in this update, which you can find below:
The update should now be available to download, and you can either get it right now or wait for it to install by itself. Microsoft releases new updates with notable improvements every month, and it's worth keeping an eye out for them.
Microsoft Weekly: Edge Beta for Linux, a new Segoe font, and games galore
by Florin Bodnarescu
A number of things happened in the last seven days, including the arrival of Edge Beta on Linux, the unveiling of a new Segoe font variant, and even a refresh of the Azure logo. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 2 - 8.
Edge Beta for Linux
We should begin with a little info regarding Edge, as not much has happened with the browser this week.
For starters, build 92.0.878.0 made its way to the Dev Channel. While this would normally be pretty exciting, Microsoft says the build doesn’t change much, given that it came out just a few days after the previous build. The changes are so minor that the company didn’t even bother publishing its usual post about it.
Moving on to the stable version, namely version 90, folks may be experiencing problems with YouTube playback, namely crashing. This bug has been acknowledged by a Microsoft engineer, who suggested users disable hardware acceleration as a workaround. The same engineer confirmed that the company is working on a fix, but that the issue may be more significant than initially thought.
And since we’re taking a tour through the various Insider channels, it’s worth pointing out that over six months after the Dev channel availability of Edge for Linux, there is now a Beta variant for the open-source OS.
Lastly, Microsoft is now testing everse image search in the Bing sidebar. This does pretty much exactly what it sounds like it would, namely allows you to right-click on an image and search for it on Bing in the sidebar which appears on the right of the Edge browser. As per Reddit user Leopeva64-2 who stumbled upon this, the capability is available in Edge Dev, though we have not seen this on any of our test devices.
A new font
For Insiders in the Dev channel, Microsoft pushed out yet another preview build, 21376, which included the usual array of fixes and, rather interestingly a new Segoe font variant.
While Segoe UI itself has been used as a default system font going all the way back to Windows Vista, a number of variants have been revealed since, including Segoe Script, Segoe Pro, and what Microsoft used for its Modern design icons, Segoe MDL2 Assets.
The new font is called Segoe UI Variable and as the name implies, it’s meant to vary slightly depending on the use case. Segoe UI itself for example was originally designed to be optimal at 9pt sizes, while Segoe UI Variable tweaks the letter weight and tracking depending on the size.
For smaller text, the letters are more tightly tracked, have more weight and are more open, while at display size, text isn’t quite as tightly tracked and has amplified letter terminals. For those not familiar, tracking refers to the overall horizontal spacing between font characters. This is not to be confused with kerning, which refers to the proportional spacing between two individual letters, whereas tracking refers to, say, an entire word.
On the subject of change, we should touch on the fact that Microsoft is set to fully remove Flash from Windows 10 in July. While support for Flash was dropped by Adobe on December 31, 2020, and Microsoft released a manual update to remove it back in October of the same year, it was, as the name implies, not necessarily mandatory. Starting in July, the Redmond giant is set to push out the update to Windows 10 v1809 and above, automagically removing the media plugin.
To that end, the firm is also removing any update blocks for versions 2004 and 20H2 (May 2020 Update, October 2020 Update), allowing folks to freely upgrade to these supported variants. We’re on the verge of a new feature update anyway, so it’s not much of a surprise that Microsoft wants folks on the latest Windows 10 version, if possible.
Last but not least, to the dismay of perhaps three people, Windows 10X is allegedly delayed indefinitely, as Microsoft focuses on Windows 10 proper.
Since its original unveil at the end of 2019 with the dual-screen Surface Neo and Duo, the former device was delayed out of its Holiday 2020 release window, and Windows 10X was repurposed for single-screen devices - in stark contrast to its initial 'dual-screen devices first' approach. For now, it seems that the Redmond firm is putting 10X on the backburner, focusing its resources on the expected Sun Valley UI refresh coming to Windows 10 later this year.
In a rather surprising announcement, Microsoft decided to take the wraps off a sizeable selection of titles now supporting FPS Boost. More than quadrupling the number of supported games from 23 to 97, the latest additions include Dying Light, a number of LEGO games, ReCore, and more, with supported framerates from 60 to 120FPS.
There are good news on the Game Pass front as well, with FIFA 21, Red Dead Online, Psychonauts, Outlast 2 and many others either already available or joining the subscription very soon. Additionally, folks in the U.S. also get four months of Spotify Premium with Game Pass Ultimate, though this is available for new users only.
On the revenue share front, Microsoft dropped its cut from 30% to 12% on PC, and was planning to do the same on console, but it will no longer do so. An interesting tidbit about the company’s strategy relates to exactly why it lowered its split. As per the court documents filed in January, this is done “in exchange for the grant of streaming rights to Microsoft.”, in other words, xCloud. It’s not exactly clear whether the proposal was far enough along to even be discussed with console publishers, but for the time being, the revenue split on Xbox remains 30/70.
If you don’t think that’s such a great deal, maybe some of the Deals with Gold will pique your interest, like the discounts for Borderlands 3, Control, PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition, and others.
However, if you have no desire to buy more games and already own the latest iteration of Flight Simulator or the spin-off title Minecraft Dungeons, it’s worth checking for updates, as both first-party games have received a number of enhancements and fixes.
The latest monthly Office Insider build on the Mac has added the ‘Share to Teams’ capability in Outlook, and more. Microsoft has announced its automation tool for security testing AI systems, dubbed Counterfit. Live transcriptions will soon be added for unscheduled and channel meetings in Teams. Microsoft has announced Reading Progress for Teams for education. Whiteboard now has improved Teams integration, support for rich content like images and stickers, and more. The Redmond giant has detailed more education features coming through August. Excel on the web now supports Power BI-connected PivotTables. Microsoft has delivered oxygen, ventilators, and more to support India’s COVID-19 response. New customization options are now available for Reply-all Storm Protection in Microsoft 365. Microsoft customers in the EU will be able to store all their data in the region by 2022. The Redmond firm has warned of a widespread gift card scam targeting organizations. Logging off
We end the week with a refreshed Azure logo, an interesting Defender bug, and some Surface firmware updates.
Starting with Azure, Microsoft has decided that the logo for its cloud service needed a bit of a Fluent Design facelift, and as such unveiled a brand-new icon. Ditching the angular shape of the old logo, this one is much more reminiscent of say, the Visual Studio icon, though in some cases, it may remind folks of the Adobe or Autodesk logos.
On the flip side, what wasn’t needed was a rather weird Microsoft Defender bug, which ended up creating “thousands” of files in users' boot drives. Some folks saw small files less than 2KB in size, while other users reported multiple GBs of storage being eaten up. A fix is already rolling out, and if you’re on Microsoft Defender engine version 1.1.18100.5, you’ll be bumped up to 1.1.18100.6 following this update.
Finally, for owners of the Surface Pro 4, Studio, Laptop 1,2, and 4, Microsoft has released a slew of firmware updates meant to bring stability and security enhancements.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.
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Minecraft Dungeons gets cross-platform cloud saves, but you have to sync manually
by João Carrasqueira
Mojang Studios' Minecraft dungeon-crawler spin-off Minecraft Dungeons was launched almost one year ago on all major platforms at the time, but it was oddly missing the ability to carry your save data across different devices if you chose to buy the game on more than one console. Now, the developers have announced that the feature is available as part of today's update for the game, version 220.127.116.11.
Cloud saves will allow players to sync their Heroes to the cloud, which they can then use to play on another console. However, the process isn't as automatic or fluid as some might hope. The game's Hero Select screen will have a new option that allows you to upload a specific Hero to the cloud, as well as download them to your console if you've already uploaded one. You have to do this manually every time you switch platforms, and there's a limit of 20 heroes that can be saved on the cloud at any given time.
Additionally, it's worth noting that DLC purchases don't carry over from platform to platform, so if you have equipped items from a specific DLC pack, they will be removed from your Hero when you load it up on a platform where you haven't bought the DLC. You also can't play on DLC maps unless you buy them on the platform you want to play on.
There have been four DLC packs released since the game's launch, so to be unable to carry over those purchases across platforms is likely going to be a problem for many players, and it takes away a significant portion of the impact of cloud saves. Regardless, if you happen to have bought the game and its DLC packs across more than one platform, this may be good news for you. Earlier this year, Mojang announced that over 10 million people had bought Minecraft Dungeons, so there's a solid fanbase that might have use for the feature.
Aside from that, today's patch includes a number of fixes and tweaks, including multiple crashes that have been addressed and a handful of other issues. The game is also now available in Chinese Traditional and Simplified variants across all platforms.
Almost 100 games now support FPS Boost on Xbox Series X|S
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft's FPS Boost technology can allow backwards compatible games to obtain higher framerates on the latest Xbox Series X|S consoles, and it debuted a couple of months ago with just five games, eventually growing to 23 supported titles with two subsequent updates. Now, Microsoft has dropped the biggest update to FPS Boost yet, more than quadrupling the total number of supported games for a total of 97 titles.
The blog post detailing every game that supports FPS Boost was updated today, as spotted by Twitter user Wario64, and it includes plenty of notable games and franchises including Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, and many more. Out of the 97 games supported, 42 can now run at up to 120Hz if you have an Xbox Series X, while the Series S can only deliver the same framerate on 31 of them.
Here's the full list of newly-added supported games:
Alien Isolation Anthem Assassin’s Creed III Remastered Assassin’s Creed Rogue Remastered Assassin’s Creed The Ezio Collection Assassin’s Creed Unity Battle Chasers: Nightwar Battlefield Hardline Beholder Complete Edition Dead Island Definitive Edition Dead Island: Riptide Definitive Edition Deus Ex Mankind Divided DiRT 4 Dishonored: Death of the Outsider Don’t Starve: Giant Edition Dragon Age: Inquisition Dungeon Defenders II Dying Light Far Cry 5 Far Cry New Dawn Far Cry Primal Gears of War 4 Golf with your Friends Halo Wars 2 Halo: Spartan Assault Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition Homefront: The Revolution Hyperscape Island Saver LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham LEGO Jurassic World LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 LEGO Marvel Superheroes LEGO Marvel’s Avengers LEGO STAR WARS: The Force Awakens LEGO The Hobbit LEGO The Incredibles LEGO Worlds Life is Strange Life is Strange 2 Lords of the Fallen Mad Max Metro 2033 Redux Metro: Last Light Redux Monster Energy Supercross 3 MotoGP 20 Moving Out My Friend Pedro My Time at Portia Overcooked! 2 Paladins Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Prey Realm Royale ReCore Shadow of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition Shadow Warrior 2 Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition SMITE Steep Super Lucky’s Tale SUPERHOT The Evil Within 2 (PsychoBreak 2 in Japan) The Gardens Between The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame The LEGO Movie Videogame Tom Clancy’s The Division Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Totally Reliable Delivery Service Two Point Hospital Unruly Heroes Untitled Goose Game Wasteland 3 Watch_Dogs Yakuza 6: The Song of Life It's worth noting that 20 out of the 97 games supported by FPS Boost will have the feature off by default on the Xbox Series X, which usually means that sacrifices have to be made in resolution to obtain the higher framerate, thus Microsoft believes it's best for players to choose how they prefer to play.
Microsoft also points out that many of the games that support FPS Boost are available as part of a Game Pass subscription, so this is yet another boon subscribers are getting at no additional cost.