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Google is shutting down Duplex on the Web

Another Google service will soon join the company’s graveyard of apps. The search giant quietly announced this week it is shutting down Duplex on the Web. In a support page spotted by TechCrunch, the company notes the service won’t work after the end of 2022. “As we continue to improve the Duplex experience, we’re responding to the feedback we’ve heard from users and developers about how to make it even better,” a Google spokesperson told the outlet. “By the end of this year, we’ll turn down Duplex on the Web and fully focus on making AI advancements to the Duplex voice technology that helps people most every day.”

Google first announced Duplex on the Web in 2019 as an expansion of its Duplex phone reservation AI. Initially, the feature was designed to help Android users buy movie tickets. Duplex on the Web gave Assistant the ability to navigate websites on its own. Provided you had your credit card information stored on Chrome, Assistant could take care of all of the busy work of buying film tickets for you. Google later expanded the feature to protect users against online data breaches. At one point, you could also use it to check into flights and track discounts.

As for the reason why Google is shutting down Duplex on the Web, TechCrunch suggests it may have something to do with the cost of training an AI to parse websites. The feature’s support page notes Google used a special user agent to crawl websites as much multiple times per day. What’s more, the performance of Duplex on the Web could suffer significantly if website administrators prevented the crawler from indexing their content.

US Army starts testing a modified version of Canoo’s electric pickup truck

Earlier this year, electric vehicle startup Canoo warned it was running low on cash. Since then, the company’s prospects have taken a turn for the better. Over the span of two days in July, Canoo announced separate agreements to provide Walmart with 4,500 EVs and the US Army with a test vehicle. This week, the company shared an update on its Pentagon contract, announcing it had delivered a prototype of its new Light Tactical Vehicle to the army.

The LTV looks like a modified version of Canoo’s pickup truck. According to the company, it incorporated carbon Kevlar to make the vehicle more durable without increasing its weight. The LTV can be converted from a pickup to a flatbed truck, allowing it to carry construction material and tactical equipment. It even includes a stealth configuration. Canoo says the all-wheel drive LTV can produce up to 600 horsepower. It also features air springs, a raised suspension system and 32-inch tires to make it fit for traversing difficult terrain.

The US military is among the biggest polluters on the planet. It has a larger carbon footprint than about 140 nations, including first-world countries like Sweden and Denmark. At the start of 2022, the Defense Department announced a net-zero emissions plan that, among other tactics, called for the army to electrify its combat and support vehicles. While there’s no guarantee Canoo will be part of that initiative, securing the US Army as a customer would be a significant boon for the startup.  

Fortnite’s latest season adds a new map, dirt bikes and Doomguy

Following an explosive end to the battle royale’s third chapter, Fortnite’s newest season has arrived. Chapter four comes complete with an entirely new island for players to fight over. It features a handful of landmarks that draw on fantasy tropes, including a castle known as The Citadel that’s home to “The Ageless.” There’s also Anvil Square, a picturesque medieval town surrounded by trees at the peak of their autumn colors. On a different part of the island, players will find an abandoned farm ominously named the Frenzy Fields.

Chapter four also introduces new gameplay tweaks, and if there’s a theme to the season, it’s mobility. Dirt bikes called Trail Thrashers allow you to perform tricks and fire your weapons while on the move. Now you can also vault over obstacles by sprinting at them. Additionally, in areas where there’s snow, you can use a pickaxe to create a snowball. You can then jump into the snowball to take your enemies down by rolling over them.

However, the most interesting addition is a feature called Reality Augments. At a few intervals during a game, you’ll get to choose between two random buffs that you can keep until your character dies or you win the match. Light Fingers, one of the 22 Reality Augments available with the start of the new season, allows you to reload weapons that use light ammo faster. Speaking of weapons, there are several new ones to try, including a Shockwave Hammer you can use to launch yourself at your teammates and enemies.

On the technical front, Epic has moved Fortnite to the latest version of the Unreal Engine. On PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, players can look forward to ray-traced reflections on glossy materials and water. Of course, a new season also means a fresh battle pass for players to purchase and complete. The pass includes Doom Slayer, the protagonist of Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal, as well as Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series. Separately, an Incredible Hulk skin will arrive in the Item Shop “soon.” Chapter four, season one is available to play starting today.