NAB tells staff to up their digital and data game – Finance – Training & Development – Software- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NAB’s chief people officer Susan Ferrier.

NAB placed extra emphasis on having its 40,000 staff develop their data and digital skills while on lockdown, converting thousands of training programs to run online in the process.
Chief people officer Susan Ferrier told SAP’s virtual Sapphire Now conference that the bank saw an opportunity for staff to “upskill and learn”, and for the bank to ultimately develop a more flexible workforce.
Staff were asked to review skills recorded against their staff profile held in SAP SuccessFactors.
“We really pushed the skills inventory that sits in Successfactors and said, ‘Here’s an opportunity to brush up your internal CV,” Ferrier said.
“We asked everybody to also go in and review what they had in that tab in SuccessFactors and to update their skills. 
“We’ve really been pushing things like skills and mental health [during lockdown], and [that] now’s the time for you to double down and think about the future, particularly on things like digital and data skills.”
At the same time, Ferrier said that NAB had digitised most of its existing training programs so they could be run remotely.
“We’ve definitely used [COVID-19] as an opportunity to push harder into ensuring that we’ve got a really strong and valuable digital learning footprint,” she said.
“We’ve pivoted a lot of our face-to-face training to now be delivered via Zoom or Teams. 
“That actually in some cases is working better than it did before. In other cases, I think face-to-face learning is probably more impactful, but we’ve experienced significant take-up.
“I think we’ve changed something like 3000 of our courses from what they were before to digitise and reinvent them in a way in which they’d be able to be delivered remotely.”
NAB has several active streams of work underway to effectively redesign its operations for a post-COVID world.
Ferrier revealed last week that this would end hotdesking, with desks now only available via a booking app, presumably to provide some sort of traceability should it be required (rather than a full hotdesking environment, where it may be immediately unclear who was sat at what desk and when).
At Sapphire Now, Ferrier detailed at least three other work streams.
One of these focuses on making skills and teams more “fungible” – in other words, able to be shifted internally to fulfil resourcing requirements at short notice.
During COVID-19, the bank – like many other large organisations – retrained people from across the business to join its frontline and work through a spike in inbound enquiries from customers.
The effort involved about 800 NAB staff, and appears to have given the bank a taste of what it would be like to have a more flexible and re-assignable workforce.
“One of the things that we realised through this is that we can train people fast to go do other jobs that are different to the ones that they were doing up until COVID-19 hit,” Ferrier said.
“In the past we would have said,’Oh, it’s going to take us three weeks to repurpose these people to be able to go and do this job rather than that job’. 
“But we’ve been able to move so rapidly, we’ve taken a three week training course and condensed it into two really intense days, with a lot of on-the-job coaching.”
Having staff from other parts of the business pitch in had been “very energising and engaging for our frontline”, as well as for NAB more broadly.
“I think that’s one thing that we really learned is that skills, in some cases, aren’t so particular to one job, and you can rapidly retrain and mobilise,” Ferrier said.
“That fungibility idea is going to be something we carry forward.”
Another work stream is focused on enabling “a truly flexible workforce, where people come in and out of our office buildings, work from home [or] work from wherever in a truly flexible way.” 
“We’re rapidly looking at how we can hold onto the habits and practices that we’ve created in the last few months,” Ferrier said.
Yet more work is aimed at determining what the bank of the future will look like, particularly as a larger portion of customers gravitate to digital channels and shun physical branches.
“One of the things that we’ve noticed is our customer behaviour … and customer habits have changed,” Ferrier said.
“They’ve really mobilised much more rapidly to digital, online and on-demand or self service type platforms such as our app. 
“Customers are moving away from needing to physically be in our branches. So we’re trying to work out what that means for the future of banking.”

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Move over, Fortnite: how Valorant became the next big competitive game | Games – Blog – 10 minute

On a Tuesday in early April, viewers around the globe watched streamers on Twitch play one particular game for a combined 34m hours, smashing established live-streaming viewership records. The game in question, Valorant by Riot Games, has been averaging hundreds of thousands of daily spectators ever since, quickly displacing Twitch stalwarts such as League of Legends and Fortnite.
Valorant is a ready-baked esport: a competitive shooter designed to be watched as well as played. After a few weeks with Valorant, I’ve found it to be a careful mix of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s meticulous but rewarding gunplay and Overwatch’s characters and soft-edged charm.
This combination – complemented by expensive anti-cheat measures and super-fast servers – has made it an easy sell for hardcore players. Many professional crack shots are jumping ship from games such as Apex Legends and Fortnite, the most notable departure thus far being 2019 Overwatch League MVP Jay “Sinatraa” Won, who revealed in April that he was leaving Blizzard’s hero shooter behind to focus on Valorant.

Yet for the casual player like me, Valorant still has a lot to offer. While I might not be the most accurate shot, I can still be useful in other areas. My preferred character, Cypher – one of nine in the game right now – has the tools to provide match-winning information about the enemy team through careful camera placement and pesky tripwires. It turns every round into a battle of wits as well as accuracy, weaving personal narratives into a conventionally cold competitive format.
The game’s slick design has enabled its meteoric rise on Twitch, but a crucial difference between this game and previous contenders is that almost no one could get their hands on it for weeks. Valorant spent almost two months in a very limited closed beta stage, which ends today on 28 May, and the digital keys to the virtual kingdom were a hot commodity. Riot Games’ clever marketing scheme was to let streamers give away keys to their viewers, incentivising millions of people to watch the game being played in the hopes of gaining access for themselves.
This led to an initial boom, but it didn’t take long for things to turn sour. Top streamer Dr Disrespect was caught fraudulently advertising beta keys, and some players with access took to eBay to trade their accounts for profit. In an attempt to keep the system fair, Riot swept its player database, banning many account sellers, and later opened up giveaway drops to all streamers with beta access instead of a curated few. But then people started streaming prerecorded footage of their gameplay, claiming that they were “live-playing” Valorant, trying to bring in more viewers.

‘Team game’ … Valorant. Photograph: Riot Games
Under lockdown, when viewers may have more free time than usual, Riot’s approach has created a perfect storm of hype. But it has also left some debris in its wake. While writing this, I watched a houseful of streamers play the game in shifts to a drop-desperate audience in the hundreds – yet the chat was devoid of conversation, beyond viewers pinging the watch-time command to expose the nauseating amount of hours they’ve spent watching and hoping for access. I’m not sure this is what Riot had in mind when it kicked off this campaign.
For those who snagged a coveted beta key, the watching and waiting was worth it. Having played Counter-Strike for almost two decades, Kai Powell spent roughly 50 hours waiting for Valorant access over three or four days. “I like that Valorant feels different from other hero shooters because the abilities supplement the gunplay,” Powell tells me. “If you look at Overwatch, you’re locked into whatever weapons that character comes with.”
Natalie Flores has spent more than 1,500 hours in Overwatch, but now plays Valorant on a daily basis. “Valorant is a team game, but doing well individually is enough to lead your team to victory,” Flores tells me. “Too often, I’m doing well in Overwatch, but my teammates will deny constant opportunities to coordinate attacks together … even if it ends in a victory, the process leading up to the win was so exhausting that it usually doesn’t feel rewarding!”

Instant hit … Valorant. Photograph: Riot Games
Yet like many competitive esports – including Riot’s own League of Legends – Valorant already has a toxicity problem. (A recent example posted to Twitter shows a Riot developer being hit on and then harassed while playing her own game.) “Riot will need to focus on creating some structural changes or else many people, especially people of colour or women like me, won’t stick around,” Flores says. “And we make up a too significant portion of every game’s player base for any company to ignore.”
With the recent introduction of a ranked mode bringing structure to competitive play, Valorant’s success appears to be a foregone conclusion. Esports organisations such as Sentinels, T1 and Ninjas in Pyjamas are stocking teams with ex-Overwatch and Counter-Strike professionals as we speak, and given the streaming numbers, it’s hard to accuse any of them of jumping the gun. Riot will have an esports giant in its roster when the game launches next week.

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In video game stories, it’s often side quests that are most meaningful | Games – Blog – 10 minute

It is a narrative standard in role-playing adventure games: the hero is pitted against a Big Evil, who has a strategic or chaotic hunger to destroy the world we know. From Shinra’s greedy harvesting of the planet’s resources in Final Fantasy VII Remake to Ganondorf’s quest for power and destruction across more than 30 years of Legend of Zelda games, the stakes are always astronomically high.
But what really makes these fictional realms worth saving? Role-playing games need to offer more than a sequence of linked events toward a monumental finale. A world is made of people, not just objectives.
This is where side quests come in: the tiny stories that make the emotional texture of a journey richer and fuller. Whether we’re talking role-playing epics such as Final Fantasy and The Witcher, or indie adventures such as Night in the Woods and Iconoclasts, it is off the beaten path that the stories gain their power.

Side quests are not just portals to smaller adventures, they are demonstrations of kindness

Across a lifetime of playing video games, I think most often of these side quests: lost animals, medicine in need of delivering before the ingredients expire, underwear retrieved from a bedroom where it shouldn’t be, baby rats that must be fed every day, hiding a cursed fiance and his panicked bride in the nights before their wedding. All of these tiny stories are alleyways off the main drag of the quest, but ones I happily get lost down. I prefer a Cloud Strife who will stop to help a child in a slum find her lost cats to the one who would power through undeterred to his climactic battle. I prefer a Geralt who will gamely search for an old woman’s favourite frying pan or a Fallout 4 Sole Survivor who’ll assist a bunch of sailor robots as they launch their rusty ship for one last voyage.

Small fry … this humble pan forms the basis of a whole side mission in The Witcher 3. Photograph: Witcher 3
This is the kind of hero I would be, I think. I hope. I am interested in ways that we can play games and save worlds without violence, ways in which gameplay utilises curiosity, helpfulness and generosity as power in the place of a gun or a sword. Side quests are not just portals to smaller adventures, they are demonstrations of kindness.
In Paper Mario: the Thousand-Year Door, a starkly underrated RPG, we are invited to spend time keeping the ageing mayor of a village of Koopas company, or assembling a cake for a psychic who lives beneath the central town of Rogueport. These simple, transactional quests elevate the adventure, giving the world and its oddball creatures an independent life. And there is no rush: the princess will still be waiting in another castle when we are done.
The transgressive indie adventure Undertale turns the stuff of side quests into the main thrust of the game: talking to the monsters lets you pass them by safely. Rather than electing the simple input of violence, the game asks you to consider conversation and engagement instead, mercy as the ultimate display of heroism. In this way, every encounter becomes a tiny story of its own: a healing operation, a brief journey taken.
The first real side quest that impacted me profoundly when I was growing up was a classic within a classic. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, on the Nintendo 64, Kakariko Village. Upon arriving at the game’s first town, we are asked in simple terms by a stressed-out girl called Anju to help her find her chickens. She can’t go and get them herself because she can’t touch them – they’ll make her sick. So off you go. Though we have the burden of an entire kingdom on our young shoulders, a heavy sword, and an even heavier quest, we help her. We trek up behind the windmill, clamber over fences, thrash open boxes, and for a few minutes, we are just a child, running after chickens. In return, she gives us an empty glass bottle and sends us on our way.

Simple pleasures … there is more to life in Legend of Zelda than saving the world from Ganondorf. Photograph: Nintendo
The bottle, though not a weapon, becomes one of the most useful items in the entire game. Later, we use it to hold ingredients for medicine to help another citizen of Hyrule. It can hold potions, and milk, to heal us, too. The chickens weren’t even that hard to find.
In the shadow of huge plot devices like destiny and impending doom, it is important that adventure games give us the chance to yield to tiny, human interactions. We must be given space to heal the citizens of the world, as well as the world itself – to find beloved pets, gather ingredients, solve disputes. To put down your sword, and offer your hand instead.
• Sarah Maria Griffin is an author from Dublin, Ireland. Her most recent novel is Other Words for Smoke. She tweets @griffski.

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Computer chess: how the ancient game revolutionised AI | Plug into hybrid – Blog – 10 minute

Chess is well suited to computer programming.Photograph: Krisanapong Detraphiphat/Getty Images
When legendary chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov found himself beaten by IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer, it was seen as a seminal moment in the evolution of artificial intelligence.
It was New York, 1997 and for the first time ever a computer had beaten a world champion under tournament conditions. This was the culmination of a journey in which the first stirrings of what we now call artificial intelligence and machine learning were born. A road trodden by war heroes and student researchers alike, whose singular desire to create a program that could beat the very best in the world would shape an entire science.
Early originsChess lends itself well to computer programming. Where other games can depend more on gut instinct or physical skill, chess is a game of strict binary rules – a move is either correct or it isn’t.
It’s a game where multiple permutations, strategies and responses to moves and gambits could all be pre-programmed. Teaching a computer how to select the best option from those available to counter a problem, though, was the tricky part, and that’s where machine learning came in.
Given the close relationship between chess, logic and programming it’s no surprise that the driving forces of early computerised incarnations of chess were academics whose love of the game dovetailed with their desire to push the boundaries of the burgeoning field of computer science.
One of those academics was Alan Turing. He may have made his name breaking Nazi ciphers at Bletchley Park, but he also helped lay the early groundwork for computerised chess too. In 1947, while working at the University of Manchester, Turing developed the first simple algorithm that was capable of analysing an opponent’s move one step ahead. Four years later, his academic colleague DG Prinz wrote a program that could solve particular moves, but not play a game.
Competitive gamesThe 1960s saw computer chess start to come into its own. In 1967, MacHack VI, a program written by MIT student Richard Greenblatt, was able to draw a game in a US Chess Federation tournament, losing four. But this was just the start and its results began to improve.
New York City hosted the first US computer championship in 1970; it was won by Chess 3.0, a program put together by a team from Northwestern University.
And in 1988, HiTech, a computer developed at Carnegie Mellon University, defeated grandmaster Arnold Denker, in a match. In the same year, another Carnegie Mellon program, Deep Thought, defeated top-notch grandmaster Bent Larsen in a tournament game.
Humans strike backDeep Thought’s defeat of Larsen was a huge moment for early AI. But this success was short-lived – the program was easily bested later that year by Garry Kasparov.
This setback prompted the team behind Deep Thought to push further and further to refine their model. In their view, Kasparov’s success was simply check – but it wasn’t check mate. The team’s success caught the eye of US computer giant IBM, which brought them aboard as part of a dedicated chess programming group tasked with devising a way to beat Kasparov and they developed a successor to Deep Thought called Deep Blue. It incorporated a sophisticated new multiprocessing system that enabled it to consider as many as 50bn positions in three minutes, about a thousand times faster than Deep Thought’s system.

Garry Kasparov takes on Deep Blue in 1997. Photograph: Sipa/Shutterstock
Kasparov vs Deep BlueDeep Blue made its professional chess-playing debut in a six-game match with Kasparov in Philadelphia in February 1996. A bumper $500,000 prize and IBM covering the match on its website – the web was still in its infancy back then – helped draw huge media attention.
Deep Blue won the first game, but Kasparov adapted his tactics to win three and draw two of the remaining games to win the match 4–2.
But in a six-game rematch held in May 1997 in New York City, an upgraded Deep Blue was able to consider an average of 200m positions a second, twice its previous speed. Its algorithm was also improved with input from human grandmasters.
Kasparov played smart though, he was conservative with his moves which threw Deep Blue off balance – it hadn’t expected it. But after resigning the second game even though it was drawable, the Russian said he never recovered mentally. With the match tied at one win, one loss, and three draws, Deep Blue won the decisive final game in 19 moves.
Influence on AIThe lessons learned from the desire to create a program that could beat a human chess champion enhanced AI.

Murray Campbell, one of IBM’s top AI experts, originally worked on the Deep Thought and Deep Blue projects. He now works on artificial neural networks and credits the quest to master chess programs with helping his team understand the importance of identifying the differences between how humans and machines think, but also in how they’re similar.
Efforts to master chess, though, still continue to drive the development of AI. One of the criticisms of Deep Blue and subsequent machines is that they relied on the “brute force” application of their superior memory skills – they could remember more permutations than a human. They could out-calculate, rather than out-think.
AI company DeepMind’s algorithm AlphaZero set out to change that. It could teach itself how to play chess and learn from its own mistakes. Not only that, it was able to play with intuition and finesse, destroying the reigning artificial chess champion Stockfish during a match in 2017. It played like a human and at times appeared to even toy with its opponent before delivering a killer blow.
Even now, the desire for the perfect tech-mate is continuing to push the boundaries of AI.
Technology drives the world, and is the beating heart of every BMW. Discover how BMW is pioneering plug-in hybrid vehicles at bmw.co.uk

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The game that ate the world: 40 facts on Pac-Man’s 40th birthday | Games – Blog – 10 minute

It was on this day in 1980 that one of gaming’s most iconic characters made his debut. To celebrate, here are 40 facts about the ravenous yellow circle and his proud, pill-popping legacy …
1. Pac-Man was created by game designer Toru Iwatani – he was just 24 at the time. The idea for the character came to him when he removed a slice from a pizza.
2. He was also partly inspired by the onomatopoeic phrase paku paku meaning “chomp chomp” and the kanji symbol for the word taberu meaning “to eat”.
3. In 2010, Iwatani told Wired that Pac-Man particularly targeted female players. “When you think about things women like, you think about fashion, or fortune-telling, or food or dating boyfriends. So I decided to theme the game around ‘eating’.” There is absolutely nothing problematic about this statement …
4. To make the game more kawaii (“cute”), Iwatani designed the ghosts in bright colours and gave them large doe-eyes.
5. The ghosts are called Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde and they each have their own personalities based on AI routines. Blinky constantly chases Pac-Man, Pinky attempts to ambush him, Inky is randomised depending on Pac-Man’s position and Clyde will get close to the player then attempt to flee to the bottom left corner, potentially cutting off escape routes.

Arcade adventure … Pac-Man. Photograph: Adam Berry/Getty Images
6. The idea of eating a power pill to give Pac-Man super strength came partly from the cartoon Popeye and his love of spinach, and partly from the Japanese concept of kokoro (“spirit”) or life force. It’s considered one of the first examples of a “power up” in video game history.
7. Pac-Man manufacturer Namco installed the first machine in a movie theatre in Shibuya, Tokyo, on 22 May 1980.
8. The game was only a moderate success until its blockbusting US launch the following October.
9. It was originally called Puck Man, but the US distributor Midway was worried that the word Puck could easily be modified by mischievous vandals into something ruder. Hence, Pac-Man.
10. The game features short animated sequences between levels, showing Pac-Man being chased by the ghosts. This was one of the first examples of a non-interactive video game “cutscene”.
11. Martin Amis was a fan of the game and in his 1982 book Invasion of the Space Invaders claimed to have spent weeks in “a Pac-Man-fed stupor […] unwilling and unable to think about anything else”.
12. Within a year of Pac-Man’s launch, 100,000 units had been sold and 250m games were being played every week. Pac-Man became gaming’s first marketable mascot, with licensed merchandise including lunchboxes, joke books, T-shirts, board games, pyjamas and, for the romantic gamer, Valentine cards.

Inspired by pizza … Toru Iwatani, creator of Pac-Man. Photograph: Elvis Gonzalez/EPA
13. A strategy guide to the game, Mastering Pac-Man by professional blackjack player Ken Uston, sold more than 1m copies.
14. With its simplified maze and blocky visuals, the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man is widely considered one of the worst arcade-to-home console conversions of all time. Although it sold 7m copies, the game was so wretched it has been widely blamed for the 1983 video game crash, alongside the similarly poor title, ET.
15. Japanese toy manufacturer Tomy made a famously beautiful, handheld Pac-Man game in the shape of an enormous yellow blob with an LCD display. This advert for the device is quite a rush.
16. The tribute song Pac-Man Fever by artists Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia reached number nine in the US charts in March 1982. An album of video-game-inspired songs followed. It was not good.
17. The game’s distinctive electronic music and sound effects were also an inspiration to early hip-hop pioneers. Notable examples include Jonzun Crew’s Pack Jam and Newcleus’s Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song).
18. The game gave us this Marcus Brigstocke joke: “If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music.”
19. In 1981, Japanese manufacturer Shoei released a terrible “erotic” version of Pac-Man called Streaking. It was later heavily featured in the movie Joysticks, which belonged to the 1980s teen sex comedy genre popularised by Porky’s. Here is the movie trailer. Please don’t watch it.
20. The movie also featured preview footage of Super Pac-Man, Namco’s official sequel to the original game.
21. In a 1982 episode of the sitcom Taxi, Louie (Danny DeVito) installs a Pac-Man cabinet in the garage and Jim (Christopher Lloyd) becomes addicted to the game. The scene is effectively a how-to guide and an advert for Pac-Man rolled into one.

22. Pac-Man was a major element in the appalling Adam Sandler comedy Pixels, with Toru Iwatani getting a cameo as an arcade repairman. But let’s just forget about that, shall we?
23. In 1999, Billy Mitchell became the first person to obtain a perfect Pac-Man score of 3,333,360, eating every dot, power pill, ghost and bonus on every level without losing a single life. However, Mitchell was later accused of cheating by video game records supervisor Twin Galaxies. The record was equalled by David Race in 2012.
24. It is impossible to score higher than that because of a bug in the game that turns the screen to gibberish on the 256th screen.
25. The success of Pac-Man inspired US distributor Bally Midway to create a series of mostly identical sequels: Ms Pac-Man, Pac-Man Plus, Jr Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man (which added a mini pinball table under the monitor) and Professor Pac-Man.
26. Professor Pac-Man was a quiz game depicting Pac-Man in a mortar board and glasses. It was not a success.
27. In 1982, Hanna-Barbera produced a Pac-Man cartoon series. It features Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, their child Pac-Baby and their cat Sour Puss as they attempt to elude the evil Mezmaron who is obsessed with power pills. The intro sequence is a work of hallucinogenic brilliance.
28. In his book Trigger Happy, writer Steven Poole suggested Pac-Man was a precursor to survivor horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill due to its confined, maze-like map, supernatural enemies and emphasis on evasion.
29. In corporate parlance, “the Pac-Man defence” is a strategy in which a company targeted for a hostile takeover attempts to turn the tables and purchase the acquirer.
30. Ms Pac-Man is widely considered a better game than Pac-Man, due to the more varied maze design and improved ghost AI.
31. However, it is most remembered for the image on the side of the game cabinet, which depicts Ms Pac-Man with high heels, red lipstick and fluttering eyelashes, making her the decade’s most bizarre and confusing sex symbol. And, bearing in mind we’re talking about the 80s, that’s really saying something.

Unlikely sex symbol … Ms Pac-Man
32. In the Friends episode The One Where Joey Dates Rachel, Phoebe gives Chandler and Monica a pristine Ms Pac-Man cabinet as a late wedding present – a generous gift as it would have cost about $2,500.
33. Namco has regularly attempted to update and expand the Pac-Man concept. Sometimes this has worked (scrolling platformers Pac-Land and Pac in Time, and the isometrically viewed Pac-Mania); sometimes it really hasn’t (risible party game Pac-Man Fever and mystifying off-road driving sim Pac-Man World Rally).
34. Pac-Man has also appeared as a playable guest character in many other games, including Everybody’s Golf, Mario Kart Arcade GP and Street Fighter X Tekken. He stars as the world’s cutest racing car in Ridge Racer Type 4.
35. Swiss tech company ClearSpace is developing a satellite capable of orbiting Earth and gobbling up space junk. The project leader nicknamed it “the Pac-Man system”.
36. In 2004, New York University students created a real-world version of Pac-Man entitled Pac-Manhattan, in which a player dressed as Pac-Man had to run around the city avoiding students dressed as ghosts. The game used mobile phone GPS signals to track their positions.
37. French street artist Invader has created several mosaic works featuring the Pac-Man character and ghosts, notably in Paris and Bilbao.
38. For his spring/summer 2009 collection, fashion designer Giles Deacon dressed the models in gigantic Pac-Man helmets and had dots painted along the runway.
39. In 2012, Pac-Man was one of 14 video games brought into the collection at MoMA in New York and displayed in its architecture and design gallery.
40. Toru Iwatani returned to Pac-Man in 2007, co-designing the brilliant Xbox title Pac-Man Championship Edition, which adds a time limit and an endlessly transforming maze layout. It was a fitting end to his Pac-Man odyssey.

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Winning the work from home game- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

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Initially, the idea of work from home (WFH) sounded alluring – one couldn’t help but almost break into a dance. After all, it meant more time to spend with the family; more opportunities to experiment with and enhance our culinary skills; or even the chance to watch our favorite program at any time of the day. The possibilities seemed endless. And then reality hit us, and it hit us hard.
With all the negativity around the rising cases on COVID 19, Western Digital shares some tips and tricks that have worked for people in upping their work-at-home game.
In the wake of the ongoing situation, some of us have been fortunate to have jobs that allow us to work from home. Remote can be equal parts liberating and taxing.
Here are some tips and tricks that have worked for people in upping their work-at-home game. All of these might not work out for you, but the tips are still worth a try. After all, we might end up working from home for longer than we had anticipated.
Less is more: We all love loading our phones and other smart devices with productivity apps and cram our workstation with gadgets. But cast another glance at these and ask yourself: are these apps, tools, and gadgets helping you become productive? Or are you spending more time fixing, troubleshooting and getting distracted with tech overload. A better approach is to only focus on essential apps and tools. Remember, minimalism is the word for gadgets and apps when you have remote access to IT people.
Celebrate the rain: We are often told about the importance of staying happy for our overall well-being. It is vital that we don’t keep issues and concerns bottled up within. While we might appear calm and collected on the surface, pent-up emotions tend to erupt suddenly and intensely. It is okay to gripe about your job and share your woes with your colleagues and bosses. However, be sure to have the right perspective and a level tone to avoid being labeled a whiner.
Back up your content: It is common to hear our colleagues grieving over the loss of their important presentations, videos or documents that had taken them an atrocious number of hours to create – all because their PC suddenly crashed. Data backup is necessary, and yet it is something that we easily forget. Therefore, it is imperative that we reliably back up our content on a different device for example, on WD My Passport HDD, which comes with up to 5TB of storage capacity. This palm-sized storage device offers plenty of space to store, organize, and share your photos, videos, music, and documents. It is paired with the WD Backup™ software, so that backup happens automatically and without any hassle and is also offers password protection to keep your digital life’s contents safe. Taking frequent data backups is key to keeping all your content safe.
Distractions? Embrace them: It is easy to lose yourself to just-one-more-video-game; or that graphic novel that you always wanted to read; or even hundreds of shows offered by streaming apps. And it is equally painful to extract yourself from the snares of these distractions. The solution lies in creating a to-do list. Start with the easiest job and every time you finish a task, mark it on your list. The gratification of completing a job motivates us to accomplish more tasks. This will help you stay productive and also keep the morale high. Nevertheless, once in a while, it is okay to steal some time to read a book or play a video game. After all, you are saving hours by not having to travel to and from work or even taking regular breaks as you would in an office setting.
All in all, the top priority for all of us should be to maintain our health – both physical and mental. As the saying goes, ‘this too shall pass’. For now, let’s all be grateful for this flexibility to be able to work from home.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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Remote relations: two can play that game- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

As we open our laptops each morning preparing ourselves for another screen intensive working week and (most likely) weekend, video conferencing is becoming the new norm for keeping in touch with work colleagues – and the default for social occasions with friends and family too.
The majority of us are adapting to this new digital lifestyle (and non-stop memes) with ease, and with the rest of the world facing the same common threat to society, some may even argue that we’re more connected globally now than ever before.
But it’s worth noting that while digital connections can span vast volumes of water, time zones and government lockdowns, it compliments the inevitable physical interactions which are essential in making us all feel more ‘human’.
Businesses have had to adapt to this new digitally versed society incredibly quickly. Forced to pivot pre-planned marketing campaigns, activations, PR stunts, conferences and festivals to either a non-committal ‘postponed until further notice’ status, bold and regretful cancellations (aka Glastonbury), or digitising their campaigns for this new virtual climate.
To some extent the show must go on, the relative unknown means that not all planned business activity can go on hold until ‘normal’ returns – we all still need to learn, engage, connect and share. For example, swapping out a physical conference for a series of thought leadership live streams is ideal to keep educating your audience and to reach even more eyes, but the swap from physical to digital shouldn’t be seen as like-for-like or an instant fix. Instead, this current tweak in direction within the events industry should draw on positives from both styles of delivery; resulting in a longer term combined campaign comprising both digital and physical elements.
Here are three ways you can use digital tactics, such as live streaming or virtual conferencing, to enhance your event strategy:
Give us a sneak peek
Use live streaming or virtual conferences to create warm-up content, leading up to a larger physical event. For example, live stream smaller panel talks, roundtable discussions, or keynotes that all feed into the topics headlining your flagship conference or festival. This digital aspect will help you reach a much wider audience who otherwise may not be able to travel to or foot the bill for your final event, but in the future may now be more likely to do so. You could even live stream parts of your final event, or ask for content input ahead of the festival, to help your new digital audience feel more involved and connected.
Take us behind the scenes
For one off annual events which have no viable option but cancellation, such as large scale music festivals, use the event date as an occasion to celebrate the festival and reflect on highlights while creating new content. Share ‘behind the scenes’ style video content from previous festivals in an online campaign, giving fans an insight into the blood, sweat and tears and backstage stories. Get planned contributors to the cancelled festival involved too, by sharing original content from their social channels around the event date, giving fans a reason to reminisce and come together in the same way they will do when the festival returns.
Digital matchmaking
While networking in-person is usually at the bottom of the list of activities event attendees are looking forward to, visual cues and physically standing in front of a person does have advantages over a LinkedIn message. If you’re planning on taking your conference virtual, don’t lose this valuable aspect for your attendees hoping to make connections.
During the event registration process ask registrants for a little bit more information, such as their job function, that could help you group registrants during roundtables or specific keynotes – encouraging connections in the same way you would do at your event and for your future in-person events.
Rachel Butler, head of marketing and brand communications, Marble LDN

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Love bytes: how a video game is preparing my boyfriend and me for living together | Life and style – Blog – 10 minute

“I’m going to the mines!” says a voice through my laptop.
It’s my partner, Joel – albeit a pixelated version of him. I see him move swiftly out of the screen as I go back to my task of chopping down an oak tree, searching for wood and sap.
It’s an ordinary mid-pandemic night and Joel and I are both tucked into bed at our respective Sydney share-houses. In truth, neither of us is anywhere near a rare minerals mine and I doubt I have the strength to hack down a tree – even if I wanted to.

But we’re not talking about real life; we’re talking about virtual reality in Stardew Valley – a multi-player farming simulation game that’s sold over 10 million copies, and become our guilty pleasure since physical distancing and lockdowns began.
In this world, we’re co-owners of a thriving farm filled with crops and livestock. Unlike real life, where we don’t share assets, earnings or a house, in Stardew Valley, we’re living a life of cohabitation. We’ve replaced inner-city living with a wooden cabin, created computer-generated friendships based off random gift giving, and exchanged careers in media for specialisations in mining and foraging.

Bec and Joel in real life, before the lockdown began. Photograph: Bec Zhuang
In the Valley, we have a joint income, and we’re constantly discussing when and what we want to spend it on. We plan to renovate our cabin to include a kitchen; we want to upgrade our tools, so we can work more efficiently in our respective fields and we’re constantly weighing up how much we can afford to indulge in novelty hats and accessories just to spice up our wardrobes.
In real life shared decision-making has shared consequences, and so does life in Stardew Valley. If Joel finds himself on zero health after a long day in the mines, we lose 10% of our money. Similarly, if I spent the day foraging, oblivious to my energy levels, I’d find myself passed out with a hefty medical bill taken straight from our joint account.
The life we’re leading in Stardew Valley is milestones ahead of the relationship we have in real-life – even with four years of dating under our belts.

Creating a virtual life together has taught us some important lessons for the future

In the real world, our incomes are completely separate and our personal spending habits vary. I’m more of a Googles-promo-code-before-buying kind of person, while Joel will happily spend money on an indulgent meal or experience without a second thought. The largest financial decision we’ve had to make together is what cut of meat we’re going to share at a restaurant, or what present we’re going to give a friend for their birthday. But that’s not to say this won’t change some day.
Creating a virtual life together has taught us some important lessons for the future. We’re learning that shared financial decisions are a balance of personal and shared priorities. We’re being reminded that relationships, in all their forms, require teamwork.
The other day, when we saw each other in real life, our Stardew Valley selves came out. We were deciding whether to a) cook ourselves or b) get delivery. We both wanted to share a meal, but I was having a hard time justifying spending money when I knew there was perfectly good produce in the fridge. Joel, on the other hand, was desperately trying to satisfy a craving for chicken shish kebabs. In the end, we struck a happy medium: I cooked up some vegetables as sides, Joel ordered up our mains, and we both played a part in creating a dinner to share together.
Of course, not all decisions in life are going to be as easy as “What’s for dinner?”, and they’re certainly not going to be as simple as whether or not we can afford to upgrade an imaginary pick-axe in a videogame.
But with open and frank discussions (both virtually and in real life), we’re preparing ourselves for the future – a future where the questions are not about arbitrary items or imaginary professions, but are about shared spaces, shared assets and a shared livelihood together.
And, if real life is anything like life in the Valley, I can’t wait.

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Always-on: AR is changing the game for retail- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Augmented reality has been on the cusp of mainstream appeal for some time. Now, as AR technology becomes ubiquitous and consumers demand ‘always-on’ marketing opportunities, OMM’s head of growth Tony Mohammed argues AR is about to radically change retail.
You will have heard lots about virtual and augmented reality over the past couple of years. Despite all the disruption of the past few months, these two digital technologies are still set to become even more relevant tools to reach audiences.
One of our main focuses over recent years has been virtual and mixed reality experiences using VR and AR for retail and events. VR for many consumers still holds that sense of wonder and delight when they try it for the first time. It has a unique place in the world of digital technology being an immersive sensory experience that transports consumers to alternate realities. Its real-world applications are also numerous; it allows tours of spaces that have yet to be built for architects and real estate agents, the presenting of detailed retail concepts to brands, and new design workflows within the industrial design and automotive industries.
Augmented reality offers us the chance to enhance the real world with a range of possibilities equal to – or larger than – VR, across both work and play. Whether it’s trying on new outfits before purchase, previewing how furniture would fit into your living room or simply playing games with your family. These immersive aspects of AR help to forge emotional connections with consumers, which in turn leads to brand engagement and all-important social sharing of content.
Dedicated hardware such as Magic Leap and Microsoft’s Hololens 2 can be used for a variety of experiences, however one of the most interesting and beneficial developments has been the use of AR in the Healthcare industry. GigXR for example have been pushing the boundaries of conventional medical education with HoloPatient, their mixed-reality product allowing a set standard of education to be rolled out across different medical schools.
Magic Leap is one of the companies leading the charge – making a huge investment into AR technology. The AR glasses, of course look super cool, but what is even more interesting is that they are currently developing the MagicVerse, which is their vision for a positive, ethical version of The Matrix. It is Magic Leap’s attempt to bring a cross platform XR system to the masses. Which means consumers can use the Magic Leap Spatial Goggles, on their iPad, iPhone or Android device. It’s a single AR platform that can be used across all devices and operating systems.
Alongside products and experiences designed for dedicated hardware, AR has made the leap onto a platform much more accessible for all of us – the mobile device.
The new iPad Pro includes the LiDAR camera, whilst this is not a new technology, the inclusion in the Apple device opens up a lot more AR opportunities. Apple combines depth information from the LiDAR scanner with camera and motion sensor data. This makes the new iPad Pro faster and more accurate at placing AR objects and tracking people’s location, all of which leads to better AR experiences.
In addition, frameworks such as iOS AR kit, Google ARCore and Amazon Sumerian have democratised Mobile AR and grown its install base considerably, more than tripling the number of active users in the last 18 months. Downloadable apps such as IKEA Place and Dulux’s Paint visualiser have developed have leveraged mobile technology to great effect.
Besides AR Kit & AR Core we can’t forget the platforms we use everyday, for example, Facebook that have their own software called SPARK AR to create AR experiences for Facebook, Instagram & WhatsApp. Similarly, Snapchat’s Lens Studio is used to create amazing AR filters and worlds, that currently gives them the edge over Facebook’s Spark AR.
Sitting alongside the app-based Mobile AR is WebAR – experiences and games that run directly in your mobile’s browser rather than having to download a dedicated app. The rapid evolution of WebAR technologies such as 8th Wall is a game-changer as they break down the barrier to entry for consumers, needing just their mobile phone to get involved.
With a number of industries and sectors keen to explore its uses and benefits, the uptake within the marketing sector in particular has taken off. WebAR has huge potential to connect consumers with brands in new and meaningful ways.
A good example of this is the AR Gifting campaign we created for Nike’s Factory Store team in the run up to Christmas. Using their mobile device consumers were able to shoot hoops in our Augmented Reality Basketball game to unlock prizes and discounts. This created a closer relationship with Nike and boosted NikePlus Membership.
As these types of activations become more mainstream it is natural for brands to invest in a technology that allows consumers to experience their products no matter where they are via their mobile device. WebAR will shape the future of commerce as consumers increasingly demand ‘always-on’ marketing experiences they can interact with.
We see huge potential for the fashion industry and are currently developing several concepts in this area. We are excited to see how other agencies and brands will use these creative technologies to meet the needs of consumers across a range of industries.
As we have seen of late the world around us can change overnight, and with change comes the opportunity to adapt to consumer needs and the environment they live in. Expect a new world of AR engagement in the not too distant future.
Tony Mohammed, head of growth, OMM

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Beyond Blue review: Blue Planet II, the game | Games – Blog – 10 minute

A mellow and overtly educational game about marine wildlife, Beyond Blue is an opportunity to submerge yourself in the expansive beauty of the Western Pacific. Futuristic technology enables our marine scientist to scan creatures, track whale calls and withstand the crushing pressures of the deep ocean as she follows a pod of sperm whales through seascapes taken from the BBC’s Blue Planet II, from shallows to open ocean to the toxic deep-sea bile pool that gave me nightmares for weeks after seeing it on TV.
Atmospheric though these watery places are, there’s no peril in this version of deep-sea diving, even when you try to manufacture it. Attempts to swim directly into the gaping mouth of a humpback or provoke a hammerhead shark yield nothing but the odd visual glitch. You can admire the impressively realistic sea life at leisure, panning drones around creatures to record their songs and examine their markings. Nonetheless, do not expect an entirely chill time beneath the waves. Inevitably for a game informed by the actual state of our oceans, there’s a touch of sadness here.

Encourages learning and reflection … Beyond Blue
In between dives, on the small submarine that serves as home, phone calls between our diver and her family and colleagues add a superfluous touch of human drama. Beyond Blue layers a few different plot lines over the ocean exploration: a grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease, a fractious sibling relationship, unauthorised mining and sea pollution.
None of these is particularly well developed. The effort might perhaps have been better spent on interesting ways to deliver more information about the ocean creatures that take centre stage. Strangely, even though I spent most of my time in Beyond Blue obediently scanning wildlife, the in-game encyclopedia contains few facts about the many different species you encounter. Video clips featuring footage from Blue Planet II and insights from real marine scientists are more interesting, but, especially for curious children, this could have been a better repository of sea-life knowledge.
It doesn’t have the exhilarating freedom of movement, memorable score and eye-catching artistic direction of Abzû, 2016’s excellent tribute to ocean life and mythology, but Beyond Blue hews closer to reality, encouraging learning and reflection on the planet’s last unexplored frontier.

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