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Xbox Live down as Microsoft experiences ‘multiple’ service outages

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Microsoft’s Xbox Live service is experiencing issues today, marking the fourth time in recent weeks. Xbox One users are currently reporting problems with signing into Xbox Live, accessing friends, and joining parties. The issues started at around 3:15PM ET, and are also affecting some multiplayer games.

“We are aware that some users may be experiencing issues when attempting to sign in on Xbox One & Windows 10,” explains Microsoft. “Our teams are aware & working on a fix. Please follow here & on our status page for updates.”

Microsoft says it’s also investigating issues affecting “multiple Microsoft 365 services,” suggesting the outage issues go further than just Xbox Live. Microsoft has experienced multiple outages with Xbox Live recently, and this is the fourth outage in recent weeks. Xbox Live was down for two hours last month, affecting party chat and online multiplayer.

It’s not clear what Microsoft 365 services are affected, and we’ve reached out to Microsoft for clarification on the issues.

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Microsoft

Google and Microsoft worked together to improve spellcheck in Chrome and Edge

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Google and Microsoft have worked together to improve the spellcheck experience in Chrome and Edge. The latest versions of Chrome and Edge are now powered by the built-in Windows Spellcheck feature rather than the previous Hunspell open source implementation. The switch means spellcheck within Chrome and Edge will now have better support for URLs, acronyms, email addresses, and an improved shared custom dictionary.

“This feature was developed as a collaboration between Google and Microsoft engineers in the Chromium project, enabling all Chromium-based browsers to benefit from Windows Spellcheck integration,” explains Microsoft’s Edge team.

The Windows Spellcheck improvements in Edge.

If you’re not seeing the new spellcheck support show up in Chrome, then you may need to enable a flag to get it straight away. Head to chrome://flags/ and search for “Use the Windows OS spell checker” and enable this setting and restart Chrome.

Microsoft has been contributing to Chromium and helping improve both Edge and Chrome ever since its surprise decision to switch to Chromium last year. While there have been hundreds of commits, user-facing changes aren’t always obvious like this.

We previously saw Microsoft helping Google improve Chrome’s tab management back in January, and Microsoft is also working to improve scrolling in Chromium with bounce effects and percentage-based scrolling.

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HP’s high-resolution Reverb G2 is a $699 headset for VR gaming

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HP and Microsoft have announced a new version of their high-resolution Reverb virtual reality headset, aimed at VR gamers rather than businesses. The Reverb G2 is slated to launch this fall at $599, with US preorders opening today. It’s got the same resolution and field of view as the first-generation Reverb, but it features more tracking cameras, a redesigned controller, and new lenses and speakers from VR pioneer Valve.

The Reverb G2’s resolution is still its clearest selling point. At 2160 x 2160 pixels per eye, it’s far higher than the high-end Valve Index, which has 1440 x 1600 pixels. The original Reverb suffered from cloudy visuals, but HP is promising that new lenses and panels will clear that problem up. While the G2 uses the standard Windows Mixed Reality tracking system, HP has supplemented the headset’s two front-facing cameras with a camera on each side. That gives it a setup closer to the competing Oculus Rift S or Quest.

HP Reverb G2

Image: HP

HP and Microsoft built the G2 with input from Valve. The headset shares little with Valve’s own Index, though. It’s apparently using different lenses, and while the G2 offers more pixels per eye, it’s still got a lower refresh rate (at 90Hz compared to 120Hz) and smaller field of view (114 degrees compared to 130 degrees). HP did, however, adopt the Index’s impressive and comfortable off-ear speakers.

The G2’s most welcome change might be its controller redesign. For years, Microsoft has undercut its Windows Mixed Reality headsets — made in partnership with Samsung, Acer, and HP, among others — with awkward nonstandard hand controllers. The G2’s controllers mirror the now-standard Oculus Touch design, adding two face buttons to each hand and removing the inconvenient trackpad. Earlier this year, I made a long-shot wish that HP might adopt Valve’s “knuckles” controllers — by far my favorite VR hand setup. That clearly didn’t happen, but the smaller redesign still opens a door to improvement across the entire Windows Mixed Reality lineup.

HP Reverb G2 controllers

Image: HP

HP teased its new headset around the launch of Half-Life: Alyx, signaling that it would pitch a consumer design in contrast to the industry-oriented Reverb. “The primary goal of this was to develop the best immersive gaming experience,” said John Ludwig, HP’s lead product manager for VR. “However, the wants between your typical commercial customer and your typical gamer don’t tend to be very different.” That means it won’t be introducing a specialized professional version of the headset, although you can get optional features like a shortened cable for a VR backpack — something that home users probably won’t have but arcades and simulators might.

HP will continue selling to professional clients, but right now, it’s apparently serving an audience that’s demanding VR headsets and having trouble finding them due to supply chain problems. Ludwig says preorders are opening early so HP can gauge demand and have enough stock at launch.

HP Reverb G2

Image: HP

HP originally described the Reverb as a “no-compromise” headset, but its pitch appears to be compromise — in a positive way. It distinguishes itself from the often-generic Mixed Reality lineup with above-average resolution and speakers, while supposedly improving the original Reverb’s biggest drawbacks, like its limited tracking cameras and muddy screen. (While it’s slightly heavier now, it’s also got redesigned ergonomics, with added front padding that could take pressure off the face.) It doesn’t try to outdo the Index’s field of view or controller design, but it’s significantly cheaper and its inside-out camera setup is more user-friendly.

Conversely, the G2 doesn’t try to beat the $399 Oculus Rift S price, but it includes features like a manual slider to adjust the distance between lenses, something that the Rift S sorely lacked. It’s comparable to the HTC Vive Cosmos, but the Cosmos made some early missteps that the Reverb might avoid, including bad tracking and confusing software.

We won’t see the Reverb until later this year, so we can’t judge important factors like comfort or practical image and tracking quality. But Windows Mixed Reality’s VR headset lineup seemed practically in stasis a few months ago. The Reverb looks like a promising attempt to revive it — and add more options for frustrated would-be headset buyers.

Correction: The Reverb G2 costs $599, not $699 as originally stated in the headline.

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Xbox Series X can add HDR and 120fps support to older games

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Microsoft is planning to automatically add HDR support to games played on its upcoming Xbox Series X console. While existing games will automatically play better on the Xbox Series X, Microsoft is also doing some work to add HDR support and even improve some games from a 30fps locked framerate to 60fps, or 60fps to 120fps.

“In partnership with the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, Xbox Series X delivers a new, innovative HDR reconstruction technique which enables the platform to automatically add HDR support to games,” explains Jason Ronald, a partner director of program management for the Xbox platform team. “As this technique is handled by the platform itself, it allows us to enable HDR with zero impact to the game’s performance and we can also apply it to Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles developed almost 20 years ago, well before the existence of HDR.”

Ronald doesn’t explain exactly how Microsoft is adding HDR to existing games, but the company has, in the past, added HDR support to older games like Mirror’s Edge on the Xbox One X. Microsoft’s new “HDR reconstruction technique” is applied at the platform level so it requires no work from developers. Microsoft may simply be upscaling and processing games in HDR, similar to how Apple forced all non-4K content into 4K HDR for its Apple TV 4K.

Microsoft is also planning to improve and preserve some older games that run on the Xbox Series X by upping framerates. “The compatibility team has invented brand new techniques that enable even more titles to run at higher resolutions and image quality while still respecting the artistic intent and vision of the original creators,” says Ronald. “We are also creating whole new classes of innovations including the ability to double the frame rate of a select set of titles from 30fps to 60fps or 60fps to 120fps.”

Ronald doesn’t reveal exactly how Microsoft is achieving this, and simply promises to share more closer to launch. It’s likely that Microsoft will unlock its Xbox emulator further on the Series X, thanks to the increased power in the CPU and GPU architectures. That alone could improve framerates in certain games, allowing some to remove caps and go beyond CPU or GPU limitations that may have been holding titles back previously.

Alongside these game improvements, Microsoft is also revealing that its Quick Resume feature for the Xbox Series X can be enabled on existing backward compatible titles. Quick Resume is a feature that lets you quickly switch between multiple games, resuming where you left.

All of these improvements are part of Microsoft’s continued backward compatibility work that allows original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games to run on the Xbox Series X. Microsoft says games will run without needing a boost mode and there’s no downclocking involved. Microsoft is now planning to show off some of its plans for first-party next-gen games in July, and Ronald teases “our 15 Xbox Game Studios teams are hard at work creating the biggest and best line up of exclusives in Xbox history.”

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