Tag Archives: biggest

Xbox Sessions: Travis Kelce and Richard Sherman Go Head to Head in Madden NFL 20 on Xbox One Before Next Sunday’s Super Showdown – Xbox Wire

One of the biggest days in American sports is almost here. Practically a national holiday, all eyes will be on the upcoming showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on February 2 in Miami, Florida. To celebrate the championship, we’re giving you a preview of the big game on Xbox One as Travis Kelce and Richard Sherman join the annual Game Before the Game episode of Xbox Sessions on Tuesday, January 28, sponsored by our friends at TurboTax.

Kelce and Sherman will put their skills and talent to the test and go head to head in EA Sports Madden NFL 20 with the winner receiving 50 Xbox One consoles and a copy of Madden NFL 20 for their charity of choice. Kelce will be playing for his organization, Eighty-Seven & Running, while Sherman will represent for Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation. Just a few days before the big game itself, the two superstars will play Tuesday, January 28, at 3:30 p.m. PT / 6:30 p.m. ET in Miami and will be joined by our very own Rukari Austin as host, sideline reporter, and referee.

What’s more, this episode of Xbox Sessions will be live streamed on Xbox Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Mixer and Twitch channels so fans can tune in to watch the two players battle on the proverbial gridiron and cheer on their favorite team, while listening to color-commentary and play-by-plays throughout the competition.

Will the Madden NFL 20 showdown on Xbox One predict the real turnout on February 2? Be sure to tune in to see who comes out on top. If you miss tomorrow’s preview of the big game, you can catch the action later on the Xbox YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Mixer and Twitch channels! And don’t forget to grab a copy of Madden NFL 20, Madden NFL 20: Superstar Edition, or Madden NFL: Ultimate Superstar Edition at 50% off their original price between January 28 and February 3.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Everything We Announced at X019 – Xbox Wire

X019 kicked off with the biggest episode of Inside Xbox ever, celebrating all things Xbox with an incredible slate of news, including over ten Xbox Game Studios games on stage, three brand new games revealed from Xbox Game Studios, and four more world premiere titles from developers around the world.

Inside Xbox was also home to big news from Xbox Game Pass (with 21 titles from developers in the [email protected] program coming day one with Xbox Game Pass) and Project xCloud, as well as for revealing great new Black Friday deals for the holiday season. Read on for the full recap news from the show.

Obsidian Tackles the Survival Genre with Grounded

During the show, Obsidian debuted a trailer introducing Grounded – a brand-new Xbox Game Preview title launching in Spring 2020 with Xbox Game Pass. Studio Design Director Josh Sawyer and Senior Programmer Roby Atadero joined us to share the inspiration behind Grounded’s development before Obsidian became part of Xbox Game Studios. We also received insight into how Obsidian is injecting narrative and RPG elements into the survival genre with this title. Obsidian closed by highlighting the importance of community involvement for the on-going development of Grounded. Grounded launches on Xbox One digitally through Xbox Game Preview and with Xbox Game Pass, the Microsoft Store, and on Steam this upcoming spring. For full details, check out our Grounded announcement post.

Project xCloud Coming to Windows 10 PCs and New Markets

We announced that more than 50 new titles from over 25 of our valued partners will join the Project xCloud public preview, such as Madden NFL 20, Devil May Cry 5, and Tekken 7. In 2020, we’ll bring Project xCloud to Windows 10 PCs, and we’re collaborating with a broad set of partners to make game streaming available on other devices as well. We’re also expanding support to more Bluetooth controllers, including the DualShock 4 wireless controller and game pads from Razer. Moreover, in 2020, we are expanding the Project xCloud preview to new markets, will enable gamers to stream Xbox games that they already own or will purchase, and will add game streaming from the cloud to Xbox Game Pass. For all of our Project xCloud announcements, take a look at our X019 Project xCloud post.

Rare announces its next New IP Everwild

Executive producer, Louise O’Connor, appeared on Inside Xbox and shared a glimpse of Everwild, the next new IP from Rare. The team are passionate about creating something special and this first reveal is just a taste of the magical, natural world the team at Rare are bringing to life. There will be more to share at a later date, for now to watch the trailer again, head over to www.xbox.com/games/everwild or take a look at our full Everwild announcement.

The Seabound Soul and Fire comes to Sea of Thieves

On Inside Xbox, Sea of Thieves debuted details for the game’s latest FREE monthly update arriving on Nov. 20 “The Seabound Soul,” This update features an all-new, lore-focused Tall Tale quest for players looking to play their part in a thrilling story. Join Captain Pendragon to uncover the mystery of the feared ship, the Ashen Dragon, and reveal the secrets of a sinister new threat. This update also brings the heat to Sea of Thieves with the introduction of firebombs! This explosive ammo can be thrown or loaded into cannons to put a fiery panic in the hearts of opposing crews in both Adventure and in The Arena. To find out more go to www.seaofthieves.com.

Save Big on Xbox Consoles, Games, and More this Black Friday

The stage is set for big savings this holiday season. From the hallowed halls of X019 came the reveal of Black Friday deals on Xbox hardware: the Xbox One X, Xbox One S, and Xbox One S All Digital Edition consoles are all up to $150 off! You can also get three months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for just $1 and get Xbox Game Studios titles for up to 50% off. Finally, select Xbox Wireless Controllers are up to $20 off and we’re offering $10 off Xbox Design Lab Controllers. For complete details, head on over to our Black Friday announcement post.

Xbox Game Pass at X019: Announcing New Games and the Ultimate Holiday Offer

On today’s Inside Xbox, we unveiled over 50 games coming to Xbox Game Pass. Read more here for complete details on these titles and their availability with Xbox Game Pass. We also revealed the Xbox Game Pass holiday offer: starting November 14, get 3 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for just $1. And for the first time, eligible Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members in select markets will also get 1 month of EA Access, 3 months of Discord Nitro, and 6 months of Spotify Premium as part of their member benefits. For all of our Xbox Game Pass news, take a look at our X019 Xbox Game Pass post.

Peeling Back the Layers of Bleeding Edge

On Inside Xbox, a new trailer for Bleeding Edge was revealed by Creative Director Rahni Tucker, along with the March 24, 2020 launch date and pre-order. Pre-order incentives include Closed Beta access on February 14, 2020 and Punk Pack bonus in-game cosmetics. Bleeding Edge will be available with Xbox Game Pass. For complete details, check out our X019 Bleeding Edge blog post.

DONTNOD Narrative in Tell Me Why

On Inside Xbox, Xbox Game Studios revealed Tell Me Why, an exclusive new narrative adventure from DONTNOD Entertainment, the studio behind the beloved Life is Strange franchise. All of Tell Me Why’s gripping chapters will release Summer, 2020. For more information please visit www.tellmewhygame.com and take a look at our Tell Me Why announcement post.

Halo: Reach Coming to Halo: The Master Chief Collection on December 3

On Inside Xbox, 343 Industries Community Director Brian Jarrard appeared onstage to announce that Halo: Reach lands in Halo: The Master Chief Collection on December 3. Along with sharing a stunning, all-new new launch trailer, Brian announced that all six titles in Halo: The Master Chief Collection can be purchased up-front on PC for $39.99 with Halo: Reach available for individual purchase for $9.99. Halo: The Master Chief Collection isavailable with Xbox Game Pass. On console, players can get the updated Halo: The Master Chief Collection bundle, which includes the Halo 3: ODST campaign and Halo: Reach, for the same price. What’s more, Brian announced that players can get started today by pre-installing on Xbox Game Pass or pre-ordering on either the Microsoft Store or Steam. To find out more, go to xbox.com/halo.  

The Sky’s the Limit in New Footage from Microsoft Flight Simulator

Today, we shared an all-new trailer for the upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator with new footage of the realistic world, authentic aircraft and real-time dynamic weather in this next generation simulator being developed in partnership with Asobo Studios. We’ve also just announced our first wave of aircraft manufacturing partners! For more details and to keep up with all the latest news on Microsoft Flight Simulator, visit https://www.flightsimulator.com or head on over to our Flight Simulator partnership announcement post.

The Future of Strategy is Revealed in the First Gameplay Trailer for Age of Empires IV

Today, the newly named studio World’s Edge revealed the first ever gameplay trailer for their highly anticipated upcoming game, Age of Empires IV, which included a special visit from studio head Shannon Loftis for an in-depth discussion about the future of the dedicated franchise. Shannon also introduced a brand-new launch trailer to celebrate the release of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, which includes remastered 4K graphics and a new expansion, The Last Khans. You can play Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition starting today on Xbox Game Pass, Windows 10, and Steam. Want to learn more? Take a look at our X019 Age of Empires update post.

Taking a Deeper Look at Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft players were pumped to see Minecraft Dungeons Executive Producer David Nisshagen live on our stage to show us the all-new game. He talked through some key facets of never-before-seen gameplay as Game Director Måns Olson and Senior Producer Nathan Rose did a live demo of this new and exciting experience!

Minecraft Earth Celebrates Early Access with Pop Up Events

In celebration of the game’s continued early access rollout, we unveiled “Mobs at the Park” at X019 – the one-of-a-kind, life-sized statues of interactive mobs popping up in New York City, London and Sydney starting on Saturday, November 16. The statues are life-sized creations of the Muddy Pig, Moobloom and the all-new, amazingly-festive Jolly Llama which will feature a scannable QR code to play an exclusive new adventure built by the Minecraft Earth development team and allow players to receive exclusive access to the Jolly Llama in-game before it’s globally available in December. The pop-ups will be live in three locations around the world – Hudson Yards in New York City, the Queens Walk in London and Campbell’s Cove in Sydney – during the weekends of November 16-17, November 23-24 and November 30-December 1, from 10am-7pm local time. Everyone can stay tuned to Minecraft.net or @MinecraftEarth for more information.

Explore Wasteland 3’s Post-Apocalyptic World in May 2020

inXile Studio Head Brian Fargo appeared on Inside Xbox to debut an all-new trailer for Wasteland 3, showing us some incredible new gameplay footage and unveiling the release date of May 19, 2020. On stage, Fargo explained the origins of this 80s-inspired post-apocalyptic world, as well as the brand-new story that will take place in the frozen wastes of Colorado. He also shared how the partnership with Xbox has helped to allow the team to make Wasteland 3 the biggest and best game of the franchise, demonstrated by their recent award of best RPG at Gamescom. You can pre-order Wasteland 3 today on Xbox One or Windows 10. Wasteland 3 will also be available on console and PC on day one with Xbox Game Pass.

Get Blown Away by the First Glimpse of CrossfireX Gameplay

Inside Xbox host @BennyCentral took us on a global journey from Seoul to Finland to Seattle to meet the teams working on CrossfireX, followed by the debut of a gameplay teaser trailer that gives fans just a taste of this massive FPS coming exclusively to Xbox in 2020. Stay tuned to xbox.com/CrossfireX for all the latest game news.

Catch the Drift in KartRider: Drift on Xbox One

If you’re looking for the ultimate challenge, DS Choi from the KartRider: Drift team unveiled what you’re looking for with their latestgame. Pro racers and league champions Hojun Moon and Insoo Park demonstrated this racing experience by taking us through outrageous conditions at breakneck speeds with customizations to boot, proving this game will challenge even the most road tested when it comes to Xbox One.

Final Fantasy Series Joins Xbox Game Pass and Kingdom Hearts Classics Coming to Xbox One

Square Enix Developers Shinji Hashimoto and Ichiro Hazama appeared on Inside Xbox to announce that the Final Fantasy series on Xbox including Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII Remastered, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy XV will be coming to Xbox Game Pass on Console and PC starting in 2020. Also, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue will come to Xbox One in 2020. Finally, a new Kingdom Hearts 3 demo is available starting today, November 14 on Xbox One – click here to download it now.

We Feel the Force with an Exclusive Look at Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Earlier today, Electronic Arts and Xbox debuted the co-created Become a Jedi video to kick off the X019 broadcast of Inside Xbox, as an invitation for all gamers to Jump In and indulge your ultimate Jedi fantasy. Following, Respawn Game Director Stig Asmussen provided an exclusive look at new gameplay leading into the game’s launch on November 15.

Enter the Criminal Underworld of the Critically Acclaimed Yakuza Series on Xbox One

Today on Inside Xbox, Sega announced that Yakuza is coming soon to Xbox Game Pass. In a new trailer debuted today on the show, Sega and Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio’s cult classics Yakuza 0, Yakuza Kiwami 1, and Yakuza Kiwami 2 were revealed to be coming to Xbox for the first time. If you want to learn more, head over to our X019 Yakuza announcement post.

Strap in for a New Look at Planet Coaster on Xbox One

Thrills, chills, and popcorn spills! Planet Coaster showcased its latest gameplay trailer for the fans at X019.

Play Around in Purgatory in West of Dead

Developer Raw Fury announced West of Dead, which lets you step into the boots of the dead man William Mason (voiced by Ron Perlman) and descend into the grim and gritty world of Purgatory in this fast-paced twin-stick shooter that’ll put your skills to test. Dodge behind cover as you try to outgun your enemies in the unknown procedurally generated hunting grounds. The Wild West has never been this dark. Sign up for the Open Beta today at westofdead.com.

Build a Village in a Twisted Mirrored Universe in Drake Hollow

The Molasses Flood announced their next game, Drake Hollow, a cooperative action village building game set in the Hollow – a blighted mirror of our world – in which you build and defend villages of Drakes, the local vegetable folk. Either solo or with friends, you explore a procedurally generated world of islands trapped in poisonous aether. You gather supplies, build networks to bring them back to your camp, find and rescue Drakes in the wilderness, raise them, and defend them from attacks by a menagerie of feral beasts. You need to balance your time carefully: what supplies are most crucial at any given moment, what does your village need: more resources to keep the Drakes thriving or more defenses to help protect them while you explore.

Experience a Supernatural Crisis in the Upcoming Anthology Series Last Stop

Last Stop is the new game from Variable State, creators of the award-winning Virginia, and will be published by Annapurna Interactive. The game is a single-player third-person adventure set in present-day London, where you play as three separate characters whose worlds collide during a supernatural crisis. Last Stop is an anthology connecting three stories in one, centered on secret lives, the ties that bind, and how magic can be found in the mundane.

Embark on a Multidimensional Journey in The Artful Escape

A fresh, new peek of The Artful Escape was also unveiled during Inside Xbox. Developed by Beethoven & Dinosaur and published by Annapurna Interactive, The Artful Escape tells the story of Francis Vendetti as he embarks on a multidimensional journey to create his stage persona. The Artful Escape is an action-adventure, narrative driven, musical-laser-light-battle kind of videogame with dazzling visuals, killer music, and a soulful message about what it means to find your true self.

We hope you enjoyed the show, and we’ll see you next time!

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Value-based care models hung up on lack of resources

A survey of more than 1,000 healthcare providers finds a lack of resources to be the biggest hurdle when shifting to a value-based care reimbursement model.

A value-based care model pays providers based on patient outcomes rather than the amount of services provided. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began promoting value-based care in 2008. Support for the initiative quickly followed with legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010.

Despite the push, the shift to a value-based care rather than fee-for-service model has been slow — but steady. Indeed, data analytics company Definitive Healthcare LLC found that the number of U.S. states and territories with value-based care programs has risen from three in 2011 to 48 in 2018.

This year, the company surveyed more than 1,000 healthcare leaders to determine the state of value-based care, as well as what implementation will look like in 2020.

Value-based care: Barriers and accelerators

Kate Shamsuddin, senior vice president of strategy at Definitive Healthcare, said she was surprised that 25.3% of respondents pointed to lack of resources as the biggest barrier to implementing a value-based care model, given the initiative dates back to 2008.

Definitive Healthcare senior vice president of strategy Kate ShamsuddinKate Shamsuddin

“We would’ve anticipated that the number of resources required to support value-based care would’ve been increasing over time to support the success of these programs and initiatives,” she said. “So that was pretty surprising to see that at the top of the list as a barrier.”

Survey takers also pointed to “gaps in interoperability” and the “unpredictability of revenue stream” as barriers to implementing value-based care programs. “Changing regulations and policies” was another barrier identified by 16.2% of respondents.

Shamsuddin was struck by the “changing regulations and policies” barrier because of the amount of visibility the federal government has provided into policy implementation. Additionally, Shamsuddin said that while changing policies is listed as a barrier, 16.1% of respondents also selected it as a factor that is accelerating the adoption of value-based care.

Almost half, 44.8%, of survey respondents cited “appropriate provider compensation and incentives” as the biggest reason why adoption of a value-based care model moved forward within their organization. In a value-based care model, providers can receive bonuses for performing above-quality care standards. Yet they can also be penalized if their performance falls below those standards.

Shamsuddin said being able to adjust provider compensation and incentives is one way to ensure all stakeholders are “growing in the same direction” when implementing a value-based care program.

“That is one I think we’ll continue to see as an accelerator, especially with healthcare systems being a little bit more, let’s call it experimental, in how they’re willing to move away from the fee-for-service model,” she said.

What CIOs should pay attention to in 2020

As value-based care model implementation evolves in 2020, Shamsuddin said it will be important for healthcare CIOs to keep an eye on federal regulation and policy, which survey takers said was both a barrier and an accelerator.  

Additionally, one of the main areas that will cause change in value-based care program implementation is a growing understanding among providers of how accountable care organizations (ACOs) and bundled payment models such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program work, according to 31.1% of survey respondents.

ACOs and bundled payment models, or alternative payment models that require providers to take on risk and share in the losses and benefits of patient care, will “evolve and become easier to understand,” making it more likely for providers to transition to a value-based care model, according to the survey.

ACOs are associations of hospitals, providers and insurers that assume medical and financial responsibility for their patients; the Medicare Shared Savings Program is a voluntary program that encourages healthcare providers to come together as an ACO. The program provides different participation options to ACOs and allows them to take on varying levels of risk and responsibility for patients.

Consolidation within healthcare will also create what Shamsuddin called a “wild card” in how effective value-based programs will be. When two health systems are thinking about combining, Shamsuddin said it will require healthcare providers to be “open and strategic” around how they’re going to bring in value-based care initiatives during a merger.

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Cloud adoption a catalyst for IT modernization in many orgs

One of the biggest changes for administrators in recent years is the cloud. Its presence requires administrators to migrate from their on-premises way of thinking.

The problem isn’t the cloud. After all, there should be less work if someone else looks after the server for you. The arrival of the cloud has brought to light some of the industry’s outdated methodologies, which is prompting this IT modernization movement. Practices in many IT shops were not as rigid or regimented before the cloud came along because external access was limited.

Changing times and new technologies spur IT modernization efforts

When organizations were exclusively on premises, it was easy enough to add finely controlled firewall rules to only allow certain connections in and out. Internal web-based applications did not need HTTPS — just plain HTTP worked fine. You did not have to muck around with certificates, which seem to always be difficult to comprehend. Anyone on your network was authorized to be there, so it didn’t matter if data was unencrypted. The risk versus the effort wasn’t worthwhile — a lot of us told ourselves — to bother with and the users would have no idea anyway.

You would find different ways to limit the threats to the organization. You could implement 802.1X, which only allowed authorized devices on the network. This reduced the chances of a breach because the attacker would need both physical access to the network and an approved device. Active Directory could be messy; IT had a relaxed attitude about account management and cleanup, which was fine as long as everyone could do their job.

Now that there is increased risk with exposing the company’s systems to the world via cloud, it’s no longer an option to keep doing things the same way just to get by.

The pre-cloud era allowed for a lot of untidiness and shortcuts, because the risk of these things affecting the business in a drastic way was smaller. Administrators who stepped into a new job would routinely inherit a mess from the last IT team. There was little incentive to clean things up; just keep those existing workloads running. Now that there is increased risk with exposing the company’s systems to the world via cloud, it’s no longer an option to keep doing things the same way just to get by.

One example of how the cloud forces IT practices to change is the default configuration when you use Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory. This product syncs every Active Directory object to the cloud unless you apply filtering. The official documentation states that this is the recommended configuration. Think about that: Every single overlooked, basic password that got leaked several years ago during the LinkedIn breach is now in the cloud for use by anyone in the world. Those accounts went from a forgotten mess pushed under the rug years ago to a ticking time bomb waiting for attackers to hit a successful login as they spin through their lists of millions of username and password combos.

Back on the HTTP/HTTPS side, users now want to work from home or anywhere they might have an internet connection. They also want to do it from any device, such as their personal laptop, mobile phone or tablet. Exposing internal websites was once — and still is in many scenarios — a case of poking a hole in the firewall and hoping for the best. With an unencrypted HTTP site, all data it pushed in and out to that endpoint, from anything the user sees to anything they enter such as username and password is at risk. Your users could be working from a free McDonald’s Wi-Fi connection or at any airport in the world. It’s not hard for attackers to set up fake relay access points and listen to all the data and read anything that is not encrypted. Look up WiFi Pineapple for more information about the potential risks.

How to accommodate your users and tighten security

As you can see, it’s easy to end up in a high-risk situation if IT focuses on making users happy instead of company security. How do you make the transition to a safer environment? At the high level, there’s several immediate actions to take:

  • Clean up Active Directory. Audit accounts, disable ones not in use, organize your organizational units so they are clear and logical. Implement an account management process from beginning to end.
  • Review your password policy. If you have no other protection, cycle your passwords regularly and enforce some level of complexity. Look at other methods for added protection such as multifactor authentication (MFA), which Azure Active Directory provides, which can do away with password cycling. For more security, combine MFA with conditional access, so a user in your trusted network or using a trusted device doesn’t even need MFA. The choice is yours.
  • Review and report on account usage. When something is amiss with account usage, you should know as soon as possible to take corrective action. Technologies such as the identity protection feature Azure Active Directory issues alerts and remediates on suspicious activity, such a login from a location that is not typical for that account.
  • Implement HTTPS on all sites. You don’t have to buy a certificate for each individual site to enable HTTPS. Save money and generate them yourself if the site is only for trusted computers on which you can deploy the certificate chain. Another option is to buy a wildcard certificate to use everywhere. Once the certificate is deployed, you can expose the sites you want with Azure Active Directory Application Proxy rather than open ports in your firewall. This gives the added benefit of forcing an Azure Active Directory login to apply MFA and identity protection before the user gets to the internal site, regardless of the device and where they are physically located.

These are a few of the critical aspects to think about when changing your mindset from on-premises to cloud. This is a basic overview of the areas to give a closer look. There’s a lot more to consider, depending on the cloud services you plan to use.

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New “Gears Forever” Trailer Shows The Biggest Gears Yet – Xbox Wire

We’re just a short time away from the biggest Gears yet with Early Access for either Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or with Gears 5 Ultimate Edition, and today while fans eagerly await its release, we’ve got a brand new trailer showing off Gears 5’s five modes.

In Gears 5, there are five thrilling ways to play: the all-new aggressive, high-stakes co-op mode Escape; the competitive Versus mode, featuring nine modes including the all-new Arcade for players of all levels; the deepest Horde Mode ever;  the intuitive Map Builder and the biggest Campaign yet.

Yesterday, we shared news about latest blockbuster partnership in Gears 5 with WWE Superstar Batista making an appearance in Gears 5 as a multiplayer character, donning the armor of the legendary Marcus Fenix. Fans can also look forward to the inclusion of Sarah Connor and the T-800 Endoskeleton from Terminator: Dark Fate and Spartans Emile-A239 and Kat-B320 from Halo: Reach with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Gears 5 Ultimate Edition.

Gears 5 early access will begin at 9pm on September 5th in your local time zone. For countries with multiple time zones, the earliest time zone will determine when you can play. For example, North American early access will begin at simultaneously at 9pm ET, 8pm CT and 6pm PT.

Both Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members and Gears 5 Ultimate Edition owners will be able to gear up and take the fight to the Swarm. On behalf of everyone at The Coalition, we’re excited to have fans jump into the world of Gears 5.

For more information on Gears 5 and the Gears franchise, stay tuned to Xbox Wire or follow Gears on Twitter @gearsofwar.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Meet Lucas Joppa, the man on a mission to save the planet by democratizing AI – Microsoft News Center India

Can mankind’s greatest technological advancements help solve the biggest ecological challenges facing planet earth? Can technology help accelerate biodiversity conservation? Can it predict global warming to reduce the potential impact? Can it help conserve fresh water? Can it help achieve global food security? These are some of the existential questions that have kept Lucas Joppa awake at night for more than a decade.

Today, as the first Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft, Joppa leads AI for Earth, a five-year, $50 million global program that blends ecological science and cutting-edge AI to solve some of the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. We caught up with him to learn more about the program, his experience with technology interventions for environmental advancement, and his vision of deploying AI to advance sustainability across the globe. Here are some edited excerpts from our conversation.

You’ve a PhD in Ecology and have worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This is not exactly a profile of someone who’d be working at a technology company. How did you decide to join Microsoft?

My educational background is in environmental studies. After completing my undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology, I spent time in the Peace Corps working for Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. Then I did my PhD in Ecology. What all the work on the environment side taught me was just how serious environmental issues really are.

The science shows the seriousness of the issues, but the work also highlighted just how monumental the task is actually going to be, to find our way to sustainable solutions where the human species can exist in a more sustainable manner, with the rest of the life on earth. As soon as I began to truly realize the enormity of the challenge, I started panicking a little like everyone does. But it also got me thinking that there’s got to be some way to get out ahead.

I began to see that there was one thing that was accelerating exponentially and potentially even faster than the degradation of our planet’s natural resources. And that was technology. Thus, I decided to drive my career towards leveraging advances in technology to address the negative effects of human activities on rest of the life on Earth and started focusing on the computational aspects of ecology. I joined Microsoft Research to focus on and lead research programs at the intersection of environmental and computer science. What enthused me was that Microsoft, about a decade ago, had realized that this was where the real challenges were, both for society and the technology sector.

How did you transition to the role of the Chief Environmental Officer at Microsoft? How did the AI for Earth program come about?

I pursued research programs for about eight years at Microsoft Research. That experience prepared us to step back a couple of years ago and see the progress we had made in research from an environmental and technology perspective and how we could place it all the way into shipped products.

I put together all those learnings into one document, which I called “AI for Earth”. It laid out the opportunities I saw for Microsoft to really make a more concerted, company-wide effort, than simply a research program, to leverage our 35 years of ongoing investment in AI research and technology and focus all those efforts on the four key areas of agriculture, water, biodiversity, and climate change.

From my experience at Microsoft Research, we knew what the problems were, and we’d done enough on the technology front. So, it was time to put it into action. Last year, I left Microsoft Research and started serving as the company’s first Chief Environmental Scientist leading the AI for Earth program. That position recently expanded to Microsoft’s first Chief Environmental Officer, which allows me to oversee the whole environmental sustainability mission and mandate across the company.

Microsoft’s AI for Earth Innovation Grant gives data scientists access to AI tools

Microsoft and National Geographic are teaming up to support data scientists who are tackling the “world’s biggest challenges.” The two companies today announced the AI for Earth Innovation Grant program, a $1 million grant that’ll provide recipients financial assistance, access to AI tools and cloud services, and more to advance conservation research.

The grant program, which is accepting applications until October 8, will support between five and 15 projects in five core areas: agriculture, biodiversity, conservation, climate change, and water. In addition to funding, researchers will gain access to Microsoft’s AI platform and development tools, inclusion in the National Geographic Explorer community, and affiliation with National Geographic Labs, National Geographic’s research incubation and accelerator initiative.

“[I]n Microsoft, we found a partner that is well-positioned to accelerate the pace of scientific research and new solutions to protect our natural world,” Jonathan Baillie, chief scientist and executive vice president at the National Geographic Society, said in a statement. “With today’s announcement, we will enable outstanding explorers seeking solutions for a sustainable future with the cloud and AI technologies that can quickly improve the speed, scope, and scale of their work, as well as support National Geographic Labs’ activities around technology and innovation for a planet in balance.”

The aim is to make trained algorithms broadly available to the global community of environmental researchers, Lucas Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental scientist, said in a press release.

“Microsoft is constantly exploring the boundaries of what technology can do, and what it can do for people and the world,” Joppa said. “We believe that humans and computers, working together through AI, can change the way that society monitors, models, and manages Earth’s natural systems. We believe this because we’ve seen it — we’re constantly amazed by the advances our AI for Earth collaborators have made over the past months. Scaling this through National Geographic’s … network will create a whole new generation of explorers who use AI to create a more sustainable future for the planet and everyone on it.”

Selected recipients will be announced in December.

The AI for Earth Innovation Grant is an expansion of Microsoft’s AI for Earth program, announced in June 2017. In December, the Redmond company committed $50 million to an “extended strategic plan” that includes providing advanced training to universities and NGOs and the formation of a “multi-disciplinary” team of AI and sustainability experts.

Microsoft claims that in the past two years, the AI for Earth program has awarded more than 35 grants globally for access to its Azure platform and AI technologies.