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Waze on an iPhone

Waze is mostly meant to help you avoid traffic snarls and speed traps, but it's now performing a valuable public service. Effective immediately, the navigation app will notify you about AMBER Alerts for abducted children wherever you're driving. Stop for at least 10 seconds and you'll get details for both the victims and any vehicles they might be traveling in. It's a simple upgrade, but it could make all the difference if you spot a child or captor in time for police to stage a rescue.

[Top image credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]

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Last year, Epic Games Chief Technology Officer Kim Libreri and Unreal Engine 4 General Manager Ray Davis visited some friends at Lord of the Rings effects studio Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. They only wanted a tour of the studio, but along the way they ran into Weta's head of R&D, Alasdair Coull. He mentioned that he was messing around with Unreal Engine 4, Epic's game development platform. Fast forward to March 2015: Epic Games and Weta are showing off a virtual reality demo featuring the greedy dragon, Smaug, swimming through mountains of gold in the second Hobbit film, voiced in all his baritone glory by actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Smaug speaks directly to the person in the headset -- Oculus Rift's Crescent Bay model -- and his daunting size is on full display. Five hundred feet of red-scaled, deep-speaking Smaug.

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"It's getting ridiculous."

Epic Games Chief Technology Officer Kim Libreri is tired of chairs -- and rocks, and grass, and trees -- in the games created in Unreal Engine 4, Epic's game development platform. It's not that he doesn't like everyday objects, he simply sees them as a collective issue to fix: They're standard, repeatable items that developers don't need to spend time making, since they already exist in a ton of other games. To that end, Epic is releasing on its UE4 Marketplace a set of detailed, photo-real assets and a system that places these items intelligently throughout game worlds, available for studios of all sizes.

"Once a chair's been made, there's no reason to make a custom version of that chair," Libreri says. "You might as well share it with the community.... It's mind-boggling when you think about how many games have made the equivalent of the Aeron chair."

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It's almost as if I'm in the Matrix. I'm in that same expanse of infinite white space that was also Neo's training grounds in the movie. A pattern of hexagonal tiles appears underneath me. They start to rise and fall randomly and rapidly. Hesitantly, I step forward, slowly walking across the field of unstable tiles, trying to get a feel for this strange, foreign environment. Suddenly, I encounter a gridded wall. It seems the space isn't so infinite after all. I was, of course, not in the Matrix. Instead, I was in a stark, windowless room inside the Fira Gran Via in Barcelona. On my head was the HTC Vive. And for the next 20 minutes, I was about to have a virtual reality experience unlike any I've ever had.

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We're only halfway through the decade, but it's already obvious that Minecraft is the biggest game of the '10s. Its creator, Markus "Notch" Persson has now been honored for his achievement with a cover story in Forbes. The piece reveals a few interesting tidbits about how he came to leave the game that made his name, including the fact that the $2.5 billion sale to Microsoft was prompted with a single tweet.

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Independent games are a cornerstone of Sony's PlayStation 4 messaging, and a contributing factor to the system's blockbuster success. They are not for Nintendo -- neither for the Wii U, nor the 3DS. An unsurprising strategy given the Japanese company's reliance on Mario and Zelda, its familiar, first-party franchises. And yet, independent games have had a presence on the company's digital software channel, the eShop, for almost a decade. Only now, they're more noticeable. "We've been supporting Indie content and self-publishing for a really long time," says Damon Baker, senior manager of licensing at Nintendo. "I mean, [going] back to the WiiWare, DSiWare days. But I think that it's just a more visible community because there's so much talent that's coming out of it; there's so much coverage for it that it just makes it naturally higher profile."

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, the latest in Hideo Kojima's nearly 30-year-old series of melodramatic espionage games, finally has a release date. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of will arrive on September 1st for $60, and on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for $50. PC players have to wait just a bit longer to experience the next generation of hiding from armed soldiers in cardboard boxes. Metal Gear Solid V will be available on Windows via Steam for $60 on September 15th.

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As much as you'd like to give Facebook's Slingshot a try, most of your friends still prefer Snapchat, huh? If you don't mind slinging photos or videos with strangers, the app's new Explore feature can help connect you to people who do use it regularly. It shows a list of popular users you can follow, so you can finally get to enjoy what the app can do. In case you are one of those popular users and would rather not be hounded by strangers sick of Snapchat, though, simply switch on "Approve Followers" in your settings page. This update also comes with bug fixes and an easier way to follow someone while viewing their entries, and it's now live for both iOS and Android users.

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If you thought the Steam Machine news would be limited to Valve's announcement, well you're not quite right. Maingear's back to give the the platform another go with the Drift. What's in the aluminum box? An Intel i7-4790K processor mated with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or an AMD Radeon R9 290X -- both of which are 4K capable. What's more, Maingear boasts that its Steam OS machine can hold up to 16GB of DDR RAM, a pair of 1TB solid state drives and a single 6TB hard drive as well. Those options alone will almost assuredly drive the price a bit beyond the $849 (!!!) baseline Mainger's asking.

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Hillary Clinton checks her BlackBerry

Just because Hillary Clinton wasn't using work email as Secretary of State doesn't mean she was throwing caution to the wind -- if anything, she may have been shrewder than most. The Associated Press has learned that Clinton conducted official business using an email server registered to her home. It's not clear exactly where the server was or who ran it until 2013 (probably not internet 'inventor' Al Gore), but the move gave the politician a lot of control. Since the email was strictly hers, she could decide if and when she turned over messages to the government or lawyers. It may have also let her toughen up security versus off-the-shelf services. If the server was in her house, she would have even had the Secret Service offering physical protection.

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