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Niagara Falls’ new ferry boats are electric, and they’re not alone 

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Tourists to Niagara Falls can now ride all-electric ferries past the iconic waterfalls. The two ferries made their debut in New York on October 6th, fueled by locally generated hydropower. Their batteries can recharge in just seven minutes as passengers climb on and off the vessels.

The new boats, operated by Maid of the Mist, are among the first vessels of their kind to navigate US waterways. The first all-electric passenger and car ferry in the US pushed off from the banks of the Alabama River in 2019. These new, non-polluting voyages are part of a global trend toward electrifying passenger vessels.

“The electrification of these two brand-new tour boats sets the example that we can electrify our economy which is good for our communities, our health, and our climate,” Gil Quiniones, president and CEO at the New York Power Authority, said in a statement. The New York Power Authority and New York State Parks worked with Maid of the Mist to get the boats afloat, while automation company ABB fitted the vessels with battery packs.

The Maid of the Mist boat tours at Niagara Falls will now be aboard fully electric vessels.
Image: NY State Parks

Maritime industries, which have a similar carbon footprint as aviation, are trying to rein in planet-heating emissions from traditionally diesel-powered fleets. Ferries, though, make up just a small slice of carbon dioxide pollution from transportation. They pumped out roughly 11.6 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2018, about as much as three coal-fired power plants might produce in a year and not even a third of the annual carbon footprint of a large airline like Delta (prior to the pandemic).

But the diesel-powered boats can be bad for local air quality because they also let out soot and nitrogen oxides that boost smog. Since ferries travel along the same routes over and over again each day, the pollution builds up in nearby communities.

Those frequent, relatively short trips make ferries ideal candidates for replacing diesel engines with rechargeable batteries. Nordic countries with long seafaring traditions have led the trend. The first electric car and passenger ferry service in the world began in Norway in 2015. Finland retrofitted its oldest operating ferry to become all-electric in 2017. Since then, electric passenger vessels have also popped up in Denmark, Spain, India, and Thailand. More than 70 percent of ferry traffic globally could become all-electric, Anil Srivastava, CEO of the Swiss battery maker Leclanche SA, told Bloomberg Green in January.

“We’ve still got some time before we’re going to see an electric boat revolution in the United States, but it’s happening in the rest of the world,” says Patrick Finn, a maritime technology analyst at the consultancy Thetius. The US is playing catch-up because boats are more expensive to build in the United States than anywhere else in the world, according to Finn. Why the high price tag? He points to the controversial Jones Act, a century-old law that mandates that boats moving goods between two US ports be American made. It would take significant policy changes and investments to fuel a faster shift to electric vessels.

There would also need to be major updates to infrastructure to fully electrify ferry fleets. The aging grid, designed for fossil fuels, needs a makeover to accommodate more renewables. And you’d need charging stations and enough electricity on hand in busy ports. The Niagara boat tours are lucky enough to cruise past a powerful source of clean energy during each trip — the falls create enough power for 3.8 million homes. “That’s basically the perfect application [of all-electric vessels],” says John Nuszkowski, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of North Florida who grew up not far from Niagara Falls.

Battery technology isn’t quite far enough along yet to replace diesel engines in cargo ships and larger, ocean-faring vessels. Hybrid boats or those that run on alternative fuels are still more promising when it comes to cutting down pollution at sea. There’s a long way to go before electric boats take over the seas. But ferries are starting to steer the world toward a greener horizon.

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Fall Guys’ adorable new Godzilla skin will let you become an actual bean-grappling monster

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Fall Guys is getting a Godzilla skin soon, and it’s adorable. Just look at it! I want to give it a big hug.

But I also have to admit that I want to use the Godzilla skin to channel my inner monster and annoy other players without regret. I am never that person who grapples players just inches from the finish line of a Fall Guys stage — that’s just rude. But dressed as Godzilla? Well, all bets are off.

Fall Guys has been one of the biggest hits of the year, and a number of brands have made their pitches for a themed skin in the game, including Konami, KFC, and even Chuck E. Cheese.

Developer Mediatonic has already added many video game-themed crossover skins, including Gordon Freeman (with a headcrab!), a Scout from Team Fortress 2, and Sonic the Hedgehog. And there’s a branded skin on the way from G2 Esports, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Aim Lab, and Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, who teamed up to win a charity bidding war for the opportunity to get a skin added to the game.

The Godzilla skin will be out on November 3rd to celebrate Godzilla’s birthday, but it will only be available for a limited time. It will cost 10 crowns, which you can earn through winning games or by leveling up the season pass.

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Ubisoft’s subscription service comes to Stadia and Luna

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Ubisoft originally announced its subscription service back in June. Today, the company is rebranding the service from UPlay+ to Ubisoft+. The service is also on its way to Amazon’s Luna and Google’s Stadia. Ubisoft is betting on a multi-platform subscription, which means that you’ll be able to subscribe once and play Ubisoft+ games on PC, Amazon Luna and Stadia.

Ubisoft+ is already available on PC. For $14.99 a month, you can download and play more than 100 games — the service includes both classics and newly released titles, such as games in the Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia franchises as well as the company’s upcoming releases. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs Legion and Immortals Fenyx Rising will be available in the Ubisoft+ library on their respective launch days.

Ubisoft is trying to include premium editions of the games so that you don’t have to pay for game passes to access additional content. For instance, you can play the ultimate editions of Rainbow Six Siege, The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, etc.

On November 10, you’ll be able to access Ubisoft+ games on Amazon Luna is you’re beta testing Amazon’s cloud gaming service. And Google will also let you connect your Ubisoft+ account with Stadia by the end of the year. Interestingly, you don’t need to pay for Stadia Pro to access Ubisoft+ titles.

Ubisoft is working on cross-platform progression, starting with upcoming titles. It’s a subscription focused on content, not platforms.

As you can see, Microsoft and Sony don’t support Ubisoft+. It means that you won’t be able to subscribe and play on your Xbox or PlayStation. Console manufacturers take a cut on game purchases. That’s why negotiations between third-party game studios and console manufacturers are more complicated.

Image Credits: Ubisoft

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SpaceX launches Starlink app and provides pricing and service info to early beta testers

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SpaceX has debuted an official app for its Starlink satellite broadband internet service, for both iOS and Android devices. The Starlink app allows users to manage their connection – but to take part you’ll have to be part of the official beta program, and the initial public rollout of that is only just about to begin, according to emails SpaceX sent to potential beta testers this week.

The Starlink app provides guidance on how to install the Starlink receiver dish, as well as connection status (including signal quality), a device overview for seeing what’s connected to your network, and a speed test tool. It’s similar to other mobile apps for managing home wifi connections and routers. Meanwhile, the emails to potential testers that CNBC obtained detail what users can expect in terms of pricing, speeds and latency.

The initial Starlink public beta test is called the “Better than Nothing Beta Program,” SpaceX confirms in their app description, and will be rolled out across the U.S. and Canada before the end of the year – which matches up with earlier stated timelines. As per the name, SpaceX is hoping to set expectations for early customers, with speeds users can expect ranging from between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, and latency of 20ms to 40ms according to the customer emails, with some periods including no connectivity at all. Even with expectations set low, if those values prove accurate, it should be a big improvement for users in some hard-to-reach areas where service is currently costly, unreliable and operating at roughly dial-up equivalent speeds.

Image Credits: SpaceX

In terms of pricing, SpaceX says in the emails that the cost for participants in this beta program will be $99 per moth, plus a one-time cost of $499 initially to pay for the hardware, which includes the mounting kit and receiver dish, as well as a router with wifi networking capabilities.

The goal eventually is offer reliably, low-latency broadband that provides consistent connection by handing off connectivity between a large constellation of small satellites circling the globe in low Earth orbit. Already, SpaceX has nearly 1,000 of those launched, but it hopes to launch many thousands more before it reaches global coverage and offers general availability of its services.

SpaceX has already announced some initial commercial partnerships and pilot programs for Starlink, too, including a team-up with Microsoft to connect that company’s mobile Azure data centers, and a project with an East Texas school board to connect the local community.

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