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Epic Games, which made Fortnite, sides with Improbable against Unity

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Epic Games, the creator of “Fortnite,” has inserted itself into the middle of a back-and-forth feud between $2 billion British startup Improbable and $2.6 billion Unity Technologies.

The beef began on Thursday, when Improbable announced that SpatialOS, a cloud gaming service, was no longer compatible with Unity after a change to the latter’s terms of service.

This was a big deal: Unity, the flagship gaming engine from Unity Technologies, is the foundational software behind many modern video games — games like “Pokémon Go,” “Hollow Knight,” and “Cuphead” were all built with Unity at the core. Similarly, Improbable, a prominent British technology company, is the proprietor of SpatialOS, which helps developers quickly and easily deploy the underlying plumbing for online multiplayer features.

Improbable’s announcement created ripples throughout the industry — one Improbable customer, Spilt Milk Studios, reacted to the news by shutting down the online servers for its Unity-based game “Lazarus,” for fear of violating Unity’s terms of service.

“Hollow Knight” is powered by the Unity engine.
Dave Smith/Business Insider

Then, Unity responded, saying that Improbable had misrepresented the situation, and that developers using Unity with SpatialOS had nothing to worry about. It pledged to clarify its terms of service.

But then, later in the night, Epic Games, the $15 billion gaming giant, got involved. It announced that it had partnered with Improbable to create a $25 million fund for developers stuck in “legal limbo” over the situation. And Improbable issued its own “final statement,” calling on Unity to

Although the clash was between Improbable and Unity, Epic Games decided to jump in because it believes that game developers should have the freedom to use whatever tools they want. Of note is that Epic Games and Unity are long-time competitors: Epic makes the Unreal Engine, a direct competitor with Unity. Game engines are big business for both companies.

“The principle at stake here is whether game developers are free to mix and match engines, online services and stores of their choosing, or if an engine maker can dictate how developers build and sell their games,” Tim Sweeney, co-founder and CEO of Epic Games, told Business Insider via a Twitter direct message.

Here’s how things got to this point.

Where it started

The roots of the feud go back to December, when Unity updated its terms of service to exclude “managed service[s] running on cloud infrastructure” that “install or execute the Unity Runtime on the cloud or a remote server.” The meaning of this clause is what seems to be at the center of the dispute.

In its original blog post, Improbable said that it was informed by Unity on Wednesday that SpatialOS would be in violation of those terms. In other words, Improbable wrote, all Unity-based games using SpatialOS — including those in development, as well as those released to the world with paying customers — were themselves in violation.

Improbable also said that its own license for the Unity Editor software has been revoked.

“Fortnite,” meanwhile, is built on the Unreal Engine — which is built by Epic Games itself.
YouTube/Unbox Therapy

“Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small scale developers and damaged major projects in development over many years,” Improbable wrote in its blog post.

At the time, Improbable said that it would set up an emergency fund to aid SpatialOS developers on Unity, as well as make its code for the SpatialOS Game Development Kit for Unity available as open source.

“Live games are now in legal limbo,” Improbable wrote.

Developers in limbo

Improbable’s blog post sent the gaming industry into a tizzy, with many expressing concern that Unity would seemingly make such an aggressive, sudden move to block developers from hosting multiplayer games in the cloud.

Sweeney himself questioned the logic of the move: “You couldn’t operate Fortnite, PUBG, or Rocket League under this terms,” he tweeted.

Unity developers expressed shock and dismay over the change, as well.

Spilt Milk Studios, whose game “Lazarus” uses both Unity and SpatialOS, briefly shut down its servers after Improbable published its blog post. Boss Studios, the proprietor of “Worlds Adrift,” came close to making the same move, though ultimately kept its servers online.

The move seemed to endanger in-progress projects, as well.

“I don’t know how many hours I’ve sunk into these projects and the plans to start a game company utilizing this technology but it’s a huge portion of my time over the last two years,” user AtomiCal posted on the Unity forums. “Today I woke up to a message essentially pulling the rug from under my feet saying that I can’t do that anymore. Unity won’t let it happen.”

Later, Improbable wrote another blog post apologizing for the uncertainty created by the situation, and suggested that the industry should standardize on some rules for how to handle situations like this.

“In the near future, as more and more people transition from entertainment to earning a real income playing games, a platform going down or changing its Terms of Service could have devastating repercussions on a scale much worse than today,” Improbable wrote.

Unity calls Improbable ‘incorrect’

Unity finally responded when CTO Joachim Ante wrote a blog post saying that Improbable’s blog post was incorrect, and pledged that the company was working on clarifying its terms of service around cloud-hosted gaming.

First of all, Ante said, Unity developers using SpatialOS won’t be affected, whether their games are in production or live.

“We have never communicated to any game developer that they should stop operating a game that runs using Improbable as a service,” Ante wrote.

Unity’s issue is specifically with Improbable, as a company — Ante writes that Improbable had been “making unauthorized and improper use of Unity’s technology and name in connection with the development, sale, and marketing of its own products.” As such, Unity revoked Improbable’s license keys for Unity Editor, one of its commercial products, such that the startup can no longer use Unity tech to build its services, he says.

Bossa Studios uses Improbable’s SpatialOS to power the multiplayer in its online game ‘Worlds Adrift.’
Bossa Studios

What’s more, Ante wrote that Improbable had already been in violation of its terms of service for over a year, and it had told Improbable this both in person and in writing months ago. In other words, this should not have been a surprise to Improbable, as it’s known about this for many months, Ante said.

Also, Unity said it had been clear with Improbable that no games currently in production won’t be affected.

“We would have expected them to be honest with their community about this information,” Ante wrote. “Unfortunately, this information is misrepresented in Improbable’s blog.”

Epic Games swoops in

The saga didn’t end with Unity’s blog. That same day, Epic’s Sweeney and Improbable CEO Herman Narula penned a blog post together saying that they were starting a $25 million fund to assist developers “who were left in limbo.”

“Epic Games’ partnership with Improbable, and the integration of Improbable’s cloud-based development platform SpatialOS, is based on shared values, and a shared belief in how companies should work together to support mutual customers in a straightforward, no-surprises way,” they wrote in the blog post.

Sweeney tells Business Insider that developers shouldn’t be locked into Unity-approved services just because of some changes in the terms of service.

“As a new operator of a store and online services, Epic’s ability to serve developers depends on whether they’re free to choose us, or if Unity can say they’re locked into Unity-approved services,” Sweeney said.

Improbable speaks out again

On Friday, Improbable made another blog post, saying this was its “final statement.” In the post, it clarified that it had received verbal confirmation from Unity that it was not in breach of Unity’s terms of service. It also said that although SpatialOS games based on Unity can stay live, the fact that Unity revoked its license keys means that Improbable cannot legally provide support to those games’ developers, which includes fixing bugs.

“We regarded this as the end of the matter and proceeded with commercial discussions. Until the recent change, neither we nor Unity had reason to believe there was any issue for developers,” Improbable wrote.

Improbable CEO Herman Narula
Improbable

It also said that the terms of service cast too wide of a net, as the terms could put any cloud-based multiplayer solution or cloud-based streaming solution at risk of being in violation. After Unity clarified that Improbable was in violation of its terms of service, Improbable decided to put a public notice, says the blog post.

Finally, Improbable said that Unity should either unsuspend its Unity Editor license, or else clarify its terms and conditions — something that, again, Unity has pledged to do.

“We urgently need clarity in order to move forward. Everyone requires a long term, dependable answer from Unity on what is and is not allowed, in a documented legal form,” Improbable wrote. “More broadly, developers are asking about other services, not just Improbable’s. This urgently needs resolution.”

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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