Happy Saturday and welcome to the inaugural edition of the Verge Weekender, a short recap of some of the stories we covered this week on The Verge.
The big event of the week was Disney’s investor day, where the company announced new Disney Plus series WandaVision, showed trailers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the much-anticipated series Loki; as well as slew of new Star Wars series on Disney Plus, including Rangers of the New Republic, Ahsoka, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Star Wars: Lando. There’s also a new Alien TV series in the works. Check out the full roundup of everything Disney announced at its 2020 Investor Day.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week/year/pandemic hit late Friday, as the FDA approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use:
The vaccine is authorized in the US for people over the age of 16. It was found to be 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in clinical trials. “That is extraordinary,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a press conference at the end of November. It’s far better than experts had dared hope for. The FDA was prepared to authorize a vaccine as long as it was at least 50 percent effective. “We were shocked,” Pfizer’s chief executive officer, Albert Bourla, told The New York Times. “We couldn’t believe it.”
Here’s what else went down over the past week:
Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed how the company handled the departure of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru
“We need to accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent Black, female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily,” Pichai wrote in an email to staff. He added that the company would consider “de-escalation strategies” in the future. In response, Gebru tweeted that Pichai’s email wasn’t an apology.
The backstory: Gebru tweeted that Google had abruptly fired her after she voiced her frustration over how the company had handled a research paper on the risks of large language processing models, and Google’s head of AI, Jeff Dean, published a note explaining that Gebru’s paper hadn’t met company standards. Her own team pushed back, writing that Google had applied its publication review policy “unevenly and discriminatorily.”
Cyberpunk 2077 finally debuts after nearly a decade in development
The long-awaited game from CD Projekt Red launched to generally favorable reviews. But reports of bugs from users on older consoles put into doubt whether developers who helped make the game would earn their performance bonuses. The company announced Friday it would pay devs full bonuses regardless of the game’s critical reception. It also said it was removing some flashing-light sequences in the game to reduce the potential for inducing seizures for some users.
Visa and Mastercard crack down on Pornhub after report of unlawful videos
After The New York Times reported the porn portal had videos of underage girls and assaults on its site, Pornhub banned uploads by unidentified users and blocked the downloading of videos. It disputed the Times story, calling the allegations it hosted child sex abuse material “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.” But on Thursday, Visa and Mastercard both said they would stop processing payments on the site as they conducted their own separate investigations.
In other news...
The test of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket had to abort before taking off.
The Galaxy Buds Live (aka Galaxy Beans), Oculus Quest 2, and PlayStation 5 all made our list this year.
Nilay Patel got a pair of Apple’s new $549 Airpods Max. First impressions: the case leaves a lot to be desired, but the sound quality matches competing— but less expensive— headphones. “Whether Apple has actually done enough here to justify the staggering premium over the competition is an open question that it’ll take us a little more time reviewing to answer,” he writes.
The OS Google announced more than four years ago is still in the works, Dieter Bohn reports, and while the company says it’s not ready for general product development yet, it’s seeking more public contributors.
After winning best multiplayer game of the year at the Game Awards, Innersloth announced a new, more elaborate map for Among Us. Not sus at all.