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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Razer’s Cage-Like Mouse Is a $280 Goth-Metal Jewel

Razer could never be accused of subtle branding. From pulsating, RGB-backlit keyboards, laptops, and mice to flashing, light-festooned face masks, the gaming hardware company has crafted its whole vibe around a sense of ostentatious opulence.

Enter the Razer’s new mouse, the Viper Mini Signature Edition. By Razer standards, it is actually somewhat subdued, with the kind of tasteful aesthetic you might see on the cover of an industrial-metal album. The back of the cursor conveyor is an open web of triangular and trapezoidal shapes made of a lightweight magnesium alloy. It currently comes in one color option, which is solid black. 

This little gothic Thunderdome looks like it would be a perfect fit on the desks of aspiring Bond villains and German kinetic sculpture artists everywhere, provided they’re willing to pay handsomely for the privilege: The mouse costs $280.

Though the Viper Mini has a bold look, it is in fact pretty small. The magnesium body makes it lighter than any of Razer’s other mouses. It reportedly weighs about 49 grams (1.7 ounces), which is certainly lighter than any of Razer’s other fairly beefy input devices. It connects to your PC via Bluetooth, and the company says the mouse gets about 60 hours of battery life.

Razer will be accepting orders for the Viper Mini mouse on February 11, and it should ship shortly thereafter. But again, it is $280.

Here’s some other consumer tech news from this week.

Twitter Twists Some Arms

Twitter, as you may have noticed, is struggling to make money now that the whims of its mercurial new overlord have scared many of the site’s advertisers away.

In an effort to keep the lights on, Twitter is looking to wring some cash out of its increasingly destabilized platform by turning another of its formerly free features into a paid service. Twitter says basic access to its API is going behind a paywall on February 9. Short for application programming interface, an API is the set of tools software developers use to access a platform’s data; it’s essential for building services on top of Twitter. This means any third-party accounts or services that rely on the platform’s free backend tools to automate posts on their feeds will be forced to either pay a monthly fee or abandon the API and post manually.

Twitter currently offers developers free and paid tiers. The company hasn’t yet said how much basic access to its API will cost once the free tiers go away. 

This may not seem like a huge deal to casual users, but for accounts that offer unofficial user services it could be a huge headache. For example, Thread Reader App uses Twitter’s API to organize long threads into a single readable post upon request. It responds in seconds to thousands of user requests per day. Doing anything like that by posting manually is nigh impossible.

Twitter, and Elon Musk himself, is justifying the move by saying it will deter scammers from abusing the platform’s API. Thing is, scammers, whose whole thing is bilking people out of their money, will probably be happy to hand over a few of their stolen bucks for the privilege of sticking around. Unfortunately, popular and mostly benevolent bot accounts like Thread Reader or the one that reminds you to stop doomscrolling are less likely to stick around, and many have already indicated that they will be shutting down when the API restrictions go into effect. 

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Of course, nobody really knows how big of an issue this will be. Twitter has changed directions and reversed course on many of its plans over the past few months. Maybe somebody at the company (not naming names) will change his mind and nothing will come of this threat. Or maybe it will just be one more item on the list of ways Twitter is becoming less fun.

AI Is in Everything All at Once

The extremely popular AI generation program ChatGPT seems to be even more popular than people realize. Since January, the service’s user base has jumped to over 100 million people. AI is seeping into nearly every industry, from student book reports to government legislation to journalism. I would try to assure you that this article was written by a human, but that’s exactly what the AI would say.

Now, OpenAI has launched a paid version of its service, called ChatGTP Plus. (Even with the seemingly boundless generative possibilities of AI, they couldn’t come up with a snazzier moniker than the tried-and-true “Plus” suffix.) Right now the features offered at the paid tier are very similar to the free version, but it’s clear OpenAI has plans to distinguish between the two in an effort to profit off the popularity of its tool.

Big companies are also getting on the AI wagon. Google is apparently scrambling to catch up with OpenAI, while companies like Microsoft are just going with the flow of the biggest AI name out there. As part of its “multiyear, multibillion dollar investment” in OpenAI, Microsoft has incorporated an AI chat feature into the premium version of its Teams video-conferencing software.

We’re Hanging Up Our Phones

Samsung, the biggest phone manufacturer in the world, held its annual Unpacked event this week. It announced the latest lineup of its Galaxy smartphones, along with a handful of new laptops.

While these events always try to drum up hype with a lot of enthusiastic pomp and club vibes, the star products of this show have lost their luster. Phones have gotten very good in recent years, to the point that companies struggle to come up with features that feel like big advancements. Phones have basically plateaued, and it may be one reason smartphone sales are at their lowest in nearly a decade.

On WIRED’s Gadget Lab podcast, we talk all about Samsung’s splashy event and what comes next after we hit peak smartphone.

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