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Weekly Roundup: 4K PlayStation confirmed, Shaun the Sheep x Super Mario Maker and BLOCKS is ready

Our weekly roundup of the top news stories in the world of tech for the week beginning June 6th, 2016.

Sony confirms the 4K-ready PlayStation 4.5 is real

Talk of a more powerful PlayStation 4 has been circulating for some time, but this week Sony confirmed that a new console, codenamed ‘Neo’ is indeed on the cards. Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, told the Financial Times that a “high-end” version of the PS4 is being worked on, but that it won’t be replacing the current console and instead “sit alongside and complement” it as a more expensive option with enthusiasts in mind.

PlayStation 4 "Neo"

The PlayStation 4 Neo (as we’ll call it for the time being), is expected to support 4K and offer a smoother experience than the current console when using the upcoming PlayStation VR system, as a result of its beefier internals. Sony also said that it wouldn’t be showcasing the Neo at E3, taking place this coming week and that developers would be able to upgrade existing PS4 titles for use on the newer console with minimal effort.

News of the Neo comes just ahead of further rumours that Microsoft might too be unveiling at least one new upgraded Xbox One console, capable of 4K support at E3 2016 in Los Angeles. Find out more here.

Super Mario Maker gets the Aardman treatment with Shaun the Sheep

Insanely popular Wii U challenge platformer and level creator, Super Mario Maker has a huge following who’ve played and made the thousands of ingenious and sometimes fiendishly tricky stages. One key component of the game’s experience beyond building levels within the Super Mario universe is being able to change from Mario to a host of other characters from the world of Nintendo and beyond.

As well as characters from the company’s own franchises, such as Luigi, Link and Pikachu, you can also take the form of key figures from other big titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man. Now, as an extension of the wider character roster, Nintendo and  Aardman have teamed up to bring one of the British animation houses most popular characters to the world of Super Mario Maker, Shaun the Sheep.

As well as creating a pixelated Shaun which players can choose to traverse the world of SMM, Aardman also created an actual model of the newcomer, complete with blue overalls, white gloves (adapted for Shaun’s fewer-fingered hands) and red cap with an ‘S’ in place of Mario’s signature ‘M’.

To unlock Shaun as a usable skin within the game, players will have to enter a new event course called Shaun’s Mossy Mole Mischief, inspired by the titular ovine’s home from his own TV series, Mossy Bottom Farm. Shaun’s event course is available to play on Super Mario Maker now and you can find out more here.

Three is giving away free Amazon vouchers for friend referrals

UK mobile network Three is inviting its customers to ‘share the love’ with a new referral scheme. The carrier is hoping to pull in new members by incentivising its existing customer base with the offer of Amazon vouchers.

By signing up on Three’s website, customers are given a unique URL to share with friends and family. Should anyone sign up to one of a select number of Three handset contracts or a 12-month SIM-only plan using this unique URL, both the existing and new customers will receive £25 Amazon gift vouchers each. There’s no limit to how many times a Three member can share their URL and claim the rewards if successful. You can find out more and sign up here.

BLOCKS, the modular smartwatch is ready for prime time

Whilst we now have multiple examples of modular smartphones on offer, from the LG G5, to the new Moto Z and the unreleased Project Ara, modular mobile tech has also become part of the wearable scene with BLOCKS and the first smartwatches are just about ready to hit the market.

BLOCKS posted a teaser video and a new preview looking at the consumer-ready hardware that Kickstarter supporters will be receiving in the coming months. The main internals of the watch body from what’s called ‘the core’ which includes the screen, processor (this is one of the first devices to leverage Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip), battery and more.

If you wish you can simply connect a flexible strap to the core and it’ll function as a fully-featured Android-powered smartwatch, but BLOCKS’ real hook comes in the form of additional modules that easily snap on and off, wrapping around your wrist. It looks as though you’ll be able to snap on up to four additional modules and a clasp, with existing examples including a flashlight, optical heart rate sensor, programmable button and extra battery. You can pre-order BLOCKS in one of three colours (black, red or white) for $330 dollars, with modules costing £35 each, and shipping is slated for October 2016. Find out more here.

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