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NVIDIA's Latest AI Software Turns Rough Doodles Into Realistic Landscapes
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '19 at 05:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's prototype-software department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: AI is going to be huge for artists, and the latest demonstration comes from Nvidia, which has built prototype software that turns doodles into realistic landscapes. Using a type of AI model known as a generative adversarial network (GAN), the software gives users what Nvidia is calling a "smart paint brush." This means someone can make a very basic outline of a scene (drawing, say, a tree on a hill) before filling in their rough sketch with natural textures like grass, clouds, forests, or rocks. The results are not quite photorealistic, but they're impressive all the same. The software generates AI landscapes instantly, and it's surprisingly intuitive. For example, when a user draws a tree and then a pool of water underneath it, the model adds the tree's reflection to the pool. Nvidia didn't say if it has any plans to turn the software into an actual product, but it suggests that tools like this could help "everyone from architects and urban planners to landscape designers and game developers" in the future. The company has published a video showing off the imagery it handles particularly well.

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Google Fined Nearly $1.7 Billion For Ad Practices That Violated European Antitrust Laws
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '19 at 04:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's eu-strikes-again department:
European regulators on Wednesday slapped Google with a roughly $1.7 billion fine on charges that its advertising practices violated local antitrust laws, marking the third time in as many years that the region's watchdogs have penalized the U.S. tech giant for harming competition and consumers. The Washington Post: Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's top competition commissioner, announced the punishment at a news conference, accusing Google of engaging in "illegal practices" in a bid to "cement its dominant market position" in the search and advertising markets. The new penalty adds to Google's costly headaches in Europe, where Vestager now has fined the tech giant more than $9 billion in total for a series of antitrust violations. Her actions stand in stark contrast to the United States, where regulators -- facing a flood of complaints that big tech companies have become too big and powerful -- have not brought a single antitrust case against Google or any of its peers in recent years, reflecting a widening transatlantic schism over Silicon Valley and its business practices.

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Researchers Create the First AI-Controlled Robotic Limb That Can Learn To Walk Without Being Programmed
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '19 at 03:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's that-didn't-take-long department:
schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: Researchers at the University of Southern Carolina (USC) claim to have created the first AI-controlled robotic limb that can learn how to walk without being explicitly programmed to do so. The algorithm they used is inspired by real-life biology. Just like animals that can walk soon after birth, this robot can figure out how to use its animal-like tendons after only five minutes of unstructured play.

Today, most robots take months or years before they are ready to interact with the rest of the world. But with this new algorithm, the team has figured out how to make robots that can learn by simply doing. This is known in robotics as "motor babbling" because it closely mimics how babies learn to speak through trial and error. "During the babbling phase, the system will send random commands to motors and sense the joint angles," co-author Ali Marjaninejad an engineer at USC, told PC Mag. "Then, it will train the three-layer neural network to guess what commands will produce a given movement. We then start performing the task and reinforce good behavior."

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Opera Adds Free and Unlimited VPN Service To Its Android Browser
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '19 at 01:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Opera has added a free VPN service to its Android browser. The Norwegian browser maker, which went public last year, also addressed concerns about potential hidden costs of using its free VPN offering. From a report: As users become more cautious about their privacy, many have explored using VPN services. According to a GlobalWebIndex estimate, more than 650 million people worldwide use such tools to mask their identity online and fend off web trackers. Opera has long recognized this need; in 2016, it launched Opera VPN, a standalone VPN app for iOS and Android. A few months later, it baked that feature into its desktop browser. Last year, however, the company discontinued Opera VPN. Now, Opera is integrating the VPN service into its Android browser. Opera 51 for Android enables users to establish a private connection between their mobile device and a remote VPN server using 256-bit encryption. Users can pick a server of their choice from a range of locations. Unlike several other VPN apps, Opera's offering does not require an account to use the service.

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How Diet May Have Changed the Way Humans Speak
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 11:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
"Ancient hunter-gathererers often had front teeth that met together, unlike today's more common alignment where the upper front teeth 'overbite' the lower front teeth," writes Slashdot reader omfglearntoplay. "This malocclusion is a result of changes to the ancestral human diet and introduction of soft foods, according to a new study published in the journal Science." ABC News reports: More than 2,000 different sounds exist across the roughly 7,000 to 8,000 languages that humans speak today, from ubiquitous cardinal vowels such as "a" and "i" to the rare click consonants found in southern Africa. Scientists had long thought this range of sounds was fixed in human biology since at least the emergence of our species about 300,000 years ago. However, in 1985, linguist Charles Hockett noted that labiodentals -- sounds produced by positioning the lower lip against the upper teeth, including "f" and "v" -- are overwhelmingly absent in languages whose speakers are hunter-gatherers. He suggested tough foods associated with such diets favored bites where teeth met edge on edge, and that people with such teeth would find it difficult to pronounce labiodentals, which are nowadays found in nearly half the world's languages.

< article continued at Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department >

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California Reintroduces 'Right To Repair' Bill After Previous Effort Failed
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 08:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's let's-try-this-again department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: California State Assembly member Susan Talamantes Eggman on Monday announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 1163, which will require manufacturers like Apple to "make service literature and equipment or parts available to product owners and to regulated, independent repair shops." "For nearly 30 years California has required that manufacturers provide access to replacement parts and service materials for electronics and appliances to authorized repairers in the state. In that time, manufacturers have captured the market, controlling where and when we repair our property, and inflating the electronic waste stream," Eggman said. "The Right to Repair will provide consumers with the freedom to have their electronic products and appliances fixed by a repair shop or service provider of their choice, creating a competitive market that will be cheaper for consumers and reduce the number of devices thrown in the trash."

The bill, officially filed as legislation relating to electronic waste, is Eggman's second try at right to repair legislation. Her first attempt, 2018's Bill 2110, was introduced last March and subsequently died in assembly that November. Like the pending Bill 1163, last year's tendered legislation was crafted as a play to reduce e-waste. Eggman's announcement includes a word-for-word reproduction of an explainer included in 2018's press release for the now-dead Bill 2110. In it the lawmaker argues that customers who are unable to pay for manufacturer repairs are forced to replace broken equipment like smartphones, TVs and home appliances. Beyond financial benefits, Eggman also says that the repair and reuse of electronics is more efficient than purchasing a new device, noting that such measures can "stimulate local economies instead of unsustainable overseas factories."

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Bill Gates Talked With Google Employees About Using AI To Analyze Ultrasound Images of Unborn Children
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 07:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's working-together-for-a-better-future department:
Bill Gates said he talked to Google researchers about the application of artificial-intelligence technology in healthcare. "While Microsoft and Google are arch-competitors in many areas, including cloud computing and artificial intelligence research, the visit is an example of how Gates' broad interest in technology trumps Microsoft's historical rivalries with other tech companies," reports CNBC. From the report: Gates talked about the use of AI in weapons systems and autonomous vehicles before arriving at the subject of health care. "In the medical field, you know, we just don't have doctors. Most people are born and die in Africa without coming near to a doctor," said Gates, who is co-chair of the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which concerns itself with improving global health among other things. "We're doing a lot of work with analyzing ultrasound, and we can do things like sex-blind the output, because we're not having anybody actually see the image. We can tell you what's going on without revealing the gender, which is, of course -- when you do that, it drives gendercide. And yet, we're doing the analysis, the medical understanding, in a much deeper way, and that's an example where it's all done with a lot of machine learning."

"I was meeting with the guys at Google who are helping us with this this morning, and there's some incredible promise in that field, where, in the primary health-care system, the amount of sophistication to do diagnosis and understand, for example, "Is this a high-risk pregnancy?' 'Yes.' 'Let's escalate that person to go to the hospital level,' even though you couldn't afford to do that on a widespread basis. So this stuff is going to be very domain-specific."

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MoviePass Brings Back Its Unlimited Movie Plan
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's back-from-the-dead department:
The subscription plan that made MoviePass explode in popularity is coming back. If you're willing to pay for a full year (via ACH payment), "MoviePass Uncapped" will cost the same as the original unlimited plan, namely $9.95 per month, and will allow you to get an unlimited number of 2D movie tickets. TechCrunch reports: Now, you may be thinking that this kind of deal is exactly what got MoviePass into so much trouble last year, to the point where it nearly ran out of money and began announcing new pricing plans and restrictions on a seemingly constant basis. However, the company's announcement today includes multiple references to its ability to "combat violations" of MoviePass' terms of use. And those terms do say that "MoviePass has the right to limit the selection of movies and/or the times of available movies should your individual use adversely impact MoviePass's system-wide capacity or the availability of the Service for other subscribers."

So if you're a heavy MoviePass user, the plan may not be truly unlimited. In addition, you'll only be able to reserve tickets three hours before showtime, and you'll need to check in to the theater between 10 and 30 minutes before the movie starts. Worth noting: the $9.95 per month rate is available only if you pay for a full year, otherwise it will cost $14.95 for a limited time. The regular price will be $19.95 per month.

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Crytek Shows 4K 30 FPS Ray Tracing On Non-RTX AMD and NVIDIA GPUs
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's achieving-the-unachievable department:
dryriver writes: Crytek has published a video showing an ordinary AMD Vega 56 GPU -- which has no raytracing specific circuitry and only costs around $450 -- real-time ray tracing a complex 3D city environment at 4K 30 FPS. Crytek says that the technology demo runs fine on most normal NVIDIA and AMD gaming GPUs. As if this wasn't impressive already, the software real-time ray tracing technology is still in development and not even final. The framerates achieved may thus go up further, raising the question of precisely what the benefits of owning a super-expensive NVIDIA RTX 20xx series GPU are. Nvidia has claimed over and over again that without its amazing new RTX cores and AI denoiser, GPUs will choke on real-time ray tracing tasks in games. Crytek appears to have proven already that with some intelligently written code, bog ordinary GPU cores can handle real-time ray tracing just fine -- no RTX cores, AI denoiser or anything else NVIDIA touts as necessary.

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Trump Blockade of Huawei Fizzles In European 5G Rollout
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lack-of-evidence department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Last summer, the Trump administration started a campaign to convince its European allies to bar China's Huawei from their telecom networks. Bolstered by the success of similar efforts in Australia and New Zealand, the White House sent envoys to European capitals with warnings that Huawei's gear would open a backdoor for Chinese spies. The U.S. even threatened to cut off intelligence sharing if Europe ignored its advice. So far, not a single European country has banned Huawei. Europe, caught in the middle of the U.S.-China trade war, has sought to balance concerns about growing Chinese influence with a desire to increase business with the region's second-biggest trading partner. With no ban in the works, Huawei is in the running for contracts to build 5G phone networks, the ultra-fast wireless technology Europe's leaders hope will fuel the growth of a data-based economy.

< article continued at Slashdot's lack-of-evidence department >

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Is It Time For Apple To Acknowledge Flexgate?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 04:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-really-real department:
In January 2019, iFixit revealed a design flaw where the ribbon cable that connects the body of some MacBook Pros to their display wears down too quickly, causing uneven backlighting at the bottom of the display. There now appears to be growing frustration among users at Apple's reaction. Vlad Savov from The Verge said it is time for the company to acknowledge and deal with the issue: A petition, now numbering more than 15,000, would beg to differ. It calls for Apple to publicly recognize Flexgate as a design flaw, and to commit to repair all MacBook Pro laptops affected by it. I think that's exactly what Apple should do, and it's no less than we should expect from a company that touts its reliability and user satisfaction numbers any chance it gets. No one should have to pay upwards of $500 to replace an entire display just because Apple (a) decided to affix a fragile cable to one of the most expensive components in its MacBook Pro, and (b) miscalculated the necessary length of that cable in its first design.

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Netflix Won't Join Apple's Video Streaming Service
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 03:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's no-thanks department:
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings confirmed that his company won't be playing a role in Apple's upcoming video streaming service. From a report: "We want to have people watch our content on our service," he said Monday. "We've chosen not to integrate into their service." Apple is expected to reveal its offering at an event next Monday. Apple is trying to supplement its original shows by finalizing deals with networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz to license a library of already released content. Hastings pointed out that Netflix has already been competing with Amazon, so it's used to rivals with deep pockets. "You do your best job when you have great competitors," he said, but he acknowledged that sourcing original content is getting more expensive.

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Why Google Stadia Will Be a Major Problem For Many American Players
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 03:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's all-in-on-streaming department:
Earlier today, Google launched its long-awaited "Stadia" cloud gaming service at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Unlike services from Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo, Stadia is powered by Google's worldwide data centers, allowing users to play games across a variety of platforms -- browsers, computers, TVs, and mobile devices -- all via the internet at a 4K resolution. One major problem with Stadia, which Google didn't mention in its presentation, is that it will require a ton of bandwidth, testing the limits of data caps that most U.S. internet service providers have.

"Most US ISPs cap their customers' bandwidth usage, usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 GB per month. And streaming 4K content eats up about 7GB an hour," Steve Bowling from YouTube gaming channel GameXplain tweeted. "And that's based on Netflix's publicly available guidelines for 4K video content, which is shot at 24 fps, a far cry from 60fps, meaning content at 4k60 could be more costly." He added: "Your average consumer likely isn't rocking a 100Mbps+ connection, and in some parts of America such options aren't even available, limiting Stadia's potential reach. And if you are, that cap can come at you fast, especially considering most folks are going to use their internet for more than just streaming games. Most ISPs offer additional data at a premium, but how many are going to want to pay that premium to stream 4K games?" What's unknown is whether or not Google will work with ISPs to help alleviate this concern. PCWord also notes that there's no option to download and install a game if you want, which is an option available on Steam's streaming service. "You're always streaming it, and presumably copies sold through the Google Play store won't come with more traditional versions from other storefronts," reports PCWorld. "You're either all-in on Stadia and streaming or you're not."

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Facebook To Overhaul Ad Targeting To Prevent Discrimination
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Facebook will overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads as part of a legal settlement. From a report: For the social network, that's one major legal problem down, several to go, including government investigations in the U.S. and Europe over its data and privacy practices. The changes to Facebook's advertising methods -- which generate most of the company's enormous profits -- are unprecedented. The social network says it will no longer allow housing, employment or credit ads that target people by age, gender or zip code. Facebook will also limit other targeting options so these ads don't exclude people on the basis of race, ethnicity and other legally protected categories in the U.S., including national origin and sexual orientation.

The social media company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs' legal fees and other costs. Facebook and the plaintiffs -- a group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance and others -- called the settlement "historic." It took 18 months to hammer out. The company still faces an administrative complaint filed by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in August over the housing ads issue. A critic writes, "Funny how Facebook spent years quietly defending these ad targeting systems, got sued, settled, and now Sandberg calls them 'discriminatory' and cheers the 'historic' settlement."

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Kickstarter's Staff Is Unionizing
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 01:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's big-plans department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The staff of Kickstarter announced plans to unionize today. If recognized, Kickstarter would be the first major tech company with union representation in the United States. Members of the union, which goes by Kickstarter United, say they want to improve inclusivity and transparency at the company. To unionize, they're working with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 153. In a statement, the union said: "Kickstarter United is proud to start the process of unionizing to safeguard and enrich Kickstarter's charter commitments to creativity, equity, and a positive impact on society. We trust in the democratic process and are confident that the leadership of Kickstarter stands with us in that effort. Kickstarter has always been a trailblazer, and this is a pivotal moment for tech. We want to set the standard for the entire industry. Now is the time. Come together. Unionize."

< article continued at Slashdot's big-plans department >

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Three or More Eggs a Week Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death, Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's more-you-know department:
It's been debated for years: Are eggs good or bad for you? People who eat an added three or four eggs a week or 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day, have a higher risk of both heart disease and early death compared with those who eat fewer eggs, new research finds. From a report: "Eggs, specially the yolk, are a major source of dietary cholesterol," wrote Victor Zhong, lead study author and a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. In a study published this month in the medical journal JAMA, he and his colleagues noted that a single large egg contains about 186 milligrams of cholesterol. The researchers examined data from six US study groups including more than 29,000 people followed for 17 and a half years on average. Over the follow-up period, a total of 5,400 cardiovascular events occurred, including 1,302 fatal and nonfatal strokes, 1,897 incidents of fatal and nonfatal heart failure and 113 other heart disease deaths. An additional 6,132 participants died of other causes. Consuming an additional 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with a 3.2% higher risk of heart disease and a 4.4% higher risk of early death, Zhong's analysis of the data showed. And each additional half an egg consumed per day was associated with a 1.1% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and 1.9% higher risk of early death due to any cause, the researchers found.

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As Costs Skyrocket, More US Cities Stop Recycling
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 12:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Recycling, for decades an almost reflexive effort by American households and businesses to reduce waste and help the environment, is collapsing in many parts of the country [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; syndicated source]. From a report: Philadelphia is now burning about half of its 1.5 million residents' recycling material in an incinerator that converts waste to energy. In Memphis, the international airport still has recycling bins around the terminals, but every collected can, bottle and newspaper is sent to a landfill. And last month, officials in the central Florida city of Deltona faced the reality that, despite their best efforts to recycle, their curbside program was not working and suspended it. Those are just three of the hundreds of towns and cities across the country that have canceled recycling programs, limited the types of material they accepted or agreed to huge price increases.

"We are in a crisis moment in the recycling movement right now," said Fiona Ma, the treasurer of California, where recycling costs have increased in some cities. Prompting this nationwide reckoning is China, which until January 2018 had been a big buyer of recyclable material collected in the United States. That stopped when Chinese officials determined that too much trash was mixed in with recyclable materials like cardboard and certain plastics. After that, Thailand and India started to accept more imported scrap, but even they are imposing new restrictions. The turmoil in the global scrap markets began affecting American communities last year, and the problems have only deepened.

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Twitter Cracks Down on API Abuse, Will Charge B2B Developers
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
To prevent its own Cambridge Analytica moment and make sure it's getting paid for its data, Twitter said today it will audit developers that use its APIs. From a report: Starting June 19th, Twitter will require developers of any app that calls recent tweets from or mentions a user more than 100,000 times per day to submit their app for review. If a developer proves they have a legitimate consumer use case, like running a third-party Twitter client or doing research, they'll be granted free access to the API at the same rate they have today. If they primarily use the data to serve business customers as a B2B tool, like for customer service or social media monitoring, they'll have to pay to enter a commercial licensing agreement with Twitter with a custom price based on usage. Twitter refused to even specify the range those prices fall into, which won't win it any extra trust.

Developers found to be breaking Twitter's policies will be booted from the platform, while those that don't submit for review will be capped at 100,000 requests per day for the user timeline and mentions APIs. Twitter says it suspended 162,000 apps in the second half of 2018, showing it's willing to play hardball with developers that endanger its ecosystem.

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The Most Powerful iMac Pro Now Costs $15,927
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 11:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's here-comes-the-money department:
Apple recently updated the upgrade options for the iMac Pro, and getting the very best will cost you. A baseline model will cost you just under $5,000, and maxing out the hardware to absurd heights runs a whopping $15,927. An anonymous reader writes: The most expensive possible upgrade is a $5,200 charge for upgrading the RAM from 32GB to a startling 256GB. Other addons include an additional $700 for a 16GB Radeon video card and $2,400 for a 2.3 Ghz Intel processor with 18 cores. Almost $16,000 is a lot of money for a computer, especially one so overpowered that there are very few reasonable applications of its hardware. Most people will never need more than 16GB of RAM to play video games, and 32-64GB will take care of most video editing and 3D modeling tasks. With 256GB of RAM, you could run advanced AI processes or lease computing power to other people.

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Google Debuts Video Games Streaming Service Stadia
Posted by News Fetcher on March 19 '19 at 09:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department:
Google today launched its Stadia cloud gaming service at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. From a report: Stadia is not a dedicated console or set-top box. The platform will be accessible on a variety of platforms: browsers, computers, TVs, and mobile devices. In an onstage demonstration of Stadia, Google showed someone playing a game on a Chromebook, then playing it on a phone, then immediately playing it on PC -- a low-end PC, no less --, picking up where the game left off in real time. Stadia will be powered by Google's worldwide data centers, which live in more than 200 countries and territories, streamed over hundreds of millions of miles of fiber optic cable, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.

Phil Harrison, previously at PlayStation and Xbox, now at Google, said the company will give developers access to its data centers to bring games to Stadia. Harrison said that players will be able to access and play Stadia games, like Assassin's Creed Odyssey, within seconds. Harrison showed a YouTube video of Odyssey featuring a "Play" button that would offer near-instant access to the game. Pichai announced the new platform at the Game Developers Conference, saying that Google want to build a gaming platform for everyone, and break down barriers to access for high-end games. Users will be able to move from YouTube directly into gameplay without any downloads. Google says this can be done in as little as 5 seconds. At launch, Stadia will stream games at 4k resolution, but Google claimed in the future it will be able to stream at a video quality of 8k.

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