Industry News [Week of March 1 2021]

This is the regular post where I share updates about things happening in gaming, machine learning, audio, or frankly anything that catches my eye and seems relevant to share or discuss here. Let’s hop right in!

An extension to last week’s news about Google’s interactions with its former AI ethics research team; Google found itself rejected as a sponsor this week for a major AI Ethics conference which both Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell are involved in organizing. That said, DeepMind, an AI organization within the Google umbrella, still appears to be an accepted sponsor, so the move seems more clearly intended as a public slap in the face for Google than a sincere belief that they have nothing to contribute.

In other Google news, they announced this week their intention to stop serving ads based on individual tracking sometime next year. It’s unclear to me exactly how much this handicaps them, but it’s clearly a big move impacting the core of their business. One question, though, is whether this will also impact what I’d call ‘pull advertising’, such as the ads that appears in Google Search results – will those still be impacted by Google’s data about you as a specific individual?

Microsoft announced Mesh, it’s new mixed reality toolset. Their initial demo focused on the ability for avatars to join together into a shared virtual space – a theme we’ve seen repeatedly in video games and other online platforms over the last year, but which has rather slowly made it’s way into VR and mixed reality from the perspective of the wider population. Microsoft loudly touts that Mesh will be available on non-VR platforms such as PC, which suggests that they are still fighting that battle as well – being forced to focus on greater availability to drive adoption rather than truly pushing the new aspects of the technology to its limits.

And finally, Tonic Games, the makers of Fall Guys, got acquired by Epic earlier this week. This feels like a natural fit – Epic hasn’t been shy about its ambitions to turn Unreal and their other tooling into the backbone of the eventual metaverse, and in order to do that they need great content which is easy for all kinds of players to get into. The demographics of Fall Guys players during the game’s peak was among the most diverse we’ve seen in the last several years, which makes Tonic an extremely valuable studio for Epic’s ambitions; and in the meantime, Epic’s toolchain will likely help speed up development for Tonic, allowing them to iterate on Fall Guys and other titles more quickly and maintain interest from their player base for a longer period of time.

That’s all for this week! As always, any thoughts or feedback are welcome. Stay safe, healthy, and sane, all!

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