NVIDIA’s A.I. Thinks It Knows What Games Are Supposed Look Like

Videogames have always existed in a weird place between high art and cutting-edge technology. Their consumer-facing nature has always forced them to be both eye-catching and affordable, while remaining tasteful enough to sit on retail shelves (both physical and digital). Running in real-time is a necessity, so it’s not as if game creators are able to pre-render the incredibly complex visuals found in feature films. These pieces of software constantly ride the line between exploiting the hardware of the future while supporting the past where their true user base resides. Each pixel formed and every polygon assembled comes at the cost of a finite supply of floating point operations today’s pieces of silicon can deliver. Compromises must be made.

Often one of the first areas in games that fall victim to compromise are environmental model textures. Maintaining a viable framerate is paramount to a game’s playability, and elements of the background can end up getting pushed to “the background”. The resulting look of these environments is somewhat more blurry than what they would have otherwise been if artists were given more time, or more computing resources, to optimize their creations. But what if you could update that ten-year-old game to take advantage of today’s processing capabilities and screen resolutions?

NVIDIA is currently using artificial intelligence to revise textures in many classic videogames┬áto bring them up to spec with today’s monitors. Their neural network is able fundamentally alter how a game looks without any human intervention. Is this a good thing?

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120 Second Shower Cap

Do you have a couple of minutes? Literally and precisely, two minutes. That’s how long these ten songs play. So what? A short song is not new, but these ten songs are part of a campaign to encourage residents of Cape Town, South Africa to cap their showers at one-hundred-twenty seconds. Some of us do not have to worry about droughts or water bills, but most of us are concerned about one or both of those, and this ingenious campaign alerted people to the problem, gave them the means to time themselves, and made it pleasant, not oppressive. The songs are freely available, and one might even pique your listening tastes from the biggest stars in South Africa.

So, where is the hack? Some of us have experimented with egg timers on the towel rack, timers on the showerhead, servos on the faucet knobs, or occupancy sensors, but those are strong-arm techniques or only for measuring, not regulating water use. These songs attack the most viable vector, the showerer. Or is it showeree? Telling people there is a drought is one thing, but giving them the ability to regulate themselves in such a way that they comply is a hacker’s approach. The songs on the site do not autoplay so there will be no hanging out under the water spray to find the best song. Which is your favorite?