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Google Stadia shooting for negative latency by predicting players’ moves

Google Stadia is looking to become even faster and more responsive than consoles and PCs, which would be a massive achievement considering that latency is one of the biggest problems of cloud gaming.

Latency is the time it takes between a player’s press on the controller and for that action to register on the game. With Stadia, as well as other cloud gaming platforms, high latency will ruin the experience, as any form of lag affects a game’s playability. This is why latency is a huge focus for the Stadia team, product manager Khaled Abdel Rahman said in May at the annual Google I/O conference.

In an interview with Edge magazine, VP of engineering Madj Bakar expressed confidence in Stadia and the plan for the service down the line.

“Ultimately, we think in a year or two we’ll have games that are running faster and feel more responsive in the cloud than they do locally, regardless of how powerful the local machine is,” Bakar said.

The Stadia team aims to come through with the promise through “negative latency,” which will use artificial intelligence to predict what players will do. This will allow cloud servers to pre-render the game’s next scenes so that once players press the button, they will be ready to load.

The idea is that Stadia will generate a set of possible next frames of the game in the cloud in advance, and then only display the frames that match the player’s choice. There is the chance that the player chooses a path that is not included in the A.I.’s predictions, but on average, this system will help reduce the latency in the service.

The approach is made possible by Google’s data centers, which will offer much more power than any console or PC could. The actual implementation of the concept behind negative latency, however, remains to be seen, and if it will be enough to convince long-time console and PC players to make the switch to Stadia.

Google will offer Stadia Base, which is a 1080p, 60fps tier, for free, but without access to the service’s free game releases. The complete experience will require a Stadia Pro subscription, which offers 4K HDR image quality, 5.1 surround sound, and access to the free game library, for $10 per month.

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