Welcome to Pushing Buttons, the Guardian's gaming newsletter. If you'd like to receive it in your inbox every week, just pop your email in below – and check your inbox (and spam) for the confirmation email. There's been an interesting development in the games business this week: Square Enix, the Japanese company behind Final Fantasy, has sold off basically its entire North American business for $300m. Swedish entrepreneur collective Embracer Group, a relative newcomer in gaming, is now the proud owner of studios in Montreal the US, and properties like Deus Ex, Thief and, of course, Tomb Raider. Not too long ago, this would have felt like big news purely because of the money involved.
Gaming company Square Enix will reduce its developer presence in the West with the sale of the studios behind franchises Tomb Raider, Deux Ex and Thief to Sweden's Embracer Group for $300 million. The latest in a series of deals in the video games industry, the sale announced on Monday includes studios Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montreal and Square Enix Montreal, affects 1,100 employees and is expected to close in the July-September quarter. Square Enix, whose major franchises include Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, said the proceeds will be used to invest in areas such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and the cloud. The Tokyo-based company last year said it was reviewing its portfolio to adapt to industry trends such as the focus on the "metaverse," or the idea consumers will spend more time in virtual worlds. Embracer, which has a reputation for acquisitions and a war chest of 10 billion Swedish krona ($1.02 billion), said the deal will give it a pipeline of more than 230 games including 30 big-budget AAA titles.
The Japanese gaming company behind Final Fantasy is selling off three studios, including the rights to hit franchises including Tomb Raider, in a $300m (£240m) deal. Tokyo-based Square Enix has sold US-headquartered Crystal Dynamics and Canada-based Eidos Montreal and Square Enix Montreal to the Nasdaq-listed Swedish gaming group Embracer. The deal includes the intellectual property (IP) rights to games such as Tomb Raider, which has sold more than 88m units, Deus Ex, Thief and Legacy of Kain. It also includes 50 back catalogue games and will add 1,100 staff to Embracer, taking its global headcount to more than 14,000. "We are thrilled to welcome these studios into the Embracer family," said Lars Wingefors, co-founder and group chief executive at Embracer.
Gaming company Square Enix will reduce its developer presence in the West with the sale of the studios behind franchises "Tomb Raider," "Deux Ex" and "Thief" to Sweden's Embracer Group for $300 million. The latest in a series of deals in the video games industry, the sale announced on Monday includes studios Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montreal and Square Enix Montreal, affects 1,100 employees and is expected to close in the July-September quarter. Square Enix, whose major franchises include "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest," said the proceeds will be used to invest in areas such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and the cloud. The Tokyo-based company last year said it was reviewing its portfolio to adapt to industry trends such as the focus on the "metaverse," or the idea consumers will spend more time in virtual worlds. Embracer, which has a reputation for acquisitions and a war chest of 10 billion Swedish krona ($1.02 billion), said the deal will give it a pipeline of more than 230 games including 30 big-budget AAA titles.
Welcome to experience the course "Digital Voice Cloning using Artificial Intelligence in 2022". Voice cloning technology on the Internet today is relatively accessible. This course focussed on "Digital Voice Cloning using Artificial Intelligence (AI) Tools" created by Digital Marketing Legend "Srinidhi Ranganathan" primarily deals with explaining a Montreal-based AI startup named "Lyrebird" which provides an online platform that, when trained on 30 or more recordings, can imitate a person's mimic speech. Lyrebird is an AI research division within Descript, currently and the team is building a new generation of tools for media editing and synthesis that make content creation more accessible and expressive. Sounding to be a wow factor, this new neural voice cloning technology from Lyrebird (that is discussed in the course) synthesises the voice of a human from audio samples fed to it.
Montreal-based centre unites strengths of McGill University, ÉTS, Mila, CNRS, Université Paris-Saclay, and CentraleSupélec A consortium of research organizations has gathered together to form a new International Research Laboratory (IRL) focused on artificial intelligence (AI) in Montreal. The new centre gathers together McGill University, École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), Mila – Quebec AI Institute, France’s Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Université Paris-Saclay, and the École CentraleSupélec. The move confirms Montreal’s status as a leader in AI. While great strides have been made in AI recently, there is still a pressing need for new theoretical knowledge to better understand not only the capacities of this new technology, but how it achieves its results. The ILLS will focus on five main themes of research: fundamental aspects of artificial intelligence, sequential (real-time) machine learning, robust autonomous systems, natural language and speech processing, and applications to computer vision, signals, and information processing. In addition, the new centre will emphasize interdisciplinary collaborations with an aim to develop new methodologies and integrate these techniques into learning systems. “This new laboratory confirms Montreal’s global leadership in AI,” said Benoit Boulet, Associate Vice-Principal, Research & Innovation at McGill University. “This is a major hub with a talent pool that continues to deepen, and McGill researchers and students are embedded at every level of this activity. This new initiative will offer opportunities for our researchers to make even more breakthrough discoveries.” “The expertise of ÉTS in AI includes several laboratories and research chairs in artificial intelligence. This collaboration between France and Quebec makes it possible to innovate and deepen research in AI, a cross-cutting discipline from which we can benefit in many fields, including health, the built environment, robotics, and the Internet of Things. It is therefore with pride that ÉTS welcomes the new ILLS centre within its establishment,” said Christian Casanova, Director of Research and Partnerships at ÉTS. “Through its tools of international cooperation, CNRS supports the most promising cutting-edge joint research projects. The new international research laboratory brings together a powerful network of researchers from France and Québec to advance the knowledge and applications of AI. For the CNRS, this new lab is also an opportunity to strengthen more broadly its ties with the whole Canadian AI community,” said Antoine Petit, Chairman and CEO of CNRS. “AI at Paris-Saclay involves nearly 1,000 researchers, teacher-researchers, engineers and technicians and around forty laboratories, grouped together within our DataIA Institute. We will make our contribution to the ILLS in the form of the mobility of researchers, including the reception of Canadian colleagues at Paris-Saclay, the reception of Masters trainees, thesis funding in particular/among others. The University of Paris-Saclay is honored and proud to be associated with this signing ceremony for the creation of the IRL ILLS and to ensure its joint supervision" added Michel Guidal, Deputy Vice-President Research Sciences and Engineering at Université Paris-Saclay. “The ILLS, resulting from an unprecedented and international union, offers a unique potential for progress in the field of AI. It is an honor for CentraleSupélec to participate with our prestigious partners in this laboratory. Backed by this research, our teaching will thus be at the forefront of the world in terms of AI,” added Romain Soubeyran, Director of CentraleSupélec. The ILLS will join a burgeoning artificial intelligence (AI) sector in Montreal, which has attracted other major investments from government and business for the past several years. As a result, the city is one of the world’s leading hubs in this domain, with an estimated 27,000 workers in AI-related technologies and over 14,000 post-secondary students enrolled in AI-related study programs. The ILLS is the latest such laboratory to be launched in Canada, specifically in Quebec. In 2014, the CNRS and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologie (FRQNT) signed a letter of intent to support and promote the tradition of scientific cooperation that exists between France and Quebec. This collaboration has resulted in two International Research Laboratories in Quebec, as well as other shared research activities across the province. The CNRS has also established three other IRLs in Canada in partnership with other institutions. Present at the signing ceremony were: Frédéric Sanchez (Consul General of France), Remi Quirion (Quebec’s Chief Scientist), Antoine Petit (CNRS), Suzanne Fortier (McGill University), Francois Gagnon (ETS), Michel Guidal (Université Paris-Saclay), Franck Richecoeur (École CentraleSupélec), and Laurence Beaulieu (Mila). About McGill University Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada’s top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning three campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 39,000 students, including more than 10,400 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,000 international students making up 30% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 20% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.
Scale AI, Canada's artificial intelligence (AI) cluster, has announced it is investing $24 million to support five AI projects in supply chain operations. The federally and Québec government-supported AI cluster is also partnering with MaRS to support the commercialization of 12 Canadian supply chain solutions AI startups. A number of startups and partners are sharing in the $24 million investment. AlayaCare, CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, Bien Chez Soi, Polytechnique Montréal, for example, are receiving $800,000 to use AI to optimize care worker resources, using data to streamline the organization of shifts by geographic area, schedules and skills. The largest investment of $3 million went to London Drugs Limited, Deloitte, TAP, Sanctuary AI, and Atlantia to develop an AI-powered supply chain model focused on forecasting supplier demand.
Today we're joined by Doina Precup, a research team lead at DeepMind Montreal, and a professor at McGill University. In our conversation with Doina, we discuss her recent research interests, including her work in hierarchical reinforcement learning, with the goal being agents learning abstract representations, especially over time. We also explore her work on reward specification for RL agents, where she hypothesizes that a reward signal in a complex environment could lead an agent to develop attributes of intuitive intelligence. We also dig into quite a few of her papers, including On the Expressivity of Markov Reward, which won a NeruIPS 2021 outstanding paper award. Finally, we discuss the analogy between hierarchical RL and CNNs, her work in continual RL, and her thoughts on the evolution of RL in the recent past and present, and the biggest challenges facing the field going forward.
Artificial Intelligence: The Year in Review Canada January 16 2018 By all accounts, "Maple Valley" is thriving. Based on available data to date, it is estimated that funding raised by Canadian AI companies in 2017 will exceed US$250 million, representing an almost two-fold increase from the previous record historical high of US$143 million in 2015. Notably, the 2017 federal budget provided for C$125 million in research and development funds earmarked for AI initiatives and nearly C$1 billion over 5 years to promote innovation superclusters. Joining dozens of growing start-ups in AI cluster cities such as Toronto or Montreal, global tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Samsung have invested in or opened Canadian AI labs in 2017. As we begin the new year, we pause to reflect on some of 2017's most notable developments in AI and prepare for new trends to watch out for in 2018.
Psychedelics, also known as hallucinogenic drugs have been widely stigmatized as dangerous illegal drugs. These drugs are psychoactive drugs that are used to alter sensory perceptions, energy levels, and thought processes. But very little is really known about what these substances actually do to our brains. AI is crucial to unlocking the potential of psychedelic drugs. To better understand how these subjective effects manifest in the brain, some scientists are using AI methods to figure it out and drug companies are now employing artificial intelligence in their research.