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Rockstar Games Loses 20-Year Veteran Who Worked On Almost Every Game The Studio Made

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Rockstar Games is said to be working on next-generation projects, and the company will do so without veteran Jeronimo Barrera, who worked on almost every game the studio put out over the past 20 years. Barrera left Rockstar in mid-December, and he gave an exit interview of sorts to Variety. He said he left Rockstar after the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 because it felt like a “natural progression” to step away after the western came out.

“I looked at what I would be doing for the next few years if I stayed on and where I was in life with my family, my kids, my desire to make cool s**t. I felt like it was hitting all of the right points,” he explained.

In his role as vice president of product development at Rockstar, Barrera said he was in charge of “steering the ship in the right direction.” He also contributed to the effort that saw Rockstar’s studio around the world come together to work together on single games instead of their own projects.

“I thought it was the best decision ever to get everybody on board to centralize the technology and the pipelines,” he explained. “It was a natural move and we were making sure that we had all of our best efforts making the best game possible. Not needing to reinvent the wheel every time.”

As for what he’ll do next, Barrera wouldn’t say, but he spoke about how the video game industry is in the midst of a “new game” where technology is advancing at a rapid clip.

“If I had stayed at Rockstar it would have been more GTAs, more RDRs and less of this other stuff going on out there right now,” he said.

You can read the full interview here at Variety.

Barrera leaves Rockstar on a high note. Red Dead Redemption 2, which is Rockstar’s most recently release, was a critical darling and it’s shipped an astonishing 23 million copies so far.

Rockstar doesn’t have any future games announced, but the company is hiring for next-generation projects. Additionally, the company also has some ideas for GTA 6, but no announcements have been made yet.

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Industry

LG V50 ThinQ 5G launch in South Korea delayed

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LG announced earlier today that it delayed the South Korea launch of its 5G-capable V50 ThinQ. The phone was originally slated to launch in South Korea this Friday, April 19.

The delay is due to LG wanting to further optimize the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset and Qualcomm X50 5G modem inside of the V50. LG also said it’s working with Qualcomm and South Korean carriers to improve 5G service and phone interoperability.

LG V50 ThinQ 5G price & release date: What we know so far (it’s not much)

LG didn’t say when the V50 will be available in South Korea. Android Authority reached out to LG for comment on a new release date and whether the delayed launch in South Korea will affect the U.S. launch, but did not receive a response by press time.

The delay comes at a bad time for LG, which saw rival Samsung launch its first 5G smartphone April 5 in South Korea. LG likely had hoped to use the Galaxy S10 5G’s launch momentum for its own 5G smartphone, but now we don’t know when the V50 will debut.

That said, LG might have dodged a very big bullet by delaying the V50’s launch. Business Koreareported last week that Galaxy S10 5G owners have struggled with poor 5G connectivity and an inability to switch to 4G LTE. Samsung pushed out an update that supposedly addressed the issues, but the update didn’t help much.

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Verizon’s new activation fees cost more in-store, less in-app

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It’s adding an extra $10 on top of in-person and over-the-phone upgrades and activations.

Verizon has simultaneously slashed and increased its activation and upgrade fees, depending on how you process the transaction. According to CNET and reports posted online, you now only have to pay $20 if you upgrade your device or activate a line on the carrier’s website or the My Verizon app. That’s down $10 from the previous $30 fee for either service. However, if you walk into a store or call the company’s phone line for upgrade or activation, you’ll now have to pay $40 instead.

A Verizon spokesperson described personal and over-the-phone transactions to CNET as a “full-service experience,” perhaps suggesting that those channels deserve the extra $10. The company is probably hoping to discourage people who can do things on their own from engaging customer service and sales reps, though what the fee adjustments mean for employees remains to be seen. The Redditor who posted the news on the website claimed to work for an indirect store and said employees aren’t getting a pay upgrade despite the higher fees. We’ve reached out to Verizon for confirmation and will update when we hear back.

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Tech News

Google’s Pixel 3 uses AI to detect when you’re kissing someone in a selfie

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Google’s Pixel phones have always had stand-out cameras, thanks in no small part to the company’s use of AI. The latest application? A built-in kiss cam for the camera on the Pixel 3 that automatically detects when subjects are puckering up and snaps a quick photo.

The feature is an update the Pixel Camera app’s Photobooth mode. This is a shutter-free mode which automatically takes photos with the Pixel 3’s wide-angle selfie cam. In addition to spotting kisses, Google says the software recognizes five key facial expressions that “should” trigger capture: “smiles, tongue-out, kissy/duck face, puffy-cheeks, and surprise.”

That’s the theory, anyway. Our tests with the app were inconsistent. “Its ability to detect duck-face is questionable,” was the assessment of The Verge’s Jon Porter. Though he added it did successfully spot him kissing his reflection in a mirror. “It grabbed the image the moment my lips made contact!”

The Verge’s Jon Porter puckers up. 

The tech for this comes in part from Google Clips, the company’s 2017 experiment in using AI to make photography easier. Clips was supposed to be a tool for families to capture important moments. It was small, lightweight, and minimalist, and used built-in algorithms to decide when to take a photo. But while a neat concept, it was redundant for most users.

While Clips has been clipped out of Google’s history (we couldn’t find it for sale on the Google store), the tech it helped incubate lives on. With neural nets scanning your facial expressions and making sure your eyes aren’t closed, Google says the Pixel 3 makes it easier than ever to take perfect selfies and group photos.

Photobooth mode in the Pixel 3 camera can now recognize facial expressions and kissing. 

DO YOU TRUST ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO TAKE A GOOD PHOTO?

As part of the Pixel Camera’s update, the app also helps users know when they’re looking their best for a photo. A white bar on the side of the display (on the left in the GIF above) responds to users’ actions. When everyone’s looking at the camera and making a nice face it expands to the full width of the display and the phone takes a picture.

“We’re excited by the possibilities of automatic photography on camera phones,” write Google’s engineers in a blog post. “As computer vision continues to improve, in the future we may generally trust smart cameras to select a great moment to capture.”

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