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Sony brings back the PSP (kind of) and Google redirects airplanes for global warming | Intent, 0012

Sony announces their latest handheld device and Google uses AI to help curtail pollution from air travel

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The agenda ahead:

  • Sony announces their PlayStation Portal cloud gaming device — and more on the battle for handheld consoles

  • Google’s Project Contrails research (in collab with American Airlines & Breakthrough Energy) uses AI to solve climate issues

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Midjourney: 3d art of child playing futuristic gameboy --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

Sony’s bringing back the PSP (sort of)

Last Wednesday, Sony announced the PlayStation Portal, their first attempt at a handheld device since the PS Vita in 2011.

It’s not exactly being pitched as a traditional handheld. Sony is calling it their first “Remote Play dedicated device,” which means that players can stream PlayStation 5 games onto their Portal device. The “system” itself isn’t much of a device on its own. It’s more of… exactly what the name suggests — a portal. That means players will need a PS5 in order to get any use out of the Portal whatsoever.

So, what is the PlayStation Portal? Let’s take a quick tour.

  • It’s not a dedicated gaming device on its own, so the Portal doesn’t have powerful processing power within. In this case, performance is less about the chips and more about how strong your Wi-Fi is.

  • The lack of processing power means greater emphasis on the screen. The Portal has a sizable, 8-inch, 1080p LCD screen with a 60Hz refresh rate. It’s not bad, but many commentators were hoping for a higher-quality OLED display.

  • There’s no Bluetooth audio connectivity here, which is strange, but there is wireless audio available through Sony’s new PlayStation Link technology (only on the Sony Pulse Explore and Pulse Elite products). There’s also a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

Everyone is trying to crack the handheld market

We’re curious to see what sort of commercial numbers the Portal puts up — they seem to be banking on the PS5’s success to upsell their core audience, but $200 is pretty steep for a fancy streaming screen. Will they finally break back into the handheld market, or is this just the latest failed attempt?

Speaking of handhelds, here’s a quick tour of the past decade of non-Nintendo attempts:

  • The Valve Steam Deck (2022, ~3.5M units sold) is the most recent major release, and the first real attempt to bring PC-level processing power to a handheld device with the majority of titles in Steam’s 50K+ game library playable on the 7-inch device. It’s between $400 and $650, and was sold out for months following its initial release.

  • In June of this year, Asus released the ROG Ally, a Steam Deck competitor that puts powerful processing and Windows 11 in your hands for $700. Its main advantage over the Deck so far: it’s in stock.

  • The Razer Edge ($400) is more like the Portal than the Deck, running Android and focused on being a platform for edge gaming services like GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass. The Logitech G Cloud does the same for $300.

  • And here’s a wildcard: the $200 Playdate is backordered until later this year. It’s a tiny handheld device with a black and white screen, a directional pad, A and B buttons, and… a crank. Yes, a literal crank, made for its exclusive library of games that cost just a few dollars each. It looks like a mix between a Gameboy and a retro cassette player, and is offering a left turn when everyone else seems to be headed right. Refreshing.

Midjourney: air traffic control, environmentally friendly, bright, hopeful --ar 4:1 --v 5.1

An AI-fueled end to those vapor trails behind airplanes

In a recent statement from Google regarding their Project Contrails research, the company claims they’ve made a major AI breakthrough when it comes to reducing climate impact from air travel.

Contrails, which are those cloud-like white lines we notice tracking behind planes as they fly over, make up 35% of aviation's global warming impact. They’re made up of soot and fuel exhaust turning into ice crystals. These contrail “clouds” can trap heat in the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The key: planes don’t need to generate contrails. As Google puts it, “contrails only occur when planes fly through humid regions.” In partnership with American Airlines and Bill Gates’s climate research firm, Breakthrough Energy, Google built a system that seeks to reduce contrails by providing best-path routes for pilots to avoid creating contrails – fueled by AI, satellite imagery, weather data, and flight data.

And the test results are in – in their pilot program with American Airlines, contrails were reduced by 54%.

Much like we’ve done on the ground – from predicting crop yields and reducing chemical use (AgroScout, $10.8M raised) to allowing for greater efficiency and less land use in cobalt mining (KoBold Metals, $407.5M raised) – AI’s move toward the skies gives us a little more hope when it comes to mediating a warming climate. These are the sorts of unobvious implications from AI that aren’t just about the copy going into your next marketing campaign, but utilizing models to guide humans into better and more effective activity across our most important and pervasive behavior.

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