Home / News & Analysis / Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

Google is continuing to test new strategies in China after the U.S. search giant released its first mini program for WeChat, the country’s hugely popular messaging app.

WeChat is used by hundreds of millions of Chinese people daily for services that stretch beyond chat to include mobile payments, bill paying, food delivery and more. Tencent, the company that operates WeChat, added mini programs last year and they effectively operate like apps that are attached to the service. That means that users bypass Google Play or Apple’s App Store and install them from WeChat.

Earlier this year, Tencent added support for games — “mini games” — and the Chinese firm recently said that over one million mini programs have been created to date. Engagement is high, with some 500 million WeChat users interacting with at least one each month.

WeChat has become the key distribution channel in China and that’s why Google is embracing it with its first mini program — 猜画小歌, a game that roughly translates to ‘Guess My Sketch.’ There’s no English announcement but the details can be found in this post on Google’s Chinese blog, which includes the QR code to scan to get the game.

The app is a take on games like Zynga’s Draw Something, which puts players into teams to guess what the other is drawing. Google, however, is adding a twist. Each player teams up with an AI and then battles against their friends and their AIs. You can find an English version of the game online here.

Google’s first WeChat mini program is a sketching game that uses AI

The main news here isn’t the game, of course, but that Google is embracing mini programs, which have been christened as a threat to the Google Play Store itself.

‘When in China… play by local rules’ and Google has taken that to heart this year.

The company recently introduced a Chinese version of its Files Go Android device management app which saw it join forces with four third-party app stores in China in order to gain distribution. This sketching game has lower ambitions but, clearly, it’ll be a learning experience for Google that might prompt it to introduce more significant apps or services via WeChat in the future.

Indeed, Google has been cozying up to Tencent lately after inking a patent deal with the Chinese internet giant, investing in its close ally JD.com and combining on investment deals together, including biotech startup XtalPi.

That’s one side of a new initiative to be more involved in China, where it has been absent since 2010 after redirecting its Chinese search service to Hong Kong in the face of government pressure. In other moves, it has opened an AI lab in Beijing and a more modest office in Shenzhen while it is bringing its startup demo day event to China for the first time with a Shanghai event in September.

Finally, in a touch of irony, Google’s embrace of WeChat’s ‘app store-killing’ mini programs platform comes just hours before the EU is expected to levy a multibillion-euro penalty onit for abusing its dominant position on mobile via Android.

Google is quietly formulating a new strategy for China

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Nvidia’s new Turing architecture is all about real-time ray tracing and AI

In recent days, word about Nvidia’s new Turing architecture started leaking out of the Santa Clara-based company’s headquarters. So it didn’t come as a major surprise that the company today announced during its Siggraph keynote the launch of this new architecture and three new pro-oriented workstation graphics cards in its Quadro family. Nvidia describes the new Turing architecture as “the greatest leap since the invention of the CUDA GPU in 2006.” That’s a high bar to clear, but there may be a kernel of truth here. These new Quadro RTx chips are the first to feature the company’s new RT Cores. “RT” here stands for ray tracing, a rendering method that basically traces the path of light as it interacts with the objects in a scene. This technique has been around for a very long time (remember POV-Ray on the Amiga?). Traditionally, though, it was always very computationally intensive, though the results tend to look far more realistic. In recent years, ray tracing got a new boost thanks to faster GPUs and support from the likes of Microsoft, which recently added ray tracing support to DirectX. “Hybrid rendering will change the industry, opening up amazing possibilities that enhance our lives with more beautiful designs, richer entertainment and more interactive experiences,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang. “The arrival of real-time ray tracing is the Holy Grail of our industry.” The new RT cores can accelerate ray tracing by up to 25 times compared to Nvidia’s Pascal architecture, and Nvidia claims 10 GigaRays a second for the maximum performance. Unsurprisingly, the three new Turing-based Quadro GPUs will also feature the company’s AI-centric Tensor Cores, as well as 4,608 CUDA cores that can deliver up to 16 trillion floating point operations in parallel with 16 trillion integer operations per second. The chips feature GDDR6 memory to expedite things, and support Nvidia’s NVLink technology to scale up memory capacity to up to 96GB and 100GB/s of bandwidth. The AI part here is more important than it may seem at first. With NGX, Nvidia today also launched a new platform that aims to bring AI into the graphics pipelines. “NGX technology brings capabilities such as taking a standard camera feed and creating super slow motion like you’d get from a $100,000+ specialized camera,” the company explains, and also notes that filmmakers could use this technology to easily remove wires from photographs or replace missing pixels with the right background. On the software side, Nvidia also today announced that it is open sourcing its Material Definition Language (MDL). Companies ranging from Adobe (for Dimension CC) to Pixar, Siemens, Black Magic, Weta Digital, Epic Games and Autodesk have already signed up to support the new Turing architecture. All of this power comes at a price, of course. The new Quadro RTX line starts at $2,300 for a 16GB version, while stepping up to 24GB will set you back $6,300. Double that memory to 48GB and Nvidia expects that you’ll pay about $10,000 for this high-end card.

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