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Stress from scuffle with police ‘more than Mr. Floyd could take’, medical officer testifies

George Floyd’s scuffle with police, along with Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed into his neck, was too much for his underlying heart condition and caused the death of the 46-year-old Black man, the local county’s chief medical officer told a Minneapolis court on Friday.

“[The adrenaline is] going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation,” said Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Floyd and ruled his death to be a homicide.

Baker’s testimony marked the 10th day of the murder trail of Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who is facing trial on charges of second-degree unintentional murder; third-degree murder; and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Floyd.

“And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” Baker said.

Baker’s testimony veered somewhat from what the court had previously heard from other medical witnesses called by the prosecution.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pressed a knee on the back of his neck for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down.

Witness reaffirmed autopsy report

The outcome of the high profile trial is being closely watched after video of the arrest of Floyd captured by a bystander prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests over race and police brutality across the U.S. and around the world.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell questions Baker at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. (Court TV/Associated Press)

The prosecution says Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck while detaining him on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, caused his death. But the defence argues Chauvin did what his training taught him and that it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.

The court has so far heard from prosecution medical experts, including a leading lung specialist, who have testified that Floyd died from asphyxia — or insufficient oxygen — because of the actions of police. Baker has not ruled asphyxiation to be a cause of Floyd’s death.

Previous witnesses had significantly downplayed Floyd’s pre-existing medical conditions and drugs found in his system as playing a role in his death. 

However, Baker reaffirmed the findings of his autopsy report. He said those elements were contributing factors, though not the primary cause of death.

Adrenaline impacts

Under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Baker explained that Floyd had narrowed coronary arteries — about 75 per cent blockage in his left anterior descending artery and 90 per cent blockage in his right coronary artery. Floyd also had hypertensive heart disease, meaning his heart weighed slightly more than it should.

Chauvin’s defence attorney Eric Nelson cross-examines Baker. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Floyd’s confrontation with police, which included being pinned facedown on the pavement while Chauvin pressed his knees into his neck, produced adrenaline that made Floyd’s heart beat faster.

Baker testified that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” 

Asked to explain cardiopulmonary arrest, Baker said that was “fancy medical lingo for the heart and the lungs stopped.”

He also explained the definition of “homicide” in an autopsy report, that it was a medical and not a legal term, which is applied when the actions of other people were involved in an individual’s death.


During cross-examination, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson seized on the potential role played by Floyd’s heart condition and drugs found in his system.

“In your opinion, both the heart disease as well as the history of hypertension and the drugs that were in his system played a role in Mr. Floyd’s death?” Nelson asked Baker.

“In my opinion, yes,” Baker said. 

Chauvin takes notes at his trial in the death of George Floyd. (Court TV/Associated Press)

Baker also agreed that he had certified overdose as the cause of death in other autopsies where that individual had much lower levels of fentanyl in their system than was found in Floyd.

Nelson asked Baker if he recalled having conversations last year with prosecutors in which he described the level of fentanyl found in Floyd’s system was a “fatal level.”

“I recall describing it in other circumstances, it would be a fatal level,” Baker said.

But Baker also agreed that he had described Floyd’s s death as a “multifactorial process.”

He said drugs and hypertension were not “direct causes” but they were “contributing causes.”

The trial continues. 

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Shouts of ‘you’re killing him’ could have prompted Chauvin to reassess use of force, trainer testifies

Derek Chauvin could have potentially reassessed his actions when irate bystanders yelled at him that he should get off of George Floyd because he was “killing him,” a lieutenant who trains police officers in use-of-force techniques acknowledged on Tuesday.

Lt. Johnny Mercil, a Minneapolis police officer, was one of the officers who trained Chauvin in proper use-of-force techniques. He was also the latest in a series of senior officers with the force, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who have testified that Chauvin, with his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck during their confrontation on May 25, 2020, used excessive force and violated police procedure.

Chauvin, 45, who is white, faces two murder charges — second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder — in Floyd’s death. The 46-year-old Black man died after Chauvin pressed his knee against the back of Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes as other officers held him down. Chauvin’s trial is now in its second week. 

Use-of-force trainer testifies 

During cross examination, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson, who has argued that police at the scene were distracted by what they perceived as a growing and increasingly hostile crowd of onlookers, asked if Mercil agreed that a crowd jeering at police officers will raise alarms within the officers. Mercil agreed.

However, prosecutor Steve Schleicher quickly followed up with his own question about the bystanders, asking: “If they’re saying ‘Get off him, you’re killing him,’ should the officer also take that into account and consider whether their actions need to be reassessed?”

“Potentially, yes,” Mercil said.

Earlier, Mercil was asked more specifically about the use-of-force procedures and how they relate to this specific case.

Knee to neck not part of training

He was shown a picture of Chauvin with his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck. Schleicher asked Mercil if that restraint was part of the training at the Minneapolis Police Department.

“No sir,” he said.

Mercil said a knee on the neck is an authorized use of force, but that officers are told to stay away from the neck if possible. Schleicher asked Mercil how long such a technique should be used if an officer were to employ it. 

Mercil said it would depend on the resistance being offered.

“Say, for example, the subject was under control and handcuffed — would this be authorized?” Schleicher asked.

“I would say no,” Mercil said.

Defence attorney Eric Nelson, left, and Chauvin are seen in Hennepin County District Court on Tuesday. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

Video captured by a bystander showed the handcuffed Floyd repeatedly say he couldn’t breathe. 

Floyd had been detained outside a convenience store after being suspected of paying with a counterfeit bill. All four officers were later fired. The footage of the arrest prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests across the U.S. and around the world.

The prosecution says Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on the pavement was the cause of his death. But the defence argues Chauvin did what his training taught him and that it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.

Records show that Chauvin was trained in the use of force by the police department in October 2018.   

On Tuesday, Mercil also told Hennepin County District Court that police should try to put a suspect in the “recover” position, sit them up or stand them up, as soon as possible to decrease the risk that they might have difficulty breathing while on their stomachs.

‘I would say it’s time to de-escalate the force’

Under cross-examination by Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, Mercil acknowledged that, in his experience, there have been times when suspects he was in the process of detaining were lying about having a medical emergency.

Mercil also testified that circumstances can change minute to minute; that a suspect can go from being compliant and peaceful to violent, and he agreed that all of those considerations play a part in the use of force.

He also said there have been times when an unconscious suspect regained consciousness.

Mercil also acknowledged that just because a person is handcuffed, doesn’t mean the suspect is in control, and that he has trained officers to restrain suspects as “long as they needed to hold them.”

But Schleicher then asked Mercil whether it’s inappropriate to hold a suspect in a position where the officer’s knee is across their back or neck once the person is under control and no longer resistant.

“I would say it’s time to de-escalate the force.”

“And get off of them,” Schleicher said.

“Yes sir,” Mercil said.

Mercil agreed that if an officer is placing body weight with the knee on a person’s neck and back it would decrease the person’s ability to breathe. He also agreed that it would be inappropriate to restrain someone in that way after they had lost their pulse. 

Mercil was asked if there was ever a time when an individual lost their pulse, suddenly came “back to life” and became more resistant. 

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said.

Witness Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and expert in use-of-force techniques, testifies at Chauvin’s murder trial. (COURT TV/Associated Press)

Use of force ‘was excessive’: expert

In other testimony, Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution use-of-force expert, said officers were justified in using force while Floyd was resisting their efforts to put him in a squad car.

But once Floyd was on the ground and had stopped resisting, Stiger said officers “should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.”

Stiger said that after reviewing video of the arrest, “my opinion was that the force was excessive.”

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Cryptocurrency Mining Could Destroy PC Gaming as We’ve Known It

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According to a recent report, Nvidia is increasing the supply of GTX 1650 cards to the desktop consumer market after having prioritized the GPU for notebooks. This is good news. The GPU market is so overheated, we’re currently recommending readers look at cards like the eight-year-old R9 290 or R9 290X if they have to buy one. Any improvement in this situation, including increased availability of low-end cards so that people have something to purchase, is a positive development.

Increased availability of a bottom-end Turing with no ray tracing capability, or a relaunched GTX 1050 Ti,  however, is not exactly what PC gaming is supposed to deliver. Supplies of Ampere and RDNA2 GPUs remain extremely tight, with recent reports from ODMs such as Asus and MSI stating the situation has gotten worse. Some of these problems are reportedly caused by yield issues at Samsung, some by the pandemic-driven semiconductor shortage, and some by new demand in cryptocurrency mining. It isn’t clear how much responsibility should be assigned to each, but reports now indicate the GPU shortage might not improve until 2022.

Shortages are tolerable in the short term. So long as your GPU doesn’t die outright, it’ll keep offering acceptable performance in older titles, and plenty of people have a backlog of older games they’ve never played. In the short term, cryptocurrency mining is an annoyance. In the long term, it could be an existential threat to PC gaming as we’ve known it since the invention of the GPU. I am not arguing that PC gaming would die — I don’t see that happening — but it could change a great deal, and not for the better.

When prices of a good or service rise above what the market can bear, people look for alternatives. In this case, the alternatives to PC gaming are consoles such as the Switch, the PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X, and cloud gaming services such as Stadia or GeForce Now. The three consoles are suffering from their own shortages and scalping problems, but the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are now much less expensive than a graphics card on eBay.

An RTX 3070 ought to be a $ 400 GPU. They’re currently selling on eBay for between $ 1,200 and $ 1,700. An Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 will set you back $ 750 to $ 850 based on a survey of recently sold listings on eBay. So long as console prices keep trending downward and GPUs don’t, the gap will only grow.

This problem is somewhat compounded by the ray tracing issue. Right now, turning ray tracing on in an AMD or Nvidia GPU carries a heavy performance hit that isn’t always mitigated by 1080p. Both Ampere and RDNA2 offer more ray tracing performance at a lower price than Nvidia debuted with Turing in 2018, but gamers who specifically want ray tracing cards have to buy in at a higher price point if they also want acceptable performance. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X support ray tracing out of the box, at a much lower price point than you’d pay for Ampere or RDNA2.

These results from our 6700 XT review show how heavy the hit can be. Turning on ray tracing on an RTX 3070 or 6700 XT can tank the frame rate depending on the game. Gamers who want ray tracing, even in 1080p, need to buy a higher-end GPU that can handle it.

What Happens When PC Gamers Can’t Buy New GPUs Long-Term?

Not all PC gamers build their own hardware and not all builders game. But considerable overlap exists between gamers and the DIY market, especially if you include people who might buy an OEM PC but upgrade the GPU. If the add-on board market for PCs stays this way, we’re looking at a future where paying OEM prices for component upgrades looks like the sane option. This does not bode well for the DIY gaming market or the CPU retail channel. If enough gamers are cut off from buying upgrades, developers will respond by targeting the capabilities PCs have, not those they don’t.

It’s tempting to say that this is a short-term problem that will work itself out, but this is the third cryptocurrency-driven shortage in seven years. By the time we hit Pascal’s five-year anniversary in May, the GPU market will have been overheated and overpriced for 29 out of 60 months. AMD and Nvidia may wind up launching replacements for RDNA3 and Ampere without the current generation ever being widely and regularly available at MSRP.

High GPU prices won’t kill PC gaming outright, but the sustained loss of access to high-end 3D hardware would fundamentally change the types of games we’re able to play. One reason why desktop GTX 1650 cards have a chance in hell at sticking around is that their 4GB VRAM buffers and small core counts make them less likely targets for mining. PC gaming drove the GPU market for decades, and now gamers are forced to hunt around its edges for the scrap the cryptocurrency market doesn’t want.

In a worst-case scenario, where GPU prices stay high and keep gamers locked out of the market, we’d see changes in the types of games people launched on PC. There’d be fewer AAA titles but most likely a thriving indie scene. One can even imagine AMD and Intel buffing their integrated GPUs in an attempt to partially compensate.

Persistently high consumer GPU prices might also push gamers towards cloud services en masse. This would still count as destroying “PC gaming as we’ve known it,” but it’s not the same thing as literally destroying PC gaming. There have been several “as we’ve known it” events in the past, including the invention of 3D acceleration itself.

I do believe GPU prices will eventually come down. The pandemic shortages will ease. The crypto market will almost certainly implode again. But if the next five years look like 2016-2021, we’ll be writing about how GPUs have spent less than half of an entire decade available for sale at MSRP, come 2026. The best-case outcome, if cryptocurrency mining remains a high and irregular source of demand, is that PC upgrade cycles also become highly irregular and kick off when crypto mining is unprofitable, with at least some gamers shifting to various cloud services for AAA titles. The worst-case outcome is that people abandon the hobby altogether in favor of other devices.

Either way, we’re looking at a situation where unchecked demand further slows the pace of progression in PC gaming by choking off new hardware sales to actual gamers. Nobody wants to be left holding the bag when the bubble pops and all that extra capacity isn’t needed. This makes foundries nervous about building out to meet the needs of a cryptocurrency market that might shrink 50-75 percent by this time next year or the year after that.

The kind of damage I’m referring to happens over multiple years. It shows up over time, and it’ll be illustrated by people hanging on to cards much longer than they have before. The most ominous aspect of our current situation is the implication that GPU prices might stay elevated for at least 15 months (counting from Ampere’s launch in September 2020). That’s a longer period of time than either of the previous cryptocurrency bubbles lasted. It’s long enough for people to get tired of waiting and buy something else.

Companies like Nvidia, AMD, and Intel are all making huge amounts of money thanks to ongoing high demand, but don’t be fooled. AMD reported strong results for its Radeon business when the first cryptocurrency bubble inflated, but its market share was dropping like a rock at the same time. In the case of crypto mining, what’s good for GPU manufacturers and what’s good for gamers appear to be two different things. None of what’s happening in the market right now is good for PC gaming if you like the way it works now.

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What’s behind Quebec’s targeted approach to the 3rd wave, and could it work?

The month of March featured considerable swings in Quebec’s messaging and action around the pandemic. If you’ve been having trouble keeping track, it’s understandable.

This week, the provincial government ordered schools and businesses in Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau to close, only days after gyms in Montreal were allowed to reopen and churches allowed to welcome a maximum of 250 people.

On Tuesday, Premier François Legault said his government was watching the situation closely in select areas but insisted changes weren’t necessary — even as top experts, the province’s order of nurses and public health officials were questioning the lack of restrictions.

A day later, he called a 5 p.m. news conference and ordered three regions into lockdown, abruptly shifting them from an orange zone in the province’s colour-coded ranking system to a darker, more restrictive shade of red than in other red zones, including Montreal.  

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge, meanwhile, ordered English school boards to comply with a decree to have high school students return to class full time, even as students held protests saying they didn’t feel safe. And organizers of recreational hockey in Montreal are planning to restart in early April.

Health Minister Christian Dubé acknowledged the government’s decisions can seem confusing, but he insisted there is a logic in the chaos. 

“It can sometimes look inconsistent, but I tell you that we’re making all our decisions based on many factors, and I believe we are staying ahead of the game,” Dubé  told Radio-Canada on Thursday. 

So, what is the government trying to do? And is it the right move?

More targeted approach

In an interview Thursday, Dubé said the government is closely watching regions and sub-regions and acting as soon as its experts see transmission on the rise. The contagiousness of the variants means cases can spike much more quickly than in the second wave, he said.

Cases in Quebec City are now doubling every day, he said, and that region went from being a source of worry to a major concern overnight. (A single gym is now linked to more than 140 cases and 21 workplace outbreaks.)

“We act at the moment we’re certain of the trend, and before a major impact on hospitals,” Dubé told Radio-Canada.

Quebec is in a better situation than some other jurisdictions when it comes to vaccinations. More of the population has received one dose (roughly 16 per cent) than Ontario or France, both of which are seeing a more dramatic spike in cases.

Such a plan isn’t foolproof.

France tried a similar, targeted approach. But, with hospitals at risk of being overrun, President Emmanuel Macron reluctantly shut down schools for three weeks as part of another round of nationwide restrictions.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, as well, ordered new provincewide restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of gyms and stricter limits on gatherings.

Dr. Karl Weiss, a microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Montreal, said Quebec once again finds itself at a “critical point” — and that the vaccination campaign needs to move quickly to be able to fend off the rising number of variant cases.

He noted that Quebec is in a better situation than some other jurisdictions. More of the population has received one dose of vaccine (roughly 16 per cent) than Ontario or France, both of which are seeing a more dramatic spike in cases.

Why not tighten restrictions sooner?

Legault, Dubé and Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s public health director, have frequently used the word “balance” when explaining the province’s approach.

They’ve made it clear their public health decisions involve keeping the virus in check, but also factor in the impact of disruptions to the education of school-age children, the mental health of the population and the effect on the economy.

WATCH | What’s the outlook for Montreal?

Prativa Baral discusses the outlook for Montreal in light of the government’s tightened restrictions in some other Quebec regions. 0:56

The government is also seeking to keep people onside, an increasingly difficult task as the pandemic drags on. Officials closely watch survey data from the province’s public health institute, which documents whether enthusiasm for restrictions is rising or falling among specific age groups and in specific regions.

“We have to find that balance because if we act too fast, we’ll lose co-operation from the public,” Dubé said Thursday, echoing past statements by Legault.

“We need the balance with mental health. We did everything we could so people could go to school and play sports.”

But is that helpful, if less than a month later those measures are back in place?

Dominique Anglade, head of the opposition Liberals, suggested that “playing the yo-yo” can be even harder on morale.

“Go to a restaurant here in Quebec City, you have people who are crying because they didn’t see it coming,” she said Thursday, a day after the restrictions were announced.

Premier François Legault has been reluctant to close schools, but he ordered them shut in three cities this week. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

“The other regions are asking themselves the same question today. If you are in Lac-Saint-Jean today, if you are in Abitibi today, if you are in Montreal today, you’re asking yourselves the question, what’s next? We’re asking the government to tell us what’s next.”

Prativa Baral, an epidemiologist and doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., says government messaging is crucial.

“Part of making sure people trust the government and trust the public health guidelines that are being put in place is the transparency aspect, but also thinking of things in the long term and not mixing that messaging,” he said.

Why would Montreal be any different?

As Legault has pointed out, Montreal has, so far, resisted a spike in cases.

The daily case tally has remained consistent for the past several weeks. But with looser restrictions, including the reopening of gyms and high schools back at full capacity, that may not last.

Baral said Legault’s categorization of Montreal as “stable” is worrisome.

“The rate of increase has not been as substantial as other regions that are going to be shut down, but we’re still averaging 300, 350 cases a day in Montreal,” she said.

“Because of the variants of concern, the 350 could very easily turn into a larger number of cases very quickly.”

Baral called the relaxation of restrictions in Montreal “incredibly premature,” and said the cause and effect is well understood: when restrictions are lifted, cases go up, as they did in the regions now in lockdown.

“There is no reason to think that the same thing won’t happen to Montreal, unfortunately.”

The city’s public health director, Dr. Mylène Drouin, has said repeatedly she expects to see a rise in cases — the goal now is to delay that to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

Earlier this week, Drouin said she expects variants to begin to make up more cases after Easter and it will be crucial to keep them under control.

“Every day we win against the variant is a day when thousands of people are vaccinated.”

People wear face masks as they wait for the start of a performance Centaur Theatre in Montreal, where a limited audience is now allowed. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

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Police could have ended George Floyd’s restraint after he was handcuffed, former sergeant testifies

A former Minneapolis police supervisor, on duty the night George Floyd died, says officers could have stopped restraining him after he was handcuffed and no longer resisting.

That testimony from David Pleoger, now retired, was a key part of the prosecution’s case on the fourth day of the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. It included a snippet of a call between Pleoger and Chauvin — in which Chauvin says he was going to call Pleoger and request that he come to the scene where Chauvin and three other officers had had their encounter with Floyd.

Jurors also heard the emotional testimony of Floyd’s former girlfriend along with evidence from two paramedics who attended to Floyd that day, one of whom said that when he arrived, he thought Floyd was dead.

Chauvin, 45, who is white, faces two murder charges — second-degree unintentional murder and third-degree murder — in the death of Floyd on May 25, 2020. The 46-year-old Black man died after Chauvin pressed a knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes as two other officers held him down. Video captured by a bystander showed the handcuffed Floyd repeatedly say he couldn’t breathe. 

Floyd had been detained outside a convenience store after being suspected of paying with a counterfeit bill. All four officers were later fired. The footage of the arrest prompted widespread outrage, setting off protests across the U.S. and around the world.

For the prosecution, Pleoger, who had worked with Chauvin for eight years, and whose duties as a sergeant included reviewing police use-of-force incidents, may have offered the most important evidence.

Courteney Ross, the former girlfriend of George Floyd, offers emotional testimony at the trial into his death. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

Indeed, his opinion on the officers’ use of force against Floyd became a point of contention between the prosecution and Eric Nelson, defence counsel for Chauvin. 

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Pleoger, based upon his review of this incident, if he believed the restraint on Floyd should have ended at some point.

That prompted Nelson to object, who argued that Pleoger, because of the “criticality” of the incident, had hiked the review of it up the chain of command, and that he had only reviewed the police officers’ body camera video.

But Judge Peter Cahill allowed Schleicher to ask one question about Pleoger’s view of the incident.

“Do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?” Schleicher asked.

Pleoger answered: “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended the restraint.”

Paramedic Derek Smith testified that he couldn’t find Floyd’s pulse upon arriving on the scene. ‘In layman’s terms? I thought he was dead,’ he told court. (Court TV/The Associated Press)

Schleicher followed up: “And that was when he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resistant?” 

Yes, Pleoger replied.

Pleoger had gone to the scene after he was contacted by a dispatcher, who was concerned about what she had seen of the arrest on a city surveillance camera.

He testified that, after hearing from the dispatcher, the first person he called was Chauvin.

Chauvin told Pleoger: “I was just going to call you and have you come out to our scene here,” according to a clip of their conversation played in the Hennepin County District Court in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday.

“We just had to hold a guy down. He was going crazy. He wouldn’t go in the back of the squad,” Chauvin said, as the recording cut off. 

Pleoger described the rest of the conversation, saying that he believed Chauvin told him they had tried to put Floyd in the back of the squad car but that he became combative and injured his nose or mouth. He said Chauvin told him that, after struggling with Floyd, Floyd had suffered a medical emergency and the ambulance was called.

Court also heard from Seth Bravinder, a paramedic, who said when he arrived, he saw no signs that Floyd was breathing or moving, and it appeared he was in cardiac arrest. A second paramedic, Derek Smith, testified that he couldn’t find a pulse: “In layman’s terms? I thought he was dead.”

But the most emotional testimony came from Floyd’s former girlfriend Courteney Ross who chronicled some of their struggles with opioid addiction.

Ross wept through much of her testimony as she told the court about how she met Floyd, their relationship, and their battle with addiction to painkillers.

Floyd’s drug use is a central argument in Chauvin’s defence. The prosecution believes Chauvin’s knee pressing into Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on to the pavement was the cause of his death. But the defence argues it was a combination of Floyd’s underlying medical conditions, drug use and adrenaline flowing through his system that ultimately killed him.

Under cross-examination, Nelson asked Ross about some incidents of Floyd’s drug use, including an overdose he suffered in March 2020. 

“You did not know that he had taken heroin at that time?” Nelson asked.

She said she didn’t.

Nelson also focused on pills they had purchased that same month that were different than other painkillers purchased in the past.

Ross testified that instead of relaxing her, they made her jittery, and she couldn’t sleep at night.

Ross also testified that in May, she used similar pills and that she experienced the same effects. Nelson reminded her that she has previously told FBI agents that the pill made her feel like she was going to die, although she said she didn’t recall saying that to the agents.

She said she noticed a change in Floyd’s behaviour about two weeks before his death. Court also heard that she had told FBI agents that the pills made Floyd bounce around and be unintelligible at times.

However, prosecutor Matthew Frank tried to downplay the potential toxicity of those pills, getting Ross to agree that, obviously, neither she or Floyd had died from ingesting them in March or May.

She said Floyd “had a lot of energy” after using them.

Court also heard that Floyd’s pet name for Ross in his phone was “Mama” — testimony that called into question the widely reported account that Floyd was crying out for this mother as he lay pinned to the pavement.

In some of the video, Floyd can be heard calling out, “Mama!” repeatedly and saying, “Mama, I love you! … Tell my kids I love them.”

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New Spherical Robot Could Explore Lunar Caves

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We’ve all been laser-focused on Mars as a site for future human outposts, but let’s not forget about the Moon. It’s only marginally less habitable than Mars right now, and it’s a lot closer. Thanks to radiation and temperature variation, however, the safest place for a long-term human presence on the Moon might be underground. We don’t know much about the Moon’s subsurface environment, but the same was true of the Moon’s surface in the past. To explore these unseen depths, the European Space Agency is evaluating a spherical robot bristling with spinning cameras. 

The robot is known as DAEDALUS (Descent And Exploration in Deep Autonomy of Lunar Underground Structures), and it was designed by a team from Germany’s Julius-Maximilians-Universität of Würzburg (JMU). DAEDALUS is currently a design study under consideration by the ESA, but the team has built some basic proof-of-concept hardware (see above). 

We don’t know what the environment will be like in lunar caves and lava tubes, so DAEDALUS has a generalist design for better adaptability. As envisioned by the JMU team, DAEDALUS will be a 46-centimeter transparent sphere with a cable tether at one end. Operators would lower it into a cave, using the tether to transmit data until the robot is released. 

The spherical design allows DAEDALUS to map its environment in full 360-degrees with cameras and lidar. As it’s being lowered into a cave, the internal mechanism will spin laterally to photograph its surroundings. The cable will detach to allow the robot to roam, but it will double as a wireless antenna to ensure the robot remains connected as it explores. 

Once it’s on the cave floor, the robot needs to flip over, which it does by moving the battery packs to shift its center of mass around the interior. Now on its “side,” DAEDALUS can roll around and explore the cave thanks to an internal motor that spins the outer plastic shell. While rolling, the camera system scans in 360-degrees, and the lidar scans ahead and behind. However, there’s also a lidar scanning mode that flips things around. DAEDALUS extends legs that lock the outer surface in place, allowing the inner instrument cluster to spin. In doing so, it gives the lidar sensors a look at the full 360-degree space. 

DAEDALUS sounds like a very clever robot, but there’s no information on when it might take shape as a real ESA project (if at all). First, humanity has to return to the Moon. A few uncrewed rovers have set down recently, but NASA might begin landing astronauts once again as part of the Artemis Program as soon as 2024.

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Kia Nurse hopes Raptors’ all-women broadcast could mirror WNBA, inspire next generation

If they see it, they can be it.

That’s the notion Canadian WNBA player and TSN commentator Kia Nurse hopes will inspire young women as the NBA’s first all-women broadcast team prepares to call the Raptors’ game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday. 

Nurse hopes the influence of the first-of-its kind broadcast is similar to what she’s experienced recently as a player for the Women’s National Basketball Association, a league that’s had a huge impact with its social activism.

Some examples include their efforts to help the Democrats win a Senate seat in Georgia and the league’s #SayHerName campaign that created awareness about the police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Maya Moore, one the WNBA’s most famous players, took a sabbatical from her basketball career to help free a wrongfully convicted man who is now her husband.

“I think people are starting to see how much of an impact we’re having. I mean, we helped flip the Senate,” Nurse told CBC Sports, referring to the work players did to encourage Georgians to vote specifically for Democrat Raphael Warnock and against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the former owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream who spoke out against Black Lives Matter.

The all-women’s broadcast could have the same kind of impact, said Nurse, the 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., who played last season with the WNBA’s New York Liberty and was recently traded to the Phoenix Mercury. 

“You have women who are doing an incredible job across different industries and different nations … coming together to show you guys what we’ve been working on, even though it hasn’t been in the spotlight.”

Nurse will work as a colour analyst for the game alongside play-by-play woman Meghan McPeak, who works for CBC Sports as well as in the booth for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the G League’s Capital City Go-Go.

TSN’s Kayla Grey will handle sideline reporting duties, while SportsCentre host Kate Beirness and Amy Audibert, an analyst for Raptors 905, will pair up for the in-game studio show.

Paving the way for the next generation

Nurse, who works as a TSN analyst during the WNBA off-season, says the broadcast will provide a template for young women to see what’s possible in a male-dominated sport and media industry.

“It wasn’t until I went to the U.S. one day and saw Maya Moore on television, I thought, ‘Oh, this would be cool to play in like a national championship and to play at UConn and whatnot,’ ” Nurse said.

CBC Sports contributor Meghan McPeak will call the March 24 Raptors game against the Nuggets as part of TSN’s all-female broadcast crew. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

McPeak echoed the sentiment on a recent episode of North Courts, a CBC Sports basketball show.

“That’s something that I never had growing up, so the fact that myself, Kia and Kayla can give that to little Black girls that look like us, that’s a fantastic feeling,” McPeak said. 

“Representation matters and little girls will be able to see us doing what we do and might think that they can do it as well.”

As the women call an important Raptors game against a top-tier team the night before the NBA trade deadline, Nurse hopes it will provide a platform to continue speaking out in the name of change — just as she did last summer in the WNBA.

WATCH | McPeak discusses historic broadcast on North Courts:

It’s March Madness time and with a record number of Canadians in the NCAA tournament, we’re dedicating this episode to the stars from north of the border, including Jevohn catching up with Gonzaga’s own sixth man of the year Andrew Nembhard. 17:17

“We took to the court with the understanding that no matter what anybody was going to say about us … some people were going to like what we had to say and some people weren’t,” Nurse said. 

“There’s a fine line between right and wrong. And we knew what was right.”

Providing inspiration for NCAA women’s athletes

To that end, after players in the NCAA women’s March Madness tournament used social media to expose how inferior their weight room setup was compared to the men’s teams, NCAA staff revamped the underwhelming setup with more equipment and machines.  

Other inequities, such as unequal COVID-19 testing and a lack of camera exposure, are also coming to light.

Nurse was part of four Final Four teams with the University of Connecticut, and though she says she never had an issue with weight rooms specifically, she also never played the tournament in a bubble due to a pandemic. She said she’s confused as to how the unequal set-up happened, but isn’t surprised that it did.

“I’m proud of the young women who are at the tournament who took to social media and stood up for themselves,” Nurse said.

“I’m proud of everybody who rallied around them and continued to make it loud enough that the NCAA listened right away. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

Nurse hopes that she and her fellow WNBA players can provide inspiration for today’s college athletes to continue to find their own voices and feel empowered to speak out. 

“Because they know that if they’re working toward a league like the WNBA, then they’ll still have a voice when they get there.”

Meanwhile, Canadian national team head coach Lisa Thomaidis said television broadcasts like Wednesday’s should become the norm.

“All these steps along the way, they’re massive, right? They shouldn’t be, but they are,” she said. “The fact that we’re going to have an all-female broadcast crew just speaks to how far we’ve come.” 

A role model on the court and in the booth

Nurse spoke to CBC Sports as part of her partnership with Tangerine Bank, which committed $ 15,000 to support Kia Nurse Elite, her Nike-backed youth basketball program.

When she was younger, Nurse said scheduling didn’t allow her to play provincially, nationally, and with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in the U.S. all at once. With the Elite program, she’s aiming to change that while providing young Canadian female basketball players the support they need.

“Every door that I’ve had opened up in my life has been a direct result of being able to play basketball and to playing at a high level in the community that I was a part of growing up.” 

As a player, Nurse is used to serving as a role model for young Canadian basketball fans. On Wednesday, she’ll continue to influence the next generation — but this time, from the booth.

“Hopefully, if there are young women who are watching the game with their families, which I’m sure they are, seeing more people that look like them, maybe one of us resonates with them. And that’s all that matters in this case.”

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How masks could affect speech and language development in children

A video of a one-year-old walking up to random objects, pressing on them and rubbing her hands together as she walks away went viral earlier this year. A toddler who thinks everything is a hand sanitizing station, though funny and super cute, begs the question: how are children growing up in the time of COVID-19 being affected?

Wearing masks is a public health measure that has spanned the globe for a year now, and while they can be annoying and awkward for adults, masks have also presented a unique set of challenges for children.

“That first year of life is when speech and language are emerging in a major major way,” said David Lewkowicz, senior scientist at Haskins Laboratories and a professor adjunct at the Yale Child Study Center.

Lewkowicz has been researching the importance of visual speech information, or lipreading, in children and babies since long before the pandemic. He co-authored a 2012 study that showed babies a short video of a woman talking, and used an eye-tracking device to capture where on the woman’s face the babies focused their gaze.

“What we discovered, in a nutshell, was that at four months of age babies were really interested in the eyes of the talker. But then at eight months of age there was a really dramatic shift … where they started to look much more at the mouth region of the person that was talking to them.”

A 2012 study that tracked the eye movements of infants found that they pay the most attention to the eyes of a speaker during the first few months of life, as seen on the left in research on a child at four months of age. But by around eight months of age (right), their attention shifts more to the person’s mouth as their speech develops. (David Lewkowicz/Haskins Labs/Yale University)

As they grow, babies use lipreading as part of speech and language development. This means that for infants who are in daycare settings, and therefore constantly seeing masked caregivers, “there may be some detrimental effects of at least extended exposure [to masks],” Lewkowicz said.

When people around infants in bilingual households wear masks it could present an even greater impairment, he said, because these children rely even more on lipreading to differentiate the phonetic sounds between the languages.

But parents and guardians, fear not. The advice for combating the potential effects of masks on speech development is relatively simple: increase face-to-face time with your baby at home.

“Simply just take them in your arms, pick them up, have them in front of you and interact with them as much as you can en-face. So they really get that full package — the auditory and visual package,” Lewkowicz said.

Julie Amoroso holds her seven-month-old son Isaiah. Researchers say the first year of a child’s life is a crucial period for speech and language development. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

Emotional barriers

Reading lips is obviously harder these days, but so is reading emotions. And for children who are still developing their interpersonal skills, masks can pose a challenge in that area as well.

It’s a challenge accepted by John Gelntis, a kindergarten teacher at King Edward Junior and Senior Public School in Toronto. He says now that his students are back to in-class learning and wearing masks all day, it’s more important than ever they learn to express their emotions clearly.

“It is harder, because they can’t get the full range of the emotions. But we try and do a lot of self-regulation activities where they can kind of navigate those things and see, ‘OK, how are you feeling today,’ right? Like, how can you check in?”

He’s also teaching them how to read the emotions of their masked peers.

“We always try and model empathy and how to care for one another. Now it’s just finding different ways of doing it … listen to the tone of my voice, look at my body … look at my eyes and my eyes crinkling at the sides, that means I’m smiling, I’m happy. My eyes are bugging out of my head probably means I’m scared,” Gelntis said.

Kindergarten teacher John Gelntis is helping his students overcome the challenges of mask wearing by encouraging them to express their emotions clearly. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Kang Lee, a developmental neuroscientist at University of Toronto, says emphasizing emotions is also good practice for adults interacting with children while masked.

“The type of words, that’s one. But also the sound that goes with the words. So you emphasize some of the emotions through words … I’m using my gestures, I use my posture. So I would suggest teachers try to accentuate this kind of information to compensate for the lack of facial expression,” he said.

Recognizing faces

Masks hide not only our emotions, but also our identity at times. The adult ability to recognize a face is reduced by about 15 per cent if the person has a mask covering their nose and mouth, according to a York University study published in December.

But kids may be having an even harder time, according to a second study from the same research team that is currently under review. It indicates school-aged children between six and 14 years old have their face-recognition abilities impaired by about 20 per cent when a mask is present.

To help children manage, masked adults should “wear something that is very personalized … for example, you wear a mask with the flower here and there to represent you as a teacher,” Lee said. “Don’t change your hairstyle. Don’t change your glasses. You know, these are the things that kids latch on to recognize you.”

This strategy seems to be working on the schoolyard in Toronto. When the kindergarteners were asked how they recognize their teacher in a mask, five-year-old Maisie said: “I know that’s Mr. G, because he has a turtle mask and that turtle is looking at me!”

As for how the kindergarteners recognize their friends, Matilde, also five, said: “By their clothes and their voice.”

Kindergarteners told CBC News that with everyone wearing masks, they tend to recognize friends more by their clothing and voices than by their faces at the moment. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

These are good strategies for the day to day, but Lewkowicz said there’s potential for long-term impacts of mask wearing on face-perception development.

To determine who they are looking at, adult brains perceive the face holistically, meaning they compute the distances between the features all at once and see the face as a singular object. Children are just developing these skills, and the masks could disrupt that development.

“There’s general agreement now that somewhere between four to five years of age is where the ability to start to perceive faces as holistic objects begins to emerge …. Now, if you imagine that those kids are now living in a world where half the face is blocked, that is clearly going to have an effect on the development of this ability, which is really really important for face recognition,” Lewkowicz said.

The good news is kids are very adaptable, and Lee said one theory is that they may come out of the pandemic with heightened perception abilities in other areas compared to what they would have had otherwise.

“What we have learned in the past is when something like this happens, that you block some kind of information channel and kids have to navigate around it, suddenly their other kind of abilities increase, not decrease, because the child’s brain is very plastic and very adaptive.”

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Why Canada’s confusing COVID-19 vaccine guidelines could be leaving seniors at risk

This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

Canada’s reluctance to follow evolving real-world data has led to potentially confusing COVID-19 vaccination guidelines that some experts say leave vulnerable seniors at risk in the community and could fuel vaccine hesitancy.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended last week that Canadians over 65 not receive an AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccination despite emerging evidence from countries around the world demonstrating its ability to prevent severe COVID-19 in older adults.

The recommendation led provinces to reorganize their vaccination plans for seniors. The result was people aged 60-64 could receive AstraZeneca-Oxford shots ahead of older age groups, who are at greater risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Quebec is the only province so far to ignore the national recommendations. Officials there said this week they would administer the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to seniors in direct contrast to what the province considers outdated NACI advice.

Other countries such as France and Germany initially advised those 65 and older not to receive the shot, but overturned their decisions earlier this month after new evidence showed the vaccine significantly reduced hospitalizations in that age group.

One Shoppers Drug Mart location in Toronto’s east end started catering to walk-ins for AstraZeneca-Oxford shots for those aged 60 to 64, which prompted a long lineup near Danforth and Coxwell Avenues on Thursday.  (Michael Charles Cole/CBC Toronto)

But the NACI recommendations were based largely on AstraZeneca-Oxford’s clinical trial data and didn’t examine real-world evidence past Dec. 7 — months before the effectiveness of the vaccine was fully realized in other countries for older age groups.

“We are trying to do the best that we can with the data that we have,” NACI chair Dr. Caroline Quach told The National‘s Andrew Chang this week.

She said the volunteer national advisory committee isn’t able to pivot to emerging data quickly.

“We are not a committee that is able to make a recommendation on Monday to be published on the Tuesday.”

Quach confirmed to CBC News on Friday that NACI met this week to discuss revising the AstraZeneca guidelines for those over 65, and said they would likely be updated “in the next few days” as shots continue to roll out across the country for younger age groups.

‘Disconnect’ between COVID-19 vaccine guidelines

NACI’s decision to advise against AstraZeneca-Oxford shots for older Canadians in spite of emerging evidence is in direct contrast to another recent recommendation it made to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccines by up to four months.

That decision was based on real-world data from Quebec, B.C., Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. that showed “good effectiveness” of between 70 and 80 per cent from a single dose of the vaccines in preventing severe illness “for up to two months in some studies.”

“People would see a bit of a disconnect,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force. “You’ve got to have the trust of the general public.”

WATCH | Benefits outweigh risks with AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, experts say:

Despite some European countries temporarily halting use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after 30 cases of blood clots, experts maintain it is still safe to use in Canada. 2:01

Bogoch said NACI needs to be “very careful” with its messaging around vaccination recommendations in an “open, honest and transparent way” with Canadians, in order to avoid eroding trust in vaccines. 

“How we word things matters…. If you’re going to make those recommendations, you’ve got to stand up in front of the country and explain why,” he said.

“We’re already getting issues with people who are saying, ‘I’m not going to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, I’m going to wait.’ It’s going to be a challenge.”

Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, said the recommendation against the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for seniors sends the “wrong message” to Canadians.

“I’ve got people telling me they don’t want AstraZeneca, so they’ll rather wait until they can get a Pfizer dose,” he said. “We need to get sufficient numbers of doses in the right people so that herd immunity happens and case numbers drop.” 

Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and virologist at the Canadian Center for Vaccinology, says there are no safety concerns with AstraZeneca-Oxford for older individuals and that its effectiveness is on par with other vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Monique Prud’homme, one of the first Albertans to receive the Covishield/AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, on Thursday, told Alberta Health Services she is ‘so excited’ and looks forward to someday having her grandchildren stay over, hosting family meals at home, visiting friends and her father. (Alberta Health Services)

“If a vaccine is available to you, it’s really important that you’re taking it,” she said.

And that’s especially true for people over 60, she said.

“This group of individuals makes up about 97 per cent of our COVID-related deaths in Canada, and to keep a vaccine from them … hurts my heart.”

Bogoch said that each of the four vaccines approved in Canada will significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death for older Canadians, so it’s important to keep that in context when considering national recommendations.

“We’re in the middle of a public health crisis,” he said. “So the strategy should be to vaccinate as many people over the age of 60 with any of the available vaccines in as short a time frame as possible.”

‘No indication’ AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine tied to blood clots

Adding to the confusion around the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine this week were reports of an undisclosed number of blood clot cases after vaccinations in Europe, which ultimately led Denmark, Norway and Iceland to stop using the vaccine out of an abundance of caution.

Health Canada released a statement Thursday night, more than eight hours after CBC News requested comment, saying “there is no indication that the vaccine caused these events” and the “benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh its risks.”

The U.K.’s drug regulatory agency said that of the 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine that have been administered, reports of blood clots were no greater than expected in the general public.

WATCH | ‘No cause for alarm’ after Denmark pauses AstraZeneca vaccinations, says doctor:

There’s no reason to be overly worried after Denmark said it was temporarily stopping inoculations with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to investigate a small number of blood clots, says infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch. 2:16

Bogoch told CBC News that while it’s important to watch the situation carefully in order to instill confidence in the vaccine’s safety, Canadians have to keep it in context. 

“This vaccine has been given to millions and millions of other people globally, including in the United Kingdom,” he said.

“We have not yet heard of any signal amongst the noise for blood clots in any other jurisdiction and there have been other places that have been giving this vaccine for … months.”

Age ‘greatest risk’ factor for COVID-19

Experts say the confusion around vaccine safety recommendations this week is unfortunate, especially given the number of seniors in Canada at risk of severe COVID-19 complications who have yet to be vaccinated. 

While long-term care home residents were prioritized in Canada’s vaccine rollout after the first shipments arrived in mid-December, seniors living in the community have only recently been offered a vaccine across much of the country. 

“When you actually look at the data about who’s the greatest risk from getting seriously ill and dying from COVID-19, the No. 1 factor is age,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics for the Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto. 

Carmelo Bolpe, 67, gets his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Caboto Terrace in Toronto on Thursday. Nurses from Humber River Hospital were on site as part of an initiative to vaccinate seniors in congregate living settings. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Sinha says Canada should have better prioritized community-dwelling seniors in its initial rollout, especially given the significant drop in hospitalizations and deaths among long-term care residents after vaccination.

More than 14,000 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 in Canada since the pandemic began. Sinha says about 4,000 of those residents were in Ontario, while another 2,000 of the province’s deaths were seniors living in the community. 

“We have to remember that, yes, 70 per cent of our deaths in Ontario have been amongst those living in our long-term care retirement homes,” he said. “But another 26 per cent have been among community-dwelling seniors.” 

Deonandan says he was “shocked” that age wasn’t more of a priority for initial COVID-19 vaccine rollouts across the country given that it is the single biggest risk factor by far.

“It comes down to, what is the goal that we’re trying to achieve here?” he said. 

“The goal should be twofold: to keep the health-care system up and running, and to make the crisis go away, and you get that by focusing on age.”

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Could Nvidia’s DLSS Help the Nintendo Switch Hit 4K Resolutions?

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Last week, rumors broke that Nintendo’s rumored Switch update will feature capabilities like an OLED panel, larger display (said to be 7 inches, up from 6.2 inches), and 4K output when docked.

Two of these things are unlike the others. A larger display and an OLED, with the associated benefits of that technology, could both be fitted to the Switch as it currently exists. The third — a boost to 4K rendering when docked — isn’t something the current Switch hardware can pull off without some kind of additional upgrade.

Be advised that all of the below is speculation. Nintendo has not released any comments on any future Switch designs and ExtremeTech does not possess inside information regarding the future of the console.

The Switch poses a unique upgrade challenge that consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series S|X don’t have to deal with. Sony and Microsoft only have to concern themselves with the living room experience. Nintendo has to address the handheld market, too. That means any changes to the Switch can’t destroy its battery life or risk making the console too hot. Keeping the handheld at 720p achieves these goals in handheld mode, but how will Nintendo deliver the horsepower required for 4K rendering in docked mode? 4K packs 4x the pixels of standard 1080p, but it’s a 9x jump from the Switch’s current 720p target.

Nvidia and Nintendo can tackle this problem from a few different directions. While Nintendo could theoretically pay Nvidia to port the Switch’s T210 SoC from 16nm to 7nm, that chip only offers 25.6GB/s of main memory bandwidth and is unlikely to support docked 4K play with such a thin pipe.

If Nintendo wants to go with a new SoC architecture, Nvidia has plenty to choose from. Nvidia’s Jetson TX2 uses Pascal instead of Maxwell, and it’s possible the company has built a new SoC variant for Nintendo based on its Turing or Ampere GPU architectures. One of these two architectures would give Nintendo a better chance to hit 4K.

Nvidia and Nintendo have three paths available to them. First, brute-force. It’s unlikely that a second port of the aged T210 down to 7nm would deliver enough performance or memory bandwidth. The Pascal-based Jetson TX2 seems to be the minimum chip for the job, and Nintendo could always pay Nvidia to build an SoC based around either Turing or Ampere. This is the most straightforward option, the simplest, and probably the least likely to deliver a great 4K gaming experience. Even the 2.3x jump in memory bandwidth from the current Switch (25.6GB/s) to the Nvidia Jetson TX2 (59.7GB/s) isn’t nearly enough to pay for the 9x increase in pixels from 720p to 4K.

There are two alternative approaches we know of: Checkerboard rendering and DLSS.

Checkerboard rendering is a technique Sony popularized with the PlayStation 4 Pro a few years back. It’s a method of rendering that leaves gaps in between the drawn pixels, like a checkerboard. Used properly, the impact on visual quality compared with native 4K is small.

Checkerboard rendering doesn’t require any features specific to Turing or Ampere and could potentially be used by the Pascal-based TX2. It’s proven and it would save bandwidth and compute horsepower compared with the pure brute-force approach.

DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) is a technique Nvidia has developed for anti-aliasing that leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve real-time image quality. Nvidia’s DLSS 2.0 is said to provide near native-quality images while rendering between 25-50 percent of the pixels. Nvidia trains its DLSS model on DGX-equipped supercomputers and runs the workload on your local GPU (or, in this hypothesis, on your local Switch).

The Turing and Ampere GPU micro-architectures include specialized tensor cores for handling DLSS, so any attempt to add the feature to the Switch would require upgrading to an SoC based on one of these architectures. DLSS 1.0 didn’t work particularly well, but it also relied on a game-by-game approach to improving overall image quality.

DLSS 2.0 adopted a more generic architecture and allowed for the implementation of various quality modes. Bringing this technology to a handheld device would involve some heavy lifting, but Nintendo might be able to save power by only turning DLSS on when the console is in docked mode. If the tensor cores can be kept otherwise deactivated, Nintendo wouldn’t lose power in handheld mode just from including them on-die.

There are two reasons to be dubious of this idea. First, it requires Nintendo to make a pretty big leap forward for a mid-generation upgrade. Typically, Nintendo mid-cycle updates like the 3DS XL are faster, more efficient versions of the base platform. A Turing SoC might show up on 14nm, but any Ampere design would likely be on 7nm. Nintendo doesn’t usually leap for the latest and greatest CPU and GPU tech, so this kind of update would be a bit out of band for them.

Second, this idea assumes Nintendo would use tensor cores for upscaling, but not integrate ray tracing or other prominent Turing/Ampere features. Nvidia and AMD have packaged all these technologies together in other contexts, so it would be unusual to see them split now.

The advantages of DLSS or checkerboard rendering are big enough that we still think we’re more likely to see them than not, but Nintendo would have to be willing to push a bit out of its comfort zone to adopt them. We’ll see what the company has to say as the year progresses.

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