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Stadia AMA confirms Assistant features, Chromecast Ultra firmware requirement, more

Today was the second Google Stadia Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), where the Stadia team answered many burning questions from the community. Among the answers, we got confirmation of when the various Google Assistant integrations will arrive, the real reason why Founders and Premiere Editions include a Chromecast Ultra, and more.

Stadia team members Andrey Doronichev and Beri Lee took to Reddit today in one final community Q&A session ahead of Google Stadia’s launch next week. We’ve covered the most important details revealed throughout the day, but here’s some of the extra tidbits you might have missed.

Google Assistant features will roll out

Last week, when the Google Stadia app hit the Play Store, our APK Insight team dug in and found evidence of what the Assistant can do with Stadia, along with a variety of previously announced features that may not be available at launch, including the Assistant itself.

During the AMA, a questioner asked what features the Assistant button on the Stadia Controller will be used for at launch, and how that will differ from using the Google Assistant on your phone. To this, Andrey gave an in-depth answer, revealing that the integration between Stadia and the Google Assistant will be limited, at launch, to just asking your Google Home to launch games.

Over time, the Assistant integration will deepen to make use of the Stadia Controller’s dedicated button while connected via Chromecast, with more devices coming soon after.

We have many Assistant features that we’re planning to roll out gradually across different parts of Stadia in the upcoming weeks. On Day 1, you can ask your Google Home or your Assistant-enabled device to start a game on Stadia. It will turn on your TV and get you into the game! Soon after (I think it’s a few days, but I need to check) you’ll be able to use the Assistant button on your controller to interact with the Assistant while on your Stadia Homescreen on Chromecast. Then more devices (PC, Pixel phones). Then support for the Assistant during gameplay, etc. It’s easy to just slap on some voice features, but making Assistant truly helpful is a different thing. We want to get it right. So we’re taking the time here.

Other features for the Assistant, like asking for in-game assistance with a difficult game, will be arriving even later. They’ve also assured everyone that Stadia will see feature updates on a regular, if not weekly, basis.

Chromecast Ultra firmware issue

Our APK Insight team also uncovered that you’ll likely need to use the Chromecast Ultra included in the Founders Kit, even if you already own a Chromecast Ultra. During today’s AMA, the Googlers confirmed that to play Stadia games via Chromecast, you need one on a newer firmware version, which is pre-loaded on the bundled Chromecast Ultra.

On Day 1 you should use the Chromecast Ultra that came in your bundle. It has the latest firmware. We will be updating the existing CC Ultra’s over the air soon after launch. So you’ll be able to use your Stadia Controller to play on many TVs in your home.

This is unfortunate news for anyone who has their existing Chromecast Ultra installed in an awkward or difficult to access location. Thankfully this is only a temporary problem, as the update will be rolling out soon.

Buddy Pass delivery

If you’re wondering when you’ll be able to start playing with your friends who did not order a Stadia Founders or Premiere Edition bundle, the Stadia team revealed their intent for Buddy Pass delivery.

You’ll get your Buddy Pass about two weeks after you receive your bundle, barring some unknown unknowns popping up.

Two weeks is actually an unfortunate timeline, as this means would-be Buddy Pass recipients will not be able to play during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the US.

Playing Stadia on unusual aspect ratios

At launch, Google Stadia will exclusively support streaming at a 16:9 aspect ratio, whether 720p, 1080p, or 4k. For the many, many devices that are not 16:9, including most Pixel phones and even Google’s Pixelbook and Pixel Slate, Stadia will reportedly add a pillarbox or letterbox to the stream, as needed, to display correctly.

It depends on how you’ve set up your screen. Most screens that aren’t those aspect ratios will pillarbox or letterbox to fit into 1080p or 4k aspect ratios.

More from the Stadia AMA:

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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