June 8, 2012
No matter what your home gaming console platform presence is, the influence of tablets was evident in the presentations of the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The main claim to fame of the Wii U, of course, is its second screen, basically a small tablet with gaming controls. Sony took a moment to highlight the renaming of PlayStation Suite to PlayStatiion Mobile with designs on expanding beyond its own tablets as certified devices. And Microsoft, of course, surprised many with SmartGlass, a second-screen architecture that goes beyond gaming into XBox’s new and broader entertainment domain.
It would be inaccurate to suggest that tablets are about to be as disruptive in the home console space as smartphones have been in the handheld console market. Nonetheless, beyond the game platform triopoly, the influence of tablets was not only evident in presentations from major publishers such as Activision and EA, but also in a pair of companies that may be less well-known to at least U.S. gamers. Social mobile platform Gree showed off six titles. There were also several companies showing off gaming controllers to try t bring back some of that tactile control to the tablet’s frictionless and often imprecise display.
Tags: E3, Gree, social gaming, tablets, WeMade, Wii U
June 27, 2011
Following my recent post about the evolution of the amorphous iPod brand, this week provided a great opportunity to look at another brand with a potentially foretelling malleable moniker – OnLive. The company showed off its service running on the iPad and HTC Flyer. Support will come in two phases. The first will overlay touch controls onto the games, perhaps suitable for use with your Fling or ThinkGeek Joystick-It. And while that may be the more portable option, the better game experience will happen once OnLive enables its controllers to work with tablets.
To see OnLive branch out from the PC where its content largely originates, beyond the TV where many of its games would likely be ported, and to the tablet where many of its games might not be technically feasible, clearly improves the value of the service for OnLive’s game partners. But OnLive’s other recent announcement – that it would partner with Juniper Networks to host remote PC applications – demonstrates the true versatility of the service. If OnLive has been able to remotely deliver games with good performance, the interface of the average Windows app will be child’s play. The next stop on the world conquest tour would be apps delivered via set-top boxes to TVs, which would put OnLive on a collision course with ActiveVideo.
Tags: ActiveVideo, cloud apps, iPad, OnLive, remote access, tablets, thin clients, Video Games
January 30, 2011
I’ve written here and there about how 3D is not the only intriguing capability of the Nintendo 3DS and the components of the system generally work well together and complement each other. But two in particular can be at odds with each other – the 3D screen and the gyroscope.
One tradeoff of the 3DS’ autostereoscopic display is that the 3D effect needs to reorient if the viewing angle moves too far from its sweet spot; this causes a dark wave to pass over the screen. Of course, gyroscopes invite such reorientation since they respond to it to enhance gameplay.
Recently, I discussed this challenge with Greg Galvin, CEO of Kionix, a company that produces accelerometers and gyroscopes, and he held out hope for its reconciliation. The key, he self-servingly notes, is that the sensors in many of today’s products – while a step up from the early efforts that are in the original Wii controller – aren’t nearly as sensitive as they could be. Higher-end components, though, are more precise and require far less of a tilt to produce the same effect.
There must be a fine line, though, between subtlety and the natural tilting and shaking that could be a normal byproduct of playing a handheld game. It seems similar to the kind of intelligence Synaptics and others are addressing with palm or wrist detection on touchscreens to differentiate purposeful contact from a resting part of the hand.
Tags: 3D, accelerometers, accuracy, autostereoscopy, gyroscopes, InvenSense, Kionix, Nintendo 3DS, sensors, sweet spots
January 24, 2011
It would seem that the 3D capabilities are the most important part of Nintendo’s 3DS. After all, it’s right there in the name. However, after getting some hands-on time with the system this week, it’s important to remember that 3D is by no means the only critical part of Nintendo’s latest foray in portable consoles just as the dual screens — or even touch capabilities — told the whole story of the original Nintendo DS.
A great example of this is Steel Diver, a prototype of which appeared around the launch of the DS. Taking advantage of the 3DS’ sensors, you can use the 3DS like a periscope, rotating your person to see a 360° view of a sea and the various targets. The lower touch screen control the speed of the sub’s engines and when and how deeply it dives. Playing it brought back fond memories of playing the arcade game Sea Wolf.
Yes, it’s also in 3D, and as with most of the 3DS games I’ve tried, it enhances the experience, at least initially, even though moving about with the handheld risks exiting the sweet spot that can cause a shift in the display. However, in contrast to the game-defining mechanic, Steel Diver’s 3D effects can be reduced or turned off completely, just as they can be for any 3DS game.
Nintendo may have scooped just about everyone else on a portable autostereoscopic display. and that is clearly the showstopper feature, but the "DS" part of the 3DS is at least as important as the "3D" part; it’s success will be determined in large part by the way Nintendo has integrated 3D, not just that they have implemented it.
Tags: 3D, autostereoscopy, dual-screens, immersion, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Sea Wolf, Steel Diver, stereoscopy, touch screens
March 22, 2010
One aspect of 3DTV that holds particular for me is the impact that it may have on user interface. For example, 3D could lead to a complete rethinking of the electronic programming guide.. I’ve seen one early demos of 3D information overlay from cable supplier NDS that show how 3D could affect on-screen information presentation, and have heard many tales of woe about the difficult debates that have occurred in the industry over the proper depth location for closed captioning when watching 3DTV.
Last week, though, I got to see at least one demonstration of a 2D user interface at the Panasonic public demonstration near Penn Station in New York. nVidia was showing off its 3D gaming system using an otherwise unmodified version of Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed racing game. The 3D effect wasn’t too different from playing a racing game without the glasses although the whole picture seemed to be inset within the TV, and the difference really became clear in “cockpit view” where your perspective is through the car’s windshield. The user interface elements floated above the action in a pretty basic but effective way. As games and other content become more optimized for 3D, I suspect we will see more experimentation with translucence and other 3D effects.
Tags: 3DTV, NDS, nVidia, user interface
November 22, 2008
The bemused bits you see to your right compose one frame of the animated output of BigStage, a company I saw at a Pepcom media event earlier this week. BigStage generates avatars out of three digital camera pictures of your face pointing to slightly different angles in about a minute.
I thought the results were the most realistic digital me I’ve seen, although the generated hair is a bit more moussed than I usually wear it, the stock glasses are a little darker than my frames, and I’m pretty sure I can’t raise my eyebrow that high in real life. You can also choose from different expressions; an open-mouthed surprised was more realistic than a weakly smiling happy.
Getting the avatar is free, but the company is striking licensing deals as one source of revenue. You can insert your avatar, for example, into clips from old TV shows like The A Team and The Greatest American Hero. It looks comically out of place in film, but could work well in a video game; company representatives showed a convincing blend into Grand Theft Auto.They’ll also, of course, have their own digital goods to keep your avatar in the finest that virtual materialism has to offer. In any case, if you’re looking for a change of face for your Facebook or Twitter pic, it’s a lot of fun.
Tags: avatars, BigStage
March 6, 2008
FT.com is reporting that Sony is talking with Microsoft about the possibility of Blu-ray drives on the Xbox 360. This could come in two forms, of course — a new SKU with an integrated Blu-ray drive or an external drive similar to the one Microsoft offered for HD DVD. The case is tough for either one, though.
If Microsoft thought there was value in adding a high-definition or high-capacity disc format to the 360, it had a choice of two during its development before Microsoft had kicked HD DVD evangelism into high-gear. Of course, after Microsoft did that, it still didn’t add an internal HD DVD drive to the 360, citing concern about not forcing such a drive on consumers. Especially now, with a significant title library out there, it doesn’t make any sense to add cost to a home console. The 360 is clearly competitive as is.
Then there’s the external drive scenario. It made more sense for Microsoft to offer an external drive when there wasn’t much choice for HD DVD drives at retail. Microsoft was able to deliver a low-priced option by piggybacking onto the console. While I’m sure an add-on Blu-ray drive for the 360 would cost less than the standalone players out there, there are many more companies offering Blu-ray players, and now that there is no direct format rivalry, the number is bound to increase while the average prices decrease, further removing the incentive. Without an evangelism imperative, Microsoft can now focus on other means of getting high-definition video to its game console.
Are there any Xbox 360 owners out there who want an external Blu-ray drive for their console?
Tags: Blu-ray, HD-DVD, Xbox 360
February 24, 2008
In speaking with several reporters about the victory, I noted NPD’s research last year that found satisfaction with existing DVD players to be a more common reason for abstaining from the high-definition disc market than the format war with HD-DVD. As digital media gadfly and PR veteran par excellence Andy Marken notes, “The difference is now the BD folks won’t be able to blame Toshiba for holding back the success of high def disc sales.”
Blu-ray was the second must-win AV standards war after LCD vs. plasma that the company has won in the past few years by leveraging selective specification superiority — curious for the consumer electronics company that is so frequently identified with being a lifestyle brand. Blu-ray’s main technical difference vs. HD-DVD was that it offered 50 GB per disc as opposed to 30 GB.
Sony and the BDA didn’t make the capacity argument directly to consumers as much to the trade media, particularly before studio support became more relevant. However, Sony was the first company to proselytize 1080p or “full HD” to consumers, which has helped to give large-screen LCD the upper hand.
Further momentum behind BD can only help promote 1080p TVs (not that they seem to need much help). It will also be very interesting to see how much the standardization of Blu-ray now helps sell the PS3 after the PS3 was kind enough to do the same for Blu-ray since 2006. Sony’s content holdings may not have been enough to overcome the challenges of UMD as a movie format, but the virtually guaranteed support of Blu-ray by Sony Pictures was a validation of Sony’s integration of hardware and content. Of course, the equal loyalty of Disney and Fox was critical as well.
Tags: Blu-ray, HD-DVD, PS3, Sony
January 2, 2008
Rumors are circulating that Bill Gates will announce in what may be his final CES keynote that Microsoft will add HD-DVD to the Xbox 360. Microsoft has presented arguments against doing so in the past, offering that game players should not have to pay for a technology that they don’t need. At the same time, though, Microsoft has gone upmarket with the the 360 Premium configuration, and the addition of a larger hard drive contributes no more to the Xbox gaming experience as an HD-DVD drive would. Microsoft has already reduced the price of the external drive; an integrated one would be a logical next step as the component costs have come down.
There’s also the factor of how many external Xbox HD-DVD drive buyers would have preferred to have the internal drive rather than add another box to a crowded home theater, or how many are resisting purchasing an external drive for that reason. Furthermore, while the tie ratios of Blu-ray movie titles to the PlayStation 3 can be debated, there is ample evidence that many PS3 buyers are purchasing at least a few movies, and the HD-DVD camp simply can’t ignore the high volumes of the PS3 Trojan horse. Integrating an HD-DVD drive into at least one 360 Premium configuration is an opportunity for Microsoft to put its machines where its mouth is.
Tags: Blu-ray, HD-DVD, Microsoft, PlayStation 3, Premium, Xbox 360
July 9, 2007
A little more than half a year after its launch, Sony has already cut a PS3 configuration, lowered the price of the former high-end, and introduced a new model with a larger hard drive and a free game. I’m sure the 60 GB PS3 will get a lift from dipping below the $500 mark. The 20 GB model didn’t fare well there, but that product missed key components such as the memory card reader, Wi-Fi and, perhaps most importantly, HDMI.
Now there is far less difference between the low-end and high-end configuration than there was last November. The incremental value of another 20 GB of disk space is more questionable so I expect that the new low-end will become the more popular model, signalling a reversal from the PS3′s launch. The real issue facing the PS3 is a dearth of compelling titles, so I don’t see the price cut so much as a strategic move per se but really more priming the pump for what Sony says should be a stronger holiday portfolio.
Let’s get ready to rumble.