News en NVIDIA Shield vs. Razer Forge TV: Hands On <!--paging_filter--><h3>One of these devices comes out ahead, far ahead</h3> <p>One of the biggest launches to come out of this year's GDC was <a href="">NVIDIA's Shield console</a>. Showing the device off to a packed audience, CEO Jensen Huang demonstrated a console that was a combination of both cloud streaming and local Android-based entertainment. Out of all the Android TV style devices that have been announced, the Shild is the most interesting.</p> <p>Shield can do several things: play Android games, play triple-A Android games made for Shield, handle your online media needs, and stream from NVIDIA's Grid streaming service. Grid has been in the making for several years, and NVIDIA hopes to be first to deliver a playable, lag free experience. At launch, NVIDIA will have roughly 50 playable titles, all of which should be the most recent PC hits. NVIDIA's vision is to deliver all games, at maximum graphics settings, without the requirement for having a high-end gaming rig.</p> <p>Backtrack several months and you have <a href="">Razer's Forge TV</a>, a device that's mean to allow you to stream all your games to the living room, lag free. Forge TV is also an Android device, but it doesn't have the power that NVIDIA's Shield has. For reference, Forge TV is equipped with an Adreno 420 GPU, while the Shield's graphics duties are handled by NVIDIA's own Tegra X1, which is based on its current flagship Maxwell architecture. Specs aside, the Shield can do everything the Forge TV can do, and much more. Shield is also 4K ready, while Forge TV is not.</p> <p>We get our hands on both at GDC. What's our impression?</p> <p>Well, put it simply, the Shield is where it's at. We tried both local content made for the Shield as well as streamed content. The real deal though is what's possible when <a href="">NVIDIA's Grid grows as a platform</a>. Trying out several games from platformers to big titles like Saints Row 4, and Batman: Arkham Origins, we honestly couldn't detect any indication that the games were actually being streamed from Grid. It was impressive. Local games were equally impressive too, and were of much higher quality than your typical library of Android games.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u191083/dscf0095.jpg" alt="NVIDIA Shield Saints Row 4" title="NVIDIA Shield Saints Row 4" width="650" height="975" /><br /><em>NVIDIA's Shield playing Saints Row: 4 over Grid</em></p> <p>Many who watched NVIDIA's keynote over Twitch's livestream indicated that Shield was dropping frames. But I think it had to do with the setup and the stream rather than the actual Shield itself. During the keynote, it appeared like frames were dropped during gameplay of Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but NVIDIA told us that the game was buggy and the dropped frames were due to the game, and not the Shield.&nbsp;</p> <p>Moving over to the Forge TV felt a like a downgrade. Granted, NVIDIA has quite a lot more invested in Shield than Razer does in its own platform, but at the end of the day, both products are vying for your attention. The games on Forge TV are nowhere near as crisp and bold as on the Shield, and the titles aren't big hitters, but this has a lot to do with the two company's ability to negotiate deals with publishers. I'm sure as these devices become more popular, better titles will be released. However, <a href="">the Maxwell based Tegra X1</a> is an order of magnitude more capable and powerful than the GPU inside the Forge TV, and NVIDIA's ability to get native content on the Shield to demonstrate its GPU capabilities are worth noticing. The Shield has a huge lead in graphics, compared not only to the Forge TV, but basically any other Android device.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u191083/razer_forge_tv.jpeg" alt="Razer Forge TV" title="Razer Forge TV" width="650" height="975" /><br /><em>Razer's Forge TV playing Asphalt 8: Airborne</em></p> <p>Streaming wise, both the Shield and the Forge TV are capable of streaming all your local PC gaming content to the living room. However, to get local streaming working over the Forge TV, you'll have to invest another $40 to get Razers's Cortex: Stream, a proprietary solution that handles encoding duties. The NVIDIA Shield costs more from the get-go though, launching at $199.</p> <p>NVIDIA's Grid streaming service has provides a significant advantage to the Shield, removing the hardware requirements of a PC, and in fact, removing the need for a PC period. You can literally just get a Shield as a primary gaming system, if entertainment is all you want to do. We're looking forward to testing Shield and Grid in different networking situations, so look out for a report on that later. But for now, Grid works, and it works really well.</p> <p>The question hat needs to be asked now is why not just hook up a small form-factor PC to the TV and play all my games in their native glory? Well, consider convenience and price. Both NVIDIA's Shield and Razer's Forge TV cost significantly less than a PC capable fo playing the latest games. And if you already have a PC, you can use the local streaming local streaming features of both systems to play at 1080p. NVIDIA's Shield is capable of native 4K output, but we didn't get to confirm whether or not the Shield will render games playable at 4K, and you can probably forget Grid gaming at 4K. Your network and Internet setup aside, the Shield reperesents an extremely attractive option.</p> <p>If both the Shield and Forge TV were available right now, I'd put my money on the Shield.</p> Forge TV GDC 2015 nvidia Nvidia Grid Nvidia shield razer razer forge tv shield News Thu, 05 Mar 2015 21:32:47 +0000 Tuan Nguyen 29547 at First Look: Logitech G303 Daedalus Apex Performance Edition <!--paging_filter--><h3>Same compact G302 chassis, but with new and improved sensor</h3> <p>Logitech recently came by the Lab to show off its new premium gaming mouse, the G303 Daedalus Apex. If you’re thinking it looks just like the G302 Daedalus Prime, that’s because it uses the same lightweight and portable body, which weighs 87 grams and measures 11.5x6.5x3.7 cm. Logitech says this is the enthusiast version of the G302, thus the “Performance Edition” moniker.</p> <p>The main feature that allowed the G302 to stand out was that it was originally designed as a MOBA mouse and had a new metal spring tensioning system. This system is guaranteed for at least 20 million clicks, which Logitech says is equivalent to a pro gamer practicing 10 hours a day, every day, for two years. More importantly, however, the spring mechanic eliminates air travel time between the two buttons and activating commands. This ensures a speedy, consistent clicking experience. The G303 maintains that system along with the G302’s five DPI settings, but the Apex also has a few new tricks up its sleeve.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/g303_ctg_orange_72_dpi.jpg" alt="g302" title="g302" width="620" height="620" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Apex features 16.8 million colors.</strong></p> <p>The biggest addition to this Daedalus is the PMW3366 sensor, which Logitech uses in the bigger G502. While it isn’t as fast as its G402 sensor, which uses an optical/gyroscope hybrid solution, which allows it to travel up to 12.5 meters a second, Logitech considers the PMW3366 to be its most accurate sensor. Logitech says this makes it about 2-3 pixels more accurate than the G302, and while the company admits that this isn’t a monumental improvement, says that it should amount to a slightly more responsive and accurate feel for the end user. Logitech also asserts that the sensor mitigates unwanted mouse acceleration and adds zero smoothing. The Apex offers a DPI range between 200-1200. In addition, the sensor is much faster than the G302 before it, going from a cap of 120 inches per second to 300 inches per second. Logitech says this is fast enough for any real-world use and it’s able to achieve this speed via the sensor’s clock tuning ability which also helps prevent degradation of speed over time. This essentially extends the life of the mouse. To top it off, the sensor also features sensor surface tuning, which tunes the mouse’s parameters to match your desk surface for a consistent scrolling experience. All of this on top of a 32-bit ARM processor.</p> <p>Beyond the sensor improvements, Logitech is also jumping on the RGB train (RGB… it’s so hot right now). Some of you have clamored for more color options out of Logitech rather than the company’s default blue hue, and your voices were heard loud and clear. The G302 will feature 16.8 million colors (you can count them all to be sure) and you’ll be able to adjust the brightness or even have the LEDs pulsate, or you could just turn off the fancy lights if they don’t tickle your fancy. Wireless mouse fans may be disappointed to hear that it uses a cable, and a braided one at that, but Logitech says it went out of its way to make the cable more flexible than the average braided solution, so that that you get the freedom of a plastic wire with the durability of a braided solution.</p> <p>You’ll be able to get your hands on the G302 today for $70. Expect a full review of it sometime in the near future.</p> Daedalus Apex gaming mouse Logitech G303 maximum pc mice Performance Edition News Features Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:15:57 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29471 at Acer Speeds Up Chromebox CXI Line with Intel Core i3 Models <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/acer_chromebox.jpg" alt="Acer Chromebox" title="Acer Chromebox" width="228" height="212" style="float: right;" />A faster Chromebox</h3> <p>There are plenty of mini PC options in the Windows space, but does anyone remember that Chromeboxes exist? For those who care, <strong>Acer is expanding its Chromebox CXI line with a couple of new models that have been upgraded with Intel's 4th Generation Core i3 4030U dual-core processor</strong> clocked at 1.9GHz (3MB cache, Hyper Threading support, 15W TDP), a speedy replacement for the Celeron chips that power the existing models.</p> <p>Acer's primary targets are users in education and small to medium (SMB) businesses, along with any consumers who are into Google's Chrome ecosystem. For those who can benefit from a Chrome OS system, the Core i3 upgrade offers enough speed to work on multiple projects at the same time, Acer says.</p> <p>There are two models -- the first is the CXI-i34GKM with 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM and the second is the CXI-i38GKM with 8GB of memory. Both sport 16GB of internal storage upgradeable via microSD (up to 32GB), HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GbE LAN, four USB 3.0 ports, and of course Google's Chrome OS. The systems measure 6.51 by 5.12 by 1.3 inches and are VESA mountable.</p> <p>Upon first boot, you're thrust into Google's ecosystem and signed into its services. The Chromeboxes come with certain web apps already installed, and there are now over 30,000 additional apps, themes, and extensions available in app store.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/acer_chromebox_vesa.jpg" alt="Acer Chromebox VESA" title="Acer Chromebox VESA" width="620" height="568" /></p> <p>Should things go wrong and/or there's a need to wipe the system clean and strat from scratch, both Chromeboxes have a "Powerwash" option that enables IT to quickly reset them to their original factory states with the touch of a button.</p> <p>The 4GB and 8GB models are available now for $350 and $400, respectively. Just as with Chromebooks, there are Windows-based alternatives that cost about the same, which will make these a tough sell considering their limitations.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Acer chromebox CXI-i34GKM CXI-i38GKM Hardware mini pc OEM rigs News Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:01:20 +0000 Paul Lilly 29545 at GDC 2015: Virtual and Augmented Reality Roundtable <!--paging_filter--><p>At GDC today, a number of VR and AR developers gathered in a casual forum moderated by Chris Pruett, who does developer relations for Oculus VR. What followed was an interesting jam session as creative minds shared their ideas, triumphs, and frustrations with virtual platforms. Pruett stated at the beginning that he was not there as a representative of Oculus, and in fact he was not the original planned leader of the session.</p> <p>He began by taking an informal survey of the room. By a show of hands, he estimated that about 70% of the people there were actively developing, though only two people raised their hands when he asked if anyone had been working on VR or AR for five years or more. Most of the room also expected to release their product within eight months. Interestingly, not everyone was in it to make money. A few of them were in it for public feedback and planned to use that to iterate development, possibly into a retail product, but not necessarily.</p> <p>They all agreed that motion sickness was a prevalent problem, and they discussed the ways that they were combating it in software (as opposed to the device itself using a motion-sensing camera to keep the user's head correctly oriented). There was a consensus around creating a virtual copy of the user's body within the world, but it had to synchronize with the user's movement, or else the disorientation and nausea would be even worse than it was without the copy.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/hololens.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Creating a goggle-like frame around the edges of the user's vision also helped (such as when a movie camera simulates looking through binoculars). Limiting navigation in the world and instead sending the content to the user was also beneficial, as was establishing a visual horizon and a virtual floor beneath the user's feet.</p> <p>The general consensus around VR and AR was that it felt like the early days of 3D gaming in the mid 1990s. Meaning, developers were still learning how the technique works -- and doesn't work, and implementing hacks to create certain illusions when the hardware couldn't handle the processing requirements of doing it for real. Pruett mentioned a trick he'd figured out with mirrors. Ordinarily, mirrors are a problem in a virtual space, because they force the GPU to render a reflected 3D space in addition to what it was already handling, which can kill performance. His workaround was to lower the refresh rate to 30Hz, which looked fine as long as there wasn't a lot of movement in the scene.</p> <p>The attendants largely did not mention their names or what they were working on, but conversation did start to flow once people started letting their guard down a bit. Some hesitation is understandable, since in many cases these people are working on products that aren't ready to for the public eye yet, and they may be using clever ideas that they'd prefer to keep to themselves. But the takeaway from this roundtable is that VR and AR could benefit quite a lot from developers sharing some ideas and discoveries with one another. Because while devices like the Oculus VR are amazing technology, they'll become historical curiosities without compelling content to drive them forward. In an environment as collaborative as software development, two heads are better than one.</p> augmented reality game development oculus rift virtual reality vr News Thu, 05 Mar 2015 07:43:39 +0000 Tom McNamara 29544 at GDC 2015: Nvidia GameWorks in Far Cry 4, Assassin's Creed Unity, and War Thunder <!--paging_filter--><h3>Tools for digital hair, water, light shafts, and shadows</h3> <p class="MsoNormal">Most of us think of Nvidia as a hardware company. Video cards, tablets, and now a game console. But they've been doing a lot on the software side, working directly with developers in a program called GameWorks. This is a set of graphical tools that a developer can select from like a buffet, to fill in gaps in the game-creation process, or to accelerate it. Today, Ubisoft Kiev, the guys who worked on the PC ports of Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed Unity, gave some real-world examples of different GameWorks elements that they used to improve their visuals. Also along for the ride was free-to-play online shooter Warthunder, who makes liberal use of some interesting water effects.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">With ShadowWorks, Ubisoft had tools to smoothly blend together shadows cast by multiple objects, and create better blurring (a shadow can look fake if it's sharp in the wrong places). TXAA is Nvidia's proprietary method of anti-aliasing in a way that causes less "shimmer" than standard MSAA, and without MSAA's performance impact. (Shimmer is a side effect of jagged edges that causes them to kind of ripple as you move your POV around a scene. ) They showed AC Unity running in real-time and compared the different AA methods side-by-side. TXAA definitely caused the least shimmer.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">With Far Cry 4, meanwhile, they made liberal use of HairWorks, since the game is full of wild, furry critters. It's similar to AMD's TressFX in that it renders individual hairs and tufts. This doesn't look very good without anti-aliasing, so use can use TXAA once again to sand those rough edges off. They also did anti-aliasing in a separate pass from the AA applied in the rest of the scene. HairWorks provides a real-time viewer so that you can see how the effect looks in-game, and you can tweak different settings and see the effects right away. Integration of HairWorks took them about one month, with two technical artists from Nvidia assisting a software engineer at Ubisoft.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u160416/nvidia_gameworks.jpg" width="620" height="358" /></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The Far Cry 4 porting team also made use of GodWorks, which is Nvidia's tool for god rays. These are basically light shafts caused by the sun in-game, or another sufficiently bright light source. At first, the team was using gray, smoke-colored rays, but they decided that the aesthetics were much better with yellowish-gold light. They had to be careful not to over-use the effect, though, or things would get too "foggy" to see clearly. They also made the effect evolve over the course of an in-game day, so that it was lightest around noon, and heaviest in the early morning and late afternoon.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The developers of WarThunder took the game next and talked about WaveWorks. WarThunder renders a lot of water in its maps, and the tea wasn't getting the visual effect that it wanted, so it turned to Nvidia for some tools. They needed something that looked dynamic and realistic, didn't have a high performance hit, and could convincingly interact with objects in the game. With WaveWorks, they were able to plug in things like reflection, refraction, dynamic ocean foam, bubbles, light scattering, shadows, atmospherics, and displacement.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">They wanted to keep physical interaction the same for all players, so the PhysX part is calculated on the CPU rather than the GPU. This also allows them to more easily deal with the different APIs (DirectX 9, DirectX 11, OpenGL) that GPUs use on different platforms; each API has different limitations and advantages that would be a headache to deal with otherwise. Since the team was developing for Windows, OSX, and PS4, getting everyone's physics on the same page was pretty important. The CPUs in their game servers could also help with physics.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Once they'd figured out how to make shore waves look realistic – by adding noise, using the seabed to push waves up, some under-the-hood math to take energy out of the waves as they came to shore – the last step was integrating everything into an LOD system. They implemented three levels of detail, because you don't need all of the effects going at full blast when the player is flying a thousand feet above the ocean. This helps with performance on both the server and client side. The team said that WaveWorks took one man week to integrate, and the results speak for themselves.</p> Assassin's Creed Far Cry War Thunder HairWorks Nvidia GameWorks ubisoft WaveWorks News Thu, 05 Mar 2015 03:08:32 +0000 Tom McNamara 29543 at Valve’s VR Experience Is the Closest Thing to the HoloDeck We Have <!--paging_filter--><h3>The best VR experience yet</h3> <p>I just walked out of Valve’s SteamVR demo and can say that it is the best VR experience I’ve ever had. And this is coming from a guy who has tried nearly all of the VR headsets out there, &nbsp;including Oculus VR’s newest Crescent Bay prototype. This is the closest thing to a modern-day holodeck we have at the moment.</p> <p>Built in partnership with HTC, and named the "Vive," the head-mounted display (HMD) here uses two 1080x1200-resolution displays, one for each eye. The display uses a low-persistence, global display solution that turns the display on and off at the same time.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/steamvr_vive.jpg" width="620" height="388" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We couldn't take any pictures of our VR experience but here's what the headset looks like.</strong></p> <p>One Valve rep tells me the FOV is around 100 degrees, while another tells me its 110, I'm more inclined to believe the former. While I could still see pixels and there is, of course, room for improvement, it’s hardly distracting and is definitely sharp enough for consumer release and, dare I say, slightly sharper than Oculus’s Crescent Bay prototype.&nbsp;</p> <p>Like the Oculus Rift HMD, the Vive will be a wired experience, and like Crescent Bay, it supports a 90Hz refresh rate. Beyond that however, there are are some key differences that set the two HMDs apart. Instead of relying on a single external camera for head tracking, Valve set up two “light towers” on two pillars and placed them on opposite ends of the room I was in (the room measured roughly 25x25 feet). The light towers simply need to be powered (they don’t need to be plugged into your PC) and they emit red lasers that assist the Vive in mapping out your room so you can get 360-degree room scale tracking, which allows you to map out your walkable space when you're in VR. The light towers also help to identify where Valve’s new VR controllers are.</p> <p>The controllers are very similar to the Razer Hydra controllers, except will be wireless (the prototype unit we tested used a wired solution, but we hear there are working wireless ones out there in the wild). The controllers have sensors that work in conjunction with the light towers to allow the HMD to detect where they are in your virtual reality experience. Assuming you're holding these sticks, this essentially means you can see your hands in the game. The controllers have a circular touchpad on the front that is roughly one inch in diameter, &nbsp;a trigger button on the back that essentially allows you to grab things (a la crab hands), and long buttons on the side of the stick that you can squeeze (think stress ball). The controls were nearly 1:1 and are definitely the best VR controllers out there, even better than Sixense’s similar Stem VR system. There are also a bunch of little cameras on the front of the headset that leverage the position of the light towers to provide positional tracking, which not only lets you lean into objects but to walk around as well. One big problem with VR pertains to response time; I tried shaking my head as fast as I could to see if I could experience any judder and am glad to report that I experienced no such lag. It felt completely smooth and natural.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154082/dsc03154.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This is more or less how our VR room was set up.</strong></p> <p>While the headset that I used didn't have integrated audio, Valve told me that the consumer version will come with an integrated solution that users will be able to detach, in case they want to user their own high-end audio headset.&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, on to the really fun part: the demos! I tried roughly half a dozen demos during my session with Valve. The first placed me into a white room with a bunch of virtual posters of the demos I was about to experience. What was immediately pretty weird was that I saw the controllers in VR floating my way. It was the Valve rep handing the controllers to me. As soon as I held both controllers in my hand, I immediately felt at home. I quickly came to the realization that the pinpoint precision and accuracy of being able to move my hands on a 1:1 basis was the big piece of the VR puzzle that I had been missing this whole time. I began the demo by using my left hand to press down on the "play" button in front of me. After I did that, I started to see a bunch of little white pillars appearing all around me. These pillars would shift up and down, and there were hundreds of them surrounding me. While it’s a very simple demo, it felt extremely polished and certainly gave me a sense of presence.&nbsp;</p> <p>The next demo was called Blue and it took me to the bottom of the ocean atop an old sunken ship. The point of this demo is to show off three-dimensional depth. I should mention that I'm nearsighted and wear glasses, and prior to starting this demo was prepared to take them off, but was advised that the HMD “renders to infinity” (I assume this means it renders as far as the human eye can see) and that I could and should leave them on. With my prescription glasses on underneath the HMD, I looked straight up and it seemed like I was half a mile away from the surface. Faintly in the distance above, I could see the sun’s rays piercing the top of the ocean. I really felt submerged (and this is coming from a licensed scuba diver). Another interesting element of this demo is that barriers of my real physical space were taken into account within the game. Essentially, the walkable area on the deck of the ship represented the walkable area of space within the room. Valve says these experiences will dynamically shift depending on one’s real space constraints, though our rep didn’t elaborate on how. Considering that all the VR experiences I’ve tried so far have been designed for the seated experience, I still couldn't help but not trust these markers. Valve says some games will draw boundary lines on the ground or even render virtual walls once you get close to the bounds of the walkable area. Even with these walls in place, however, I just felt safer taking a small step here and there. In this demo, I saw a bunch of fish and manta rays swim around me and it felt extremely polished and immersive. This felt much more real than the Ocean Rift demo on the DK2. But the real kicker came when a giant blue whale swam by the ship and looked at me. I felt like I was on an alien planet, and basically just kept on smiling and nodding my head as if to suggest to myself, “Yep, you guys have done it.”</p> <p>The next demo took me to a virtual kitchen and presented me with some ingredients on a virtual counter top and placed recipe instructions on a wall. It asked me to pick up tomatoes from the table in front of me and then walk over to the right to place them in a pot. I then had to find a mushroom, but didn’t see it on the table, so I walked over to the fridge on my left and opened it. The missing mushroom was in there, so I picked it up and walked across the kitchen to place it in the pot. From there, I dinged the bell sitting atop a table to signal that dinner was ready. It was a cartoony demo in the style of Surgeon Simulator and the graphics weren’t very intensive, but it just felt like a complete joy. Ringing the bell, picking up the various objects, opening the fridge... it all felt incredibly natural and instinctive. It didn't feel like I was experiencing a demo, but instead accomplishing real work.</p> <p>The next experience was called Tilt Brush. It leveraged the full range of motion that Valve’s VR controller provided and allowed me to use my hands to paint floating 3D art in the air. The way it works is that your right hand presents options for you to change your brush type and brush color. You can then use your left hand to point and select what sort of brush you want. You’re not relegated to just paint, but can paint with fire, stars, ice particles, and more. So there I was, painting fiery three-dimensional Christmas trees. From here, I could walk around my floating artwork and admire it from all angles. I suggested that Valve should allow users to 3D print their works of art, similar to what Microsoft is doing with its HoloLens and HoloStudio software suite.&nbsp;</p> <p>The next demo I tried was called The Gallery: Six Elements, which is a full-fledged game being designed by Canadian developer CloudHead Games (look forward to an in-depth video interview with them shortly). This demo started me off in an ancient fantasy-style elevator in dark mines, think the Mines of Moria from the Lord of the Rings. I could walk around this elevator and pick up Skyrim-like helmets and nuts and bolts. Off in the distance was a giant rock monster, like something you’d see in God of War. The rock monster talked and seemed friendly enough. Me? I was mainly focused on pulling levers, using my hands to swat at dangling cables, and picking up little bolts throughout the room and inspecting them with a childlike wonderment. The rock monster continued rambling on, so I decided to see if I could chuck a bolt at him, and it worked! Throwing objects felt extremely natural. Eventually, the elevator started falling apart, and walls started falling down all around me. The elevator eventually took me to the top, where I could see an expansive fantasy-like vista with a bridge just in front of me. The rock monster asked me to follow him, and that’s where the demo ended. I wanted more of it, and suffice it to say, I'm eagerly awaiting the game's release.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Here's a short video snippet of Valve's Portal VR demo.</strong></p> <p>The last demo was a pleasant surprise and was developed by Valve itself. It took me to a laboratory within Aperture Labs where I was greeted with narration provided by the opening narrator from the original Portal. The narrator asked me to perform various tasks in the lab, which included opening drawers along a wall. I encountered a bug, however, where I couldn’t pull out one of the drawers and the demo had to be reset (a downside to showing off pre-release hardware and software, I’m afraid.) Once the demo booted up again, I was able to pull the drawers out. One of the drawers contained a piece of rotted cake (the cake is real and I have seen it!). Another drawer contained a bunch of little cartoon stick figures working inside a tiny office. The narrator said that because I had looked at them, I was now their god. The drawer then closed and the narrator jokingly suggested that the tiny little community inside would be incinerated. It wouldn’t be Portal without a little Valve humor. Eventually the narrator asked me to walk to the other end of the lab and hold down a latch. Doing so opened up a garage-like door and out came Atlas, one of the robots from Portal 2. He came stumbling out and looked really sick. The narrator asked me to pull Atlas's face off, and out popped his robotic guts right in front of me. The narrator then said I needed to fix the robot and quickly jabbered a bunch of nonsensical technical instructions and gave me a quick destruction timer. Eventually, Atlas pulled himself together and the walls started collapsing, revealing more of the underbelly of Aperture Labs. Atlas then falls out of the room and after he falls, none other than a giant Glados comes rolling around. She started spouting off about me as she looked at me, and the demo ended.&nbsp;</p> <p>Compared to other VR solutions, Valve is at the top of the heap. Its headset is sharp, offers a great sense of depth, has excellent tracking, allows you to walk around, didn't make me motion sick, and comes with an excellent VR controller that works well. In addition, all of the demos looked excellent and polished. Valve says a dev kit should be released by the summer, and the consumer release should be coming at the end of the year. If I do have one concern about Valve/HTC's solution, however, it pertains to price. All of this sounds expensive, but I might just sell my own legs for this if it meant I could get virtual ones.&nbsp;</p> GDC 2015 htc Review steamvr Valve virtual reality vive vr News Features Thu, 05 Mar 2015 02:43:41 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29542 at GDC 2015: John Carmack on the Future of Mobile VR <!--paging_filter--><h3>Shooter godfather has advice for developers</h3> <p>The lead designer on some games you might have heard of, like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, has been away from the forefront of first-person shooters for a few years, but he has not been idle. Aside from building rockets that fly into space, John Carmack also been dabbling in virtual reality. In August 2013, he became Chief Technology Officer of Oculus VR, founded by fellow techno-wunderkind Palmer Luckey. Perhaps sensing a kindred spirit, Carmack tackled the technical underpinnings of the company's purely mobile plans, specifically the Samsung Gear VR headset, which uses the company's mobile phones to act as the brains and display of the device. Today, in front of a packed house of hundreds of developers and journalists, Carmack gave a talk on how that process had worked, and what he expects of the platform in the future. There were no revelations about the Oculus Rift, but a lot of the work that he's putting into Gear VR can spill over into that.</p> <p>Our story begins at a Samsung R&amp;D facility in Dallas, Texas a few years ago, where the company was working on their first Gear VR (they've just released its sequel, the Gear VR 2). Carmack's base of operations has been in Texas since the early days of id Software, so it was a natural geographic fit. Carmack was enthused by the engineering challenges of VR and found the mobile variant especially interesting. In fact, he sees devices like Gear VR as the primary platform. By definition, they are far more portable than a device like the Oculus Rift; even if you can throw the Rift in a carry-on bag, you still need to bring your PC with you too.</p> <p>Gear VR, meanwhile, needs only a mobile phone slapped into a headset, though it is admittedly currently limited to a small handful of Samsung phones. Carmack mentioned that you can take the device with you on vacation, giving it more visibility in the headset market than a device that's tethered to a PC. He quipped, "The most fun thing to do with Gear VR is to show it to other people," because their reactions are so entertaining. He called this "an infection vector for virtual reality."</p> <p>But in Carmack's opinion, the content system needed some work. When Facebook bought Oculus VR, they were able to bring some people over from their new owner who could help with the infrastructure behind purchasing and downloading games over the Internet. Carmack sees the GearVR store as a competitor to Steam, in fact.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/gearvr.jpg" width="620" height="402" /></p> <p>With that in place, Carmack seems confident that the hardware itself is suitable to act as a commercial development platform, and they would be aggressively promoting Gear VR to create a user base. There are still some technical limitations compared to the Oculus Rift, chiefly positional tracking. The Rift uses a sophisticated motion sensor to synchronize your head movement with camera movement; so in addition to the Gear VR's ability to detect your head turning, the Rift can tell when you lean forward, lean, back, and tilt your head. When this detail is absent, the result can cause nausea. The Rift is also using the power of your PC, so its visual effects can be a lot more complicated.</p> <p>For the Gear VR, Carmack encouraged developers to aim for a level of complexity on par with that of a GameCube game. He noted that Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were essentially Gauntlet from a first-person perspective, so it wasn't necessary to re-invent the design wheel or blow people away with amazing visuals to make a compelling game. You could just iterate on an idea in a way that took interesting advantage of virtual reality. He added, "We still don't know what the best application will be."</p> <p>Even with more modest performance targets in mind, a technique called Asynchronous Time Warp is necessary for the hardware to keep up with the game engine's demands. ATW injects "filler" frames when the device can't maintain 60 frames per second. This avoids judder, which can cause disorientation. Oculus is also getting the word out about their layering system. In a 3D scene, you designate multiple layers for the engine to see as different distances. Tagging these beforehand means that the GPU doesn't have to figure it out in real time, but it also helps with anti-aliasing, especially with text.</p> <p>They're also working on multi-view rendering, where the same set of 3D engine instructions are sent to both eyes, which also cuts down on the calculations that the GPU needs to make. This raises the ceiling on the things that the CPU part of the phone or tablet can do, such as animation, AI, and some physics.</p> <p>At the end of the talk, Carmack had a Q&amp;A session, during which he gave us his opinion on augmented reality. He saw the platform as not competing directly with VR, and that the latter would be where innovations happened first. AR also uses cameras to simulate a set of eyes, but since the cameras can't be where your eyes actually are, this spatial gap can create disorientation. Nevertheless, he expressed enthusiasm for <a href="" target="_blank">Microsoft's Hololens initiative</a>.</p> 3D headset GearVR john carmack oculus rift oculus vr samsung virtual reality News Thu, 05 Mar 2015 00:24:41 +0000 Tom McNamara 29541 at Nvidia Unveils Titan X Graphics Card at GDC <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/titan_x.jpg" alt="Titan X" title="Titan X" width="231" height="177" style="float: right;" />A new top-end GPU</h3> <p>It was speculated that Nvidia might announce a new Titan graphics card during GDC, and that's what the company did—in a somewhat dramatic fashion. It happened at the tail end of an Unreal Engine panel. As Epic founder Tim Sweeny wrapped up his discussion on the state of Unreal, <strong>Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang surprised attendees by emerging on stage to unveil the company's Titan X</strong>.</p> <p>He called it the "world's most advanced GPU," though was short on details. What he <em>was</em> willing to divulge about the card is that it has 12GB of onboard memory and 8 billion transistors. For the sake of comparison, Titan Black has 7.1 billion transistors and 6GB of GDDR5 memory.</p> <p>"It’s the most advanced GPU the world has ever seen," Jen-Hsun said.</p> <p>He then presented the company's first production unit to Sweeny, though not before autographing the box in came in.</p> <p>Nvidia will release more details about the card during the upcoming GTC event that runs from March 17–20.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Build a PC Gaming GDC 2015 graphics card Hardware nvidia Titan X Video Card News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:16:25 +0000 Paul Lilly 29540 at Maingear Unveils Drift Steam Machine, Starts Taking Pre-Orders <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/maingear_drift.jpg" alt="Maingear Drift" title="Maingear Drift" width="228" height="172" style="float: right;" />Drift PC console moves full Steam ahead</h3> <p>It's taken a lot longer than anticipated, but official Steam Machines are scheduled to release in November of this year, <a href="">Valve announced</a> at this year's Game Developers Conference (GDC). That means you can expect plenty of Steam Machine announcements, some of which have already <a href="">started rolling in</a>. One in particular is <strong>Maingear's Drift, an ultra-compact Steam Machine and gaming PC that you can pre-order today</strong> and have in your hands next month.</p> <p>How is it possible to own a Steam Machine before November? Well, Steam OS won't arrive until November, but as we've seen, OEMs and boutique builders aren't waiting around—they're shipping systems now that run Windows and have the option of booting directly into Steam's Big Picture mode. So it goes with Maingear's Drift.</p> <p>It offers full-size desktop performance in a console uni-body constructed from aluminum. There are several color options and, for a fee ($199 to $299), Maingear will happily paint the chassis using Glasurit paint, the same that goes onto the likes of Porcshe and BMW.</p> <p>There are two main (and customizable) configurations to choose from. The first is the Drift with an Intel Pentium Anniversary Edition G3258 processor slipped into an MSI H81-I motherboard, 8GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card, 500GB Seagate Barracuda HDD (7,200rpm), 8X DVD burner, 450W Silverstone PSU, and Windows 8.1 64-bit. This configuration starts at $949.</p> <p>The second starting point is the Drift SS beginning at $1,949. For that, you get bumped up to an Intel Core i5 4590 CPU, Gigabyte GA-Z97N-WIFI motherboard, Maingear Epic 120 Supercooler, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 graphics card, and a 250GB Samsung 850 Evo SSD to go along with the 500GB HDD.</p> <p>If you're interested, you can head over to the <a href="" target="_blank">Drift's product page</a> and customize your build right now.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Drift Gaming GDC 2015 Hardware maingear OEM rigs steam machine News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:53:47 +0000 Paul Lilly 29538 at MSI Announces First USB 3.1 Type-C Motherboard, All-in-One PCs, and More <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/msi_z97a_gaming_6.jpg" alt="MSI Z97A Gaming 6 Motherboard" title="MSI Z97A Gaming 6 Motherboard" width="228" height="128" style="float: right;" />Ready, set, blitz!</h3> <p>Once the Game Developers Conference (GDC) comes to an end, attention will turn to PAX East, which takes place in Boston from March 6–8. That means even more product announcements, though some companies are too excited to wait. One of them is <strong>MSI, which is bringing an "arsenal of new gaming products" to PAX East</strong>, including its Z97A Gaming 6 motherboard and a pair of all-in-one PCs.</p> <p>MSI is pitching the Z97A Gaming 6 as the world's first mobo to feature onboard USB 3.1 and Type-C connectivity, the latter of which is a reversible connector—no more plugging in USB devices the wrong way! It has two USB 3.1 ports, and yes, they're fully backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 devices.</p> <p>Not much else was said about the motherboard, though from the picture, we can see side-mounted SATA ports, three PCI-E x16 slots, and MSI's Audio Boost technology.</p> <p>MSI is also unveiling a premium SLI bridge. It supports a two-way spaced SLI setup with single slot spacing between a pair of MSI TwinFrozr V cards. There's also an LED-backlit gaming sheild that can be controlled by the MSI Gaming App.</p> <p>Finally, MSI will introduce a pair of all-in-one PCs. One is the AG270 2QC with a 27-inch WQHD IPS panel with a 2560x1440 (3K) resolution. It will have an unspecified Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics, and speakers developed by Yamaha.</p> <p>The other AIO is MSI's Gaming 24GE. This one has a 4K display powered by an Intel Core i7 4720HQ CPU and GTX 900 Series mobile graphics.</p> <p>More details will be made available later this week.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> 1 AG270 2QC aio all-in-one Build a PC Gaming 24GE Hardware motherboard msi pax east type-c USB 3 Z97A Gaming 6 News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:06:03 +0000 Paul Lilly 29537 at GDC 2015 Day 0: MindMaze Demos Brain-Powered VR Headset [Video] <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/mindmaze_headset_view_0.jpg" alt="MindMaze" title="MindMaze" width="228" height="128" style="float: right;" />Bringing medical-grade technology to the consumer space</h3> <p>One of the running themes at the 2015 Game Developer Conference (GDC) is virtual reality, a space that's attracting an increasing number of players as the technology inches closer to becoming mainstream. One company to keep an eye on is <strong>MindMaze, makers of a prototype "neuro-goggle" headset that combines a potpourri of technologies</strong>, including augmented reality, virtual reality, motion capture, and even neurosensing.</p> <p>It's part of a platform called MindLeap, and among other things, this multifaceted headset can read your brain waves, according to MindMaze CEO and founder Tej Tadi. It's a fantastic claim that is anything but new at GDC and other similar events, but Tadi isn't a Johnny-come-lately that's trying to hop on a bandwagon here. He's a neuroscientist who's been using virtuall reality technology in the medical field for about a decade, helping patients overcome neurological deficits.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/minemaze_headset.jpg" alt="MindMaze Headset" title="MindMaze Headset" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>To those who are skeptical of a brain-powered headset, Tadi points out that the technology already exists in the medical field, where neuroscience has helped patients control robotic arms. There's also clinical data available. MindPlay is partially an attempt to take the same technology and port it over to the consumer space.</p> <p>Before we go on, have a look at the headset in action:</p> <p><iframe src="" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>What you see in the video above is a short demo of the different technologies. By looking left, the headset presents a virtual reality landscape, and when you turn to the right, it switches into augmented reality. As we saw with Microsoft's HoloLens, the AR mode allows you to interact with the real world, depending on the available content. In the demo, you see the user's hands on fire, and he's able to touch another person in the room, setting them ablaze in the process.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/mindmaze_headset_view.jpg" alt="MindMaze Headset View" title="MindMaze Headset View" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>This is a complex headset that combines VR technologies like the ones Oculus and Valve are using, with AR technology like HoloLens, and then adding other elements into the mix, the biggest being neurosensing. The demo of the user's hands on fire helps visualize all three main traits -- you see the hands on fire (AR) and you can either enter a virtual world to get rid of the fire (VR), or turn the fire into snow by calming down and relaxing (neurosensing).</p> <p>Here's a more in-depth explanation by Tadi himself:</p> <p><iframe src="" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>MindMaze is currently in talks with hardware and content makers about licensing the technology in MindPlay. The company may also offer its own hardware. If all goes to plan, a developers kit should be available by the end of the year or early 2016.</p> augmented reality GDC 2015 Hardware MindMaze Tej Tadi virtual reality vr News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:02:07 +0000 Jimmy Thang and Paul Lilly 29535 at GDC 2015 Day 0: Opaque Details Kinect-Enabled ISS Virtual Reality Demo [Video] <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/opaque.jpg" alt="Opaque" title="Opaque" width="228" height="175" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>What it feels like to be Sandra Bullock in <em>Gravity</em></h3> <p>If you've seen the movie <em>Gravity</em>, you may have found yourself wishing that you, too, could have a chance to explore a space station, if for nothing else than simply the view from so far up above. Or the thought of doing so might now make you soil your underpants after watching the flick. Not to worry because <strong>Opaque Multimedia's Earthlight demo lets you virtually explore the International Space Station</strong> through an Oculus Rift headset with motion-tracking technology from Microsoft's second-generation Kinect.</p> <p>It also uses a proprietary Kinect 4 Unreal plugin to combine the technologies with Unreal Engine 4. The result is a realistic experience of what it would be like to actually visit the ISS, but without the fear of floating helplessly into space or having to go through all the training that real astronauts have to.</p> <p>Where the Kinect comes into play is to go beyond the capabilties of the Oculus Rift. The Kinect allows users to see their limbs and combine it with the Oculus, and the way you move around Earthlight is by using your hands.</p> <p>We sat down with Opaque for an in-depth discussion on the topic and the technological challenges they faced in the gaming space. Check it out:</p> <p><iframe src="" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>And if you haven't seen the Earthlight demo, here's a look at that:</p> <p><iframe src="" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> Earthlight games GDC 2015 kinect ue4 unreal engine 4 virtual reality vr News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 06:18:08 +0000 Jimmy Thang and Paul Lilly 29536 at Nvidia Reveals Game-Streaming Grid Service Will Have Free and Premium Tier <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/nvidia_logo.png" alt="Nvidia Logo" title="Nvidia Logo" width="200" height="155" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>Game-streaming service officially coming in May</h3> <p>For the past three weeks, Nvidia has been teasing a new gaming product that it would unveil at GDC. Now, while the company’s new <a title="New Nvidia Shield Console" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Shield Gaming console</span></a> is an intriguing device, we were also interested in something else the company talked about. Along with the new console, <strong>Nvidia also officially revealed its plans for its Grid subscription-based streaming service</strong>.</p> <p>According to Nvidia's live presentation at GDC, the Grid streaming service will be backed by Nvidia Grid supercomputers all around the world. Set to launch in May, the service will have two tiers. Grid will allow consumers to stream games at 720p at 30 FPS for free while Grid Plus will offer games at up to 1080p and 60 FPS, both with a latency of 150 milliseconds. Sadly, we don't know how much the premium service will cost as of yet.&nbsp;</p> <p>But for those of you who are not keen on paying to stream a game, you will be able to purchase AAA games from the Grid store, which, at the moment, will offer 50 titles, though Nvidia says that more games will be added each week.&nbsp;</p> <p>Do you think Internet bandwidth is going to be an issue? Sound off in the comments below!</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> grid Grid streaming service Grid subscription nvidia Nvidia Grid Nvidia shield subscription service subscription streaming service Gaming News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 05:43:45 +0000 Sean D Knight 29534 at Nvidia Unveils Shield Gaming Console <!--paging_filter--><h3>Android games, game streaming, Netflix, and mo'</h3> <p>Nvidia unveiled the next step on its road to dominating PC gaming (and possibly your living room) today with the announcement of an Android-based game console simply dubbed the Shield. This asymmetric, die-cast black aluminum slab—around the size of a home network router—is positioned as "the world's first Android 4K TV." The Shield is priced at $199, including an Xbox-like gamepad, and scheduled to drop in early May.</p> <h3><img src="/files/u154082/dsc03116.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></h3> <p>Nvidia walked us through the media streaming services first. Like an Apple TV, the Shield has its own movie and TV streaming ecosystem, which the device can display at 4K out of the box. Nvidia also integrates profile pages for actors as well as films, so you get a direct list of all the movies and shows that they've been in.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/3dshield.jpg" width="620" height="248" /></p> <p>Streaming music and browsing photo galleries was also in the mix, but it wasn't clear if these other two services were plugging into Spotify or Google Play, or coming straight from Nvidia. Either way, the interface indicated icons for Netflix, Youtube, and other streaming stuff. Like the Roku, you can talk into the remote to use voice search instead of wrangling with a virtual keyboard. The remote is also rechargeable by USB, so battery juggling isn't needed either. The gamepad also has a mic for voice-activated controls.</p> <p>Of course, there was more on tap than a media-streaming device. Nvidia integrated the Tegra X1 chip, which marries an ARM CPU to the company's Maxwell GPU, cramming in 256 shader cores. For reference, a GeForce GTX 960 has 1,024 shader cores, so there's still a gap between this and a full-fledged desktop video card. But Nvidia pitches the X1 as being more powerful than an Xbox 360, while drawing a fraction of the wattage (5–20 watts, to be exact). The 3GB of system RAM in the Shield also dwarfs the 512MB in the 360. Nvidia intends to have over 50 games available at launch, and 100 by the end of this year. The split between streaming games and locally played games wasn't clear, though.</p> <p>For connectivity, we've got gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac wifi, 4.1 Bluetooth/BLE, two USB 3.0 ports, micro-USB, and HDMI 2.0.</p> <p>You can pay a flat-rate monthly subscription for part of the library, and pay a one-time fee for additional newer, shinier games, such as Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, and Shadow of Mordor (all three of which were already present in the Shield store interface and waiting for your hard-earned cash). They showed a live demo of the racing game Grid 2, run on a remote server and played locally, without noticeable lag or frame drops, at 1080p and 60fps. Resident Evil 2 was also along for the streaming ride, looking sharp and smooth. Speaking of the Witcher 3, its senior game designer Damien Monnier stepped into the spotlight and showed off the game streaming live.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/dsc03098.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>You may recall that a company called OnLive tried streaming games over the Internet a few years ago, but it eventually had to drop that idea because it couldn't get enough takers—but it did not offer a flat-rate sub, and it looks like Nvidia has figured out a lot of issues with network latency. Some customers also took issue with OnLive's pricing model, which required standard retail prices despite you not really owning the game in the traditional sense. Judging by the prices we saw in the Shield game store, there will be no discounts here either. Nvidia's service, dubbed Grid, has actually been available for some time via previous Shield devices, but this was the frist time that we'd seen day-one releases available for purchase.</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/dsc03110.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>The company brought Gearbox Software president Randy Pitchford on stage to talk more about the gaming aspect. He announced that Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel was coming to the Shield, which they demonstrated running on the console itself, at what they claimed was 30fps. He expected performance to improve during the course of development. Next on board was Croteam, known for their Serious Sam games. They ran a live demo of their "third-person puzzer" The Talos Principle, which looked a bit smoother. Neither title had a specific release date.</p> <p>Contestant #3 was Tim Willits, the studio director for id Software, the gang made famous by Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. He brandished the Doom 3 BFG Edition, which includes the expansion plus the original Doom 1 and 2 for good measure. He said it was the only official Android version of the package. Doom 3 came out 10 years ago, and even though id added some visual enhancements, it's not nearly as demanding as either Gearbox's or Croteam's offerings. The game ran at a steady 60fps.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/untitled_2.jpg" width="748" height="383" /></p> <p>But can it run Crysis? Sure, an old joke by now, but one Nvidia took seriously, whipping out Crysis 3 complete with multiplayer, running on the actual Shield and not streaming over GRID. It was just a 1v1 match, but still pretty impressive visually. Especially for a $199 box. The retail packaging also indicated "16GB" on the side, which we took to mean the available storage space. That seems pretty low for a console-caliber gaming platform. An Nvidia rep later told us that the device could connect to an external USB drive or an SD card, but only for media storage. Shields with larger capacities are on the horizon, but we couldn't get a specific timeframe.</p> <p>Company CEO Jensen Huang said that they intended to get the user's GRID streaming wait time down to one minute, vastly cutting down on the amount of data that needed to be downloaded before you could begin playing. On the cloud end, this is made possible by rendering on Nvidia's "GTX Supercomputer," which sends its bits to Amazon's AWS delivery network, who then sends the stream to you. Huang claimed that the total transit time from the supercomputer to your TV could be as low as 150ms, "half the blink of an eye."</p> <p>We'll be talking to Nvidia more throughout GDC, so keep your eyes peeled for more juicy details.</p> android console grid nvidia shield streaming News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 05:32:38 +0000 Tom McNamara 29533 at Zotac Shows Us Its Custom Steam Machine <!--paging_filter--><h3>The new wave of Steam Machines</h3> <p>We had the chance to get a first look at Zotac's new Steam Machine today at GDC 2015. The company first announced that it was part of Valve's Steam Machine initiative, along with 14 other partners, back in 2013 during CES. Despite the announcement though, Valve wasn't ready with the Steam controller or Steam OS at the time.</p> <h3><img src="/files/u191083/zotac_sn970_1.jpg" alt="Zotac SN970 Steam Machine" title="Zotac SN970 Steam Machine" width="650" height="433" /></h3> <p>The new box from Zotac, dubbed SN970, is a compact PC akin to Alienware's Alpha, except a little bigger. The following are its specs:</p> <ul> <li>"6th" gen Intel CPU: Zotac writes this on its spec sheet, but we reckon it'll be an Intel "Skylake" CPU, manufactured at 14nm</li> <li>NVIDIA GeFoce GTX 970M MXM with 3GB GDDR5</li> <li>8GB DDR3</li> <li>64GB M.2 SSD</li> <li>1TB 2.5" HDD</li> <li>2 x Gig-E Ethernet</li> <li>4 x HDMI 2.0 ports, supporting 4K @ 60Hz</li> <li>1 x HDMI In</li> <li>4 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0</li> <li>802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0</li> </ul> <p>According to Zotac, the SN970 will ship with Steam OS and a Steam controller from the get-go, although users are free to install Windows if they so choose. Zotac also mentioned that Valve "wanted" the new round of Steam Machines to all have HDMI input, because Steam Machine will offer the ability to control and manage your television feed as well as offer the ability to record shows.</p> <p>Zotac tells us that they will offer different Steam Machines that step down from the SN970, letting users integrate their own hardware options, but the SN970 will ship fully equipped for $999, although Zotac says the price may be lower.</p> <p><img src="/files/u191083/zotac_sn970_3.jpg" alt="Zotac SN970 Steam Machine" title="Zotac SN970 Steam Machine" width="650" height="183" /></p> <p>The chassis is unlike anything Zotac currently has on the market, and the motherboard is custom too, supporting two 2.5" SATA drives, and an M.2 slot that's fully customizable by removing the bottom cover. This tells us that the cost of the SN970 is largely due to the custom hardware design.</p> <p><img src="/files/u191083/zotac_sn970_5.jpg" alt="Zotac SN970 Steam Machines" title="Zotac SN970 Steam Machines" width="650" height="433" /></p> <p>Steam Machines have gone through several major bumps since their announcement back in 2013. With delays, pre-mature launches, as well as the continual dedication by Valve to make a perfect controller, they're turning out to be better than when initially launched. However, NVIDIA just announced its living room Shield console, which streams games from NVIDIA's Grid cloud delivery service. NVIDIA's CEO, Jen-Hsun, announced today, that "NVIDIA would do what Netflix did for movies, and Spotify did for music." Valve itself announced the Steam Link, which streams from any PC running Steam on the same network.</p> <p>It remains to be seen how the Steam Machine platform will pan out, but for now, it looks like Steam Machines have direct, and serious competition, from both NVIDIA and Valve themselves.</p> steam box steam machine Valve zotac News Wed, 04 Mar 2015 04:00:24 +0000 Tuan Nguyen 29532 at