NVIDIA brought its new Shield handheld gaming system to Google I/O this year and showed off a near-production device. The Shield made its debut at CES this year, surprising most since it’s a consumer handheld device from a company that generally makes internal components. But it has some neat tricks up its sleeve, including a Tegra 4 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 5-inch 720p display and 16GB of internal storage.
The Shield units available at I/O this week were all running Android and showing off Android games with hardware controller support, and none were demoing the PC game streaming that NVIDIA said would be coming to Shield as a beta when it comes to retail in June.
My experience with the NVIDIA was limited to just a few games, including the Epic Citadel demo that always gets trotted out to demonstrate amazing graphics capabilities on mobile devices. There were also a couple of playable cart racers in action, and all of the above performed well and really showed that the hardware is capable of rendering high-quality video smoothly and without any apparent effort. For a device that’s essentially a smartphone without the actual phone powers, but with more physical buttons for $349, that’s an important achievement to be able to claim.
Shield does its Android job well, and the hardware feels great to these gamers’ hands. Buttons are slightly clicky and the ergonomics are solid, and the thing doesn’t take up too much more space than an Xbox controller when the screen is folded down and it’s in travel mode. There’s mini-HDMI, which was outputting gameplay to a small HD television, and a micro-USB slot for charging. The onboard screen boasts “retinal” quality 294 PPI pixel density, which means video and games look silky smooth.
Maybe the best part is that NVIDIA has gone for a pretty near stock Android Jelly Bean experience, which a rep from the company told me was a conscious choice they made after first trying a more involved widget overlay that ended up making for a much less pleasant experience. Navigating the stock Android with hardware controls (you can also always use the touchscreen) is also surprisingly intuitive.
All that said, this is a strange device with a market that’s probably going to be pretty niche. Really, it almost seems like a reference device designed to show off the power of Tegra, but NVIDIA is actually shipping the thing, so those of us like me who actually have a hankering for this kind of hardware will really be able to buy it even if it doesn’t become a runaway success.
Continue reading here: NVIDIA’s Shield Mobile Gaming System Feels Like The Way Android Games Should Be Played
One of the most interesting product demos on display at Google I/O this year was a virtual sky diving simulation built using eight separate computers running Chrome, along with a Kinect-like motion sensor made by ASUS called the Xtion Pro. The Maps Dive experiment was created by Portland-based independent digital agency Instrument.
Developer Ben Purdy explained that they built the impressive tech demo to show what’s now possible with Chrome and how it can be used to create an amazingly rendered multi-display experience that looks like you’d expect it to be powered by current-gen gaming hardware instead of just a loose assortment of lightweight Linux-based computers running the kind of code that web developers are already comfortable with.
Maps Dive provided an experience that seemed at least as accurate and sensitive as your typical Kinect game. Purdy said that it’s really just an early example of things that could be built with the computers we already have, as well as mobile devices. Considering how far Chrome already reaches, imagining this type of experience running on even low-cost Chromebooks and Android tablets does open up a lot of possibilities.
Dhingana is stepping up its efforts to monetize its streaming service for Indian music after it introduced video-roll advertising, initially for its iOS app only.
The company — which has offices in Pune, India, and Sunnyvale, California – launched its advertising platform in August 2012 and it also offer a paid-for subscription for those who prefer an ad-free experience. The company says that its new ‘Premium Video Advertising’ feature is targeted at brands looking to reach its music-loving users with “TV quality commercials”.
Companies are now able to run 10-30 second pre- or post-roll clips that are integrated into the app, taking the place of album cover art or anything else that is on-screen. Since Dhingana provides only audio, the ads are displayed when there is a pause in a user’s activity, meaning that they are likely to come into contact with the device’s screen.
That is designed to keep the listening experience unaffected, CEO Rohit Bhatia explains:
Video is one of the best forms of advertising, delivering two-to-four times higher performance over regular display banner ads on mobile devices. Our video ads are carefully integrated to be shown when the user is already engaged with our music for several minutes to maximize the impact for the advertising brand without compromising the listening experience.
Launching for iOS — both iPhone and iPad — the ads will come to the Android app soon, but, already, Dhingana has recruited a major name, Coke, to kick things off (update: Dhingana tells us that although Coca Cola is an advertiser, it hasn’t specifically agreed to video ads at this time).
The move to introduce more interactive advertising comes three months after the hiring of Bhatia, and the company is likely to have solicited the opinion and feedback of Gokul Rajaram, Facebook’s product director for advertising, who joined its advisory board last year.
Bhatia has a number of ambitious goals and, in his first interview as CEO, he told TNW that he wants to make the service compelling enough for its users to listen for 2 hours each day. That’s roughly 60 hours per month, and would some way ahead of Spotify, which logs an average of 15-20 hours per month per user.
“I’d like Dhingana users to wake up and go to bed with Dhingana music, using it all through the day,” he said.
Founded in 2007 by twin brothers Swapnil and Snehal Shinde, Dhingana offers more than 500,000 songs across 35 languages and claims a monthly active user base of more than 15 million. The service is available for iOS, Blackberry, Android, Symbian Windows Phone and via a Web-based player.
Headline image via scubabrett22 / Flickr
Google held a session today hosted by Timothy Jordan, developer advocate on Project Glass on how to develop for the gadget, and while most of it focused on what developers can do right now with the available documentation and Mirror API which makes use of a tethered phone’s capabilities, Jordan also spoke briefly about Google’s upcoming GDK or Glass Developer Kit, which will be a native development framework for Glass hardware itself.
The GDK will be available at a later date, Jordan said, and didn’t get more specific, but it will allow developers to access a “handful of things” that they can’t currently do with the Mirror API. While the mirror handles 80 to 90 percent of what Google has found users want in a good Glass experience, there are things like offline tasks and access to hardware features like location that require a native API. Hence the GDK.
This will enable “immediate access to hardware” and Glass’s built-in capabilities, so that Glass developers will be able to build things like navigation apps on Glass itself, so you can find your way even if you’re not necessarily connected to the web.
The GDK is in development, and we’ll likely see it before Glass gets its big consumer debut, since it seems like this is a piece of the puzzle that could contribute significantly to the final user experience.
Here is the original post: Google Announces Native Glass Developer Kit, Will Be Able To Do More Than The Mirror API
“Home is the first product we’ve released that’s really about ‘mobile-best’ and the transition beyond ‘mobile first’” said Facebook’s VP Cory Ondrejka. To further that, Facebook previewed some new features Home will get eventually including a “Dash Bar” buddy list for starting chats, an improved “Dock” for your favorite apps, and a better “new user experience” onboarding flow.
Later today around 3pm PST, Facebook will release its first update for Home in the form of a Google Play update to Facebook For Android (which hosts some nuts and bolts of Home). The update is predominantly performance and bug fixes, and doesn’t include these new features mentioned above. Dash Bar, Dock, and NUX will come in future monthly updates, but no specific schedule has been revealed.
As for ads in Home, VP Of Mobile Engineering Ondrejka says there’s no timetable for that yet either. “We know we’re going to do ads in Home, but there are steps we need to take before we do that so they fit into Home’s aesthetic and they’re beautiful. We’re not ready yet” said Ondrejka.
Ondrejka gave a momentum update at the “Home Whiteboard Session” today at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park. He explained that Home is nearing 1 million downloads, and users’ favorite features are Cover Feed and Chat Heads. Those who’ve download Home spend 25% more time on Facebook as a whole. That stat alone could mean Home is a success, and has a lot of potential to benefit Facebook in mobile. Home also increases the number of daily comments and Likes someone leaves on the news feed by 25% too. Meanwhile, Ondrejka said that Chat Heads increases participation, or the raw percentage of people who use Facebook Chat, by 7%, and it increases messages sent by 10%.
However, there were a few main complaints in Home’s Google Play, which I detailed on Tuesday. Specifically, people don’t like losing the personalization they’ve already done on their phone. They don’t want to lose their widgets, app dock, and folders. Users also said it’s too difficult to start a Chat Heads conversation. Finally, some users get confused about where their old Android app launcher went. Facebook will address these with a few new features.
Facebook will add a better “NUX” or new user experience that it internally refers to as “Blue’s Clues”. When users first install Home, they’ll get a deeper walkthrough of how to use gestures to reveal their app launcher, chat, and use other features. Little blue instructional boxes pop up as you first navigate through Home. They explain what a button or gesture does, and encourage you to try them to continue through the tutorial. This should reduce confusion and frustration, and get more people to give Home a chance.
Here’s a Vine of Facebook Director Of Product Adam Moserii previewing the new onboarding experience.
A new app dock will be added to Facebook Home’s app launcher. Android users gave feedback saying they enjoyed the tray of favorite apps that always sits at the bottom of the launcher. Home got rid of that, but in future versions, Mosseri tells me users will be able to import their old dock, and possibly build one from scratch. When you swipe up to access your apps, the Dock tray will appear locked at the bottom, similar to the persistently visible Dock at the bottom of the iOS homescreen. You can the Dock in Home in the photo on the right.
To make starting a conversation fast, Facebook will add a Buddy List into Home. Before, you had to swipe left to open the full Facebook Messenger app to start a new conversation. With Dash Bar, when you swipe left it will instead create a Chat Head bubble that contains an overlaid Buddy List where you can get an instant look at all your friends and see which ones are online to chat with. Then you can initiate a conversation with them, all from a screen over the top of Cover Feed rather than within the Messenger For Android app.
Facebook seems to have realized that people spend time customizing their phone experience. They don’t want to sacrifice it for Facebook Home. They want both. This previewed slate of changes will help Facebook respect the phone you already personalized. This is a shift from Facebook Home as a homescreen replacement to a homescreen layer. If Facebook can pull it off, users won’t have to choose between apps and friends. They’ll have both at their fingertips.