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Looking Back, Looking Forward

January 11, 2015 Leave a comment

2014 brought a few interesting technologies that may have an impact in the gaming world, many of which won’t be fully realised until at least 2015. Here is a rundown of some technology that emerged in 2014 or is due to appear in 2015:

  1. Oculus Rift, the Virtual Reality headset made it into version 2 in 2014, with version 3 codenamed ‘Crescent Bay’ to be launched early in 2015. The big question is whether or not virtual reality will be accepted by the gaming community or whether it will be consigned to the ‘skip of failed tech’. Several companies are betting on VR becoming popular, including Samsung who have launched their own VR headset that uses their latest cellphone as the screen. Oculus themselves, purchased in 2014 by Facebook, have been recruiting some big players in movement tracking technology and bought up Nimble VR, a small tech company developing hand-tracking systems. Google also made a much less expensive step into the virtual world with its budget Google Cardboard virtual reality headset. Many thought it was a joke at first, but the reality is that it’s a cardboard headset containing some cheap plastic lenses that houses a smartphone in a similar way to Samsung’s headset. Sony were also developing their own VR headset, the Morpheus, for Playstation 4, but it is now believed that the project has been canned. Microsoft are also rumoured to be developing a similar system, and meanwhile in Scotland a company called Eyedak Ltd is developing its own headset.
  2. The Steam Controller finally made an appearance too, but the design has only just been finalised, so we’re not likely to see it in the shops just yet. The controller which mixes together a gamepad design with touch pads is being hailed as the new best way to control your game, providing a halfway house for gamepad  and mouse users. It remains to be seen whether this will prove to be better than either of the systems it aims to replace, and there’s still no news on how much it will cost.
  3. Valve’s other project, the Steam Machine has failed to appear in 2014. The new range of gaming platforms, co-built with a handful of hardware vendors was to run the SteamOS and provide a new gaming platform to run all of your favourite games downloaded via Steam.Valve has restated its intention to have the hardware on full release in 2015, but we shall see if there is any appetite for yet another gaming platform.
  4. Also in the virtual world, the company Virtuix has brought a virtual reality treadmill to the pre-order stage. Designed to allow players to walk in a realistic way in a virtual world, the treadmill known as Virtuix Omni is compatible with Battlefield 4 and is suitable for gamers with a large room and probably an equally large bank balance.
  5. HP is launching a new 3D monitor that allows users to interact with objects on screen in an augmented reality kind of way. the system uses a special stylus and a set of 3D glasses to create the effect. The screen is based on the Immersive 3D technology from zSpace.
  6. Intel is also jumping on the bandwagon of interactive display technology with its RealSense devices that will allow the user to interact with screen based objects with gestures and movement, as well as to create 3D scans of objects.
  7. 2014 also saw the release of yet another Nintendo DS. This one had two analogue sticks, Near Field Communication and a cartridge slot. In other news a Nintendo fan has built a tower of old DS models that reach from his bedroom in East Tokyo to the moon.
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Tablet gaming – Cyclone Voyager 7

January 20, 2013 3 comments

After my daughter received a Nexus 7 for Christmas, and my wife received a Kindle Fire, I was quite excited to see how good tablet PCs actually were for playing games. I rarely have much time to play games on my PC or games consoles, so tend to resort to stealing some gaming time at lunchbreaks or playing games on my phone. I’m more of a mid-core gamer than casual gamer, so decided a tablet would be a better option for me than a phone for playing games. Frugal as I am, I looked around for something inexpensive, but reasonably powered. I finally settled on the Sumvision Cyclone Voyager, a seven inch tablet PC.

Not as powerful as the Nexus 7 with its Tegra 3 processor, the Cyclone Voyager does boast a dual core Arm 9 processor and a quad core Mali graphics processor. It has 16GB of storage and 1GB of RAM. The tablet has a mini SD card slot and also a mini HDMI port for connection to a TV or monitor. A front facing camera allows video conferencing with Google Hangouts or Skype. One downside is a fairly low 800px x 400px resolution screen. The big upside, however, is the price – only £79.99! There is also a 10 inch version with the same specification retailing around £140, and a forthcoming 8 inch version too.

So far I’m very impressed by the tablet. It works well, responds quickly and smoothly, and runs most of the apps and games I’ve tried so far. Battery life is quite good – probably about 5 hours before charging (depending on what you’re doing).

The Sumvision Cyclone Voyager runs 3D games such as Dead Trigger very well. Indeed, plugging the tablet into the TV allows you to use the tablet as a controller whilst viewing the game on the big screen. This works really well, and the games really look like they’re running on a dedicated games console.

More basic games such as Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, etc work well too, and I’ve only had one game fail to run, which was a 3D racing game.

At the request of Neil Waterman (see comments), I downloaded Epic Citadel and ran the benchmarks – here’s the results which were much better than I expected:

Epic Citadel benchmarks

Epic Citadel benchmarks