CHIP DESIGNER Nvidia has given fans a peek at the thinking that went into the design and creation of its games console in a controller, Project Shield.
Project Shield, as you can see in the picture, is a mashup of an Xbox controller and a games console. Nvidia showed it off at CES in Las Vegas, explaining that it has power, decent sound, and a 5in "Retinal" screen..
It should be a contender for gamer affections alongside the Wii U and the upcoming Xbox 720, Playstation 4, Gamestick and Ouya.
Easing us into its 'we stand alone' attitude was a blog post from Nvidia that said the firm always had a console in it, one that was waiting to burst out.
In fact it came from Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang, and is one of his so-called "speed of light" ideas. Project Shield has been knocking around for five years, but is starting to come together in earnest.
"It turns out Nvidia had everything it needed to build a new kind of gaming device all along. Rather than engineering a one of a kind console CPU and a GPU, Nvidia engineers slid their next generation mobile chip - and its powerful graphics capabilities - into the device," said the blog post.
"Rather than building special software - and cultivating a walled garden of proprietary gaming content - Nvidia opened its device up. [Project] Shield runs on the same Android software now powering millions of Tegra devices. Plus it can stream games from the tens of millions of PCs built with Nvidia's GPUs."
Once it had decided to build the hardware to go with its idea, the firm moved quickly to build a prototype. Just last year the device was a smartphone with a screen and a piece of wood attached to it.
"We wrote all the core software to hook Android games to controllers... Then we thought 'Why don't we just build a device with a great controller built in?'," said Nvidia SVP of content and strategy Tony Tamasi.
"The challenge in the past - with the old model consoles - is software; but thanks to Android we didn't have to come at it trying to build a walled garden ecosystem."
Android and Nvidia's Tegrazone mobile gaming app grants access to thousands of games, while the fact that Project Shield units will pair with PCs equipped with Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 or better, means that it won't be denied participation with some high-end computer games. "Can it play Crysis?," asked marketing VP Ujesh Desai. "Yes it does."
The design on show at CES was a community effort, built by Nvidia from soup to nuts over the last couple of weeks in December. It apparently is well advanced as far as Nvidia is concerned, and a long way from some of the earlier models that include some cringe-worthy features. As Jen-Hsun said after an earlier preview, "We need to make this perfect."
According to Nvidia, Project Shield is not a console. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how well it does when it is dropped into the games console wars. µ