Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tech Stuff

There's a brain control headset for gaming. It reads electrical impulses in the brain and can map facial expressions, emotions, and movements of a person directly into a gameworld. Needless to say - awesome! If the success of the Nintendo Wii has taught the gaming industry anything, it's that more intuitive and simple interfaces are the type of things that can lead to more entertaining, accessible, and innovative gameplay (which translates into greater profits, of course). And this type of interface should be just as usable for interaction with any computer system, not just games. This is the stuff of sci-fi come to life people! I for one welcome our new brain scan controller overlords!

There's also another interesting BBC article about the evolution of mobile phones as gaming platforms. Damn, these things are becoming more and more powerful; forget Tetris, we're talking genuine home console level gaming on mobiles. I guess it shouldn't be surprising, seeing how Sony's PSP did something similar by fitting last generation level console gaming into a handheld, but in the more limited and energy conserving form factor of mobiles? I'm impressed - I mean, these things have dedicated 3D graphics chipsets on board! Also cool are the potential interfaces, which include iPhone style touch interfaces and Wii style motion sensitive control systems.

Another (somewhat related) article is this one about how mobile smartphones will soon overtake laptops and become the mobile computer of choice. I have to confess, a few years ago I was one of those smug jackasses who'd sneer with contempt at gadget phones, arguing that there was no use for so much multimedia functionality. Phones should be for calls and texting, I argued. Well I'm eating humble pie, because to be honest the potential is huge and it's amazing what you can now do with these relatively affordable smartphones. They're getting some fairly powerful low energy consumption processors in there (even multicore!) that can match low end laptops in terms of basic functionality and applications both for work and for multimedia, including proper gaming (as above) and high def (720p) video. And this is on top of its use as a digital camera, a GPS device, and of course a phone! Yeah the size and interface are probably big stumbling blocks, but then some of these screens are decent sized and very high res, and there's even potential for a mobile projector. And there's always a roll up keyboard for typing. Even if you're not interested in mobile computing technology, the potential for more compact and energy conserving devices is something to be welcomed, as it will eventually filter through to the rest of the industry.

And finally, how could I not comment on the impending death of HDDVD? Yep, the format war is all but over and Sony and the Blu-Ray camp can rest easy. It's a good thing too, because the lack of a standard would have sucked and killed the possibility of there being a next gen successor to DVD. Actually, there still might not be - DVD is still pretty terrific and the leap from DVD to Blu-Ray is only in terms of picture quality. The leap from VHS to DVD was huge and allowed people to make the most of their existing televisions. Hi-def formats offer no significant new improvements apart from the picture (and sound), which require more expensive equipment to take advantage of in any case. And in the meantime, with ever improving video compression and global bandwidth increases, there's also the possibility that people will simply migrate from DVD to buying (or renting) movies online directly instead of moving en mass to a new disc format. Personally, I think Blu-Ray will take off but will never be as huge as DVD, and I think online video is still a long way off from becoming ubiquitous, simply because the network infrastructure isn't quite there yet and won't be for a while, and because there is no standard for online video distribution on the horizon.

And finally, a little humour to wrap up this post, courtesy of XKCD.

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