Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mobile gaming: Augmented reality with the Nvidia Tegra

tegra_3d_largeThese days, consumers increasingly want to take their experiences with them—be it gaming, movies, music, or the Internet. Devices like the Sony PSP, the iPod, multimedia cellphones, and video-capable portable media players do just this—they provide entertainment no matter where you are. But when it comes to portable devices, there are several invisible yet real barriers to a good experience—battery life and processing power. Manufacturers are grappling with these very issues while developing the next funky cell phone or portable gaming device. The Holy Grail lies in the ability to integrate console-class graphics capabilities with day-long battery life. And it looks like Nvidia (a leader in the development of processors for gaming and visualization) is very close to that elusive goal. With the launch of their Tegra processor, they can now offer phone and handheld game device manufacturers the ability to play high-definition movies and desktop class games on portable devices. If you’re a gamer, think Doom 3 class graphics on a handheld device. If you’re movie buff think watching 1080p-class high-definition video on a ultra-crisp portable OLED screen.

It gets better—when you marry the inherent portability of devices like cell phones and Mobile Internet Devices with the fact that they have fairly high-resolution cameras, something amazing happens. Check out the video below of a portable device powered by the Tegra processor, and how developers have been able to ‘augment’ the game on screen with the real word as seen through the mobile camera. Very, very cool.

Augmented reality enabled by the Nvidia Tegra processor

Imagine owning a phone in the near future having this kind of capability, and running around a table-top map with friends in a multiplayer game, or even taking the game outside the house and augmenting the undead into your quiet neighborhood—sounds trippy! Only problem I see is gamers of the future having to grapple with the inability to detach themselves from their virtual world, and get back into the here and now. But hey, it’d be a fun ride before that.

Marketing folks have already jumped onto the augmented reality bandwagon—check out this cool marketing campaign by Ford UK, to promote the launch of the Ford Ka.


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