The most adventurous gadgets (2010 edition)

Plenty of firms make evolutionary products – they take something and make it slightly better. Most of the time, it’s dull. Revolutionary products, however, merge humans and technology in new, perturbing, and sometimes ridiculous ways. One need only look at the Tweetle – the twittering kettle.

Looxcie

We see a lot of gadgets, and below is my list of outstanding contributions to the furthering of human and technological relations:

Notion Ink Adam

The little known Indian developer Notion Ink captured my heart back in January. It was originally defined by its Pixel Qi display – an LCD screen that turns into an eInk-rival at the flip of a switch. After another year of development, it’s ready to hit our stores as a more powerful, more useful version of the iPad. With 3G, Skype (with video calling), a 10ish hour battery life, two cameras, powerful media playback and a eInk-like screen, this could be the tablet to end all other mobile devices. It could be the One. It could be everything the iPad wasn’t.

LiveView

LiveView – or future versions – have the potential to end the wristwatch. Mounted on your wrist, it provides you with wireless access to your smartphone’s functions. An awesome idea with a slightly flawed execution. Hopefully, there will be evolution to this revolution.

Looxcie

The Looxcie lets you record 30 seconds into the past. No, it’s not some kind of unrealistic Deja Vu time-viewer. It simply records all the time, and when you push a button it saves the previous 30 seconds. A bit heavy, slightly gawky and with just too small a memory and too short a battery life. Next year, maybe?

BlackPad

Another tablet that isn’t the iPad. The reason that the BlackPad makes the list is due to its innovative, ingrained smartphone integration. It uses the best features of your Blackberry and combines them with the form and power of a tablet. It’s a whole lot more interesting than Apple’s product, which just multiplied the size of the iPhone and subtracted its camera.

Nintendo 3DS

The first 3D handheld was announced. It may not be out yet, but it’ll hopefully send a stark message to everyone else in the 3D market: we want the third dimension without glasses. Hurry up.

Movement wars: the future of gaming

With the dust settling on last months E3 we thought we would look into our magic ball, and answer the main underlying question. Who will win the “movement wars.” The big three are looking to the casual market and are staking their future on new-fangled movement controls.

Motion-Gaming

We’re going to wade through the PR rhetoric to give you a real taste of what to expect in the coming months.

All three console giants had a impressive E3 with major announcements on new hardware and games that will be ready in time for Christmas (hopefully) and we’ve dubbed it the “movement wars”.

Microsoft splashed the cash, with their Cirque De Soleil show, which tried to capture the imagination of the gaming fraternity, with a fancy stage show to show off the magic of Kinect. Sadly it left a sour taste in our mouth.

The Pre-E3 event came across more than a little bit stage-managed. After all if Kinect is a natural, visceral and fun experience, why would it be necessary to have actors on stage – trying to interpret how fun it is? If it’s that good, the stage show wasn’t necessary to convey this. Normal people having fun would have captured this so much better.

Many of the sceptics were still left with many unanswered questions, is there lag? How much will all this movement fun cost? Is it just for my Mum & Dad? And sadly we still can’t answer these.

We’ve trawled all four corners of the Internet to try determine the press reaction and we’ve read some interesting thoughts. One this is for sure, Microsoft can’t just aim at the causal market and forget about the people who actually own the Xbox at the moment, who in general are the hardcore variety.

Microsoft has certainly taken the biggest risk with their controller-free ethos. I for one am totally convinced. And really keen to try it out and hope it lives up to the massive hype. And If Microsoft sticks to Kinect Arcade games, that won’t cost the world, they could be onto a winner. And they’re best at micro transactions. After announcing that we spend over a billion dollars over Xbox Live content every year.

Nintendo were the first console to target the casual gamers and have had movement controls for a while now. So they left their big E3 announcement to the new 3DS – quite clearly the most technologically advanced handheld that they have ever created and it stole the show.

After all 3D images without glasses, is a man on the moon moment for Nintendo. Especially in light of their shunning of HD gaming with the Wii. I have no doubt that the new 3DS will be the must have gadget this Christmas, if it is out by them. Nintendo have cornered the casual market and that’s a given.

But the question to ask is the casual market worth more than the hardcore one? Obviously Microsoft think it is and have staked a big bet that they can corner both markets – even if they’re poles apart.

Sony made fun of both Nintendo and Microsoft event with cheap shots at their future plans – Sony feel that realism through Move and 3D is the future. But with their Move controller they have cynically copied the Wii remote and this is obvious to any gamer, casual or hardcore.

At least Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to push the boundaries of technology and hardware. Sony have just re-hashed the wand and 3D – marketing as the future of gaming, but it’s common knowledge that 3D is just the same as what we were getting in the early 90?s. 80?s styled glasses in all.

One thing to take from E3 is are the game companies really giving us what we want? Nintendo certainly are – they have stuck to the fun casual market since day 1 and they must be applauded for this. But Sony and Microsoft have been scrapping over the hardcore market for the last 3 years with neither able to call a victory.

So it would seem that they are both looking to steal Nintendo’s monopoly of the casual gamers. However it just looks a little late and cynical.

We will know more in the next 6 months, but the lines have been draw in the sand and the “movement wars” are going to be the most exciting time to be a gamers and that can’t be a bad thing. Who do you think will come out tops? Leave us your thoughts below…

Nintendo 3DS: Review round up and hands-on

Nintendo-3DS

The 3DS, successor to Nintendo’s uber-popular DS handheld console, has been much anticipated and long awaited among bloggers, gamers and tech obsessives everywhere. Finally, at the E3 conference last week, a few lucky journalists were able to get up close and personal with the device.

Almost as soon as the 3DS been unveiled by Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata, the blogosphere was awash with seemingly universal praise for the gadget. Keith Stuart at the Guardian was certainly impressed: “It works beautifully,” he gushed. “Nintendo is almost certain to have used an off-the-shelf lenticular screen technology, already seen in several mobile phones and laptops… Rich colours, a robust 3D experience and some intriguing games, this was my moment of the E3 experience so far.”

The Telegraph were quick to highlight the device’s impressive capabilities, (although Nintendo have yet to confirm the actual specifications): “Improving the hardware specifications of Nintendo’s best-selling DS handheld, the new 3DS gets improved graphics, a slide pad controller for more intuitive control and an internal gyroscope and motion sensor – like Apple’s iPhone. A slider at the side of the device lets users choose the intensity of the 3D display, from an extreme ‘in your face’ experience to a more subtle effect.”

The graphics were an obvious point of interest for many bloggers. Nintendo has long hinted that the gadget would boast crystal clear 3D graphics, without the need those silly 3D glasses, but have they managed to deliver? Wired thinks so, hailing the device as “unbelievable”. Chris Kohler wrote on their website: “It never feels like it’s straining your eyes and you don’t get any of that ghosting (when you can see a faint double image) you sometimes see at the movies. It’s was certainly the cleanest, clearest 3D we saw on the show floor, better than any of the 3D Sony Bravia sets we played PS3 games on.”

The picture-perfect graphics will also make gameplay much more satisfying, according to Mike Jackson at Techradar.com: “[The 3D graphics] made it easier to make acute judgments in the games. Flying through hoops or under bridges felt easier to accomplish just because you’re armed with depth perception like in real life.”

Amid the near-constant stream of kudos however, Michael Sawh at T3 noted a potential flaw: “The one slight let-down of 3DS is that nothing actually ‘jumps out’ of the screen in your direct vision. This is much more about what’s going on in the background.”

Suffice to say he wasn’t too disappointed though, as he then went on to claim: “Nintendo may have just created the most important piece of entertainment technology in decades.”

Hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long out to discover if this is true, but with no official release date (although a pre-Christmas roll-out seems likely) and no details on price (rumours range from £125 to £300), we’ll just have to twiddle our thumbs and be patient.

Nintendo 3DS Hands on (by Shem Pennant)

Nintendo were kind enough to invite Latest Gadgets to a top secret location in London town to have a hands on play with a prototype of their hot new handheld the 3DS.

Unfortunately they didn’t have a fully working unit, so no one was able to fully confirm any hardware specifications, release dates or prices. It was more an opportunity for us to hold units, watch units and go wow.

Hands on with Nintendo 3DS

Fortunately there is a lot to be wowed by. The glasses-free 3D works well with the 3DS screen and can adjusted (or switched off completely) by a little slider on the side – which may or may not be there in the finished model.

There are two cameras in the back that enable you to take 3D images. Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the images I took, it was a fun little feature and I’m sure if you are snapping something a little more interesting than a room filled with surly technology journalists you could probably get some decent images.

There was also a trailer for a 3D movie which you could play back on the device (although how you got them on there in the first place was “unconfirmed”.

I saw unplayable 3D demos for Kid Icarus, Mario Kart and Metal Gear Solid, all of which looked pretty impressive – the 3D seemed to benefit Mario Kart the most. There was also a playable demo for Nintendogs which showed off some of the 3DS’s face recognition abilities. As I moved the unit to my face a small puppy ran at me and licked my cheek. Tilting my head left or right caused the puppy to mimic my actions. All pretty kawaiii.

In addition, there were some playable demos of Wii titles on display. Kirby’s Epic Yarn was a cute looking platform game, where everything was made from wool and Metroid: Other M had an immersive soundtrack and storyline. There was some sort of dancing game, where lots of Nintendo staff were happily bopping to Vampire Weekend but I quickly ran past to get to Goldeneye, which was a remake of the N64 classic (Pistols, Complex, License to Kill = ultimate test of skill) – right down to the ability to play OddJob and annoy your opponents.

Unfortunately, everything was TBA (Soon, we’ll rid the world of T.B.A.!) but hopefully should be out in stores later in the year.