Nvidia offers behind-the-scenes Project Shield glimpse

January 31, 2013 | 10:11

Tags: #android #android-gaming #cloud-gaming #hand-held-gaming #nvidia-shield #nvidia-tegra #project-shield #streaming #tegra-4

Companies: #arm #custom-pc #nvidia

Nvidia's Brian Caulfield has revealed some behind-the-scenes details on the production of Project Shield, the company's Tegra-powered Android-based hand-held gaming console - including admissions of a gruelling schedule to get the device ready for its big Consumer Electronics Show unveiling.

In a blog post, Caulfield describes 14-hour workdays over a period of months as the team behind Project Shield - formed of engineers from both the Tegra and the GeForce divisions - as the device was assembled ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. It was a close-run thing, too: despite being just twelve months in the making, the first working example of a Project Shield hand-held console was finished just ten days before it was due to be unveiled live on-stage by Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang.

'It turns out Nvidia had everything it needed to build a new kind of gaming device all along,' Caulfield offers by way of explanation for the remarkable one-year gap between notion and product. '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. And rather than building special software — and cultivating a walled-garden of proprietary gaming content — Nvidia opened its device up. Shield runs on the same Android software now powering millions of Tegra devices.'

From the first prototype - ' little more than a game controller fastened to a smartphone with wood,' Caulfield admits - to the final production design, Nvidia has claimed to be working entirely internally, which is as good an explanation as any for the complete lack of leaks regarding Project Shield prior to its official unveiling. 'No outsourcing required,' Caulfield boats. 'Nvidia has a team of veterans who have already shaped the look of a number of products built around [its] processors.'

It's Project Shield's game-streaming prowess that has PC gamers interested, however. Based on the same technology as its GeForce Grid cloud gaming platform, Project Shield uses hardware built in to Kepler-class GPUs - requiring a GeForce GTX 650 or better in the desktop - to rapidly encode rendered frames and stream them to the Shield device, giving the hand-held access to a wide variety of PC games on its 5in 720p display. It's clever, but it remains to be seen whether gamers will want to shrink their experience down to such a small level.

Nvidia is planning to launch the Shield in the US and Canada first, with a European roll-out expected later this year. More details on the project are available on the official website, while Nvidia's Jason Paul reveals still more behind-the-scenes anecdotes in an interview to appear in Custom PC Issue 115, on sale next month.
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