Nvidia unveils its open cloud-based gaming solution

Avengers, stand-down. This has nothing to do with Nic Fury’s SHIELD organisation (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, being the latest retro-fit description of the acronym). Shame. However, it has everything to do with the profitable mobile gaming sector.

On the eve of the annual CES exhibition in Las Vegas, Nvidia held a press event to announce its new gaming concept. It says Project Shield (we’ll drop the unnecessary corporate capital letters, thank you very much) is designed “for modern gamers who yearn to play when, where and how they want”.

Jen-Hsun Huang, co-founder and CEO of Nvidia, explained that it was created with the philosophy that gaming should be open and flexible, and as such Project Shield “flawlessly” plays both Android and Windows PC titles:

“We were inspired by a vision that the rise of mobile and cloud technologies will free us from our boxes, letting us game anywhere, on any screen. We imagined a device that would do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books, letting us play in a cool new way. We hope other gamers love Shield as much as we do.”

As a pure Android device, Huang says it gives access to any game on Google Play. And as a wireless receiver and controller, it can stream games from a PC powered by Nvidia GeForce GTX GPUs, accessing titles on its Steam game library from anywhere in the home. It can be used to play on its own integrated screen or on an external Smart TV.

Ignoring Apple’s proprietary iOS and the incredible popularity of iPhone casual gaming, Nvidia states that: “Windows and Android are the world’s most successful computing platforms, with massive ecosystems of system and software developers. While not specifically designed for gaming, both open platforms have drawn gamers by the millions.”

The device’s controller features an integrated 5-inch, 1280x720 HD multitouch display, with 294 dpi, which the company says gives it touch responsiveness that is a “more consistent, accurate and smooth-flowing touch input experience” than a standard touch device. It is powered by Nvidia’s latest Tegra 4 processor, which was also unveiled at the press event.

Project Shield uses a new cloud-based architecture to enable remote game play. Nvidia calls its new cloud approach the Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Platform. Phil Eisler, general manager of cloud gaming at NVIDIA, said that the Grid Platform will enable its partner service providers to allow gamers to play anywhere, anytime, without being tethered to a box:

“The world’s most exciting games can now be played as easily as you can stream a movie, right onto your TV or mobile device. No more discs to shuffle or files to download and install. Just click and play.”

The Nvidia Grid Platform is described as having three main attributes. The first is its dense GPU system architecture – Nvidia Grid is a server designed to concurrently serve up to 36 times more HD-quality game streams than first-generation cloud-gaming systems, according to Eisler, while also reducing lag. Second is compatibility and scalability, from casual games using low-graphics capabilities with a high density of streams, to high-performance titles requiring high-graphics capabilities. Finally, Nvidia says its Grid Platform has the best interactivity – reducing game server latency by up to 30 milliseconds compared to earlier solutions, which it says effectively hides the network delivery time.

Availability of Project Shield devices and the Grid Platform is uncertain, with no firm dates or prices given. It is believed that the controller device is currently in the beta testing stage.

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