What is Project Shield? Nvidia bravely debuts its handheld console

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Some might say that the handheld gaming market is already overcrowded with two main contenders, Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s PS Vita, both vying for the time when you’re mobile, while games on iOS and Android platforms continue to effortlessly snake away seconds, minutes and hours from these giants of the industry.

Is there space, then, for a third dedicated handheld console to enter the market? Graphics chip behemoth Nvidia thinks so and recently debuted its solution, codenamed ‘Project Shield.’

Project Shield Image 1

Powered by Nvidia’s latest and greatest graphics technology, Tegra 4, Project Shield is on the surface a gaming handheld like most any other. It’s portable, has a dedicated screen, face and d-pad buttons, dual analog sticks, and additional menu and interface buttons.

The difference is in the philosophy behind Project Shield. The device is able to play Android games and take advantage of applications offered on the Google Play store, and if you’ve got a PC with a Geforce GTX graphics card you can even stream games wirelessly to the handheld’s screen and play titles in your Steam library “from anywhere in the home.” In addition, the Project Shield handheld can be hooked up to a big screen TV via HDMI, creating a more sedentary gaming solution.

Project Shield Image 2

Co-founder and chief executive officer at NVIDIA, Jen-Hsun Huang, said of the handheld gaming device:

“Project Shield was created by Nvidia engineers who love to game and imagined a new way to play. 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.”

Watch the recently-released trailer for Project Shield below as a CG version of the handheld is built in a real-time rendered demo, ostensibly running on the device itself:

NVIDIA Project Shield – Real-Time Demo Trailer

What else is there to get excited about with Project Shield? Nvidia provided a few reasons via a press release:

Tegra 4 at Its Heart

“At the core of Project SHIELD is the world’s fastest mobile processor, the new NVIDIA Tegra 4, which delivers enormous power from its custom 72-core GeForce GPU and the first quad-core application of ARM’s most advanced CPU core, the Cortex-A15. These, combined with its battery-saver core and energy-saving PRISM 2 technology, deliver hours of gameplay on a single charge.”

Project Shield Image 3

Windows and Android Games

“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. Project SHIELD is designed to allow them to enjoy Android and Windows games in a new exciting way.

“Project SHIELD can instantly download Android games, including Android-optimized titles available on NVIDIA’s TegraZone™ game store, which has already delivered more than 6 million downloads to gamers. SHIELD can also be used as a wireless game receiver to a nearby PC equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 GPU or higher.”

Project Shield Image 4

Console-Grade Controller

“Project SHIELD’s ergonomic controller was built for the gamer who wants ultimate control and precision.”

Retinal Gaming Display

“Brilliant gameplay and video are provided by Project SHIELD’s integrated 5-inch, 1280×720 HD retinal multitouch display, with 294 dpi. Plus, Tegra 4 with Direct Touch technology gives it touch responsiveness that is a more consistent, accurate and smooth-flowing touch input experience than a standard touch device.”

Tuned Port, Bass Reflex Portable Speaker System

“Deep, rich audio is critical for a great gaming experience. And Project SHIELD provides fidelity and dynamic range never before available on a portable device, through its custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system – with twice the low-frequency output of high-end laptops.

“Project SHIELD can also access Android apps such as Hulu, Netflix and Slacker Radio, so users can enjoy their movies and music anywhere without expensive, clumsy wired or wireless speakers.”

Project Shield Image 5

Thoughts? Does Project Shield have a hope of contending with the powerhouses of Nintendo and Sony, as well as the unstoppable growth of smartphones and tablets as gaming devices?

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