Tag Archives: Gaming

Greener Gaming? New report shows Consoles are eating up too much power

Everywhere you look right now you see green this, green that. It’s on the tip of everyone who loves a debate’s tongue, and is debated at al levels of society and industry. The one place that’s escaped the notion of green computing is something that pretty much every home has these days – games consoles.

A new report from the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) has warned game consoles developers to do more to cut down the machines power consumption.

The report claims that across the US, video game consoles can consume the same amount of power as it would take to light up all of the homes in San Diego, and the bulk of energy consumption actually takes place while the system sits on standby.

NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz said, “If you leave your Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 on all the time, you can cut your electric bill by as much as $100 a year simply by turning it off when you are finished playing”.

“With so many struggling in today’s economy, it’s important to realize there are simple steps gamers can take to lower their energy costs. And if manufacturers make future systems more energy efficient, they’ll be doing the right thing for consumers’ pockets, for our clean energy future, and for the environment.”

The NRDC report detailed the amount of energy consumption Xbox 360’s, Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii use when they are active, on standby or turned off.

The research found that on average, the PS3 and 360 used a huge 150 watts and 119 watts, respectively. Over a year the two systems used more than 1,000 kilowatt-hours is they were left on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which is equal to running two fridges at the same time, for the same length of time – but in reality I’ve never heard of an Xbox 360 can manage that task… but I digress.

The Wii was much more economical, using just 20 watts of electricity, which is less that the Wii’s big brother, the GameCube. The other consoles used far more power than their earlier models.

“Video game consoles are really just specialized computers, and most computers, especially laptops, have really sophisticated energy management technology,” said Nick Zigelbaum, an energy analyst at NRDC. He believes energy efficiency, “is just something these companies have not connected with their products”.

The main reason for the 360 and PS3’s high energy consumption is down to the systems high-definition capabilities. Using these functions cause the consoles to work extremely hard, creating huge energy levels, and continues even after the consoles is switched off.

The PS3 for example, uses five times as much power than that of a standard Sony Blu-ray DVD player, playing the same movie.

The NRDC recommends that manufacturers should incorporate more energy efficient components and automatic energy management features.

“It would just be default like when you’re typing something in Word and you close your laptop. You don’t lose the document you were working on. It’s been saved, most of the time whether you chose to save it or not. That kind of communication and coordination is something that should start happening in the gaming industry,” Zigelbaum said.

Zigelbaum noted that power saving methods is catching on these days. He aid that it used to be that many people would leave lights on when they left a room, but now people are switching off.

“The work that is going forward now by Microsoft and Sony to include some auto-off features are a really good and necessary step. Now the focus is on how to make those features work the way they want them to and the way we want them to work,” he continued.

Sony PSP-3000 wants to be Big in Japan

Sony is to launch the new version of its handheld console, the PSP-3000, in October this year in Japan the company announced yesterday.

The new handheld features a new high contrast LCD screen, a built in microphone, boasts improved graphics and offers 4GB of memory – twice as much as previous models. The device will be shipped in three different colours; “piano black”, “pearl white” and “mystic silver”, and will cost Japanese customers 19,800 yen (£103).

A device bundled with “Mobile Suit Gundam Gundam vs. Gundam” will launch on November 20th, priced at 24,840 yen (£129). There are other bundles including “Patapon 2 Donchaka”, and another with “Dissida Final Fantasy”, which will sell at roughly £5 more.

But, is the new PSP-3000 any better?

Michael Goodman, an independent gaming and digital media analyst seems to think so: “There definitely are some improvements. Improving the display and continuing to improve the graphics on it can’t hurt – especially in Japan, which is such a high-def society so far in front of the U.S.”

“It comes with a larger memory stick; the old one was 2 gigs. So, they are clearly evolving the PSP as a handheld media platform, and it’s a memory stick – but that storage is absolutely critical,” Goodman added.

The look of the device has not changed much, and the functionality is the same, however the company is raving about its new microphone addition, which will allow gamers to make phone calls using Skype. The microphone will also be used in certain games and for other communication purposes.

However, this new voice functionality is not the PSP-3000′s most notable feature, said Stephanie Ethier, an In-Stat analyst.

“I think the strongest … selling point of the Sony PSP Slim – and the new PSP 3000 – is not the voice capability, but the fact that transferring content from the PS3 to the PSP is an easier process, making the PSP a truly compelling portable multimedia device,” she said

“My guess is the voice feature is more of a spin to market the Sony PSP as a viable competitor to the iPhone,” Ethier continued.

“In the end, the PSP is still primarily a gaming device, but the increased amount of compelling video content – and the ease with which PS3 owners can transfer that content – is the true selling point of the PSP.”

Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy at Jupitermedia, argues that the new 4.3-inch wide screen is the devices best feature.

“The screen is the best thing. Sony’s attempt to cast the PSP-3000 as a phone is a little bit overly optimistic. It’s a stretch as a communication tool,” he told said.

“It’s about games, first and foremost. This isn’t a secondary feature – it’s like your phone of last resort. When you’re not near a computer, you’re not near a telephone, you’re not near a cell phone, and you have to reach someone, then use your PSP,” he continued.

The PSP-3000 will face stiff competition in Japan, where DS is king, but Goodman believes PSP has the edge with DS having been around a while now.

“The PSP has done better in Japan in recent months. Part of it is because the DS is getting a little long in the tooth and the PSP is able to make up ground. They have something fresher with the PSP 3000,” he explained.

The quality of games is Sony PSP-3000’s biggest issue, said Gartenberg.

“It’s a very different experience,” he remarked. “The PSP is focused on bringing this mini-console version down to the handheld, where the DS is focused on providing a very different experience. Sony seems to be trying to emphasize these other features, but they have to remember at the end of the day, it’s not about those things. It’s about the game.”

Mind Control:The Future is Now

Ever wished you could move mountains with your mind? Well this new piece of cutting edge technology won?t quite let you do that much, but its still pretty cool. Emotiv?s EPOC headset is a lightweight headset that allows a user, after some configuration, to control computer functions and most excitingly games, with his/her mind.

Tan Le, CEO of Australian based company says, “We’re hoping to help evolve the way humans interact with machines.”

The EPOC works by putting the helmet on, and then fitting the 16 brain-wave sensors in place. Once you?re comfortable, you then the software automatically logs a set of background emotions and expressions. Users are then required to image 11 cognitive actions, i.e. Lift, push, pull, for a few seconds each.

The user?s brain is analysed and the EPOC is even capable of increasing difficulty levels in games if it detects that you are bored.

“Telekinesis has always been one of mankind’s fantasies,” Le says. “After Star Wars came out, I wanted to use the Force to make my cereal box float into my hands.”

The technology was developed from decades of research on brain waves. Scientists have used ?skull caps? loaded with sensors that intercept brain activity in a processes called ?electroencephalography?, and Emotiv have spent the last five years developing it a commercial product.

“For now, we’re focused on the video game application (for EPOC), but we see possibilities beyond this, such as market research or health care,” Le says.

Monica Fabiani, a professor at the University of Illinois psychology and neuroscience program believes the EPOC headset could be of more use to medial scientists. “Often, when companies make products that are comfortable and easy to use by the public, interesting applications on the medical side” follow, she says.

Acknowledging that medical use of their new gadget is a long way off, Emotiv?s vice president of engineering Steve Sapiro said: “Anything like that would require approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which takes years. But the possibility is there, if simply from a cost standpoint. Our product is in the hundreds, whereas most EEG machines cost between $50,000 and $250,000.”

Sounds like Emotiv are on to something, but gamers aren?t quite convinced: “I’m not sure it’s at the point of being as precise as it would need to be,” said Brian Crecente of gamer blog Kotaku. “I don’t see it being a mainstream device in this form. That said, it’s certainly beyond a gimmick. Game issues aside, it’s uncanny.”

Others see it as a gimmick that may work in the same way that Nintendo?s Wii has taken off. Jamil Moledina, executive director of the Game Developers Conference said: “When the [item on-screen] did what I thought it to do, it was surreal,” says Moledina, who concedes his learning curve was steep. “This is science-fiction stuff. [Emotiv] has jumped the first hurdle in simply making the device. Now, they have to make it work with most games. If they do, this could hit the jackpot.”

The device could make its way on to one of the nets largest gaming community?s, Second Life, if Le?s comments are anything to go by: “Right now, when you want your (Second Life) avatar to grin, you type it, which is completely unnatural,” Le says. “If we have it our way, EPOC will make avatars truly come to life.”

Intel Release Technical Information on ‘Larabee’

Intel have released technical details about its upcoming line of microprocessors with the code-name of ?Larrabee?, in advance of the company?s presentation at the SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interface Techniques) conference, in Los Angeles next week.

The chips will act as a springboard for a many-core x86 chip architecture. Intel says the processors should be on the market around 2009/10.

Larabee will launch an industry-wide effort to design and optimise software for thousands of cores expected to power the computers of the future, according to Intel.

“It’s revolutionary in that it is different from conventional GPU architectures, but evolutionary in that it uses existing (i.e. x86) technology,” said Jon Peddie, president of Jon Peddie Research, said.

Intel says the technology will offer a ?new approach to the software rendering 3-D pipeline, a many-core programming model, and performance analysis for several applications.?

The architecture behind Larabee was derived from Intel?s Pentium Processor. The new chip adds updates including a wide vector processing unit (VPU), multi-threading, 64-bit extensions and pre-fetching. Each enhancement facilitates a sizable increase in available power.

The processors? architecture supports four execution threads per core, with separate register sets per thread. ?This enables the use of a simple, efficient in-order pipeline while retaining many of the latency-hiding benefits of more complex out-of-order pipelines when running highly parallel applications,? Intel said.

“We have a lot of people trying to position different processing architectures. You’ve got Nvidia trying to position the GPU with CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture), which is basically a programming structure to use it as an accelerator, as a general purpose CPU (central processing unit) or whatever,” Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat, said.

“Basically what Intel is doing is trying to leverage the x86 architecture in a way that it has not been leveraged before, as really kind of a head-end core to a high-end processing element that can be used as a server accelerator, [and] as a graphics accelerator.”

Peddie says some of the industry will just see Larabee as a graphics processing unit (GPU), but he believes the more accurate term for the chip I graphics capable processing unit (GCPU).

“Larrabee is not a GPU in the sense an ATI, Nvidia or S3 chip is a GPU; it is a gang of x86 cores that can do processing, so it is a GCPU — graphics capable processing unit, as are ATI, Nvidia and S3′s chips,” Peddie posted on his firm’s blog.

Intel has already said that Larabee will initially target the personal computer graphics market ? which means gaming machines. These early implementations will focus on discrete graphics applications, supports DirectX and OpenGL, and run existing games and programs.

Intel does however see Larabee as more than just a high-end gaming chip, and believes that the chip, with its native C/C++ programming model, will also have a place in a range of parallel applications, including scientific and engineering software.

?The chip will be optimal for any application that can use a SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) processor – 3D graphics, scientific computing, etc.,” Peddie noted.

The standalone chip will go head-to-head against offerings from Nvidia and AMD’s ATI.

“It will be easier for people to program applications for Larrabee. That’s the value of Larrabee. They’re going after the ultra high-end; stuff that’s going to be doing scientific simulations and stuff like that. They’re really cranking the power up to see what they can do, and then they’ll scale it back to see how it can fit into PCs,” In-Stat’s McGregor said.

Larabee is not aimed for the “heart of Nvidia’s and ATI’s market at this point in time. But obviously if they’re successful and they create a new computing/programming model around this type of architecture, it does go after that,” he explained.