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Driving virtual reality and beyond

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In between breaks covering Paris Games Week this week I take quick power naps.

2015 has been an exciting but exhausting year. So much has happened already, but as the year winds down, there is still a lot of check out, and plenty to write about. Just like in real life, it appears there’s never really any rest in the world of console gaming, and industry leader Sony hopes to keep it that way.

Amidst a sea of oversized blue balloons imprinted with square, circle, x and triangle symbols, I make my way through the throng of gaming fanatics hoping to get some play time with yet to be released titles from next season. There is an electric energy inside the Paris Expo, particularly in and around the Playstation booth. It’s been 20 years since the original Playstation was released, and the festivities today are as much a celebration of that, as much as they are of the games themselves.

Sony PlayStation celebrates 20 years this year.

BIG 20. Sony PlayStation celebrates 20 years at Paris Games Week 2015.

A mile-long queue has formed in front of the PlayStation VR demos. Slots have been pre-booked days in advance, anyone wanting to give it a shot today is out of luck. Word on the street is that a commercial launch for Sony’s virtual reality headset is slated for the first half of 2016, but there are already several demos you can try today, and with each show the experience gets better.

There’s a preview reel you can look up on YouTube (see clip above) that runs through several upcoming titles that are expected to ship when PlayStation VR does. If there were any doubts about the how virtual reality will change the dynamics of game play, all that should be quashed today.

RIGS mechanized combat league

RIGS mechanized combat league is coming to Playstation VR

One of those new games Rigs: Mechanized Combat League is playable at Paris Games Week (PGW). One of the few multiplayer VR games around, think of Rigs like an extra dirty, extra defensive game of basketball played on machines. The demo for PGW is set in futuristic Dubai, with players on machines with feet that resemble blade runners. While this team sport is akin to basketball, in the game there is no ball, instead actual players must plunge themselves into oversized rings to score. Getting there involves a sometimes perilous journey that includes a fast paced chase through a maze of structures, there’s lots of running, leaping, and head switching.

If there’s anyone who knows more about these games and everything else in the PlayStation pipeline its Shuhei Yoshida, President of Worldwide Studios at Sony Computer Entertainment.   

Shuhei Yoshida

BEST JOB EVER. Shuhei Yoshida is Sony’s Head of Worldwide Gaming Studios.

Appropriate for a man whose main function is to oversee the creation of games, Yoshida is a kid at heart, a superhero character (yep look up Super Time Force Ultra) who spends as much time on his PS Vita as he does on Twitter fielding questions from fans.

At an intimate chat session this week in Paris, a jet lagged Yoshida was glowing from the warm reception for his company’s latest announcements, and bullish about the prospect of PlayStation VR and virtual reality in general. “Because there are so many creative people working on this technology, there will be many great results will come out, and it will be sooner than later,” he said.

For its part Sony is working behind the scenes to push the technology forward, “From a platform standpoint we have the responsibility to show examples of what virtual reality can do. Virtual reality games have to feel natural, you really have to design the game from the ground up.”

For this to happen Yoshida believes, game design has to change. It’s not about repurposing existing titles and slapping on VR support, but about rethinking what works for VR and how VR can enhance the experience.

But virtual reality is not just about gaming.

While gaming has been the logical first application of this new technology, it will soon change the way we consume other types of content. Earlier this month, as part of promotional efforts for the film “The Walk” about high wire artist Philippe Petit who crossed a tight rope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, the PlayStation VR gave fans a feel of how that death defying walk actually felt like.

I’ve experienced vertigo while playing a virtual reality game before, and seeing how VR technology and film making can work in tandem to create entirely new, emotional experiences is mind blowing. Yoshida says these two will merge soon, and at the center of it is the PlayStation – not just a gaming console anymore.

But perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. While VR promises to redefine the gaming landscape. The present, and to a certain degree the future are still all about new titles coming to the world’s most popular gaming console. Earlier this year at the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, the gaming word’s biggest stage, I thought I had reached my quota for PS4 announcements, but there are a lot more titles coming.

There’s a game called Super Rude Bear Resurrection from independent Game Developer Alex Rose who tells me, he’s been working on his first PlayStation game with a small team of 3, for just over 8 months now. That game was ready to play at PGW. It’s not hugely popular like those from the usual game houses, but it’s a testament to the breadth of Sony’s developer ecosystem. One that Yoshida tells me his company is going to great lengths to grow and nurture.

Among the marquee titles that I had the chance to preview this week, two upcoming games excite me the most.

Wild for PlayStation 4

WILD. Explore a harsh world where man and beast can become one.

One is called Wild, set in a vast world, beautiful but filled with dangers. It’s an open world game that’s about exploration and survival. Conquering forces of nature and asserting dominance over other animals that live amongst you.   

Unchartered 4 is a much anticipated third-person shooter, and possibly the last in this series. Developer Naughty Dog is calling it the culmination of the franchise, and is upping the anti with a multiplayer mode that ramps up the cinematic experience in glorious 60 frames per second, fights that are faster but longer, and with the added dimension of side-kicks and supernatural power-ups.

But the game that Yoshida is most excited about is called Dreams. Initially I had trouble wrapping my head around what kind of game Dreams is. Its developers aren’t 100% sure either, “We don’t know what it will become,” they say those who participate in the beta will make that clear. Perhaps the confusion is because the game can be about many things, expression and performance, creation and play.

Dreams for PlayStation 4

DREAMS is not just a game, its a platform for creating content.

But more importantly it a platform, a platform for game developers, animators and story tellers. If the game kicks off users will be able to design dream sequences, create mini walk throughs, or develop their own animated short films.

Yoshida has a sparkle in his eye as he talks about his new baby, “Dreams is an amazing project. It’s a serious creation platform for people who like to create. This is your chance to create something amazing.”

The technology behind Dreams is likewise pretty amazing, the game uses a completely new rendering engine, not polygons which is traditionally used to create 3D computers graphics. In and of itself it is a testament to the power behind the PS4, also the reason why this year’s crop of games are more realistic than ever before.

“Next year’s games look amazing,” said Yoshida, “2-3 years after will be even more.”


 “PlayStation: Driving virtual reality and beyond” was first published in The Philippine Star on November 2, 2015. The Philippine Star Technology Section is printed every Monday, and is also available as a digital download from digitaledition.philstar.com

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Galaxy S10

Instagram photo challenge with the Samsung Galaxy S10

Hands-on with all three versions!

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Samsung’s newest Galaxy S devices have just been announced and we’re blessed with three versions: The Samsung Galaxy S10e (small), the Galaxy S10 (big), and the Galaxy S10+ (big big!).

Each phone is equipped with a number of cameras so you know what that means: IG photo test!

In our Her GadgetMatch video, we check out what’s so cool about the new Samsung phones and test what the cameras can do. Spoiler: They do a lot!

In case you’re having trouble viewing, watch HERE.

SEE ALSO: Samsung’s new LED light cover is the phone case we’ve always wanted

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Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10 Hands-On

Does it live up to the hype?

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Infinity-O Display, five cameras, in-display fingerprint reader, next-generation wireless charging: these four features define Samsung’s new Galaxy S10.

When you take its features apart like this, it makes it seem like what we have is yet another underwhelming phone with no new groundbreaking feature. But to look at the S10 that way does the phone an injustice. It’s one that needs to be taken as a whole, not a sum of its parts.

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Galaxy S10

Samsung Galaxy S10 Hands-on: A refinement of everything

A decade of Galaxy S phones

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Samsung‘s latest installment of flagship phones is now official. Instead of just two phones though, we were immediately given three choices. Interesting move, but can they keep Samsung on top of all the great Android phones in the market?

As mentioned, there are three Galaxy S10 phones: the regular Galaxy S10, the bigger and better Galaxy S10+, and the supposedly budget-friendly Galaxy S10E.

Without further ado, let’s dive into our hands-on the Galaxy S10 series.

Nothing new, just polished

The Galaxy S10 series is a testament to Samsung’s leadership in Android phones for almost a decade, despite the decline. How so? Everything there’s to want in a smartphone in 2019 is present here, with some reservations for the Galaxy S10E, of course.

The first thing you’ll appreciate about the Galaxy S10 phones is their displays. All three models come in different sizes. The display of the Galaxy S10E is the smallest at 5.8 inches followed by the regular version with a 6.1-inch screen. The Galaxy S10+, being the Plus variant, has the biggest at 6.4 inches.

All three phones still use vibrant and splendid Super AMOLED panels. Samsung likes to call them Infinity-O because they have O-shaped holes to house one or two front cameras. The displays are also slightly taller than before and have slimmer bezels all around.

Aside from the screen sizes, what are the differences between the three? The Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ share a lot in common. Both have curved displays, which is what you’d expect from top-of-the-line Samsung phones, but have squarish bodies like the Galaxy Note 9’s. They have a similar triple rear camera setup, but the Galaxy S10+ has an extra sensor in the front. The two also sport the fastest in-display fingerprint readers I have ever tested.

The Galaxy S10E, on the other hand, has to cut down some of the unimportant features to keep its price lower than its siblings. It doesn’t have a curved display and the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. Instead, the fingerprint reader is built into the power button on the side. The smaller Galaxy S10E is also noticeably more rounded than its siblings.

What Samsung didn’t sacrifice on any of the Galaxy S10 phones is the quality craftsmanship. With a metal and glass body, no one will ever hold a Galaxy S10 (any of the three) and call it cheap.

Beauty matched with power

Enough about the looks; let’s now talk about specs. As always, newly released flagship phones get the best processor available. In the case of the Galaxy S10 family, it’s rocking either a Snapdragon 855 from Qualcomm or Samsung’s very own Exynos 9820, depending on the region.

The difference between the two chipsets are quite intriguing, but end users won’t feel the difference in daily use. The Snapdragon 855’s 7nm process has a slight edge over the Exynos 9820’s 8nm, but both are capable octa-core chips with dedicated AI brains.

With a minimum of 6GB memory, no member of the Galaxy S10 family is a slouch. If you want, you can have the limited edition Galaxy S10+ with an insane 12GB of memory and 1TB of storage. If you get that, you’ll have a phone that has more memory and storage space than most laptops today.

When it comes to battery, the Galaxy S10E has the lowest capacity at 3100mAh. In the middle is the Galaxy S10’s modest 3400mAh, and of course, the Galaxy S10+ is blessed with a huge 4100mAh battery. The phones support fast charging through wired and wireless means, but Samsung is also introducing Wireless PowerShare, which is essentially reverse wireless charging similar to what the Mate 20 Pro can do.

Samsung’s new One UI is pre-loaded out of the box. It’s already based on the latest Android 9 Pie version. This means you’ll get to experience Samsung’s newest take on Android with its own customization.

Three cameras are better than two?

Apart from having three Galaxy S10 models, Samsung also put in three rear cameras on the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+. Samsung calls this “True Vision Multi-Camera,” which is a mouthful but you don’t have to call them that. Basically, the triple camera setup has all the mobile shooters you’ll need.

The Galaxy S10 has a main camera sensor, an ultra wide shooter, and a 2x telephoto lens. The main sensor is a 12-megapixel Dual Pixel camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and dual aperture mode (f/1.5 to f/2.4). The fun-to-use ultra wide-angle shooter uses a 16-megapixel sensor with a fixed-focus lens, while the telephoto camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and OIS as well.

Aside from the hardware, Samsung also bumped up the software side of things. Thanks to improved AI capabilities, the Galaxy S10 can now recognize up to 30 scenes and can even automatically help you compose the perfect shot.

Check out these samples using the phone’s main camera:

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Since the Galaxy S10 phones are equipped with multiple shooters, they’re fun to use. Each scenario calls for a different camera, so it’s nice to have both wide-angle and telephoto cameras. Here’s how each camera takes a photo from the same distance:

Keep in mind that the Galaxy S10E has just two rear cameras. It can only shoot a normal and ultra-wide photo, but the megapixel count and image quality remain the same as with its more expensive siblings.

As for selfies, the Galaxy S10+ has a slight advantage with its depth sensor for Live Focus, although all three phones can shoot portrait selfies anyway. Like with most phones, there’s a built-in beauty mode to liven up your selfies.

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Let’s not forget about the improved AR Emoji. It’s still subpar when compared to Apple’s Animoji for iPhones, but it can at least detect if your tongue is sticking out this time. There’s also the option to superimpose over your face like Memoji.

Which is your GadgetMatch?

Which of the three Galaxy S10 phones is your GadgetMatch? While I wanted to have more time with the phones to give an elaborate conclusion, I have a general idea on where each one fits.

The Galaxy S10E, which is the cheapest among the bunch, would be best for people who like to have the best specs but in a smaller package. Much like the compact versions of Sony Xperia phones, the Galaxy S10E offers just about everything its bigger siblings offer in a pocket-friendly size.

The regular Galaxy S10 is ideal for the general population with its perfect balance, while the Galaxy S10+ is for those who want (and need) all the features a modern smartphone can offer. Also, the Galaxy S10+ is similar to the Galaxy Note, but without the S Pen.

I wish Samsung had given the prices for each phone while I’m writing this to give a better perspective. After all, the pricing will be a big factor. To be honest, there’s nothing uber-special about the Galaxy S10 family. We already saw most, if not all, features on other devices. Samsung will be selling these phones because they are reliable and trustworthy — not because they are revolutionary.

Samsung wasn’t able to create “the next big thing” here, maybe because we have reached the limit of candy bar-style phones. It’s time to move on to foldable devices, which is something Samsung is also working on. That for sure will be revolutionary; for now, we’ll just stick to what we have.

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