Features

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

[irp posts=”3647" name=”Sony PlayStation VR gets global release”]

Automotive

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: A Stylish Speedster

It’s your everyday sports car

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One of the biggest factors when buying a new car, apart from function, is how it looks. The impact of that first glance. Something that would make you look twice. Some of us have that desire to break the norm and it seems like Hyundai took note of this demand — and made it fast.

The grille is flanked with LED headlamps partnered with Daytime Running Lights

The 2019 Hyundai Veloster is the second of its generation and now has a more assertive exterior than its predecessor. The most noticeable part? Its redesigned front grille. It now comes in this meshed pattern with sharper edges and, if you ask me, this alone gives the car a more aggressive presence.


Then we go to the rest of the exterior and we see those subtle lines that add to the sporty vibe of this vehicle. From the hood to the wheel arches — these accents make the Veloster look like it’s always moving.

At the back we also have this eye-catching pair of LED tail lamps plus a rear spoiler with the third brake light. Rounding up the whole sporty look is a rear bumper diffuser to improve the car’s aerodynamics.

Other notable details include side mirrors with signal repeaters and sexy 18-inch alloy wheels. If you’re already familiar with the first Veloster, then you’d know that it’s unconventional in a way that it only has one door for the driver’s side while the other has the usual two. Some call it weird. I’d like to call it style.

In terms of features, the 2019 Veloster has the bells-and-whistles for the tech-savvy. There’s keyless entry, a mechanical seat for the driver, telescopic steering wheel, voice commands, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Those are just some of the things the vehicle assists you with before you start your day. And of course, there’s more for the drive ahead!

Your main hub for music, navigation, calls, and more is an 8-inch floating display. For controls, the steering wheel has buttons for Bluetooth as well as audio and cruise control.

Important driver information and settings can be accessed through the digital dash

In the age of smartphones, charging on-the-go is of utmost importance and with the Veloster, you get more than one option. There are two USB ports up front plus a special wireless charger just below it. Of course, your phone has to support this feature for it to work, but if it does, it feels good knowing you don’t have to fumble over plugging the cable to your phone — while you’re in the car, at least.

And for when you want more light during the day or when it’s simply colder at night, you can open the moonroof and let the breeze roll in. Added comfort creatures like this make the Veloster a package for those who like having fun on the road.

One of the things I love about its interior is how the black and red color of the exterior continues here. Its bucket seats wrapped in leather offer a premium feel for the driver and passengers alike.

The company is obviously keen to details as one can see in the cabin of the vehicle. From the buttons and knobs that reflect its sporty DNA to the ergonomics and materials used to make each ride as comfortable as possible.

Being a Turbo variant, it’s powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine. Power is then transferred to the front wheels through a seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission. Although unlike Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, it’s not always “Turbo Time!” for the Veloster. It offers different driving modes depending on what the situation calls for.

There’s Normal, Sport, Eco, and Smart. Eco obviously goes for the most efficient fuel consumption, Smart mode adjusts to your driving habits, Normal is — well, normal. Sport is for Track Day or simply when you want to show off.

Of course, all that speed has to be kept in check with a couple of safety features. The vehicle comes with dual airbags for the front, plus side and curtain airbags. Adding to those are ABS (anti-lock braking system) and an immobilizer for anti-theft.

Having the Veloster as a daily driver made me realize a couple of things. One is that it’s actually fuel-efficient for a car with this oomph when it’s set to Eco or even Normal mode — averaging about 9km to 10km to a liter in the city and up to 16km/l outside the Metro. It may have slight delays when not in Sport mode but it had no shortage of power. And together with its stance and vibrant red color, the Veloster is a certified head-turner.

See more of it in this video:

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Features

Capturing Europe using only a smartphone

Three countries, one device

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When traveling to picturesque countries, it’s normally best to take a dedicated camera with you. After all, that’s what they’re for: Capturing scenes with utmost quality.

However, traveling light is another factor, and if possible, bringing as few devices as possible. I thought to myself, Why not use a single smartphone to document my entire trip? And so I did.


I brought the top-ranked camera phone with me to three European countries — namely France, Germany, and Austria — and let it take all my shots. Yes, I let the Huawei P30 Pro see what I saw, and it did not disappoint.

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The phone’s biggest strength for a traveler has to be its four rear cameras that offer different levels of zoom, from 0.6x all the way to 50x hybrid zoom if you’re feeling daring.

Its ultra-wide camera has to be the most handy, though, especially when trying to capture as much of a scene as possible. I used this everywhere I went, even for closeups and portraits needing more background.

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As you can see, the P30 Pro is fantastic at dynamic range thanks to AI optimization. All I have to do is turn on HDR+ and let the phone do all the computing. Needless to say, not once did I feel that there wasn’t enough color or brightness in my photos.

Another interesting feature is the RYYB color sensor, which draws in more light for sharper photos even in low-light environments. This allowed me to go full auto even during nighttime.

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Speaking of nighttime, Huawei’s signature night mode makes a return with even smarter illumination. It’s amazing how well the cameras can see at night, whether it’s using the regular or ultra-wide lens.

It takes only a few seconds for the app to stitch all the multiple exposure into one attractive image. Once finished, you have what looks like a long exposure shot on a tripod, but done using only your hands.

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When you need a little more control with your compositions, there’s a pro mode to help out. This gives you the chance to play around with lots of settings to achieve the perfect shot.

It might seem a little daunting at first to newbies, but the adjustments are made in real time, so you can see how each setting affects the final product. The manual focus scrolling is a personal favorite of mine.

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Of course, selfies matter too, and Huawei equipped the P30 Pro with a wide 32-megapixel selfie shooter to handle all your self portraits. This becomes especially important when there’s no one else to take your photos.

The P30 Pro’s camera app offers lots of beauty and background blurring options for selfies, so you still have control over how you look in the end. HDR comes in handy as well when the scene gets too bright.

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But what I loved most about bringing the P30 Pro as my sole camera around Europe was its auto mode. When time is of the essence and there’s no chance to make last-second adjustments, this mode does all the work for me.

I can’t count the number of times I double-pressed the volume down button to go straight to the camera app and snap a picture in front of me. It’s the feature I used most by far, making my travels that much easier.

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To be honest, going into this, I was a bit scared about relying on only one smartphone to do everything for me, from navigating places and researching about the top spots to visit, to documenting every step of the way.

Fortunately for me, the Huawei P30 Pro never faltered, and was, in fact, an incredibly reliable all-in-one camera. This is definitely going into my pocket again for my next trip.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei.

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Features

Comparison: Is the Huawei P30 Lite the best midrange phone today?

The affordable Huawei P30 phone with great specs

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Flagship devices are indeed the best you can get. Yet, midrange offerings are more attractive to consumers because of their budget-friendlier price tags. You don’t always have to spend a lot of cash for a good smartphone. That’s why we’re going to take a look at two of the hottest phones in the market today: the Huawei P30 Lite and the Samsung Galaxy A50.

Both phones aren’t your average midrangers. They offer more features than before, including ultra-wide camera lenses, crazy-fast processors, and plenty of memory to spare.


Let’s get right into the comparison.

Specs and Features

Let’s start by listing the key specifications of each phone to see which one is better on paper. Here’s a quick rundown of their notable features:

Huawei P30 Lite
Samsung Galaxy A50
Display 6.15-inch Full HD+ IPS LCD 6.4-inch Full HD+ Super AMOLED
Processor Kirin 710 Exynos 9610
Graphics Mali-G51 MP4 Adreno 512
Memory 6GB 6GB
Storage 128GB 128GB
Rear cameras 20MP f/1.8
8MP ultra-wide
2MP depth sensor
25MP f/1.7
8MP ultra-wide
5MP depth sensor
Front camera 32MP f/2.0 25MP f/2.0
Battery 3340mAh 4000mAh
Other features Rear fingerprint scanner, Face unlock In-display fingerprint scanner, Face unlock
OS Android 9 Pie w/ EMUI 9 Android 9 Pie w/ One UI

Since both are specifically made for the midrange segment, the two phones are quite on par with each other. Of course, each has its own strength. Let’s talk about that next.

Design-wise, the two phones sport a tiny notch on their displays. When you flip the phone over, both also have a glossy finish. The P30 Lite has a 3D glass back for easy grip and one-handed use. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A50 uses an inferior plastic panel. If you hold both, you’ll notice the P30 Lite feels more solid and premium. The P30 Lite’s back won’t scratch easily as well.

In the display department, the Galaxy A50 has the advantage with its Super AMOLED display. It produces really punchy colors and deep blacks. It’s also supposedly more efficient, giving the battery life a boost. For outdoor visibility, the P30 Lite’s LCD panel appears to be brighter. If you use your phone a lot under the sun, the P30 Lite’s luminance will benefit you more.

People love to talk about the specs, so let’s dive into that already. The P30 Lite is powered by Huawei’s own Kirin 710 processor paired with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage. On the other hand, the Galaxy A50 is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 9610 processor with 6GB of memory and 128GB of storage as well.

The only difference here is their chipsets; but, their overall performance is pretty much the same. Also, both run Android 9 Pie out of the box with customizations on top. Being a Huawei phone, the P30 Lite has EMUI 9; meanwhile, the Galaxy A50 has One UI. Whichever you prefer, the two skins offer added features like GPU Turbo on EMUI for a smoother gaming experience.

It’s already 2019; we’re happy to share that these two midrange phones have a reversible USB-C connector for charging. Likewise, both support quick charging and fast chargers are included in the box.

Speaking of which, the Galaxy A50 has a bigger 4000mAh battery compared to the P30 Lite’s 3340mAh cell. However, when it comes to real-world performance, the difference between the two won’t be noticeable. Huawei phones have always had good battery life.

Lastly, their security features are quite similar, but differently executed. Both have fingerprint scanners as standard. However, the Galaxy A50 has its scanner built into the display, which can be a bit slow at times. Meanwhile, the P30 Lite has a tried-and-tested rear-mounted reader, which is faster and more reliable.

Cameras

Moving on to the cameras, there are three rear shooters on each phone. The P30 Lite carries a main 24-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. Meanwhile, the Galaxy A50 has a 25-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 aperture. On the software side, AI scene detection is available on both devices which should help in taking the best-possible photo.

Here are a few samples taken using the main cameras:

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What set these two apart from other midrange phones in the market are their secondary cameras. The P30 Lite and Galaxy A50 both have 8-megapixel sensors with ultra wide-angle lenses that could easily fit in a lot of subjects in just one shot.

Here are the samples using the normal camera versus the ultra wide-angle shooter:

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Let’s not forget about selfies. Using the P30 Lite’s 32-megapixel front camera and the Galaxy A50’s 25-megapixel front shooter, you can take detailed and bright selfies, especially with plenty of light around you.

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Beauty mode is always available when you need it. A little touch-up wouldn’t hurt, right?

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Conclusion

Is the P30 Lite the best midrange phone today? With the essentials in check and the extra features Huawei has put in, the P30 is indeed a great phone in its segment. Additionally, it’s got a premium build which gives it an edge over the competition.

Those looking to buy one can get the P30 Lite for PhP 16,990 in the Philippines — which is PhP 1,000 cheaper than Samsung’s. The P30 Lite is available in three colors: Midnight Black, Pearl White, and Peacock Blue.


This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Huawei Philippines.

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