Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tech Reviews - September 2008

1. Nintendo Wii

    I know that I have living under the rock as far as the gaming thing goes. While all my makkal in SVCE used to be glued on to God of War, Diablo and all that, I thought that video games were for kids. And finally when I got to play some game on Sony PS in 2005, I was bored of the story-board pattern of the popular games. You did this, and then this and then that... It didn't really have me hooked. Wii, from the time it was leaked to the press that Nintendo was working on Project Revolution which utilized MEMS technology, I was curious. I used to do research on Bio-MEMS and so was definitely interested in one of the MEMS commercial products - Though I know that Nintendo will have a few 1000 patents on them, the Remote and Nunchuck seem to have a network of Gyros and Accelerometers which are used to detect and simulate user's actions and position into gameplay movements. While the previous commercial application, Segway, a sucker application - the 'thing' which Kamal Haasan used in the equally sucker movie, Dasavatharam. In fact the movie provided a glimpse of why it was a flop. The Segway costed around $5000 and it replaced you walking. While the Government did not allow it to be used as on sidewalks and other pedestrian areas (as it was not classified as a medical device). The accelerometer is a big hit - the Airbag system in automobiles uses the accelerometer predominantly to deploy the airbag, which itself uses a MEMS Chemical Igniter to generate a high density vapor which fills the airbag. More recently, the Apple iPhone, seems to use Gyroscopes. While Apple has never let its technology out, the games that can be played on the iPhone makes me suspect that there are definitely Gyros involved in it too. And the fact that Steve Jobs was involved during the hyping phase of Segway leads me to suspect it more. Well, coming back to the Wii, the game play is certainly innovative. Rain or Shine, you can have fun.
The Wii comes for $250 (plus taxes). The trick is to get it for this base price. The recent trend amongst gaming companies (others like Apple follow it too) is to release small stocks frequently so that it results in an ever present scarcity of the products. This will have 2 scenarios: 1. The people in search of the product will go to Circuit City / Best Buy two or three times and feel that since they have invested so much of time, they need to get it at any rate. 2. Some people get pissed and give up. Scenario 1 happens if the product is an universally acclaimed product, much like Wii. Scenario 2 happened some years back when Fiat tried that in the Indian Market for its Palio T-Max model. The more educated makkal, like Hawkeye, who have a MBA can elaborate on this further. But, thus far, the gamble seems to have paid off for Nintendo. If you check out Walmart or Game Stop, they have bundled the console with some add-ons which do not make financial sense in buying. But pyschologically, anybody who has gone to Circuit City or Best Buy, will I think give in to frustration and get one of these. I'm trying to be in the economy mode for the past 1-2 months and was not really looking to buy anything, but a chance article on Cnet about Wii got me interested. And incidentally a good friend of mine got it on the same day that I made a spot decision to get one. I drove over the Circuit City closest to my house only to find out that Wii stocks come in on Sunday mornings at 10.30am and are over by 12noon. I call up my friend and ask him to get another Wii console for me and send it through a friend who was travelling from OC, California to TPA. The installation, to me, was quite simple. The graphics is more of the Sega Times - atleast in the game CD which comes with the console - Wii Sports. But the important aspect to me was that the games require me to be doing some stuff - not sit on the couch and grow my love handles to glory.

Wii Sports:
1. Bowling: Is very close to the actual game. I'm not much of a night person. I generally hit the sack by 9.30 - 10.00 pm unless I'm travelling or I go to the movies. So, I never used to go to bowling night with makkal here who hit the alley at 10.30 pm-ish. So, to me, this actually lets me practice those spins I never get to do on the alley. The sensitivity of the remote is really good to your wrist position and release angle. This game does not utilize the nunchuck.

2. Golf: I'm an avid Wodehouse-ian. And anybody who's read the Clicking of Cuthbert by the Master, cannot help wanting to play the game. This game again is very good, especially if you have not had much of actual Golf experience. I think the total number of times I have swung an iron is equal to two. The only aspect where this game is lacking is that the sensitivity of the remote is inadequate when you are trying to putt a hole. This also, does not need a nunchuck.

3. Boxing: The game where I seem to be doing too well. It employs the remote and nunchuck and gives you a decent workout, if you really get into the game. The sensitivity side is very average, wherein the computer player tilts at an angle and even if you mimic that angle, your on screen representation doesn't do it. So in every boxing bout, you are the underdog!

4. Tennis: Is too kidding, but still you get to play almost real back hand and fore hand shots. The serve part is mokkai.

5. Baseball: The game which is least appealing - as it is, on its own, a slow and unexciting game. Also, to get used to get the timing right takes too much time. I have not yet gotten it.

Apart from the out of the box games, I got SpiderMan-3 (a story board game :( ) which is okay and MarioKart Wii which is really cool - but obviates the need to be active as all you have to do is use a Wii Wheel to turn and do other stuff to drive.

Planning to save up some cash and get Wii Fit soon. :)

Google Chrome:

On an another direction, Google introduced its open source browser Chrome. They released a comic book detailing what is different in their browser and did have some palin-esque comments to other browser developers - Mozilla and IE. To be brutally honest, Chrome sucks - Majorly!! I'm a big google fan and am not happy to say this, but since there is a minute delay in loading pages, even if they are on different tabs, PDF pages are warped onto you - Stay away from it until they come up with a better version. But I think, Google has to fail every now and then so that they keep giving us better ones. Their last few apps - Google Reader, Gtalk (for mobile and mail and client), blogger have become a part of my daily (hourly?) life.

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