Friday, April 15, 2011

Seattle, Part the Second

Read Part 1 here.

Aside from all the super special eliteness of being flown to Seattle and taken to Nintendo headquarters, I gotta say that the folks from Brand About Town and Nintendo planned that thing to. the. hilt. The logistics were mind boggling. They booked flight information for over a hundred people from around the country, coordinated it so that several of us could catch the shuttle at the same time, each one of us had our own room at the Hyatt, offered two cocktail parties, a dinner out in Seattle, and breakfast buffets. 

Now I realize that 90% of you have stopped reading because I sounded like such a spoiled twit listing all that stuff. Who are we kidding? I am a spoiled twit! So spoiled that I even skipped out on the second day's cocktail hour because I was so stinking tired from flying coast-to-coast to be wined, dined, and video gamed.

But don't leave yet. I have lots of good info about the Nintendo 3DS. Trust me, you might think you don't care about handheld video game systems, but this thing does some pretty incredible, game-changing things for the world of technology.

When we entered the conference room after checking in at Nintendo HQ, we mingled and found places to relax on all the hip white-leather furniture, and after a few minutes people started picking up the shiny aqua and black devices scattered around the room on coffee tables.

I grabbed one and opened it up and saw that on the right side of the screen there was a little slide button labelled 3D. One hundred percent honesty here: I could not believe my eyes when I slid that button up. This thing not only moves seamlessly from 2D to 3D in real time, it does so without the need for any glasses and even allows you to customize the depth of the 3D.

I literally have never seen anything like it. It's one of the most remarkable bits of technology I've ever encountered. But it gets better.

Included with the 3DS is a pack of "AR Games," a set of yellow and black cards with various Nintendo characters on them. AR stands for Augmented Reality. I'll link to the official Nintendo description of AR Games, but it doesn't come close to describing what AR does. You take out a card and place it on a flat surface. You position the 3DS above the card, about 10 inches or so (the screen will indicate when you've hit the sweet spot), and the 3DS's cameras lock on to the image. What happens next is even more remarkable than the 3D technology.

The 3DS...I'm laboring to try and describe this, guys. It does more than capture the image of the card on the table. It takes that image and builds a new, interactive version of a virtual reality. Not only does the 3DS manipulate the real environment it sees through the lens—the environment you are physically standing in—it does so in complete multidimensionality. Holy cow, this description is not helping. I'll just tell you what happened.

I locked onto the AR Card with the 3DS, and while looking at the table through the 3DS screen, I watched as the center of the table expanded, collapsed, and from inside it sprung forth a set of boxes, sitting right there on the table in front of me. Only they weren't really there. They were only there when I looked through the 3DS cameras.

As I walked around the table, holding the 3DS cameras facing the AR Card, I could view the boxes from all angles. When I was standing in front of them, I saw the front. When I was standing behind them, I saw the back. When I selected one of them, out sprang a dragon that I then had to shoot, circling the table to hit him from all angles.

Short of actually being able to interact with the dragon using my own two hands, this was a true virtual reality experience, the kind you've only seen in sci-fi movies up until now. And that's just one of the AR Games.

In the same session, I also got to play Steel Diver, another game that showcases all the 3DS can do. In this game, you're situated as a submarine and the goal is to sink all the other ships and subs around you. You can choose missions, you can choose whether you're in a storm or calm weather. The trick is this: You have to either be sitting on a swivel chair or stool, or standing up, for many of the missions, because  the 3DS places you in the center of the action. As you turn while holding the 3DS, your view changes. The game simulates a 360-degree visual capability.

I actually bought Steel Diver. I consider it my small part in helping to prepare Noah for the Navy. It's also my kind of game: a bit more strategic, less frenetic, and engaging. The touchscreen on the lower portion of the 3DS also plays a more vital role in this game; it appears as a periscope would, and you can control your level of depth by "pulling" the lever on the side of the screen. Plus, whenever you're hit by an enemy torpedo, it springs leaks that you must repair by tapping the leak on the screen. Pretty cool stuff.

As far as the parental controls and child-safety recommendations go, the 3D slide can be rendered useless if a young child will be using the system. Nintendo has not commissioned its own studies of 3D images on child development, but based on the data they've reviewed from independent studies, they believe 3D images could negatively affect the ocular development of children under 7.

Incidentally, sitting at this computer for so long is negatively affecting my ocular development, so I'll quit for now. Stay tuned for the wrap-up!


Jen said...

I'm seeing a huge market for "augmented reality" goggles. Have they invented that yet?

Kate @ Daffodils said...

Sounds like a fascinating trip! And I am glad Nintendo is warning parents against giving them to small children, I hope parents listen! We have some kids in my pre-k class who literally come in with their thumbs a-blazin' and are bored with coloring plain old paper. It makes me sad!

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