Winning the War on Reality: Playstation 4 is Coming

Sony announced its latest break through in video game technology last night amongst massive fanfare, unimaginable consumer expectation, and an industry that is still unsure of where it will be in the next five years. The Playstation 4 aims to hit that target when it gets here, and to steer the next generation of consoles toward an all-inclusive, social, and online experience.

large1The PS4 sounds awesome, hands down. Out of the gate we’re talking top-of-the-line hardware here, eight x86-64 cores and a native Graphics Processing Unit that has 18 separate “compute units” that produce 1.84 teraflops of processing power. It has 8GB of system memory with a GDDR5-based system that produces an unbelievable 176 GB per SECOND of bandwidth for graphics rendering and performance. It has a completely separate chip for handling downloads as well which means “download in background” doesn’t mean waiting for two days for your latest game or demo to arrive.

largeBasically all of those Teraflops and GDDRs really just mean one thing: the Playstation 4 is a beast. It’s hands-down high-end graphics processing, and some of the videos shown at last night’s event proved that there is a whole new world of entertainment out there that Sony wants to bring to ALL your devices, not just your living room TV. The graphics are truly next-generation. From the millions of objects it can handle on the screen at once to the ability to provide feature-film-like animation. This thing will blow your socks off… And it will further combine all of your entertainment possibilities in one hub, with games, movies, TV, music, and more all rolled into this new paradigm of “the War on Reality” Sony is using. It’s clever.

The PS4 is based on 5 principles that Sony feels are the future of gaming: Simple, Immediate, Social, Integrated, and Personalized. For simple, Sony has stripped down the frills and fine-tuned the experience of the User Interface. They have created the largest, fastest, and most comprehensive gaming network on the planet, linked with Gaikai Inc’s cloud technology, that will allow players to browse ALL titles for the system through the Playstation Store. Gone are the days of downloading a stripped-down demo of a game to see if you like it. Now you’ll be able to go to the PStore, select a game, and immediately start playing it.

finalfantasy_versusOne of the most anticipated aspects of the PS4 is this immediate principle. Need to pause your game for awhile and don’t want to leave your system on? Not problem, just hit the power button and the PS4 will instantly freeze and enter a low-power standby mode. Then when you’re ready, you just hit the power button again and jump right back in where you left off. I don’t know how this will work with online games, but I’m sure there will be some version of it integrated. Taking this immediacy one step further is the ability to buy a game from the online Playstation Store, and immediately start playing it. Not like now where you have to wait for a game to finish downloading before you can jump in… With the PS4 you click download, and then start the game. It will continue to download (at full speed thanks to the dedicated chip) in the “background” while you play.

Sony has also gone social. One of the biggest problems with online gaming, in my opinion, is the prevalence of dickheads. Trolls hide behind stupid user names like YourMomSuxIt69 or WeedRulez420, talking smack while sheltered by the mask of anonymity. Well Sony is hoping to oust the dickheads with the PS4. Each user will now create a REAL profile with your REAL name and REAL Facebook integration. Does this mean MomsBasement420 will stop tea-bagging your corpse in a heated match of Battlefield? Probably not. But it will hopefully provide ways to screen out the kinds of players your want to play online with, and at least a real name so you can meet at the bike racks after school.

playstation-4-console-logoAnother huge social aspect of the PS4 is the “share” button. This button is going to kick ass. Ever just finish an epic killstreak on Black Ops II and wish someone else had been around to see your expert shooting and knifing and jumping? Now you just hit the “share” button, skim through the last few minutes of gameplay, select the beginning of the moment you wish to share, and upload it as a video for others to watch. I think this function is going to be unbelievably fun. Creating moments of awe-inspiring fun is what gaming is all about, and now you’ll be able to share those experiences with your friends. That is friggin cool.

Integration is also the name of the game with the Playstation 4, and they’ve gone beyond all expectations with this one.  The new Playstation app will allow iPhones and Android devices to have a “second screen” experience with their favorite titles. Imagine you’re playing Grand Theft Auto 5 and need directions across town. Now I’m completely making this up, but the technology is real, and it would let you do things like pull up a real-time map of the city on your iPad with a route planned out for you… Or Maybe a dossier on a potential client in whatever Hitman-type game could be sent to your Samsung tab for you to read up on different game aspects. These aren’t real game aspects, but the “second screen” experience is very real. Sony plans to integrate ALL your devices into your gaming exploits.

ds4The new Dualshock 4 controller sports a familiar shape and layout, while giving a new touch-pad input and “share” button. They have perfected the art of the rumble, and each controller comes with a more integrated motion-control input. Along with the direct control of the Dualshock 4, the PS Vita, which Sony released last year, will allow gamers to remotely control their console and their games. They introduced a technology that promises to make seamless play possible between the console and the handheld, giving users the ability to play ANY game remotely through the Vita.

Lastly, the PS4 aims to be completely personalized. The console will get to know you over time, suggesting titles from the games you play, and the ratings your give. It will even download games, music, movies, and television for you that it thinks you might like! The PS4 will take snapshots of your entertainment habits and offer up content based on that information.

playstation-4-controllerWhile Sony doesn’t have a physical console yet, the guts are there and the technology is here. In my opinion, they’ve taken a huge leap forward, and in the right direction. Combining awesome processing power with a completely immersive and social experience. If Sony can follow through on the promises they made last night, and deliver it without breaking the bank of the average gamer, they might have just put the future of gaming back on track. The PS4 will be available this holiday season.

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BREAKING NEWS: The Playstation Network is Back Up and Running as of 12 am PST

After three weeks of issue-skirting press releases and Call of Duty: Black Ops withdrawals, fanboys can now rejoice as the Playstation Network is now back online after three longs weeks of waiting. If you remember: a few months ago iPhone hacker GEOHot finally jailbroke the Playstation 3, after almost 5 years of release. When GEOHot went live with his information, Sony responded with a request in court for streaming giant Youtube to turn over any IP addresses of people who had viewed GEOHot’s “how-to-jailbreak-your-PS3” video. As Sony put the pressure on GEOHot, hacker group Anonymous issued a warning to Sony not to push the envelope too much, or there would be disastrous results.

A few weeks later, Sony’s Playstation Network was the victim of a massive hack, in which hackers stole millions of IDs from Sony’s Qriocity Music service. Sony promptly took the PSN offline, leaving many gamers in the lurch as a bulk of Sony’s games are multi-player.  As the days dragged on, Sony issued another press release stating that hackers had indeed infiltrated the accounts of millions of Playstation Network users, including areas where credit card numbers and identification are kept.

Sony was then called before congress to explain themselves and to find out why they took so long to issue a statement to users (In fact it took over a week for Sony to say a word about the incident). In the meantime, hacker group Anonymous has adamantly denied the hack, while Sony has definitely set it’s sights on them.

But what did Sony expect when they’re running 5 year old systems that support the PSN, and had barely any anti-intrusion software present at the time. Since the attack, however, Sony has employed protection giant Norton (by Symantec) to not only help them secure the Playstation Network for the future, but to investigate why and how this happened in the first place.

When I was finished downloading an update to a brilliant little piece of freeware call PS3 Media Server tonight, I found that my PS3 was prompting me to update… my heart skipped a beat when I realized what that meant. That I could scoop almost everyone with this story! To quote the mighty Wayne’s World “GAME ON!”

iPhooie

Ok, so what can I say? It’s been almost 10 years since I placed hands on my first Apple product… An iPod… An old gray one with the wheel and a grayscale screen… Remember the wheel? Ahh… I can… it was my friend’s iPod, they let be borrow it and I immediately took to it. The iPod was to be the end of my CD Walkman days, and man I had carried that thing everywhere. I had just gone back to school and the iPod changed my life. Not only did I have dozens, hell even a hundred albums, on a pocket-sized piece of hardware… But with it came iTunes– simply put, a revolution in music.

I don’t remember how long it took me to burn my ENTIRE music collection into the computer, but gone were the days of rooting through cases and carrying tons of CDs around. Now it was possible to carry TOO many albums… It wasn’t because I didn’t have to stand in front shelves of albums trying to find that one I wanted to listen to, nor was it the fact that I could have hands-free access to my tunes- it was the fact that I could have almost all of the music I needed in one spot. The age of the Playlist was here, and no longer were we constrained by the shackles of an LP, no now we could make mix-tapes with a click and a drag.

WAIT! Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the concept of “the album.” As a musician myself I know that the implementation of iTunes has only fed the fast-food music we have today, a hollow shell of the once great “industry” that had so much control… all brought down by Napster and Apple. I still buy CDs. If one of my favorite bands puts out something new, I want to hear it like it’s supposed to be heard, start-to-finish, clear-as-a-bell. Take for instance the new Foo Fighters album Wasting Light. Soundcloud.com is currently hosting the entire album for preview before it comes out tomorrow (Tuesday 4/12). The Foo Fighters also just put out a feature documentary in theaters, online, and on Paladia (it’s brilliant, watched it Friday night). This multi-media promotional technique is par for the course with today’s bands. It all also coincides with the 17-year anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s death (the immortal band the Foos’ Dave Grohl played drums in). The marketing strategy has worked, no ripped copies have leaked on the internet (except for the webrip from the stream) and I personally plan on picking up the CD tomorrow. It will be the first CD I’ve bought since September of 2010 when Alice in Chains’ new album dropped.

But of course I will rip it into iTunes so I can have it on my iPhone! I listen to music on all kinds of devices these days. Whether it’s from the iPhone speaker/armband I designed and built myself (great for bike rides and having on while working, it’s music with no earbuds), or plugging it into one of the seven i-ready stereos we have (two in cars and five in the house!), music from the internal iPod App or from Pandora is ALWAYS playing. Have I mentioned I love music? My parents were huge music buffs and I’ve probably been to 50 more concerts than the average person due to my dad dragging me to Grateful Dead shows, Neil Young concerts, and Bluegrass Festivals all before I was even 15 (also explains the partial deafness- but I don’t hold a grudge).

When I got my first 5G iPod Video in 2006 I thought I was going to die. 30 gigs of music and video, I didn’t know it was possible to fill it up… until I got all 6 seasons of Family Guy (there were only 6 then). I’ve always loved movies as much if not more than music, and a portable video player that I could pre-program with my favorite movies or shows to watch on the go?! I was in heaven! Little did I know… That 5G was my last Apple product for a long, long time.

I watched the fury of the iPhone and the iTouch come and go, 3G, 3GS, etc… I was busy with other obsessions at the time (Playstation 3 had just came out). Apple’s marketing campaign got so obnoxious that I started in with the haters even before the iPhone came out. I didn’t see what the big deal was at the time. I just saw it as a fancy and expensive waste of time. Boy was I ever right. My honey came back from a business trip with an iTouch 4G two summers ago, right after it had come out. It was my first experience with the new touch screens, it humbled me, it made me eat every word I’d spoken out of envy, I immediately turned around and got a refurbished iPhone 3G, the second model.

I loved my 3G. It was slow as molasses and dropped almost every call, but it was a touchscreen, it surfed the web, and allowed me to carry any movie (or music) I wanted and on a big screen! When the iPhone 4 dropped I drooled, I saw people with them everywhere… I wanted one so bad I could taste it (tasted like strawberry strangely enough). I jailbroke my old 3G and explored the world of 3rd party apps, but it was too slow in the end… and when iPhone 3GS’s went on sale for $49 this last Christmas I knew my time had come. Sure enough I managed to squirrel away 49 bucks and bought myself a 3GS for my 34th birthday. It is lightning fast, I can only imagine how fast the iPhone 4 is. I can watch Netflix on the fly, listen to Pandora Internet Radio, update my Twitter and Facebook, post blogs, write music, schedule appointments, anything! (Well, not anything… but I love this phone).

So almost a decade, 250 million iPods, 100 million iPhones, and a $65 billion dollar net worth later, Apple is doing ok for itself. What was once a dying computer company has revolutionized the way people buy, organize, and listen to music and movies. Not bad, not bad at all.