Over the past 12 months gamers have increasingly been using tablets and other mobile devices to play games, as news from this week’s E3 trade show highlights. Consumers want to game anywhere and at any time, rather than being tied to consoles at home, meaning mobiles have now become gaming platforms in their own right.
But whether gamers are using mobile platforms instead of, or in addition to consoles, they don’t want to compromise on the quality of their overall gaming experience. They still demand as much control as possible to create a seamless and truly immersive gaming experience. In response to this trend, a new range of devices are being developed. Gaming tablets, with all the processing power of gaming PCs, are being developed to ensure there’s no compromise on speed.
But it’s not just source devices that are being overhauled. Users are also looking for peripheral devices, including mice, keyboards and touchpads, that offer the console-like functionality needed to rapidly detect and process the multiple, fast-paced digital inputs that result from the lightning fast fingers of gamers. For portability and usability these devices also need to be wireless, and to avoid constant charging they need to consume the least power possible.
Low power consumption for powerful peripherals
This is where the latest developments to the Bluetooth standard come into their own. Bluetooth 4.0 or ‘Bluetooth Smart’ enables wireless devices to consume a fraction of the power of previous standard Bluetooth versions, as it uses very short pulses of radio activity which drastically reduce power consumption. Devices can stay connected, but the radio is off most of the time, rapidly responding when data is available, delivering the longest battery life on the market as well as the level of responsiveness needed for gaming. It provides universal compatibility, so products are game and hardware independent and can be used with any Bluetooth Smart Ready device. It also has a significantly simplified set-up process, so users can get gaming in seconds.
The Mad Catz GameSmart range is embracing Bluetooth’s new features
CSR’s Bluetooth Smart platforms are centred around making use of our µEnergy hardware modem architecture, which offers a unique approach. The modem and the ultra-low power programmable IO controller can communicate with sensors and peripheral devices, without using the integrated microprocessor. This minimises power consumption and reduces data transfer latency. This is ideal for those developers working in the gaming hardware industry. With minimum development effort, system level power consumption is minimised while still allowing for optimum performance.
Syncing audio and video:
Wireless gaming headsets present the additional challenge of keeping the sound effects that you hear synchronised with the action, as if there’s any delay between the audio and the video it can ruin the gaming experience. Even high-quality Bluetooth audio has an inherent delay of more than 150 ms. While this can be compensated for in various ways to ensure that the lips match the speech when watching a movie, gamers carrying out actions on the screen that involve gun shots, bomb blasts and other intermittent and unpredictable sounds, expect an immediate audio response, which cannot be compensated for. In order to achieve action-synchronised sound when gaming, this delay must be less than the 40 ms. One way of achieving this is by incorporating the aptX Low Latency audio codec which will reduce the delay to approximately 32ms, meaning users will experience fully synchronised audio and video.
For developers looking to incorporate Bluetooth Smart and low latency wireless audio into their headsets, the CSR8670 device fits the bill. The CSR silicon is flash based and incorporates Kalimba, the onboard DSP, which is where aptX Low Latency resides. In addition to aptX, it offers a rich variety of functionality that includes high performance audio DACs and ADCs, I/Os that include SPDIF, I2S, I2C and GPIO, capacitive touch control and Bluetooth Smart.
With 58 per cent of US games developers releasing their next games for smartphones and tablets, mobile gaming is only set to grow. Gaming accessory developers, for example Mad Catz, with its GameSmart range, are embracing Bluetooth’s new features. Gamers buying wireless mobile accessories with long battery life, truly synchronised audio and console-like functionality and performance should look for the Bluetooth Smart and aptX symbols.