A Fictional Story: Special Announcement // Iwata unveils QoL-device “Qudy” // Details plans for 2015 and beyond

September 21, 2014

Disclaimer: The following article is entirely made-up by its author. Other than some sources taken from reality, nothing you are going to read is true or fact. It is supposed to be a fun expression of the author´s wishes and hopes for future hardware endeavors. Why do this? Because it´s fun to speculate and write about it. Start!

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Special Announcement // Iwata unveils QoL-device “Qudy” // Details plans for 2015 and beyond

Earlier this year, Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo, made many fans´ heads turn when he started talking about the firm´s future plans. Accompanied by several images that didn´t really help making any more sense of it, he explained that Nintendo would venture into new markets, starting with the health and fitness sector. To make this happen, they would somehow, citation needed, “leap-frog” the competition´s mobile and wearable devices and enter a whole new market of so-called “non-wearables”. A new blue ocean, is what Iwata would say. Up to this day, Nintendo kept quiet about their Quality of Life-device (QoL) that they promised to talk more about later in 2014 and launch in the first half of 2015. This silence was broken last night, and we´re still confused by what´s happening. It is definitely a completely new market, though, that Nintendo is opening here.

Iwata opened his speech by outlining the need for major changes to keep a thriving business in the advent of affordable high tech. He didn´t mention specific competitors, but by saying how capable tablet devices are now available for less than 100 Dollar, it is clear that Nintendo´s aware of Amazon´s new kindle fire line. He also touched upon the widely used practice of handing down old phones to family members when getting a new one, also resulting in casual consumers owning highly capable devices. Nintendo would have to factor this into the planning and, thus, pricing of future systems. Despite those very predictable future hardships, Iwata believes that dedicated handheld gaming, as seen in the Nintendo 3DS, is there to stay. It is, however, not enough, he continues.

Over the past few years, Nintendo has undergone major internal changes to be ready for the next decade and beyond. These changes are also partly at fault for the less than stellar first-party software support during the Wii U´s first year, Iwata follows up. Moving their teams to a new building, where each team would be more closely intervined, was but one step. The next step is NOS. NOS is an abbreviation for Nintendo Operating System, and will be the center of all upcoming Nintendo offerings. A powerpoint slide shows the graphical user-interace running on Wii U, then on the New Nintendo 3DS. Clean, friendly, well-thought out is our initial impression. What´s important, though, is that NOS is the same on both systems. On three. No, on four. Or on how many systems there might be. Besides Wii U and N3DS, NOS will also have a web-based platform, granting access from every PC and smartphone. There´ll also be web-based access for the original 3DS-system. Featuring hardware-independent accounts, NOS is all about converging Nintendo´s offerings into one single place, reachable from just about every hardware a consumer might own. Part of the difficulty for this Nintendo OS, Iwata thinks, will be to make it clear to the consumer that not every piece of software available on the NOS´ eshop will be usable on every piece of hardware. So while you will be able to purchase Wii U-games using a 3DS, those games obviously won´t run on the 3DS. Right now, that isn´t all that obvious for Nintendo-gamers, who always had separate eshops. It is the New Nintendo 3DS´s task to introduce this concept to Nintendo-gamers, using the popular Xenoblade Chronicles as a gateway, with more exclusives coming down the road. Iwata, however, went on saying that even this convergence of software wouldn´t be enough to sustain a growing business. That´s when this speech of the company´s CEO dove down into crazy-territory.

While looking for a new blue ocean ever since the success of the Wii-console, we made many different attempts at broadening our product variety. None of our latest systems, however, were able to come close to the success of the Wii and its fitness line of software. Therefore, we at Nintendo decided to further dig into that area of health and fitness, the so-called quality of life-products. Unlike a lot of rumors and speculation, worries about Nintendo forgetting about its roots as an entertainment company are unnecessary. Quite the opposite, it is this expertise of ours that allows for the next step in consumer technology, passing by mobile and wearable devices. This next generation device is what we´d like to call Qudy.
And then a video presentation introduced Qudy to the world. Or, rather, Qudy introduced itself.

At first glimpse, Qudy looks like a smaller, but bulkier, fatter smartphone. There´s a screen on one side, somewhere between three to four inches in size. First glimpse end. No, Nintendo did not begin their venture into the smartphone business, so this is where any such comparisons will have to come to an end. Qudy features a display, capable of displaying information, pictures and videos. But you wouldn´t ever use it as a substitute for your smartphone. Yet.
The widescreen device sits on top of a compact, but sturdy base that allows for three options: Attaching it to your backpack´s carrying strap. Putting it on top of a plane surface. And clipping it on top of a flat screen monitor, like a webcam. Aside from the first option, a small, energy-effecient motor inside the base allows Qudy to rotate, meaning that if you put it on a table, it can freely rotate by 360°. One last question: WHY would it need to be capable of this?! The answer lies within Qudy´s intended purpose: Qudy is neither a gaming handheld, nor is it a mobile phone, nor is it a wearable device like GoogleGlasses or smartwatches. It is the first of its own kind, that is: Qudy is a mobile companion. A robot, yes, dear nerd-colleagues!

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When our internal hardware development teams researched the current market for health and fitness, one key aspect caught their attention. This core problem for many people who are trying to lose weight or stay in shape can be summarized in one word: motivation. Many people create elaborate plans and goals for what they´re trying to achieve, but ultimately fail once some time has passed. To our surprise, it did not matter if these people used professional tools, like heart rate sensors or dieting plans, or none of that. The outcome would be the same: Most people would stop their new lifestyle not long after starting. Those with the highest success rate were the ones that would go to a gym or have friends joining them in their decision. After conducting a lengthy internal study, we arrived at first drafts for a new project. A project that combines elements of health and fitness with elements of entertainment. In other words, this is something that we at Nintendo believe ourselves to be in a most unique position to deliver. The result of this is Qudy“, Iwata explains.

A slideshow shows many different design prototypes for the new mobile companion, one or two eerily similar to the famous R.O.B. for NES. The modern companion, Qudy, however, is designed to be reasonably sleek, portable and eye-pleasing. The screen features saturated, deep colors, with a fantastic viewing angle. When we described its size to be between three to four inches, that was because it isn´t a typical rectangle-shaped display. Rather, it´s oval, with heavly rounded edges. That´s because the whole device isn´t a rectangle, no sharp corners to be found anywhere. If you were to look at it as a smartphone, it´d be terrible. But that changes when Qudy wakes up. Upon activating, the screen brightens, matching the bright white of the device itself. But it´s not a menu you´ll see on display next. Instead, two eyes appear. And a mouth. In terms of asthetics, it appears to intentionally match the looks of Tamagotchi devices from twenty years ago. But it´s animated extremely well, very smoothly. It needs to be, when next the on-display mouth starts moving and … talking. “Hello! My name is Qudy! From this day on, I will be your companion. Let´s have a fun time!”, a video presentation shows. Next up is a summary of functions that Qudy is made to deliver. A quick run-down as follows:

– Virtual A.I., featuring animation and speech
– Qudy originated loosly from Latin, meaning “every day” or “daily”
– 3.8 oval AMOLED touch-screen
– built-in camera and stereo-microphone
– advanced camera recognition software
– various notifying led
– motorized base, doubles as stand and clip
– wireless connectivity features (connects to Nintendo devices, smartphones, smartwatches, computers, hotspots)
– heart rate-, temperature-, velocity-sensors
– gyroscope
– compass
– lightweight design, most of which stems from the battery
– microSD slot

Iwata explained that more features might be added to the consumer version of Qudy, which is set to launch prior to Golden Week 2015 in Japan. International availability is said to be set for 2015, too, closer to the christmas holidays, for both the US and Europe. Pricing is not yet decided, but expected to be similar to a gaming handheld´s.
The heart of Qudy is its virtual A.I. that is capable of actual communication with its user. The experience with Tomodachi Collection for 3DS (Tomodachi Life) made Nintendo realize that it works we´ll enough to be implemented on a larger scale. Cooperating with leading A.I.-technology companies, Qudy was born. While still restricted by reality (true A.I.s aren´t possible, yet), its capabilities seem to be astounding. Communication between A.I. and user appears to be natural and easy-going. The camera-software can differentiate between who it is that is talking and will actually rotate to face whoever is doing the talking. Sounding tacky and gimmicky at first, Nintendo found it crucial to have this moving, mechanical feature as part of Qudy. Internal tests proved that people react vastly differently to a device that actually moves in real life as opposed to mere on-screen notifications. Based on the contents of your communication with Qudy, the A.I.´s personality develops differently – some examples are: polite, playful, casually, caring, blunt. And it´s actually up to the user to give Qudy an individual name on the first boot-up sequence.

Setting aside the option of rather random communication, Qudy follows the very serious need of motivating the user. To that goal, the first iteration of the mobile companion comes with various health and fitness routines in its software. You decide to tell Qudy what you want to achieve, what you will try to do, even what you plan on eating. Qudy will then act as central core for all of your day. From reminders, to check-ups, or analysis – Qudy will gather data and present advice, motivation and help as best as it can. And that´s surprisingly much. Iwata mentioned that something simple as confirming what you ate for lunch can be annoying to do by yourself for a lot of people. With Qudy, you simply tell your companion and it´s saved for later analysis. You can tell Qudy your daily weight (or link it with a WiiFit balance board) and it´ll display graphs of your weight progression, automatically correlating all other available data, like showing what you ate each day at what weight. However, Qudy is not only about strictly body health-related matters. It´s also designed to be a strong tool to assist you in your everyday planning in general. Thus, it becomes an intelligent calendar that will never forget to remind you of future events. When connected to the internet, it can quickly gather information about any kind of subject and, if you wish so, save it for later use.

What´s most important and making it fundamentally different from existing devices, is the indirect interaction with Qudy. Rather than typing and touching it by yourself, you speak to Qudy and Qudy will do all the work. No typing, no saving, no looking for specific functionality. It´s all there with a simple word of yours. Obviously, there are times you won´t want to speak aloud, so touchscreen-functionality will cover those times. Iwata expects that this will be important especially in the beginning of this new era of mobile companions, where most people will find it weird or awkward to actually talk to a machine. But as apparent with his wording: Nintendo looks at Qudy as the start into a new era of communication, life-planning and self-motivation. And as time flies by, people will use their mobile companion as a natural tool in their personal and professional life, feeling better about themselves and being more likely to reach their goals, be it in health, fitness or any other aspect of life. We´re not yet sure what to think of Qudy, a decive that sits in a weird spot between entertainment device, health device and serious tool. But we´re eager to find out!

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The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks officially revealed

March 25, 2009

When noone believed anymore that “it” could happend, it did: At the end of his keynote-speech at this year´s Game Developers Conference, Satoru Iwata announced The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS.

Taking a look at the released screenshots and the reveal-trailer, Spirit Tracks seems to be a direct sequel to Phantom Hourglass. The visuals are exactly the same, the controls are, too. In terms of story, the flood introduced in TWW seems to be gone. The biggest difference is Link´s transport vehicle: A train. Yeah, Link gets control over his own choochoo-train. Just like in PH, where you drew the path of your boat, you´re now drawing the way on the touchscreen and the train follows these instant-tracks. Not only is the game´s title referring to those train tracks, it´s also about the power Link has over some enemies: He can gain control of an enemy and then, again by drawing a line, have him going around as he wishes. He can even let one enemy fight for him against another one.

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As great as a new Zelda always is, i´m not excited for now. That´s maybe because i absolutely didn´t enjoy Phantom Hourglass. And Spirit Tracks looks, if you´re honest, like a mission pack, rather than a new game. Controls are the same, visuals are the same, and gameplay in general appears to be the same. From what we can see, the dungeons start looking like copy and paste-works. And although the game takes place on land, there won´t be an overworld. You travel from point to point by train, that´s it.

zelda91

Many people will love this game, but as a long time Zelda-fan i feel kinda sad. Once, Zelda was known for its risk-heavy experiments. Zelda 2 was nothing like Zelda 1. OoT took the big step into 3D. MM kind of went towards 4D. TWW chose a very risky visual style and changed the overworld design of 3D-Zeldas. PH showed that Zelda works on the NDS. But ST doesn´t look like it will be anything close to “risky”. And it also doesn´t have the “epic, nostalgic” feel that TP offered. Instead of this game, i´d loved to see EAD go for a whole different gameplay-style…maybe showing that a real 3D-Zelda can work on NDS, too.

I´ll play the game, eventually, but my hype is as low as possible.