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Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure is a silly, gentle way to shape up – TechCrunch

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Nintendo has a long history when it comes to exercise-driven games. I’m dating myself, but I can say I remember playing Track & Field on NES with the Power Pad. How far we’ve come! Ring Fit Adventure is a full-body workout for grown-ups, but fun, gentle, and ridiculous enough to forget it’s exercise.

The game and accessories were announced in September, coming as a complete surprise even considering Nintendo’s constant but hit-and-miss attempts at keeping its players healthy. What really threw people off was that this game actually looked like… a game. And so it is!

Ring Fit Adventure has you, the unnamed and (naturally) mute protagonist, journeying through a series of worlds and levels chasing after Dragaux, a swole dragon who’s infecting the land with… something. Maybe he’s not wiping down the equipment afterwards. Come on, man.

Playing with these virtual versions of the controllers gives you a real feel for how solid the motion detection is.

Anyway, you do this by using the Joy-Cons in a new and strange form: the Ring-Con and leg strap. The latter is pretty self-explanatory, but the ring must be explained. It’s a thick plastic resistance ring that you squeeze from the edges or pull apart. It detects how hard you’re squeezing it through the other Joy-Con, which slots into the top. (The strap and ring grips are washable, by the way.)

The two controllers combined can detect all kinds of movements, from squats and leg lifts to rotations, presses, balancing, and yoga poses. You’ll need them all if you’re going to progress in the game.

Each level is a path that you travel down by actually jogging in real life (or high stepping if you’re in goo), while using the Ring-Con to interact with the environment. Aim and squeeze to send out a puff of air that opens a door or propels you over an obstacle, or pull it apart to suck in distant coins. Press it against your abs to crush rocks, do squats to open chests — you get the idea.

ringfit1

I haven’t gotten this one yet, but it looks handy. I could use a stronger arm-based multi-monster attack.

Of course you encounter enemies as well, which you dispatch with a variety of exercises targeting different muscle groups. Do a few arm presses over your head for some basic damage, or hit multiple enemies with some hip rotations. Each exercise has you do a number of reps, which turn into damage, before defending against enemy attacks with an “Ab Guard.”

The ring and leg strap seem almost magical in their ability to track your motion in all kinds of ways, though some are no doubt only inferred or fudged (as when you lift the leg without the strap). A missed motion happened so rarely over thousands of them that I ceased to think at all about it, which is about the highest compliment you can give a control method like this. Yet it’s also forgiving enough that you won’t feel the need to get everything right down the millimeter. You can even check your pulse by putting your thumb on the IR sensor of the right Joy-Con. Who knew?

As you progress, you unlock new exercises with different uses or colors — and you soon are able to fight more strategically by matching muscle group coloring (red is arms, purple legs, etc) with enemies of the same type. It’s hardly Fire Emblem, but it’s also a lot more than anyone has every really expected from a fitness game.

The red guys are like, “yeah… do him first.”

In fact, so much care and polish has clearly gone into this whole operation that’s it’s frequently surprising; there are so many things that could have been phoned in an not a single one is. The exercises are thoughtfully selected and explained in a friendly manner; the monsters and environments show great attention to detail. There’s no punishment for failure except restarting a level — the first time I “died,” I expected a little sass from my chatty companion, Ring, but it just popped me back to the map with nary a word.

Throughout is a feeling of acceptance and opportunity rather than pressure to perform. You can quit at any time and it doesn’t chide you for abandoning your quest or not burning enough calories. If you decide not to do the warm-up stretch, Tabb just says “OK!” and moves on. When you perform a move, it’s either “good” or “great,” or it reminds you of the form and you can try again. Whenever you start, you can change the difficulty, which I believe is reps, damage, and other soft counts, since it can’t increase the resistance of the Ring-Con.

dragaux

Seems familiar…

There’s no pressure to change your body and no gendered expectations; Your exercise demonstration model/avatar, Tabb, is conspicuously androgynous. Your character is a pretty cut specimen of your preferred gender, to be sure. And Dragaux himself is a sort of parody of oblivious, musclebound gym bunnies (“He’s working out while planning his next workout,” the game announced one time as he skipped an attack to do some bicep curls). But even he, Ring mentions at one point, used to be very insecure about his body. Importantly, there’s nothing about the game that feels targeted to getting a certain type of person a certain type of fit.

I’m not a trainer or fitness expert, but so far the variety of exercises also feels solid. It’s all very low-impact stuff, and because it’s resistance ring and body weight only, there’s a sort of core-strengthening yoga style to it all. This isn’t about getting ripped, but you’ll be surprised how sore you are after taking down a few enemies with a proper-form chair pose.

If you don’t want to play the adventure mode, there are minigames to collect and short workouts you can customize. Honestly some of these would make better party games than half the stuff on 1-2-Switch.

As I’ve been playing the game and discussing it with friends, I found myself wanting more out of the game side. I’m hoping Ring Fit Adventure will be a success so that Nintendo will green light a new, deeper version with more complex RPG elements. Sure, you can change your outfit here for a little extra defense or whatnot, but I want to take this concept further — I know the fundamentals are sound, so I’d like to see them built on.

It feels like until now there have been few ways to really gamify fitness, except the most elementary, like step tracking. The two separate motion controllers and the smart ways they’re used to track a variety of exercises really feel like an opportunity to do something bigger. Plus once people have bought the accessories, they’re much more likely to buy matching software.

My main criticisms would be that it’s a bit limiting at the beginning. There’s no choice to, for example, prioritize or deprioritize a certain type of exercise. I could probably stand to jog more and do arm stuff less, and I dreaded having to resort to squats for the first few worlds. And the constant instruction on how and when to do everything can be wearing — it would be nice to be able to set some things to “expert mode” and skip the tutorials.

The game and accessories will set you back $80. If you consider it simply as buying a game, it’s an expensive gimmick. But I don’t think that’s the way to think about it. The target audience here is people who likely don’t have a gym membership, something that can cost $50-$100 a month. As a fun and effective fitness tool that does what it sets out to do and does so in a praiseworthy way, I think $80 is a very reasonable asking price.



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Qualcomm is jumping back into the server CPU market with Nuvia acquisition

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Enlarge / A splash image for Nuvia from the company’s blog.

Qualcomm is apparently plotting a return to the server chip market. The company is overhauling its CPU offerings after acquiring the upstart chip design company Nuvia in 2021. Nuvia was founded by three high-ranking engineers from Apple’s chip division, with the original goal of designing ARM server chips (though it never launched a product). After Qualcomm bought the company, it seemingly pivoted its new chip division from server chips to laptops and phones. Now, according to a new report from Bloomberg, Nuvia’s original goal of building server chips will be allowed to continue.

The report says Qualcomm is “seeking customers for a product stemming from last year’s purchase of chip startup Nuvia” with Amazon Web Services as one of the first companies that “agreed to take a look at Qualcomm’s offerings.” Apple has proven to the world that ARM chips can scale up, and on laptops, they’ve proven to be more efficient than the x86 chips from Intel and AMD. Companies like Amazon have even started making their in-house server chips based on ARM’s licensable CPU designs.

Doing better than ARM’s off-the-shelf CPU designs will be the real challenge for Qualcomm. Despite having a near-monopoly on high-end Android phone CPUs, Qualcomm isn’t really a CPU company. Qualcomm SoCs feature CPUs straight from ARM, the same as many other vendors like Mediatek, Samsung, and Huawei’s HiSilicon. What keeps Qualcomm on top is all the non-CPU parts—mainly its hyper-aggressive licensing around its modems and cellular patients. Qualcomm owns enough basic cellular patents that you need a license from them to sell a phone no matter what, and by bundling a cheaper patent license with its own chips, Qualcomm can squeeze out the competition. Qualcomm does some good work in GPUs and modem design, but it has never paid much attention to the CPU part of its SoC offering and is currently several generations behind the market leader, Apple.

In the server market, Qualcomm’s business won’t be artificially propped up by cellular licenses. This is a non-CPU company suddenly deciding to sell CPUs, and those products will have to compete on their own merits. With potential customers like Amazon already building ARM chips, it’s 100 percent on Nuvia to deliver a CPU that is better than the standard ARM designs.

Qualcomm last tried to break into the server market in 2017 when it spent a brief year building “Centriq” server chips for Microsoft. That division was shut down in the face of a failed hostile takeover from Broadcom. It was canceled under a previous CEO, though, and Qualcomm’s current boss, Cristiano Amon, wants to diversify Qualcomm’s product line. Nuvia CEO Gerard Williams, who was former Apple’s chief CPU architect for nearly a decade, is now Qualcomm’s SVP of engineering. If the Nuvia chip designs are half as successful as Apple’s industry-leading chips, Qualcomm could become a major server chip competitor.

There’s no timeline for when Qualcomm’s server chips will be available, but Qualcomm’s current schedule has Nuvia technology showing up in laptops in “late 2023.”

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Review: HP’s Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is the cream of the ChromeOS crop

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Enlarge / HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook.

Specs at a glance: HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
Worst Best As reviewed
Screen 13.5-inch 1920 x 1280 IPS touchscreen 13.5-inch 1920 x 1280 IPS touchscreen 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 IPS touchscreen
OS Chrome OS
CPU Intel Core i3-1215U Intel Core i7-1265U vPro Intel Core i5-1245U vPro
RAM 8GB LPDDR4-4266 32GB LPDDR4-4266 8GB LPDDR4-4266
Storage 128GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD 512GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD 256GB NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD
GPU Intel Iris Xe
Networking WiFi-6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Ports 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-A,1x HDMI 2.0, 1x 3.5 mm jack, 1x MicroSD card reader
Size 11.59 x 8.73 x 0.65 inches
(294.38 x 221.74 x 16.51 mm)
Weight Starts at 2.8 lbs (1.27 kg)
Battery 50 Wh
Warranty 1 year
Price (MSRP) $980 $1,800 $1,709 when configured on HP.com
Other N/A 4G optional

Chromebooks are tired of being treated like second-class citizens.

Over the last decade, the developers of ChromeOS have attempted to evolve the operating system with features that could put it more on par with macOS and Windows. Google has been pushing Chromebooks as business machines, touting the purported simplicity and security benefits of their pared down operating system.

HP’s new Elite Dragonfly Chromebook represents a ChromeOS device pushed to the limits, from its appearance to its components.

The laptop comes dressed like some of HP’s most coveted business machines and with up to a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU with Intel vPro support. Performance and style are in a class notably higher than what many think of when they think of Chromebooks.

But while it’s suitable for business users with simple, web-focused needs alone, its performance doesn’t equal Windows machines in the same price range.

$$$

With promises of business-class performance, the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is one of the most expensive Chromebooks available, at well over $1,000 with maxed-out specs. Of course, there are still Chromebooks available for a few hundred dollars, but with a growing interest in pushing Chromebooks as fleet-ready enterprise machines, eventual gaming devices, and ultraportables with versatile form factors, there are already several Chromebooks in the Dragonfly Chromebook’s elite price class.

Here’s what you can get specs-wise from other pricey Chromebooks when configured similarly to our review machine and based on what’s readily available as of this writing. Note that our configuration isn’t a specific SKU but was rather configured on HP.com. You can find a similar SKU to my review unit but with a 1920×1280 resolution for $1,450.

Model CPU RAM Storage Display Price (as of this writing) Mobile  Networking
HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook i5-1245U vPro 8GB 256GB SSD 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 touchscreen $1,709 4G, 5G coming
Dell Latitude 7410 Chromebook Enterprise i5-10310 16GB 256GB SSD 14-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen $1,564 4G
Lenovo ThinkPad C14 Chromebook i5-1245U vPro 8GB 256GB SSD 14-inch 1920 x 1280 $1,019 4G
Samsung Galaxy Chromebook Intel Core i5-10210U 8GB 256GB SSD 13.3-inch 3840 x 2160 OLED touchscreen $1,000 N/A

One of the Dragonfly Chromebook’s biggest claims to fame is its optional inclusion of Intel vPro. Among Chromebooks, only the ThinkPad C14 shares this option. vPro support helps sell machines to IT departments, as it enables remote management of the devices.

HP is particularly interested in the stability that the platform promises, a spokesperson told reviewers during a briefing. vPro machines are supposed to use identical silicon across units for as long as the device is sold. HP also pointed to vPro’s performance standards and security perks, particularly vPro’s total memory encryption.

The 2-in-1 also supports 4G for mobile working. 5G is purportedly coming this fall and would help the Dragonfly stand out.

Additional security claims come from Google, which says its read-only OS, verified boot, and blocked executables reduce the need for antivirus protection. IT staff can also approve and block apps and extensions, remotely disable or wipe devices, and perform background updates.

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For the first time ever, more people watched streaming TV than cable

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Enlarge / Nielsen’s breakdown of TV viewing in July 2022.

A new report from market measurement firm Nielsen says that for the first time, TV viewers watched more on streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ than they did on cable TV, making streaming the most popular way to consume content.

The shift has been predicted by analysts and commentators for years, but it has only now come to fruition. Streaming had previously outpaced over-the-air broadcast TV, but cable was still beating it until July.

In July, streaming accounted for 34.8 percent of audiences’ TV viewing. The runner-up was the now-dethroned cable TV, which came up narrowly behind at 34.4 percent. The relatively distant third was broadcast at 21.6 percent.

Streaming was up 22.6 percent compared to July of 2021, and audiences streamed an average of 190.9 billion minutes per week. Nielsen points out that this is substantially more than a previously publicized streaming number: 169.9 billion minutes in April of 2020, one of the most locked-down months of the pandemic.

All that said, the shift could be attributed as much to a lack of new content—especially sports programming—on cable in July as to the growth of streaming. Streaming services have been pumping out new content as fast as ever, while cable channels have slowed down for the summer. There is also much more streaming content than there used to be, thanks to new service launches like Peacock and Paramount+ over the past few years.

Nielsen notes that overall TV viewership hasn’t changed much—just the relative size of each slice of the pie. In other words, people aren’t watching more TV; they’re watching the same amount of TV but in different ways.

The report also outlined the relative performance of different popular streaming platforms. The biggest category was the catch-all “other streaming” at 10.2 percent of the streaming pie, but Netflix was the top single service at 8 percent. It was followed by YouTube at 7.3 percent, Hulu at 3.6 percent, Amazon Prime Video at 3 percent, Disney+ at 1.8 percent, and HBO Max at one percent.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Nielsen is tracking data from viewing on actual TVs. This data does not include mobile or desktop viewing, which would likely boost streaming even further.

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