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'Vainglory' at Apple's iPhone 6 event

Psst: the games you play might not look as good (or run as smoothly) as they could. In many cases, the overhead from graphics standards gets in the way -- Apple went so far as to develop its own technology just to make sure that iPhones and iPads could live up to their potential. That bottleneck may not exist for much longer, however. The alliance behind the OpenGL video standard has given a sneak peek at Vulkan, an open standard that lets app writers take direct control of graphics chips and wring out extra performance on many devices, whether it's your phone or a hot rod gaming PC. The software isn't a magic bullet (developers still have to make good use of it), but it could easily lead to richer visuals and smoother frame rates without demanding beefier hardware.

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Tired of punching in numbers or swiping strange patterns to unlock your smartphone? Fingerprint and facial recognition have been tried before with varying levels of success, and now ZTE thinks it can offer something better. The company's Grand S3 smartphone in China is getting a feature called "Sky Eye," which lets you swap Android's traditional lockscreen methods with your eyeballs. It uses a biometric authentication called "Eyeprint ID" and of course, we had to check it out and see if it was more than just a gimmick.

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You already know what NVIDIA's latest Shield hardware is: an Android TV-powered set-top box that uses the latest chip from NVIDIA. It streams games over the company's "Netflix for gaming" platform known as GRID; it streams games from your local PC; it powers Twitch streaming at the same time of said streamed content; heck, it powers games like Crysis 3 locally, running on Android.

But is it any good? The only answer I've got is maybe.

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iPhone 6 and Galaxy Note 3

When we last checked in on the battle for the top spot in the smartphone market, Apple and Samsung were neck and neck. If you ask Gartner, though, it isn't quite so evenly matched. The analyst group estimates that Apple managed to edge past Samsung in the fourth quarter of 2014, shipping 74.8 million phones to Samsung's 73 million. That isn't exactly a cavernous gap, but it's been a long time since any research firm unambiguously declared Apple the biggest vendor -- over three years, if you're wondering. Having said this, the changing of the guard isn't completely surprising. Apple had two brand new iPhones in the fall to goose its sales, while Samsung was grappling with both surging Chinese competitors (including chart rivals Lenovo, Huawei and Xiaomi) and a flagship phone that was getting long in the tooth.

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"Can it play Crysis?" is the question people are still asking after all these years, despite the vast majority of game hardware now being more than capable of running Crytek's gorgeous first-person shooter. It's how NVIDIA introduced Crysis 3 this week, running on its new Android TV-powered NVIDIA Shield set-top box. Which is to say yes, it can play Crysis. The game is outright running on Android, albeit only Android devices powered by NVIDIA's bleeding edge X1 processor.

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Another year, another new Shield device from NVIDIA. What's Shield? It's the hardware line from NVIDIA that spans a bizarre handheld game console, a powerful gaming tablet, and now a $200, Android TV-powered set-top box. NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveiled the Android TV-powered set-top box this evening during a GDC 2015 press conference, which the company referred to as a combination "revolutionary TV", "gaming console" and "supercomputer." Head below for all the specs as we learn them live from NVIDIA.

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Uber car

Uber wouldn't be where it is without good ride estimates, and it's clearer than ever that the company knows this. The app-based transportation outfit just bought deCarta (its first ever public acquisition), a firm that specializes in mapping, navigation and local search. As a spokesperson tells Mashable, this is a bid to "fine-tune" any feature that depends on maps -- Uber wants better arrival time calculations, more effective carpooling routes and similar upgrades. Of course, it's probably also relevant that those features are currently powered by Uber investor/frenemy Google. The improvements will only take place behind the scenes, but don't be surprised if the Uber app's future ETA predictions are uncannily accurate.

[Image credit: Getty Images]


Along with a slew of new Steam Machines, Source Engine 2 and VR news, Valve announced an interesting add-on for anyone interested in in-home streaming for their PC games: Steam Link. These $50 boxes (in the US, international pricing is TBD) will stream content from your PC or Steam Machine, as long as they're on the same WiFi network. Adding a Steam Controller will cost an extra $50 when they launch in November, and can handle gaming in 1080p at 60Hz with low latency. Sony's Remote Play game streaming is a couple of generations old, while Microsoft just announced the feature for Windows 10, and now Valve has a cheap hardware solution too. The boxes were listed on the Steam store for a moment (see it in Google's cache here), and pictures showed a slim design, with three USB ports (one up front, two in the back) along with Ethernet, HDMI and power.

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Half-Life 2. Counterstrike: Source. Team Fortress 2. Left 4 Dead. Portal. Besides being developed by Valve, what else do those games share? They all run on the company's Source Engine that's been used since the first two released 11 years ago. Well, Valve has a new engine coming, officially, and it's aptly dubbed Source 2. Valve says that the focus of the engine this time 'round is "increasing creator productivity." The idea is to democratize game development and make it easier for amateurs (and budding indies) to use the toolset and enable them to, as Valve tells it, participate in the creation and development of their favorite games. In fact, the company specifically calls out the importance of user-generated content as a reason for making the engine easier to work with, which, undoubtedly plays into the millions of dollars its paying out to Steam Workshop creators.

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