How Nvidia Kept Project Shield a Secret

Mashable

Nvidia surprised the world at CES 2013 when it unveiled Project Shield, a portable Android gaming device that also works the PC games. Everyone expected the Tegra 4 mobile processor, but no one saw Project Shield coming. In this age of a hyperscrutiny of tech companies, how did Nvidia keep it a secret?

Three ways: simple security precautions, very little outside involvement and an incredibly tight development schedule. Nvidia describes the inception and subsequent creation of Project Shield in a blog post, revealing the product went from barely functioning prototypes to the working models we saw at CES in just 19 days.

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Nvidia's decision to use in-house talent to create Project Shield was a big factor in keeping it under wraps. After the first prototype -- which was essentially a game controller fastened to a smartphone with a piece of wood -- was assembled in early 2012, Nvidia looked to its own designers to build the device. The company, which has more than 6,000 employees, had plenty of people with experience designing products.

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It also took the simple precaution of forbidding cellphones in the workspace -- a "scruffy light-industrial neighborhood" somewhere in Silicon Valley. Without cellphones, there was no way workers could take casual pictures of the device even if they wanted to. It also probably had the secondary effect of keeping the team of engineers focused during their 14-hour days huddled over workbenches eating fried chicken.

Nvidia flew in engineers from Texas and China to help finish of the first two real prototypes, which reached CEO Jen-Hsun Huang's desk on Dec. 18. Despite serious problems, they worked, but Nvidia now had just 19 days to assemble the final units that would be revealed at CES.

Working out of that Silicon Valley space, the team worked "non-stop" to build the controllers to be ready for the Jan. 6 unveiling, and they clearly pulled it off. I got a little hands-on time with one of the units at CES, and it worked extremely well, with very few bugs.

Nvidia said it expects to start selling Project Shield in the spring or early summer. The device, powered by a Tegra 4 processor, is designed to run Android games as well as stream PC games. It can also wirelessly relay anything running on the device to a big-screen TV, and it even supports 4K resolution.

Ironically, during the unveiling of the ultra-secret Project Shield, Huang appeared to let slip the name of another hush-hush undertaking when he accidentally called the device "Project Thor." He didn't elaborate on details, but all but confirmed it was another secret project when he admonished himself a few seconds later for revealing the name in a public forum.

Are you looking forward to Project Shield? Tell us in the comments.

BONUS: Hands On With Project Shield

Click here to view the gallery: Hands On With Project Shield

Photo by Pete Pachal, Mashable

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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