Turn Your Phone Into A PC Peripheral With Power-Grid

By Craig Pearson on March 6th, 2012 at 11:25 am.

Roccat liked the PC so much they put a ring on it. A phone ring!

Hardware makers Roccat were so excited about this that they ran a countdown with the sarcastic slogan: “Isn’t PC Gaming Dead?” Now in my view, only nuclear war or Waitrose’s Butter Chicken deserve a numerically decreasing build-up. Roccat’s reveal can’t match the horror of an atom being split, or the happy ping of a microwave delivering mock Indian tastiness, but it is neat: Power-Grid turns your smart phone into a PC gaming peripheral. It’s definitely not the system enlivening advance they claimed, not least because the PC is wholly healthy, but it will allow you to use your iThing and Google whatsit as a control centre and resource monitor, as well as further few phone-based tricks as well. Let’s enliven PC gaming in three… two… one… ping! Mmm, butter chicken.

There are three prongs on the stick Roccat are stabbing at the body of PC gaming with: the phone app, the PC app, and the hardware that’ll house the phone. The phone app has four grids that interact with the PC: the Incoming Centre deals with communications, displaying messages from Skype, Facebook, TeamSpeak and undefined others on the phone, all lumped together in one stream. While that’s neat, it’s not exactly giving you access to anything you don’t already have. I’m not sure why it’s a big deal, bit it will stop awkward moments like this happening.

Via http://vivadixies.com/post/10967657837/yes-this-is-dog?b2bb4dc8

Stop! Phones aren’t for dogs! The System Stats block is certainly a better use of a smartphone’s screen, displaying CPU load and heat, RAM usage, network speed and HD access.

The third block, Sound Control, interests me: as an inveterate sound balance fiddler, trying to strike the balance between game and whatever’s running on the other monitor, being able to do that on the phone screen instead of having to bring up Microsoft’s sound fiddler is definitely bonus.

The fourth block and PC app work together, allowing the user to customise it. For in-game use, it could be a screen that you use to set off your uber-WoW macros, or I could see it as a good home for a visual disguise selector for my TF2 spying. You build a custom tab on the PC and load it to the phone.

Now up to this point, both phone and PC software are free, and you can hook the phone up to the PC via Wifi. Roccat’s altruism is rather nice, but they’re also releasing peripherals to pair with it. For those happy with their current keyboard, the Apuri 2.0 is a dock that houses the phone. It hooks up to the PC’s via USB and keeps the phone charged. Phobo is a keyboard that’ll house the phone, replacing the traditional keypad with the phone. It’s here the symbiotic nature of things settle into a nice hug between the two. The keyboard’s not just a dock: you can write texts and even take calls from the phone on your headset.

I’m actually impressed. I mean, I’m not enthused, but the ideas are sound and given the prevalence of the AndoIphones, their use as a second screen makes a whole lot of sense. When’s it out? According to the site it’s “free from www.roccat.org after xxxx” – the silly gooses. The beta hasn’t started, so I’d expect they’re looking for a release sometime in the summer.

Via PCG.

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60 Comments »

  1. Jhoosier says:

    Sounds pretty cool to me. I wonder if it’d work with my iphone plugged in as normal to the PC.

    I’m definitely down for being able to integrate my phone and pc more, especially if it improves gaming.

    • Richie Shoemaker says:

      Why would you need an app to connect to skype/teamspeak/twitter/facebook on your PC when a phone/tablet can connect to these things directly. Am I being stupid and missing something?

    • Jhoosier says:

      “Why would you need an app to connect to skype/teamspeak/twitter/facebook on your PC when a phone/tablet can connect to these things directly. Am I being stupid and missing something? ”

      Phones aren’t for dogs!

      For me, it’s more having a small secondary screen for system info, and most importantly, volume control. I’ve got a wireless keyboard now but my sound controls aren’t working. Sometime in the future I’d like to get a mechanical keyboard, but finding one with sound control really limits your options. This would avoid that. And for free, if I can get away with it. Not to mention it being a potential custom tab for gaming (which I could see being very difficult to implement).

      Edit: but yeah, I see what you’re saying about fb, twitter, etc already being on the phone.

  2. DaftPunk says:

    Hello yes this is dog.

  3. Dana says:

    Sometimes I feel like Im the only person in the world without a smartphone.

    • Jhoosier says:

      If you don’t need it, it’s not a big deal. I just find mine very convenient, and there was a special on when my dumbphone died.

    • cliffski says:

      I don’t have one either. I never really understand why they are so popular. I guess young people are always out of the house to get away from parents, so they stay in touch using them, and old people have them to pester their kids to come home with.
      So as a middle aged geek with no kids, I guess I’m the 1% of the market with no need for one :D

      To me, this product looks like a solution to a problem nobody has. You can already get keyboards with multimedia controls, my saitek has them.

    • Njordsk says:

      Nah, still got an old nokia brick or something. I don’t need those.

      And I don’t have friends anyway, so all those meeting, socialcrap & all aren’t for me.

      Oh well

    • enobayram says:

      Guys, please stop contriving excuses and go buy one (an Android one). You won’t regret it. Especially if you’re a geek. I’m using mine to keep an eye on the installation scripts on the department’s server, using an ssh client on the phone, while seeping my beer with pals in a bar. I’ve even written a little remote controller app to control our robots, so I don’t have to lift my lazy ass. Saying “We have computers, so we don’t need smartphones” is the wrong way of looking at it. It should be more like “We have smartphones, do we need computers for most tasks?” (Except gaming of course :) )

    • Ragnar says:

      As others said, if you don’t need one, it’s not a big deal. But once you get one, there’s no going back.

      I love having a computer in my pocket. It’s replaced my netbook (my android phone is faster, with better battery life, and better handling of the small resolution) and my ipod (now relegated to car stereo) while still being a phone. It can also replace a tablet (trading a larger screen for better portability), or a portable game system.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I don’t have one. I still use a flip-open phone, which is shit but functional. Mobile music comes from a dedicated MP3 player (with a different battery, so I can run it dry without affecting ability to phone); most other functions of smartphones, I don’t want. Pocket internet is an appealing idea, but paying for it isn’t.

      Otherwise, I loathe and detest phones generally.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Never underestimate the power (and danger) of having an access to Internet at all time, everywhere.
      The power to check any fact, any review, any word, in a few seconds, everywhere.

      You don’t need it to begin with, that’s right. But the day you get this power, you will miss the moments when your second brain is not with you.

  4. Eynonz says:

    Wow nice….. would love to use it to view my PC performance while in-game.

    • Somerled says:

      Is viewing PC performance while playing a game really a thing? Like some new audiophile voodoo applied to gaming culture? Probably I’m just being thick, but is there more than a passing need for having this info to hand?

    • Brun says:

      It’s helpful if you’re concerned with overheating to know when you’re getting too hot.

      Also, if you’re working on overclocking your CPU or GPU you’ll have to observe its temperature behavior while under load. I know they make benchmarking software for this purpose, but some people like to supplement that by testing/tweaking under “real-world” loads like games.

    • Gnoupi says:

      If you have a gaming laptop, and you play a game in which the developers went crazy with shaders*, without restricting the framerates, you actually need to check the temperature regularly.

      If not, especially during a hot summer, you face the risk of a hard reset, if you’re not careful.

      * examples noticed recently: Trine 2 (under water, mostly), or PAYDAY (the bright effect in the bank level)

  5. Grakkus says:

    Really? A stupid dog meme?

  6. kimadactyl says:

    Been thinking a lot recently abour how RTS/Dota games still use the UI from Warcraft 3. EVen though everyone has widescreens now and you’re basically playing a square game in a letterbox shape. Playing SC2 or Dota 2 with the minimap on tablet/smartphone would be sweet, for instance, and allow a lot of the UI to be cleaned up on screen. Ditto for the character bar, or inventory… calling it now, this is the future!111!11

  7. The First Door says:

    This does sound like a great idea… except it seems a bit bonkers that it only works with iOS devices, but not with Apple Macs yet. I suppose it is partly because it’ll be difficult to make a simple dock for Android devices what with there being crazy amounts of different form factors.

    Still, it seems a very clever way of doing what Razer are trying to do with their Blade concept, using a touch screen that people already have rather than making people pay for a new one.

    • Optimaximal says:

      Why the heck does it even need to be docked to a fancy keyboard?

      Bluetooth and/or Wireless Networking is a thing these days.

    • Gnoupi says:

      It doesn’t need that. It’s only the peripheral they would sell, to go with it. But the actual app will work, no matter of the place you plug your phone.

  8. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I like the sound of this butter chicken.

  9. Wandering Taoist says:

    All these and more game specific functionalities can be found on Logitech G15, the best keyboard ever ever.You need to see something specific on your keyboard display (FRAPS, fan speed, GPU/CPU temps?) There is an app for that.

    • yhalothar says:

      Shame about the actual keys though!

      Sent from my Filco Majestouch

    • Brahms says:

      Yeah, this would be awesome if it superceded the G15, because really, why should I have to buy a keyboard with a little screen when I already have a little screen?

    • Gnoupi says:

      The problem with fancy gaming keyboards is mostly when you play on a laptop (yes, a gaming laptop, with an actual gpu inside). It’s not really convenient to add a keyboard in front on that.

      The Logitech G13 is nice for that, but it’s limited in its functions and display.

    • Brun says:

      My old Dell XPS 1730 had the G15 LCD screen built right into the case.

    • Fumarole says:

      I love my G15 but it’s just about at the end of its life after seven years of serious gaming. I think a newer version of the G15 is what I’ll pick up, especially since I was recently at a Logitech office and made a contact there who can get me their employee discount. So while I appreciate what these phones can be used for, since I don’t have a smartphone this isn’t going to be for me.

  10. 0WaxMan0 says:

    Have been pondering all the fantastic uses of a small touch sensitive screen as an addition to my pc for a while (prompted by having my smart phone sat between me and the KB most of the time). Glad to see some one with access to the right tech resources has seen the possibilities as well :). Now just to wait for them to get android support out.

  11. kael13 says:

    This is a great idea. With all the processing power in a modern phone these days it makes sense for there to be docking capability in a range of devices to enhance their functionality.

    I still want my car to have all its telemetry computed and displayed on my iPhone when I plug it in.

  12. BigJonno says:

    I’ve got to admit, the fact that the software is freely available does move this from “Meh, whatever” to “potentially useful bit of gadgetry”. It’s all well and good pointing to the fancy keyboards on the market that already have this kind of functionality, but not everyone can afford to buy fancy keyboards.

  13. El Mariachi says:

    Didn’t the Dreamcast controller have a primitive version of something like this? Not for smartphones obviously, but a little dockable LCD doodad.

  14. Axess Denyd says:

    Pity about the keyboard not having a numpad, though. I think it would have been a bit better to keep the numpad and have the phone up top, landscape-style, maybe with adjustable angle.

    Oh well, I refuse to pay much for a keyboard that is not bucking spring anyway.

  15. Skabooga says:

    The numpad! Beautiful numpad! What have they done to you? How will I do my spreadsheets now?

  16. SiHy_ says:

    Thank god this arrived! PC gaming was on its last legs but this will surely save us all.

  17. Brun says:

    PC gaming is not going to be “resurrected” by a peripheral.

    • RakeShark says:

      *puts his steering wheel, foot petals, and flight joysticks away in shame*

    • Brun says:

      To clarify:

      There’s nothing wrong with interesting, specialized, or unusual peripherals (as long as they’re actually useful). I own quite a few myself. It’s just that a lack of peripheral variety isn’t really the problem with PC gaming right now.

  18. sonofsanta says:

    Well it’s a damn sight better than anything Razer have spewed forth recently.

    All the people whinging about iPhone only: Craig clearly points out that it works with a Google whatsit as well. It’s like you people don’t even read the article and just go straight to complain in the comments section. What kind of an internet would we have if everyone just did that, I ask you?

  19. Skusey says:

    If it’s a good keyboard as well, I’m definitely interested. Thinking of getting a new one anyway.

  20. jimbonbon says:

    Hey look, its part of a Razer Blade sold separately! http://www.razerzone.com/blade

    It looks broadly similar to the ‘Switchblade UI’ although not quite as extensive in terms of integration with games.

  21. mageta says:

    And I bet, as with all those totally useless and over-priced keyboards, it woun’t even have mechanical keystrokes… what a waste of money.

  22. BAshment says:

    we could just use a grid of smart phones as a keyboard and it would still be cheaper then an oled one.

  23. cassus says:

    I like that they put it on the side of the keyboard that you never ever use while gaming. Perfect location, really.

  24. Radiant says:

    Docking.

    heheh

  25. sneetch says:

    Hmmm… I don’t see this as being all that useful really, the problem with replacing the number pad with a bank of icons on a touch screen is that you can’t rest your fingers on the screen or else you’ll activate them so you’ll have to look at it to see the abilities you’re using which means you’re not looking at the game you’re playing. The temperature gauges are a bit better but it’s a curio.

  26. absolofdoom says:

    I’ve got a roccat arvo keyboard, meself. It’s a great keyboard.

  27. DrunkDog says:

    That’s great news. 508 calories per pack. Thanks.

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