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Overview

NUON was a failed attempt by Toshiba, Motorola, Samsung, and Raite Optoelectronics to add gaming, internet, and enhanced navigation to certain DVD players. NUON technology was developed by VM Labs Inc. as an attempt to turn passive digital video into an interactive experience. NUON DVD players were supposed to be the "all-in-one" digital media experience. Richard Miller, using experience gained developing Atari Jaguar hardware, created a powerful 128-bit processor to embed in DVD players. The NUON had the power to decode audio and video while providing and enhanced UI and trick-play modes. More importantly, it provided a platform for 3D digital interactive content straight from a DVD player. NUON technology was only added to a handful of DVD players and support for the platform was abysmal. VM Labs filed for bankruptcy in 2001, just one year after the release of the NUON. VM Labs sold the NUON technology to Genesis Microchip, where development ceased after July 2002.

Hardware

At the core of the NUON is the Aries 3 chip, which was based on a 128-bit, 4 way parallel VLIW processor architecture. It manages the CPU, decodes audio and video, and preforms all system management. A hardware block on the chip assisted with MPEG video decoding so the Aries 3 was free to process other instructions. The chip was very powerful for it's time.

Features of the Aries 3:

  • MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 audio/video decoding
  • 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio decoding
  • Extended DVD trick modes
  • 32-voice wave table synthesizer
  • MP3 audio decoding
  • Content Scrambling System descrambling module
  • Video Scaling
  • 3D video gaming

The first DVD player to use NUON technology was the Toshiba SD-2300. The technology in the few available NUON DVD players raised the price around $100 over comparable players. The choice to market games to the movie audience ultimately ended up being a mistake. Sales were very poor, and support was absolutely terrible. The first NUON enhanced DVD was the software/movie Bedazzled by Fox Home Video. Just about every other publisher waited on the technology and support never truly came to the device. With the PlayStation 2's release imminent as a game console that plays DVDs rather than a DVD player that plays games, the chances of success for the NUON had gone. The public opted for the game console that was cheaper and had much better support for games.

The NUON had a variety of controllers, one popular standard one being white in color with a D-pad with 4 buttons. The stealth gamepad is 3-pronged controller with a mini analog stick, a D-pad, and a trigger button. It is designed very similarly to the Nintendo 64's controller. A memory unit was planned for Q1 2002 release for the NUON in sizes ranging from 2MB to 4MB, but was canceled. Many games used passwords to make up for the lack of a released memory card.

Software

Only eight games were ever released for NUON. The graphics are comparable to early PlayStation 2 games, and are most notable in Iron Soldier 3, a mech combat game. The best game is generally regarded to be Tempest 3000 (many sources consider it the only truly playable game) and it's valued at much more than the other NUON games. Games were controlled via a proprietary controller. Depending on the model, there could be one or two controller ports.

Homebrew

The NUON homebrew community was more active than the commercial community. In late 2001, VM Labs released a homebrew SDK so developers could put out their own homebrew NUON software, even as the platform died and faded into obscurity. Homebrew games are simply burned to CD-Rs

List of models that can play NUON homebrew

  • Samsung DVD-N501
  • Samsung DVDN504
  • Samsung DVDN505
  • RCA DRC300N
  • RCA DRC480N

The RCA models cannot play commercial NUON games.

List of NUON homebrew

  • Ambient Monsters
  • Atari / C64 Video Game Music Player
  • Atari 800 Emulator
  • Atari 2600 PacMan (Hacked version of Chomp)
  • BOMB
  • Breakout
  • Chomp (Sample game included with the second NUON SDK)
  • Decaying Orbit
  • Doom Shareware
  • Pac-Man - Tournament Edition (Hacked version of Chomp)
  • SameGame - Colors
  • SameGame - Shapes
  • Sheshell's Sea Adventure
  • Snake
  • Synth Demo
  • Yaroze Classics (Katapila, Invs and BreakDown)

Links

http://www.nuon-dome.com/, a site dedicated to the NUON.

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