Firstly, they officially unveiled the new Tegra 4 architecture which they claim to be "the worlds fastest mobile processor". The Tegra 4 is using a new 28nm manufacturing process, which should offer higher performance, better battery life and generate less heat than its predecessor. The processor itself is a quad-core implementation of ARM's A15 and it has 72 GPU cores (I assume CUDA cores), although the official clock speeds have not yet been announced. Overall it's clear that this is a leap forward for ARM based graphics and if the performance to battery life ratio is competitive, then I fully expect to see a lot of Tegra 4 Android and Windows RT powered tablets in 2013.
I think it's fair to say the second interesting announcement suprised everyone. NVIDIA unveiled a new hand-held games console known as Project Shield which is powered by the previously mentioned Tegra 4 chipset and runs a stock version of the Android operating system.
The device itself looks like a combination of an Xbox 360 and PS3 controller with a 5-inch LCD display attached, which also acts as a lid (clamshell design) for the device.
Project Shield is capable of running all existing Android games and also has access to Tegra specific software which will be optimised for the chipset.
Although the prospect of a dedicated Android gaming device is interesting, the real unique selling point is Project Shield's ability to stream game play from a local PC equipped with a Kepler based graphics card (e.g. GeForce GTX 650 and above). This is comparable to Sony's "Remote Play" feature for PlayStation, as all of the intelligence is handled by your PC (Kepler GPU), with Project Shield excepting the user input and displaying the output. This entire process is completed over a local wireless network and Project Shield even lets you stream the content to your HDTV via wireless (requiring a smaller receiver) or using a standard HDMI cable.
NVIDIA demonstrated a number of Steam games streaming at full quality directly from a Windows PC over wireless. The experience looked great and early hands-on reports have said the playback was smooth and there was no noticeable input latency. NVIDIA were also quick to point out that this service should be compatible with any PC game that supports a controller, regardless of weather it was downloaded or installed from optical media.
Overall I am certainly intrigued by the concept, essentially taking the technology that powers cloud based gaming services such as OnLive and making them available locally, where networks have higher bandwidth and lower latency. Not only will this allow users to take broader advantage of their pre-purchased games collection, but also provide a fast and simple way to play PC games on their HDTV (something that I would certainly be interested in).
The only negative is that NVIDIA did not share specifics regarding the release date (expected seomtime in 2013) or price. Personally I believe it's the price which will determine the success of the product. If priced to high (e.g. £200+) the next generation games consoles from Microsoft and Sony (expected to be announced at E3 in June) will likely swamp the market. However if NVIDIA are smart they could offer Project Shield at a discount or bundled with NVIDIA graphics cards, which would likely be the final nail in the coffin for AMD (ATi) in the discrete graphics card market.