18THPARALLEL_cannonballPune-based 18th Parallel has developed a middleware that can convert any standalone Android device into a micro-console. Once companies integrate its Cannonball software layer on to an Android phone, tablet or set top box, gamers will be able to use Xbox 360, PlayStation or even Logitech controllers to play mobile games without any sort of optimization from game developers.

This has been tried before, unsucessfully: Previous attempts like Ouya that tried to create a micro-console (small Android-powered console that can play mobile games on a TV) failed miserably as games had to be optimized to the SDK created for the console. Many game developers did not port their games over as they were not sure if there will be enough people interested in playing their games on such a device. Gamers were hesitant about buying them as they were not sure about their games working on the device. This is apart from the fact that those devices had proprietary app stores through which one had to buy games… again!

Cannonball addresses these issues: You can download a game from the Google Play Store and the software will create an overlay that will detect the controller you’re using and figure out a control scheme that is comfortable for you and suitable for the kind of game. Cannonball will also explain to a gamer the control scheme that needs to be followed every time he launches a game. This is done without any intervention from the game developer.

“There are several Android devices out there that have the power to run games, but are not used for it because it is not always possible to play games on those devices as one can on mobile phones. But if they integrate Cannonball then gamers can use a controller of their choice or service providers could offer their own custom controllers to anyone who subscribes to such a service,” 18th Parallel co-founder Nishith Shah told MediaNama.

18th Parallel was co-founded by Shah, Hardik Belani and Samir Patel in 2011, and has been working on the technology for two years now. The company has received an undisclosed amount of angel funding from their professional network to date.

Set top boxes: The next big Android thing?

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At CES 2014, we got to see one integration of the 18th Parallel technology in MiiPC, an Android PC developed by a US-based company.

18th Parallel also has a pipeline of companies that are trying to integrate this technology into devices that will be releasing in the market within a year. They are working with a few service providers in India to integrate Cannonball into set top boxes, apart from several service providers in Europe. These service providers will be shifting to Android-based set top boxes over the next two years, and will announce a few in the second half of this year. Shah refused to disclose if he is working with service providers such as Airtel, Tata or upcoming players like Jio since it is confidential. In India we already heard that Jio is planning to distribute Android Set Top boxes devices to its customers when it launches.

Gaming on set top box is not a new concept, but till now it was affected by the operating system and the specs of the device. For example, Indiagames had tied-up with Reliance and Airtel to introduce subscription-based gaming services back in 2009-10. However with more powerful devices becoming affordable it is now possible for companies such as Airtel, Tata or Reliance to come up with set top boxes that offer functionality that goes beyond regular TV. It needs to be noted that Cannonball can be integrated into any subscription offering of a service provider.

Smartphone play: Apart from using console controllers, it is also possible to use a smartphone to control games on these set top boxes. 18th Parallel can create a separate app with a virtual controller or integrate the same into the app of the service provider. A couple of service providers have even asked 18th Parallel to integrate this soft controller so that customers don’t have to necessarily buy another controller for the same.