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Big at rAge this weekend

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At this year’s rAge not only will visitors be treated to the latest trends in gaming, but will also catch a glimpse into what’s new in AR, VR, Multi-screen gaming and the latest Indie games.

It’s that time of year again! Time for all gamers, developers, geek-culture enthusiasts and anyone with a fondness for technology and an inclination towards escapism to attend the most hotly anticipated mega-event of the year: the really Awesome gaming expo (rAge). In addition to the massive range of products and games on display, this is probably the only event in South Africa where locals can get a real taste of what the future of consumer technology holds. rAge is the event to get a glimpse at international trends.

So, what’s hot and trending internationally right now that’ll be on show at rAge?

Augmented reality: Augmented reality is the overlay of information or imagery onto the real world, allowing users to see virtual items while looking at real-world things. Have you played Pokémon Go or experimented with Snapchat lenses? Then you get the general idea. 2015 was a year of inviting promise for AR technology, with plenty of new hardware announced and initial endeavours hitting the mainstream. 2016 is shaping up as the year that promise is fulfilled, with hardware finally making its way into the hands of consumers, and exciting new content providing unique experiences to an AR-hungry public. Whether or not we can expect to see an augmented reality-heavy 2017 will depend on whether Pokémon Go is the start of a new trend, or if it’s simply a spin-off success carried by an already successful brand.

Virtual reality: 2016 saw the rise of VR gaming with the debut of the Oculus Rift in late 2015, Sony launching PlayStation VR for the PlayStation 4 game console in 2016, and Samsung’s mobile VR system. But what is the future of VR? The platform has one key criticism: it’s isolating. Dave Ranyard, ex studio head of Sony London and now an independent VR developer, has made clear that he believes the future of VR is a social one. It’ll be about being transported to a fantasy world and doing something cool with your friends.

Multi-screen gaming: Multi-screen gaming adds a new dimension to games, allowing them to be played on TV screens, consoles and mobile devices. Chromecast, for example, gives players the ability to project games like Monopoly onto their TVs, enabling them to play the game with their smartphones. Big industry players like Google, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are producing secondary devices promoting multi-screen gaming.

Indie games: In the not-too-distant past, if you wanted your game to get massive attention, you generally had to be associated with a successful, big-name game developer or publisher. Things are changing quickly. Gaming platforms such as Zynga and Steam are giving independent game developers a way to expose their products to the market. Gamers are becoming more involved in the development process as video game schools and online courses are becoming more widespread and affordable. Some examples of hyper-successful, mega-hit indie games include UnderTale, Diner Dash and the locally-developed Broforce.

2016 has been and continues to be a tantalising year for gamers, and rAge is the only place in Africa where you can get a glimpse, a taste of what’s to come in gaming in SA in the next five years.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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