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Blizzard hits Twitch

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Social video platform Twitch and Blizzard Entertainment have announced a two-year worldwide collaboration that includes third-party live streaming rights to select Blizzard esports content, as well as special game content for Twitch Prime subscribers.

Through this collaboration, Twitch will have the third-party rights for streaming many of Blizzard’s biggest esports events through 2018. As the premier social video platform and community for gamers, fans can look forward to watching and interacting with top-tier competitive gaming content from Blizzard while benefiting from a convenient, consistent, and reliable viewing experience on Twitch. In addition, Twitch Prime gamers will rake in several stellar perks for their favorite Blizzard games.

As the first part of this landmark license deal, Blizzard is licensing third-party streaming-platform rights to Twitch for a range of Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and Overwatch esports content. The deal, which reflects Blizzard and Twitch’s long-term investment and ongoing commitment to their passionate communities, supports the world-class competitive ecosystem across all of Blizzard’s esports properties. This includes the following programs and comprises more than 20 major individual events:

  • Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC)
  • StarCraft II World Championship Series (WCS Circuit)
  • Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT)
  • Hearthstone Global Games (HGG)
  • World of Warcraft Arena Championship
  • Overwatch APEX League
  • Overwatch Premier Series

For the second part of the collaboration, Twitch Prime members in over 200 countries and territories will get special in-game loot and deals for Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. Starting on June 20 and running through August 10, current and new Twitch Prime members will receive a Golden Loot Box for Overwatch, containing a guaranteed legendary item for one of the game’s heroes along with three additional in-game items, such as emotes, voice lines, or character skins. Over the coming months, Twitch Prime members will receive 10 additional Overwatch loot boxes containing more in-game content. Overwatch players can learn more at https://twitch.amazon.com/overwatch. Similar promotions will begin later this year for Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone players.

“We founded Twitch as a gaming platform heavily based on our community’s reaction to games like Blizzard’s StarCraft II,” said Kevin Lin, COO, Twitch. “Since then, our large, but tight-knit community, our constantly evolving suite of interactive features, and a native emote-driven chat language celebrated by viewers enable us to support and grow Blizzard esports in a manner that best serves our collective fans. This includes providing Blizzard fans with exclusive in-game content for those who subscribe to Twitch Prime, another defining and cherished component of our brand.”

“We’ve had great experiences and a long history of working with Twitch, and we’re thrilled that this landmark agreement with them will help us bring some of the most exciting esports action in the world to Twitch fans and everyone who follows Blizzard esports,” said Frank Pearce, chief product officer and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Our esports communities are vital to us. We know there are millions of people out there who love Blizzard esports as much as we do, and we’re committed to making sure they’ll be able to cheer on their favorite players in all of their favorite Blizzard games for a long time to come.”

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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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