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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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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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