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Retrogaming to the fore in SA coding contest

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Many games comes and go, but a few, most often the classic ones stand out in gamer’s minds for years to come and keep them coming back for more. TIMOTHY KROON of Entelect looks at these retrogames and the aspects that make them so addictive ahead of the annual Entelect R100K Challenge.|Many games comes and go, but a few, most often the classic ones stand out in gamer’s minds for years to come and keep them coming back for more. TIMOTHY KROON of Intellect looks at these retrogames and the aspects that make them so addictive ahead of the annual Entelect R100K Challenge.

Many of us remember spending hours at a time playing retro, one-dimensional video games on arcade machines and home consoles as children. Today, these classic games are no longer exclusively for children, and – in spite of the incredible advances in technology and software, rendering the make-up of these gaming platforms outdated – they have in fact become a global and local cultural phenomenon, seeing scores of children and adults alike taking up the pastime of what is now known as ‘retrogaming’.

What is it about these games that have seen their sustained popularity over the decades, in spite of the newer, faster and more sophisticated games being released in their thousands every year?

“There is something quite intangible about the cult-hit phenomenon surrounding many of these games, which sees them still revered and enjoyed by gaming enthusiasts and novice players today,” says Timothy Kroon, General Manger of Resourcing at Entelect.

Retrogaming, also referred to as classic gaming or old-school gaming, describes the playing and collecting of vintage PC, console, and arcade games.

“As most of the systems which these games were intended to run on are now obsolete, players either source the rare original hardware, or play them on newer devices through an emulation process,” explains Kroon.

According to Kroon, most retro-games which have become re-popularised were created during the 1980s and 1990s.

“Videogames were introduced to the consumer in the 1950s, but the 1970s are considered the golden age of videogames, seeing the release of still popular titles such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers, Sonic, Galazian and Frogger. In more recent times, these games regained their notoriety among consumers, driven by an appreciation for the simplicity and individualised challenge of many of these games, as well as a sense of nostalgia.

“This is particularly true for gaming enthusiasts as well as many members of the development and coding community, which forms part of why the annual Entelect R100K Challenge is traditionally based on a cult classic gaming platform.”

The increasingly popular R100K Challenge is an annual artificial intelligence (AI) coding competition aimed at novice to expert gamers and developers, in association with NAG and official product sponsor, Sony Mobile. Launched in 2012, the Challenge has been themed annually around a different retro-game, seeing previous years pay homage to Pac Man Battle City and Tron Legacy, while this year’s competition is based on the popular retro-game, Space Invaders.

“The personality types of our entrants, whether entering the novice or expert gamers and developer categories, show a great affiliation and appreciation for classic games, and we believe this is a key driver in the outstanding interest and enthusiasm the R100K Challenge has received since its inception,” he notes. Kroon goes on to say that these classic games have the added benefit of a simpler and more basic construction than the highly designed and complex games developed today. “This allows for easier modification and element development during the Challenge.”

The popularity of retrogaming shows no signs of slowing down, and the cultural phenomenon is permeating mainstream popular culture through various means such as social media, the press, and films such as the recently released retro-themed movie, Pixels.

“As the retrogaming culture grows and spreads throughout new audiences and generations, the increasing rarity of original hardware also makes accessories more sought after by dedicated fans. With new technologies being developed on which these games can be played, a wide variety of classic game re-makes being released, creative retrogaming projects being driven through platforms such a Kickstarter, as well as the adoptions of classic game references in large events and corporate initiatives such as the Entelect R100K Challenge, the ability of these games to influence both modern culture and business continues to grow and present new opportunities,” says Kroon.

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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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