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    PROJECTIONS, Episode 42: Oculus Go Hands-On, Budget Cuts Impressions!

    We go in-depth with the Oculus Go $200 standalone virtual reality headset at this year's Game Developers Conference! After playing a few games with it, including the cross-platform Settlers of Catan, we share our impressions and some insights from chatting with Oculus developers. Plus, we get some play time with one of our most anticipated VR games, Budget Cuts!

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Cherry MX Vintage Black Switches

    Most of the fancy switches you see people putting on their custom boards are shiny and new, but some of the most sought-after switches are older than the people typing on them. Because the tooling and manufacturing processes for switches have changed over the years, older batches of switches can have noticeably different properties. That's the case with the popular Cherry MX Black. Finding a batch of so-called Cherry Vintage Blacks is like hitting the custom keyboard jackpot.

    The MX Black is one of Cherry's oldest switch designs, introduced back in 1984. It's a medium-weight stiff switch that falls in the linear category. That means there's no click or tactile bump as you press the key. MX Blacks were popular in industrial equipment, mainframe terminals, point-of-sale machines, and scientific instruments. The MX Black actuates at 60 grams of force and bottoms out around 80 grams. That's substantially heavier than the more well-known MX Blue (about 50g and 60g).

    Cherry has been producing MX Black switches continuously over the years—you can still get brand new boards with fresh batches of Black switches. However, enthusiasts who have tracked Cherry's manufacturing report the company made some tooling changes around 1994 or 1995, and MX Blacks haven't felt the same since. The newer switches have the same force ratings, but they just aren't as good.

    A Vintage Black is smoother and has less wobble. Some may disagree on that, but I think the difference is pretty noticeable when you've used a Vintage Black. You can see a comparison of vintage and newer MX Black stems below. It's hard to spot the differences in images, but the vintage stem is smooth, whereas the newer one has a slightly rough texture. The stem is what moves up and down in the housing to hit the metal contacts. If your stem is not smooth, the switch feels "gritty."

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 41: Rec Room Quests and Zero Latency

    We've gushed about Rec Room for a while now, and devote this week's episode to discussing why it's such a great introduction to virtual reality and how its multiplayer quests have real depth. Rec Room's latest quest--Island of the Lost Skulls--is one of the best VR experiences we've had yet. Plus, Norm talks about playing the Zero Latency location-based room-scale VR game.

    Testing the Ergonomics of Vertical Mice

    Sit up straight with your feet flat on the ground. Get a chair with good lumbar support. Adjust your monitor so that the top of it is as eye level. You've likely heard one or more of these kinds of tips for sitting at a desk and using a computer. They're all talked about in reference to computer ergonomics. UC Berkeley defines ergonomics as "the science of fitting jobs to people." And so by extension, it could be said that a major aspect of computer ergonomics is determining the best desk setup and computer accessories for people to use so that the experience is more natural.

    As it turns out, a traditional computer mouse may not apply good ergonomics. I want you to do a little experiment to realize it. First, rest your hand and arm by your side. Take note of how it feels, and the orientation of your forearm in particular. Now move your arm into position as if you were using a mouse. Do you know what is happening inside your arm? Put your other hand around your arm to feel the change. The bones in your arm twisted, and the muscles tightened in order to do so. The orientation of our arm when using a mouse isn't even close to a natural resting position. Putting your body into unnatural positions for long periods of time can cause physical strain, or even injury.

    Early last year I started looking for an alternative to your standard computer mouse. I switched from using trackpads on laptops to a desktop mouse after building my first PC, and it didn't take long for my use of a traditional mouse to start causing me discomfort, and sometimes minor pain, in my hand and wrist. (Before I go any further I'd like to say that myself nor anyone at Tested is offering medical advice. If you think you have a problem, please seek a medical professional if at all possible.)

    Do as I say, not as I do. I've yet to see a doctor about my joint issues. My problem is likely two fold. First, when using a traditional mouse I don't use the proper technique; moving primarily with your shoulder and elbow. I'll move my wrist side to side, and plant my wrist to use only my fingers. While this level of control is great for precise production work or playing first person shooters, it's also a fast track to a repetitive motion injury like carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, joint problems run in my family, specifically rheumatoid arthritis. That is very likely not doing me any favors. As a result of these factors I'm not able to use a traditional mouse for long periods of time.

    So I started usng a vertical mouse.

    Hobby RC: Testing the Tamiya Dancing Rider

    I consider myself to be pretty well-rounded when it comes to RC stuff. I've dabbled in a little bit of everything during my years in the hobby. Until recently, however, I had one glaring omission from my RC bona fides: I had never built an RC car from Tamiya. That's a little like being a chef who has never made a grilled cheese sandwich!

    Most of my RC buddies got their start in the hobby with iconic Tamiya vehicles like the Grasshopper, Frog, and Blackfoot. These simple and tough machines were ideal for beginning builders and drivers. Tamiya also has a reputation for producing some very unusual RC cars. And that is how I finally filled the Tamiya-shaped void in my life! Enter the Tamiya Dancing Rider.

    About the Dancing Rider

    The Dancing Rider ($146) is modeled after 3-wheel delivery vehicles that are popular in Japan. It is definitely a unique platform in both appearance and function. I'm a sucker for unusual models. So this kit was right up my alley!

    I quickly discovered that I had to abandon all of my standard concepts of scale for RC cars. Tamiya calls the Dancing Rider a 1/8-scale vehicle, but it is much smaller than your average 1/8-scale 4-wheeled rig. Sure, when you scale down a smaller-than-average vehicle, you get a smaller-than-average model. I get it.

    From size and power standpoints, the Dancing Rider has much more in common with 1/18-scale cars than anything you would typically find on the 1/8-scale shelf. One exception is the radio gear used in the Dancing Rider, which is pulled from the 1/10-scale class. None of this scaling is a problem. I just found it interesting.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The Minivan 40% Keyboard

    A standard keyboard has around 104 keys, but some smaller form factors might sport 80 or 60-ish. I'd lay good odds that your keyboard is somewhere in that realm, but there are enthusiast boards that make do with far fewer. So-called 40% keyboards are increasingly popular, and one of the most well-known is the Minivan from TheVan Keyboards. This keyboard is small, but it's more powerful than you'd think.

    The Minivan.

    A 40% keyboard has all the standard alpha keys, but many of the other keys are missing or smaller than usual. These boards all have varying ideas about what keys you need, but I think the Minivan is the best for a few reasons. Rather than use a full-sized spacebar and enter key, the Minivan uses a split space design that lets you have both space and enter on the bottom row. That frees up locations for function keys and mods in the Minivan's small footprint.

    The Minivan also has several keys that are programmed to have different functions depending on whether you press or hold them. For example, the Fn toggle on the right is the quote key if you just press it, but holding it down triggers the assigned function layer. Function layers are a big deal on the Minivan, as you'd probably expect. It doesn't even have a number row, so you'll need to flip between at least two different layers to access all the usual keyboard features. However, you can get extremely efficient with enough practice. Every keyboard function is accessible within no more than two keys of the home row, so you can dramatically cut down on hand movement with a Minivan.

    Like many custom keyboards, this one is fully programmable via the TMK firmware. There's an online config tool where you can visually define your layout and function layers. Flashing that layout to the board is a snap (as long as you've got the necessary program installed on your computer), and you can change it as many times as you want.

    Hands-On with Nintendo Labo Cardboard Kits!

    We go hands-on with the Nintendo Labo cardboard maker kits for the Switch console! Jeremy, Kishore, and Norm spend the day testing out the Variety and Robot kits, assembling a few of the accessories and playtesting their corresponding games. We share our impressions on Labo and our hopes for the platform.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: NovelKeys x Kailh Big Switches

    Most of today's keyboard switches have standardized on a Cherry MX-style housing, even those that have different internal designs. That's just easier when it comes to designing keyboards. However, the NovelKeys x Kailh Big Switches are not intended to be used in a keyboard. These are custom keyboard switches that have been scaled up by four times. Not only do they look awesome on your desk, they're a great way to learn about how switches work inside.

    The Big Switches.

    When I say these are scaled up switches, that's exactly what I mean—the Big Switches are not models of Kailh's regular small switches. These are completely functional switches that are just really, really big. If you hand-wired them up to a controller, you could use them like a regular switch. In fact, Razer used the NovelKeys x Kailh Big Switches at CES to build a giant novelty gaming keyboard.

    As the name implies, the Big Switches are a collaboration between retailer NovelKeys and switch maker Kailh. They come in three versions, all of which are loosely based on the customized regular switches produced for NovelKeys by Kailh. There are pale blue, burnt orange, and dark yellow versions.

    The dark yellow switch is linear, so there's no tactile bump or click. The burnt orange is tactile, so there's a bump as you press it down. The pale blue is clicky, so there's a loud double click as you press and release. The cool thing is you can open the housings of these switches like you would a smaller switch. It's a little tricky because the plastic is thicker and thus you need more force to undo the clips.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 40: Brass Tactics Review

    Norm and Jeremy review Brass Tactics, a real-time strategy game made specifically for virtual reality. What can VR add to the RTS genre? Plus, we talk about the physics of ping pong in VR with Eleven: Table Tennis!

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: GMK Double-Shot Keycap Sets

    There are many manufacturers of keycaps out there, but only a few have focused on the enthusiast community. One of the most popular manufacturers, and one you'll see mentioned a lot is GMK. This German company specializes in high-quality, thick double-shot keycaps. Many manufacturers have tried to emulate GMK, but its sets are still the gold standard for many keyboard lovers.

    A double-shot keycap is known as such because it's made in two "shots" of plastic. The first one includes a lattice with the raised legend you want on the cap. Then, another shot covers the lattice and forms the outer surface of the keycap, which is a different color than the text. That text will end up completely flush with the surface of the second shot. If done properly, the two appear to be one piece. You can do double-shot molding in PBT plastic, but most of it (including GMK sets) is done with ABS as it produces sharper legends.

    Double-shot keycaps are not unique to GMK, but it's arguable that GMK's quality is the best. Interestingly, GMK hasn't been at this for very long—it only started making these sets in 2011. So how can it make the best double-shot sets? Before GMK was on the scene, famed switch maker Cherry was in the business of making double-shot keycaps. However, it stopped producing the sets and sold all its keycap tooling to GMK. That allowed GMK to pick up where Cherry left off.

    Testing the Liftoff Drone Racing Simulator

    I've written about several RC flight simulators over the years. There is no doubt that they are excellent tools for developing and polishing your piloting skills. Many sims let you fly multi-rotor models. Some also have First Person View (FPV) features. But very few programs are actually designed to emulate the specific demands of flying a high-speed FPV quad through a challenging race course. Liftoff is one of those simulators.

    The Basics

    Liftoff is a Steam game. I assume that most of us here are familiar with the Steam platform. The minimum system requirements are pretty reasonable. In fact, I have been running Liftoff on a mid-range laptop that doesn't quite hit all of the minimums. The game has been running just fine in single player mode. With that being said, there are still quite a few features that I have not yet utilized. It is possible that some of those features could require more horsepower to run well.

    Don't expect life-like graphics here. You won't find them. However, I think that the image quality is good enough for the sim's intended purpose. What's important to me is that the game runs smoothly and without lag on my machine. It does this even at the highest video quality settings.

    Flying a speedy racing quad through air gates is tougher than it looks. Training on a simulator helps.

    Knowing that it isn't really practical to review all aspects of this simulator, I decided to focus on its core functionality: training to become a better racing quad pilot. For some, that might mean starting at square one. As you will see, I came in with a fair bit of varied experience flying all types of multi-rotors…and perhaps an over-inflated confidence in my abilities.

    In addition to the single-player flight simulation, you can race against other people online, create your own race course, design a cyber multi-rotor, and other neat things. But those capabilities are garnish to the fundamental purpose of the sim. People who are really into gaming may have an interest in such features. I'm okay ignoring them.

    Tested: Glowforge Laser Cutter Review

    After using the Glowforge personal laser cutter for six months, Jeremy and Norm talk about the projects they've done, the lessons they've learned from using the machine, and caveats of its operation. The Glowforge definitely has its limitations, but being able to easily laser cut in our own homes has changed the way we think about making things.

    The 8 Must-Have Apps for Your New Android Phone

    Picking up the latest and greatest Android phone is only the first step. The apps on your phone are just as important as having fast hardware or a razor-sharp screen, but there are so many apps out there. Which apps are worthy of your phone? Here are the eight must-have apps for an Android phone.


    The internet is a scary place, and even as strong password might not be enough to protect your accounts all the time anymore. Using two-factor authentication (2FA) is the best way to ensure no one but you accesses your accounts, but the default SMS option for 2FA is susceptible to SIM hijacking. The best way to use 2FA is with an authentication app, and the best I've found is Authy.

    This app is entirely free and easy to set up. All services that support auth apps (eg. Google, Twitter, and many more) will work with Authy. You just need to scan a QR code, and Authy generates numeric codes for your accounts. The best thing about Authy is that it encrypts and syncs your auth tokens between devices. Thus, you can generate codes on your phone, tablet, or PC. You need to know the decryption password for the tokens to access them on a new device, but the added security is worth it. Authy is completely free.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 39: High-End Photogrammetry for VR

    Virtual reality environments can be built manually, like video game levels, but they can also be constructed using real-world imagery and scanning. We visit the offices of Cyark, an organization that travels around the world documenting historical sites using advanced scanning equipment, converting some of those scans to explore in VR.