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    3D-Printing a NASA ACES Helmet for Adam Savage!

    We're trilled to welcome a new member of the Tested family: 3D modeler and prop maker Darrell Maloney (aka the Broken Nerd)! We're big fans of Darrell's work and YouTube videos, and are starting a new series of collaborations between him and Adam. In this first video, Darrell goes over his process adapting a model made for vfx work to be 3D printable, and the 100+ hours of printing needed to have it come out right!

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The RAMA M6-A

    I make no secret of my affinity for small keyboards—I don't even own any full-sized boards anymore. Once you get under 40% (like the Minivan), you're not really talking about a replacement for a larger board. Sometimes, that's not the point. There are mechanical keypads and even smaller devices called micropads. One of the coolest micropads I've ever seen is the RAMA M6-A, which I've had a chance to play around with over the last couple weeks. It's an extravagant luxury for the discerning keyboard enthusiast.

    There's no hard and fast definition of what constitutes a micropad, but I'd say it's anything smaller than a number pad. The M6-A, as the name implies, has just six keys. You can use those six keys to do almost anything you want. They can be single characters, modifiers, or even macros.

    The online firmware manager "Knops" makes it easy to build new layouts and flash them to your keyboard. Since this is entirely self-contained firmware, the M6-A works the same no matter what computer you plug it into—it'll send whatever keycodes you've programmed. For example, I have mine configured to put my PC to sleep, show/hide the desktop, open the task manager, split screen my last two windows, and more. Sure, I could do all that manually, but it's neat having a little mechanical pad that does it with a single press.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 56: Pixel Ripped 1989 and Star Trek Bridge Crew TNG

    We review and recommend two VR games this week: Pixel Ripped 1989 and Star Trek: Bridge Crew's TNG expansion. The first is a nostalgia-rich tribute to the handheld consoles of the late 80s and early 90s, while Bridge Crew's first DLC puts us on the bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This is what VR was made for! Plus, a sneak peak at our Magic Leap episode coming next week.

    Episode 461 - Make It So - 8/9/18
    As you would expect, the gang is stoked about the return of Patrick Stewart to Star Trek, and we talk a bunch about our hopes and fears for Picard in the new era of Trek. Plus, Google's Android Pie in tech news and robot empathy in a Moment of Science. We unfortunately recorded this episode the day before the Magic Leap launch, so we'll be talking about it next week!
    00:00:00 / 01:50:21
    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Hexgears X-1 Keyboard

    Portable Bluetooth keyboards are usually terrible for typing. They're no better than a cheap laptop keyboard, and don't your fingers deserve more? The Hexgears X-1, which has just launched on Kickstarter in partnership with Input Club Kono Store, is a semi-custom wireless keyboard you might actually want to use.

    The Hexgears X-1 comes fully assembled, so there's no soldering required. Happily, that doesn't mean you're stuck with the same boring old switches. What makes the X-1 so interesting is that it uses the low-profile Kailh "Choc" switches we talked about recently. You can get the keyboard with brown (tactile), white (clicky), or red (linear) switches.

    The board I have to test uses the clicky white switches, which are quite different than the classic MX blue. Obviously, the travel is about a millimeter shorter, but the click is sharper and happens on both down and upstrokes (that's because of the neat Kailh clickbar design). Having taken a peek at the PCB, it would probably be feasible to desolder the include Choc switches and swap in the heavier versions offered by NovelKeys as they have the same pin configuration. The LEDs are on the PCB, so you don't have to worry about those.

    The keycaps on this board have Choc connectors rather than MX-style crosses, so you can't swap them out with custom sets. The caps are a flat profile in ABS plastic, giving the board a laptop vibe. However, the typing experience is worlds better than a laptop. You will still need to adjust if you've been using a keyboard with sculpted profile keycaps, though.

    The Hexgears X-1 is apparently modeled after the Bell X-1 supersonic aircraft, but I don't really see the resemblance. At any rate, the top frame and sides are a single piece of aluminum, and the bottom is plastic. I like the compact layout that fits a full number pad in a tenkeyless form factor. Normally, the non-standard key sizes would be an issue, but you're not going to be swapping these keycaps out anyway.

    Hands-On with Fallout 76's Pip-Boy Kit!

    We meet up with the Wand Company, makers of the upcoming Fallout 76 Pip-Boy 2000 Construction kit to pur our arm in this exquisite prop replica. Wand Company shows us some of the finer details of this kit, as well as their other beautiful collectibles from the Fallout game universe.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 55: Marvel Powers United VR

    We play and review Marvel Powers United VR, the new superhero brawler from Oculus and Sanzaru Games. Jeremy and Norm talk about why this game reminds us of the 4-player arcade brawlers of the 90s, and whether the game succeeds in making us feel like Marvel superheroes. Plus, two recommendations for mobile VR games!

    Hands-On: Looking Glass Holographic Display

    We go hands-on with The Looking Glass, the new display from a company that's been experimenting with various forms of volumetric and lightfield imaging in pursuit of real-world holograms. Looking Glass Factory's CEO Shawn Frayne explains how this new display works and how he sees 3D artists using it to visualize their creations.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Kailh Hot Swap Sockets

    When you get deep into the custom keyboard scene, you necessarily become intimately associated with soldering. Building a keyboard with your preferred switches requires at least a bit of soldering to get the switches attached to the PCB. That might not be the case forever, though. An increasing number of keyboards have moved to Kailh hot swap sockets, which let you change out switches in just a few seconds with no soldering required.

    Soldering switches onto a PCB simply ensures the pins remain in contact with the sockets on the board. There have been various attempts over the years to make keyboards hot-swappable, but they haven't worked very well. For example, some people attach small metal tubes called "holtites" to PCB contacts that act as sleeves for switch pins. You just cram a switch in there so it mates with the board and can be removed later without desoldering. The issue with holtites and many similar solutions is that they aren't very robust, and they don't fit in all PCBs.

    Tested: Kessler Motorized Camera Slider!

    Joey gives an update to his use of camera sliders with this review of a motorized slider sysetm using the Kessler Second Shooter+ controller. Here's how Joey uses sliders for production of Tested videos, product coverage, timelapses, and other types of cinematography.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Kailh Low-Profile 'Choc' Switches

    Most keyboard switches currently in production are based on Cherry's classic designs, and even many of the others at least have support for Cherry-style keycaps. Kailh has a line of increasingly popular low-profile switches that eschew all that. The so-called "Choc" switches (AKA the PG1350 series) take up less space and offer interesting properties, but it'll be a pain to find keycaps.

    As you can see in the photo below, these switches are less than half as tall as a standard Cherry-style switch. That means any keyboards built with Choc switches will be incredibly compact. These switches have a total travel of 2.4mm, substantially less than the 4mm or so that other switches have. They come in clicky, tactile, and linear variants just like larger switches. The tactile and linear switches also have a stabilizing wire inside to keep the stem centered.

    The spring performance of Kailh low-profile switches are generally a bit lighter than their larger siblings. However, NovelKeys has worked with Kailh to create a line of "heavy" variants that come with 70g springs and different stem colors. The disassembled switch below is a Choc burnt orange variant from NovelKeys.

    The most important difference here is the pin layout. Most PCBs won't accept Kailh Choc switches because the pins are over to one side of the housing. A few custom boards have support for these switches like the Planck Light. You have probably also noticed the stem lacks the Cherry cross connector. Because of stability and space issues, Choc keycaps use "prong" connectors that look a bit like AC plugs. There are a handful of keysets available for Choc switches, but the selection is minimal unless you want blanks.

    In most switches, the legs on the stem give the switch its character. For example, a tactile bump comes from a physical bump on the legs. On Choc switches, the switch's properties are mainly thanks to the channel running up the middle. That piece makes contact with a plastic nub that moves the contact leaf to fire the switch. So, it's a bit like the BOX design but without sealed secondary compartment. The clicky switches also use a smaller version of Kailh's click bar design from switches like the BOX Pale Blue.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 54: Mixed Reality with ZED Mini Camera

    We visit the offices of Stereolabs, the makers of the ZED and ZED Mini mixed reality camera systems to test out their implementation of a passthrough camera accessory for VR headsets. Using their ZED Mini, we're able to get an augmented reality experience with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and get a sense of the challenges of using a stereo camera system for passthrough AR.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Hako Royal Switches

    It's common practice among keyboard enthusiasts to mix and match the parts from different switches to create hybrids with unique properties. In particular, the explosion of Kailh Box switch variants has offered a great opportunity to make new franken-switches. Now, you don't have to buy two sets of switches to make one popular mod. NovelKeys has started selling "Hako Royal" switches.

    As the name implies, Hako Royals are a collaboration between Input Club and Novelkeys. Input Club first introduced the Hako Clear and True tactile switches earlier this year. These switches were designed to have more cushion at the bottom of each press to promote faster typing. However, they were a bit lacking in the tactility department. Meanwhile, NovelKeys rolled out the incredibly tactile Royal switches a few months ago. These switches had a certain charm, but the bump was almost too heavy.

    Some folks started swapping Hako switch internals into Royal housings, resulting in a much more tactile version of the Hako. That's what you can get now with the Hako Royal switches. Hako Royals use the stem, spring, and top housing from the Hako switches. So, they've got the increasingly common square-shaped wall around the Cherry-style cross connector. Because these switches use the Hako top housing, they are compatible with both SMD (on the circuit board) and through-switch LEDs. The bottom housing and (importantly) the contact leaf come from the NovelKeys Royal switches.

    The contact leaf lives inside the "Box" portion of the switch—a closed-off section in the housing (see below). The bump on the stem pushes a small plastic nub that pokes out of the box, and that's what moves the contact leaf. The Royal switches use a stiffer leaf that exerts more force on the stem and thus increases tactility. So, the combination of Hako parts with the Royal leaf gets you a more tactile switch with more spring resistance.

    Episode 456 - Carousel - 7/6/18
    Danica is our special guest this week joining Norm and Kishore to talk about adventures in New York, recommendations for shows and attractions, and the latest in pop culture and technology news. Plus, we devote the last 30 minutes of the podcast to discussing the show In & Of Itself. Spoilers within when the background lights change colors! (Apologies for video viewers--our camera's memory card filled up with 10 minutes left on the podcast, so it's audio-only from that point.)
    00:00:00 / 02:08:32
    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Building a CA66 Keyboard

    There are plenty of keyboards you can purchase pre-built that get the job done, but the genuinely distinctive boards require a bit of work to assemble. I evaluate numerous factors before embarking on a new keyboard build project. I consider the layout, how it will jive with keysets I have and will have in the future, and what firmware it runs. Sometimes, a keyboard just looks so neat that I throw caution to the wind. That was the case with the CA66, which I just finished building recently. Here's a look at my latest keyboard project.

    The CA66

    It's amusing that in smartphones, designers are doing everything they can to minimize bezels, but it's the opposite with keyboards. Big bezels are very in right now because they let you create a more distinctive shape and do cool things with materials. These boards can look a bit retro, but in a good way. That's the case with the CA66—the Avec Corniche 66. That roughly translates from French as "66 with a ledge."

    The board has a large, rounded top and bottom bezel with a compact 65% layout. That means there's no number pad or function key row. The arrows and far right side column of keys are also slightly offset from the rest of the board, too. The CA66 is loosely based on the IBM PCJr keyboard, which was a terrible keyboard with an interesting layout. The CA66 is a delightfully retro slab of metal—it even replicates the PCJr "IBM" badge in the lower left corner with a stylish CA66 brass logo.

    I saw pictures of the CA66 from a small Chinese group buy last year, and I immediately knew that I wanted it. I had to wait several months for the second round to open for US orders, and then came the interminable multi-month wait for production and shipping.

    Hands-On with PlayStation VR Games at E3 2018!

    We wrap up our coverage of VR games at this year's E3 with recaps of demos from the PlayStation booth. Jeremy and Norm play and share their impressions of the action shooter Blood & Truth, the revamped puzzler The Tetris Effect, and an adorable platformer in Astro Bot: Rescue Mission!