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    Crowdfunding Spotlight: Cooler Master ControlPad

    The odds are that every computer keyboard you've touched uses digital switches. That is, they're either on, or they're off. PC hardware manufacturer Cooler Master is working on a keyboard with analog input, and it's on Kickstarter right now. The ControlPad is a small board with 24 keys, each one of them capable of full analog input, and it's not a complete ground-up redesign of standard keyboard switches.

    The ControlPad has 23 single unit keycaps in an ortho layout (i.e. not staggered). At the bottom right, there's a single 2u keycap. These are all programmable, but you're probably supposed to use the 2u as a spacebar. Cooler Master is pitching this as a gaming device, which makes sense. Analog input offers more control in certain situations than a standard key.

    When you play a game with a controller, you have analog sticks. You nudge the stick a little, and you move slowly. Push it all the way, and you go faster. A regular keyboard switch is just on or off; stopped or running at full speed. With analog input, you can press a key just a bit to move slowly.

    I've used an analog keyboard in the past, but that device (the Wooting One) was designed with special optical switches that wouldn't work in a standard board. The ControlPad uses your choice of Gateron or Cherry Red switches—they're light and linear, which makes sense in this case. As you press, the ControlPad can output a signal that indicates how far the switch has been pushed, a technology known as "Aimpad."

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 61: Leap Con and Dr. Grordbort's Invaders!

    We're at the first Magic Leap developer conference this week to play Dr. Grordbort's Invaders, the augmented reality game developed by Weta Workshop's game studios. We chat with Weta's Richard Taylor and Greg Broadmore about experimenting with mixed reality and what they've learned from making this game. Plus, a bonus interview with Insomniac about the upcoming VR game Stormland!

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The Rama Koyu

    The world of custom mechanical keyboards is incredibly varied with boards of all shapes and sizes. You can get small, lightweight boards, but there's a trend toward large, monolithic cases. It's not necessarily a contest to make the heaviest keyboard possible, but that's often the consequence of designing something interesting. Australian designer Rama is no stranger to making hefty keyboards. His latest project is the Koyu, a big, imposing 65% board that'll put a similarly big dent in your bank account.

    Since this is a 65% board, there are arrows and a number row, but no number pad. The layout is also a bit more compressed than a standard tenkeyless board. It also uses an HHKB-style backspace directly above Enter, which you may not be accustomed to seeing. It has a single USB Type-C port, and the entire chassis is inclined at 8-degrees for improved ergonomics.

    Inside, the Koyu runs on a hot-swappable PCB running the QMK firmware. This is an increasingly popular option as it's both powerful and open source. Since it's fully programmable, you can change the function of any key on the board and configure the function layers to do whatever you want. The hot swap sockets mean no soldering, and you'll be able to change the switches whenever you want. In addition, each switch includes integrated RGB LED lighting in the board (also fully customizable via firmware). As long as your switches have transparent housings or a light pipe, you'll be able to see the light shine through.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 60: Windlands 2, Jet Island, and The Void

    This week, Jeremy and Norm review Windlands 2 and Jet Island, two games with swinging mechanics that make you feel like you're a friendly neighborhood web slinger. Plus, we interview the director of operations for The Void to learn about their take on pop-up location-based VR experiences.

    Tested: Nintendo Labo Vehicle Kit Review

    Nintendo has just released its third Labo kit: a collection of cardboard vehicle peripherals that you put together yourself and play on the Switch console. Norm, Jeremy, and Kishore assemble the steering wheel, flight stick, and submarine controllers. Once again, the fun is the in the build!

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: Fenik Yuma Ice-Free Cooler

    Some crowdfunding campaigns are obviously hocking snake oil—you need only approach the claims with a measure of skepticism to spot the fakes. You could be forgiven for thinking a cooler that operates without ice or electricity is such a campaign, but the Fenik Yuma looks interesting. It uses a principle called "evaporative cooling" to keep food and drinks chilly, and you can check it out on Kickstarter right now.

    The Fenik Yuma 60L is, as the name implies, a cooler with 60 liters of internal capacity. That's the sort of thing you'd take on a camping trip or a long weekend to the beach. Instead of packing it full of ice that only lasts a few hours or using an electric refrigeration unit, the Yuma has a built-in water reservoir. The cooler basically sweats to keep the internal space cool.

    On a hot day, we humans sweat to reduce our internal temperature. As liquid evaporates on your skin, it pulls heat out of your body. The Fenik system works in a similar fashion. The cooler has a rigid top and bottom, and the sides are composed of several layers. On the inside, you have a food-safe plastic. On the outer wall, there's a material Fenik calls PhaseTek that allows water vapor to escape. In between the two is a water bladder that you can fill with a spout on top of the cooler. That's how the heat gets out.

    Hands-On with the Oculus Quest VR Headset!

    We go hands-on with the new Oculus Quest standalone virtual reality headset! This six degree-of-freedom headset lets us walk in vast open spaces without any cables. We play four games that showcase the capabilities of Quest and chat with Product Manager Sean Liu about the technology and hardware inside!

    Episode 468 - The VR Hour - 9/27/18
    We record a special episode this week on location on the floor of Oculus Connect 5! Jeremy and Norm are joined by Darshan Shankar, founder and CEO of Bigscreen VR to talk about the Oculus Quest and other announcements made this week. It's a full episode of VR talk! Thanks to Darshan for guesting this week, and check out Bigscreen VR at https://bigscreenvr.com/
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    PROJECTIONS, Episode 58: Oculus Connect 5 Games Preview!

    Projections is back! We're at Oculus Connect 5 this week to check out new hardware and games, and go hands-on with several VR games coming out in 2019. Here are our impressions for Stormland, Vox Machinae, Space Junkies, Defector, Final Assault, and Echo Combat's new game mode!

    Quick Look at The xArm 7 Programmable Robot Arm!

    We check out the xArm 7, the upcoming 7-axis robot arm made by UFactory, who previously released the desktop-sized uArm. UFactory's co-founder Tony walks us through the functions of their new industrial arm, shows us how it works, and explains why they built this arm for professional use.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Hirose Cherry MX Orange Switches

    You've no doubt heard of all the standard Cherry switch variants like MX Blue, Brown, Black, and Clear. Then there are newer options like Speed Silver and Silent Red. What about Orange, though? There is, in fact, an Orange Cherry switch, but it's not something you'll see offered on modern retail boards. The so-called Hirose Cherry MX Orange is among the rarest keyboard switches in the world. Yes, that matters to some people.

    The story of how this switch came to be is unusual. The Hirose Cherry Orange is a Cherry-style switch, but Cherry didn't manufacture it. Today, there vast numbers of Cherry style switches manufactured by other companies—Gateron, Kailh, and Outemu to name a few. However, the Hirose Cherry Orange comes from an era long before the Cherry patents expired in 2012. Some time in the 90s, Cherry licensed its switch design to a Japanese electronics firm company called Hirose. It was Hirose that created this mysterious key switch.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: LEX Bionic Chair

    It can seem like there's never a chair around when you need to take a load off, but what if you could simply carry a chair around with you? That's the LEX bionic chair, an exoskeleton project that just blew through its funding goal on Kickstarter. It doesn't require any batteries or complicated electronics. You can take a seat wherever you want. You just have to be comfortable walking around with bionic legs on your butt.

    The designers of LEX say it's as easy to put on as a belt. Although, I'd say it's more like putting on three belts. One strap goes around your waist, and then two more fasten around your thighs. The legs fold up to lay flat until you need to sit down, and then it's a simple matter of pulling them up to unlock before sitting down. The entire contraption weighs about a kilogram (2.2 pounds) and has a maximum load of 120 kilograms (264 pounds).

    Modeling and 3D-Printing Wonder Woman's Tiara for Cosplay!

    Darrell's latest project involves the modeling and printing of a custom Wonder Woman Tiara for cosplay! Darrell walks us through his process adapting the model with some unique design elements and the trials and tribulations of smoothing out and finishing the 3D print to meet his satisfaction.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Massdrop CTRL Keyboard

    To get a powerful custom keyboard, you usually need to do some legwork in the form of waiting through long group buys, soldering switches, and tediously configuring firmware. Massdrop is making the whole process easier with the re-release of its popular CTRL keyboard. Last time, this board was run as a traditional group buy—you paid, waited a few months, and finally got your device. Now, the CTRL is coming back as a regular retail product.

    This is a big deal for several reasons, not least of which is the CTRL is a hot-swappable board. It uses the Kailh hot swap sockets we've seen on recent devices like the M6-A and Minivan Kumo. It will come with a full set of switches, but you can change them out with any MX-style switch of your choice. The PCB doesn't have holes for the mounting pegs on "PCB-mount" switches, so you have to either use plate-mount switches or clip the mounting pegs off your switches.

    The CTRL is a tenkeyless board, which is a fairly common form factor. It's a nearly full-sized keyboard with standard key sizes, but there's no number pad. I'm wary of stabilizers on retail boards, but these don't make any unusual racket when typing. The standard key sizes also make it easy to find custom sets to swap for the stock keycaps, but the stock ones aren't bad. They're double-shot PBT with shine-through legends. The LEDs shining through the keycaps are another distinctive aspect of the CTRL.

    This keyboard has per-key RGB lighting via SMD components on the circuit board, which means your switch choice should take advantage of that. If you want to see the lights, you'll want to use switches that are either transparent (eg. Zealios) or have light pipes for SMD LEDs (eg. most newer Kailh switches). The keyboard includes several pre-programmed LED effects, but you can make tweaks to everything thanks to the powerful firmware.