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    How To Create Snow Effects in Toy Photography

    We're back in the studio of Johnny Wu (aka SgtBananas) to learn about his process for creating convincing snow effects in his photos. It's a simple practical effect you can replicate at home! We also chat about figure posability and what Johnny looks out for when finding new toys to photograph.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: The 'Hot Dox' Ergonomic Keyboard

    Anyone who spends a lot of time typing has to worry about what it does to your wrists in the long run. That's one of the primary selling points for mechanical keyboards, which promote better typing habits. You can also find a switch that perfectly fits your comfort level. Even with the perfect switch, you cannot position most keyboards in a natural way. Well, that's where the ErgoDox comes in.

    ErgoDox keyboards are split halves that are shaped like your hands, and the newest Ergodox on the market even lets you swap switches without soldering. This hot-swappable Ergodox is fittingly called the "Hot Dox," and it's available for pre-order now.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: Peeqo DIY GIF robot

    We've talked about all manner of robots on Tested in the past; there are robots that walk, mix drinks, build things, and that's just the start. Peeqo, however, is probably the first robot ever designed to communicate entirely through memes. This DIY robotics kit is live on Kickstarter with everything you'll need to build your very own customizable machine that responds to voice commands with GIFs and videos.

    Peeqo comes as a disassembled DIY kit that grew out of a project posted on Reddit's /r/DIY board. The creator stresses that it's an accessible device. You can assemble the robot with a few simple tools, and there's no soldering required. When assembled, Peeqo looks vaguely alive but not remotely human. The "face" is a 4-inch LCD at the top of a long, flexible neck. Inside, there's a motor with three degrees of freedom, giving Peeqo the ability to tilt and gyrate like one of those old dancing Coke cans.

    This robot is all about voice interactions, so there are two omnidirectional microphones included with the kit. The "Peeqo" trigger word recognition is all offline, using Snowboy (from So, no data is transmitted anyplace unless you say that word. It comes with support for online services like Google Cloud Speech and Amazon Voice, but you could also run it entirely offline with Snips.

    PROJECTIONS: Spaces' Location-Based VR Experience

    We pay a visit to the new Spaces location-based VR experience recently installed in the Century Theaters San Jose branch, and chat with Spaces co-founder Brad Herman about the state of LBEs and how they relate to VR games you can play at home. Plus, we review Monopoly Deal and Angry Birds, both of which are interesting attempts to bring familiar gaming franchises to VR.

    Jeremy's Internet-Connected ScreenTimer Project!

    Jeremy shares an internet-connected timer he made to help keep track of his kids' screen time. Using a Particle Photon and custom PCB, this simple count down timer can be programmed and configured remotely, as well as control power to an AC device! Find the bill of materials and code here!

    Show and Tell: USB-Powered Soldering Iron!

    Jeremy shares one of his recent favorite tools: a USB-powered soldering iron that draws its power from a Quick Charger 3.0 USB port. While soldering for an upcoming Tested project, Jeremy demonstrates how quickly the UYChan TS80 heats up for use on site.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Hands-on with the Input Club Kira

    Several months back, we talked about the launch of the Input Club Kira. It was only available for pre-order at the time, but now the keyboard exists. You can order a Kira from Input Club's Kono store. And you know what? You might want to do that. I've been using this keyboard, and even the "base model" is a fantastic device and a great way to get into custom keyboards.

    The Kira is a condensed full-sized keyboard, so it has almost all the keys you'd get on a traditional 104-key layout (99 of them). It's not as wide as a regular keyboard because the number pad and arrows are right next to the right-side modifiers. This design saves a ton of space and makes reaching for the number pad less arduous.

    This keyboard does support function layers and full programmability, but it's rare you'll need to get in there beyond fiddling with the LEDs. Yes, there are LEDs under every single switch. They shine through brightly as long as you're using a switch with a transparent housing or a light pipe. Many of the switch options on the Kono Store are transparent, but this is a hot-swappable board. If you want to try other switches, just pluck out the old switches and plug in new ones.

    In addition to using the Kira keyboard in real life, I've been able to try out the new Input Club desktop configurator. This app lets you create layouts, modify layers, and customize the LED colors in a visual interface. This is by far the easiest keyboard programming experience I've had. It also has a USB Type-C connector, which is ideal for future use.

    PROJECTIONS: Comic Books in Augmented Reality

    What will the experience of reading comics be like in virtual and augmented reality? We visit Madefire, the digital comics publisher that just launched a Magic Leap app, to discuss their vision for adapting comics for immersive media devices. Do you prefer reading comics in print or digital?

    Project TankBall: Real-Life RC Tank Soccer Game You Can Play!

    Jeremy and Sean have partnered with Other Ocean, the game developers behind the Xbox indy game #IDARB, to make Project TankBall! The idea is a live action RC soccer game using tanks that players can control remotely over the streaming service Mixer. The team explains the process of prototyping the game, which is launched today and will evolve over time with your feedback! Play the game on Mixer at

    Tested: Behind the Scenes of Cirque du Soleil's Volta!

    We go backstage at Cirque du Soleil's traveling Volta show to learn how this "big top" production moves across the continent and sets up its massive performance venue. Sean Groves, the show's automation mechanic, runs us through the technology behind the scenes, and how modern tech works hand in hand with Volta's artists in this amazing show.

    Crowdfunding Spotlight: Zümi Self-Driving Robot

    Everyone from Uber to Waymo is working toward a future when cars will drive themselves, and the technology that could get us there can seem hopelessly complicated. Zümi is a new robotics kit that lets anyone experiment with some of the same tools companies are using to make cars drive themselves. You don't need prior coding experience to experiment with Zümi's AI mapping, machine vision, and self-driving capabilities. You will, however, need to back the Kickstarter.

    Zümi is a two-wheeled robot with an approachable, enigmatic design from a company called Robolink. The 128 x 64 OLED display in the front "windshield" shows a pair of eyes that emote in response to various activities or conditions. Inside, Zümi runs on the Raspberry Pi Zero with a Pi camera to see the world directly ahead.

    Playing around with Zümi can give you a grounding in basic robotics, but the AI features are the real stars of the show. Zümi uses TensorFlow and Open CV, both of which are used in real autonomous driving projects. As with all machine learning systems, Zümi needs training data to understand how to perform a task. In just a few minutes, you can help Zümi learn to navigate a model road, identify intersections, and more. The key is teaching it to recognize objects, which could be fallen trees on the model road, hand signals, or anything else.

    One of the most vexing problems in self-driving car technology is how to make decisions that could injure people. For example, should your car veer off the road and put you in danger to avoid striking a pedestrian? Should it swerve away from a cluster of people, knowing that it will run over someone who otherwise would have been safe? You can teach Zümi to recognize people and experiment with solutions to these problems yourself.

    Tested: Games in a Tesla with Atari Controller!

    We just got the software update for the Tesla Model 3 that adds six classic Atari arcade games, so Jeremy and Norm test the games for their emulation quality and USB gamepad support. Plus, we manage to get it working with an original Atari 2600 controller plugged into the car! Instructions and links for making the Xinput adapter for Atari 2600 controller here.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Halo Switches

    Believe it or not, there can be a lot of drama in the tightly knit custom keyboard community. The tumultuous relationship between Massdrop and Input Club (both of which we've talked about before) is probably the most salacious. Nothing illustrated the drama as well as the Massdrop Halo switch, which is a top-tier tactile switch. However, it's not as accessible as it should be thanks to all that drama.

    The Input Club-designed Halo switches come in two variants: Clear (white stem) and True (salmon stem). They're similar to the Hako switches designed by Input Club more recently, but the tooling is different—it's a traditional MX-style housing from Kailh rather than a Box switch. The Clear switch, which is what I've been using lately, is the lighter of the two, but it's still heavy compared to most Cherry switches at 78g at the bottom. Trues are even heavier with a bottom-out around 100g.

    Input Club designed these switches a while back with the intention of using them on multiple boards beginning with the K-Type. The stem design and spring are a bit different than what you'll find in other tactile switches. The "bump" starts closer to the top of the press, and it's a bit longer and rounder than something like a Zealio. Halo switches actuate just on the other side of the bump, about halfway down. The difference between True and Clear versions is simply that the spring weight on the True ramps up faster after the bump, giving them a "cushioned" feel like a Cherry MX Clear.