FaceTime chat ‘saves woman’s life’

A woman who had a stroke while on a FaceTime video call with her sister, says the technology saved her life.

Opokua Kwapong, who lives alone in New York, was on a call with her sister, Adumea Sapong, in Manchester, when Mrs Sapong noticed that her elder sibling “didn’t look right”.

She raised the alarm after she also noticed her sister’s voice was slurred.

Ms Kwapong said she had not realised how serious the situation was.

The 58-year-old had woken from an afternoon nap when Mrs Sapong had called her on FaceTime, a video calling feature on iPhones.

Ms Kwapong said: “My sister looked at me and said she could see that my face didn’t look right.

“She also said that I was slurring my words, but I thought she was just fussing and I didn’t believe her.”

Mrs Sapong said: “When I called Opokua she said that she’d not been feeling well and had been feeling tired and was also having some difficulty walking.

“I said, ‘Perhaps you need to take some aspirin.’ She tried to pick up a glass of water and wasn’t able to. Then I noticed on the FaceTime video call that her face was drooping. I told her she needed to hang up and immediately see a doctor.

“She thought I was making a fuss so I then conferenced in one of my other sisters, who is a doctor, and she could hear her speaking and could also tell that her speech was slurred. We both told her to call for help straightaway.”

Ms Kwapong hung up the call and then dialled 911.

Following hospital scans, Ms Kwapong was diagnosed as having had a clot on the brain.

The stroke has left her paralysed on her left side.

Ms Kwapong, who works as a food scientist, said: “There is no doubt that FaceTime saved my life.

“If my sister had not noticed that something was not right, then things could have been so different.

“Not only did technology save my life, it now also allows me to live my life.

“I rely a lot on video conferencing as I’m not able to travel as much as I did previously for my work.”

Mrs Sapong said: “You hear a lot of negative stories about the internet and technology, but I think this is an example of how technology can be a force for good.

“If it had not been for FaceTime, then we would be having a very different conversation right now.”

Esmee Russell, head of prevention and campaigns at the Stroke Association, said: “A stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, at any time – that’s why it’s so important that people know to act fast: it could save a life.”

Strokes happen when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off by a clot (known as an ischaemic stroke), or damaged by a bleed that causes brain cells in the affected area to die (known as a haemorrhagic stroke).

The Fast test

  • Facial weakness – Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
  • Arm weakness – Can the person raise both arms?
  • Speech problems – Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
  • Time to call 999 – If you see any one of these signs, seek immediate medical attention.

Source: Stroke Association

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AMD Raven Ridge ‘Boot Kit’ Includes Unnamed Bristol Ridge Chip, Heatsink

AMD is issuing what it calls a “boot kit” to those who are unable to update their motherboard’s BIOS to be compatible with the freshly released Raven Ridge products.

The Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G CPUs are the first Ryzen parts to feature integrated graphics. These chips don’t require new motherboards–any AM4 motherboard should work–but they do require a BIOS update to be compatible with those boards. That’s fine if you already own an AM4-based system and are just dropping a new Ryzen G into it. However, if you’re new to the platform and purchased your first AM4 motherboard with your Raven Ridge chip, you might find that your new motherboard won’t arrive with the BIOS update already installed.

To solve this dilemma for anyone whose motherboard can’t receive BIOS updates without a CPU, AMD announced that you can request a special kit that contains exactly what you need to prepare for Raven Ridge. (Note that AMD refers to Raven Ridge parts as “2nd Gen Ryzen” in its announcement. It’s not referring to Zen+, which is expected to debut in April and will also be compatible with current AM4 motherboards.)

AMD said in its announcement that you should first ask your retailer to update your motherboard for you or have it replaced at the manufacturer’s local service center. (We presume, then, that this refers only to brick-and-mortar retailers.) Requesting the boot kit is supposed to be the last resort, not the immediate response to encountering this problem, and AMD will require you to provide a response from your motherboard vendor confirming that it can’t update the board.

Following reports that the boot kit contains an A6-9500 processor, we contacted AMD to find out what exactly it plans to send to consumers. Apparently, it’s an unnamed A-series (Bristol Ridge) processor (which leaves the door open for other SKUs besides the A6-9500) and an accompanying heatsink. The Bristol Ridge parts predate the release of the Ryzen parts and were actually the first CPUs for the AM4 platform. AMD will also thoughtfully include a thermal solution, so you don’t have to waste your own thermal paste or use the cooler bundled with your Raven Ridge chip, which has pre-applied paste.

AMD won’t require you to pay for the kit or place a hold on your bank account or credit card until it gets the parts back. Instead, the company merely expects you to send a picture of your Raven Ridge chip’s serial number along with the proof from your motherboard vendor that it can’t update your board itself. Then it will send you the kit, which it expects you to return within 10 days via pre-paid postage. (You can keep the heatsink, though.)

AMD said it plans to update a knowledge base article on its site that will more accurately represent the process through which Ryzen G owners must go to receive one of these boot kits.

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Mixer Is Giving Streamers A Way To Make More Money

Microsoft’s Mixer streaming platform will soon give its streamers another way to earn money. With Direct Purchase, you can promote the games you play during a session and receive a small cut of the revenue from every copy bought through your channel. Ben Favreau, Mixer’s product marketing manager, provided additional details on the feature on the service’s blog page.

When activated, the new feature will appear at the top of the page next to your channel name. Viewers can see the name of the game or downloadable content featured on the stream as well as its price. They can then click on the price tag, which will produce a pop-up window with a direct link to the game’s store page. Favreau said that 5% of the revenue from each purchase will go to the streamer.

Mixer’s streaming rival Twitch employed a similar feature last year in the form of Twitch Games Commerce, which is available for Partner- and Affiliate-level streamers. Similar to the Direct Purchase program, Twitch Games Commerce gives its streamers a 5% cut when viewers purchase a title featured on a stream. The feature works with games from Ubisoft, Vlambeer, and Paradox Interactive, just to name a few publishers.

Because Mixer is a Microsoft-owned brand, any game on the Microsoft Store (which includes Xbox, Windows 10, and Xbox Play Anywhere titles) will work with Direct Purchase. Streamers can also choose to display downloadable content, consumable items, and game bundles next to their gameplay. Promoted items can be managed via the Manage Channel section within the Account Settings page.

It also seems like anyone streaming on Mixer can use Direct Purchase. For comparison, Twitch Games Commerce requires you to be an Affiliate or Partner, which means that you have to meet a set of criteria before attaining either status.

The addition of Mixer is the latest method by the service to compete against Twitch. Microsoft is betting on the vast number of games in its store as a way to lure streamers into promoting different titles, and more importantly, finding additional avenues to generate more money. Other platforms are attempting to differentiating themselves from Twitch in other ways. For instance, Caffeine is touting its simple solution for streaming by automating the setup process, providing a “near real-time” experience for chatting with viewers, and prioritizing the messages of friends within your social circle.

Because it’s still a new feature, Microsoft will look for feedback about Direct Purchase. Streamers and viewers alike can share their thoughts on the subject on Mixer’s Twitter account or Feedback page. You can also see how this plan will play out in the future by seeing just how many streaming personalities will promote their Mixer page more often than their Twitch channel.

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Razer Cynosa Chroma

Anyone who is at all familiar with gaming hardware knows Razer’s name – they’re truly ubiquitous. With the Razer Cynosa Chroma, Razer has delivered an entry-level membrane switch gaming keyboard that fully delivers on the RGB lighting that gamers crave and was one of the first to be spill resistant.

Over the years, Razer has essentially created the blueprint for what gaming keyboards look like today, and while a lot of their higher end boards focus on having extra programmable keys and mechanical key switches, the Razer Cynosa Chroma strips things back a little bit. 

Priced at $59.99 (£64.99, AU$99.95), the Razer Cynosa Chroma is an affordable – and beautiful – gaming keyboard that’s free of a lot of the features that might turn newcomers off. It might not feature mechanical key switches, but its unique mesh switches feel smooth while still maintaining the actuation and anti-ghosting that gaming keyboards require.

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Design

Like all of the best gaming keyboards, the Razer Cynosa Chroma embraces the modern RGB aesthetic and is fully capable of lighting up your desk like a Christmas tree.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone who is familiar with Razer or their products that the Razer Cynosa Chroma features an extremely slick RGB implementation that features 104 individually customizable backlit keys that are powered by Razer’s proprietary Chroma technology. What’s more, if you were to get the $79 (£79, AU$139) Cynosa Chroma Pro, the keyboard comes with even more customizable underglow lighting)

The RGB lighting here is controlled by Razer’s fantastic Synapse software that seems to get better every time we use it. Through this software, you’ll be able to customize the lighting in whichever way your little heart desires. It’s extremely deep and satisfying.

This keyboard lacks any kind of extra macro keys or media controls. And while some people might find these omissions to be a deal breaker, for the asking price, we weren’t really expecting a all the bells and whistles.

And, unlike a lot of full gaming keyboards out there, the Razer Cynosa Chroma is compact enough to not take up a lot of desk real estate. 

If you’re looking for a gaming keyboard that doesn’t really have that gamer ‘look’ you’re in luck here. The subdued black coloration, lack of garish logos and turning off (or down) the RGB lighting can help this keyboard blend into any office.

It’s also extremely durable, and shows no signs of flexing even when we actively tried to make it flex, and because it’s essentially a membrane keyboard designed to be resistant to spills. So if you’re the type that always spills Mountain Dew while trying to get that top spot on the leaderboards, the Razer Cynosa Chroma should last longer than a comparable mechanical board.

The design of the board is subdued, and doesn’t offer many of extra features, but ultimately, it succeeds at what it’s trying to do

Performance

Aesthetics and RGB lighting are fun and all, but what makes or breaks any gaming keyboard is its performance in, well, games.

This is where the lack of mechanical switches becomes the Razer Cynosa Chroma’s biggest and most glaring drawback. While this keyboard is great for general use and typing, it begins to show some cracks while gaming. The keys are responsive enough, and the key travel is a lot deeper than most other membrane boards, but you’re simply not going to get the same quick response time as  even an entry level mechanical keyboard.

And while it features 10-key rollover anti-ghosting, it’s a far cry from the n-key tech that some higher-end keyboards feature, and some extremely high-intensity gaming sessions might suffer because of it.

While getting ready for this review, we put this keyboard through its paces in a few matches of Overwatch, and it was a comfortable and reliable keyboard to play a few rounds on. However, this reviewer is used to the tactile clickiness and responsive actuation of Cherry MX Reds. We definitely noticed the difference here – despite the Razer Cynosa Chroma’s impressive 1ms polling rate.

One of the most positive aspects of the membrane switches on this board, however, is the noise – or lack thereof. This keyboard is going to be a huge hit with anyone who likes to game late at night, because unlike its mechanical brethren, the Cynosa Chroma makes little to no noise, while still providing a tactile experience.

And while the Cynosa Chroma lacks any dedicated macro buttons, each key on the keyboard can be programmed however you see fit.

Final verdict

For the price, you’ll have a hard time finding a keyboard that performs this well while still being able to offer fully customizable keys and RGB lighting. Combined with the performance of the mesh-membrane keys, the Razer Cynosa Chroma has a low-profile, spill-resistant design that will make it welcome on any gamer’s desk, regardless of how much or how little they’re into ‘gamer aesthetic’.

The only real drawback that this board really has is the mesh-membrane key switches. For someone who’s just getting into PC gaming, they’ll be hard to notice. However, anyone who has experience with a mechanical board will notice right away. Your mileage will vary.

The only thing that holds this keyboard back from an all-stop recommendation is the lack of mechanical switches, but let’s be real – this keyboard isn’t aimed at the hardcore gamer with a closet full of peripherals – and at $59.99 (£64.99, AU$99.95) you’ll be hard pressed to find a better keyboard.

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5 ways blockchain is the new business collaboration tool

While blockchain may have cut its teeth on the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, the distributed electronic ledger technology is quickly making inroads across a variety of industries.

That’s mainly because of its innate security and its potential for improving systems  operations all while reducing costs and creating new revenue streams.

David Schatsky, a managing director at consultancy Deloitte LLP, believes blockchain’s diversity speaks to its versatility in addressing business needs, but “the impact that blockchain will have on businesses in various industries is not yet fully understood.”

In 2017, blockchain technology started to become a key business focus for many industries, something a Deloitte survey conducted in 2016 had predicted.

That online survey of 308 blockchain-knowledgeable senior executives at organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenue found many placed it among their company’s highest priorities. Thirty-six percent believed blockchain could improve systems operations, either by reducing costs or increasing speed, and 37% cited blockchain’s superior security features as the main advantage. The remaining 24% saw its potential to enable new business models and revenue streams.

Although 39% of senior executives at large U.S. companies had little or no knowledge about blockchain technology, the rest said their knowledge ranged from “broad to expert – and 55% of that group said their company would be at a competitive disadvantage if it failed to adopt the technology.

The bottom line: both the understanding of and commitment to blockchain varies by industry. But most see it as disruptive.

“It is fair to say that industry is still confused to a degree about the potential for blockchain,” David Schatsky, managing director of Deloitte LLP,  said in a statement last summer. “More than a quarter of surveyed knowledgeable execs say their companies view blockchain as a critical, top-five priority. But about a third consider the technology overhyped.”

Those already embracing blockchain are finding a new independence in their ability to transmit both sensitive data and money securely, enabling a new business dynamic.

Blockchain is a decentralized electronic, encrypted ledger or database platform — in other words, a way to immutably store digital data so that it can be securely shared across networks and users. As a peer-to-peer network, combined with a distributed time-stamping server, blockchain databases can be managed autonomously. There’s no need for an administrator; the users are the administrator.

Blockchain eliminates huge amounts of recordkeeping, which can get confusing when there are multiple parties involved in a transaction, according to Saurabh Gupta, vice president of strategy at IT services company Genpact. “Blockchain and distributed ledgers may eventually be the method for integrating the entire commercial world’s record keeping,” he said.

Smart contracts

Blockchain distributed ledgers can be used to automatically execute business contracts. The peer-to-peer database first captures all terms and conditions between an organization and its customers, then uses data gleaned across distributed nodes or servers to determine when those conditions have been met and payment is authorized.

For example, IBM, AIG and Standard Chartered Bank just announced a pilot project to streamline one of the most complex types of policies in the insurance industry – a multinational policy.

The three companies created a master policy written in the UK, and that includes  three local insurance policies in the U.S., Singapore and Kenya, into a “smart contract” based on blockchain technology that provides a shared view of policy data and documentation in real-time.

The solution is structured so that multiple parties in the network — including brokers, regulators and auditors — can collaborate more effectively and efficiently, according to IBM. The solution gives all of the parties a unified view of policy and payment data and documentation so that they can make informed business decisions based on a common set of trusted data.

“It is designed to infuse trust and transparency into the insurance underwriting process across borders,” an IBM spokesperson wrote in an email to Computerworld. “When critical data about the policy is stored on the blockchain, all permissioned parties in the network have a single view of the data, and no single party can make changes without the consensus of other members.”

Because it’s based on blockchain:

  • It provides the ability to record and track events and associated payments in each country related to the insurance policy.
  • No one party can modify, delete or even append any record without the consensus from others on the network.
  • This level of transparency helps reduce fraud and errors, as well as the need for the parties to contact each other to view policy and payment data and the status of policies. 

Blockchain-based smart contracts can be used to automatically execute payments between financial institutions.

Accenture recently released a report that claimed blockchain technology could reduce infrastructure costs for eight of the world’s 10 largest investment banks by an average of 30%, “translating to $8 billion to $12 billion in annual cost savings for those banks.”

Payments, clearance and settlement in the financial services industry — including stock markets — is rife with inefficiencies because each organization in the process maintains its own data and must communicate with the others through electronic messaging about where it is in the process. Because of that, settlement typically takes two days. In turn, delays in settlements force banks to set aside money that could otherwise be invested.

With its ability to instantly share data with each organization involved in a blockchain database or ledger, the technology reduces or eliminates the need for reconciliation, confirmation and trade break analysis as key parts of a more efficient and effective clearance and settlement process, according to Accenture.

Enabling businesses to avoid transaction fees

Most payment systems are administered by financial institutions, such as banks. When money is transferred between businesses, there’s typically a fee associated with it — especially for small to mid-sized businesses.

Large enterprises have always enjoyed an advantage in the global market, be it the capital to absorb the cost of transfer fees (or getting lower fees), better intellectual property protection, and a host of other advantages that come with having more  capital and greater influence.

Blockchain technology helps level the playing field, enabling SMBs to compete in that global market.

For example, the B2B payment service Veem leverages blockchain to allow its SMB customers to transfer funds internally for no fee; that compares to larger banks that charge around $50 per wire transaction.

Veem’s CEO Marwan Forzley believes blockchain is an opportunity to “remove the middle man from international transactions, which directly impacts the experience of paying suppliers and contractors, the timing of these transactions and the fees that are directly impacting the SMBs bottom line.”

Sharing patient data, ensuring doctors get paid

While electronic healthcare records (EHRs) have helped in the centralization of patient data to some extent, sharing that sensitive information with various healthcare providers, such as medical specialists, can be difficult at best because EHR platforms are not standardized across organizations.

Healthcare organizations could use the cryptographically secure, decentralized blockchain ledger to pre-authorize the sharing of a patient’s information.

Last year, the MIT Media Lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center tested a proof-of-concept that shared information about patient medications through a blockchain ledger called MedRec. MedRec was based on the Ethereum blockchain platform for smart contracts.

In their analysis paper, titled “A Case Study for Blockchain in Healthcare,” the MIT and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center researchers found blockchain “could contribute to secure, interoperable EHR systems.”

In addition, healthcare IT vendors and the U.S. government are exploring blockchain’s potential. Earlier this year, IBM’s Watson Health artificial intelligence unit  signed a two-year joint-development agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to explore using blockchain technology to securely share patient data for medical research and other purposes.

IBM Watson Health and the FDA plan to explore the exchange of patient-level data from several sources, including electronic medical records (EMRs), clinical trials, genomic data and health data from mobile devices, wearables and the “Internet of Things.” The initial focus will be on oncology-related information.

Healthcare is also hampered with an inefficient payment system, where insurance companies fight with providers.

“Insurance companies have already given prior approval based on medical necessity or preauthorization and I’ve got to fight collect it…, really?” said Gene Thomas, CIO of Memorial Hospital, a 445-bed facility in Gulfport, Miss. “Depending on who you talk to, 17 cents, 21 cents… of every healthcare dollar is spent on collections. Are you kidding me?”

Underpinning a shared ledger where all parties involved in a healthcare insurance contract — patient, provider and payer — all see the same information at the same time, blockchain has the potential of smoothing out the “arduous, high cost, high friction process.

“Everyone’s posting to the same thing, it’s all transparent. I’ve got high hopes that if there’s any place blockhchain could actually have an impact in healthcare, it’s on [the] revenue cycle side,” Thomas said.

In light of that need, Deloitte’s report found that healthcare and life sciences have the most aggressive deployment plans for blockchain of any industry, with 35% of survey respondents indicating their organization plans to deploy blockchain within the next year.

Timestamping documents

Timestamping is the process of wrapping metadata or other information in a block of an ongoing blockchain, which creates an unchangeable or immutable record tied to everything that comes after it in the chain. Think of it as satisfying a public notary’s function.

For example, Swiss company Gmelius has created a Gmail Stamping app that’s essentially a secure way to verify the integrity of an email using the Ethereum blockchain open-source platform.

Gmelius’ app is a Chrome browser extension that is available in the Google webstore. Once downloaded, it offers several capabilities for Gmail users, including removing Google ads, scheduling emails to send at later times and dates, and blocking senders from seeing whether you’ve read their email.

But it’s Gmelius’ email stamping feature that takes advantage of blockchain to authenticate the origin of an an electronic message.

Upon hitting send in Outlook, the original email – including its headers, subject line, body and attachments – is encoded using the base64 binary-to-text encoding scheme and converted into a hash using the SHA2-512 hashing algorithm. The email is then signed using Gmelius’s proprietary 512-bit RSA key. Encrypting the hash allows the email to become part of an anonymous transaction anchored onto an electronic ledger via the Ethereum open-source blockchain platform.

The blockchain-based application proves the existence, integrity and ownership of any email sent, which would enable it to be used for business purposes such as legal contracts.

This spring, Gmelius also plans to release a blockchain-based app that will allows users to electronically sign documents attached to emails using blockchain’s smart contract feature.

Selling energy through microgrids

Because of blockchain, residents of the Park Slope area of Brooklyn are now able to sell power generated from rooftop solar panels via a microgrid enabled by a blockchain ledger that records every transaction made with a local utility.

The physical microgrid, set up by Siemens Digital Grid Division, includes network control systems, converters, lithium-ion battery storage and smart electric meters. In case of another hurricane like Sandy in 2012, residents on the microgrid would continue to have power for a time — even during a blackout — as they could switch  to battery reserves.

A microgrid is a form of distributed energy generation that can function independently from the traditional, centralized regional power grid; it can enable towns, small cities or corporations to develop their own energy sources and power storage systems (via lithium-ion or flow batteries), distribute that energy and even sell excess power back to local utilities.

The Brooklyn Microgrid blockchain database is a web-based bookkeeping system that uses cryptographic technology to save energy data in a way that is both inexpensive and forgery-proof, the companies said.

The Brooklyn Microgrid enables residents to sell energy back to the local utility — a process known as “net metering” — and it allows those without solar panels to purchase green power credits from their neighbors. The blockchain platform for the microgrid is enabled by Brooklyn-based energy startup LO3 Energy.

The same blockchain technology that allows residential solar power users to sell excess power back to utilities can do the same for businesses seeking to lower their electricity costs.

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Creative Sound BlasterX Vanguard K08

There was a time, long ago, when Creative exclusively made sound cards and other audio related tech. Being quite so niche these days isn’t realistic, and they now offer a selection of PC peripherals under their Sound BlasterX branding umbrella.

The new Vanguard K08 gaming keyboard is a classic example of Creative’s mission creep, as it impinges on the well-occupied territory of SteelSeries, Razer, Cougar and Corsair, among others.

These companies are mostly rehashing the Cherry MX range of mechanical switches, a very popular choice for serious gamers. With the Vanguard K08, Creative has chosen to go down an alternate path with Omron switches and deliver something noticeably different to the discerning gamer.

For $139 (£159, AU$219), this gaming keyboard offers plenty of plucky performance with quiet mechanical switches that’s fully customizable.

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Design

It isn’t clear when this became a prerequisite, but all modern gaming keyboards look like they are evolving into fairground attractions.

This is despite the indisputable fact that most gamers playing without looking at their keyboard – unless they’re new to computers. The Vanguard K08 embraces this aesthetic, with an ‘Aurora Reactive’ lighting scheme that allows the user to define all manner of funky lighting effects with 16 million color possibilities .

For peripheral lighting, the K08 has one of the slickest implementations so far. Offering a vast selection of presets and customisations available through the Sound Blaster Connect app.

The software isn’t provided out of the box, so those wanting to alter the default rainbow light show or define keyboard macros will need to download it from Creative first.

All alterations are stored onto the keyboard’s own internal memory, allowing them to travel without the app to other computers.

As for the layout, there’s nothing especially radical to see here. The review model had a standard US layout, with five user-definable function keys down the left, and six media controls arranged on the top right.

Above the numeric pad are a mute key and a roller to control audio volume. 

The excessively thick braided cable exits the keyboard case at the top right, then splits into two Type A USB connectors at the end of a two meter run. One of these drives the keyboard and lights, and the other delivers a USB 2.0 pass-through providing a single port, intended mostly for mouse use.

Overall, the keyboard is well constructed, with a significant amount of force needed to generate any flexing.  The two retractable feet positioned at the rear can increase the shallow rake when deployed.

The only other notable hardware feature is the wrist rest, which is made almost entirely from plastic. 

It doesn’t permanently attach to the K08, and is only held in place by thin plastic prongs trapped under the front edge of the keyboard. Therefore, if you pick up the keyboard, the wrist rest won’t be coming along with it.

Performance

The lighting is fun, but what will make a significantly greater impact are the switches on the K08, as those are revolutionary.

Omron are better known for their mouse button switches, but they also designed the special PRES. (Perceive-React-Execute Switch) used in the K08.

The selling points of PRES switches are that although the switch has a good travel distance (3.5mm), reducing finger joint impacts, they activate after just 1.5mm of movement.

The actuation point isn’t so short that lightly brushing keys generate an unintentional press, but enough that it doesn’t take the full travel of the keys to fire.

The logic here is that should you start pressing at the same exact moment as your Cherry MX opposition, then your key will register first, assuming you experience the same level of lag.

The actuation force is 45g, and the PRES switch is rated for a 70 million actions, should your fingers not fall off long before hitting that number.

Part of PRES switch proposition is the ability to use the same keyboard for both typing at speed and gaming without compromising either is highly desirable to many users.

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Testing it with Nier: Automata where button mashing is necessary, we found zero to no latency and the keyboard also kept up with our commands with precision. Playing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, where timed attacks and blocks are essential to the game play, we found its execution to be near perfect.

Another positive aspect of the switches is that they’re relatively quiet, unlike the popular and thunderous HyperX Alloy Elite. For late night gamers, that aspect could be a deal-maker, even if the K08 isn’t close to being silent.

One issue we ran into was that the five custom side keys are very close to the main keyboard, and are so close that our hands kept registering them as a left edge boundary. This unconscious reference caused the M4 key to be repeatedly struck instead of the intended left shift.

While most users will eventually adapt, that transition isn’t likely to be overnight.

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Final verdict

If this weren’t the first gaming keyboard to carry the Sound BlasterX branding, we’d be more critical. But, as a first attempts go, the Vanguard K08 is an impressive if slightly flawed one.

The Omron PRES switches are different from an MX, but not so much that it will put gamers off. Equally, the Aurora lighting technology has an immediate impact, through how many buyers will turn it off as a distraction over time is debatable.

The biggest issue is pricing, as it is on the high side to our sensibilities. A Logitech G610 cost less, and it’s made to an equivalent or better specification than the Vanguard M08. Another bugbear is the overly thick and stiff USB cable. While having a USB pass-through is convenient, a cable that won’t naturally lay flat on a desk isn’t.

But price tag notwithstanding, it’s a great option and an impressive first attempt. The quality and performance shows the team behind this keyboard can make truly excellent gaming peripherals, should they get subsequent designs green lit.

Michelle Rae Uy has also contributed to this article

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EA Announces ‘Burnout Paradise Remastered’

A decade ago, Criterion opened the doors to Paradise City with the launch of Burnout Paradise on PC, PlayStation 3, and the Xbox 360. Later this year, fans can race through its streets again. EA announced that a remastered version of Burnout Paradise is in the works and that console players can play it as early as next month. PC players, however, will have to wait until later in the year to get in on the action.

The remaster doesn’t just feature the base version of Burnout Paradise. You’ll also get to play with eight pieces of downloadable content (DLC), which includes the Cops and Robbers online mode, additional vehicles, and the Big Surf Island location. The “Big Surf Island” DLC is new content to PC players because it wasn’t available in the original game.

You can race through Paradise City on your own or with friends. The game supports up to four players in online sessions, but you can also participate in offline multiplayer. It’s unclear how this works, but we do know that one of the DLC packs features a “pass-the-controls” party mode in which you have to complete multiple challenges as a group.

You’ll get to experience the intensity of each race and the full roster of 150 cars and bikes in the native 1080p resolution. However, those who have a PlayStation 4 Pro or the Xbox One X can play the game at 60 frames per second and 4K resolution.

The $40 game will be available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners on March 16. A release date for the PC version, which will be available on Origin, wasn’t announced. If you’re an EA Access member, you can play the game as early as March 9.

Name Burnout Paradise Remastered
Type Racing
Developer Stellar Entertainment
Publisher EA
Platforms PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Where To Buy
Release Date March 16 (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One)

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