hardware

Vivo’s all-screen phone with a flip-up camera could arrive in June

Posted by | hardware, Mobile, vivo | No Comments

The all-screen smartphone is an inevitability. The question at this point, really, is who will get there first and how they’ll accomplish that feat. I spoke to a LG rep at the G7 launch, who suggested that the notch is going to be fact of life for the next couple of years, but a number of manufacturers are pushing to get there a heck of a lot quicker.

Back at MWC in February, Vivo’s Apex handset seemed like little more than a concept, but a couple of new teasers suggest otherwise. A new video demonstrates the handset’s flip-up selfie camera in action, along with a “Save the Date” notice for a June 12 event in Shanghai. The handset appears to be, at the very least, a close relative of the concept phone. 

A February press release highlights the concept in a bit more detail.

“In keeping with the promise to continuously support user habits,” the company notes, “Apex also features an 8MP Elevating Front Camera. The camera seamlessly rises in 0.8 seconds when it is required and retracts after use. Together with the hidden proximity sensor and ambient light sensor, this eliminates the space taken up by conventional front cameras, while offering the same selfie experience to users.”

Vivo’s just one of a number of companies who think they’ve got the answer here. When we met with Doogee back in February, the company showed off a number of prototypes aimed at circumventing the notch, including a similar pop up model and a version that slides to reveal a camera inside.

And then, of course, there’s the Lenovo Z5, which a VP for the company showed off via social media earlier this month. Though that presently seems to amount to little more than a sketch. For the moment, all of this feels like a bunch of companies showing off concepts aimed at demonstrating that they “thought of it first.”

Perhaps next month, however, Vivo will be ready to put its money where its mouth is.

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Gaming monitors, headsets and peripherals for a winning desktop setup

Posted by | amd, asus, Bluetooth, Column, Gaming, hardware, nvidia, Razer, Wirecutter | No Comments
Makula Dunbar
Contributor

Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter.

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch earn affiliate commissions.

New and serious gamers know that it takes a significant amount of time to sharpen skills, and to strategize ways to capture high scores. Staying ahead of player 2 is easier when you have the right gaming peripherals.

A monitor with a crisp display, a responsive gaming mouse, a comfortable headset—or all of these items combined—are what you need to take your PC gaming experience to the next level. We can’t promise that new equipment will keep you at the top of the board, but the best gear with accommodating features is essential to a great setup, and to helping you try.

G-Sync Monitor: Asus ROG Swift PG279Q

For the best option to pair with a Nvidia graphics card, we recommend the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q (Amazon) G-Sync gaming monitor. At 27 inches it’s big enough to give off an immersive feeling, but not so big that visuals seem overwhelming. It only works over displayport and has two connection options (HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2a). You’ll still be able to plug in peripherals like a keyboard or phone via its built-in USB 3.0 port. We tested it with a variety of games and it performed well with them all. This monitor’s luminance range is also pretty wide so it’ll display images nicely if placed in dim or bright areas.

Photo: Rozette Rago

FreeSync monitor: Asus MG279Q

The Asus MG279Q (Amazon), our top FreeSync monitor pick, is best for those who use an AMD graphics card. A gaming console and computer work well with this 27-inch monitor as it’s packed with connection options (one Mini DisplayPort 1.2 connection, two HDMI 1.4 connections and one DisplayPort 1.2).

We like its adjustability and that you can detach it completely from its stand. It can be mounted on a monitor arm to better accommodate different setups. Though it supports FreeSync between 35 Hz and 90 Hz, it has 1440p resolution and a standard refresh rate of 144 Hz for clear, high-quality visuals.

Photo: Rozette Rago

Headset: Kingston HyperX Cloud

The excitement that comes along with gaming is largely attached to being able to clearly hear the action. A gaming headset that can offer all-day comfort, a high-quality microphone and full sound is a headset you want to go with.

Our top pick, the Kingston HyperX Cloud (Amazon), offers all of these features and after about 30 months of testing, it’s held up well. It’ll still look as good as new after being tossed around, but more importantly, its headband and ear cups don’t feel heavy or constricting. You’ll be able to play online with teammates without hearing an overlap between headset and microphone audio. It’s also a decent headset for watching movies and listening to music.

Photo: Michael Hession

Mouse: Razer DeathAdder Elite

The Razer DeathAdder Elite, our top gaming mouse pick, has a design that’s ideal for hands of all sizes. We like that it has textured grip, and that you’re able to get comfortable with preferred settings using its customizable buttons and scroll wheel. It isn’t clunky and you won’t press the wrong buttons, as they’re intuitive and well-placed.

Aside from its RGB lights that change color, it doesn’t look much different from a mouse you’d find at a work desk. It comes with Razer’s Synapse software (which works on Mac and Windows), and it has an accurate, exclusive Pixart PMW3389 sensor that tracks without issue.

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Keyboard: Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2

Though we like the multicolored backlighting on the Razer BlackWidow Tournament Edition Chroma V2 (Amazon), there’s more than a few reasons why this compact mechanical keyboard is our top recommendation. Its removable palm rest makes getting comfortable in different positions easier and it comes with a durable protective case.

Its learning curve isn’t as steep as competitors, so if the Chroma V2 is your first gaming keyboard it won’t be long before you get into the swing of things. You can set macros to specific keys and applications and use a variety of switch options. Like the Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse, it uses Synapse software.                                                                                                   

Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

PC gaming controller: DualShock 4 Wireless Controller

Gamers who prefer playing on consoles will enjoy using a PC gaming controller with a computer. The DualShock 4 Wireless Controller (which comes with the PlayStation 4) is our top pick, because it’s the most capable PC controller, as well as a few extra features: The touchpad can be used like a mouse cursor and it has an internal rechargeable battery. It connects over Bluetooth or USB and is best used with a separate gaming headset, as its audio jack doesn’t function properly with PCs.

The controller works great with Steam, though in order to get it working with MacOS or non-Steam Windows games, you’ll have to adjust some settings. We think it’s worth the effort for a responsive controller that’s comfortable to hold for long periods of time.

Photo: Andrew Cunningham

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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IBM’s Verifier inspects (and verifies) diamonds, pills and materials at the micron level

Posted by | artificial intelligence, Gadgets, hardware, IBM, Mobile, science, spectroscopy, TC | No Comments

It’s not enough in this day and age that we have to deal with fake news, we also have to deal with fake prescription drugs, fake luxury goods, and fake Renaissance-era paintings. Sometimes all at once! IBM’s Verifier is a gadget and platform made (naturally) to instantly verify that something is what it claims to be, by inspecting it at a microscopic level.

Essentially you stick a little thing on your phone’s camera, open the app, and put the sensor against what you’re trying to verify, be it a generic antidepressant or an ore sample. By combining microscopy, spectroscopy, and a little bit of AI, the Verifier compares what it sees to a known version of the item and tells you whether they’re the same.

The key component in this process is an “optical element” that sits in front of the camera (it can be anything that takes a decent image) amounting to a specialized hyper-macro lens. It allows the camera to detect features as small as a micron — for comparison, a human hair is usually a few dozen microns wide.

At the micron level there are patterns and optical characteristics that aren’t visible to the human eye, like precisely which wavelengths of light it reflects. The quality of a weave, the number of flaws in a gem, the mixture of metals in an alloy… all stuff you or I would miss, but a machine learning system trained on such examples will pick out instantly.

For instance a counterfeit pill, although orange and smooth and imprinted just like a real one if one were to just look at it, will likely appear totally different at the micro level: textures and structures with a very distinct pattern, or at least distinct from the real thing — not to mention a spectral signature that’s probably way different. There’s also no reason it can’t be used on things like expensive wines or oils, contaminated water, currency, and plenty of other items.

IBM was eager to highlight the AI element, which is trained on the various patterns and differentiates between them, though as far as I can tell it’s a pretty straightforward classification task. I’m more impressed by the lens they put together that can resolve at a micron level with so little distortion and not exclude or distort the colors too much. It even works on multiple phones — you don’t have to have this or that model.

The first application IBM is announcing for its Verifier is as a part of the diamond trade, which is of course known for fetishizing the stones and their uniqueness, and also establishing elaborate supply trains to ensure product is carefully controlled. The Verifier will be used as an aide for grading stones, not on its own but as a tool for human checkers; it’s a partnership with the Gemological Institute of America, which will test integrating the tool into its own workflow.

By imaging the stone from several angles, the individual identity of the diamond can be recorded and tracked as well, so that its provenance and trail through the industry can be tracked over the years. Here IBM imagines blockchain will be useful, which is possible but not exactly a given.

It’ll be a while before you can have one of your own, but here’s hoping this type of tech becomes popular enough that you can check the quality or makeup of something at least without having to visit some lab.

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Meet the speakers at The Europas, and get your ticket free (July 3, London)

Posted by | accelerator, Advertising Tech, Apps, artificial intelligence, Asia, augmented reality, automotive, Banking, biotech, blockchain, Book Review, brazil, Built In, cannabis, Cloud, Collaborative Consumption, Community, Crowdfunding, cryptocurrency, Developer, Distributed Ledger, Diversity, Earnings, eCommerce, Education, Enterprise, Entertainment, Europe, events, Finance, food, funding, Fundings & Exits, Gadgets, Gaming, Government, GreenTech, Hack, hardware, Health, Hiring, Mobile, Social, Startups, TC | No Comments

Excited to announce that this year’s The Europas Unconference & Awards is shaping up! Our half day Unconference kicks off on 3 July, 2018 at The Brewery in the heart of London’s “Tech City” area, followed by our startup awards dinner and fantastic party and celebration of European startups!

The event is run in partnership with TechCrunch, the official media partner. Attendees, nominees and winners will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.
The Europas Awards are based on voting by expert judges and the industry itself. But key to the daytime is all the speakers and invited guests. There’s no “off-limits speaker room” at The Europas, so attendees can mingle easily with VIPs and speakers.

What exactly is an Unconference? We’re dispensing with the lectures and going straight to the deep-dives, where you’ll get a front row seat with Europe’s leading investors, founders and thought leaders to discuss and debate the most urgent issues, challenges and opportunities. Up close and personal! And, crucially, a few feet away from handing over a business card. The Unconference is focused into zones including AI, Fintech, Mobility, Startups, Society, and Enterprise and Crypto / Blockchain.

We’ve confirmed 10 new speakers including:


Eileen Burbidge, Passion Capital


Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Seedcamp


Richard Muirhead, Fabric Ventures


Sitar Teli, Connect Ventures


Nancy Fechnay, Blockchain Technologist + Angel


George McDonaugh, KR1


Candice Lo, Blossom Capital


Scott Sage, Crane Venture Partners


Andrei Brasoveanu, Accel


Tina Baker, Jag Shaw Baker

How To Get Your Ticket For FREE

We’d love for you to ask your friends to join us at The Europas – and we’ve got a special way to thank you for sharing.

Your friend will enjoy a 15% discount off the price of their ticket with your code, and you’ll get 15% off the price of YOUR ticket.

That’s right, we will refund you 15% off the cost of your ticket automatically when your friend purchases a Europas ticket.

So you can grab tickets here.

Vote for your Favourite Startups

Public Voting is still humming along. Please remember to vote for your favourite startups!

Awards by category:

Hottest Media/Entertainment Startup

Hottest E-commerce/Retail Startup

Hottest Education Startup

Hottest Startup Accelerator

Hottest Marketing/AdTech Startup

Hottest Games Startup

Hottest Mobile Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest Enterprise, SaaS or B2B Startup

Hottest Hardware Startup

Hottest Platform Economy / Marketplace

Hottest Health Startup

Hottest Cyber Security Startup

Hottest Travel Startup

Hottest Internet of Things Startup

Hottest Technology Innovation

Hottest FashionTech Startup

Hottest Tech For Good

Hottest A.I. Startup

Fastest Rising Startup Of The Year

Hottest GreenTech Startup of The Year

Hottest Startup Founders

Hottest CEO of the Year

Best Angel/Seed Investor of the Year

Hottest VC Investor of the Year

Hottest Blockchain/Crypto Startup Founder(s)

Hottest Blockchain Protocol Project

Hottest Blockchain DApp

Hottest Corporate Blockchain Project

Hottest Blockchain Investor

Hottest Blockchain ICO (Europe)

Hottest Financial Crypto Project

Hottest Blockchain for Good Project

Hottest Blockchain Identity Project

Hall Of Fame Award – Awarded to a long-term player in Europe

The Europas Grand Prix Award (to be decided from winners)

The Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups across over some 30+ categories.

Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges. It is free to enter or be nominated.

What is The Europas?

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with 1,000 of the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the Speakers

• Key Founders and investors speaking; featured attendees invited to just network

• Expert speeches, discussions, and Q&A directly from the main stage

• Intimate “breakout” sessions with key players on vertical topics

• The opportunity to meet almost everyone in those small groups, super-charging your networking

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

• A parallel Founders-only track geared towards fund-raising and hyper-networking

• A stunning awards dinner and party which honors both the hottest startups and the leading lights in the European startup scene

• All on one day to maximise your time in London. And it’s PROBABLY sunny!

europas8

That’s just the beginning. There’s more to come…

europas13

Interested in sponsoring the Europas or hosting a table at the awards? Or purchasing a table for 10 or 12 guest or a half table for 5 guests? Get in touch with:
Petra Johansson
Petra@theeuropas.com
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3239 9325

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Razer’s new external graphics enclosure is compatible with Macs

Posted by | Gaming, hardware, Razer | No Comments

A couple of gaming hardware announcements just dropped from team Razer. What makes the Core X graphics enclosure arguably the most notable of the bunch is the inclusion of a standard Thunderbolt 3 connection on the rear of the device.

In addition to Razer’s own systems and Windows 10 PCs, the new enclosure is compatible with Apple products running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4. That’s part of a whole new focus on gaming for Apple’s devices, unveiled back at WWDC roughly this time last year, along with the promise of VR development support.

In late March, external GPU support officially arrived for High Sierra 10.13.4, and now Razer’s ready to get on-board. The Core X is designed to hold up to three desktop graphics cards and can charge a connected laptop through the aforementioned Thunrderbolt 3 connection.

The enclosure is available now for $299. Along with the X, Razer’s Core V2 is now also compatible with Macs via Thunderbolt 3. That one will run you $499. Good new all around for Mac users ready to get serious about gaming.

Also new today is the Razer Blade 15.6-inch, an ultra thin gaming notebook the company has taken to calling “the world’s smallest…in its class.” The 15.6-inch display comes 1920 x 1080, standard, which users can upgrade to 4k. All of that is surrounded by some skinny 4.9mm bezels.

Inside is an 8th gen Core i7 processor, coupled with either a either GeForce GTX 1060 or GeForce GTX 1070  graphics. There’s also up to 16GB of memory and up to 512GB of storage inside, loaded with what Razer says is $420 of games and software. The system features a 16.8 million color keyboard and output for up to three external displays.

The new system starts at $1,899.

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Comcast is leaking the names and passwords of customers’ wireless routers

Posted by | Comcast, Gadgets, hardware, privacy, Security | No Comments

Comcast has just been caught in a major security snafu: revealing the passwords of its customers’ Xfinity-provided wireless routers in plaintext on the web. Anyone with a subscriber’s account number and street address number will be served up the Wi-Fi name and password via the company’s Xfinity internet activation service.

Security researchers Karan Saini and Ryan Stevenson reported the issue to ZDnet.

The site is meant to help people setting up their internet for the first time: ideally, you put in your data, and Comcast sends back the router credentials while activating the service.

The problem is threefold:

  1. You can “activate” an account that’s already active
  2. The data required to do so is minimal and it is not verified via text or email
  3. The wireless name and password are sent on the web in plaintext

This means that anyone with your account number and street address number (e.g. the 1425 in “1425 Alder Ave,” no street name, city, or apartment number needed), both of which can be found on your paper bill or in an email, will instantly be given your router’s SSID and password, allowing them to log in and use it however they like or monitor its traffic. They could also rename the router’s network or change its password, locking out subscribers.

This only affects people who use a router provided by Xfinity/Comcast, which comes with its own name and password built in. Though it also returns custom SSIDs and passwords, since they’re synced with your account and can be changed via app and other methods.

What can you do? While this problem is at large, it’s no good changing your password — Comcast will just provide any malicious actor the new one. So until further notice all of Comcast’s Xfinity customers with routers provided by the company are at risk.

One thing you can do for now is treat your home network as if it is a public one — if you must use it, make sure encryption is enabled if you conduct any private business like buying things online. What will likely happen is Comcast will issue a notice and ask users to change their router passwords at large.

Another is to buy your own router — this is a good idea anyway, as it will pay for itself in a few months and you can do more stuff with it. Which to buy and how to install it, however, are beyond the scope of this article. But if you’re really worried, you could conceivably fix this security issue today by bringing your own hardware to the bargain.

I’ve contacted the company for comment and will update when I hear back.

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Sony shrinks its Digital Paper tablet down to a more manageable 10 inches

Posted by | E Ink, e paper, Gadgets, hardware, Sony, tablet | No Comments

I had a great time last year with Sony’s catchily named DPT-RP1, an e-paper tablet that’s perfect for reading PDFs and other big documents, but one of my main issues was simply how big the thing is. Light and thin but 13 inches across, the tablet was just unwieldy. Heeding (I assume) my advice, Sony is putting out a smaller version and I can’t wait to try it out.

At the time, I was comparing the RP1 with the reMarkable, a crowdfunded rival that offers fantastic writing ability but isn’t without its flaws. Watch this great video I made:

The 10-inch DPT-CP1 has a couple small differences from its larger sibling. The screen has a slightly lower resolution but should be the same PPI — it’s more of a cutout of the original screen than a miniaturization. And it’s considerably lighter: 240 grams to the 13-inch version’s 350. Considering the latter already felt almost alarmingly light, this one probably feels like it’ll float out of your hands and enter orbit.

More important are the software changes. There’s a new mobile app for iOS and Android that should make loading and sharing documents easier. A new screen-sharing mode sounds handy but a little cumbrous — you have to plug it into a PC and then plug the PC into a display. And PDF handling has been improved so that you can jump to pages, zoom and pan and scan through thumbnails more easily. Limited interaction (think checkboxes) is also possible.

There’s nothing that addresses my main issue with both the RP1 and the reMarkable: that it’s a pain to do anything substantial on the devices, such as edit or highlight in a document, and if you do, it’s a pain to bring that work into other environments.

So for now it looks like the Digital Paper series will remain mostly focused on consuming content rather than creating or modifying it. That’s fine — I loved reading stuff on the device, and mainly just wished it were a bit smaller. Now that Sony has granted that wish, it can get to work on the rest.

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HMD raises $100 million to bring even more Nokia phones to market

Posted by | funding, hardware, hmd, Mobile, Nokia | No Comments

HMD Global has been one of the mobile world’s biggest surprise hits in recent years. Founded by former Nokia execs, the Finnish company has made a name for itself reviving the dearly departed brand on Android smartphones to great effect. And it just managed to raise another $100 million, led by Ginko Ventures’ Alpha Ginko VC branch.

The new round puts the company’s valuation at more than $1 billion, according to HMD. It’s set to use this latest round to push even more “aggressively” into the mobile category with its branded devices, “doubl[ing] down on expanding channel reach in strategic markets while continuing to deliver innovation where it matters most to consumers.”

Not that the company’s been cautious in its push thus far, of course. HMD already has a lot of options out there for a business that’s essentially been in existence for a year-and-a-half. At MWC back in February, it announced five new phones sporting the legacy brand, including a reboot of the 8110. The company has also been positioning itself in developing markets, where the Nokia name still has a fair amount of cache, by wholeheartedly adopting Google’s Android One program.

It’s a tricky line to walk, between an embrace of retro appreciation and an attempt to offer innovation. Continuing its successful run is going to require more than just playing upon user nostalgia for a bygone brand.

The question moving forward is whether HMD will be able to reassert Nokia as a truly bleeding-edge brand as it continues to flood the market with branded devices. After all, the smartphone market is starting to plateau, and much of the competition has begun to scale back their releases.

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BeerBox is a vending machine that opens your beer for you

Posted by | anheuser-busch, beer, BeerBox, Gadgets, hardware, ZX Ventures | No Comments

When you hear about beer vending machine BeerBox, you might wonder: Why don’t we have machines like this already?

Founder Robert Gaafar explained that there are actually several reasons why beer vending machines haven’t made sense in the past. For one thing, there’s the obvious legal necessity of ensuring that people are 21 years or older. For another, many venues won’t sell you a closed container of alcohol, because it can be used as a projectile (so you either get draft beer in a cup, or an already opened can or bottle). Plus, a normal vending machine might shake up the can too much, resulting in a foamy mess.

So BeerBox is a vending machine that opens the can for you. The company is part of the accelerator at ZX Ventures, the innovation arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Gaafar said that if all goes well, BeerBox could eventually spin out as a separate company.

He added that BeerBox is meant to address “a pain that we’ve all felt” at concerts or festivals or ball games — the long lines at the bar: “It’s like, do I really want a drink? I might miss the next quarter.”

“These venues would love to sell more beer at the end of the day but they’re limited with real estate,” Gaafar said. “They can’t build more bars in the arenas, nor do they necessarily want to hire more people to staff that.”

The machine was developed in partnership with Intelligent Product Solutions. Ralph Cassara, the company’s senior director of architecture and embedded software, explained that the can-opening functionality represents even more of a “unique technical challenge” than you might think.

One aspect was simply studying how your fingers open a can of beer and figuring out how to replicate that mechanically. But Cassara also noted that the cans can be loaded into BeerBox top-first or bottom-first, so the machine needs to detect the can’s orientation, and then locate the tab at the top of the can.

And where another beer vending startup called Civic is focused on using blockchain to solve the age verification issue, Gaafar said that’s addressable with human checks — just put the BeerBox (or, eventually, multiple BeerBoxes) in an area that’s only accessible to guests who’ve shown their ID.

The current BeerBox prototype can hold 150 25-ounce cans of beer (though Gaafar said that will end up going down to 110 cans as the machine is redesigned for airflow). Payments are cashless, but the company is also planning new models that support secure, offline payments. And while the prototype we saw only dispensed Bud Light, he said it eventually will include a touchscreen for ordering multiple types of beer.

In the meantime, you’ll be able to see the BeerBox at select concert and sports venues this summer.

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Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller is an inspiring example of inclusive design

Posted by | accessibility, Gadgets, Gaming, hardware, Health, Microsoft, xbox, Xbox One | No Comments

Every gamer with a disability faces a unique challenge for many reasons, one of which is the relative dearth of accessibility-focused peripherals for consoles. Microsoft is taking a big step toward fixing this with its Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device created to address the needs of gamers for whom ordinary gamepads aren’t an option.

The XAC, revealed officially at a recent event but also leaked a few days ago, is essentially a pair of gigantic programmable buttons and an oversized directional pad; 3.5mm ports on the back let a huge variety of assistive devices like blow tubes, pedals and Microsoft-made accessories plug in.

It’s not meant to be an all-in-one solution by any means, more like a hub that allows gamers with disabilities to easily make and adjust their own setups with a minimum of hassle. Whatever you’re capable of, whatever’s comfortable, whatever gear you already have, the XAC is meant to enable it.

I’d go into detail, but it would be impossible to do better than Microsoft’s extremely interesting and in-depth post introducing the XAC, which goes into the origins of the hardware, the personal stories of the testers and creators and much more. Absolutely worth taking the time to read.

I look forward to hearing more about the system and how its users put it to use, and I’m glad to see inclusivity and accessibility being pursued in such a practical and carefully researched manner.

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