By all appearances, Virchybike Lite looks like a normal indoor bike. But look a little closer and you’ll notice a few differences. Instead of just adjusting the seat’s height, you can also move the seat forward and backward, and the handlebars can be moved horizontally and vertically as well. If you don’t quite know where to align everything, Virchybike’s app will guide you through the bike fitting proces when you first get it. Like a lot of other indoor bikes, you can also adjust the resistance levels (the app also has programs that auto-adjusts the resistance for you) and there’s a heart-rate monitor as well.
Speaking of the app, that’s really at the heart of what makes the Virchybike Lite proposition a compelling one (the app is Android only for now, though Virchybike says an iOS version will be out next year). You can either select a mode where you’re cycling through real-world courses, or play it safe with a Studio setting that mimics the feel of a spin class. There’s also an interesting VR mode, where you can use an app called “rora”, slap the phone in a VR headset like the Gear, and cycle through virtual worlds like you can on something like the VirZoom.
No matter which mode you pick, Virchybike says that the app will monitor your progress and heart rate, and will suggest modes that will cater to your particular fitness level. Oh, and you can also enable “Multiriding” and race along with family and friends if they happen to have Virchybikes too.
Perhaps the most interesting bike mode is the one that has you riding through 70-plus different real-life courses around the world. As you’re cycling through the course, you’re not just watching the road; the topography of the map actually matches the incline of your bike as you cycle along. Plus, the faster you cycle, the faster you move through the map. You also have the option changing your “gears” as you race.
And if you decide to pay a little extra, Virchybike is also going to throw in an accessory called the VR Fan. Connect it to the app, position the fan towards you and it’ll attempt to simulate the wind blowing in your face as you breeze through the Tour De France.
I saw a demo of the Virchybike Lite at a booth at TechCrunch Disrupt, and it looks like a pretty well-made bike. The seats adjusted well, and the app looks pretty polished as well. It showed me data like the cyclist’s heart rate as well as the speeds and inclines of the entire course. It doesn’t look as cool as the Virchybike Pro, which was also there for demonstration, and it definitely doesn’t have the same tilting frame. A spokesperson said that the Pro is more for professionals and gyms, while the Lite is more for home use. Unfortunately, there was no VR fan in sight, as the Virchybike folks are still looking for manufacturing partners for it.
Virchybike was created four years ago by Jaehyun Shin, a self-professed sports lover who wanted fitness to be more accessible to the masses. Specifically, he wanted to alleviate the boredom and tediousness so often associated with exercise. The first bike Shin and his team created was the RX Cycle in 2015, which then evolved to the Virchybike Pro in early 2017. But as that was a little too expensive — over $1,000 — Shin decided to make a Lite version for what he calls “family use.”
The Virchybike Lite went on Kickstarter today with a $15,000 goal, and at the time of this writing, is already almost 80 percent funded. Virchybike hopes to deliver the bikes (and the VR fans) to backers by February of next year.
The premier racing sim for Xbox consoles returns this fall with the latest installment of the Forza Motorsport series for Xbox One. I’ve been a longtime fan of the series (dating back to Forza 3 for the Xbox 360), so it’s particularly interesting to watch how the series has evolved and branched over the years.
Forza Motorsport 7 promises to be the best looking, most accurate, most immersive entry in the franchise’s history when it launches later this month. I was recently able to spend a fast-paced hour in Forza Motorsport 7’s digital driver’s seat at a preview event to find out what’s new for this release.
4K 60fps HDR
Forza Motorsport 7 should scale and run smoothly on Xbox One and Xbox One S hardware, but the optimal gaming experience, I’m told, is on the Xbox One X console. The game was designed with the X in mind and is claimed to run in full 4K resolution at 60 frames per second in high dynamic range (HDR). I wasn’t set up to confirm those claims nor am I one of CNET’s TV reviewers, but the long-and-short of it is that this should be the best looking Forza title yet.
I was told that the build I played was essentially the final release version of the game played on Xbox One X hardware. I noticed a handful of hiccups and stutters here and there during my test, but the vast majority of my gameplay was buttery smooth and crisply rendered.
Load times were well hidden behind cinematics, menus and transitions during the campaign mode. So much so that I almost never noticed any sort of wait once I was ready to start driving. However, the Free Play modes are less linear and have less stagecraft to hide the loading, so I noticed seemingly longer load times in this mode. Still, after choosing a car and a track, I was up and running within a minute and change.
700 cars, 30 tracks
The two most important parts of any racing game are the cars and the courses. Forza 7 launches with 30 tracks to chose from including many longtime favorites and some new surprises. More impressive is its massive collection of over 700 vehicles, including “the largest collection of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches available in any racing game.” All of those cars are now so-called ForzaVista cars, modeled in such high detail that you can open the doors, peer around the interior and get up-close and personal with the texture of the leather on the dashboard.
Of course, I went almost straight to the Mazda Miata (like I always do) during my hour-long test. But there is a wide range of vehicles and vehicle types to choose from including new classes, like racing trucks and ATVs, and more typical racing sim classes, like sports cars, supercars and various historic and modern race cars.
Forza 7 takes an interesting approach to how it gives you access to those 700 cars. During the campaign, you can’t just hop in and buy the best car in the game. Rather, the vehicles are split into various tiers — at first, you are only given access to the lower tier of cars, but each vehicle that is added to your collection adds to a higher garage score. Higher garage scores grant access to better cars.
Of course, there’s also the ability to just skip all of that nonsense in the Free Play mode, which lets you do what you want to do.
A whole lot of shaking
Most racing sims treat cars like realistically rendered and simulated polygons that move around the course as one part.
Forza 7 goes a step further and acknowledges that real cars are a collection of various panels, parts and bits that are welded or bolted together and can shake, flex and rattle at slightly different rates. From the cockpit view, drivers can see the hood of an old muscle car shake in the wind as you approach top speed or the various bits of a racing truck’s body rattle wildly when accelerating.
The camera shakes and bounces a bit as well, enhancing immersion. The camera changes are subtle and I almost didn’t notice until I looked for it, but this small tweak enhances the feeling of speed.
It’s not news that Turn 10 puts a lot of effort into making sure that the various engine sounds, collision noises and tire screeches are accurate to life, but I also noticed that there’s now more attention placed on secondary sounds.
In the racing truck, for example, I was able to hear bits of gravel and dirt bouncing around in the wheel well. That’s a ridiculous level of detail that’ll probably be lost on you if you don’t have a great audio setup. I’ll definitely be playing with a good set of headphones on.
Weather that affects the way cars handle and perform on track has been a part of the Forza series for the last few installments, but Forza 7 adds a Dynamic Weather system that can change on the fly during the course of a race.
A race that starts bone dry could be hit by rain midway through, which reduces grip and visibility. With the rain comes puddles that expand and contract like they would in real life, adding a further challenge for racers. One particular race during the prologue that takes place in Dubai sees wind blowing sand across the course, which adds a slightly different traction challenge — and just looks pretty cool.
Forza Horizon 3 was the first Forza title to allow the player to chose a different avatar for their driver. Forza Motorsport 7 takes that customization to a completely different level.
Once again, you can chose between a male or female driver model, but now you can choose between hundreds of custom Driver Gear. These are basically skins for the player’s character that range from different color schemes, historic racing suits, automaker logos and novelty designs. I was especially digging the Día de Muertos skull-themed skin, but there are also skins that look like a highway patrol uniform or Halo’s Spartan armor.
Skins are fun, because the driver can be seen more before and particularly after the race, where the avatars of the top three racers appear on a podium. You can unlock different Driver Gear skins by completing in-game challenges or leveling up your profile by winning races and earning in-game currency.
Ready, set, go!
When Forza Motorsport 7 launches, Xbox One and Windows 10 PC players will be able to race with or against each other through the Xbox Play Anywhere cross-play system. You can even bounce back and forth between PC and console with your synced profile. Simply purchase the game digitally and it’ll unlock for all platforms.
A demo will be available for download on Sept. 19, on Xbox Live. Drivers who order the Ultimate Edition will get a headstart with early access to the full game on Sept. 29. Deluxe and Standard editions will unlock a few days later on Oct. 3.
The Deluxe Edition adds a Day One Car Pack with additional launch vehicles and Forza VIP membership (a stated $30 value total). The Ultimate Edition adds a “Forza Motorsport 7” Car Pass ($30 value) that’s essentially a season pass for post-launch DLC cars in addition to the early access to the game.
Smart home device maker August has three new connected products to keep your door secure:
The $279 Smart Lock Pro (sold with a Connect Wi-Fi Bridge)
The $149 Smart Lock (to eventually replace the current Smart Lock)
The $199 Doorbell Cam Pro (to eventually replace the Doorbell Cam)
Both locks are on sale now at Amazon, Best Buy and August’s online store. The doorbell is available for preorder and units ship from Oct. 10.
All three products are US-only and August doesn’t have plans to expand internationally. At the current exchange rate, the prices convert to roughly £210 or AU$350 for the Smart Lock Pro, £110 or AU$185 for the Smart Lock and £150 or AU$250 for the Doorbell Cam Pro.
August’s Smart Lock Pro looks a lot like the second-gen HomeKit-enabled Smart Lock. It works with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant, but this version also adds in an August Connect as a bundled accessory. That way, you automatically get both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity out of the box. The Pro lock supports Z-Wave as well, if you have a compatible hub. It has a new feature called DoorSense, too.
DoorSense seems so logical that I’m stunned no one has introduced it before. It’s essentially a door (or window) sensor built into the lock, with a second sensor accessory you either mount externally next to the lock or on the inside of the doorframe. With DoorSense, you can confirm that the door is actually closed (instead of simply locked or unlocked).
The new $149 August Smart Lock looks quite different than previous models. It features a more oblong shape with an integrated thumb latch for opening and closing the door. It also doesn’t support HomeKit, but it too comes with accessories for enabling DoorSense.
August’s Doorbell Cam Pro appears to have borrowed its design from the original Doorbell Cam at a glance, but this version is equipped with a floodlight. That’s supposed to enhance nighttime video streaming and its motion-detection functionality.
An Apple Watch may not have helped the Boston Red Sox allegedly steal signs from the New York Yankees after all.
The Yankees filed a complaint earlier this month with Major League Baseball saying the Red Sox were stealing pitch signs by using the smartwatch during a four-game series last month in Boston, according to The New York Times. The Yankees provided a video showing a Red Sox staffer looking at his wrist wearable and relaying a message to players, possibly tipping off what pitches were going to be thrown.
The report identified the device as an Apple Watch, but a Boston reporter says it was in fact a wearable by rival Fitbit.
“Turns out there was no Apple Watch involved in Red Sox sign stealing. It was a Fitbit product according to a major league source,” the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo said in a tweet Saturday. It wasn’t immediately clear which Fitbit product the Red Sox might have been using.
While there is no rule against stealing signs, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has said using electronic means to do so is a violation and the allegations are under investigation. The Red Sox have admitted to having trainers relay information from their replay staff to players using electronic devices, a strategy that was in place for weeks.
The Red Sox organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”
Amazon raked in an estimated $4 billion in toy sales last year, up 24 percent from 2015 according to analytics firm One Click Retail. That amount is over a third of what Toys ‘R’ Us brings in, which has seen five years of decline. Bargain competition and diving prices have hurt the toy giant’s attempts to recover.
Bain Capital, KKR Co. and Vornado Realty Trust engaged in a $7.5 billion leveraged buyout of Toys ‘R’ Us back in 2005 to take it private. The toy giant has struggled to emerge from under so much debt, which has blunted its expansions in physical and online storefronts. The company spent $100 million over the last few years to launch a new website this summer, but it still lags behind Target, Walmart, and most significantly, Amazon.