After Jeffrey Tambor was accused of sexual harassment and assault by multiple women, he left the hit show Transparent. However, what would become of his other projects was up in the air. Now, Netflix has confirmed to TV Guide that Jeffrey Tambor will appear in the fifth season of Arrested Development, which will premiere on the streaming service soon.
It’s not clear whether Tambor’s storyline in the fifth season will be truncated or changed based on the accusations. However, two of Tambor’s Arrested Development co-stars have publicly supported the actor: Jason Bateman and David Cross. Cross also indicated that more of the Arrested Development cast and crew supports the actor, though none others have come forward to voice that support.
Source: TV Guide
There’s nothing quite like spring in New York. It’s warm, but not too warm. Protests and open-air markets are spinning up at Union Square. The popsicle vendor next to the office is slinging treats while the heady aroma of kebabs from the food truck around the corner draws a crowd of lunchtime regulars. At long last, people are luxuriating outside and New York feels alive again. Naturally, since the city was brimming with energy, I had no choice but to go outside and goof around with a VR headset.
You see, Lenovo’s Mirage Solo is part of a new breed of self-contained VR headsets. You don’t need to connect it to a powerful PC or stick a phone inside of it. You just turn it on, pick up Google’s classic Daydream controller, and dive right in. While headsets like the Oculus Go are accessible because they’re fairly cheap, Lenovo and Google were a little more ambitious. They needed to take the existing Daydream concept and make it more capable. By cooking up a way to help this all-in-one headset understand your movement in the real world and translate it into virtual ones, I’d argue they succeeded.
It helps that Lenovo didn’t have to design the Mirage to work with different kinds of phones — instead, it packed those smartphones components into the headset itself. Tucked away inside the Mirage’s plasticky white body is a Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a microSD slot and a 5.5-inch LCD screen. Basically it’s a flagship phone from 2017, just designed to be worn on your face. Lenovo did modify or rebuild some of the parts to perform a little better, though.
Take that Snapdragon, for instance: it can run at higher speeds than normal when apps and games require extra power. The difference isn’t massive, but it was sometimes noticeable when I compared the same apps on a phone inside a Daydream View headset. The addition of heatsinks toward the front of the headset meant the Mirage Solo was less prone to overheating under heavy loads, even when I took it outside to play games under that beautiful, spring sun. It’s obviously not as powerful as, say, an HTC Vive Pro tethered to a gaming PC, but those chipset tweaks and some impressive app designs mean the difference isn’t as vast as one might assume.
Lenovo and Google made a somewhat controversial decision in opting for LCD instead of OLED for the screen. OLED is more common in VR headsets because of its faster refresh and deeper blacks. But they do suffer from ghosting when there’s lots of contrast in a scene. Lenovo’s solution was to cook up a specialized LCD running at 2,560×1,440 (also known as QHD) and it worked. There’s essentially no ghosting here. The flip side is that, while the screen is technically capable of refresh rates as high as 90Hz, Lenovo capped it at 75Hz so as not to burn through the battery too quickly. As it stands, one charge is generally been good for between 2.5 and 3 hours of use — I can’t imagine how fast those figures would tank if the screen were updating 90 times a second.
None of this would matter if the headset itself was too unwieldy to use, but thankfully that’s not the case. I’ve found Lenovo’s design extremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time, even when I’m wearing my massive hipster glasses. Rather than offer a tangle of elastic straps and call it a day, the company went with a solid plastic strap that wraps around your head like a crown. To get the headset feeling appropriately snug, you can twist a dial around back to adjust the circumference and press a button on the bottom of the headset to control how far forward you want the forehead plate to sit.
Describing how one can adjust the headset just then was more awkward than actually using it. It never took me more than a few moments of fiddling before I found my sweet spot, and the headset never felt overly cumbersome. As with most devices meant to attach to your person, your experience might be different. I didn’t notice any outside light leaking in around the edges, but a few colleagues with more reasonably sized heads struggled with that. Oh, and while the Mirage Solo might be my favorite headset to wear, its solid headstrap means it’s far less portable than a Gear VR or Oculus Go. You could throw this thing in a backpack and whip it out on a plane, but it’ll take up so much space in your bag that it’s almost not worth it.
Of course, this headset is as important (and as expensive) as it is because of its WorldSense tracking technology. Baked into the front of the headset are two cameras that, combined with a set of rotational sensors inside the headset, provide true 6-degrees-of-freedom movement in whatever apps support it. Put another way, you’re not limited to simply looking around the world the way you would with something like an Oculus Go — you can physically bob, weave, step into and slink out of virtual environments. There are no external sensors involved, and no closed off spaces required. For the most part, it just works — albeit with some limitations.
Exactly how much you’ll get to wander is up to Google and Daydream developers, though most apps won’t let you move around for more than a few feet before reminding you to take a step back “into the experience”. And since the pack-in Daydream controller only supports three degrees of freedom compared to the headset’s six, I often experienced a sort of physical disconnect because I could maneuver my “body” inside some virtual environments in ways the controller couldn’t.
You’ll look like a goofball using the Mirage Solo outside, but it performs well under the hot sun.
It can feel limited at times, but WorldSense tracking is huge addition to mobile VR, and I hope it doesn’t take too long to become the rule instead of the exception. In the meantime, though, we’re left with a big question: will developers actually bother building new experiences for WorldSense? It’s tough to say, but Google is off to a pretty good start. Of the roughly 250 Daydream apps currently available, I’m told around 40 will be updated with WorldSense support by the time you can buy a Mirage Solo. Google engineers also told me that adapting some existing Daydream apps to work with WorldSense could be as simple as toggling a setting.
It’ll obviously take time for WorldSense to pick up traction (or, you know, fail completely), but some of the initial experiences for it are a blast. The most impressive by far as been Blade Runner: Revelations, a Daydream exclusive that puts you smack in the middle of a futuristic, neo-noir Los Angeles. It starts off by putting you in the seat of a flying car called a spinner, and I spent the first few minutes crouching, stepping side to side and craning my neck to take in every little detail of the spinner’s interior and the aerial views of LA. Then you’re dropped into a tense, vibrant back alley and you’re left to start your investigation.
And then there’s Rez: Infinite, a port of a re-release of one of my favorite games of all time. I’d sound like an idiot trying to explain the story, but it’s an on-rails shooter that blends absurdly trippy visuals and joyous musicality in a way that feels truly, special in VR. I might’ve looked like an idiot playing it outside, sure, but I frankly couldn’t care less. If other developers commit to crafting experiences as fun and as visually arresting as these, then Daydream’s future as a VR platform has a lot of potential.
As much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the Mirage Solo, I’ve had a hard time figuring out exactly who it’s for. The $400 price means it isn’t as attractive to VR newcomers as a phone-based Gear VR or Daydream View. On the other end of the spectrum are the VR die-hards, people who already have pricey gaming PCs and don’t balk at the cost of an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive Pro. In a way, the Mirage Solo exists in a sort of middle ground that few major companies have made much progress in yet — the self-contained Oculus Santa Cruz isn’t on sale yet, and HTC’s Vive Focus is only available in China for now. As a result, the Mirage Solo feels like an option for a very specific kind of VR fan: someone who values flexibility but doesn’t want to compromise on power too much. That’s a weird slice of the VR market to be sure, but for them, there might not be a better choice.
The Lenovo Mirage Solo is the first standalone VR headset that runs Google’s Daydream. Now, Google has announced that the headset, along with the Mirage camera, are available for purchase today. These devices work both separately and together. The headset is priced at $400, while the camera is $300.
There are over 350 games, apps and experiences in the Daydream VR library that users can take advantage of. Additionally, the Lenovo Mirage Solo is equipped with WorldSense, which allows for high-quality positional tracking on mobile devices. And with the Lenovo Mirage camera (VR180), you can capture VR content with the ease of a point and shoot camera.
Engadget Editor Chris Velazco tried out the Mirage Solo and was impressed with how comfortable it is. It’s a middle ground between headsets aimed at newcomers and VR diehards: “the Mirage Solo feels like an option for a very specific kind of VR fan: someone who values flexibility but doesn’t want to compromise on power too much.” You can see Chris’s full review of the Lenovo Mirage Solo here.
By Eric C. Evarts
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After more than 50 hours researching over 70 charging stations for electric cars and testing five of the most promising models, we’ve concluded that the best for most owners of current electric vehicles (EVs) is the Siemens VersiCharge VC30GRYU, though Tesla owners should just buy Tesla’s own charging station. The Siemens isn’t the most powerful unit and doesn’t have the most features, but it’s the most convenient to use and the least expensive, and it’s powerful enough to quickly charge most EVs, proving that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a great home-charging station for your electric car.
Why buy a charging station
Photo: Rik Paul
Our research answers the biggest question most EV owners have after they buy their first EV: “What charger should I get?” All electric cars come with a 120-volt (Level 1) charge cord that you can use either at home or when you’re away. For most EV buyers, though, buying a faster 240-volt (Level 2) charging station makes their electric car more convenient and capable, and is a virtual necessity if you want to use your EV for daily commuting or other everyday runs, because it means you’ll always be able to fully charge the vehicle overnight.
How we picked and tested
The charging stations we tested. Photo: Rik Paul
We started by closely examining the specs and costs of every readily available charging station we could find. We focused on 240-volt charging stations rated at 30 amps or higher, which provide notably faster charging than lower-amp-rating charging stations.
A good charging station insulates you from the high power that faster charging requires, seals all electrical connections, and makes sure the system is safe for you to use. We stuck with name-brand charging stations that met all these requirements and adhere to strict safety ratings. We also limited our test group to charging stations that plug into a wall outlet rather than requiring a professional, permanent installation. This makes it easy to pull the charging station off the wall if you move or purchase a new unit. Finally, we set a price limit of $600, high enough to meet our criteria but not overpriced.
We settled on four charging stations to test, using each over the course of a month with a 2017 Nissan Leaf SL. We charged the car only when the low-battery warning came on, and recorded the mileage and length of the charging cycle each time we juiced up. We also ran some tests with a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier, but found significant differences between the Bolt and the Leaf. To read about our testing process in more details, please see our full guide to EV charging stations.
The Siemens’s charge plug mounts to the unit when not in use. On the front are handy pause and delay-timer buttons. Photo: Rik Paul
The Siemens VersiCharge VC30GRYU is the most affordable unit that charges most current electric cars at maximum speed, and it’s dead simple to use. We especially like it because you can manually set delayed start times with a simple press of a button; you can stop or pause charging just as easily; and its large size makes wrapping even fairly long cords easy. It’s also among the least expensive fully safety-rated 30-amp units we found, complete with a wall plug. In short, the VersiCharge does everything most EV drivers need, and shows that you don’t have to spend a ton to install a great electric-car charging station in your garage.
The VersiCharge will recharge a car’s battery at a rate of 16-plus miles per hour, giving a Nissan Leaf a full charge in less than six hours. By far our favorite feature of the VersiCharge are its two simple control buttons on the front, a feature that no other charging station we tested has. On the left is a power button that can also pause the charging; on the right is a delay button that lets you delay charging for two, four, six, or eight hours, allowing you to time charging for when electrical rates are lowest.
If you want a faster charging station or one with Wi-Fi–enabled features
Photo: Rik Paul
The eMotorWerks JuiceBox Pro 40 shows that you don’t need to spend more than $650 for a great, high-power, Wi-Fi–enabled unit. It’s 25 percent faster (on paper) than our top pick on paper, though in reality you won’t always be able to take advantage of the extra speed. The JuiceBox Pro 40 also offers a smartphone app so you can start, stop, and monitor the charge remotely.
So why isn’t the JuiceBox Pro 40 our top pick? The short answer is that only a small number of electric-car buyers can use its extra capabilities, and it’s not quite as convenient to use as our top pick yet costs more. It also lacks the simple control buttons on the front panel that the Siemens model has, and the cord isn’t as easy to hang.
A truly portable option
The AeroVironment TurboCord Dual is a 16-amp, 240-volt charger that plugs into a NEMA 6-20 outlet, the kind used for small wood- and metal-shop machines. If you plan to stop at a school or at the house of someone who has a well-equipped shop, or if you want to buy a single, portable charging station for use in two locations (each equipped with the proper outlet), this might be the cord for you.
At 15 amps, the TurboCord can replenish 8 to 10 miles of range per hour of charging. That’s slower charging than our top picks, but what makes the TurboCord Dual compelling is that it also comes with an adapter to plug into a standard 120-volt household outlet. If you want an extra 120-volt charge cord for your car, so you can leave one at home and carry one with you, the TurboCord Dual may be the best solution.
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When most people fancy a vacation, they pack up their suitcase and go somewhere warm like Barbados. Not Bastiaan Hooimeijer, who goes by the name “Naam” online. Instead, he built his own holiday spot inside virtual reality. The result — crafted using Google Blocks — isn’t an idyllic beach or a villa hidden in the French Riviera. It’s a small caravan in a poky piece of land surrounded by piles of discarded junk. The world is bright and colorful, but it’s not the sort of place that Lonely Planet would send one of its travel writers.
Still, A Piece of the Universe is impressive. With some virtual reality hardware, including a pair of wand-style controllers, you can pick up everyday objects and quickly teleport over short distances. “I’m not a vacation kind of guy,” Naam explains. “I never go anywhere, but I do have some escapist urges.” There’s plenty to see and do too. You can wander to a small river, for instance, and prod some waterlilies with a stick, or check the post box and sift through mail while cars hurtle past. If you’re feeling cold, you can strike a match and light the caravan’s wood burner, or bash at a typewriter with the grace of The Incredible Hulk.
These activities are all very pedestrian, but that’s the point. It’s supposed to be a place that you can quickly visit and relax in for 10 or 15 minutes. A virtual hideaway for when life gets a little too stressful.
Naam is the co-founder of Happy Ship, a 3D animation studio based in the Netherlands. He loves comics and fell in love with computers, and 3D animation, after leaving the Minerva Art Academy and “stumbling” into a job in desktop publishing. Pixar’s first feature-length film, Toy Story, had just been released and Naam was keen to work on his own movies. He met some like-minded people and formed Happy Ship after Maxon, the creators of 3D modeling software Cinema 4D, asked for a small technical demo.
“Since then we’ve just been saying yes to a lot of stuff,” he said. “Can you do visual effects? ‘Sure, sure we can do it!’ We had no idea, but we managed.” Fifteen years later, Naam and Happy Ship continue to work in film and visual effects. Most of their projects are for the Dutch market, though, which is why you probably haven’t heard of them. They’re a talented bunch, winning a prestigious Golden Calf — the Dutch equivalent of the Oscars — for the 20-minute short Polska Warrior last September.
Naam discovered VR through a colleague who had backed the original Rift on Kickstarter. He tried it on and immediately fell in love. “It’s really a new medium,” he said. “A lot of people approach it like it’s a new way to be entertained, but really, especially for artists, it’s a new medium of expression.” The hardware, of course, was primitive compared to the consumer version that launched in early 2016. Still, it was a captivating piece of hardware, and more than capable of running Naam’s early experiments inside Unity, a popular video game engine.
How ‘A Piece of the Universe’ looked in late 2017
Google released Blocks, a 3D modeling application for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, in July 2017. It’s a free piece of software aimed at developers and artists who want to quickly build custom objects. The app lets you insert, manipulate and color 3D shapes, or “blocks,” to create something entirely new. Grab a cone and a few multicolored spheres, for instance, and you soon have an ice cream that’s ready to be exported into a larger scene.
Naam had been toying with idea of a virtual caravan for a few years. He decided to take a vacation and spent the time off modeling his dream camper in Blocks. The animator liked the tool because its angular, low-poly aesthetic with his own drawing style. “There was some magic click that I had with the app,” he said. Sculpting in VR also made it easier to judge scale. With traditional 3D modeling software, you have to estimate size on-screen and then check if it feels right in VR. In Blocks, and VR painting apps such as Tilt Brush and Quill, the process is simplified because you’re already seeing the object from a first-person perspective.
“There’s something fishy about the place, obviously.”
From the outset Naam was posting development teasers on Twitter. These videos quickly blew up, attracting hundreds — sometimes thousands — of retweets and questions. Naam was floored by the response and decided to release a version that anyone could play on December 23rd, 2017. Again, the reaction was positive and Naam was encouraged to continue the project. Over the next few months, he worked on various bug fixes and a wealth of new objects, including a lighter — which introduced fire to the experience — fireworks and a fridge. His most recent update added a typewriter, mail and plumbing.
A Piece of the Universe is, however, still a passion project. It’s technically free to download — customers set their own price — and listed as a “prototype” on Naam’s Itch.io page. Players know, therefore, that updates will be small and infrequent. “It’s a very nice way of working,” Naam said.
He’s now exploring whether A Piece of the Universe should have its own story. As you walk around the caravan, it’s natural to wonder who might have lived there before and, more importantly, what happened to them. “It’s not developed so far that I can talk about it out loud,” he said, “and I’m still discovering it myself.” There are hints in the world, though. There are some old photographs, for instance, and cars toot loudly when they drive past. “There’s something fishy about the place, obviously,” he said.
The most intriguing part of the experience, though, starts when you don a pair of headphones in the caravan. You’re suddenly transported to a bizarre, dream-like version of reality with a purple sky and a giant “mudskipper” ship that rips through the campsite. Is it a dream, a vision, or something else entirely? Naam is tight-lipped but hinted that he always wanted to have a game with “little outings into different planes of reality.” How that will evolve, though, and fold into the larger story is unclear. Maybe the caravan is on a mystical burial site; perhaps these dimensions are the key to understanding the previous owner’s disappearance.
“Maybe you can dive into the typewriter at certain moments, or into the little ditch behind the fence,” Naam said. “I don’t know! I can’t make any promises. But that’s next on the list. If all the basic details are more or less finished, I want to make little fantasy outings.”
What’s a holiday, after all, without a few memorable excursions?
Source: A Piece of the Universe
Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) isn’t pleased with Facebook and he wants the FTC to do as much as it can to ensure the company is protecting its users’ privacy and data. In a letter sent this week to the FTC chairman and commissioners, he requests certain actions be taken against the social media giant and asks for information about the commission’s investigation into the company.
Markey says in his letter that he believes the recent revelations about Facebook and its data privacy practices suggest it violated the FTC’s 2011 consent decree — a settlement Facebook signed onto in which it agreed to get authorization from users before sharing their data with others and to inform users of any unauthorized access to their data. “I am concerned that Facebook failed to comply with this consent decree,” Markey wrote. “I urge the FTC to use all necessary resources to investigate Facebook, demand that Facebook pay all monetary penalties it owes as a result of any transgressions of the 2011 order and instruct Facebook to institute additional safeguards.” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) made similar requests last month.
Among his requests, Markey is asking that Facebook be required to make its future privacy practice audits available to the public and that the FTC ensure that those conducting the audits are independent of Facebook. He also asks that Facebook be required to stop tracking its users across websites once they’ve logged out of their Facebook accounts and that the company stop using its facial recognition tools until the FTC’s investigation is complete. Further, the senator requests that Facebook be prevented from weakening its current policies that prohibit apps from collecting data on users’ friends, as Aleksandr Kogan’s now infamous “thisisyourdigitallife” app did. Markey also calls for Facebook to publicly release complaints and records that note violations of the consent decree and report them to the FTC.
In regards to the FTC’s investigation into Facebook’s data privacy practices, Markey wants to know if Facebook has given the commission all of the audits it was required to make per the 2011 order, who conducted them and who at the FTC is in charge of reviewing them. He also requested information about the ongoing investigation such as when its findings will be available to the public and what steps have been taken so far.
Markey, along with Blumenthal, introduced the CONSENT Act last month, legislation that would place more data security requirements on companies like Facebook and Google.
Source: Senator Markey
eBay today launched its latest site-wide coupon event, in celebration of Star Wars Day. With the offer, you can get 15 percent off everything across eBay with just a few exclusions: Coins & Paper Money, Gift Cards & Coupons, and Real Estate categories.
Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with eBay. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.
The 15 percent off coupon is running for one day only and ends later today, May 4, at 4:00 p.m. PT. To use it, you’ll need to make a purchase on eBay worth $50 or more, pay for the item or items by the coupon’s expiration time today, and enter the promo code PMAY4TH in the redemption code field. The discount caps at a maximum value of $100, and applies only to the purchase price and excludes shipping, handling, and taxes. Users with an address in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean are eligible for the coupon.
There are numerous Apple products that can be purchased at a discount with eBay’s coupon today, including a HomePod sold by alldayzip. Although the store has the speaker priced at $360, $10 above its normal price tag, with 15 percent off you can get a brand new HomePod for $306.00 in Space Gray or White. For more ideas, browse eBay’s Daily Tech Deals page, which currently has new and refurbished items like Apple Pencil, UE Boom 2, iPad Pro, and more.
Just like the last coupon, the new Star Wars Day discount code is available across all of eBay, so even if you can’t find Apple products you’re interested in, there should be plenty of other items on the site that could be made a bit cheaper with the 15 percent off sale. The coupon is a one-time use code, so if you’re planning to purchase multiple items to get a discount, make sure to purchase them all at once.
For more information on the code visit eBay’s landing page, and then head over to our full Deals Roundup for descriptions of other sales.
Related Roundup: Apple DealsTag: eBay
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Apple has acknowledged a microphone issue affecting a limited number of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models running iOS 11.3 or later.
In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple said affected customers may experience a grayed-out speaker button during phone calls. The issue may also prevent affected customers from being heard during phone calls or FaceTime video chats.
Apple Authorized Service Providers have been instructed to first ask customers to disconnect or power off any Bluetooth headsets or other audio accessories connected to their iPhone to see if that alleviates the problem.
If the speaker button remains grayed out during a call, the service providers have been instructed to run audio diagnostics. Affected devices will display a “device could not detect dock” or “accessory not supported” alert in the diagnostic pane, in which case the service provider can initiate a repair for the iPhone.
If an affected iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus is no longer covered by warranty, Apple says its service providers can request an exception for this particular issue. Apple’s document does not specify if the repairs will be completed free of charge, but it seems likely given the circumstances.
While this does not appear to be a widespread problem, there are have been some complaints about microphone issues on iOS 11.3 scattered across MacRumors, Reddit, Twitter, and the Apple Support Communities in recent months.
It’s unclear why iOS 11.3 and subsequent software versions are unintentionally disabling microphones on some iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus units. Apple mentions that some of the devices may require a repair, suggesting the software update could somehow be causing a hardware defect, but information is lacking.
Affected customers can schedule an appointment with an Apple Authorized Service Provider or with the Genius Bar at an Apple Store via the Contact Apple Support page: iPhone → Repairs & Physical Damage → Unable to Hear Through Receiver or Speakers → Built-in Speaker → Bring In For Repair.
Apple has not confirmed this issue publicly, but MacRumors has verified the document’s authenticity with a reliable source. However, outside of our control, some Apple employees may be unaware of or deny the information. In that event, we recommend escalating your case to a senior AppleCare advisor if possible.
MacRumors has reached out to Apple for clarity on this issue. If and when we hear back, we’ll update this article.
Relevant: Apple’s support document titled Get help with the microphones on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
Related Roundup: iOS 11Tag: AASP
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“The Button” from Fibaro is the latest HomeKit accessory that’s designed to add physical control options to your HomeKit setup, making it easier to access HomeKit devices without an iOS device or HomePod.
Design wise, The Button looks like you might expect something called “The Button” to look. Made of smooth plastic, it has a small round base that holds a slightly larger button that depresses to activate HomeKit commands.
I like the look of the button, and it offers a satisfying button-like press that’s better than some of the other competing button and tap-style devices that offer physical HomeKit controls. The button I reviewed was white, but it is also available black and red.
The Button supports just three gestures: a single click, a double click, and a press and hold. This limits what can be done with The Button, so a household may need more than one if there are a lot of HomeKit products and you want granular control over each one.
You can attach the button to a wall or a desk using included adhesive or by nailing the plastic mounting plate into the wall. You can also just use it sans adhesive or mounting plate if it’s just sitting on a desk or nightstand, or if you want to be able to move it around.
There is no light to indicate that The Button is turned on and has power, but you can enable an audio feedback option in the settings section of the Fibaro app to have it beep when a button press is activated.
Setting up The Button is a little more involved than the setup process for some other HomeKit products. You need to press down and rotate The Button in a counterclockwise direction (like a childproof pill bottle) to open it up to remove the battery blocker.
Once open, you need to take out the user-replaceable 1/2AA battery that powers the accessory to remove the small piece of paper before putting the battery back in place and closing it back up. From there, you can download the Fibaro app or the Home app and add it to a HomeKit setup using the QR code in the manual.
There is no HomeKit code on The Button itself, which is going to be frustrating if it ever needs to be reset and re-added to HomeKit. I won’t be able to get rid of the manual, and will instead need to store it some place.
I thought the Fibaro app was one of the worst HomeKit apps I’ve ever used. It’s cluttered, has an unintuitive UI, and uses a color scheme that makes text hard to read. It also has no real instructions on programming The Button, which is going to be confusing for those who are new to HomeKit and unfamiliar with automations.
Most users will probably be better off controlling and programming The Button with the Apple Home app, where you can more easily assign Scenes and automations to each button press.
With The Button, you can do things like activate a specific scene to turn off all of the lights in the house at night, lock the door, and turn down the thermostat, or turn on all the lights in the morning and turn up the thermostat, all depending on which HomeKit devices you have installed and what you want The Button to do.
I set a single press to turn off all of the lights in my office with the exception of my night lights, and a double press turns them all back on in the morning. A long press sets an evening scene that dims the lights. The Button can do a huge variety of things depending on the HomeKit products you own, but I’ve found it most useful for lighting. It can turn lights on and off, dim lights, change colors, and more.
The Button was always responsive during my testing over the past couple of weeks, with each of the three button presses clearly activating each scene assigned to it. I didn’t run into any connectivity problems or other issues while using The Button, which is always a plus.
When you just want to turn the lights on or execute a quick action, it can be a hassle to pull out your iPhone and open up the Home app or use Siri. Physical control products like The Button add a lot of convenience to a HomeKit setup, and they’re a must have for guests who don’t have access to your HomeKit devices but need to control something simple like a light.
At $60, The Button is more expensive than competing options like the Eve Button, or the Hue Tap, but it’s on par with the Logitech Pop and it’s arguably one of the more fun button devices you can purchase given its intuitive button design and the range of colors it’s available in.
How to Buy
You can purchase Fibaro’s The Button from Amazon for $59.99.
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Much of Nintendo Labo is bound by a strict ruleset. The Toy-Cons, Labo’s cardboard peripherals, must be built as specified to work properly with the game’s included apps. Once you have built them all, though, the experience expands greatly thanks to Toy-Con Garage, an in-game programming toolset. Available in both the Variety and Robot Kits, Toy-Con Garage lets you create new toys and gadgets by setting simple, mechanical reactions to make your Switch, Joy-Cons, and Toy-Cons work in new ways. Here’s how to use the Toy-Con Garage.
Where is it?
The Toy-Con Garage is kind of a secret. The game front-loads its “Make” and “Play” sections to get players building Toy-Cons before trying anything else. You have to work your way through the instructions to construct at least one of the following Toy-Cons: Fishing rod, piano, motorbike, house, or robot, if you have the Robot Kit. Afterward, head over to the Discover section from the main menu. Here you can click on completed Toy-Cons to learn more about how they work. Once you watch one of them, a new icon, initially dubbed “secret lab,” appears at the bottom of the Discover page.
Click on that and voila, you have gained entry into the Toy-Con Garage.
The Toy-Con Garage uses “node-based programming,” a flowchart-like visual language that lets users create simple, input-based tools (or toys) with no coding experience. Labo explains the basic principals of how the system works in a brief tutorial when you first enter the garage. After that, it’s up to you to create your own commands.
From the start, you will notice the screen is very plain. It’s black and white, with small red and blue connector tabs pointing out from the side of each box. Blue connectors belong to input boxes. Red connectors go on output boxes. If you connect an input to an output by drawing a line on the touchscreen, an event is created.
For instance, if your input box says “touch” and your output box says “vibrate” with a 1 and L in the upper lefthand corner, when you touch the input box, the left Joy-Con will vibrate once.
At first glance, it’s not a very elaborate system, but you can make it as complex as you want by modifying inputs, outputs, and introducing middle events that serve as segues between the two.
There are nine types of inputs, many of which can be further modified to create very specific controls schemes. The input is what you have to do to tell the console to execute the output.
- If Touched: Touch the input box to initiate the output command.
- If Shaken: Can either be assigned to left or right Joy-Con.
- If Button is Pressed: Can be assigned to a single button or as many buttons as you like.
- If a Control Stick is Moved: Assigned to either left or right Joy-Con. Can be modified to either up, down, left, right, or any direction.
- If the Joy-Con is Face-Up: Face-Up means any of the six different positions the Joy-Con can be held or rest.
- Console: A combination of If Shaken and Face-Up but using the Switch console instead.
- If an IR Marker is Seen: The IR marker is located on the bottom of the right Joy-Con. It’s the infrared camera. If the console detects the IR through movement, the output is executed.
- Toy-Con: Pertaining to the fishing rod, house, motorbike, and piano. Let’s you execute commands with Toy-Con movement. Alternatively, the robot can be used for this input with the Robot Kit. Sadly, you can’t combine Robot Kit movements with the Variety Kit.
You can also connect two inputs to an output or vice versa, so when you execute an input such as touching the screen, you can make both the screen light up and tell a Joy-Con to vibrate. If an output connects to two inputs, it acts as an OR statement, which means that either input will execute the output.
When you want to change options such as button inputs or Face-Up commands, click on the setting wheel in the lower lefthand corner of the input box. This is where you can further customize your inputs to your liking.
You can also change the size of the input box by dragging the arrow in the lower righthand corner. This is primarily used for touchscreen controls, but if you create a sizable project with many different commands, you may want to make the boxes smaller to avoid cluttering your screen. You can also zoom in and out by pinching and pulling the screen with two fingers.
The output is what happens when the input is committed. There are four outputs:
- Emit IR Light: This one tells the right Joy-Con camera to light up its infrared sensor. You can have up to two Joy-Cons with infrared sensors connected at once.
- Light Up Screen: The output box lights up when the input is executed.
- Make Sound: Music notes play when the input is executed.
- Vibrate: Joy-Con vibrates when input is executed.
Like inputs, you can modify outputs by pressing the setting wheel in the lower righthand corner of the box. For instance, you can modify the “make sound” output from its default piano to sound like a guitar, singing cats, or oddly tuned men and women. As with inputs, you can change the size of the output box. This comes in handy when making different sized light-up nodes.
You can further modify commands by inserting middle blocks between inputs and outputs. There are five middle options, not including the “comments” tool, which lets you write notes, but has no mechanical effect on your creation.
- Counter: The counter keeps track of the number of times an input is executed. You have to attach three inputs to this node, one that makes the counter go up, one that makes it go down, and one that sets it back to zero. As you execute input commands, the output will gradually appear on screen as the counter goes up. For instance, a light-up output will gradually turn the node white as the counter goes up.
- Timer: Adding a timer puts any output on a delay, anywhere from one to 10 seconds.
- NOT: Anything that is not the input will cause the output. So if you set the screen to not light up when you touch it, any time you are not touching it the screen will be lit.
- AND: Combines two inputs for a single output. Using an And box makes it so you need to use both inputs to trigger an output.
- Bullseye: This one’s a little tricky. The bullseye acts more like one half of a two-part input, not a “middle.” The bullseye, when used in conjunction with an IR Marker, allows you to create a target on your Switch screen, which you can trigger with the IR camera on the right Joy-Con. To work, the bullseye must be connected to an IR Marker, and the marker must be placed over the Bullseye as much as possible.
Analog, digital, and range
You will notice that numerous Inputs have analog or digital settings that can be switched through the settings wheel. By default, these are set to “analog.” Analog is more like a slider. For example, if you shake the Joy-Con gently, the output will be less pronounced. If you shake it harshly, the output will be stronger (your screen lights up faster, Joy-Con rumbles harder, etc.)
Digital outputs are more simplistic. No matter how hard you shake the Joy-Con, the output will always be the same.
The range bar further modifies an output’s conditions. Located under the Digital/Analog settings, the bar features a pair of sliders on a scale from 0.00 to 1.00. Moving the left slider increases or decreases the minimum power for an analog output. The right slider starts on the far right of the range bar and can be used to decrease the output’s maximum power. On a digital output, the device will default to the maximum output every time.
Playing, naming, and saving your file
If you want to test your project at any point, simply press the play button on the top of the screen. To go back to edit mode, press the play button again.
Your progress automatically saves when you exit the garage, but if you want to start a new project make sure you save your current one. Click the menu icon in the upper lefthand corner to name and save your project. You can have up to eight projects saved at once.
There is really no wrong way to create a Nintendo Labo app of your own once you understand the basics. Check out these eight playful Labo creations, most of which were made using Toy-Con Garage.
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