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Crying in Apple Vision Pro Is No Laughing Matter

Crying in Apple Vision Pro Is No Laughing Matter

From the inside, though, the view is incredible. It really is. I’m just as surprised by this as you are. The picture is crisp, and the spatial sound is so realistic that more than once I removed the headset to see if someone was at the door. While watching Life is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni marched across the space where my living room meets the dining room, right up until (spoiler) Nazis took him out back and shot him. I cried.

Tears welled up in my goggles, pooling at the soft rim of the face cushion. These tears never made their way down my cheek. I was literally crying on the inside. When I plucked the Vision Pro off my face, I saw that the face computer’s seal was soaked. The inner lenses needed a good microfiber wipedown. It was, in a word, disgusting.

Fortunately Apple offers support, though not of the psychological variety. Apple warns that the Apple Vision Pro and its battery are not, in fact, water resistant. (Oops.) “Keep your device and battery away from sources of liquid, such as drinks, oils, lotions, sinks, bathtubs, shower stalls, etc. Protect your device and battery from dampness, humidity, or wet weather, such as rain, snow, and fog,” the support page says. Not a word about tears! Or other bodily fluids. An incredible oversight.

I soldiered on. Using Cinema Mode, I watched a comedy-drama that isn’t categorically sad but always makes me well up at the end. Thanks to the Apple Vision Pro, I sat alone in a hyper-realistic virtual movie theater, watching in anamorphic widescreen format. Achievement unlocked: The headset was soggy. Honestly, I was starting to love this thing.

I text-messaged two friends, “Honestly, I’m starting to love this thing.”

Theater of Pain

During my two-week trial period with the Apple Vision Pro, I gave other apps a go. I iMessaged by tapping my fingers in the air. I sent a few voice notes. I swiped through my camera roll and captured spatial photos. I FaceTimed with a friend. Its most elementary feature, the floating home screen of apps that greeted me when I first logged on, might have thrilled me the most.

Still, I wanted to determine if it was worth $3,804 in emotional pangs.

I rented and watched The Eternal Memory, an Oscar-nominated documentary about a Chilean couple struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. As a meditation on personal and cultural memory, it’s heartbreaking, but it occurred to me that it was no more or less so because I was streaming it from an expensive computer on my face.

I was about an hour into the Norwegian film The Worst Person in the World (which doesn’t seem sad from the trailer, but I assure you it gets there) when I realized the left side of my lip was numb. I searched for my own face with my finger pads. My whole left cheek felt like someone else’s. I text messaged the same two friends, “I think the Apple Vision Pro made my face numb.”

We Found 14 Popular Christmas Toys Worth Gifting (and 3 to Avoid)

We Found 14 Popular Christmas Toys Worth Gifting (and 3 to Avoid)

Picasso Tiles

Photograph: Amazon

Magnetic tiles are one of the most amazing little inventions for toddlers. It takes a while before littles are coordinated enough to put Legos or a lot of other building toys together, but they tend to pick up these snap-together tiles at a much earlier age—and get very creative! This Picasso set is perfect for filling out your collection so you can smash giant buildings like Godzilla—or build something totally calm and serene if you have that lovely kind of child. We intermingle Picasso Tiles with standard Magna-Tiles and haven’t had any issues. They also don’t seem to crack or break easily, so they should last through multiple children. —Jeffrey Van Camp

The Play Box and toys

Lalo 13-15 Month

Photograph: Lalo

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re shopping for baby toys. You’re looking for something that can stimulate their little forming mind—and for it to be age appropriate, which can be difficult to discern with those first two years. Lalo’s toy boxes come with multiple toys designed for three-month age ranges, so you can easily pick one for the age the baby is or will be when they receive it. It comes with a little booklet on how to use it, both in the intended age window and afterward. My son just turned 16 months, but he still loves most of the items from the 13-15–month kit – especially the drum. —Nena Farrell

3D Doodler Set

Photograph: Amazon

This was the trending toy in my daughter’s second-grade class last year. Almost everyone had one or wanted one. This pen is simple and safe enough for even a second-grader to use, and it fit easily in my daughter’s tiny hands. Just charge the pen via a USB-C connection, feed the colored threads through the pen, and watch your child magically create little 3D flowers and kittens to leave all over your house. I would also suggest shelling out for a storage case, or maybe an empty shoebox, because it’s been a year and I’m still finding stray little colored filaments in very strange places. —Adrienne So

Star Wars Grogu stuffed animal

Photograph: Amazon

I’ve lost count of the number of Baby Yodas I have in this house—my daughter has a water bottle entirely covered in Baby Yoda stickers—but this simple plush seems to be the one that gets the most action. It’s small enough for a kid to play with next to Barbies or stuff in a backpack but big enough to cuddle or engage in conflicts with other stuffies. —Martin Cizmar

Shiba Inu Stuffed Animal

Photograph: Amazon

However many animals Noah had on that Arc is about as many Squishmallows and Squishmallow-style round stuffies we have in my house. This dog (not technically a Squishmallow and made by the OurHonor brand) is next in line as a surprise this Christmas. I also highly recommend Target’s line of Pokémon plushes, especially Bulbasaur, which you can have extra fun with by introducing him using your imitation of the guttural voice he has in the original TV series. —Martin Cizmar

Melissa Doug Let's Play House Dust Sweep Mop 6 Piece Pretend Play Set

Photograph: Amazon

When this set first popped up at my toddler’s grandparents house when he could barely walk, I thought it might be a good day of fun. That was at least two years ago, and he has used it constantly ever since, along with other littles! Some weeks dusting was the hot item, other times the littles would sweep and mop up a storm. (A pretend spray bottle and squeegee are also a fun addition; just leave the actual water outside.) The pieces are made from wood and still look close to new after a lot of abuse. The house isn’t dust-free yet, but we’re working on it! —Jeffrey Van Camp

Toys to Avoid

Mini Dyson Vacuum toy

Photograph: Amazon

I don’t recommend this trending toy, despite its many positive reviews. There are a lot of ways to help your kid pretend to vacuum, but this one is a bit complex for its own good. It looks neat, and Casdon Toys advertises it as a working vacuum, but it sucks only the tiniest of items up through a half-inch hole on the bottom (barely). Anything an uncoordinated toddler is able to suck then has to fit in a tiny spoon-sized bin that you’ll have to empty frequently yourself because it takes finger coordination. You’ll also need four C batteries (not included) and some replacements handy. There are two switches, one to turn on the suction and another to swirl some beads so it looks vacuumy.

After a bit of initial interest, this toy tends to sit around my house. It doesn’t stand up on its own, so we regularly have to prop it up if it gets disturbed. My advice: Buy an actual, decent little handheld vacuum. They might have a lot more fun actually sucking up the dirt on your floors and in your couch cushions, and they might help a little, too. —Jeffrey Van Camp

Apple’s Pledge to Support RCS Messaging Could Finally Kill SMS

Apple’s Pledge to Support RCS Messaging Could Finally Kill SMS

Good news is coming to your group chat. Today, Apple said it will add support for the RCS messaging standard to the iPhone. The website 9to5Mac broke the news that Apple will release a software update some time next year that will bring support to iOS for the messaging standard, which is already widely used by Android phones.

RCS, or Rich Communications Standard, is a messaging service that’s a step up from the SMS and MMS messaging standards that smartphones have used since they first arrived. RCS can do more than SMS and MMS: It allows users to share higher-resolution photos and videos between their devices; it supports read receipts; and there’s more fun stuff, like the ability to easily drop emoji and GIFs into a conversation. It also adds extra layers of security that the older messaging standards lack.

Apple has famously shunned RCS in favor of its own iMessage platform, resulting in a layer of incompatibility that anyone with an Android phone—or any iPhone user who regularly texts people with Android phones—is painfully aware of. Videos shared between iOS and Android are crunchy and low-bandwidth, and Android users are often confounded by group chats, with missed messages, absent emoji, and other glitches.

For years, Apple has been relying on SMS and MMS to bridge the digital divide between these messaging platforms. It’s the last major holdout, as RCS is already supported by major players like Google, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. When Apple adds support for RCS, it won’t need that old bridge, and the move could signal the eventual death of SMS.

“It’s long been time for SMS to go away,” says Anshel Sag, principal analyst at the technology analyst firm Moor Insights and Strategy. “Now SMS can die, it can be sunset. So all the viruses and all the security flaws that are due to SMS can be eliminated.”

The move isn’t happening immediately; Apple told 9to5Mac that RCS support will come “in the later half of next year.” This timing suggests that support could arrive with the next version of iOS, which typically rolls out in September.

So it’s a ways out, but it’s certainly closer than Apple’s previous plan for the feature, which was apparently “never.” A year ago, it seemed Apple was not even considering supporting RCS on the iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook glibly joked that you could “buy your mom an iPhone” if you’re having trouble communicating with users on different devices. Since then, pressure has mounted on the company to implement RCS, and some compatibility has emerged between the platforms as they each have evolved.

I Used Flipper Zero to Score Eponas in ‘Tears of the Kingdom’

I Used Flipper Zero to Score Eponas in ‘Tears of the Kingdom’

I finally got my hands on a Flipper Zero. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a noob-friendly version of the kind of penetration testing tools that security experts use to test the safety of systems. It packs a wide range of antennas, including RFID, sub-GHz radios, and NFC, which allows it to scan, analyze, and speak to everyday wireless devices that most of us don’t think much about.

While others have used their Flipper Zeros to test their car or hotel’s security or to make ATMs spit out cash, I had much loftier goals in mind. I got mine a few weeks before Tears of the Kingdom came out. As most Nintendo fans know, the collectible Amiibos figurines aren’t just toys. They can be used to get special rewards in games—like Link’s legendary horse Epona—and you can’t earn those rewards any other way. That’s fun for fans who can buy the figurines, but a bummer for anyone who doesn’t want to chase down collectibles just to get a special horse.

This is where my Flipper Zero comes in. I’ve been using it to score as many legendary horses as I can.

Whitehat Hacking?

Flipper Zero device

Photograph: Flipper Zero

Amiibos have NFC tags in their base—specifically, NTAG215 tags that allow someone to write around 500 bytes of data. While that data is write-only, it’s not really under lock and key. Unlike, say, the NFC chip in your credit card, which has more robust security, an Amiibo can easily be read and copied.

This has led to community-driven projects around exchanging Amiibo codes. Since it’s easy to scan Amiibos, and the data they store is so small, a single 4-GB SD card could store millions of Amiibo codes. That’s a little overkill, considering there are only a couple hundred Amiibo figures in total, plus a few hundred Amiibo card codes. A complete collection of every Amiibo in existence fits into just a couple of megabytes.

Most of them aren’t very relevant to Tears of the Kingdom, but every single one will spawn at least a few generic consumable items, like meal ingredients. Zelda-themed Amiibos, of which there are 26, have better rewards, including weapons, shields, paraglider fabrics, and unique armor sets that are either exclusive to the Amiibos that spawn them or are relatively difficult to earn in game.

Each Amiibo can only be used once per day, but this limit also applies to each unique Amiibo. If you happened to have two of the same Amiibo—say, the Link figurine from Super Smash Bros. that can sometimes spawn Epona—you can use each one every day. Of course, buying multiple figures just to double your chances of spawning a horse costs a lot more than simply waiting a day. Community code collections, however, make it much easier—and cheaper—to try multiple times.

What Is the Metaverse, Exactly?

What Is the Metaverse, Exactly?

The confusion and disappointment surrounding most “metaverse” projects are so pervasive that when a video from 2017 of a Walmart VR shopping demo started trending again in January 2022, people immediately thought it was yet another metaverse demo. It also helped demonstrate how much of the current metaverse discussion is built on hype alone. Walmart’s VR shopping demo obviously never went anywhere (and for good reason). So why should anyone believe that it’s the future when Chipotle does it?

This kind of wishful-thinking-as-tech-demo leaves us in a place where it’s hard to pinpoint which aspects of the various visions of the metaverse (if any) will actually be real one day. If VR and AR headsets become comfortable and cheap enough for people to wear on a daily basis—a substantial “if”—then perhaps a virtual poker game with your friends as robots and holograms and floating in space could be somewhat close to reality. If not, well you could always play Tabletop Simulator on a Discord video call.

The flashiness of VR and AR also obscure the more mundane ways that our existing, interconnected digital world could be improved right now. It would be trivial for tech companies to invent, say, an open digital avatar standard, a type of file that includes characteristics you might enter into a character creator—like eye color, hairstyle, or clothing options—and let you take that data everywhere, to be interpreted by a game engine however it chooses. There’s no need to build a more comfortable VR headset for that.

But that’s not as fun to imagine.

What’s the Metaverse Like Right Now?

The paradox of defining the metaverse is that in order for it to be the future, you have to define away the present. We already have MMOs that are essentially entire virtual worlds, digital concerts, video calls with people from all over the world, online avatars, and commerce platforms. So in order to sell these things as a new vision of the world, there has to be some element of it that’s new.

Spend enough time having discussions about the metaverse and someone will inevitably (and exhaustingly) reference fictional stories like Snow Crash—the 1992 novel that coined the term “metaverse”—or Ready Player One, which depicts a VR world where everyone works, plays, and shops. Combined with the general pop culture idea of holograms and heads-up displays (basically anything Iron Man has used in his last 10 movies) these stories serve as an imaginative reference point for what the metaverse—a metaverse that tech companies might actually sell as something new—could look like.

That kind of hype is arguably more vital to the idea of the metaverse than any specific technology. It’s no wonder, then, that people promoting things like NFTs—cryptographic tokens that can serve as certificates of ownership of a digital item, sort of—are also latching onto the idea of the metaverse. Sure, NFTs are bad for the environment and the public blockchains most are built on come with massive privacy and security problems, but if a tech company can argue that they’ll be the digital key to your virtual mansion in Roblox, then boom. You’ve just transformed your hobby of buying memes into a crucial piece of infrastructure for the future of the internet (and possibly raised the value of all that cryptocurrency you’re holding.)

It’s important to keep all this context in mind because while it’s tempting to compare the proto-metaverse ideas we have today to the early internet and assume everything will get better and progress in a linear fashion, that’s not a given. There’s no guarantee people will even want to hang out sans legs in a virtual office or play poker with Dreamworks Mark Zuckerberg, much less that VR and AR tech will ever become seamless enough to be as common as smartphones and computers are today.