Latest Stories
360 Camera Rigs at Oculus Connect 2

Filming and editing 360-degree videos requires special hardware rigs and stitching software, and filmmakers are still experimenting with how to make interesting 360 videos for VR viewing. At the recent Oculus Connect 2, we chatted with two companies working with 360 video to see what they've learned about producing video in this format.

The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (September 2015)

Your phone is something you more than likely carry with you at all times and use to run every aspect of your day to day life. It's fine to spend a little money on the perfect phone, but which phone is that? There are a ton of options, and it's only getting increasingly complicated as more unlocked phones start hitting the market. As we do every month, let's dive in and see which phones are available on your carrier of choice, and which of those might be best for you.

Carrier-branded Phones

Carrier exclusives are mostly a thing of the past. There are occasional bespoke phones designed for one network or another, but the big flagship phones are usually available on all the major US carriers. I think your best overall option if you're going through the carriers is still the Galaxy S6, which you can get on all of them for $20-30 per month on a payment plan.

The GS6 has a Super AMOLED panel, and it's really just fantastic. It's 5.1-inches and 1440p in resolution, which is small enough that most people should be able to use it comfortably one-handed. It's a stunningly beautiful screen, and I have no doubt it's the best you can get on a smartphone right now. This continues to be one of the primary selling points of this phone. There are devices you can get with better software or longer battery life, but none of them are as pleasant to look at.

Inside NASA's Yearlong Isolation Dome

From The Guardian: "Water has been found on Mars – but if the red planet can support life, what will it be like for any humans who go there? Six future crew members of a possible Nasa mission spend up to 12 months in confinement in a Mars-like landscape in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to work out how humans would react to long-duration space travel."

In Brief: The Making of The Martian's Special Effects

Our Spoilercast review of The Martian won't be up until tomorrow, but in the meantime, go read FX Guide's in-depth interview with visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers about the making of the film. There's your typical breakdown on specific shots (plates vs. composites) as well as pre-production insight (eg. use of photogrammetry). But we also find out how novel cinematography techniques were used for the production, like the use of off-the-shelf GoPros alongside 5K Red Cameras. GoPros (as nameless action cameras) feature prominently in the film, and I was surprised at how much footage from these consumer cameras were used. Additionally, Gizmodo has a piece about how the UI designers who worked on the film collaborated with NASA to create the screen interfaces seen in The Martian's future JSC Mission Control and Mars operations. (h/t Frank Ippolito)

Norman 1
Show and Tell: Electric Objects EO1 Digital Picture Frame

For this week's Show and Tell, we take a look at a new digital picture frame made by startup Electric Objects. The EO1 is a 23-inch 1080p display with a small computer built into it for downloading and displaying images and animated GIFs from the internet. One way it distinguishes itself from other digital photo frames is that its makers have intentionally not included slideshow functionality.

Google Play App Roundup: ClickMe, Ski Safari 2, and Paper Monsters Recut

Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.


Your phone rides around in your pocket all day most likely, so it's an ideal vehicle for personal reminders. There are tons of apps that offer this functionality, and even Google Now offers a reminder feature. ClickMe doesn't have as many features as most reminder apps, but it lets you set reminders insanely fast.

There are several ways to access the reminder features of ClickMe, the most obvious being to simply open the app. There isn't much to get the hang of in ClickMe. The app defaults to listing your last phone call as the "subject" of the reminder, but you can also tap the new reminder or contact button to remove the phone number. Simply fill in a subject and tap the button below with the desired time until you'll be reminded. That can be as little as 10 minutes or as long as a week in a single tap. There's a calendar button if you want to do a different amount of time. If you use one of the default buttons, that's it -- the reminder is set.

I think what makes ClickMe interesting is the way it inserts itself into the user experience when you're doing other things. For example, when you finish on a call, ClickMe pops up a small bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to set a reminder to call the person back in a single tap. This bar times out in a few seconds, and you can disable it completely if you want. The other optional integration is with screenshots. Whenever you take a screenshot, ClickMe pops up (in full screen this time) so you can set a reminder with the screenshot attached. This might be handy if you want to remind yourself to deal with an email or text message. Just take a screenshot and tap a single button in ClickMe to set a reminder.

In the app, you've got a section where all your active and completed reminders can be found. The app also contains a voice input button if you want to speak instead of type. Next to that is the camera button if you want to attach a photo to the reminder. Whenever you set a reminder (however you do it) ClickMe closes immediately afterward. It's designed to get out of your way as much as possible.

The reminders pop up with a UI that lets you quickly mark as complete, or place a call/send a message if there's a contact or phone number attached. I only wish the visual style was a little more consistent with Android. ClickMe is also free and has no in-app purchases.

Tested Mailbag: Numbers in Our Heads

We start this weekend off with a mailbag opening, courtesy of Tested reader Craig! Inside, we find some 3D-printed blockheads that we can make use of at our next board game night. They're super cool--thanks, Craig!

My 10 VR Takeaways from Oculus Connect 2

Last week's Oculus Connect 2 conference was perhaps a pivotal event in the story of virtual reality. It was the last developer conference before the floodgates of consumer VR open next year when three platforms--Oculus, Steam VR, and PlayStation VR--make their way into our homes and offices. In some ways, it felt like Apple's WWDC before the App Store and iOS SDK launched in 2008. Developers and users are on the cusp of a new frontier; there's so much we don't know, but the eagerness and excitement for this new platform is palpable. The lessons of early VR experiences are just starting to compound and fuel a feedback loop that will eventually lay out the foundation for our understanding of what works in virtual reality. There's a whole lot of figuring out to do, which is really exciting.

The emphasis of this year's Oculus Connect wasn't on unveiling new hardware. This Holiday's Samsung Gear VR isn't all that much different from the past models. We didn't see new Rift headsets or controller prototypes--the first consumer release is pretty much set. More interesting were the software demos, both from first and third party devs. These demos show not only the current state of VR gaming and social experiences, but where developers' heads are at in fleshing out new ideas and focusing their efforts for experimentation. Oculus Story Studio, Medium, and the Twitch social experience are the best examples of that, and there are insights to be gleaned from each, even from short demo sessions. As with last year's Connect and our GDC hands-on with the HTC Vive, I'm going to share the takeaways that stood out to me most. If you followed along the announcements at Oculus Connect 2 or attended the conference, I'd love to hear your own takeaways in the comments.

Premium: Norm Test Rides the Tesla Model X

Hey guys! We owe you a bunch of premium videos, and Will and I just filmed our next Week of Build project, with a LEGO with Friends shoot planned for next week. You'll see those on the site starting on the 12th. In the meantime, I've been testing the iPhone 6S Plus, and wanted to share some of the testing with you. Here's a video I shot in 4K and edited completely on the phone, from the Tesla Model X Launch event this past week. Hope you like it!