Chili gives Alex Jones amnesia and other odd things we learned at his custody trial

Alex Jones' custody trial has been entertaining to say the least.
Alex Jones’ custody trial has been entertaining to say the least.

Image: REx/shutterstock/BEN JACKSON/Getty/mashable composite

You ever eat something so goddamn delicious you momentarily lose your mind?

Neither have we. But apparently Infowars conspiracy-theorist-in-chief Alex Jones has. In a deposition during day two of his custody trial, an attorney working for his ex-wife Kelly insisted that Jones forgot what grade his kids were in after he consumed a bowl of chili.

Jones’s custody battle with Kelly over their three children started off strangely and went weirder from there.

On Monday, his lawyer argued that Alex Jones plays a character on Infowars called Alex Jones. That went down well. By Tuesday, however, we were learning some truly memorable things about him. Here are a few highlights from the second day of the trial gleaned from reporters watching along.

1. Jones gets chili amnesia.

2. He’s gone shirtless during a family therapy session. 

Jones is known for his shirtless rants, but it turns out he strips down when the cameras are off too.

3. He exhibits personality disorder ‘tendencies.’ 

That’s according to a court-appointed representative charged with sussing out the best interests of a child during a divorce.

4. A clip exists of Jones and a Hillary Clinton dartboard. 

This video, reportedly of Jones and two of his sons throwing darts at a picture of Clinton’s face, wasn’t allowed to be shown to the jury.

5. He is not so good at sitting still in court. 

We’ll see what the rest of the trial reveals.

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How to upload 360-degree video to Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo

For consumers, it’s becoming easier and more affordable than ever to capture 360-degree video. Thanks to pocket-sized devices like Nikon’s KeyMission 360 and the upcoming second-generation of the Samsung Gear 360, a few hundred dollars will get you 4K, 360-degree video. Capturing the video is only half of the equation, however, and arguably the least important half. After all, what’s the point of capturing 360-degree footage if no one is able to watch it?

More: 5 cool new 360-degree cameras that will turn your head

Thankfully, three major platforms currently offer support for 360-degree videos: YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. And we’re going to explain how to share your 360-degree video with the world by uploading your content to either of the three platforms. For the sake of brevity, we’re going to assume you’ve already captured and edited the 360-degree video you want to upload. Then, enjoy them on a computer, mobile device, or even virtual reality headset. (Twitter’s Periscope supports live-broadcasting of 360-degree videos through a compatible 360-degree camera, as do YouTube and Facebook. It’s a nascent technology that we will talk about in a future article.)

YouTube

Uploading 360-degree video to YouTube is a bit more convoluted than Facebook (see below), as there are a few extra steps involved. Most notably, YouTube doesn’t support 360-degree video that doesn’t already have the 360-degree metadata embedded in the file. That means, if your 360-degree camera doesn’t automatically include this information, you’ll need to download the Spatial Media Metadata Injector app from YouTube, which is available for both MacOS and Windows.

Once downloaded and installed, launch the app and select the video file you wish to add the metadata to. A dialogue box will appear, and you want to select the checkbox for Spherical video and click Save As. YouTube says to make sure you don’t select the 3D Top-bottom checkbox, otherwise, your video won’t be formatted as intended. After clicking Save As, give your video a name and save it. The new video, complete with the required metadata, will then be saved in its original location.

From here, the process for uploading your 360-degree video to YouTube is no different than any other video. Make your way to the YouTube homepage, click the Upload button in the upper-right corner, choose your newly-created video file, and include the title and tags you see fit.

It can take an upward of an hour for your 360-degree video to be formatted, so consider uploading the video ahead of time to ensure everything is in working order before the video goes live.

It’s also worth noting that 360-degree video on YouTube is supported only within Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. So, if you’re a Safari user, consider downloading Chrome or Firefox for MacOS. If you plan on viewing the video on a phone or tablet, make sure you’ve downloaded the latest update for the YouTube app on your respective device.

Instagram on Android gets offline mode


80% of Instagram’s users 600 million users are outside the US, so it needed a way to provide a better experience for users with limited network connectivity or no data plan.

Today at F8, Instagram announced it’s built support for using most of its features without Internet access. Much of this functionality is now available on Android, which is the preferred device type in the developing world. More will come in the following months, and Instagram tells me its exploring an iOS version.

Instagram engineer Hendri says offline users will be able to see content previously loaded in Instagram’s feed. People can leave comments, Like things, save media, or unfollow people — all of which will go through when they reconnect. Profiles they’ve visited before will be visible, as will old versions of the Explore tab or their own profile.

The engineering gymnastics required to do this could help Instagram grow in developing nations where data is either too expensive for everyone to afford, or there aren’t omnipresent or stable data connections. Facebook’s developing world app Facebook Lite shot to 200 million users in just a year, proving the big opportunity Instagram could seize by allowing users to enjoys the app even in isolation. While Snapchat seems to have forgotten about the developing world, Instagram knows everyone everywhere wants visual communication.

Facebook’s first social VR app is cool — but there’s a problem

Facebook just took a big step forward in its bid to make virtual reality more social.

The company released Facebook Spaces at its F8 developer conference Tuesday, a new app for Oculus Rift that lets you hang out with friends in virtual reality. We took the app, which is available now in beta, for a spin. Here’s what we learned. 

It’s limited — but that’s the point

The “space” in Facebook Spaces is actually pretty simple. It consists of a table, a single menu and a screen that surrounds you. And that’s about it. It’s simpler even than Oculus Rooms, which have multiple destinations in a single space.

But that’s intentional, says Facebook’s Head of Social VR Rachel Franklin, who says the most important priority for now is to encourage interaction between friends. 

Image: facebook

“It’s important that we have kind of a north star for us, particularly in this early stage,” she says. “If it’s not enhancing social interaction between people who are Facebook friends then for right now leave it out.”

That’s also why Spaces is limited to up to four participants and why you can’t move around too much once you’re in a space. This will eventually change, she says, but only once enough people have used the app that they really know what types of experiences to build next.

Image: facebook

So what can you do in Facebook Spaces? You can draw with a virtual marker tool and move your drawings around. There are Clip Art-like objects that you can grab and play around with (or use as props for your selfies.) You can view 360-degree photos and videos, check out posts from Facebook friends and, yes, use the VR selfie stick. 

It’s both better than it sounds — technically, it’s pretty impressive — and also as gimmicky as it sounds. VR selfies, like Snapchat filters, could easily lose their charm after a few tries. 

About that avatar …

Unsurprisingly, the first thing to do when you enter Facebook Spaces is create an avatar. While the avatars look similar to Oculus Avatars, Spaces doesn’t pull from that separate platform.

Instead, you can choose one of your Facebook photos and Space generates a similar-looking avatar you can tweak yourself. To change something on your avatar you tap on the body part to choose from a list of options, like new eye shapes or hair colors. You can also add objects, like bunny ears or article of clothing.

You can hang out with friends who don’t have VR

This is probably the most important feature in Facebook Spaces. Since the app is limited to people who have a Rift, Facebook allows friends to join these VR hangouts remotely via a Messenger call, which actually works a bit better than you might think.

Receiving a call is just like getting any other video call on Messenger but actually joining a video call in virtual reality is a bit different. You can see the virtual space your friends are in but you can’t control your vantage point the way you could with a 360-degree video. 

A screenshot of a Messenger call in Facebook Spaces with my colleague Jack Morse.

A screenshot of a Messenger call in Facebook Spaces with my colleague Jack Morse.

Speaking of 360-degree videos, you can watch them with the people you’re sharing a Space with, which is cool (though you may have to ask them to adjust your position a few times so you can see the parts of the video you want). 

This is all still in beta so the quality of the Messenger call isn’t as sharp as the photos you take and share to Facebook, but even on convention center wi-fi, I didn’t notice any lag or other technical issues you’d expect from beta software. 

I was pleasantly surprised that the whole experience was much better than expected after the hokey videos Facebook keeps showing us. The bigger issue, though, is that the technology required to take advantage of this is too expensive and clunky for most people who aren’t early adopters. That will likely change eventually, just not in the short term.  

And whether this will evolve into something that’s less of a gimmick and actually functional is unclear. After spending about half an hour each in the Spaces, both I and my colleague, tech correspondent Jack Morse, walked away impressed but unsure if what we saw would be something we would ever want to use on a regular basis. 

Once the novelty of the experience wears off — and it’s just a matter of time until it does — you’re left wondering if strapping on an Oculus is worth all the extra effort compared with just picking up your phone. 

Everything Facebook launched at both days of F8 and why

Facebook Spaces aka Facebook In VR

Facebook Spaces lets you and up to three friends hang out in a virtual room where you can chat, draw, watch 360 videos, make Messenger video calls, and take VR selfies — all while appearing as a cartoony avatar based on your recently tagged photos. For now it’s only available on the Oculus Rift VR headset and Oculus Touch controllers, but eventually it will expand to other tethered VR devices.

Why: This is the social VR vision that prompted Facebook to acquire Oculus three years ago. Facebook doesn’t want someone else to be “the Facebook of VR”. It wants to own that market itself, and soak up the long engagement time people might spend hanging out with friends and family scattered around the world.

Everything Facebook launched at F8 and why

Facebook Spaces aka Facebook In VR

Facebook Spaces lets you and up to three friends hang out in a virtual room where you can chat, draw, watch 360 videos, make Messenger video calls, and take VR selfies — all while appearing as a cartoony avatar based on your recently tagged photos. For now it’s only available on the Oculus Rift VR headset and Oculus Touch controllers, but eventually it will expand to other tethered VR devices.

Why: This is the social VR vision that prompted Facebook to acquire Oculus three years ago. Facebook doesn’t want someone else to be “the Facebook of VR”. It wants to own that market itself, and soak up the long engagement time people might spend hanging out with friends and family scattered around the world.

This ingenious app teaches you a new language in your spare seconds

Don't waste your precious seconds.
Don’t waste your precious seconds.

Image: Shutterstock / GaudiLab

Every day, there are countless seconds that slip by that could probably be put to better use.

A set of new apps from researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) looks to take advantage of those “micro-moments,” giving lifehack junkies a new opportunity to wring every last bit of productivity out of their days to learn a new language.

WaitSuite is billed as an opportunistic micro-learning package — just imagine a more obtrusive version of Duolingo popping into your idle moments. The developers of the software call the method “wait-learning,” which they described in a paper published in last month’s edition of ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction

The tools can be applied to make better use of your time during five common daily tasks with mini-wait times: Wi-Fi connection, sending and receiving emails, holding an instant message or text conversation, taking an elevator, or loading content to your phone. 

The apps push flashcards to whichever screen you’re fixated on, prompting you to fill in the correct answer to minimize the screen or press a button to reveal the English equivalent of the word being displayed. 

“WaitSuite is embedded directly into your existing tasks, so that you can easily learn without leaving what you were already doing,” MIT PhD student and project leader Carrie Cai said in an MIT News release

[embedded content]

WaitSuite’s IM-centric app “WaitChatter” showed users learned about four new words per day, which equated to 57 words over the two-week testing period. The apps won’t teach you how to speak the language — at least not yet — but they can hone your vocab skills.

In the future, Cai said the team hopes to experiment with other types of knowledge skills like math, medical terms, or even legal terms and definitions, and expand accessibility to include audio cues. 

You can check out wait-learning yourself via the WaitChatter Chrome extension for Gchat. 

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Samsung Galaxy S8 First Impressions: That Screen, You Guys

The first thing I noticed about the Samsung Galaxy S8, only a moment after turning it on, was the screen. There’s so much of it. An enormous 5.8 inches of bright, crisp, super-saturated colors illuminated my face as the phone booted. I stared at the round corners and curved edges of the glass. Holding it in my left hand, it looked and felt like holding a screen and nothing more. So many phones feel like every other phone, but not this one. The Samsung Galaxy S8 feels like a prop from Ridley Scott movie. It feels like the future.

The S8 offers a lot to talk about. It features Bixby, Samsung’s attempt to hang with Alexa and Siri and Google Assistant as the software platform you thread through your entire life. It includes iris scanning and face recognition, so you can unlock your phone like an MI6 agent. And it lets you dock your phone and turn it into a PC. The S8 sports a big battery everyone hopes won’t explode, an improved camera, and new chips. It arrives in a hilariously humongous box with a Gear VR headset and Samsung’s Level-branded wireless headphones. You can’t help but find it all so very impressive.

And somehow that all pales next to that screen. The tall, narrow pane of glass dictated everything about the S8—for better and for worse. That screen is what will grab you from across the Verizon store, and make people stop you to ask which phone you’re using. I’ve used the S8 for exactly one day, so watch this space over the next week or so for more insights. But I can tell you this right now: Bezels are dead. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

Big, Bigger, Smaller

I normally cringe at a phone with a 5.8-inch screen. Unless you play in the NBA, you cannot comfortably use a phone that big. But the S8 features a bezel so slim the comparisons fall apart. With no wasted space for your hand to span, you can reach everything. The S8 is slightly wider (and much taller) than my iPhone 7, yet entirely usable in one hand.

The fingerprint reader works fine, but don’t bother. The new Face Unlock feature works brilliantly.

The screen’s curved sides remain little more than a pretty gimmick. Samsung built a small app launcher you access by swiping in from the side, but I still haven’t figured out why. Still, I suspect the S8 and phones like it will change app design. App navigation belongs at the bottom of the screen now, because no one can reach hamburger buttons in the top left corner. And a screen this tall lets you show so. Much. More. Tall phones represent the future, and developers will surely catch up.

The S8 banishes buttons from the front of the phone. Instead, it uses on-screen software controls, like virtually every other Android phone. That’s fine. What’s not fine is Samsung’s crazy and apparently last-minute choice to put the fingerprint reader way up high on the back, make it tiny, and stick it right next to the camera lens. Even Samsung seems to realize this was stupid: When you first scan your fingerprint during the setup, the S8 warns you about smudging the camera lens. But of course you will. You can’t help it.

DSC_0641-v2.jpgMaria Lokke/WIRED

The new Face Unlock feature, on the other hand, works seamlessly. Maybe to a fault. It takes 30 seconds to set up, then works almost instantly almost every time. Using it is like not having a passcode at all—which is more or less the case, since I’ve found I can also unlock the phone with a photo of myself. The iris scanner is easily the most secure method, but it only works if you align your phone just so and stare at your phone without blinking for surprisingly long periods of time. Bad placement and all, you might be stuck with the fingerprint reader.

Touch Me

The handset is a work of waterproof art. I found the slim, sturdy metal rectangle stunning. No, really. It’s gorgeous. Nothing about it (other than the fingerprint reader) feels phoned-in or settled for. The S8 is one of the most carefully crafted and considered phones I’ve ever seen, the pinnacle of the company’s capital-d design. And yet you probably shouldn’t touch it. If you do, prepare to spend the rest of your days obsessively polishing it with a microfiber cloth to remove your fingerprints, because this thing will be filthy with them. You’ll probably end up buying a case, which is a shame.

After just one day, I can’t tell you much about the S8’s battery life, except that it seems about normal, or its performance, except that I found it just as fast as every other fast phone. I also can’t say much about the camera, except that I spent a rainy hour walking around San Francisco and mostly came up impressed by the 12-megapixel results. It’s ridiculously fast, and mostly really simple to use. It may not have a dual-lens rig, which is a shame, but Samsung still managed to add in some nifty augmented-reality stickers and lenses. So far, it strikes me overall as no better or worse than the camera in the S7, which is fine—that was an excellent camera.

Hello, Bixby

The S8’s splashiest new feature, the Bixby assistant, isn’t shipping on early S8 models. In fact, I’ll hold off writing a full review of this phone—complete with a rating—until Bixby arrives in earnest to help you send photos, play music, and generally figure out your S8. But a couple of features already work. Swipe right on the home screen and Bixby brings up a stream of things you might want to see: upcoming reminders, the weather, your activity, personalized news, and more. I found it handy, even if I don’t see what makes it better than Google Now.

Samsung has a long history of stomping all over Google’s work and design on Android. That’s as true as ever here.

The coolest thing about Bixby so far is its camera-first search engine. Using Pinterest-powered software, it lets you take a photo of something and either shop for it or find similar images online. It identified my headphones and found my Field Notes notebook, but mistook my water bottle for wine. Not a wine bottle, just wine. Still, it used a photo of my sleeping dog to show me many more pictures of sleeping dogs. A net positive for sure.

Samsung has a long history of stomping all over Google’s work and design on Android. That’s as true as ever here, as it deprecates the Google Assistant in favor of Bixby—you can still use Assistant by long-pressing the home button, but only Bixby gets to use the button on the side. Elsewhere, this is probably the nicest version of TouchWiz ever, but that’s not saying much. The S8 features a super-helpful lockscreen, with categorized notifications and a handy always-on clock, which I like. I found the settings menu massively confusing and will never understand why Samsung used an icon representing Saturn on an app called Internet. Those things I hate. Samsung’s same-size icons: good! Its blinding white notification shade: bad!

Like too many other Android manufacturers, Samsung installs too much of its own junk and gives carriers too much leeway. My T-Mobile S8 ($750 at T-Mobile) includes more than a dozen apps I don’t want, plus an infuriating and impossible to remove notification constantly reminding me about Wi-Fi calling. One of the things I love most about the Google Pixel is the cleanliness of the experience. Samsung’s still way behind.

Again, I’m only a day in. More to come soon, and I’m also eager to see if Samsung’s new focus on safety really holds up. But so far, the S8 is … about what I expected: a gorgeous phone with a fast processor, a solid camera, and some weird (and useless) features. That makes the S8 something of a throwback. In an era when software is everything, where everyone wants to ensconce all their devices a perfect ecosystem, Samsung made the S8 all about the hardware. The look. The feel. And that screen. Man, that screen.

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Lomography is launching a new 35mm film camera today called the Simple Use Film Camera. It’s designed to look and act like a disposable camera, although you can reload it with a bit of work. Lomography suggests you’re living on the edge if you try to add more film, but it does provide instructions (and the film) to help. Just operate with caution.

As its name suggests, the camera is simple. There are three different film types you can choose from — color negative, black and white, and a purple tint. The two colored options also ship with built-in gel filters that you can hold over the flash to tint your photos. Generally, the photos look nice, at least from the marketing materials, and the cameras are pretty cheap. They start at $16.90. Sure you could achieve this film look with any nicer film camera or even a disposable from the pharmacy, but those gel filters are at least slightly tempting. I’m a sucker for these overtly trendy products.