This is where the Unknown is revealed, so we have tension as well.
I arrived on the day. I was like, “So what’s going on with this tunnel?” What they’ve done instead of this incredible, magical starlit tunnel is basically just stapled up some chequered flags into a corridor and put some dirty mirrors that I think they must have found in, like, the toilet or something, just along the corridor. This was meant to be the Twilight Tunnel.
Yes, I saw the illustrations on the website.
You’ve probably seen the videos online. That’s where the infamous Unknown character appears from behind a mirror and starts unnecessarily scaring the kids. There’s no need! There is no need to scare the kids that much. They were scared enough.
Then we went through something called the Imagination Lab, which I think the point was that you’re supposed to imagine it was something better. That was where I was to hand out one jelly bean.
Where does the lemonade come in?
The next room was the Lemonade Room, which sounds amazing. It was just some cheap lemonade, in the bottles still, that was poured. You got a quarter of a cup of lemonade, if you were lucky.
That was the experience, me leading everyone through, just talking gibberish, slowly losing my grip on reality.
There’s something so hilarious to me about a single jelly bean. Why did they have you guys only giving out one?
They didn’t buy enough jelly beans! They didn’t even buy enough lemonade! We had to switch to limeade because we ran out! This is the thing that blows my mind. You know how many people are coming. One jelly bean per customer, that’s tight. Wonka’s a tight-fisted old man.
Can you explain to me what exactly is happening in the viral picture of the Oompa Loompa (sorry, Wonkidoodle)? What is she doing? What’s her purpose at that little desk?
I think she was asking herself the same question. It was meant to be a laboratory where the magical beans are made. She was actually doing science, you know, creating the magical beans.
Women in STEM, yeah.
Yes. I do know it looks like a meth lab, but you don’t know how magical beans are made, you know.
Where is the smoke coming from? What was that?
Something was probably on fire. No, I do think they had a smoke machine. But there was one point where we did smell burning and we were worried that something was on fire.
I kept saying throughout the day, “Someone’s going to get hurt.” There was a bouncy castle on a concrete floor! How no kid just went bounce [smack motion] is beyond me.
What was Coull doing during the event as this was all happening?
Walking in circles was all I kind of saw him do. He was just running around—he should have been the Unknown, actually, because he was pretty good at just, like, appearing out of nowhere, whispering in my ear like, “You’re spending too much time with the kids,” and then disappearing into the night.
Fanbinding has exploded in popularity in the past few years. Many fanbinders do adhere to a strict gift-economy stance in line with the writers they’re binding the work of, often limiting money they collect, if any, to covering material costs. But the people selling bound versions of popular fics for profit are cut from a different (book)cloth. As they make money off works the authors themselves cannot sell, they’re putting those authors—and, arguably, fanfiction itself—in an untenable position.
“Technically speaking, the reproduction right belongs to the author of the fic, because that’s the ‘copy right’: They are the only person with the right to make copies of the fic,” says Stacey Lantagne, a copyright lawyer who specializes in fanfiction and teaches at Western New England University School of Law. Even though she notes it “might be considered an unsettled question of law officially,” fic authors do hold the copyright to the original parts of their stories, though of course not the underlying source material.
Is it legal to bind someone else’s fic? “Here is a typical lawyer answer: it depends,” Lantagne jokes. She says “it is likely legal to print someone else’s fanfic for your own personal, noncommercial use,” adding that could likely extend to paying material costs for someone else to bind it, too. “Noncommercial” here is key. Like the legal status of fanfiction itself, the legality of fanbinding rests on fair use, the exception under US copyright law determined by factors like how transformative a work is, or if someone is profiting off it—and taking money away from the rights holder in the process.
Fanfiction communities have historically relied on good-faith communication when it comes to doing something else with someone’s fic. Nothing’s stopping you from translating, or remixing, or creating an audio version (known as podficcing), or, yes, printing and binding a version, but it’s nice if you ask first. Some writers post blanket permissions allowing any noncommercial engagement with their works, and some, especially in these hyper-popular corners of fandom, have specific guidance about fanbinding. Last year, a charity auction that garnered huge sums of money to bind others’ work led some writers—SenLinYu included—to modify their policies to allow personal, noncommercial fanbinding only.
While plenty of fans have respected their wishes, there is clearly demand for these books—and thus, continued supply. Lantagne says that since litigation is extremely expensive, the only recourse a fanfiction writer likely has in this situation is to file DMCA takedown notices, a very tedious process when there are multiple sellers on multiple sites. “This is what copyright holders have been complaining about ever since the DMCA was passed in the late 1990s—it’s a pain to have to file a DMCA notice everywhere copyright infringement crops up,” she says. “However, the alternative is something like YouTube’s Content ID being used to automatically block uploads, which we know is notoriously bad at accounting for fair use.”
Although illegal sellers obviously deserve a good portion of blame, that continued demand—regardless of fic authors’ wishes—speaks to the way both scale and money has been altering the fanfiction world in recent years. To be clear, there was never one singular “fanfiction community” or universal set of norms, but the widely accepted gift-economy framing has always been undergirded by the fact that many fanfiction readers are also writers, and stories are shared within fandoms, with all the structural ties they bring. Pulling-to-publish was often framed as a betrayal—we were all in this non-monetized boat together, and now you’ve jumped ship and cashed in.
The camera can recognize objects and read out text, so imagine if you’re in a grocery store in a foreign country—you can show the camera an item, ask what it is, and ask it to translate the text.
The company says it’s working on adding voice recognition so you can command the camera with your words, as well as hand gestures. You can also train your own AI functions through PhoneCam’s backend. For example, if your grandma makes brownies in a specific way, you can have her wear the PhoneCam and it can record her movements to create a recipe for you to follow, no need to jot it all down on pen and paper.
There’s a lot of interest from the enterprise side, or so the company claims. Japanese carmakers have inquired about putting it on all of their factory workers and having the AI identify and validate that the worker has done everything they need to do accurately, making the quality control process much more immediate. Grocery store workers can walk through an aisle and the camera can identify when there’s low stock of a certain brand of cereal and make a note of it.
The basic functionality of PhoneCam is free, but to access its full suite of features, you’ll have to sign up for a subscription—the lowest-tier plan starts at $4 per month.
This tiny and cheap camera is dreaming big, and I’m not sure how well all of this will really work. (My brief demos had internet connectivity issues, a common problem at trade shows.) But I do appreciate that this isn’t meant to replace your smartphone.
Always Have Signal With the Satellite-Connected Skyphone
For folks in remote areas or out at sea, those big satellite phones with the long aerials can be a literal lifesaver, but you still need a regular phone. That said, we’ve started to see satellite functionality added into regular phones, like the iPhone 14 and 15 range, to ensure you can get help in emergencies when you have no signal.
Thuraya’s Skyphone is something in between. It runs Android 14 and works like a regular smartphone, but it’s dual-SIM and can also connect to Thuraya’s own satellite network. There’s a toggle in the network settings to set your default connection and switch between the two.
It’s kinda chunky, with uninspiring specs, but it has a built-in aerial that you can slide out of the top and a larger-than-average battery that Thuraya told us is good for up to 80 hours using the satellite connection and 380 hours of regular use. There’s no price yet, but it’s set to launch in Q3 this year.
This Ebike Has 5G and AI Object Detection
With fat tires, a 7-inch touchscreen, and camera front and back, Orbic’s new eBike is a real head-turner. Its claim to fame is 5G connectivity, and the company hopes to sell it through carriers (partnering with Verizon in the US), so you can buy cell service along with the bike.
Mobile World Congress—or just MWC—isn’t one of our favorite trade shows just because it’s situated in the beautiful city of Barcelona during a seasonally appropriate time of year. (Cheap cava and tapas don’t have anything to do with it either.) No, this show is a favorite because it’s one of the easiest to navigate, and there’s always plenty of interesting, fun, or just plain crazy tech to scavenge through.
This year, such bounty includes transparent laptops, bendable phones, a Barbie flip phone, and more. Here are the highlights.
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HMD Rebrands (Sort of) and Teases a Barbie Phone
HMD was supposed to be the rebirth of Nokia phones back when it made a splash at MWC 2017, but it wasn’t long before the company lost steam and it was clear that the Nokia brand name wouldn’t really compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple anymore. HMD instead put its focus on budget Android phones over the past few years and its feature phone business. At MWC, it announced that 2023 was the company’s first profitable year, and now it’s trying to change things up with a rebrand. First is the name—it’s leaning more on “Human Mobile Devices” (the full version of its acronym) instead of HMD. This year’s lineup of devices will include an HMD phone, an iconic Nokia phone, plus a Barbie flip phone.
Yep, you heard that right. HMD is collaborating with Mattel to launch a Barbie feature flip phone. It’ll be coming this summer, will obviously be pink, and is being touted as a digital detox device. That’s all we know. The only pictures of all the teased phones were pixelated.
What we do know about HMD’s other phone is that it will revolve around a system called HMD Fusion. Similar to Motorola’s Moto Mods or Google’s long-lost Project Ara, it sounds like a system of modular components that developers can build for the smartphone, from an extended battery and a barcode scanner to a payment terminal to medical equipment. It released a toolkit that developers can use to get started.
HMD also had a big focus on repairability—it expects half of its devices launched globally this year to be repairable. But this summer, it says it will have a system that dramatically reduces the number of steps it takes to fix a cracked screen.
Motorola Bends a Phone, and Debuts Smart Connect
Late last year at Lenovo’s Tech World event, Motorola unveiled a bendable concept phone called the Adaptive Display. I got a chance to play around with it at MWC. It looks and feels like its Razr folding phones, except instead of having a hinge that snaps the phone closed precisely in half, you can bend the whole thing backward.
Amazon’s family of Alexa-enabled devices is vast. From the spherical Echo to the swiveling Echo Show 10, you can get Alexa into your home in many ways. These devices can answer your questions, help you order essentials, set timers, play all sorts of audio content, and even function as the control hub for your growing smart home. These are our favorite Echo- and Alexa-compatible speakers for every home and budget.
The best time to buy any Amazon speaker is during a major sale event like Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, as there usually are steep discounts. If you’re trying to decide which smart devices might be best for you, be sure to check out WIRED’s picks in our roundups: Best Smart Speakers, Best Smart Displays, and Best Bluetooth Speakers. We also have guides on setting up your Echo speaker, creating Alexa routines, and Alexa skills that are actually fun and useful to help you get started.
Updated February 2024: We’ve added the Echo Show 8 (3rd Gen) as our new smart display pick. We’ve also added advice for controlling content shown on your Echo Show device.
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Lyric Massager for $172: Lyric’s massager was one of our top picks. As of this writing, the brand’s website is down to prepare for “a whole new Lyric experience,” but it was like that the last time we checked in November. Hopefully it actually does come back. If you happen to find it in stock, it’s a great massager that also looks pretty. The small touchscreen explains each of the four attachments and walks you through guided massages—or you can use it manually. Plus, it has an extension handle you can click on to get hard-to-reach areas like your back.
Bob and Brad D6 Pro Massage Gun for $250: This massage gun feels very high-end. It’s heavy in a good way, with nice attachments. I also like that the brand was started by two physical therapists. But it’s pricey compared to our other favorites, and I found the noise it makes to be quite annoying.
Turonic GM5 Massage Gun for $160: I really like using the Turonic. It’s light (much lighter than the LifePro Sonic above) and has one of the lowest intensity levels. That’s good for people who generally feel that “low” isn’t quite low enough on massage guns. It’s still quite powerful too. It has seven attachments.
Dr Massage Prowlr Massage Gun for $100: The Prowlr looks a bit like you’re putting a floor sander on your body. The large head spins, instead of the hammering-like motion of other guns. It feels more like a traditional rubbing massage, rather than a device that pounds into deep muscle knots. The handle is great for gripping and getting difficult-to-reach areas, but the attachments feel cheap. I also wish there was one smaller head for working on areas like your neck.
Hyperice Hypervolt Plus Bluetooth for $229: If you can find the Hypervolt on sale, it’s a good option that has a Bluetooth-connected app like Therabody’s devices. It’s heavy and doesn’t come with a carrying case, though it has a small case for its five attachments.
Yunmai’s Slim Elegant (SE) for $180: Like the Lyric, Yunmai’s Slime Elegant was our favorite non-Theragun device. It lived up to its elegant name with its soft coating on the attachments and charging stand. However, it’s nearly impossible to find on sale.