Some trees can make droughts worse

Tree species in hotter climates—like oaks in California and the Mediterranean—respond to drought by quickly spending the water available to them.

<caption>Tree species in hotter climates—like oaks in California and the Mediterranean—respond to drought by quickly spending the water available to them. (DepositPhotos/)</caption>

When budgets get tight, some people get thrifty and others get spending. Turns out, trees are much the same: while certain plants handle hot and dry spells by being frugal about their water usage, others ramp up the amount of moisture they suck out of soil and release into the air. This can actually make droughts more intense, according to a study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It’s like burning through your bank account very quickly,” says William Anderegg, a co-author of the paper and University of Utah biologist.

This isn’t the first study suggesting the relationship between trees and climate goes both ways. Researchers have found that trees in the Amazon rainforest generate their own clouds and rain, for example, and that deforestation impacts local weather.

Anderegg and his colleagues collected data on the flow of heat, water, and carbon at 40 sites around the world, from Canada to Zambia, Denmark, Russia, and Australia. They then compared those measurements with the tree species prevalent in each location to see what traits were associated with intensified droughts.

“Instead of looking at how drought affects the forest, how might this go the other way around?” Anderegg says.

They found some trees in cooler climates—particularly conifers such as cedars, firs, junipers, and pines—gradually slow how much water they internally circulate, keeping the soil around them as moist as possible for as long as possible. But tree species in hotter climates—like oaks in California and the Mediterranean—respond instead by quickly spending the water available to them. The resulting low soil moisture can increase local temperatures and aggravate drought conditions, Anderegg says.

The group also found that sites with a greater variety of trees better buffered drought conditions. “That suggests it’s not just the dominant trees that matter, but having a diversity of tree species,” Anderegg says. “It would be like having a portfolio of investments.” Current large-scale climate models factor in whether a region is covered by deciduous, coniferous, or tropical forest, for example—but only in broad strokes. “That grouping by biome is going to miss a lot of really important nuances,” he says.

Understanding how the species within a region respond to heat and dryness is only going to become more crucial in the coming years. Climate change has contributed to more destructive weather events, from devastating wildfires in the Western United State to unusually powerful hurricane seasons, and drought is no exception.

“The extreme events are happening more frequently,” says Brian Fuchs, a geoscientist for the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “There’s not an area of our country where you could move to and say, ‘I won’t be affected by drought.'”

In addition to disrupting crop production and threatening the availability of water supplies, droughts can mess with ecosystems by inviting pests to an area, raising stream temperatures, or leading animals to migrate into urban areas in search of food and water, Fuchs says. This new study suggests that in some places, trees could contribute to a drought-worsening feedback loop—as well as bolsters the case for planting and maintaining a diversity of plant species in drought-prone regions.

This year has been one of the mildest periods for drought in recent history, according to Fuchs and monthly reports put out by the center, due to a relatively wet fall, winter, and spring. But seasonal weather shouldn’t stop us from studying the dry conditions that are becoming ever-more common.

“Right now we’re just in one of those periods. That’s part of a natural cycle,” Fuchs says. “But we never know when that next drought is going to begin—and the best time to prepare is when we’re not in one.”

Written By Marion Renault

NASA's new plane will fly at supersonic speeds—without a windshield

The pilot's view in the X-59 cockpit will look something like this.

<caption>The pilot’s view in the X-59 cockpit will look something like this. (NASA/)</caption>

In 2021, if all goes according to plan, NASA test pilots will take an experimental plane with a very long nose and fly it faster than the speed of sound. But the pilot won’t be gazing at the clouds ahead through a window—they’ll be staring at a 4K monitor. Two cameras will pipe real-time video from the front of the aircraft straight to the pilot’s field of view. The in-flight movie for the pilot, the plane’s sole occupant, is the flight itself.

NASA has good reason for this unique set-up. The aircraft is called the X-59, and its creators hope it will break the speed of sound without producing a “boom” sound. If it can smash through the sound barrier quieter than a traditional supersonic plane, then maybe it could cruise over land without disturbing the civilians on the ground below.

So why isn’t there a windshield?

To keep the plane aerodynamic, NASA gave it a very long nose. It’s nearly 50 feet long. If the cockpit canopy were to stick up into the windstream so the pilot could see forward, that protrusion would interrupt the flow of air around the craft. At the same time, trying to build a long, sloping windshield into the nose that a pilot could see out of would be ridiculous. “It would almost be like Wonder Woman’s invisible airplane—that’s what you’d have to build in order to look through that nose section,” says Randy Bailey, the lead at NASA on the plane’s external vision system. The whole nose would basically have to be see-through.

“We don’t have transparent aluminum yet, so we can’t do that,” he adds.

So instead of trying to incorporate a traditional windshield, a high-def camera on top of the nose will provide some of the imagery. Another camera underneath the nose will look downward—giving a view of the runway for takeoff and landing. That cam is just standard-def, and like the landing gear, it can be stowed out of the way when it’s not needed to keep the plane traveling smoothly through the air. When the aircraft is cruising at supersonic speeds, only the one 4K camera will provide real-time visual information to that monitor in front of the pilot.

A rendering of the X-59, which Lockheed Martin is building.

<caption>A rendering of the X-59, which Lockheed Martin is building. (NASA/)</caption>

All the things that could go wrong

One key issue NASA needs to overcome to ensure the system works well is latency—the delay between what the camera sees and what the monitor displays. Too much latency could spark motion sickness, which can occur when your inner ear feels one thing (the actual motion of the jet) but your eyes see something else.

Bailey says that they need to keep the latency to under one tenth of a second to avoid any issues like this. Right now, the system’s latency is 67 milliseconds, or .067 seconds—so they’re under the tenth-of-a-second second goal.

“The goal is, if we do it the right way, it will be as if there’s a real window right there,” he says.

A scarier thought is: What if the system breaks, either totally or in part? How will the pilot see?

Turns out, it wouldn’t be catastrophic the same way a parachute failing during an ejection would be. Since there are two cameras, if one were to fail, another would hopefully still be operational—although they look in different directions, so they’re not perfectly redundant with each other. If the main monitor were to break, either of the two displays below it could show the cameras’ view of the outside world. And two computers work together to handle the system as a whole. In short, the system does contain redundancies. “I’m not saying it’s never going to fail,” Bailey concedes.

However, that failure could be okay. That’s because the cockpit still includes a normal transparent canopy over the pilot’s head, as well as two regular windows on either side of the monitor that provide some semblance of a view. Even more important: the pilot doesn’t have to be able to see straight forward to be able to land the plane. The cockpit of this new experimental jet actually is the same as what’s found in the back of a T-38 trainer jet, which has two seats, one in front of the other. Like some F-16 fighter jets, the backseat of the T-38 has all the controls and instruments a pilot needs to fly the plane.

“They can actually land the airplane back there without seeing forward—they have certain maneuvers that they can fly, and guidance information on their head-down displays, that will get them to the runway,” Bailey says. It’s not ideal, but then again, only three test pilots will be flying this experimental craft, and no passengers will be riding along. (And in the world of tricky landings, consider the U-2 spy plane, which needs a chase car to help it get down on the ground.)

The whole point of this aircraft is to see if NASA can gather data that show that supersonic flight can be quiet enough to be acceptable over land—something that private companies are also working on, one of which is even considering using monitors in lieu of passenger windows. If one of those fails, it’s no big deal.

Written By Rob Verger

How to navigate your computer screen with only your keyboard

Shove that mouse off to the side and get a-tapping.

<caption>Shove that mouse off to the side and get a-tapping. (Deposit Photos/)</caption>

It’s hard to imagine using a computer without a mouse or its notable descendants, the trackpad and pointing stick (you know, that rubber thing in the middle of the keyboard). So when they stop working, either because a button jammed or because they’ve given up altogether, it can feel like your computer has been bricked. Fortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, with the right keyboard shortcuts, including “mouse keys,” you don’t need a mouse or trackpad at all, and you may even find yourself sticking with your keyboard.

Why your keyboard is also your mouse

Modern computing has long relied on keyboard navigation, and the earliest versions were more or less just a bolted-on typewriter. Manufacturers eventually added “home,” “end,” “page up,” and “page down” keys to make navigating reams of information less of a chore. Over time, more specialized keys, including “alt” and “command,” appeared as computers took on new jobs. Still, the keyboard has changed so little that decades-old models may be perfectly compatible with modern operating systems.

They also were built to spare your wrists. Even though a mouse offers a degree of precision beyond a keyboard’s capabilities, the small, precise movements of certain mouse-moving muscles can, over time, cause pain and other discomfort in your hands and wrists. As a result, keyboards and keyboard shortcuts have become important for computer users with motor control or dexterity concerns. No matter who you are, you may find keeping your hands on the keys for a few hours each day makes you more efficient and more comfortable.

General shortcuts

So if your mouse or trackpad is broken, or you just don’t want to use it, you’ll need to get familiar with common shortcuts. Most programs, regardless of the operating system or browser you’re using, let you employ the “tab” key to hop between on-screen options in order, hit “enter” to launch a command, and scroll with the arrow keys. “Home” and “end,” meanwhile, will generally take you to the top or bottom of the page, respectively. Each operating system has its own shortcuts, so focus on the one you use most often.

Cross-platform apps such as Google Chrome also tend to use the same shortcuts regardless of the user’s operating system, but their developers have to play along with computer manufacturers’ quirks. MacOS users, for example, would use (command+T) to open a new tab, while those on Windows or Linux would hit (ctrl+T). Still, while there may be many similarities, you shouldn’t assume one shortcut translates to another program.

Once you’ve identified your most commonly used programs, keep a list of shortcuts handy and practice using them. Often, they’re a little faster than using the mouse, especially if it’s something you do a lot, such as returning to your Google search results and trying the next link.

Windows 10

To enable mouse keys in Windows 10, press (Windows+I) to open Settings, and head to Ease of Access. Open this and scroll down to the Mouse. Turn Control Your Mouse with a Keypad on, and you’re off to the races, though it’s important to note that this is most likely to work if you have a separate keypad on the right-hand side of your keyboard. If you have a smaller laptop that lacks one, you can still enable mouse keys, but it might not work. Experiment a little and see if your computer will let you navigate with your keyboard.

If it does, each number from one through nine will control a different direction: eight is up, two is down, four is left and six is right. Seven, nine, one, and three serve as diagonals. Five stands in for left-click, and for right-clicking, hit the “plus” key. You can enable or disable this type of navigational control with (left shift+left alt+number lock). Need the keypad to enter numbers? Number lock will, uh, lock it to entering numbers.


For Apple computers, mouse keys can be activated via “Full Keyboard Access,” which doesn’t require a keypad. That’s a good thing because keypads are very much optional accessories on Macs.

To enable this, go to the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, and then Keyboard. Click Shortcuts, and at the bottom you should find “All Controls.” Click that and you’ll enable mouse keys. Just remember it’s the same layout as a keypad: eight is up, two is down, four is left and six is right, with one, seven, nine and three serving as diagonals.

If you don’t have a keypad, take some time to practice. Navigating via the line of number keys at the top of your keyboard will feel odd at first, but it’s workable.


Unlike most operating systems, Linux lets you ditch the desktop entirely and use the command line interface (CLI) for everything, running code directly. Just hit (ctrl+alt+T) to open a terminal or (alt+F2) to open the “run” application window, if you already know what program you need. But if you’re not looking to get this involved, it’s still easy to turn on mouse keys.

First, if you have a number lock key, hit (ctrl+shift+number lock) and press the numbers to see if the pointer moves. If so, you’re all set. If not, press (ctrl+alt+tab) or the Super key, if you have one. This will open Activities. If you installed Ubuntu on a Windows laptop, use the Windows key. Select Settings and then Universal Access. Under Pointing and Clicking, you’ll find Mouse Keys. Hit Enter to turn it on, and you’re set.

Written By Dan Seitz

How to stare at your phone all day without messing up your body

Many products featured on this site were editorially chosen. Popular Science may receive financial compensation for products purchased through this site.

Copyright © 2019 Popular Science. A Bonnier Corporation Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Written By Eleanor Cummins

Six fanny packs to carry your humongous phones

Phones don’t seem to be getting any smaller, so it appears we have a future of either deeper pockets—no thank you—or fanny packs to look forward to. When looking for a fanny pack, you’ll want to consider how much it can store, the weight of the bag itself, the number of pockets, if there are any unique security features, and lastly, the quality of materials. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that they look cool.

The strap can be adjusted from 20 to 50 inches.

<caption>The strap can be adjusted from 20 to 50 inches. (BABOON/)</caption>

The BABOON 3-liter fanny pack is the most stylish on the list. The nylon exterior wears a water repellent coating to keep its contents dry. If you’ve got a music festival or night out on the town where you don’t want to look like a complete square, this would be the choice waist pack. The 6.8-ounce bag has a side key loop for easy access and two zippered pockets. There’s an external zippered quick-grab pocket, internal mesh stash pockets, and a convenient key loop. The zippers have BABOON’s signature closure pulls to add some design flair. The strap attaches to the bag at a slight angle so you can wear it crossbody instead of across your waist. It comes in four colors—Red with Uranian Blue, Blue with Orange, Black with Slate Grey, Yellow with Blue.

For short day trips.

<caption>For short day trips. (Amazon/)</caption>

The Everest Lumbar Waist Pack is a useful hiking fanny pack that features three pockets and is made of durable, waterproof polyester. The main pocket is 3 x 7 x 8-inches, which is plenty of room for that enormous smartphone and more. There are two insulated water bottle pockets that can fit 32-ounce bottles. The strap can fit a 48-inch waist.

Simple storage with a ton of color options.

<caption>Simple storage with a ton of color options. (Amazon/)</caption>

Herschel Supply Co.’s Fifteen 2-liter hip pack can fit waists up to 55-inches and has a single 6.5 x 7.5 x 2-inch pocket. The bag has a brass zipper with a leather tag that’s handsome and sturdy. It can fit over your shoulder or be worn around your waist.

Fanny pack that has a place to store water.

<caption>Fanny pack that has a place to store water. (Amazon/)</caption>

MYCARBON waist pack can hold an iPhone XS Max, is water-resistant, and has a mesh pocket on the back for smaller items like keys or credit cards. The front of the fanny pack has a bottle holder and a hole on the side lets you easily plug in wired headphones. Reflective material across the main zippered compartment makes it perfect for running at night. The strap is adjustable between 27.5-49-inches.

The largest fanny pack you’ll ever need.

<caption>The largest fanny pack you’ll ever need. (Amazon/)</caption>

The Bp Vision Outdoor Fanny Pack includes enough room to hold a cell phone, sunscreen, earbuds, and probably another entire fanny pack. You have three options for wearing it—around your waist, with the attached neck strap, or using the included backpack straps. With all the extra room, it’s perfect for longer trips like camping getaways. It’s made of wear-resistant nylon, measures 11 x 5 x 6-inches, and features five pockets and two water bottle holders. The main strap can be adjusted between 26-50 inches.

A lot of room organization options.

<caption>A lot of room organization options. (Amazon/)</caption>

The FREETOO Waist Pack is clutch because of its five separate, zippered pockets and water-resistant polyester exterior. The strap adjusts between 23.6-45.3 inches.

Interested in talking about deals and gadgets? Request to join our exclusive Facebook group. With all our product stories, the goal is simple: more information about the stuff you’re thinking about buying. We may sometimes get a cut from a purchase, but if something shows up on one of our pages, it’s because we like it. Period.

Written By Billy Cadden

We finally have footage of a giant squid in U.S. waters

An engraving of a giant squid found in Newfoundland, 1877

<caption>An engraving of a giant squid found in Newfoundland, 1877 (Wikimedia Commons/)</caption>

Of all the wild creatures floating deep beneath the ocean, the giant squid is probably the one you’ve heard the most about—it’s inspired literal legends for centuries. But despite all you’ve heard, we actually know hardly anything about these outsized cephalopods.

The very first images of a giant squid were only recorded in 2004, and it was nearly another decade before researchers got live footage of one in action. Both those sightings happened in Japanese waters. Last week, though, NOAA researchers on an exploratory mission in the Gulf of Mexico recorded a squid in U.S. waters for the very first time.

The video is brief and eerie, like most glimpses of deep-sea life. ‘Headless chicken monsters’ and two-butted fish and other magnificent beasts feel bizarre to us because we’re accustomed to life on land. But thousands of feet beneath the surface, those critters are the norm. Like giant squid, they’re adapted to living in an extremely dark, pressurized environment.

This squid comes at the camera head-on, so it’s difficult to tell exactly how large it is. The NOAA researchers think it’s around 10 to 12 feet long, which would make it but a wee juvenile in the giant squid world—adults can grow to staggering lengths of 43 feet. That’s like stacking more than seven average adult American men on top of one another.

The glimpse is brief, but it gives some hope and guidance to marine biologists hoping to get more footage. Medusa, the deep sea probe that these researchers used, is stealthy—it doesn’t have the bright lights that other ROVs use down in the ocean depths. NOAA biologists speculate that perhaps, given that thousands of trips have probed the Gulf of Mexico before and never found a giant squid, stealth might be the way to go. They found the creature after only five deployments, suggesting the unique method may be key. Of course, a single sighting could still be ascribed to good luck. Hopefully, we’ll be teeming in footage of giant tentacles soon.

An earlier version of this story called squids crustaceans, which they quite clearly are not. Squids are cephalopods, and magnificent ones at that, so we regret the error.

Written By Sara Chodosh

Techathlon podcast: Gadget lifespans, the home version, and summer vacation

We're headed into a summer break to work on some big projects, but you can play your own version of Techathlon at home!

<caption>We’re headed into a summer break to work on some big projects, but you can play your own version of Techathlon at home! (Techathlon/)</caption>

Everything around you is deteriorating. It sounds sad, but it’s just the way of our wonderful universe. In fact, the computer or smartphone you’re using to read this is slowly breaking down as we speak. This fact applies to humans, too, and the rigors of the Techathlon can really wear us out. So, we’re taking a short summer break to get brain massages, eat lots of almonds, and dip our heads into buckets of ice.

But, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to live without your favorite tech-based gameshow podcast. In fact, I’ve put together a game that I’m including in this article so you can play your own episode of Techathlon at home.

Here’s how to do it:

Everything around you is deteriorating. It sounds sad, but it’s just the way of our wonderful universe. In fact, the computer or smartphone you’re using to read this is slowly breaking down as we speak. This fact applies to humans, too, as the rigors of the Techathlon podcast can really wear us out. So, we’re taking a short summer break to get brain massages, eat lots of almonds, and dip our heads into buckets of ice.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll have to live without your favorite tech-based gameshow podcast. In fact, I’ve put together a game that I’m including in this article so you can play your own episode of Techathlon—our trivia-meets-tech-news competitive gabfest at home.

Here’s how to do it:

Gather up three friends and force them into a small recording studio and arrange them so they have to make awkward, competitive eye contact. Then, ask these questions—the answers are below—and secretly resent the person who wins as we do with Rob every week.

It’s easy and fun. Here’s the game. The answer key is at the bottom.

This week’s game keeps with our deterioration theme. You think saving pictures and other files to a hard drive or some other digital storage will keep them forever— but that’s not the case. In fact, if you saved your files to writeable DVDs back in the early 2000s, they may already have decayed. Here are some trivia questions about the crushing toll time takes on our digital existence.

  1. You probably use a hard drive to back up your stuff and that makes sense. Spinning drives aren’t as fast or reliable as solid state drives, but they’re a lot cheaper, especially if your storage needs are in terabyte territory. But, hard drives are fallible and crashes can be traumatic. Online backup company Back Blaze did a study in which it kept 25,000 hard drives spinning consistently over the course of four years. In its findings, roughly what percent of drives had failed by the four-year mark?

A. 5 percent

B. 20 percent

C. 40 percent

  1. Compared to the shiny, scratch-prone surfaces of DVDs, VHS tapes seemed nearly indestructible. I had a copy of <em>Braveheart</em> holding up one part of my desk in college. But, despite their jeep-like appearance, VHS tapes don’t last forever. The magnetic tape inside can lose its magnetism over time. In fact, some researchers call this the “magnetic media crisis.” While old tapes may still work, the average cassette degrades hard over time. According to research from the <a href=””>Council on Library and Information Resources</a>, how long can you reasonably expect VHS tapes to last?

A. 20 years

B. 50 years

C. 80 years

  1. When we were kids, NES games broke all the time. Sometimes they got crud jammed inside that you couldn’t blow out with your child-sized lungs. Sometimes you smashed your copy of <em>Contra</em> in anger after dying for the 100th time in a row. It turns out, however, that video game cartridges often contain a battery that’s responsible for letting users save and load games. It’s relatively easy to replace, but if it goes on you, you could lose hours of gaming. Does that battery typically last:

A. 10 years

B. 20 years

C. 30 years

  1. Most people look at photos on various screens here in 2019, but printing out a photo is still one of the best methods of preserving an image for a long period of time. Photographers typically refer to high-quality prints as “archival,” which means they expect them to last up to 100 years. New printing tech, however, has eclipsed that number. Epson has a line of HDX ink and dedicated photo printing paper that promises to last longer than anything else around. How long does Epson say prints will endure?

A. 200 years

B. 400 years

C. 1000 years

  1. Solid state drives (SSDs) store data on memory without the need for moving parts. That means fewer things to break, but it’s not a perfect system. While SSDs typically survive just fine over time, they degrade as you read from and write to them. There’s a somewhat famous endurance test online for SSDs, in which a site called <a href=””>Tech Report</a> continuously ran large quantities of data to and from the drives until they failed. It took more than 2 petabytes of transferring to kill the longest-lasting drives. How much data killed the most fragile unit in the test?

A. 500 terabytes

B. 700 terabytes

C. 1.5 petabytes

  1. The Zip drive is one of tech’s great historical punchlines. These goofy-looking disks held hundreds of megabytes, which was a lot back in the day. However, the disks had a fatal flaw known as the “click of death.” When a disk failed, the drive would try repeatedly to read the corrupted disk, which required the mechanical arm inside to snap back into place, which produced an audible click. I once saw my roommate throw a table across our dorm room because this happened to him while working on a project. The initial zip disks came with a lifetime warranty, which was obviously a bad idea for the flawed product. Later versions came with an updated warranty fit more in line with the product’s actual expected lifespan. Was it:

A. 1 year

B. 5 years

C. 10 years

See? Wasn’t that fun? We’ll be back in August with new episodes of Techathlon.

Answer key: 1-B, 2-A, 3-A, 4-B, 5-B, 6-B

Written By Stan Horaczek

Why do people faint? | Popular Science

Many products featured on this site were editorially chosen. Popular Science may receive financial compensation for products purchased through this site.

Copyright © 2019 Popular Science. A Bonnier Corporation Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Written By Anne R. Crecelius/The Conversation

The coolest Nintendo Labo creations we could find

If you want to play with it, you've got to build it first.

<caption>If you want to play with it, you’ve got to build it first. (Nintendo/)</caption>

For anyone looking for a faithful DIY experience in the world of modern video gaming, all you truly need is a Nintendo Labo and its Toy-Con Garage feature.

For the uninitiated, the Labo is a Nintendo Switch-exclusive title that lets you build your own toys out of cardboard and various other parts, including washers, rubber bands, stickers, and grommets. Each toy has its own unique minigame, whether it’s fishing, controlling a robot companion, or playing a miniature piano. The surprisingly complex suite of tools comes with the main Labo software and allows you to create your own custom inventions. If you can dream it, you can make it—as long as you’re determined enough.

Ever since Labo made its debut, eager creators have set about bringing to life some of the coolest creations they could imagine. Many have gone above and beyond anything Nintendo had in mind, and their out-of-the-box methods are inspirational, to say the least. People are endlessly creative, and Nintendo has held several popular contests seeking the most innovative Labo applications users could think of.

With that said, here are some of the coolest, most awe-inspiring Labo builds imaginative users have put together since it hit retail shelves.

Automated cardboard roulette table

Chalk up this creation, by YouTube user zanza_klaus, as one of the most intriguing spins on Labo you’ll find online. The fully functional table requires four Joy-Con controllers, plenty of cardboard, and smart coding that will track your score as you play. When you make a wager, reflective stickers on the backs of the chips tell the Switch which number you’ve chosen. Then, place the roulette ball, spin the wheel, and the contraption will go to work, reading reflective stickers on the little white sphere to determine which number it landed on.

If you score three points with three correct guesses, the Joy-Con controllers will vibrate and you’ll receive a bounty of special Nintendo coins—or whatever you decide to load the table with. This intricate setup also uses a fidget spinner as part of the roulette wheel, and there can be no doubt it took plenty of effort to bring the project to fruition.

Game & Watch “Fire” recreation

If you think this project looks ridiculously intricate, you’re correct. Its talented creator took the time to recreate the 1980 Game & Watch title, “Fire,” which involves firefighters using a life net in an attempt to rescue people jumping from a burning building. The Labo version of the game features a dark piece of paper with several cut-outs in the shapes of falling sprites and the rescuers who are trying to save them. The Switch itself is nestled beneath the paper, illuminating the characters as they “fall” toward the bottom of the screen.

It’s hard enough to cut out the shapes in a way that so closely matches the original game, but it’s even harder to program the game via the Labo’s coding language. All in all, this is a good example of how the Labo can help put a modern spin on a classic game.

Poltergust 5000

With Luigi’s Mansion 3 on the horizon, it’s a great time to revisit one of the coolest Nintendo-centric creations made by a fan. No, this wasn’t an official Labo project. YouTube user Pikaaroon (Rare community and design intern Aaron Nielsen) created his own Poltergust—a vacuum Luigi uses to hunt ghosts in his mansion. The real-world version, similarly, lets players take part in hide-and-seek game modes in which they can find and capture “ghosts” around their homes.

Nielsen’s Poltergust includes a cardboard outer shell worn as a backpack, real-world parts such as a vacuum hose, and custom-made pieces that have it looking as close to Luigi’s in-game weapon as possible.

Musical cat

People love to use the Labo to create their own instruments and musical items. This cat, as YouTube user Douglas Hoyt says in the video, is made out of cardboard, detailed with black marker, and held together with hot glue and tape. The Switch itself makes up the cat’s face, with an expressive mouth and two lines for eyes that manage to communicate an adorable, anime-style look despite its overall mech-like appearance. The little bell on its chest ties the whole creation together.

The cat is controlled by two left Joy-Con controllers inserted into its paws, which allow it to create a full chromatic scale, depending on what button you push. And of course, its cries are different octaves of meows.

But it’s not just the technical prowess that impresses here. It’s how well the design fits the overall Labo aesthetic and homegrown Nintendo look. It really does look like something the company could have included as one of its official Labo projects, and that’s part of what really sells it.

Vending machine

The Switch’s screen is just about the perfect size for miniature versions of larger mechanisms, so making a vending machine seems like a no-brainer. This particular project, by YouTube user JapaneseHacker, uses the Labo’s programming to make it accept 500-yen coins and spit out candies in return. The Switch itself serves as the vending machine’s display, set inside a boxy cardboard body with a coin slot at the top right.

The user needs to simply insert the correct coin and the program will spit out a candy from the slot beneath the screen. It happens at about the same speed as a regular vending machine, which is perhaps the most impressive part of it all. Following that, a quick “Thank You” flashes on the screen. It’s quite simple, and while there’s no way to select which candy you wish to receive, if you built it, you get to stock it.

Solar-powered accordion

The Nintendo Labo Variety Kit already allows players to create their own piano, but this custom project takes things to another level entirely. Built by YouTube user Momoka Kinder, the accordion uses Joy-Con controllers, reflective stickers, seven holes for the musical notes, rubber bands, and, of course, the Switch. It makes sound when the camera can no longer sense sunlight shining through a hole, and each hole can play three octaves of the same note, so players can create some pretty familiar accordion sounds.

Seeing it in action is quite surreal, especially when you realize it’s really just a bunch of household items controlled by a Switch. You could do it too, and that’s what makes it such an awesome example of how the Switch is the perfect console for DIY projects.

Labo tea time

Care for a spot of tea? You will, after playing Youtube user Joseph France’s time management game involving filling and pouring four different types of tea with specially-made cardboard teapots. Each pot has a Joy-Con controller beneath its lid that can detect when the teapot is open or being poured. In a fashion not unlike the time management game Diner Dash, you must serve Nintendo-themed teas to thirsty customers as they mill in and out of your imaginary coffee shop.

To fill the pot, open the lid and watch the screen as the hot water level rises. Simply tilt the teapot to pour. When a customer comes in, you earn a point if you serve them on time, but you lose one if they get fed up and leave without their tea. The customers come in waves of increasing difficulty, and you’ve got to be especially efficient as you manage the pots.

It’s a simple premise, but one that wouldn’t have been out of place in a game like the Switch’s debut party game 1-2-Switch, which had players using Joy-Con controllers to mimic answering telephones, untangling chains, or even picking locks. France also put a lot of effort into making functional teapots out of a material that isn’t exactly the easiest to work with, either, and it shows.


If there’s anything the earlier Labo creations have shown us, it’s that people love cats and music. In that sense, then, this particular invention is, as they say, the cat’s meow. Instead of being a simple instrument, it’s actually a rhythm game that rewards you for keeping time with the music.

With three targets that need to be pushed down in time to a tune, it’s a simple affair that took plenty of work to become functional. The targets (called plungers by YouTube user Vix Chan) are cardboard tubes wrapped with reflective infrared tape that pop in and out of the game’s makeshift box via the power of elastic bands. Once one goes down, the Joy-Con recognizes the reflective tape and tallies the plunger push. When released, the tubes spring back up and behave like regular buttons for you to continue tapping along to the game’s music.

The Switch screen itself gets a special overlay of adorable kitty faces and sits by the sensor at the front of the machine. If you push the plungers in time with the music, you’ll eventually come out on top. It’s simple to understand and execute, but like most rhythm games, it will take some practice to master. Luckily, a crowd will cheer you on when you do well (but they’ll boo you if you don’t). With a bit of work, this fun little creation could easily turn into a more mainstream rhythm gaming experience. Given the fact that the Switch is home to several music-oriented games such as Musynx and Gal Metal, this isn’t too much of a stretch.

Written By Brittany Vincent

How and when to share streaming service logins

There goes Billy, screwing up your Netflix recommendations again.

<caption>There goes Billy, screwing up your Netflix recommendations again. ( via Unsplash/)</caption>

If you’ve got access to a Netflix or Spotify account—or any other subscription streaming service—you might be using a friend or relative’s login details rather than your own. Or maybe you’re the one doing the login lending.

It’s common practice, but should you be doing it? Might you run into technical or even legal problems down the line? We’ve taken a detailed look at the major streaming services to help figure out the answers.


Each Netflix plan offers a different number of simultaneous streams.

<caption>Each Netflix plan offers a different number of simultaneous streams. (David Nield/)</caption>

Each of the three Netflix plans gives you access to a different number of concurrent streams. The cheapest Basic plan lets you watch on one screen at a time, the Standard plan ups that to two screens, and the most expensive, 4K-ready Premium plan lets you watch on four screens at once.

You can set up multiple profiles (perhaps for you and your kids) inside a single account, and Netflix even mentions sharing accounts with friends and family on its support pages. That all suggests you’re fine to pass on your details to a handful of people, as long as you stick to the simultaneous streaming limits.

Officially, as per the Netflix terms of use, you can’t share login details with people outside of your household. Unofficially, as per the occasional comment in the media, Netflix doesn’t seem desperate to clamp down on users who share more widely. That, of course, could change in the future.


Like Netflix, Hulu lets you set up multiple profiles within a single account for all the members of your family. It’s more restrictive, however, when it comes to simultaneous streams, as it only allows concurrent viewing on a maximum of two screens under the standard plans.

If you’re paying extra for Hulu Live TV, you can pay another $10 a month for the Unlimited Screens Add-On, which lets you watch simultaneously on as many devices as you like. But even with this service, you’re limited to five screens at once for the HBO, Cinemax, Starz, and Showtime channels.

Hulu’s terms of use only mention sharing passwords with people in your household and make it clear that you’re responsible for everything that happens on your account. So if you do share account details, you do so at your own risk.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV just has the one $50-per-month plan, and that gives you the ability to stream content to three different devices at once. Theoretically, that could be three people logged into your YouTube TV account, but those people would also have access to the rest of your Google apps and services, so it’s much riskier than sharing a Netflix or Hulu login.

You are officially allowed to share YouTube TV with up to five other family members at no extra charge. This is part of the same family group sharing you get with Google Drive and other Google services: everyone logs in with a different Gmail address, but can access some of the same shared services.

Set up a family group, and all six members can access up to three streams at once. But whether you have a family group or not, YouTube TV asks that you and any family members sign in at your designated home address at least once every three months to keep your subscription active.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is connected to the rest of your Prime account.

<caption>Amazon Prime Video is connected to the rest of your Prime account. (David Nield/)</caption>

Amazon Prime Video is, as the name suggests, part of the Amazon Prime package. It can be shared with one other adult in your household and up to four children at the same address. Only one of the adults can use the offline device sync feature though—everyone else has to stick to streaming only.

As with YouTube TV, sharing your Prime Video login credentials with someone else gives them access to much more than TV shows and movies. They’ll also be able to shop for stuff on Amazon, get at files in your Amazon cloud storage, read your e-books, and so on. If you are going to share your Amazon credentials, you need to be very picky about whom you do it with.

Amazon has put a three-stream limit on simultaneous streams with Prime Video, and you can’t watch the same title on more than two devices at once. Unless you’re setting up an Amazon Household, it’s probably not worth the risk to share your Prime Video password.


If you’re still sharing HBO logins after the end of Game of Thrones, you need to know it’s something HBO doesn’t encourage. Your HBO password “should not be shared with anyone outside your household,” as per the official decree.

HBO also says simultaneous streams are “limited,” without specifying what the maximum number of streams actually is—perhaps you could try to find out by loading up additional streams on your account until you get an error message.

These same restrictions apply on both HBO Now and HBO Go. In the latter case, your TV provider might let you set up sub-accounts for each member of the household, but that’s as much as you get in terms of individual profiles in a single account.


Spotify limits you to one stream at a time.

<caption>Spotify limits you to one stream at a time. (David Nield/)</caption>

Spotify accounts are clearly designed to be used by one person and one person only. You can register as many devices as you like, but you can only listen to your streaming tunes on one at a time. That might cause problems if you’ve passed your login credentials on to friends and family.

The family plan Spotify offers for $15 a month lets you connect five additional people to your account, and you each get your own login. However, you all need to live at the same address, so it’s not a great option for anyone living somewhere else.

Naturally, Spotify lets you and members of your family plan listen to your music wherever you go, but it’s presumably applying some background checks to make sure most logins happen at the address you’ve specified. Considering sharing your password is specifically prohibited in the Spotify user agreement, a family plan is your best bet for getting other people on your account.

Apple Music

Because an Apple Music subscription is so tightly tied to an Apple ID on specific devices, and that ID gives access to everything else Apple offers (from email to iCloud), we suspect not many people are trying to share their Apple Music login. Plus, you can only stream Apple Music tracks to one device at a time.

Like Spotify though, Apple Music offers a family plan: up to six people on the same account for $15 a month. Everyone needs their own Apple ID, but only one person pays for purchases. If you’re a parent, you can restrict what your kids can and can’t do after you’ve added them.

Each family member gets one Apple Music stream, plus their own recommendations, playlists, and more. Apple seems to be less strict than Spotify when it comes to having everyone at the same address, as long as you’re all in the same country, but bear in mind that anyone in your Apple family will only be able to make purchases with your registered card.

Written By David Nield