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Hue’s new smart switch is for the superusers

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Hue’s new smart switch is for the superusers

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The $49.99 Philips Hue Tap Dial switch is a smart lighting controller for the Hue superuser. It’s the most powerful and innovative Hue accessory so far, with four buttons and a physical dial for dimming. Out of the box, the buttons and dial are tied to a zone or room, making it seem like an overpowered Hue Smart Dimmer Switch. But why limit yourself to one room when this can control your Hue lights throughout your house?

The Tap Dial is a wireless, battery-operated smart switch that can turn your Philips Hue lights on and off, brighten and dim them, and set lighting scenes. With a magnetic base, it can be attached to its included wall plate like a regular wall switch or placed on any metallic or flat surface for use as a remote control.

It’s part of Hue’s smart lighting ecosystem, which works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings. Signify (owners of Hue) also confirmed to The Verge that the switch will be upgraded to work with the new smart home standard Matter. That means one day, it might be able to control a lot more than just Hue lights.

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The Tap Dial is hefty, weighing just over two and a half ounces (an ounce heavier than the Apple TV remote). But that weight is to its advantage; you can turn the dial while it’s sitting on the table, and it won’t slide around. The dial itself has a good solid feel as you turn it, with nice haptic feedback. It’s a lot like rotating a Nest Learning Thermostat, and it’s only a smidge smaller than that. It also worked quickly and reliably, and the dimming action was smooth and responsive, with no noticeable lag.

Out of the box, it’s set up to dim whichever lights, room, or zone you pair it with in the Hue app. Buttons one through three adjust the light levels, and the fourth cycles through five Hue scenes. The dial gives more precise dimming, and a long press on any button turns the lights off. (Hue scenes are different combinations of brightness, color temperature, or color, depending on the types of bulbs you have.)

But there’s no real reason to buy the Tap Dial if you’re just going to control a single room or zone. That’s what the Hue Dimmer Switch does well at about half the price. The Tap Dial shines as a multizone controller for people with lots of Hue lights.

Turn the dial to the right to brighten your lights and to the left to dim. The faster you turn it, the quicker it brightens; the slower you turn it, the more precisely you control the dimming level.

I set up the Tap Dial in my entry hall, with each button programmed to control a different part of my house. Button one turned on all the Hue lights in the house, button two those in the entry hall and living room, button three the upstairs lights, and button four the downstairs lights. I also added some colorful scenes for subsequent button presses (you can press each button up to 10 times to cycle through additional scenes) but didn’t find myself using them often.

I set the dial to control all the lights at once. One limitation of using the Tap Dial this way is that the dial can only control either all lights or a single room or zone. I’d like it to dim or brighten the lights for whichever button you just pressed. The slightly clunky workaround here is to use the second and third presses on each button to dim the lights that aren’t controlled by the dial.

The default setup in the Hue app (left); the settings for the dial (which include the option to dim to minimum brightness and to off); and the option to cycle through multiple scenes (up to 10) with subsequent presses.

The upside is I have a central lighting controller that gives me physical access to all the lights in my house without having to pull out a phone or use a voice command. That makes this gadget really useful. If my house were fully outfitted with Hue lights, I would consider this an essential purchase. It isn’t, though, and until this can effectively control every smart light in my home, regardless of brand (which it may be able to do when Matter gets here), this makes it more of a nice-to-have than a must-have for me.

The other issue is that even with what I thought was an intuitive setup, it’s not easy to remember which button does what, and I’d like the option to label them with a little icon or emoji.

The Tap Dial is weighty in the hand, and its strong magnet snaps easily back into the wall plate.

If your whole home is kitted out with Hue bulbs and light fixtures, this is a handy physical controller to manage them all. If you have Hue outdoor lighting, it can be programmed to control those, too. At $50, it’s an expensive piece of kit, plus it uses Zigbee, so you have to have a Hue Bridge ($59.99), but there aren’t many good solutions for dimming smart bulbs.

Most smart dimmer switches only work with standard bulbs, not smart ones. Your other options for Hue bulbs, outside of asking a voice assistant to set the lights to 70 percent or hopping into a smartphone app, include pressing and holding a button on the Hue Dimmer Switch ($28) or twisting the rotating dial on the Lutron Aurora ($40), a retrofit option for toggle switches. I’ve tried all these, and the Tap Dial is definitely the nicest to use.

The Tap Dial switch can be used with or without the wall mount, which is larger than a standard wall plate.

If you only have a few Hue bulbs, you’ll be better off with the cheaper Hue Smart Dimmer, which can do everything this device does, just with less individual room control and with a clunkier interface for dimming.

The Smart Dimmer also has the option of time-based lighting — where the lights turn on at a certain brightness based on the time of day — a great feature that, oddly, is not yet offered on the Tap Dial. Kelly Hrank, head of PR at Signify, told me the feature is coming soon. The switch is also not integrated into the Hue Labs feature of the Hue app, which lets you set up more powerful lighting scenes, and Hrank says there are no plans to do so.

Like the earlier now discontinued Hue Tap, the Tap Dial can be used as a HomeKit scene controller, but right now, you shouldn’t bother. The dial doesn’t work in HomeKit (which is a limitation of Apple’s, not Hue’s), and you can only use a single press to trigger Automations. That makes this $50 dial switch a less useful version of the Wemo Stage I just reviewed, which is designed specifically for HomeKit and was quicker at running HomeKit Automations than the Tap Dial in testing.

The Tap Dial will be getting more features shortly. The option to “Configure in HomeKit” has been available for Hue accessories for years, but the Hue app now contains an option to configure the Tap Dial in another app — the Tap Dial is the first Hue accessory to support this. The option doesn’t do anything yet, but Hrank told The Verge that Amazon Alexa will be among the apps you can set the Tap Dial up in.

This should mean you’ll be able to use the Tap Dial to control any Alexa-compatible smart device (not just Hue, and not just lights), as is the case if you use it in HomeKit. Plus, if the dial is exposed to Alexa, this would be a very useful lighting control for the vast Alexa ecosystem, especially if you could use the buttons to trigger Routines. I’ll test this as soon as it is available and report back.

All this openness is likely part of the preparation for Matter, a unique feature of which is multi-admin control — the option to set devices up to be controlled by any Matter-compatible ecosystem. With Matter-support, the Tap Dial could be used to control every light in my house no matter who made them — a much better proposition than being locked into Hue’s expensive ecosystem.

But don’t buy the Tap Dial now for what it might be able to do later. If you have Hue lights throughout your home and want to be able to control them from a single device (with a physical dimmer!), the Tap Dial is useful now. For anyone else, wait and see what’s coming.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

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NASA Says Hurricane Didn’t Hurt Artemis I Hardware, Sets New Launch Window

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NASA Says Hurricane Didn’t Hurt Artemis I Hardware, Sets New Launch Window

NASA’s Artemis I moon mission launch, stalled by Hurricane Ian, has a new target for takeoff. The launch window for step one of NASA’s bold plan to return humans to the lunar surface now opens Nov. 12 and closes Nov. 27, the space agency said Friday. 

The news comes after the pending storm caused NASA to scrub the latest Artemis I Iaunch, which had been scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 2. As Hurricane Ian threatened to travel north across Cuba and into Florida, bringing rain and extreme winds to the launch pad’s vicinity, NASA on Monday rolled its monster Space Launch System rocket, and the Orion spacecraft it’ll propel, back indoors to the Vehicle Assembly Building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. 

The hurricane made landfall in Florida on Wednesday, bringing with it a catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding that left dozens of people dead, caused widespread power outages and ripped buildings from their foundations. Hurricane Ian is “likely to rank among the worst in the nation’s history,” US President Joe Biden said on Friday, adding that it will take “months, years, to rebuild.”

Initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts of the devastating storm to Artemis I flight hardware showed no damage, NASA said. “Facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations,” the agency said in a statement. 

Next up, teams will complete post-storm recovery operations, which will include further inspections and retests of the flight termination system before a more specific launch date can be set. The new November launch window, NASA said, will also give Kennedy employees time to address what their families and homes need post-storm. 

Artemis I is set to send instruments to lunar orbit to gather vital information for Artemis II, a crewed mission targeted for 2024 that will carry astronauts around the moon and hopefully pave the way for Artemis III in 2025. Astronauts on that high-stakes mission will, if all goes according to plan, put boots on the lunar ground, collect samples and study the water ice that’s been confirmed at the moon’s South Pole. 

The hurricane-related Artemis I rollback follows two other launch delays, the first due to an engine problem and the second because of a hydrogen leak.

Hurricane Ian has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone but is still bringing heavy rains and gusty winds to the Mid-Atlantic region and the New England coast.

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What You Get in McDonalds’ New Happy-Meal-Inspired Box for Adults

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What You Get in McDonalds’ New Happy-Meal-Inspired Box for Adults

You’ve pulled up to McDonald’s as a full-on adult. You absolutely do not need a toy with your meal, right? Joking. Of course you do.

The fast-food chain will soon sell boxed meals geared toward adults, and each one has a cool, odd-looking figurine inside. 

The meal has an odd name — the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box — that’s based on the fashion brand collaborating with McDonald’s on this promotion. 

According to McDonald’s, the box is inspired by the memory of enjoying a Happy Meal as a kid. The outside of the box is multicolored and features the chain’s familiar golden arches. 

The first day you can get a Cactus Plant Flea Market Box will be Monday, Oct. 3. Pricing is set by individual restaurants and may vary, according to McDonald’s. It’ll be available in the drive-thru, in-restaurant, by delivery or on the McDonald’s app, while supplies last.

You can choose between a Big Mac or 10-piece Chicken McNuggets. It will also come with fries and a drink.

Now about those toys. The boxes will pack in one of four figurines. Three of the four appear to be artsy takes on the classic McDonald’s characters Grimace, Hamburglar and Birdie the Early Bird, while the fourth is a little yellow guy sporting a McDonald’s shirt called Cactus Buddy.

In other McD news, Halloween buckets could be returning to the chain this fall. So leave some room in your stomach for a return trip.

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Why companies like iHeartMedia, NBCU rely on homegrown IP to build metaverse engagements

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Why companies like iHeartMedia, NBCU rely on homegrown IP to build metaverse engagements

To avoid potential blowback from a skeptical audience, retailers as well as media and entertainment companies are learning to invest in their homegrown intellectual properties while building virtual brand activations inside Roblox or Fortnite.

Take, for instance, when they get it wrong.

Earlier this week, Walmart launched its own Roblox world — called Walmart Land — and was roundly mocked for it across social media given the announcement’s disjointed brand message and apparent lack of life. In one viral tweet, a Twitter user described a clip of Walmart CMO William White introducing the Roblox space as “one of the saddest videos ever created.”

This video of Walmart’s chief marketing officer on a stage in Roblox talking about its new “Walmart Land” experience is one of the saddest videos ever created. pic.twitter.com/HtIIToShKs

— Zack Zwiezen (@ZwiezenZ) September 26, 2022

To some extent, this sort of criticism is to be expected during the early days of the metaverse.

“Walmart is an iconic brand; when you see them coming into a platform like Roblox, people are going to be 10 times more critical of what is being launched,” said Yonatan Raz-Fridman, CEO of the Roblox developer studio Supersocial.

But Walmart’s size is not its only disadvantage as it dips its toes into Roblox. Although Walmart has a widely recognizable brand, it owns few intellectual properties that users are actually interested in experiencing virtually — a shortcoming reflected by the somewhat cavernous emptiness of Roblox’s Walmart Land.

Provided by NBCUniversal

The success of other recent brand activations is evidence that media and entertainment brands are better equipped to build metaverse spaces that can dodge online skepticism, thanks to their wealth of owned IP.

“They are having to reinvent themselves, to a certain degree, but that is in their DNA,” said Jesse Streb, global svp of technology and engineering at the agency DEPT. “So they have a unique advantage over, say, some kludgy company that sells lumber, or a construction company.”

For example, iHeartMedia’s Roblox and Fortnite spaces were inspired by the mass media corporation’s wealth of popular real-life events, such as the Jingle Ball Tour and iHeartRadio Music Festival, with virtual versions of musicians like Charlie Puth performing pre-recorded concerts that allow real-time audience interaction.

“There’s a strong brand association with the IP, down to a station level — you’re in the New York area, you probably know Z100,” said iHeartMedia evp of business development and partnerships Jess Jerrick. “The same is true for the event IP, or the IP that we now have in the podcasting space, and of course our radio broadcast talent. So there’s no shortage of really strong IP we can bring into these spaces.”

Translating real-life properties into the metaverse is also an enticing prospect for brands that view metaverse platforms as an experimental marketing channel, allowing them to bring tried-and-true IP into their virtual activations instead of designing them from the ground level. This was part of the strategy behind the recent Tonight Show activation in Fortnite Creative, which was designed in collaboration between NBCUniversal and Samsung. “We’re looking at it holistically — how do we find fans in new ways, and use IP that fans love in new ways?” said NBCU president of advertising and client partnerships Mark Markshall.

Since opening on Sept. 14, iHeartLand has already enticed over 1.5 million Roblox users to visit. The company aims to retain that attention with a schedule of virtual programming featuring popular musicians and personalities.

“At our core, we are essentially an influencer network; our broadcast talent are some of the most connected, most engaging influencers at work in media today,” said Conal Byrne, CEO of iHeart Digital Audio Group. “That gives us this sort of superpower, to be able to go into new-ish platforms, like Roblox or Fortnite, because we talk to our listeners through those influencers.”

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