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Circuit Breaker

The simple joy of projecting a horse on your friend

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For my work job, I was handed a Nebula Capsule to review. The portable projector is the size of a soda can, it runs Android TV, and it has a surprisingly loud built-in speaker. The 100 lumens of brightness isn’t a lot, and neither is the 480 x 854 resolution, but it works acceptably for watching YouTube or Netflix in a dark room on a white wall. It’s not nearly as powerful as its well-received larger sibling, the Nebula Mars, but it is much more portable.

Unfortunately, this projector has a fatal flaw: a terrible IR remote that only picks up on about half of my click attempts, no matter where I aim it. This is absolutely the most painful when attempting to type in a Wi-Fi password using the remote’s D-pad, but it’s bad enough that just general navigation of the Android TV UI is aggravating.

Thankfully, there’s an app called Capsule Control, which lets you control the projector over Bluetooth from your phone. It works just fine and provides you with a much more usable keyboard, but it’s still no excuse for a broken remote.

Additionally, the projector’s plastic focus ring is abysmal. It’s so hard to hit the sweet spot, and typically takes a good amount of luck to actually end up with an in-focus image on a wall. For $296 I expect a little more quality.

But... I did have one delightful evening with the Nebula Capsule.

On my first day of testing, I had the Capsule in my bag. I was at my friend’s warehouse art gallery space, and I decided I could impress the locals with my hot new gadget. I slowly and painstakingly input the Wi-Fi password. I pulled up YouTube, and since I was out of patience to look for anything specific, I slowly and painstakingly typed “speedrun” into the search box. Then I accidentally backed out of YouTube (yeah, it was the remote’s fault; don’t worry about it), so I went back into YouTube and had to type it all over again. I got as far as “speedru” this time when I found a good candidate: a speedrun of Shadow of the Colossus.

I believe Shadow of the Colossus is possibly the most beautiful game ever made. It was beautiful on the PS2, beautiful in its PS3 “HD” incarnation, and beautiful in the new PS4 remake. In case you’re unfamiliar with the game, it involves a lot of horse riding.

So now I had a video to play on my fancy new projector which I hate. And, since it’s a portable projector that I’m holding in my hands, I, of course, started aiming it at people.

It was all a bit accidental how it happened, but I might’ve glimpsed the future.

Have you noticed that feature in Facebook Messenger where you can annotate pictures in a conversation by drawing on them? Instead of just passively sending and receiving selfies, you can now emphasize and improvise by drawing, with the photograph as a jumping-off point.

Now think about what we’ll do when we finally get augmented reality contact lenses. Will we be content to simply see facts and stats pop up in our vision? That restaurant has 4.5 stars on Yelp. That person’s name is “Susan,” and you’ve met her three times in the past month.

No, I don’t think that will be enough. I believe we will begin to decorate one another. Imagine being able to apply a Snapchat filter to your friends, family, business contacts, and the guy at the water slide who tells you when it’s your turn to go. Some people will look like dogs, some people will have halos floating over them. Others will be constantly showered with glitter, or have rainbows exit their mouth every time they say something.

Believe me, we will decorate each other.

And so, here I was, with a projector emitting a rather distinctive image of a young hero astride a horse, bounding over endless plains. So I decorated my friends with this horse video. It made them look like they were in a music video. It made them look deep and interesting. It made it look like they were from the future. Also, it worked best if they were wearing a white T-shirt.

One day, when you put in your first pair of AR contact lenses and immediately dial up a horse video to superimpose over everything, you’ll understand.

Or, I guess you could buy this Nebula Capsule projector and try to ignore its fatal flaw. I won’t be offended. The future needs decorators.