Lawyers suing robots, Harlem Shake backlash, and more in this week’s Staff Picks


caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Got wood?

What do you want to be when you die? How about a California redwood, a blackgum, or a great white oak? If Spanish designer Gerard Moline’s idea takes off, the dream of being reborn as a tree post-mortem could become a reality.

Moline has designed what he calls the Bios Urn, a burial plan that could very well see people buried as wood, rather than inside a box made of it. The urn is made entirely of biodegradable materials including coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose. Nestled inside is a tree seed which can easily be replaced to suit the deceased’s preferences and burial location. Once the seed germinates, it feeds on your ashes, essentially turning your dead, cremated body into a tree. It sounds like a good way to branch out in the afterlife and perhaps leaf the world behind a little better than you found it.

Personally, I want to come back as a pussy willow.


andrew coutsAndrew Couts: The Onion (but real)

The first (and only) time I ever peed my pants from laughing was because of The Onion. It was sometime in the late 1990s; I was browsing The Onion’s archives, and came across the headline, “Area Man Goes and Gets Himself Hit by a Goddamn Bus.” Loaded up on Jolt Cola, with an amateur’s bladder control, the thing struck me in the gut like a garbage bag filled with clowns. Or, you know, something like that. It was a simpler time. A better time.

Nowadays, all of the world’s problems lay at our feet, just a click away. And so does all the completely idiotic crap people actually do – real area men getting run over by real goddamn buses. Which is why I was downright giddy to come across TheOn1on.com, what can only be described as a parody of a parody site parodying real life with life itself. It’s The Onion, but populated with real stories of foolishness, silliness, quirky happenstance and, probably, copyright infringement. Anyway, it’s funny. So check it out be for the real The Onion shuts it down.


natt garunNatt Garun: We’ve entered the era where lawyers are going after robots

Well, this was inevitable. With the rise of robot doctors and surgeons, lawyers have now moved from suing your employees for work-related accidents to automatons for medical malpractice. World, meet the trolltastic BadRobotSurgery.com. Hosted by an Alabama-based firm, the lawyers will help you seek compensation for “complications associated with robot surgery.” What kinds of complications, you ask? Here’s what the site lists:

  • Tears and/or burns of the intestines
  • Punctured blood vessels
  • Cut ureters
  • Severe bowel injuries
  • Vaginal cuff dehiscence
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Death

Yeah, gross, yikes, do not want! The lawyers claim robot surgeries can cause benign problems that would otherwise never happen if performed by a real doctor. Except, of course, that these robots aren’t exclusively automatons – most robot surgeons are controlled by doctors so they can reach places human doctors can’t without tearing the patient’s body wide open. It’s just another way of lawyers spinning an industry to make things viral and interesting – but it’s no less silly than the ads you see on subway rides that target accident victims or divorced couples. Just giving y’all a heads up before these commercials make it on your daytime television, because this is what our futuristic society have come down to.


Jennifer BergenJen Bergen: Beck reimagines the concert experience with 360-degree interactive video

Beck likes to do things a little differently. This was evident in his first album featuring the hit song “Loser,” as well as his most recent “album.” Song Reader is actually a collection of sheet music he composed (yep, there’s no actual album to listen to). So, it’s no surprise that Beck’s latest musical project, a cover of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision,” is a little unique itself.

The 10-minute-long recreation is more than just a cover. Teaming up with director Chris Milk, Beck released a 360-degree interactive version of the live performance (filmed in a single take) that lets you move around the space as if you were there. The “audio-visual experiment,” as they call it, takes place on three circular stages with Beck rotating in the center. He’s surrounded by an audience that rotates counter to him, and more than 170 musicians play around the crowd in the outer stage.

The reimagined concert experience was captured using 360-degree cameras and recorded using binaural microphones. Viewers can change between cameras located from Beck’s perspective, from the audience’s perspective, and from the musician’s perspective. Not only does the view change, but the sound also changes depending on which stage you’re watching from. You can also allow the site to turn on your webcam for facial recognition, allowing the stage to move as you move. Check out the YouTube video below to view the performance regularly, but we highly recommend visiting Hello Again and watching it on a nice monitor (in HD) with headphones to get the full experience.

molly-mchughMolly McHugh: Harlem does not approve of the Harlem Shake, and neither do I

Not sure if you noticed but this little thing called the Harlem Shake has taken over the entire flippin’ Internet over the last two weeks. A handful of videos started the whole thing – the “whole thing” being a simple formula in which one person begins dancing alone, and then when the beat of the song drops, a scene cut reveals a larger crowd is dancing in some absurd fashion. Usually someone is humping the air. Usually there are costume changes and strange props. Usually it’s dumb. Whatever, everybody loves it, thinks it’s so funny – I don’t care. I hate it so much. As far as things that everyone loves and I don’t effing understand … this is up there with Gangnam Style. I thought that sucked too.

But given how much we love dumb things, the entire Internet went bat shit about the Harlem Shake and the videos went viral. Hard. The likes of Facebook and The Today Show made their own copycat versions of the travesty. But better than any of these screams for attention is the video in which the actual Harlem reacts to the Harlem Shake. And it did not go great for the viral video meme.

You can watch the video to see Harlem Shakers get their asses handed to them by the neighborhood – but suffice it to say that if you dare try and pull this stunt in the area, you deserve whatever happens to you, OK?


Jaguar’s V2X technology will keep you from getting stuck at red lights

Jaguar wants to make sure you never have to rush through a yellow light again. The carmaker is building tools that will tell you what speed you'll need to drive to avoid getting stuck at a red light.

How to use recovery mode to fix your Android phone or tablet

If you’re having a problem you can’t seem to resolve with your Android device, or maybe you want to update it or wipe the cache, recovery mode could be what you’re looking for. Here's how to use it.
Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Smart Home

Drinkworks and Keurig have created a pod-based cocktail machine

HomeBar, a collaboration between Drinkworks and Keurig, creates cocktails the easy way. The machine creates mixed drinks of all kinds. All you have to do is insert in the pod for the drink you want.

Zoom in on famous works through the Art Institute of Chicago’s new website

Art lovers, listen up. The Art Institute of Chicago has given its website a serious makeover with new features that let you get up close and personal with more than 50,000 artworks by famous (and not so famous) artists.

Over a million veterans now eligible for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program

Comcast's low-cost Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for just $10 per month, has expanded to include U.S. veterans. One million veterans now qualify for the service.

Google’s Squoosh will get an image web-ready with in-browser compression

Google's latest web app development is an image editing and compression tool, Squoosh. In just a few clicks, it can take a huge image and make it much lighter and web-friendly, all in your browser.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Social Media

‘Superwoman’ YouTuber Lilly Singh taking a break for her mental health

Claiming to be "mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted," popular YouTuber Lilly Singh has told her millions of fans she's taking a break from making videos in order to recuperate.
Smart Home

Amazon has a huge team dedicated to enhancing Alexa and Echo

An Amazon executive on Tuesday, November 13 revealed the huge size of the team that's tasked with developing the Echo, the company's smart speaker, and Alexa, the digital assistant that powers it.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Social Media

Going incognito: Here's how to appear offline on Facebook

How do you make sure your friends and family can't see if you're on Facebook, even if you are? Here, we'll show you how to turn off your active status on three different platforms, so you can browse Facebook without anyone knowing.

Our 10 favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.

Aussies hope free Wi-Fi on their beaches will lead to fewer drownings

Lifeguards in Australia have hit on an idea to use Wi-Fi to make the nation's beaches safer. It's a simple but clever idea that plays on our need to stay connected around the clock.