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Google Lens will soon let you search via picture in real time

(TECH NEWS) Google Lens is an incredible augmented reality tool that could change how we all search online, and you can have it in a few months, get ready!

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google lens AR

Move over, hoverboards

Guys. Guys. I can’t even believe this. I don’t want a jetpack anymore. Or a flying car. I’m even okay not having a hoverboard! Real talk: I should never have any of those things. I’m a klutz. Klutz plus flying machines without safety features equals a very stylish hospital visit.

That’s OK. This is the future I want, a Google-Lens-erific future.

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That is to say, I want systematically integrated augmented reality (AR). AR has been a buzzword in the tech world for almost as long as virtual reality (VR), albeit with fewer hilariously failed attempts. The tl;dr on augmented reality is that it integrates digital info into the real world for you, making you more aware and bringing more options to your attention than boring old sense input and social cues.

You’ve already used AR, friends

AR’s not new. If you’ve used Foursquare or played Pokemon Go, you and AR have met: digital info linked to real-world objects and spaces. Google in particular has gone to great lengths in the AR space with Maps, Earth etc., which is why it can get you to a meeting, then find you a Starbucks afterward. Well, it’s the 21st century: you can pretty much blindfold yourself, point in a random direction and find a Starbucks, probably without taking the blindfold off, but you know what I mean.

For all that Google makes everything from chatty robots to intimidating cameras now, it still has its roots in a search engine. Nobody’s better than Google at providing users with data. They’re the company that gets you the info.

Why the upcoming Google Lens is so exciting

At Google I/O, their big developer gathering, CEO Sundar Pichai announced a new functionality: AR through your phone camera. Per the announcement, it’s going to start as a component of Google Assistant and Google Photos, interfacing publicly available data with your personal files.

Got a picture of a flower? It’ll give you genus and species. Local restaurant looks yummy? Snap a pic; it’ll tell you the hours.

Sounds convenient, right? But it is, or could be, so much more.

It has been noted that the Information Revolution comes down to the fact that we digitally enabled types now have the ability to delegate parts of our brains. A computer, after all, is only what you put into it: a box of memory. That’s how we use our computers and phones and digital sundries. Type is more comprehensible than handwriting, Facebook posts are faster than “thank you” notes, LinkedIn gets more eyeballs than a resume, but it’s all still us, our work, composed and conveyed in a convenient form. Computers make our lives easier.

AR makes our lives so much better

AR makes our lives bigger. Done right, it’s the smooth, non-invasive interface by which we can integrate as much or as little as we want of the Internet’s consensual hive mind into our non-digital lives.

It’s the difference between noticing a pretty flower and knowing what it is and how to care for it, so a month from now you have a windowbox full.

It’s how you get past picking your Friday night dive from the phonebook (or a Google search) in favor of telling a tiny robot you feel like a Hendricks and tonic and it finding the place 15 strangers agree does the best one.

My favorite: it’s about holding your phone up and, for the first time, being able to read the daily inspiration at the Korean church you’ve walked past every morning for a year. AR means if someone who uses Google speaks Korean, so do you.

Crowdsourced wisdom. I know this is geek blasphemy, but for real – that’s cooler than a hoverboard.Click To Tweet

Google Lens is set to be launched later in the year and be integrated into the Google Assistant, already available on Android smartphones.

#GoogleLens

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Real Estate Technology

Is Internet access a basic human right? T-mobile thinks so

(TECH NEWS) Last year, T-Mobile announced a plan to bring free and at-cost internet access to 10 million homes in the US; 2020 has made this mission crucial.

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Student viewing internet on tablet.

Modern classrooms practically require students to have access to the internet in order to succeed. This was the case well before COVID forced a national switch to remote online learning.

It’s hard enough to rely on public computers and WiFi networks to complete school work under ordinary circumstances — and I speak from experience there. But campuses, libraries, and cafes are still closed or limiting access in most places. The school year is already a month in progress, yet the struggle to get online is still too real.

This was captured perfectly in a photo that received viral attention on Instagram when the fall semester started: Two teenagers seated on the ground outside of a Salinas Taco Bell, using the restaurant’s internet for their schoolwork.

Fortunately, in their case, the girls’ school district was able to help them obtain a Wi-Fi hotspot. And they’re continuing to distribute hotspots and laptops widely to its student body.

In light of this, T-Mobile is investing $10.7 billion dollars over the next 10 years into ensuring youth are no longer put into situations like that. The company is partnering up with school districts to provide students with a free wifi hotspot and 100 GB of data year (or roughly 8 GB of data per month).

An estimated 16.9 million US youth currently lack internet. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Matt Staneff cites his concern that a majority of school-age kids consider homework to be a major source of stress in their lives.

Of course, telecommunications companies are clearly aware of how much our educational systems depend on the internet. It is unquestionably the most comprehensive collection of human knowledge and culture ever. It can no longer be considered just a luxury or a novelty. It’s a critical tool for academic and career success.

While he acknowledged the potential business opportunity in providing schools with internet connectivity, Stanek claims T-Mobile’s intentions are good. He stated, “We recognize there’s a problem in society of kids not being connected. We want to do more than just try to win customers. This is a huge problem.”

Staneff concedes that suitable Internet access extends to hardware, too: “[sometimes students] need a bigger screen, which is why [T- Mobile is] also offering at-cost, larger-screen devices.”

But even if T-Mobile has the best intentions, the fact remains that they aren’t a charity. Service providers like T-Mobile would probably not be too happy about the lost “business opportunity,” should tablets and internet access be made freely available to every student. The schools are public, and they rely on the internet, yet the internet is privatized.

The responsibility to solve the civic issues brought on by the pandemic is increasingly falling onto the private sector. If T-Mobile is willing to offer the money and infrastructure to help kids get an education, that’s a step in the right direction.

Yet it prompts the question: Should we consider internet access to be a human right? Because as long as the web remains corporately controlled and commodified, the access gap will persist and our schools will pay the price.

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Real Estate Technology

The real reasons we’re all obsessed with spy machines (I mean smart speakers)

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Regardless of privacy issues with them, what does information about smart speakers, ownership, and usage tell us about future trends?

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smart speakers scare me

I don’t trust smart speakers, but even I can (begrudgingly) admit why they might be convenient. With just a simple wake word, I would be able to do anything from inquire about the weather or turn down my own music from across the room. And the thing is, plenty of people have bought into this sort of sales pitch. In fact, the worldwide revenue of smart speakers more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. And it’s projected that by 2022, the total revenue from smart speakers will reach almost $30 billion.

With over 25% of adults in the United States owning at least one smart speaker, it’s worth figuring out how we’re using this new tech…and how it could be used against us.

First things first: despite the horror stories we hear about voice-command shopping – like when a pet parrot figured out how to make purchases on Alexa – people aren’t really using their smart speakers to buy things. In fact, in the list of top ten uses for a smart speaker, making a purchase is at the bottom.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, though, it’s worth knowing where advertisements might crop up in more subtle places.

Sure, people aren’t using their smart speakers to make many purchases, but they’re still using the speakers for other things – primarily asking questions and getting updates on things like weather and traffic. And I get it, why scroll through the internet looking for an answer that Alexa might be able to pull up for you instantly?

That said, it also provides marketers with a great opportunity to advertise to you in a way that feels conversational. Imagine asking about a wait time for a popular restaurant. If the wait is too long, it creates the perfect opportunity for Alexa to suggest UberEats as an alternative (promotion paid for by UberEats, of course).

Don’t get me wrong, this is already happening when you search Google on your phone or computer. Search for a tire company, for instance, and the competitors are sure to appear in your results. But as more and more consumers start turning their attention to smart speakers, it’s worth being aware that they won’t be the only ones.

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Real Estate Technology

Curated newsletters help you learn literally anything you want

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) All the news you could ask for in a large quantity of topics, from independent journalists brought to you in a neat looking Newsletter Stack.

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Newsletter Stack

To say it has never been more important to stay up-to-date on world news than it is right now doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch, but the issue of where to start can be so daunting as to overwhelm people–a problem that Newsletter Stack attempts to fix, and quite handily at that.

Newsletter Stack is a curated news service that delivers “unfiltered and fresh takes” from independent journalists on a variety of topics (56, to be exact). These topics are expansive and range from things like artificial intelligence and technology to think-pieces on pop culture and wellness, and one can browse by featured collections–for example, “Adult Picture Books” or “Emerging Markets”–for a more immersive experience.

Should the urge strike, one might also find themselves browsing the reading materials of other curators, a list found immediately below the Newsletter Stack collections library. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice touch for anyone looking to consume information they know is interesting to like-minded (or dramatically dissonant) individuals.

Newsletter Stack even has a section of their website dedicated to news submissions if you come across a piece that fits their aesthetic. That aesthetic is actually a huge selling point for the service; while plenty of inbox news subscriptions (and even more established services like Apple News) allow you to curate topics and sources to your liking, Newsletter Stack places a heavy emphasis on independent authorship.

In an effort to be as transparent as possible, one can browse a list of all current curators on the service’s website, search through their reading preferences, and see their recommendations.

Independence in an age of digital literacy metrics might be a sticking point for some folks, but Newsletter Stack makes it clear that they aren’t anti-mainstream media. In fact, it seems that the point behind this news subscription is much less holistic than other services (again, inbox subscriptions fall into this trap). At no point does Newsletter Stack make the claim that they should be one’s only source of news, and that’s incredibly important.

If you’re at all interested in expanding your knowledge using independent authors, and a clean interface, Newsletter Stack deserves a few minutes of your time.

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