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4 things you need to know about Amazon’s pay-by-palm service

(TECH NEWS) Amazon One uses biometric palm reading, which sounds like science fiction. But here’s a few things you may want to know before you try it out.

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Amazon One ID palm scanner with blue and white background, hand held over it.

We’d all like to wave a hand and make money magically appear. Amazon wants you to wave your hand to make money disappear into its coffers with its new Amazon One payment service.

That’s based on biometrics, not magic.

Amazon One’s FAQ says its purpose is to simplify everyday interactions by letting you use your palm to pay, enter, or identify yourself. It’s designed to be simple, fast, and best of all, contactless. Once you sign up, you don’t have to touch anything again.

Whether you think that sounds cool or creepy, you should know a few things about it and how it works.

1. A scanner will create an image of your palm that is then associated with your credit card.

To sign up, you place your palm over an Amazon One imaging device. That will create a “palm signature” based on your unique identifying features, such as the ridges, lines, and veins in your hand. Your palm’s image is linked with a credit card you put into the device. If you want, you can scan your other palm, too.

To use your palm, you hover it over the Amazon One device for a second or two. Requiring that “intentional act,” Amazon says, lets you maintain control over when it’s used.

2. You can try your hand at using Amazon One to pay at two Amazon Go stores in Seattle.

Before you shop at an Amazon Go convenience store, you place your phone – or now your palm – over the device at the entrance to initiate your purchase. Cameras and sensors throughout the store note what you put in your shopping bag. Amazon already knows what you’ve bought, so there’s no waiting in a checkout line. Your purchases get charged to your credit card, letting you fulfill the stores’ slogan, “Just walk out.”

Using a phone requires the Amazon or Amazon Go app. You don’t need an app for Amazon One unless you want to keep a running list of what you’ve bought.

3. Amazon envisions third parties using it as an additional payment method or for identification.

That would mean you could pay with your palm at retail stores, maybe shaving off the couple of seconds it takes to take out and put back your credit card. Bonus: Neither you nor the cashier has to touch your card. Other bonus: You can’t lose it or leave it in the car.

People might also use it for badging in at work or going through security at a stadium, Amazon says.

TheVerge.com says that’s potentially a problem: “Amazon One isn’t a payment technology. It’s an identity technology, and one that could give Amazon more reach into your life than ever before.”

4. Privacy and security could be real issues with a company that some people think already knows too much about us.

Amazon says the palm images are encrypted and securely stored in the cloud, not on the device. Also, because using your palm requires an intentional action, only you decide where and when to use Amazon One. So many questions: Do we want Amazon to know more about us? Could the technology be used for some kind of surveillance? Could hackers access the image of your palm – and what could they do with it?

There’s something a little disconcerting about using our bodies as tech devices or, in Amazon One’s case, as something that is essentially a password. This feels somewhat less creepy than inserting microchips under your skin, which became all the rage in Sweden in 2018. The chips are designed to do things like unlock doors, store information like emergency contacts or carry e-tickets for events or train tickets. But under our skin?

With Amazon One, we’re just starting to read the future of our palms. Stay tuned.

Lisa Wyatt Roe is an Austin writer and editor whose work has been featured on CNN.com/Travel, in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine and in the book “Seduced by Sound: Austin; 100 Musicians on Why They Make Music.” Travel and live music feed her soul. Volunteering with refugees feeds her sense of purpose. And making friends laugh feeds her deep (yet possibly sad) need to get all the laughing emojis on Facebook.

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iOS 15 beta has blur nude photos opt-in, but its not without fault

(TECH NEWS) To protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos.

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Woman looking at Apple iPhone representing new iOS 15 beta that will blur nude photos.

In a move to protect children from explicit content, the most recent beta version of iOS 15 includes a feature that allows users to blur nude photos received in the Messages app. Amid privacy concerns, the feature has yet to be released.

The option to blur nude photos is opt-in, reports The Verge, and does not prevent users from choosing to view the photos in question even after being implemented.

This iteration of the feature is distinct from the original one insofar as it will no longer alert a parent or guardian when nude photos are encountered. While this may seem like a controversial change, several experts pointed out that exposing nude content on a child’s device in some households could result in abuse or, as Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic instructor Kendra Albert suggests, the outing of “queer or transgender children to their parents.”

With the most recent version of this feature enabled, children who receive inappropriate photos via the Messages app would be able to do two things: choose to avoid (or see) the content, and choose to send a report to a trusted adult if they see fit to do so.

Blurring photos is just one of several aspects of Apple’s Communication Safety suite, a feature that aims to prevent child sex abuse by making it easier for children to avoid and report predatory content.

 

Child on electronic device- iOS 15 beta that will allow blur nude photos should protect children.

Another feature that Apple has tested – but not released – is their Child Sex Abuse Imagery Detection (CSAM-detection), which scans and reports iCloud content that shows child pornography or abuse to Apple moderators for further review. As one can imagine, the feature drew mixed criticism, the majority of which came from privacy advocates.

While the vast majority of humanity can (hopefully) agree that fighting against child exploitation is a noble cause, these groups argue that scanning and reporting individuals’ personal photos via an algorithm opens the door to government interference and increased surveillance. Switching the algorithm’s baseline to scan for things like anti-government content, for example, would be easy, these groups posit, making the feature extremely dangerous in principle.

There is no current release date set for any of these aforementioned features, though iPhone users can reasonably expect them to drop at some point during iOS 15’s development.

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Amazon Music debuts synchronized text transcripts for popular podcasts

(TECH) The first feature to hit Amazon Music is auto-generated and synchronized text transcripts for their most popular podcast shows. Sign us up!

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Amazon Music Transcripts

Amazon set out to accelerate the growth and evolution of podcasts last year by acquiring the podcasting network, Wondery. Now, the company is doing just that with the launch of its auto-generated and synchronized podcast transcripts feature on Amazon Music.

According to an Amazon Music tweet, with this feature, you’ll be able to “Roll it back, jump ahead, and follow along” with the podcast you’re listening to. For instance, you can scrub through the transcript to find that line of text with that quote or movie and book suggestion you can’t quite remember. When you tap on a particular line of text in the transcript, you’ll be able to jump straight into that specific part of the podcast. I can already see all the time saved! But, if you just want to read along as you listen, you can do that, too. The transcript will match the audio as you’re hearing it.

Right now, the company is only rolling out podcast transcripts in the US on both iOS and Android devices. When it will expand to other countries isn’t known, and the feature isn’t available for all podcasts yet. For now, it is only available on a selection of popular podcasts like Smartless, Crime Junkie, This American Life, Uncommon Ground, and Modern Love, but more are coming.

Amazon Music Homescreen

To use it, all you have to do is open the podcasts tab on Amazon Music and select one of the podcasts you’d like to listen to. Of course, you’ll need to select a show with the podcast transcription feature to see it. When your show is playing, on the top of the album art and in fullscreen mode, the transcriptions will be available for you to read along to.

Oh, and if you’re worried about having to read through the ads, you have nothing to fret about. Ads won’t be transcribed. Instead, the transcription will read “audio not transcribed” when they are playing.

So far, Amazon seems to be going strong in the podcasting game with the release of podcast transcripts. The feature makes it easy to search and find what you are looking for in a show. And, for those on a long and noisy bus and subway ride, you’ll finally be able to read the information you previously couldn’t hear.

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UX design: If you don’t have it, get yourself an audit made easy

(TECH NEWS) UX design is important. By conducting a simple audit to make sure your site is accessible, you can minimize the number of people that quickly go away.

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Two UX design people standing in front of a whiteboard with a UX map.

A good UX design is essential in attracting and retaining customers. A seamless and positive experience will keep customers happy and bring your business many benefits, like increasing audience engagement and sales.

But, how do you know if your user experience is in need of help, so people don’t bounce away quickly? Well, if UX is not your forte, the best thing to do is to hire a good UX designer. Unfortunately, sometimes hiring one isn’t always within the budget.

So, what do you do then? The next best thing is to conduct a UX audit of your website or app. Not sure where to begin? Fulcrum’s Do It Yourself UX Audit kit is one place to start.

According to the website, this DIY UX audit “can help you gain valuable insights about the usability of your product.” The tool detects problems in your UX, prioritizes them for you, and finds out how you can fix any existing issues.

The tool is made out of free easy-to-use Notion templates. These UX audit checklists are all customizable, and you can print them or save them on your Notion dashboard to use later.

Inside each template, there are cards with descriptions and examples. Depending on if you meet certain criteria or not, you drag and drop the card into the “Yes” or “No” column. When you’re finished, you will easily see what issues you have, and you can work on fixing them.

The templates are divided into Junior and Middle-level templates.

The Junior level has templates for things such as field and forms, login, mobile UX, and architecture. Most of these templates help make sure you cover your basic UX bases. For instance, it looks at whether your website is desktop and mobile-friendly, and if each element makes sense and is easily identifiable.

The Middle Level dives in a little deeper. The “Visibility of system status” audit checks if you are keeping your audience informed on what’s going on. Things like battery life, loading, or Wi-Fi connection indicators can make a huge difference. No one wants to stare at a screen with no clue if what they clicked on is working or not.

If you can afford it and want a UX virtuoso to do the work for you, you can get a UX audit from Fulcrum. The experts will conduct a full-fledged UX audit and create wireframes with solutions for your UX issues.

However, no matter how you go about it, a good UX design is important. Higher rate conversions and user retention won’t happen if your product is just pushing people away.

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