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Giant nerd fight over which AR is better: Google’s or Apple’s

(TECH NEWS) The Tortoise and the Hare: The race for the unveiling of new AR between Apple and Google. Which is superior (or is it too early to tell)?

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AR the answer we’re looking for?

Let’s get real. Better yet, let’s not.

Reality, at least before it’s been improved by human engagement, is super overrated. I mean, at this very moment, you’re reading a thing made by a person, on another thing made by a person, through an interface made by a person, on and on through a millennia-deep stack (thanks, ancient Phoenicians!), every last bit of it driven by that most human of motivations: this reality could be better.

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Augmented reality, little “r,” is straight up what makes us human: the desire for life to mean more than the “selfish gene.” Augmented Reality, big “R,” is the ongoing metatech project to incorporate more human knowledge and creation into day to day experience.

AR Revolution

Frankly, it hasn’t been going great. To date, AR has either been a catastrophe: looking at you, Google Glass (because I know you’re looking right back at me, you creepy so-and-so), or a pleasant but slight diversion. I’ve got nothing but love for Pokemon Go, but a revolution in consciousness it is not, unless I’ve missed some cosmic insights from my Popplio.

But an awful lot of smart people think that revolution is still coming: that the next step beyond voice control and AI is no interface at all but rather integration of technological solutions into fundamental humanity, things as basic as perception and reflex.

As with every great achievement, a bunch of nerds are presently fighting over who gets to sell it. Apple and Google are unsurprisingly in the lead. Here follows a state of play on the two big AR solutions.

First up, Apple

Short version: Apple’s ARKit developer package is the clear frontrunner when it comes to putting augmented reality in a form people will actually use.

It’s in deep with the devs, it’s closer to implementation than the Google solution, and it’s compatible with products consumers already have.

If there’s a shadow on that sunny outlook, it’s not the tech so much as the Apple business model.

Good: Apple’s AR solution, the catchily named ARKit, is compatible with any device running iOS 11.

Devs are already all over it, and common-sense implementations of augmented reality like measuring real-world distance with your phone camera are making their way through the series of tubes as we speak, shortly to be available to iOS users all over the world.

Less good: It’s iOS, which is to say, go Apple or go home. Obviously the dev kit itself is OS-restricted, and there’s every reason to expect the apps will be too. If augmented reality is meant to be the market-wide paradigm shift smart people keep predicting, as opposed to a single-platform showpiece, the “none of it, ever” Apple approach to compatibility will be a serious problem.

That’s a prediction and I’d love to be wrong, but the Colossus of Cupertino has rolled that way since their best hardware’s big pitch was that it came in different colors.

Whether AR is a fad or a gamechanger is likely to depend on whether third-party developers are willing to go bigger.

Looking at you, Google

Short version: Google took the first big swing at AR with Glass, which whiffed badly. Their current solution, Google Tango, could be a repeat of that fiasco, or a measured step forward with lessons thoroughly learned.

Good: It’s not Glass.

The new Google Tango is deliberately limited in scope, built on a basis of apps you use by choice rather than systems that run passively regardless of your or other people’s preferences. Unlike ARKit it’s also fully implemented: Tango-enabled hardware comes ready for apps as useful as interior design with your camera, letting you drop virtual objects into actual space to see how it fits and looks.

Think “The Sims,” only you’re the Sim and it’s your real house, which is frankly more meta than I’m prepared to deal with – and as goofy as “Bubbles,” which, yep, lets you blow and pop digital bubbles that move like they’re in the room.

The Android-based system, developed in collaboration with dozens of other companies and debuted on a Lenovo machine, also means less compatibility issues than Apple…

Less good: …in theory.

The big minus with Google Tango is the same as the big plus: it’s fully implemented – if you have the hardware to handle it.

At the moment that means a big honkin’ phablet: the Lenovo Phab 2 it debuted on is 6 inches, 3 cameras, and $500 of “if a mommy tablet and a daddy smartphone love each other very much.”

The second Tango-enabled box will be the Asus Zenfone due out this summer, and is expected to be equally Beast Mode in its proportions. Compared to downloading a thing onto your iPhone and playing with it, elegant, this ain’t.

Also, while multiple brands and platforms are lovely, iPhone market saturation means far, far(just stupidly far), more people will be able to play with ARKit than Tango unless Google seriously steps up.

We’ve got a ways to go

One way or another, AR will be a big thing. I mean, it was a big thing, like 500 million downloads big, when it just meant being paparazzi for Pocket Monsters.

If neither leading solution is ready yet, and at the moment that seems to be the case, take that as another indicator of just how major of an event real implementation of augmented reality will be.

Ask your local Phoenician.

#arhype

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.

Tech News

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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