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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

Quickly delete years of your stupid Facebook updates

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Digital clutter sucks. Save time and energy with this new Chrome extension for Facebook.

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When searching for a new job, it’s always a good idea to scan your social media presence to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure with offensive or immature posts.

In fact, you should regularly check your digital life even if you’re not on the job hunt. You never know when friends, family, or others are going to rabbit hole into reading everything you’ve ever posted.

Facebook is an especially dangerous place for this since the social media giant has been around for over fourteen years. Many accounts are old enough to be in middle school now.

If you’ve ever taken a deep dive into your own account, you may have found some unsavory posts you couldn’t delete quickly enough.

We all have at least one cringe-worthy post or picture buried in years of digital clutter. Maybe you were smart from the get-go and used privacy settings. Or maybe you periodically delete posts when Memories resurfaces that drunk college photo you swore wasn’t on the internet anymore.

But digging through years of posts is time consuming, and for those of us with accounts older than a decade, nearly impossible.

Fortunately, a new Chrome extension can take care of this monotonous task for you. Social Book Post Manager helps clean up your Facebook by bulk deleting posts at your discretion.

Instead of individually removing posts and getting sucked into the ensuing nostalgia, this extension deletes posts in batches with the click of a button.

Select a specific time range or search criteria and the tool pulls up all relevant posts. From here, you decide what to delete or make private.

Let’s say you want to destroy all evidence of your political beliefs as a youngster. Simply put in the relevant keyword, like a candidate or party’s name, and the tool pulls up all posts matching that criteria. You can pick and choose, or select all for a total purge.

You can also salt the earth and delete everything pre-whatever date you choose. I could tell Social Book to remove everything before 2014 and effectively remove any proof that I attended college.

Keep in mind, this tool only deletes posts and photos from Facebook itself. If you have any savvy enemies who saved screenshots or you cross-posted, you’re out of luck.

The extension is free to use, and new updates support unliking posts and hiding timeline items. Go to town pretending you got hired on by the Ministry of Truth to delete objectionable history for the greater good of your social media presence.

PS: If you feel like going full scorched Earth, delete everything from your Facebook past and then switch to this browser to make it harder for Facebook to track you while you’re on the web.

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Why are all apps starting to look exactly the same?

(TECHNOLOGY) As apps evolve, they are beginning to look uniform – is this a good or bad thing?

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Have you noticed that all apps are beginning to look a lot alike? Many popular social media apps are utilizing minimalist designs, featuring lots of black and white with negative space and little color.

At a glance, you may not be able to differentiate what’s Airbnb and what’s Instagram. Normally, something like this could be argued to be unoriginal and boring. However, let’s look at the positives.

If every app – for the most part – is operating with the same design, they’re not trying to constantly one-up each other with the next big look. As a result, they have more time to focus on what’s important – the content found on the app and the functions of the app.

While many apps offer similar features (like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram both having Stories), every social media app has its own flair that keeps users coming back. And, user retention is higher if they feel comfortable using the app – which is another plus of them all having similar designs.

If you have 12 different social media apps with 12 different interfaces and means of operation, it’s unlikely that a user will keep up with all 12. But, if they know exactly how to use them, the user can flip back and forth like it’s nothing.

However, “app fatigue is a real thing,” said Yaz of UX Collective. “Most people have grown tired of bouncing between too many apps or learning how to use a new interface after every new download.”

Below is Yaz’s exploration of the uniformity in apps:

Research has found that a quarter of all apps are deleted after just one use. People tend to stick with the apps that they have found made a positive impact in their lives – either for communication with others or apps that save them time.

Uniformity means developers can spend more of their time on creating the content that will aid in better communication and more time saving options.

Again, what it comes down to is the content and function. That’s where the true creativity comes in. People aren’t using Airbnb because the app or the website are ridiculously exciting; they’re using it because it offers a service that is beneficial.

What are your thoughts on app uniformity? Unoriginal, or a stepping stone for what’s really important?

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Tech News

Google Home Hub is a camera-free (yay!) smart home control center

(TECH) The Google Home Hub will soon ship to homes and offices, and they might win in the long run for simply not including a camera – why?

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We all know this classic problem. Technology gets more and more capable and convenient every day, but with that convenience comes a risk to your privacy. Sure, you’d like to get a smart home set up in your house, but you don’t need hackers, corporations, or The Man listening in on your private conversations, or peeping in on you from your own private camera system. While I personally subscribe to the philosophy of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it,” but for the rest of you there is now hope.

Google has unveiled the new Google Home Hub, a device that acts as a brain for all the other “smart” electronics on your property. Whether it’s lights, thermostats, locks or even (if you must) security cameras, your smart tech will need a hub to be the go-between for all this technology.

Warning: before you watch this video, know that he says “Hey Google” several times and will set off all of your Google devices. You’ve been warned.

While other similar devices exist on the market (such as the Amazon Echo Show) what sets the Home Hub apart is the fact that no camera exists on the device. If you decide to disable the microphone as well, then suddenly you have a smart home that absolutely, positively, under no conditions can ever see you naked.

This decision was deliberate on Google’s part. With many holdouts still desiring security over comfort, Google’s not including video cameras in their Home Hub could mean deeper market penetration for a more wary customer base.

There are other considerations to take as well. The lack of camera means the device is cheaper to produce and sell. The Google Home Hub will retail at $149, about $80 cheaper than their closest competitor, the Amazon Echo Show. On the downside, no camera means that video calls through the device are not possible (though nearly any smart phone can do this for free, so it’s not really much of a downside).

Aside from the lack of camera, the Google Home Hub functions similarly to the Amazon Echo Show (that is, as a very specialized tablet you stand up in a corner and don’t move around too much). It connects to not only all your smart tech but also all your Google accounts.

You can check your mail, access photo collections, play music, look up directions, or even watch youtube videos. About they only thing they don’t seem to be able to do is interact with Amazon products, meaning those of us with a collection of Amazon Echo Dots around the house will need to wait a bit before wading into these new, secure, camera-less waters.

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