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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.

Business Finance

Personal finance steps every freelancer must take to avoid ruin

(FINANCE) The government shutdown showcased financial instability, but what do people that have no paycheck guarantee need to do to be secure?

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In light of the recent government shutdown, there has been a lot of attention in regards to how missing paychecks impacts the average American. Most Americans don’t have a regular savings account and could not handle a $1,000 emergency, let alone miss practically a month of pay.

While things look positive for the backpay of those government workers, we all could benefit from some careful reflection about the precarious nature of our personal finances.

Particularly those of us who don’t receive a regular paycheck.

Entrepreneurs and those invested in the gig economy have volatile incomes, and literally no promise of a paycheck ever – that can impact your personal finances in a number of ways.

Variable incomes are normal for this group and can impact entrepreneurs in ways as simple as handling debt.

If this is you – here a few things to keep in mind that can help you deal with the volatility of living on a variable income and handling your personal finances.  

  • Set up an emergency fund. Start with 500 if you have too, and remember this an emergency fund for your personal expenses, not your business. If you have an emergency fund, make sure you identify what an emergency is and also be prepared to put money back when it comes out. If you have a hard time not spending money in front of you, put your money in a local bank or CU that you don’t have immediate access too.
  • Stick to a budget. when you can’t forecast your income appropriately, controlling expenses is so critical it’s the few things that are in your control.
  • Don’t mix business with personal. While you may be pouring your personal energy and time into your start up or gig, be careful about mixing expenses for two reasons: First, it messes up your budget. You need to have separate budgets for personal and business. Second, there could be tax challenges – consult a tax professional for more information. Here’s a little primer to get you started.
  • Save for retirement. There are tax benefits and come on, don’t wait till you can’t work anymore. Also, an IRA IS NOT AN EMERGENCY FUND.
  • Practice good financial behaviors. Automate bill pay. Online statements. Digital receipt tracking. The more you can automate your life, the better you are. You already have so many demands on your time, reduce that so you can spend more time doing what you love and what matters.
  • Consider diversifying your income. Either ensure you have multiple strings or a backup gig (even if it’s just uber driving); or be prepared to do temporary or contract labor during your slow seasons.

The path to entrepreneurship is rough. What we can learn from the very struggles of the federal employees and the government shutdown is that if the government can be unstable, those of you who work in the world of startups, gigs, and entrepreneurship, need to be even more on our toes. The “normal recommendation” for saving is 10% of your income, but normal may not be enough for you. Be prepared and save (more).

Disclaimer: I am neither a tax or investment professional. This is personal financial advice and I encourage you to visit a professional if you need more specific plans of action.

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Business Finance

Delivery startups skim customer tips to pay employees #wth

(FINANCE) Grocery delivery startups are flourishing, but stealing from employees isn’t a sustainable move…

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Popular grocery app Instacart has been using customers’ tips to pay its guaranteed $10/hour rate to employees, rather than using the tips as, you know, bonus money paid to workers on top of their normal pay. The way that you’d expect something called a “tip” to work.

According to the report, “Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer’s predelivery, ‘up front’ tip to cover the difference. The ‘up front’ tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost.”

In this system, the customer’s tip for the deliverer subsidizes the company’s commitment to its employees. Once the change to the tipping policy was announced in workers began complaining about how it affected their earnings in 2017.

Even though the app’s customers have taken to social media to compare the policy to wage theft, the practice is actually legal. Because Instacart and other apps in the gig economy classify their workers as contractors instead of employees, they do technically still get 100 percent of the tips in their wages (even if the company doesn’t supply the same percentage of the wage they’d give the worker without the customer throwing in).

This kind of payment structure may be familiar to you if you’ve ever working in restaurants, bars, or another establishment that uses subminimum wages.

Sadly, Instacart is not the only grocery app that uses a dodgy tipping system. Shipt, DoorDash, and others have similar tipping policies. And they aren’t interested in changing them after all this week’s backlash.

If you’re concerned about making sure that you’re supporting the contractors for these grocery delivery services, some of the contracted workers have requested that you provide the tip in cash instead of tipping through the app and activating its algorithm.

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Tech News

How blockchain has the power to improve democracies

(TECH) Blockchain is changing the face of democracy with a magical fix to basically all the problems.

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Despite our best intentions to be active, informed citizens in democratic practices, not everyone has time, figuring out how to be engaged can be confusing, and reps don’t always vote how you want. Plus, confidence in Congress is hilariously/depressingly low with all the scandals and thinly veiled corporate interests.

Well hooray for the future, because now we have blockchain technology to propel us out of the murky waters of representative democracy and into a more efficient liquid democracy.

A liquid democracy platform, also referred to as delegative democracy, has voters select a personal representative as a proxy for their vote. In our current set up, elected representatives vote for things on your behalf, and the best you can do other than running for office yourself is call in and ask them to vote your way.

With a liquid democracy, everyone votes on each piece of legislation.

You can assign a delegate to vote on your behalf by proxy when you’re not available. Personal representatives can be removed and reassigned at any time unlike set terms for elected officials.

The delegate can even select a proxy for their votes, creating a directed network graph, where voters and politicians are connected on a publicly verified blockchain. Anyone can be selected as a delegate as long as they’re a legal resident of your jurisdiction registered to vote.

Quick refresher course: Blockchain is essentially a decentralized digital list of records with timestamps and transaction data information. Each individual record is considered a block, which is cryptographically secured and resistant to modification.

Blocks contain a cryptographic hash of the previous block, creating a chain. Once recorded, data cannot be altered without network majority consent. As an open, peer-to-peer distributed ledger, blockchain is a permanent and efficient way to record transactions.

Used by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 for cryptocurrency exchange to create Bitcoin, blockchain has now expanded to the healthcare industry, banking, and now potentially democratic practices.

David Ernst, one of the leaders of the liquid democracy movement, founded United.vote, a platform established to get the ball rolling. The site helps connect voters to personal representatives, and provides a scorecard that tracks how elected politicians’ votes compare to constituents wishes.

“What if instead centralizing authority into the hands of a few strong men, we expanded political power to many, many more voices,” Ernst suggested at the 2017 CyFy conference.

His plan to expand power is liquid democracy via the United.vote platform, which he notes is backwards-compatible with our current system. Ernst is also running as an independent candidate for California Assembly District 19.

He was partially inspired by the Flux Party’s 2016 campaign in Australia, who tried to implement an issue-based direct democracy similar to liquid democracy. Although the party only got 0.15 percent of the vote nationwide, Ernst stands by the idea.

A liquid democracy via blockchain would theoretically increase accountability, participation, and representation.

Through direct participation and personal representation, elections would no longer be necessary.

Instead, voters simply choose someone to represent them, and can select a different person for individual issues. Delegation can be changed at any time, so you’re not stuck with someone if they end up being a total weasel.

So far, only a little over one thousand people have signed up for United.vote, but Ernst stated, “If I got elected, but only 20 people were actually using [the platform], I would still follow those people.”

Although the concept may be ahead of its time (and possibly a wishful Utopian dream), Ernst is confident that these changes can fix democracy.

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