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b8ta is here, in Austin, to make all of your tech dreams come true

(TECH NEWS) b8ta retail store opens on May 20th at the Domain Northside.

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b8ta

Internet brought to life

There are tons of startup tech companies with innovative products that are ready to solve problems and/or add a little whimsy to life for as many people as possible. Unfortunately for the problem-riddled world, many of these startups only exist on the internet, and don’t have the resources for brick and mortar stores. Most tech products are really best experienced in person, not in a video online.

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An up and coming software-driven retailer is out to disrupt that disconnect between awesome products and the people who want to try and buy them. b8ta is a “retail destination” that features popular tech products, and they’ve announced that a new store will open in Austin’s Domain NORTHSIDE on Saturday, May 20.

b8ta

b8ta has adopted a retail-as-service model. That means that makers of awesome products can lease space in the storefront, and keep all the proceeds from any sales made in store. The retailer is also powered by software, which tracks the highest performing products and cycles products in and out on a month to month basis.

This is super cool both for makers looking for a chance to prove themselves, and for consumers looking for new products and experiences each month.

Designed by international architecture firm Gensler, the Austin location will feature over 3,000 square feet and more than 100 cutting edge products, including Soundwall, a flat panel speaker that can also serve as décor, and a Bluetooth-powered Neo Smartpen that captures data in the cloud as you write.

Numero quatro

This marks the fourth location for b8ta, which opened their first location in Palo Alto in 2015, followed by retail spaces in Seattle, Santa Monica, and now Austin. Located in a trendy new shopping district, the Austin store marks b8ta’s first departure from the West Coast, and will be its largest store to date.

The newest location will also feature a live performance area, and a space dedicated to emerging categories such as connected kitchens, like the June Intelligent Oven.

The Austin store will feature a range of popular consumer tech products, including the connected home robot by OhmniLabs, Soundwall, a flat panel speaker that doubles as art and a bluetooth Neo Smartpen that writes like a regular pen but captures information in the cloud.

where tech and real life meet

b8ta CEO and co-founder Vibhu Norby says the goal of the innovative retailer is to offer technology makers a cost-effective path to connecting with the public in real life. “The high tech products that we bring in are made by both engineers and artisans, and those makers are creating our new software-driven and networked culture. You couldn’t pick a better city than Austin for b8ta to open, the perfect melting pot of technology, arts, and culture.”

“b8ta empowers the entrepreneurs creating today’s most innovative products by making retail accessible to them—not just to the big companies that can traditionally afford a retail presence,” Vibhu said.

“At the same time, customers can expect to discover a variety of technology products they likely haven’t seen before, with inventory that changes monthly and a chance to touch, play, and learn about the latest innovations just coming onto the market.”

Real life experience

Ultimately, b8ta’s goal is to get cutting edge products into physical stores, and to facilitate real experiences for customers. Since their launch in 2015, b8ta has trained employees (“b8ta testers”) which have engaged with over 5.3 million shoppers, and led over 27,000 demos.
The retail-as-service model could be the saving grace of the struggling brick and mortar retail industry. Providing a real hands-on experience, and constantly evolving merchandise with a human element (here are the makers, here are their stories) gives customers something they just can’t get online

#b8ta

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

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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facebook badges

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 video updates

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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phishing simulator

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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