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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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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

Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller

(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.

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Google Meet Series One is a new meeting kit that puts people first.

Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.

Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”

The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.

The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”

These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”

According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”

Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.

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Tech News

One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data

(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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Man walking on crosswalk with phone, but his private data could be vulnerable.

By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.

How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.

At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.

Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.

With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.

This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.

Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.

If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.

These and other tips can be a great way to help you avoid not just geofence warrants, but others who want to use your electronic information for their own gain.

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Tech News

Incoming! Amazon drones will be dropping off packages soon (we hope)

(TECH NEWS) The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Amazon for drone delivery service, but when will the drones actually take flight?

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One of Prime Air's drones ready for test flights.

Amazon has finally received the stamp of approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to deliver packages by drones. This pivotal step brings the online retailer closer to their promise of delivering packages to customers in 30 minutes or less.

In 2013, during CBS’s “60 Minutes” interview, Amazon CEO and Founder, Jeff Bezos, said drones would be delivering customers’ packages within five years. Although the estimate is a couple of years off, it seems like that day might be right around the corner.

Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when little floating presents are sailing through the sky (Animal Crossing balloons, anyone?). Despite our excitement to see our latest Amazon impulse purchase land on our doorstep, it isn’t going to happen overnight.

The Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate Amazon obtained for its fleet of Prime Air drones will allow the company to use unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) “to carry the property of another for compensation beyond visual line of sight.” Although the FAA certification is allowing Amazon to begin test trials, Bloomberg reports that the retail giant still has “regulatory and technical hurdles” to overcome.

In addition, the FAA has yet to set regulations that will “serve as a framework to expand drone flights over crowds, a building block necessary for deliveries.” Amazon hasn’t said when and where it will start testing the delivery service either.

David Carbon, Amazon Vice President who oversees Prime Air, made this statement: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world.”

This approval is definitely a step forward, but Amazon has been working on the drone delivery service for years. Early last year, the giant retailer revealed they would start offering one-day shipping. They have followed through on this, at least. And during a Las Vegas Conference in June 2019, they revealed their “fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles and deliver packages under five pounds to customers in less than 30 minutes.” But it still doesn’t answer when we can expect to see whizzing drones overhead.

I’m not sure when Amazon will fulfill their last promise. But it is getting closer. What I do know is that I look forward to the Amazon drones taking flight. I can’t wait to place my orders knowing that I will get that last-minute present I ordered just in time.

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