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Could this be the first successful AR chat app thanks to the popularity of Pokémon Go?

(TECH NEWS) Now, with the unrelenting popularity of Pokémon Go, this technology may have room to take off.

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Designed for in-game conversation

It’s not uncommon to see auxiliary apps piggy-back on the success of successful apps. However, sometimes you get more than your bargain for.

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Take Jonathan Zarra, the developer of Go chat. This auxiliary chat app pairs with the Pokémon Go so players can converse to exchange in-game information. The app hosts over a million users, is the 8th most-downloaded social networking app and would require another $4,000 worth of server space to support the new users, according to an interview with Zarra.

Share information, locations and add friends

The app works in tandem with major game markers: Pokestops, which supply critical in-game items, and gyms, where users can send their Pokémon to fight against other trainers. Users within close-enough proximity to these locations can chat with other nearby users. This can be used to share information about battling, catching Pokémon in the wild, and the location of other Pokestops and gyms. You can also add your friends to a list so you can message them more often.

It’s also proven itself to be an effective social tool for gamers. Many players have organized real-life meet ups through the app, according to an article from Polygon. In that same piece from The Verge, Zarra said a user told him he organized a date through the app.

Frees servers for bug fixes

It seems almost shocking that the Pokémon Go app itself didn’t come with any social interaction functionality. However, given the app’s lack of ability to handle its current server requirements, it’s pretty clear that the developers behind this game are working a pretty lean model. For them, this app could be key to reducing their workload while adding a feature that users clearly want, based on the number using it right now. If it works, this strategy could help Niantic and The Pokémon Company add capabilities without a lot of their own bandwidth, freeing them up to set up new servers and fix bugs in the game.

Not the first of its kind, but possibly the first successful

This AR chat app is far from the first of its kind. Others, like TagWhat, came before it to offer information overlaid onto a map. However, as with many augmented reality apps, it simply came too early, and audience wasn’t there to help it take off. Now, with the unrelenting popularity of Pokémon Go, this technology may have room to take off.

#PokémonGoChat

Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

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Elon Musk wants to connect your brain to a computer this year

(TECH NEWS) Two companies are gearing up to “upgrade” humans by connecting technology with the human brain.

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brain mapping

For many years, people have talked about frontiers and new places that have yet to be explored. Whether it’s the deep ocean floors or the ever-expanding vastness of outer space, there are things we still haven’t seen or fully come to understand. The same goes for comprehending what’s happening behind our own eyeballs; the multiple folds of the human brain still keep many mysteries from us.

This year though, two companies have claimed that they will be uncovering those secrets. Brain mapping and recording has been a topic of interest for a number of years and has helped numerous scientific studies. The ability to analyze the functions of the brain and record from a wider range of subjects gives limitless possibilities to scientific studies. It can also unfold a medical crisis faster than waiting for symptoms to appear externally.

Kernel, an LA-based biologically focused startup, raised $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology. They are focusing on two main approaches, the Flux and Flow techniques. Flux measures the magnetic fields generated by neutrons in the brain. Flow measures blood throughout the brain. CEO Bryan Johnson released in a statement, “if we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness, and human improvement will emerge.” This approach could revolutionize how we adapt to viewing the brain. It could be done safely and even remotely for people’s health.

CEO of Neuralink, Jared Birchall, and Co-founder Elon Musk, are the other company that have announced that their next company’s attempt to connect humans and computers will be in August of this year. They are taking a different approach that could be ultimately more fruitful, if a tad dangerous. Their company is working on a procedure to implant gossamer-thin wires directly into a human brain that then connects to an external computer processing unit.

Their ultimate goal is to eventually make the device wireless for ease of use and maneuverability. They have performed this procedure in animals, according to their plans revealed in 2019, and will be looking to move onto humans this year.

Their initial goal is to use the technology to help mitigate the effects of neurological disorders in patients with severe mobility issues and/or other daily function impacts. This will hopefully lead to an upgrade in human and computer interactions, and possibly even allowing our brains to interact with computers at the speed of thought.

The future is bright and full of wires.

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Google Maps will soon display traffic lights

(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.

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google maps traffic lights

At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.

A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.

It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.

In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.

That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.

At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.

It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.

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How Microsoft plans to upskill millions of workers during COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft is providing affordable and accessible resources to upskill workers during the COVID-19 economy.

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Microsoft helps

While the undeniable amount of job loss in the Unites States, thanks to COVID-19, may have lost some steam in the news, there are many people out of work and job searching. As of June 6, 2020, “Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4.8 million in June, and the unemployment rate declined to 11.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.”

This means many Americans are quietly pondering their next move. Some are freaking out over what their next place or type of employment will be, while others are taking a minute to pause and re-design their life’s path. Both may be hopeful that their career is aligning with their ultimate goals or ways in which they would prefer to live their life via professional pursuits and family preferences. There may be an optimistic outlook as well if they have been able to score interviews and feel some excitement about new opportunities amongst the angst and uncertainty.

However, as you may likely know, after a job loss, the job seeker has some extra time to think and this can be scary for some. They may catch themselves with extra worry or spinning in the what ifs? What if I don’t have the skills for the jobs in demand? What if I’m too old? What if they are not looking to hire someone with my credentials? What if I am unable to replace my salary?

Let’s look at the data when we cannot get out of our heads. What are jobs that are in demand and will be growing? According to VentureBeat and Microsoft, here are the top 10 jobs that are in demand and likely to grow over the next decade:

  1. Software developer
  2. Sales representative
  3. Project manager
  4. IT administrator
  5. Customer service specialist
  6. Digital marketing specialist
  7. IT support / help desk
  8. Data analyst
  9. Financial analyst
  10. Graphic designer

In tandem, Microsoft is providing access to “learning paths” and resources for users to develop skills for these jobs, which will be available from today until the end of March 2021, and includes a series of videos to help jobseekers start off on the right foot for each role. Microsoft will also connect more technical roles with other resources and tools, including its bot-powered GitHub Learning Lab where budding coders can practice new skills. And feeding into this, Microsoft said that it will join the dots through to qualifications, by offering “low-cost access” to industry-recognized Microsoft certifications “based on exams that demonstrate proficiency in Microsoft technologies,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a separate blog post.”

Venture Beat goes on to say that “Microsoft has announced a slew of new initiatives designed to open up access to new digital skills, including cash grants, providing access to data, affordable certifications for Microsoft products, and a new learning app baked directly into Microsoft Teams.”

Looks like those software developers aren’t going away and you can hate on sales all you want, but those are needed for companies to keep their doors open and sell their products or services.

It seems apparent that the tech giant is looking to make a positive impact and help upskill workers to be able to explore and gain the skills they need to pursue these available and growing job opportunities. They are utilizing the data available within the LinkedIn platform to provide insights on job postings, as well as pledged to support access to learning and non-profit organizations. Microsoft is also making smart moves to grow and expand in an area where they see some major growth opportunities (within the LinkedIn Learning platform and MS Teams). Microsoft CEO mentioned that we have seen a 2-year digital shift in about two months due to COVID-19.

However, this does pose a question – how long will it take for hiring managers to catch up on reviewing resumes of those that had to make a job switch and may not have the previous experience they typically look for when hiring? There is fair room for a discussion that those reviewing resumes will also need to be informed of the career shifts of candidates due to COVID-19 and may need to spend a little bit more time making sure they are not dismissed for looking to make a switch after their upskill experience.

There may also be some questions from employees if they do not feel they resonate with any of those jobs listed as growing over the next decade. We may see a spike in entrepreneurial activity and people setting out to create and design their own work-life harmony – especially if the remote work opportunities are only going to grow exponentially.

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