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A Swedish startup has implanted micro-chips in its workers, will this be a new trend?

(TECH NEWS) A Swedish startup is using its employees as a test run for human micro-chipping.

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neural lace chips

Are you chipped?

A startup hub in Sweden is literally implanting microchips in their employees.

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So now the question is if you, dear reader, are a cyborg yet.

A shot of rice

The Swedish startup, Epicenter, is home to around 2,000 workers, and so far 150 have been chipped. The process is simple and pretty painless.

Self-described “body hacker” Jowan Osterlund comes in with a syringe and something the size of a grain of rice.

He slides the syringe into the fleshy part between your thumb and index finger, and in that moment you enter the world of William Gibson once and for all.

Well, you know, you can open doors and buy stuff with a wave of your hand. It’s basically the same.

Chipping humans

This technology isn’t new, but it’s rarely used on humans. Our pets, however, have been cyborgs for years, so that we can find them when they’re lost.

They run away, get taken to a vet or shelter, and scanned for cyborg-ness (AKA microchips).

And now we can be just like Fido. Epicenter and a very few other companies are pioneers of widespread human chipping, and they insist it’s something to celebrate. In fact, workers at Epicenter actually throw parties for the soon-to-be chipped.

One handed

“The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” says Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”

So that’s cool . . . but privacy?

Remember that? Most new technologies engender some security and privacy concerns, but this thing is literally inside of you.

The implant uses Near Field Communication technology, which is the same thing used in contactless credit cards and mobile payments.

If the chip is activated by a nearby reader, data flows between the devices via electromagnetic waves. These chips are technically “passive,” which means they can’t read info themselves, but can be read by other devices.

That seems safe, right?

Well, maybe. But remember, if you use this chip to unlock the door to your building, your office, and the restroom, and if you use this chip to buy lunch, coffee, and snacks, those reading devices around the workplace have a ton of data about you. What time do you get to work, and when do you leave? Do you take ‘too many’ bathroom breaks? Are you drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee? Are you eating unbalanced meals?

Unlike the data read from your credit card or phone, this data originates from something you can’t easily separate yourself from.

It’s always there, whether you want to use it or not. And to get rid of it, you have to have surgery, not just cut it up.

There’s a difference

Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute says hackers could get a scary amount of information from embedded devices, and the ethics will only get more complicated as the chips get more sophisticated.

“The data that you could possibly get from a chip that is embedded in your body is a lot different from the data that you can get from a smartphone,” Libberton says.

“Conceptually you could get data about your health, you could get data about your whereabouts, how often you’re working, how long you’re working, if you’re taking toilet breaks and things like that.”

And once that data is collected, who gets to see it? What will it be used for?

It’s hard to imagine that the results will be overwhelmingly positive.

This is the next step on our quest for convenience, and if we collectively decide to take it, we will lose privacy.

It already exists

On the other hand, we seem to be basically okay with this. Our phones often know our location, so that data is out there for someone to find. Our credit cards know what we buy, and when and where we buy it.

As chips are normalized like cards and phones, maybe it’ll seem less weird to have our movements tracked by an electronic grain of rice we stuck in our hands. But for now – yeah, it’s weird.

#RiceChip

Tech News

Want to save snippets of a Zoom meeting? Listener makes it possible!

(TECHNOLOGY) Listener lets you screenshot or bookmark important sections of live meetings, as well as curate a playlist of snippets, to share or playback.

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Listener for Zoom tool landing page on laptop.

We live in a very computer-mediated world where the bulk of communication is done virtually. Many of us spend a great deal of time – whether for work or pleasure – on video calls connecting with people that we’re unable to meet with in person.

Zoom became the unofficial mascot for the pandemic and has shown no signs of going anywhere. So naturally, people are looking for ways to put this to even more of an advantage – like by creating messaging extensions to utilize in lieu of live meetings.

Now the folks behind Listener are getting in on the action by creating Listener for Zoom.

The new tool allows users to bookmark important moments of Zoom calls in real-time and easily turn long recordings into bite-sized video clips.

As founder Nishith Shah puts it, “Zoom meetings just got more productive!”

Listener allows users to do a myriad of things, including live bookmarking to create short video clips; ability to transcribe your entire meeting; edit video clips by using transcripts instead of struggling with video editing tools; share video highlights with your team; create playlists from video highlights across different Zoom meetings to tell powerful stories; use projects to organize your meetings and playlists.

Founders say that Listener is designed for pretty much anyone who uses Zoom. In early testing, the founders found that it is especially helpful for product managers and UX researchers who do customer interviews.

They also reported that early-stage founders have been using Listener to add powerful customer videos to their investor pitch decks. It is also helpful for recruiters and hiring managers who search transcripts across hundreds of hiring interviews to remember who said what and to pass on important clips to other people in the interview process.

The tool is also beneficial for teams and hiring, as customer success and sales teams create a knowledge base with Listener to train and onboard new employees. They also use it to pass on customer feedback to the product teams.

This could also be great for clipping video elements that are appropriate for social media use.

On January 11, 2022, Listener was awarded #3 Product of the Day on Product Hunt.

Listener for Zoom is free while in Beta. The tool works only with licensed (paid) Zoom accounts.

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Opinion Editorials

Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?

(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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Tech News

How Apple is trying to combat the AirTag backlash (hint – its not working)

(TECHNOLOGY) Apple’s weak-kneed attempts at fixing their AirTags issues aren’t working. They can be placed on anything (or anyone), and it is detrimental.

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Apple airtag being held between two fingers.

A few weeks ago, I wrote up an article on how the Apple AirTag can be used to stalk and track people, and now it’s happening. Unfortunately, not all stalkers have the same glamour as Joe from the hit series You.

Engadget reported that model, Brooks Nader, says someone used an AirTag to track her. Per her account, she didn’t receive the notification until she was walking home, alone, at night. If that’s not scary enough, now imagine she was an android user. The only way for her to know someone was tracking her would be if she had installed the Tracker Detect app.

As stated by TechCrunch, “Apple has made its own post-launch efforts to tighten up how AirTags that don’t belong to a certain user can be detected, but these notifications have proven buggy and have often waited far too long to alert users. Add in the fact that Apple has seemed to treat Android integration as an afterthought, not a necessary partnership in order to ship a device like this, and Apple’s incompetence looks a bit more severe.”

The app itself, which was released on December 11, 2021, is getting a lot of negative feedback. One issue is that to see if you’re being tracked you have to manually scan to find the AirTag. How often and when you do that is up to the user. Whereas with the Apple Find My app, it alerts you automatically without the user having to scan anything. It’s not perfect, however. It’s buggy and can take hours to notify the user that an AirTag is tracking them. However, it’s still better than the android app.

Another dreadful scenario that hasn’t been factored in this equation is children. Not all kids have devices, much less Apple devices, nor should they necessarily, but if someone was going to track them, they would be easy targets.

Apple, for the love of all that’s decent, pull AirTags and reconsider how they function. Examine the ways an AirTag could be used without using the mesh network of all iPhone users so that it doesn’t continue to emit a location or, I don’t know, give up. If it doesn’t mean anything to you to risk other’s lives with this product then consider the possible dangerous consequences as a reflection on Apple.

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity.

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