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The MLB is about to see an entirely new way to steal signs

(TECH NEWS) A few weeks ago, the Red Sox got in trouble for stealing Yankees signs with an Apple Watch. They were stealing signs but not with Apple Watches.

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CAUGHT RED(SOX)-HANDED

Earlier this month, the Boston Red Sox got caught stealing signs during a recent Yankees series game. The Red Sox’s video replay personnel reportedly used an Apple Watch to steal hand signals from rival catchers, utilizing live footage and messaging. While useful, this is technically not allowed.

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The technology driven-thievery would have made for some nice, sports-oriented promotional material for Apple. However, now it appears the Sox used a Fitbit, not an Apple Watch.

STEALING THROUGH THE AGES

Here’s some brief background if you’re like me and thought this news meant the teams were stealing physical signs like billboards from each other. Catchers use hand signals to communicate with pitchers, signaling what kinds of pitches to throw using team-specific codes. If the opposing team has this information and relays it to their teammates, the batter has a much better chance of hitting the ball by knowing the pitch in advance.

Sign-stealing isn’t anything new in the baseball world.

Prior to wearables and video screens, runners on second based would observe the pitcher’s signals and try to notify the batter. This isn’t exactly considered cheating, and is actually permitted as long as players are only using their bodies and voices to communicate.

TECH UPDATE

Now we have live video streams and devices to communicate in real time, like the Apple Watch. Using replay technology for stealing signs is forbidden, however, and the Red Sox may end up getting fined. Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager filed a complaint with the commissioner’s office, including video the Yankees recorded of the Red Sox dugout where the stealing allegedly took place.

When confronted by the commissioner’s office, the Red Sox admitted their trainers were receiving signals from video replay personnel and relaying information to players.

Plot twist: the Red Sox filed a counter-complaint, claiming the Yankees used their YES television network to steal signs during the games. The Yankees were at least smart enough to deny it.

WHY CARE

Does it really matter if the Red Sox used an Apple Watch, Fitbit, or something else? Kind of, but also not really. This is one of those petty, pop culture moments that could have given Apple an edge with its sports fans. Basically, if an Apple Watch was good enough for the Red Sox to use against its enemies, it’s good enough for fans to do…whatever.

Now Fitbit gets to potentially have that glory. Upon further investigation, it’s likely a Fitbit Blaze was used by the Red Sox. I’m completely unclear how a step counting smartwatch could be utilized for this, but hey, a few days ago Fitbit shares were looking good so they’re doing something right. Stay tuned to find out if anyone is going to get in any trouble for the unauthorized use of smartwatches.

#FitBitSign

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Tech News

Uber has secretly set up tip limits for drivers #classy

(TECH NEWS) Uber has had a shaky year, but their latest move proves that perhaps a new leader doesn’t mean a new culture.

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After frequent requests from drivers, Uber finally added a tipping option to their ride-sharing app this June. But, after a few months to try it out, riders and drivers alike have been disappointed to discover that Uber puts an upper limit on how much a rider can tip.

Lyft has allowed riders to tip for almost five years, but Lyft too has a tipping maximum. In many cases, Lyft and Uber drivers aren’t aware that there’s a limit to tips until they have a generous customer who finds that they can’t tip as much as they’d like.

Initially, these apps were seen as a convenient, tip-free alternative to traditional cab services. However, because fares are calculated in mileage and not time, tips can be especially appreciated when rides take a long time but have low mileage, such as in dense traffic, or when the driver has to make multiple stops. And of course, tipping is always a great way to say thanks to a driver who goes the extra mile (no pun intended) to help out the rider or make the ride especially pleasant.

Unfortunately, some riders have found that they can’t tip as much as they’d like. Uber told CNET that they placed a maximum on tips to help avoid “fat fingers” typos, such as when a customer means to type $10, but accidentally types $100 instead – a problem that could seemingly be solved by adding a secondary confirmation before withdrawing the payment.

Uber limits tips to 200 percent of the cost of the ride, or $100. Lyft also limits to 200 percent of the fare, but also blocks tips above $50. Of course, riders can always tip in cash – but not having to carry cash was one of the perks of ride-sharing apps in the first place.

Generally, drivers for Lyft get more tips than Uber drivers. That’s because Lyft riders receive a prompt to tip upon reaching their destination, whereas Uber drivers have to reopen the app and rate the driver before tipping. Since few Uber riders take the time to rate their driver, even fewer ever make it to the tip screen.

Granted, an extra big tip is a rare and precious thing. But it shouldn’t be up to the company to cap tips if riders feel compelled. Says Denise, a Los Angeles Uber driver, “Generosity should be something that you have no limit on.”

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Tech News

Tesla to build largest ‘virtual power grid’ on this round Earth

(TECH NEWS) Tesla teams up with Australia to create a virtual power grid, cutting energy costs and preventing blackouts.

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Tesla’s teaming up with Australia to provide an energy efficient solution to blackouts and price surges in the Southern Australian state.

Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill announced a new partnership with Tesla that will provide solar panels and batteries to homes in the southern state. Since the area consistently struggles with adequately powering homes, Weatherill and Tesla hope to create a “virtual” power grid to stabilize electricity infrastructure.

In the extreme wilderness area of South Australia, nearly half of all power comes from wind farms. Last September, issues with wind farms caused a statewide blackout. Sure, tornadoes were to blame too, but backup generators also failed, so the whole system collapsed.

To address this issue, a combination of solar panels and Tesla batteries will eventually be installed in 50,000 homes in the state. Any surplus energy generated by the home’s solar panels can contribute back to the larger grid.

Excess energy can be routed back to a centrally controlled grid to provide energy to the rest of the state as needed.

For the initial test, 1,100 public housing properties will receive the batteries and solar panels free of cost, using the sale of electricity to cover expenses. An additional 24,000 more public houses will get added to the program as well.

If the trial runs succeed, private homes will be included by 2019. Eventually, the plan is to have batteries and panels installed in 50,000 homes, creating a 250MW Virtual Power Plant.

Participating homes will have 5kW solar panels and Tesla Powerwall 2 13.5kWh batteries installed, providing a more reliable source of power, and potentially lowering power bills by thirty percent.

Installation is proposed to take four years, and according to Tesla, the virtual power plant will have as much capacity as a coal plant or large gas turbine.

Funding comes from a $2 million Australian ($1.6 million USD) grant, and a loan from the state’s Renewable Technology Funds for $30 million Australian ($23.8 million USD).

While the plan seems well-meaning, Austalian Prime Minister Malcomlm Turnbull called Weatherill’s previous strategies as “reckless” experiments, leading to excessive energy costs. Partnering with Tesla may give Weatherill some street cred for the upcoming South Australian election, proving he has a game plan for curbing energy costs.

According to the South Australian government, the virtual power plant could provide around twenty percent of the state’s daily average energy requirements. Tesla plans to review all properties to determine if the homes can support their systems and be able to participate.

If you happen to live in South Australia and are reading this, you can register to participate in the program. Registration doesn’t guarantee participation, but if initial interest exceeds original estimates, the government may consider extending the program.

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Tech News

Intel to launch smart glasses we might actually want to wear

(TECH NEWS) Smart glasses have launched and died, to be reborn as warehouse worker tools, but Intel’s giving it a shot, and this design might actually stick.

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Even though Google Glasses and Snap Spectacles totally bombed, tech companies keep trying to make smart glasses a thing.

Intel’s plans to make a go of it, betting on a sort of “less is more” design concept. Previous smart glasses were bulky, didn’t conform to the wearer’s head, and frankly, looked kind of dorky. People also found them invasive, awkward to interact with, and were especially creeped out by the notion that smart glasses wearers could be filming them or taking their picture without consent.

Intel’s smart glasses, called Vaunt, are much more stripped down – no camera, no buttons, no distracting messages or images floating in your vision. Says Itai Vonshak, head of products for Intel’s New Devices Group, “We wanted to make sure somebody puts this on and gets value without any of the negative impact of technology on their head. Everything from the ground up is designed to make the technology disappear.”

Vaunt glasses weight only 50 grams and look totally unassuming, like a regular pair of glasses. They work with prescription or non-prescription lenses. They use a very low-power laser to project messages directly into your eye. In order to get that right, you have to have the distance between your pupils measured so that Vaunt glasses are custom made to fit your eyes.

Intel wants their smart glasses to be helpful, but not invasive. Notification messages only appear if you look slightly down. Looking straight ahead, the messages disappear. Messages can also be scrolled through or dismissed with small nods of the head.

What exactly will Vaunt glasses be used for? Intel is taking a “if you build it they will come” attitude towards this question. They’ll have an early access program to encourage developers to come up with apps and uses for the smart glasses. Some ideas include driving directions, reminders, and recipes.

Will a set of simplified Vaunt smart glasses win over the same consumers that have rejected the bells-and-whistles versions of the past? That remains to be seen, but crazier things have happened.

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