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There’s a new wearable that will give LifeAlert a run for their money

(TECH NEWS) A new wearable by UnaliWear is poised to enable the elderly to continue living independently, safely.

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unali wearable

U gotta hear about Unali

UnaliWear created an “OnStar for People” with its new watch that’s essentially a Life Alert minus the embarrassing stigma. The Kanega watch is a voice-controlled wearable device that detects falls, provides medication reminders, and gives emergency assistance. According to UnaliWear, their product aims “to extend independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable seniors.”

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Wearables are further integrating themselves into the mainstream, moving away from fad status.

WHAT IS IT

Like any new trendy technology, wearables have proliferated culture with awesomeness and trash alike. In 2014, one third of wearable technology was abandoned within six months.

However, those with staying power are propelling us further into a futuristic tech-laden world where our jewelry and accessories can assist us with simple needs.

Smartwatches started out as a laughable extravagance, but now they’re fairly common. I still geek out every time someone pays with their smartwatch, though. Unlike easily abandoned fad gadgets, UnaliWear seriously analyzed their product’s purpose.

BACKSTORY

CEO and founder Jean Anne Booth started the company in response to her mom’s refusal to use a Personal Emergency Response System like Life Alert. Booth wanted her mom to remain active, so she created a product that tackled the problems of products currently available on the market.

Many older adults don’t want to be associated with the stigma of personal assistance devices, yet want to remain independent.

This is completely understandable. Stigma plays a huge role derailing anyone seeking help. Removing some barriers to seeking help gives consumers options for more independence.

WHY IS IT SPECIAL

UnaliWear’s watch is geared towards a specific demographic, addressing reasons older adults have traditionally steered away from wearables. For starters, many tech products for older adults are pretty darn ugly.

The Kanega watch doesn’t look like something out of a trite infomercial. It’s simply a discreet watch with smart features.

Another primary hesitation to wearables is ease of use. If a product isn’t intuitive or obviously useful, surprise, people won’t use it. UnaliWear’s goal of treating users with respect makes their product unique. The design team did their homework and really focused on the wearer.

primary function

So what does the watch do? According to their Kickstarter, “Kanega handles all daily intelligence for providing an unobtrusive continuous welfare check.”

Fall detection, medication reminders, emergency assistance, and guidance home if lost are its primary features.

The watch utilizes voice-control commands for its various functions. During setup, users speak with an operator to determine which functions fit their personal needs.

Unlike Siri…

It won’t embarrass you in public by speaking aloud unprompted. It’s not looking to confuse or play Overseer to the wearer.

The Kanega watch also isn’t tied to a home-based system or owning a smartphone, and is waterproof.

This means wearers aren’t tied to their homes in order to use Kanega’s features. However, wifi must be present for the watch to function at full capacity.

Self-updating while you sleep

Machine learning and artificial intelligence updates lifestyle information while the wearer is sleeping.

This sounds creepy, but they use Verizon’s HIPPA-compliant cloud to keep health info secure.

This is how the watch connects with pharmacies to provide medication reminders.

Your very own Elvis

The watch can also pair with new generation Bluetooth Low Energy hearing aids, speaking directly to the user but not through the speaker.

Additionally, users choose the watch’s name so they’re not stuck constantly addressing a dystopic robot character.

For example, the creator’s mom named her watch Fred Astaire.

RISKS/CHALLENGES

Right now the watch is still in product development. Kickstarter backers are expected to receive their watches sometime this spring, and general consumers will get access later in the year.

You can sign up to be a beta tester if you’re in the continental US. However, you must have wifi to register.

The Kickstarter version relies on the Verizon or AT&T network, and coverage is not available everywhere. Wifi access could definitely deter potential customers.

So far, potential connectivity issues seem like the only major problem users will face.

However, it’s important to note that the watch isn’t a replacement for a caretaker if needed.

The fall detection isn’t 100% infallible, and users must be willing to utilize the features.

UnaliWear notes, “medication reminders won’t work for the willfully non-compliant.”

“Kanega is designed to complement normal human forgetfulness; we can’t make you take your medications.”

Revolutionary wearables

The wearables trend is clearly not over.

As companies learn from the downfalls and success of other products, wearable tech gets smarter, sleeker, and more mainstream. Click To Tweet

Check out UnaliWear’s fully funded Kickstarter for a great example of a company winning at the wearable game.

#WearablesThatMatter

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

DIY: Project Alias protects your privacy from invasive smart speakers

(TECHNOLOGY) Smart speakers are beloved, and oh so helpful, but they’re always listening, no matter what tech companies say. This DIY stops that.

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project alias for smart speakers

DIY culture has a solution for everything, including protecting your privacy. Home assistant devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, while helpful, are constantly listening for commands which means any nearby conversation is free game for information gathering. On the bright side, Karmann’s Project Alias is a “parasitic” device that gives you control in what your home assistant device hears.

True to its function, a Project Alias device looks like a parasitic growth that can fit atop your Amazon Echo or Google Home. Inside its 3D-printed shell are a Raspberry Pi A+, a ReSpeaker 2-Mics Pi HAT, and a pair of small speakers.

Once you install the Project Alias code, you can use your phone to connect to the device, and train it with a “wake” word. The Echo or Google Home will not hear you until you say this “wake” word to Project Alias.

Ta-da! Privacy is back in your hands! (Some assembly required).

The pieces to make your own Project Alias device, while attainable, (Office Max and Staples offer 3D printing services), requires some hands-on work and possibly several trips to the store. When all is said and done, the overall cost in time and money can add up. It’d be much simpler if a Project Alias device came in the mail or on a store shelf ready to roll.

This is sounding like prime Kickstarter material here.

The exploitation of privacy through our smart devices including phones, tablets, laptops, tvs, gaming consoles, etc. is becoming a common concern. Not only are we feeling attacked by advertisements that feel like they’re reading our thoughts, but anything said around these devices is collectable data.

Unfortunately, it’s wishful thinking to have any trust in the gadgets we own.

A device like Project Alias is a long time coming and needed now more than ever. Until tech companies begin to take measures to protect the privacy of their customers (which isn’t in their financial interest), we’re likely to see a new market for devices like Project Alias. The odds are you’ll need more than one.

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Tech News

Descript is a mindblowing editing shortcut for audio and video

(TECH NEWS) Descript is an automatic transcription tool that uses machine-learning to make transcribing easier.

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transcribe descript

Anyone getting into audio/video editing for the first time is almost immediately struck with the sheer enormity and complexity of it all. Even if you have the physical hardware, the proper software, and the creative spark to produce media, that doesn’t make the process of editing it all into a cohesive product any less daunting. For those of us struggling under the sisyphean weight of complicated editing workflows, a new product aims to relieve us all of this struggle. Enter Descript, an automatic transcription tool.

Descript uses machine-learning to transcribe your raw audio and video files into a dialogue script. This in itself is an incredibly valuable tool for anyone looking to transcribe podcasts, youtube videos, or whatever kind of media you produce. But this is just the beginning of what makes this app so special.

Descript is the world’s first audio word processor. Using the transcript the app creates from your audio, you can edit the text script to change the media itself. Removing the “umms” and “ahhs” from your speech — or removing whole sentences at a time — is as simple as using the backspace key on a word processor.

As a would-be podcaster, I played around with the app over the weekend, so I can tell you my initial impressions of the app. While it’s not for me (not yet, anyway), it is incredibly easy and fun and quite frankly mindblowing to use.

First things first, let’s talk about the cost.

The app works on a subscription model that pays by the minute. New users are able to upload up to 30 minutes of audio for free, but anything past that will require paying 15 cents per minute or signing up for a monthly subscription. Keep in mind these costs apply to total raw audio uploaded, not finished product audio produced. So if you’re the type (like me) to record several hours of audio per week only to trim it down to a single hour of product, this may be a bit on the wasteful side.

As for the transcription itself, the program’s machine-learning transcription transcribed my dulcet tones into the appropriate written words with nearly complete accuracy. I did have a few issues with the program understanding other speakers, but I believe that may have been a fault on my end that I’ll go into later. If the machine-learning transcription isn’t accurate enough for you, you can also choose to pay extra in order to have your audio specially transcribed by real human professionals.

The app can divide audio between different people speaking, but not automatically. If you have different audio files for each speaker, then each audio file will be labeled separately from the start. If multiple speakers are on the same audio track (like mine), then you’ll have to notate these differing speakers in the script yourself. I believe this is why the program had difficulty transcribing other speakers on the audio than myself. Being on the same audio track, the machine attuned itself to my voice (the first speaker on the recording) and was trying to interpret other people’s words as if I were the one saying them.

As for the audio editing aspect of this program, well, it really needs to be experienced to be believed. I was told what the program could do beforehand, but actually editing audio just by changing words around on a script is something else entirely. Cutting out non sequitur sentences, removing unnecessary articles, or even changing the order of words around to better suit the flow of conversation — through a literal word processor — will make you feel like an arcane grammar wizard.

Will this replace your entire audio/video workflow? Probably not. At least not yet. In addition to the cost factor which may be prohibitive to some users, there are some issues of editing that aren’t based on word choice. I found myself frustrated at my inability to change the timing of spaces between words, sometimes leaving gaps between sentences (or not enough space between words). Of course, I only had the program for a weekend, so this could very well be attributed to user error.

Whatever flaws real or imagined this program may have, it’s very important to keep in mind that Descript is the first of its kind.

It can only improve from here, not to mention potentially inspire a wave of similar programs that may very well function better. Whether or not Descript is right for you, what’s undeniable is that this program is the start of something amazing.

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Tech News

This eye tracking tech could be what saves VR

(TECHNOLOGY) VR has struggled with adoption rates, but this new technology could finally make it more useful in daily life.

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VR could be saved

The new HTC Vive Pro Eye VR headset made its debut at CES 2019. An updated version of the HTC Vive Pro, its features are expected to have a variety of uses over the long-term.

The Vive Pro Eye features new eye tracking technology developed in partnership with Tobii Eye Tracking. Inside the headset are sensors around the eyes to help the A.I. target what your eye is seeing. This is integrated into the UI design, allowing users to select menu options just by looking at their choice. In theory, users can choose how to interact with different A.I. characters or in VR chat spaces.

The eye tracking features Dynamic Foveated Rendering which will allow the computer to render VR objects the user is looking at to a high resolution. Likewise, images on the user’s periphery or outside the field of view will appear at a lower resolution or won’t be rendered at all. This way headset will require less performance power from its graphics card, and can still generate high-quality images in the places that matter.

Another feature is the A.I. assist where the computer can register intended targets in the VR environment based upon where your eyes are looking. This could be helpful for newcomers to VR instead of adjusting to the hand-eye coordination with the remote.

In a new industry like VR, the turnover rate for technology is fairly high, but the fovated rendering is likely to stay. Since its practicality not only enhances user experience, but also provides support from a hardware standpoint, its not outlandish to think developers will piggy-back off this new feature.

Sounds like fun? Well, currently the Vive Pro Eye is meant for business ventures rather than for consumers. But we’ll likely see this technology eventually find its way into more affordable VR products. There is no release date or price range yet available.

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