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Startup fights smartphone addiction by locking devices down #LiveInTheMoment

(TECH NEWS) We’re all addicted to our smartphone, but sensitive areas like courtrooms, and entertainment venues like concerts, are putting phones on lockdown.

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social media is lonely

The advice to “dance like nobody’s watching,” which you’ve undoubtedly seen everywhere from your Facebook newsfeed to hand-painted signs at craft fairs, has becomes such a popular catchphrase that most people don’t even remember where it came from (probably from Kathy Mattea’s 1989 country single, “Come From the Heart,” just for the record).

But these days, following that advice, at least in a public space, is harder than ever. In 2018, it would be more accurate to encourage people to dance like nobody’s watching, filming, posting, and commenting. (Good luck with that.)

At a music festival in 2012, Graham Dugoni was pleased to see a fellow festival-goer wildly dancing, lost in the music and the moment. He was less-than-pleased to see several bystanders filming the dancer, then instantly posting the video to YouTube.

It made Dugoni think hard about the impact of cell phones in public space.

Just about everyone feels crummy when their date seems more interested in swiping their screen than in engaging, or when conversation falls dead at the dinner table because everyone’s eyes are glued to their phones.

Yet who among us is willing to leave our phone at home for even one evening?

And there are other situations where the omnipresence of phones is particularly problematic. At concerts and entertainment events, audiences view the show through their phone screens. At school, students get distracted from learning by their phones, and in some cases even use their phones to cheat on exams. Taking a picture or video of a special occasion, like a wedding, will help you relive the memory later – that is, if you actually had time to make any memories between snapping and posting selfies.

Says Dugoni, “I don’t think people realize how radically different it is to be a human being with a phone in your pocket. If it becomes something that’s going to hollow out the meaning in your life, that’s something we’re going to have to address.”

And address it, he has. In 2014, Dugoni founded Yondr, a company that makes lockable pouches so that people can carry their phone into events, but can’t use them. Upon arriving, users lock their phones in the gray pouches, and can only open them again by swiping them over an “unlocking base” as they head towards the exit.

yondr

The pouches have been rented by entertainers, event planners, and by 600 U.S. schools. They have been especially helpful in places where discretion is important, such as courtrooms and hospitals. Schools using Yondr have seen grades and test scores rise, and disciplinary problems reduce. Court administrators have been pleased to find a way to deprive jurors of their phones without taking responsibility for them.

Yondr has also been used by comedians like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock at their live shows. Says Chappelle, “People actually watch the show, they’re in the moment and they’re vastly more fun to speak to.”

Cell phones have added a lot of convenience and efficiency to our lives – but at what cost? Younger generations have never even experienced a day in their lives without phones. We’re losing our capacity to, collectively, be present, intimate, and engaged with one another. If for no other reason, Yondr is a worthwhile experiment because, as Chris Rock explains, “You want a break from your phone. It feels good.”

At a concert where the audience has their phones “Yondred,” perhaps we could all dance together as though no one were watching.

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper

(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.

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Apple Watch being worn on wrist showing weather for Montreal.

The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.

Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.

Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.

More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.

Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.

It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.

And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.

The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.

Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.

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Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?

(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?

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Code on screen, powering AI technology

The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.

While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.

Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.

“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”

OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.

While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.

Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.

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Tech News

What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!

(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.

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Woman browsing web, made easy with UI/UX

There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.

Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.

The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.

According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.

UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.

Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.

The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.

2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.

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