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5 fun and innovative smartphone photography tools

(Tech News) Photojojo offers five incredibly innovative iOS smartphone photography tools to make getting professional-quality photography results simple.

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Take your smartphone photography to the next level

Thanks to technology, we no longer have to lug around multiple devices to take awesome, professional-looking photos and videos. These days, all you need is your iPhone, iPad, or other smart device and the right accessories. With the right accessories, you can turn these smart devices into full-blown professional photography gear for a fraction of the traditional cost. Here are five of the newest, coolest, Photojojo dream tools:

iOgrapher

iographer-ipad-case-f503_600.0000001402789836iOgrapher for iPad or iPad Mini turns your iPad into the ultimate video rig. The base looks like a regular iPade case, but with handles. The handles are super tough and durable, so you do can focus on what you are filming, rather than worrying about dropping your device. It also has three cold shoe mounts for accessories: tripods, pro-quality microphones, and lights. It comes with a wide angle lens, but will fit any 37mm filter. You can order the iOgraher with the rig and wide angle lens for $85, or go all out and order it with the Rode mic for $320. (If you do not have an iPad, you can purchase the RODE mic separately, see next post).

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Rode VideoMic Pro

rode-videomic-pro-boom-aa68_600.0000001402794845While technology has brought us a long way in terms of photography, the built-in microphones on smartphones and tablets, can leave something to be desired for professionals and avid amateurs alike. The Rode VideoMic Pro plugs directly into the audio jack on your DSLR, iPhone, or iPad for pro-quality recording from up to 20 feet away. It can be used with any hot or cold shoe mount and boasts a suspension system (cutting down on pops and crackles). It is powered by a single 9-volt battery, so it will not drain your device’s battery. Each 9-volt should last you approximately 70 hours. The Rode mic can be paired with the iOgrapher rig, or used alone.  For the creative-minded business entrepreneur this could be a great investment to make your own marketing videos, YouTube tutorials, and virtual tour videos. The Rode VideoMic will run you $229.

The Phantom 2 Photography Drone

phantom-2-photography-drone-9edc_600.0000001401392519Drones are an amazing piece of technology. They can go where humans cannot or should not go. They capture amazing images that would not be possible or economical without their help. Now you can get one for your own use. The Phantom 2 works on 3 axises to hold your camera as steady as possible. You can approximately a half a mile away, or use the built-in GPS assisted hovering feature to film just a few feet away. You also have a simple, intuitive remote control. The Phantom comes in two different setups:  Phantom 2 with vision camera and Phantom 2 with GoPro camera mount. The first option comes with a high definition camera built into the rigging, so when you connect the drone to your phone via the DJI Vision Mobile App, you can see, in real time, what the drone sees as it is flying. The second option is for individual who already own a GoPro camera (any kind). While the price is a bit high; option one with camera included is $1299, option two GoPro mount is $959, there are numerous instances where aerial photography and video would come in handy, not the mention the cool factor.

Nova

nova-wireless-phone-flash-e5fb.0000001402246485Nova is a wallet-sized, wireless flash for iPhone, iPad, and iPod, that uses Bluetooth to talk to your phone from up to 20 feet away, syncing its flash with your shutter, allowing you to take the perfect picture. The Nova has 40 LED lights that are diffused through a white panel for super even light. Nova has three light modes: gentle, effective for removing shadows; warm, giving skin a natural, even look, and bright, to light up large areas or large crowds.  If you find it is too bright, too warm, or too cool, you can adjust the setting of the Nova through the mobile app; even customized a brightness and temperature that works for you. The Nova does not need to be attached to your device, so you can position it wherever and however you need it to get that perfect shot. The Nova device is so slim it will fit actually fit in your wallet and charges via a USB  cable. The Nova is $59 and could come in quite handy since it is so portable.

iPhone Super Suit

iphone-super-suit-ad43_600.0000001398533111iPhone 5 and 5s users will delight in the Super Suit. The Super Suit case is completely sealed and waterproof, as well as sleek. With this case, you can use your camera underwater, up to six feet.  While swimming with your iPhone, all buttons and the touchscreen are 100% protected and accessible. They say you can even use your phone’s camera with the attachable Photojojo lenses. It also protects against drops and bumps from up to six feet high. If you visit their page, there is a water test with the Super Suit and a link to a story about what happened to it when the creators took the Suit camping. The Super Suit is $79; well worth it if you are prone to dropping your phone in the sink, enjoy underwater photography with your phone, or just want to text in the shower without ruining your iPhone.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Tech News

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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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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Tech News

Study finds 1,000 phrases that accidentally activate smart speakers

(TECH GADGETS) Don’t worry about accidentally activating your nosy smart speakers… unless, of course, you utter one of these 1,000 innocuous phrases.

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It’s safe to say that privacy concerns, especially in today’s digital era, are unquestionably valid. With new video recording technology making it easier to identify people at a glance (whether they like it or not) and concerns that your smart speakers are eavesdropping on you, it may feel like you’re bordering on slightly paranoid around modern technology.

After all, even though there have been cases of smart speakers picking up on intimate conversations, there’s absolutely no risk of them overhearing private things without your consent, right? Even though it’s been documented that these devices — including Cortana, Alexa, Siri, and Google Home — have listened in relationship spats, criminal activity, and even HIPAA-protected data, you’re totally in the clear.

Oh yeah. The thing is, everything that gets broadcast into your smart speaker? There’s a completely random chance that someone back at headquarters may decide to sift through it in order to improve AI learning.

And while most of the time these conversations are totally benign, it doesn’t change the fact that a complete stranger is getting an earful of your private life. In fact, these transmissions? Are actually completely admissible in court, as several murder cases have already demonstrated. Their key evidence was none other than poor Alexa herself.

But wait, wait. These smart speakers can only get your information if you activate them, and that requires you to clearly enunciate their names. Right? Um. Not exactly. Even though you may think that you need to speak crisply into the speaker to activate it, it turns out that these devices are highly sensitive to any suggestion that you might be talking to them. It’s almost like your dog when you even remotely glance at his bag of doggie treats in the corner: one crinkle and Fido comes running, begging for some kibble and ready to serve you.

It’s the same for your smart speakers. As it turns out, there are over a thousand words or phrases that can trigger your device and invite it to start recording your voice. These can range from the perfectly reasonable (Cortana hearing “Montana” and springing to attention) to the downright absurd (Alexa raising her hackles over the words “election” and “unacceptable”). Well, crap. Now what?

It’s no secret that someone is listening in on your conversations. That’s been clearly documented, researched, dissected, and even accepted at this point. However, if you thought that they’d only listen to it if you gave them implicit permission by activating your device (which, to be fair, should not even count as permission in the first place), you were wrong.

So what’s a privacy-loving person to do? Just suck it up and try to choose between the lesser of two evils? On one hand, yes, these smart speakers are super convenient and can make your life easier. On the other?

Well, if you’re a fan of your privacy, then perhaps these devices aren’t meant for you. At this point, you’ve got little recourse. These companies will continue to use your data, and there’s nothing stopping them from spying on you. That is, unless you prevent them from doing it in the first place.

If you want to keep your private conversations private, either unplug your smart speaker when you’re not using it, or don’t get one in the first place. Otherwise, you’ll continue to give your implied consent that you’re totes cool with them butting in on your personal life, and they’ll continue to be equally totes cool with using it without your permission.

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