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Travel startup sends you to mystery locations if you’ve got the guts

(TECH NEWS) Keep as much or as little as you want a surprise til the end – for those of us who want to experience adventure as a part of the magic of travel, Jubel might design just the trip we’ve been waiting for.

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For a real adventure

When I was a kid, I thought one of the most dashing and romantic things in the world would be to go to a crowded airport, a duffel bag slung over one shoulder, and breathlessly announce to the ticket agent, “I want one ticket on the next plane out of here,” and then go wherever the path took me. As an adult in a pre-9/11 world, I still thought the same thing.

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In a world grown smaller and smaller through countless online travel sites, each with detailed reviews of locales and the best options for everything once there, the sense of adventure feels a little lost.

Until now, maybe.

Jubel is a startup travel site that offers what its competitors do not: the ability to create a true bespoke adventure travel experience, where as much or as little as you desire is kept as a surprise.

How it works

When planning your trip with Jubel, one begins by telling the site a little bit about what you have in mind. Jubel focuses on alternative travel experiences, ones off the beaten and over-traveled path.

Jubel’s research team has done extensive research on these out-of-the way locations to prevent the traveler from being dependent upon second-rate or incomplete information.

Their local networks of trusted locations allow you to have a rich experience that’s uniquely yours, as they tailor the trip to your specific survey responses. The site advertises that travelers can start with a trip idea “vague as ‘a completely blind journey somewhere in the world,’ or they can be more specific, for those travelers who know what might be of more interest to them, for example, again from Jubel’s website,  “a culturally rich Indonesian experience.”

Users select the theme for their adventure (called a path on Jubel’s site), and identify destinations (along with a preferred budget for travel) along the way that would be of potential interest through a detailed, yet uncumbersome, survey.

For those who get analysis paralysis of all of the great places to go and see on a trip, Jubel provides an inspirations page with more information about preferred sites. They also allow users to contact agents directly for support in finding that perfect destination or activity before the trip is completely planned, as well as at any point during the trip to address questions or unanticipated needs that may arise during the trip.

Fully comprehensive price points

Once you’ve provided Jubel with the necessary information about what places and types of experiences you’re interested in, they do the rest! They design a trip, totally custom-made for you, without any prior commitment.

For some other sites, who promise low fares to surprise destinations, you’re taking a bit of a gamble. You pay upfront and only then are told of the dates, times, or destinations. Not so with Jubal. You only proceed with payment and finalization of trip plans once you’re satisfied with the destination and the price point. The pricing is comprehensive to boot: you’re quoted a proposal that takes into account flights, hotel, and any additional transportation needs once you’re there.

Keep it a surprise (or not)

Once you’re on the road, you can keep your next stops a secret from yourself, or cheat ahead by peeking early, whatever suits your comfort level. Jubel takes care of both ends of the traveler spectrum by sending the Jubel Pack to you after payment. These sealed envelopes provide you with the next local destination for your adventure, along with recommendations handpicked for you based on the survey information you provided and their deep knowledge of what’s worth seeing. You’re completely in charge here; the pace of your trip is (somewhat) up to you and how quickly you wish to proceed through the Jubal Pack.

Adventure and magic

The site advertises that being surprised along the path is an inherently valuable part of the journey. For some travelers, who prefer to have complete charge of their destinations and itineraries in advance, planning with Jubel, even with the ability to open all of the envelopes directly on receipt of the Jubel Pack, may seem a bit overwhelming. For those of us who want to experience adventure as a part of the magic of travel, it might be just the trip we’ve been waiting for. Take their survey to see what kind of adventure they can plan for you.

#Jubel

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

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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Tech News

HEY needs to fix its issues to be the Gmail killer it claims to be

(TECH NEWS) You would hope that HEY, the paid email service, would launch without issues but it has a few. Let’s hope some of that money goes to fixing them.

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Hey email

Last week, we covered HEY–a new email service that seemingly has a lot to offer–and while we largely praised the service despite it being a paid client awash in a sea of free email options, not everyone is fully on board with HEY’s inimitable charm–at least, not yet.

Adam Silver, an interaction designer focused on user experience, had some criticisms of HEY–many of which he identified as “pretty surprising oversights.” Though Silver does mention that his overall opinion of the service is good, these oversights are the focus of his review.

“HEY isn’t very accessible,” says Silver in his notes. His assessment, while self-admittedly not a holistic view, includes issues related to JavaScript (specifically when it isn’t enabled, which is something more and more companies are requiring) and lack of reasonable keyboard shortcuts for anyone using a screen reader. As Silver points out, these are fairly simple–and, thus, surprising–problems that probably should have been caught from the onset.

“All of these things are really easy to fix,” amends Silver.

Another issue Silver highlights is the inbox (imbox?) sorting. As we mentioned previously, there are three locations for email: the imbox, the feed, and the paper trail, each of which serves a different purpose. The problem with this system is that organizing emails by only three overarching categories affords little flexibility; furthermore, Silver notes that the menu for accessing each folder leaves a lot to be desired from a design standpoint.

The feed is also the subject of Silver’s criticism in that it doesn’t function enough like a traditional inbox to the point that it is actually difficult to use. Especially given the feed’s purpose–to store newsletters and such in a free-scrolling manner–this is a hold-up for sure; coupled with the feed’s lack of notifications, you can see how this problem cripples the user experience without active attention to the ancillary feed inbox.

Lastly, Silver mentions that the name “imbox” is, well, stupid. “This is not a typo but it’s not good,” he says. “You need a really good reason not to keep things simple.”

This is actually a point that we initially glossed over in our overview, but it’s another instance of a company doing a little too much to stand out–and, in doing so, potentially disrupting the user experience. “Keeping it simple” by calling the delivery place for your email the “inbox” won’t sink your brand, and the name “imbox” is sure to, at best, annoy.

It’s important to reaffirm that HEY’s driving principle–accessible email that prioritizes your privacy and charges you a relatively nominal fee for doing so–is good, and that’s the tough part of any app’s development; should they choose to follow Silver’s lowkey advice and make a few tweaks, they’ll have a winning product.

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Tech News

Live captioning via AI is now available for Zoom, if a little limited

(TECH NEWS) In order to be more inclusive, and improve the share of information with your team, live captioning is a great option for your next Zoom call.

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Zoom live captioning

The ubiquitous all-father Zoom continues to prompt innovation–and in a time during which most companies are still using some form of remote communication, who can blame them? It’s only fitting that someone would come along and try to flesh out Zoom’s accessibility features at some point, which is exactly what Zoom Live Captioning sets out to accomplish.

Zoom Live Captioning is a Zoom add-on service that promises, for a flat fee, to caption up to 80 hours per month of users’ meetings via an easy-to-implement plugin. The allure is clear: a virtual communication environment that is more time-efficient, more accessible, and more flexible for a variety of usage contexts.

Unfortunately, what’s less clear is how Zoom Live Captioning proposes to achieve this goal.

The live-captioning service boasts, among other things, “limited lag” and “the most accurate [speech-to-text AI] in the world”–a service that, despite its sensational description, is still only available in English. Furthermore, anyone who has experienced auto-captioning on YouTube videos–courtesy of one of the largest technology initiatives in the world–knows that, even with crystal-clear audio, caption accuracy is questionable at best.

Try applying that level of moving-target captioning to your last Zoom call, and you’ll see what the overarching problem here is.

Even if your Zoom call has virtually no latency, everyone speaks clearly and enunciates perfectly, your entire team speaks conversational English at a proficient degree across the board, and no one ever interrupts or experiences microphone feedback, it seems reasonable to expect that captions would still be finicky. Especially if you’re deaf or hard of hearing–a selling point Zoom Live Captioning drives home–this is a problematic flaw in a good idea.

Now, it’s completely fair to postulate that any subtitles are better than no subtitles at all. If that’s the decision you’d like to make for your team, Zoom Live Captioning starts at $20 per person per month; larger teams are encouraged to contact the company to discuss more reasonable rates if they want to incorporate live captioning across an enterprise.

Nothing would be better for speech-to-text innovation than being wrong about Zoom Live Captioning’s potential for inaccuracy, but for now, it’s safe to be a little skeptical.

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