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The wait is over! mmhmm launches on Mac today

(TECH NEWS) The long anticipated release of mmhmm is finally here! Let’s talk about the features coming in from this virtual presentation startup.

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mmhmm logo on bright patterned background, saying "Funner Zooming" in white text on top

Last month, we wrote about mmhmm, a virtual presentation startup that turns boring Zoom meetings into entertainment like presentations. Brought to you by Evernote founder, Phil Libin, the tool has cool features that make you look more than just a bland head-in-a-box. And, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that we’re a little bit tired of being one.

One month into beta, mmhmm already had 100k people on its waiting list. And, for those of you who’ve patiently waited, the wait is finally over! mmhmm has launched today on Mac and is available for download. So, to get a little more information on how mmhmm came about and what new things we can expect down the pipeline, we chatted with Phil himself.

When asked whether he expected such a big turnout for the beta, Phil said it was totally unexpected, and he said they weren’t trying to instill FOMO by not letting everyone get a peek. “The purpose of the beta was very scientific. Every day we invited a few hundred people, just enough so that we could have a statistically significant test; whether the previous features and bug fixes were working or not.” By running the beta the way they did, Phil said they were able to build a “good product quickly”.

Another thing that helped move things along quickly for mmhmm was that timing was just right. Before the pandemic, we were able to perform our roles in our daily lives at work, school, social functions, etc, but the pandemic took that away. Phil said that everyone “knew how to be a little bit of a performer. We just lost that when we all went on video because it’s just like a new language of how to be engaging on video.” And, the video tools available to us were no fun. So, Phil took what he learned from Twitter’s Cofounder Ben Stone — fuseful. “It’s a combination of fun and useful. So the idea is like, we do these things that are like funny, but they actually serve, you know, an important purpose,” Phil said.

Thus, the idea of mmhmm was formed. This new tool aims to take back a little bit of what we lost, such as being able to present alongside another team member; and debating if our slideshows, or our faces are more important to display. And, a lot of people were here for it, especially investors. “Everyone that we pitched it to believed in the size of the opportunity. They also all wanted to use it immediately,” Phil said. This helped in acquiring funding easier.

So, let’s get down to the features!

Copilot: Interestingly enough, the copilot feature has come in handy for more than just office presentations. The feature, which lets two people work and present together has been used by teachers in a very interesting way. Educators in South Dakota are using it for storytime. With the book in the background and the educators in front, they can read a book to children in both English and Lakota languages. And, while they speak, the book is synchronized in the back just like if you were turning a page. “Things couldn’t be done like this before,” Phil said.

Dynamic Rooms: The library of beautiful, animated backgrounds has grown. There are now more places for you to visit (or, rather display) in the background. This is partially due to mmhmm’s acquisition of Memex. Memex creates cool filters that you can apply to videos. “We’re going to have so much more interesting effects and backgrounds,” said Phil. “In fact, a lot of our dynamic rooms were made by the Memex guys.”

Laser Pointer: This laser comes in multiple colors and even rainbow mode. This feature lets you add a pointer effect to your mouse so you can point to specific pieces of information on your slide.

Away (or more like the Terminator’s “I’ll be back”): Selecting this feature will bring up a screen with a cute graphic of an mmhmm character juggling and text that reads, “Be Right Back”. You can say goodbye to empty cameras when someone goes offscreen.

Big Hand Mode: This feature is mmhmm’s way of perfecting gestures. This mode lets you nonverbally communicate without interrupting the presentation. The feature uses gesture recognition. By turning it on, your hand turns into a big foam hand you normally see at sports events. How cool is that!? “[You can] quickly communicate visually without interrupting. To agree with someone, you can just like give a thumbs up you know, or thumbs down,” Phil said. Unfortunately, this feature is only available on the new Apple M1 powered Macs just announced. Fingers crossed we see it on older Macs soon.

So, mmhmm is here. For now, it’s only available on Mac, but Phil says it will eventually be available on Windows, iPhone, iPad, and Android. The holdup is that they are looking at “what is uniquely good” about each device so they can develop work that will make it really great.

The basic version of mmhmm is free. But if you want more fun and flexible features, you can subscribe to unlock the fun! For those lucky enough to be on the beta, you will have access to three months of the premium features for free. New subscribers will get a 7-day trial. Every day after that, users will be able to use the advanced features for one hour each day. To get rid of the time limits, you can subscribe for $9.99/month or $99.99/year. And, all teachers and students will get the premium version for free for one year.

“The mark of a successful product is when you see it being used in ways that the creators just didn’t imagine. That’s a good sign that you’re succeeding,” Phil said. Will you step up to the challenge to do something the creators couldn’t imagine?

Veronica Garcia has a Bachelor of Journalism and Bachelor of Science in Radio/TV/Film from The University of Texas at Austin. When she’s not writing, she’s in the kitchen trying to attempt every Nailed It! dessert, or on the hunt trying to find the latest Funko Pop! to add to her collection.

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Microsoft’s latest HUGE investment: Self-driving car technologies

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft invests in self-driving car technology by joining other investors in a combined equity investment of $2 billion.

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Cars driving on city highway, including more than one self-driving car in the future.

Microsoft has put its money into self-driving car technology. The tech giant has partnered with General Motors and Cruise, GM’s majority-owned driverless car startup, to “accelerate the
commercialization of self-driving vehicles.”

“Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race – it’s also a trust race,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in a press release. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”

Along with Honda and other institutional investors, the companies are investing a combined $2 billion into the autonomous car company. This new funding round brings Cruise to a post-money valuation of $30 billion.

The long-term strategic partnership between the companies will be a collaborative one and beneficial for both. To roll out its fleet of self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, Azure.

In turn, as GM’s and Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, Microsoft will use the car company’s “industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.”

Besides helping bring the self-driving technology out to the market quicker, the companies will also work together on other digitization initiatives. For instance, they will collaborate on artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. And, explore opportunities to streamline operations and increase productivity.

“Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred
cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.”

Cruise first announced its self-driving car service a year ago, but when it will be deployed isn’t certain yet. With Microsoft as a partner, deploying those cars will help speed things up.

“Microsoft is a great addition to the team as we drive toward a future world of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth.”

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Wow! This synthetic cornea gave a legally blind man his vision back!

(TECH NEWS) Another instance of “technology is amazing:” this minimally invasive eye implant has opened new doors for sight restoration surgeries for the legally blind.

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Blurry city with a single glass piece held in the middle with a clear view.

After being the first patient to receive a cutting-edge cornea implant, a legally blind 78-year-old man can see again. Directly after his surgery, the patient was able to recognize his family members and read an eye chart. The KPro implant comes from the company CorNeat.

KPro is the first implant that can be directly integrated into the eye wall, replacing damaged or deformed corneas with no donor tissue. The clear layer that protects the front portion of the eye is called the corona. The corona is susceptible to degeneration or scarring, as well as a number of diseases such as keratopathy, keratoconus and pseudophakia bullous.

While artificial cornea implants already exist, the surgeries are complex and typically only used as a last resort when transplants or cornea ring implants don’t work. That is perhaps what makes the CorNeat transplants so remarkable – it’s a simple procedure that’s minimally invasive.

Additionally, KPro uses a biomimetic material that “stimulates cellular proliferation, leading to progressive tissue integration”. Not only can these implants give you your sight back instantly, but they also can help the natural tissue in your eyes to grow back and integrate. Now, THIS is cool stuff.

CorNeat said that ten more patients in Israel are approved for trials, as well as two in Canada. Six others are in the approval process in France, U.S., and the Netherlands. Professor Irit Bahar of CorNeat stated that he believes this project will ultimately impact millions of people’s lives. Only time will tell.

This advancement in biotech comes at a time where many Americans are uninsured and at a higher risk for health ailments due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent effects. At its best, CorNeat’s KPro offers some hope – while COVID has brought many industries to their knees, advancements in medical technology seem to persist.

If the results of the implants continue to stay as promising as they are now, who knows – maybe we’ll all be receiving cornea implants as a normal part of health upkeep in the not-so-distant future. I know I’ll be first in line.

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The top 10 languages you can know as a programmer

(TECH NEWS) Considering a career as a developer or programmer? You’re not alone. Here’s top 10 programming languages to enhance or start your career.

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Two female programmers at a laptop working on a programming screen.

The COVID economy has thousands of Americans reconsidering their career paths – with so many jobs dissolving due to various reasons (i.e., automation, a decrease in full-time creative positions), it’s no wonder why scores of professionals are seeking to reskill ASAP.

If this sounds like you, look no further; have you ever considered the lucrative career of computer programming?

Programmers on average make a salary of $89,590 a year. And better yet, coding jobs might never become obsolete. The trick is to know exactly what you want to do – different coding languages best serve specific purposes. So, which one should you learn first?

Top ten languages for new developers:

  1. Python – Learn Python if you’re interested in data analysis, machine learning, scripting, web development and Internet of Things (it’s the future!). Python is also the easiest language to learn, so give it a go!
  2. JavaScript – JavaScript is for you if you want a career in making websites interactive.
  3. The Go Programming Language – You can learn to build simple, reliable, and efficient software.
  4. Java – Want to work on computer programs, games, apps and web applications? What about Internet of Things and robots? Learn Java to tap into these fields. Keep in mind, Java is considered difficult for novice programmers.
  5. C# – C# is great for websites, web applications, games, and apps – especially Windows apps. It’s also perfect for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
  6. PHP – Want to get your hands dirty doing back-end website programming? PHP is the language for you.
  7. C++ – For programming apps, games and web browsers, C++ is the language you’ll need to learn. Though it’s notoriously tough to grasp, knowing this language could be the competitive edge you need to set you apart from the pool of programmers.
  8. C – C will prepare you for operating systems, compilers and databases.
  9. R – The world is always in need of those who conduct data and statistical analyses – check out R to dive in.
  10. Swift – For apps and software for Apple devices, check out Swift.

My advice? Figure out exactly it is you want to do in your new career as a programmer. Set your goal. Then, after you’re sure what direction you want to go in, see which programming language best suits your needs.

Get proficient at one language to start and become top-notch at it. Then, you can expand your rolodex to include multiple languages and grow your abilities as a programmer.

Good luck!

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