A lot has shifted for us since earlier in 2020 that sometimes feels like we have lived multiple years within a few months. We’ve had to learn and adjust to a new way of working and living; current times have had us rely heavily on technology and we cannot see friends in person or attend live events.
Zoom, for example, saw an increase in users from 10 million to over 200 million, seemingly overnight, this past spring. MS Teams was also quickly utilized or accelerated in many workplaces for virtual meetings and presentations, going from 31 million to 75 million daily active users in a month. Microsoft commented that this was like everyone learning about 2 years’ worth of technology in less than a quarter of that time.
Our heads might be spinning, but as humans, we adapt; there are many people looking to make the best out of these tough times and focus on what really matters in life. We also may be grieving the old routines and we all know that things will not “go back to normal” as we move forward in 2020. With the endless uncertainty (especially with new school years starting), it’s definitely a time of high curiosity as to how COVID-19 will change our habits and practices in the long run – What will school and work look like, and will there be more flexibility after this? When can we hang out in-person with our loved ones again?
The one thing that cannot be ignored during all the uncertainty is that we still need human connection; we need to feel a sense of belonging and to share experiences. Some of us may be feeling this need a lot more if we haven’t been able to visit family nor invite friends over for a fun and relaxing weekend dinner to escape our normal daily routines.
While there’s no replacement to in-person hangouts, a new app, Cappuccino, offers a fun and unique way to keep in touch with loved ones.
Cappuccino is a “daily personal audio show featuring your friends”; it’s a new way to connect with people, unlike other social media platforms that may require more effort. You can create a group and listening to daily podcasts, featuring the voices of your friends. You can listen in while drinking your cup of joe, get quick updates, and hopefully a few laughs to start your day. Because they are audio, users don’t have to worry about being “video ready”, creating the perfectly angled selfie, or taking the time to type anything out (no fat thumbs or pointer fingers on the wee little keyboard).
While being able to download and create groups is currently only available on iOS, you can join a group on Android. The directions seem really simple and sound very appealing via ProductHunt:
- RECORD A BEAN: Tap the microphone and start recording. Talk about your day, tell a joke or share a thought and send it to your close friends and family.
- LISTEN TO YOUR CAPPUCCINO: (mix of your friends’ beans) every morning at 8 am.
Here’s a stellar review:
“I’m fortunate to have been using this product since day 1 and found it to be such a breakthrough for keeping in touch with my closest friends (all from outside the tech world!), especially as we all live in different cities around the world. It quickly becomes part of your daily routine (and low key therapeutic) to take 2 mins out of your day to reflect on what you’ve been up to/how you’re feeling/any challenges you’re facing/or just to summarize the news in your life, and frictionlessly record those thoughts to share with your friends. The following morning, it became such a joy to play my cappuccino as I’m getting ready for the day ahead, and have my morning filled with the voices and stories of my closest friends.”
This might be a great way to start the day and a chance for some of us to finally be one of those morning DJs. Somehow, this also sounds more appealing than going down a rabbit hole on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
App name: Cappuccino – closer to friends
App Store Link
If this sounds interesting to you, and you’ve been looking for non-typical ways to connect, you may also like Marco Polo, which allows you to video “chat” with friends without have to be available at the same time (like you would with FaceTime). Instead, you record your video message and your friend can watch/respond when they have time. This has been a great way to stay connected with friends when we cannot get together in person. It has also been nice because while a text is quick, sometimes it’s hard to relay context and emotion when you’re trying to be short and sweet.
These are just a few examples of good ways that technology is keeping us connected and lifting our spirits in tough times.
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.
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.
Google set to release new AI-operated meeting room kit… and it’s pretty baller
(TECH NEWS) Google’s newest toy is designed to “put people first” by alleviating video and audio issues for conference room meetings.
Remote meetings can be the worst sometimes. The awful video and audio quality are frustrating when you’re trying to hear important details for an upcoming project. Even with the fastest internet connection, this doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to clearly hear or see anyone who’s in the office. But Google is re-imagining conference rooms with their new video conferencing hardware.
Yesterday, the company introduced Google Meet Series One. In partnership with Lenovo, this meeting room kit is made exclusively for Google Meet and is poised to be the hardware that “puts people first.”
The Series One has several components that make it stand out. First is the “Smart Audio Bar,” powered by eight beam-forming microphones. Using Google Edge TPUs, the soundbar can deliver TrueVoice®, the company’s “proprietary, multi-channel noise cancellation technology.” It removes distracting sounds, like annoying finger and foot-tapping noises, so everyone’s voices are crystal clear from anywhere in the room.
The hardware also has 4K smart cameras that allow for high-resolution video and digital PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) effects. Processed with Google AI, the device knows to automatically zoom in and out so all of the meetings’ participants are framed in the camera. With an i7 processor and Google Edge TPUs, the system is built to “handle the taxing demands of video conferencing along with running the latest in Google AI as efficiently and reliably as possible.”
The meeting kit has Google grade security built-in, so the system automatically updates over-the-air. The system also works seamlessly with Google services and apps we already use. Its touch control display is powered by a single ethernet cable. From the admin controls, you can manage meeting lists and control room settings. Powered by assistant voice commands, their touch controller provides a “touchless touchability”; if you want to, you can join a meeting just by saying, “Hey Google, join the meeting.”
These new meeting kits are easy to install and are versatile. They can be configured to fit small, medium, and large-sized rooms. “Expanding kits for larger rooms can be done with just an ethernet cable and the tappable Mic Pod, which expands microphone reach and allows for mute/unmute control.”
According to the Google Meet Series One introductory video, the meeting room kits are “beautifully and thoughtfully designed to make video meetings approachable and immersive so everyone gets a seat at the table.”
Currently, there is no release date set for Google Meet Series One. However, pre-orders will soon be available in the US, Canada, Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium.
One creepy way law enforcement might have your private data
(TECH NEWS) Wait, geofences do what? Law enforcement can pull your private data if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.
By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that our smartphones are tracking us, but what you might not be aware of is just how much law enforcement is taking advantage of our private data. Now, the good news is that some places have gotten wise to this breach of privacy and are banning certain tactics. The bad news is: If you were ever in the vicinity of a recent crime scene, it’s quite possible your privacy has already been invaded.
How are law enforcement doing this? Well, it starts with a geofence.
At its core, a geofence is a virtual border around a real geographic location. This can serve many purposes, from creating marketing opportunities for targeted ads to tracking shipping packages. In the case of law enforcement, though, geofences are often used in something called a geofence warrant.
Traditionally, warrants identify a subject first, then retrieve their electronic records. A geofence warrant, on the other hand, identifies a time and place and pulls electronic data from that area. If you’re thinking “hey, that sounds sketchy,” you are–forgive the pun–completely warranted.
With a geofence, law enforcement can dig through your private data, not because they have proof you were involved in a crime, but because you happened to be nearby.
This practice, though relatively new, is on the rise: Google reported a 15-fold increase in geofence warrant requests between 2017 and 2018. As well as invading privacy, these warrants have led to false arrests and can be used against peaceful protesters. Not to mention, in many cases, geofence warrants can be extremely easy to acquire. One report in Minnesota found judges signed off on these cases in under 4 minutes.
Thankfully, there have been signs of people pushing back against the use of geofence warrants. In fact, there have been multiple federal court rulings that find the practice in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including your electronic data.
If you’re still worried about your privacy, there are ways to keep your electronic data on lock. For example, turn off your location services when you’re traveling, and avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. You can also work to limit location sharing with apps and websites.
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