Inclusivity in VR

We talk about inclusive design for websites and apps, and accessibility for VR is now being addressed as well.

Here are two examples from the Association for Computing Machinery’s CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems last week:

  • Video chat for deaf people on Hololens: group video chats can be difficult for people who are hard of hearing. The solution was to create an AR based speech recognition software that features a speech bubble on the video chat. This tested better than traditional captioning.
  • Haptic Cane for VR: Microsoft Research project called a Canetroller allows blind or low vision people to navigate the virtual world. This allows users to navigate a virtual room without visual cues. This also would be a good option to help train people on using mobility canes before going out in the real world.

 

Why It’s Hot: We are the point where accessibility is being considered for emerging technologies.

A coral re(li)ef

From Hawaiian Airlines’ initiative in April to educate visitors on the harmful effects that many generic sunscreens have on the coral reefs, Hawaii has become the first state to introduce a ban on the sunscreens with chemicals believed to harm the reefs! The bill was introduced on Tuesday and if all goes well, it’ll take effect starting January 1st, 2021.

Why it’s hot:
Years of tourism has brutally impacted the reefs and accompanying ocean life leaving Hawaii to step up as they try to preserve what’s left.

source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/05/02/607765760/hawaii-approves-bill-banning-sunscreen-believed-to-kill-coral-reefs

“What If We Just Make The Fake News Really Small?” – Mark Zuckerberg (Allegedly)

The first round of attempt to stifle rampant fake news on Facebook via “red flags” were removed due to:

  1. “Buried critical information a.k.a. required too many clicks
  2. Could sometimes backfire because strong language or visuals can reinforce ideas
  3. Required at least two fact-checkers so was a slow process to be applied
  4. Only worked for false ratings so stories that were partly false or unproven were not marked”

What the disputed flag tool looked like

The crack team at Facebook has another idea…just make the fake news real small like….Or at least that’s what Tech Crunch is claiming with their new behind-the-scenes reporting.

“We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch at the Fighting Abuse @Scale event in SF.

“Confirmed-to-be-false news stories on mobile show up with their headline and image rolled into a single smaller row of space. Below, a Related Articles box shows “Fact-Checker”-labeled stories debunking the original link. Meanwhile on the right, a real news article’s image appears about 10 times larger, and its headline gets its own space.”

Why it’s hot?

Facebook is trying to find work arounds for it’s duties to be an actual media company with a newsroom. They have a big issue on their hands thats affecting global politics and humanity. But, LOL, let’s just make the fake news small.

AirBNB = RAISED RENTS

Th NYC Comptroller’s Office has released their report on the effect of AirBNB on rents in the city.

The report covers the years 2009-2016, and uses some interesting mechanisms to control for outside factors.

The takeaways (copied from the report):

 

  • For each one percent of all residential units in a neighborhood listed on AirBNB, rental rates in that neighborhood went up by 1.58 percent.
  • Between 2009 and 2016, approximately 9.2 percent of the citywide increase in rental rates can be attributed to AirBNB.

This rent hike particularly affected the neighborhoods with the greatest concentration of AirBNBs. The two neighborhoods with the highest absolute increase are Williamsburg and Greenpoint, where rent increased on average by $659.

Why it’s hot

The battle over AirBNB and selectively enforced regulations has been going on for awhile. Here we have hard data that in aggregate, AirBNB has a negative effect on NYC specifically. It will be interesting to see what happens moving forward.

Playing For Good

What if you could plant a tree just by paying a bill online? More than 280 million Chinese consumers are doing just that, alongside other similarly environmentally friendly acts. The Ant Forest app, launched as a pilot initiative in 2016 by Alipay, China’s leading mobile payment platform, gamifies going green. It rewards users who engage in activities with a low carbon footprint, such as using public transportation or walking to work. Through an animated, interactive mobile game, participants can collect “energy points” and compete with friends to grow a virtual tree. Gathering enough points means Alipay’s parent company Ant Financial will plant a real tree in Inner Mongolia or Gansu province.

 

 

 

Alipay takes the challenge very seriously. In light of transparency issues swirling around the philanthropy industry in China, not only does the company use blockchain to power its donation platform, it has also gone so far as to install a live camera feed in its newly planted forests, so that Ant Forest participants, of whom more than half are millennials, can see exactly what their efforts have amounted to. By the end of 2017, Alipay had planted 13.1 million trees as a result of activity on the app, and claimed to have reduced carbon emission by 2.05 million tons.

Ant Forest is not the only Alipay app that uses gamification for social good. Ant Farm lets users make micro-donations from their mobile payments to selected charities, within a framework that resembles a FarmVille-style game. Users compete with others in their social network as they raise a virtual chicken, gaining feed through making payments and eventually using the eggs their chicken lays to donate to organizations supporting children with congenital heart disease. Players have to keep checking the app to manage feeding times, lest their chicken run away to find food in other users’ digital farms.

Users who prefer to be more active can turn their own steps into a donation in another app, and can compare their fitness progress with those in their network.

Why It’s Hot

Gamification is being hailed as a strong contender for propelling the future of sustainability through digital means. It shows that digital finance holds a huge untapped power to mobilize people in support of sustainable development and the fight against climate change. And this power is literally at our fingertips through our mobile devices.

 

Source

 

Asking for gender identity or sex on forms

When asking for gender identity or sex on forms, it’s easy for designers and marketers, especially cis designers and marketers, to revert to binary options, or to conflate assigned or biological sex with gender identity. Luckily lots of people have written articles and guides to help with asking questions to help ensure that data captured is quality and that users feel confident in responding. Below are 7 tips for being more inclusive in gender forms from UX Collective writer Sabrina Fonseca.

  1. Give a reason for asking.
  2. Be clear about who is receiving this data for safety and privacy purposes.
  3. Make it optional or provide an “prefer not to say” option.
  4. Include options for “gender nonconforming”, “genderqueer”, or “questioning” responses.
  5. Ask for pronouns to make things simpler to parse, or just an open field.
  6. Allow for custom or complicated answers if you require more detailed information.
  7. Think about if it is really crucial to the information you are capturing.

Bonus: internationalization applies to questions of gender as well, as some cultures have their own labels and pronoun guidelines to follow.

Why it’s hot

Gender diversity inclusion is work. It requires thinking, training, researching, testing, testing, testing, iterating, and keeping up with labels. But it’s worth pursuing it as gender fluidity is likely to become a more and more widely accepted concept in our society. Trans & GNC people and their allies want to see organizations take action rather than just say they’re supportive. Accommodating for people’s different choices is part of that. So making a small change like this can be beneficial to your target audience, they will appreciate your effort and desire to listen, even if the first attempt is not perfect. – Sabrina Fonseca

Read more at UX Collective, HRC.org, and Mailchimp

What the heck is GDPR?

The European Union is about to roll out sweeping regulations governing how companies collect, use, and share people’s data. And it doesn’t matter where your business is based–if you deal with E.U. residents online, you’re going to be affected too.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25, is designed to give users more control of their information. In total, there are 99 articles in the new GDPR laws. The law will require companies to obtain consent from users before collecting any data. GDPR also requires companies to notify regulators and affected individuals of any breaches of security within 72 hours. Companies that don’t comply with the new rules can be fined as much as 4 percent of their global annual revenue.

To date, the GDPR is one of the broadest and most comprehensive laws devised by a Western country to regulate the Internet and personal data privacy, according to Trevor Hughes, president of the New Hampshire-based International Association of Privacy Professionals. (The United States has only sector-specific laws to protect personal data.)

While the crux of GDPR is about putting the power of data back in the hands of consumers, giving users a better understanding of where our data is and what it’s being used for, for large companies it has resulted in a big bill. British firms have spent over $1 billion dollars getting ready, and for American companies that bill is over $8 billion. And for many, that money is being spent on legal fees trying to navigate the vague regulations.

But what about smaller companies? As of January, only about 40 percent of businesses had heard of GDPR, and of those that had, only a quarter were prepared for it, according to a survey conducted by the University of Portsmouth and a U.K. market research firm.

Why its hot

GDPR is a big, complicated mess. Large companies like Google and Facebook, who make most of their money outside Europe, won’t have much to worry about. But smaller companies are already starting to shut European countries out rather than comply. It’s just easier. Looking specifically at Facebook, their year-over-year revenue growth is more than Europe’s percentage of Facebook revenue. Companies can either dump all their data or stop doing business in Europe.

One thing GDPR may do is kill the targeted ads business in Europe. That’s a big deal to smaller firms who cannot handle the drop in CPM. Facebook won’t have that issue. If anything GDPR may only further entrench giants like Google and Facebook in our every day lives.

google’s magical VR doodle…

If you missed it, Google released its first 360-degreee video doodle yesterday – an homage to a French silent filmmaker and artist Georges Méliès, commemorating his film “The Conquest of the Pole”.

Why It’s Hot:

When even Google Doodles start to show up in 360-degree video, you know it’s bleeding mainstream. Storytelling in 2018 isn’t just a passive experience, it’s an interactive one that immerses the viewer in the story. As we approach video projects in the future, we should be designing for the experience, not just a two-dimensional stream.

[Source]

Bacoin

Oscar Mayer has launched a Bacon-Based Cryptocurrency, called Bacoin. Oscar Mayer is giving away a limited amount of Bacoin that fans can mine, track the value of and cash out for real packs of Oscar Mayer Bacon at OscarMayerBacoin.com.

Similar to other cryptocurrencies, the value of Bacoin can be volatile. However, Bacoin stands out by the fact that Bacon lovers can boost value by spreading the news via Twitter and email on OscarMayerBacoin.com. The more they share, the greater Bacoin is worth. When ready, Bacoin owners can select the best time to cash out and receive real packs of Oscar Mayer Bacon.

Why its hot?
The more people share the higher the value of bacoin and you can track its value on an hourly basis

 

 

 

 

Internet-free smartphone

samsung launches galaxy j2 pro in south korea gold

Samsung launched a new phone, Galaxy J2 Pro, a phone that lets people call make phone calls and send text messages but cannot connect to the internet.

It targets high schools students who need to focus on studying for their college entrance exam in Korea. The goal is to help them stay on task without the distraction of social media, games, or browsing the web.

Other features include an offline electronic dictionary app, a calendar app, an FM radio and a calculator.

There perk is, students who have completed the exam can trade in their Galaxy J2 Pro for a Galaxy S, Note, or A Series phone.

Why it’s hot: Sometimes it’s good and helpful going back to the basics.

Source: Yahoo

Half Dome – Facebook’s prototype VR headset that’s tackling VR’s biggest visual issues

Facebook just released the new Occulus Go, but already has a prototype for a new VR headset that focuses on advancing the hardware to increase the visual quality.

A wider field of view, built-in eye tracking, and moving screens inside the device all work together to create a greater sense of depth in virtual 3D objects, both far and near. This helps users read things and avoid tunnel vision in VR.

Personal images that users take are transformed into “point cloud record structures.” This allows the device to create new 3D panorama images with detailed geometry that users can explore in VR.

Check out the video: https://www.cnet.com/news/facebooks-vr-technology-half-dome-may-be-heading-somewhere-scary-good/

Why it’s Hot:

  • Innovative new ways to have hardware fix common visual VR issues and create 3D spaces from 2D images

Maple Syrup and Honey Producers are Pissed at the FDA

The FDA is in the process of updating nutrition and serving size labeling requirements for packaged foods, a move that is overwhelmingly positive in terms of providing increased transparency for consumers. But one part of these new requirements is causing a huge backlash in the seemingly idyllic circles of maple syrup and honey producers.

According to the FDA’s new rules, nutritional labels on all honey and maple syrup must list the sugars in the product as “added sugars” even though some of the products themselves are entirely naturally produced. This is a huge deal for these natural producers, since the unique selling point of their products is that they are naturally made and do not have any added sugar.

Don’t freak out yet though, the law is not set to go into effect until 2020 and Senator Sanders is totally on it.

Why It’s Hot: A particularly egregious example of applying rules too broadly and without sufficient flexibility. At what point is “helpful to most” not a good enough justification?

Learn More: USA Today | Burlington Free Press

Who doesn’t want to play amateur Maury Povich?

The 23 & Me craze has spilled into the animal kingdom for pet owners who want more info on their pet’s breed and medical predispositions. Companies such as Embark and AnimalBiome will gladly take your money to test your dog or cat’s dna. Is it worth it? Probably more for dog owners curious about their breed, but don’t spend too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see video.

Why It’s Hot

While there’s nothing wrong with digging into your pet’s dna, it does feel like someone is taking advantage of a larger trend.

“Alexa, Let’s Make Some Money”

Today, Amazon made important updates to its monetization model for Alexa.

First, Amazon finally opened up Alexa to developers to make money off third-party skills. Developers can now add purchases to skills and sell physical goods through Alexa. In-Skill Purchases (or ISPs) work almost exactly like in-app purchases for mobile apps. Developers will be able to offer either one-time purchases to unlock new content or ongoing subscriptions that enhance the skill. Developers get 70% of revenue from the in-skill purchase, and Amazon is ensuring that Prime members will always get some sort of extra benefits here, whether that be discounted prices or early access to new features. (It’s important to note that all skills are still free to use).

The second monetization update is that Amazon is now opening up Amazon Pay, letting third-party developers sell their products through their Alexa skills (similar to how you can already order things from Amazon through the voice assistant). TGI Fridays and 1-800-Flowers are the first companies to create skills with the new functionality, letting users order food or flowers through the Alexa voice interface using the same payment information that’s already attached to their Amazon account.

WHY IT’S HOT:

Opening up Alexa purchases to third-party developers will increase the velocity of the Amazon’s expanding ecommerce universe. As voice grows, Amazon makes a compelling platform for any brand or retailer to reach its customers.

Robot Delivery Drivers take Silicon Valley

Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery startup created in 2014 by two Skype co-founders, has been in public testing mode in 20 countries around the world since 2015. Now the company says it is ready for its first “major commercial rollout”.

Employees of company ‘Intuit’ in Mountain View, California, will be able to order breakfast, lunch and coffee from their staff cafeteria and have it delivered to any point in the company’s Silicon Valley campus by one of Starship’s six-wheeled autonomous robots.

“You place your order, it’s one click, then you drop a pin where you want the robot to meet you,” says Starship co-founder Janus Friis. “We’ve seen huge demand for breakfast. For some reason people just don’t want to wait – they want to go straight to work and avoid the queue in the early hours of the day.”

Starship is now on the lookout for other campuses across western Europe and the US where it can deploy the robots.

Why it’s hot: This is just another step towards the autonomous driving cars and Amazon drone-delivered packages – talk about a seamless customer experience!

Source: PSFK

Death of the newsfeed?

Industry SME Benedict Evans wrote a post recently asking whether the newsfeed concept fundamental to so many social networks and forums will die soon.

His rationale was as follows:
-Facebook’s average user is eligible to see at least 1,500 items per day in their newsfeed, which is absurd
-There are lots of incentives for people (Russians, game developers) to try to manipulate the feed
-Which means 50% of Facebook’s engineering effort goes into stuffing more into the newsfeed, while the other 50% works out ways to filter it (like Google trying to get search results ‘perfect’)
-Assumedly out of frustration, newsfeed engagement is lower and more people are looking to messaging apps for meaningful interaction

Evan reminds us that tech like this tends to move in cycles – we swing from one kind of expression to another and back again, and we might be swinging away from the feed.

He ends with the following riddle:
-All social apps grow until you need a newsfeed
-All newsfeeds grow until you need an algorithmic feed
-All algorithmic feeds grow until you get fed up of not seeing stuff/seeing the wrong stuff & leave for new apps with less overload
-All those new apps grow until…

Read more: Benedict Evans blog

Why It’s Hot
As we continue to debate whether social networks isolate more than connect us, it’s critical to understand how the communication methods the platforms employ contribute to the phenomenon.

Facebook announces dating feature for meeting non-friends

Facebook  is invading Tinder’s space with a new set of dating features. It will let people opt in to creating a dating profile on Facebook. It will only be visible to non-friends who also opted into dating. Facebook will match you by a slew of preferences. And because it has more data on you than any other app, it could deliver more relevant matches. The feature will start testing later this year.

Facebook explains that “potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.” TechCrunch suggested that Facebook build a feature like this in February.

  1. Opt in to a create a profile with just your first name. Your profile won’t be visible to friends, users who aren’t on the dating feature, and it won’t show up in the News Feed.
  2. You’ll browse Events in your city and Groups that match your interests. You can select to “unlock” one for dating. You’ll then see the profiles of other dating users who’ve unlocked that surface.
  3. You can browse through people’s profiles that show off a few of their photos plus some basic information about them. You’ll be shown people based on mutual interests and friends, plus other data Facebook has on you.
  4. If you both are interested, you’ll be able to start a conversation with someone in a special inbox that’s separate from Messenger and WhatsApp. For safety, only text can be sent for now.

Why It’s Hot

Based on Facebook’s wealth of data and ubiquitous experience, it is no surprise they are entering the dating space. There is no doubt that Facebook is primed for this. However, there are some concerns.

1. Facebook has long fought with the fake profile – and a dating service could only make that “cat fishing” problem worse.

2. It will create a new level of data intimacy that would have great value to marketers. With all of the data privacy issues Facebook is facing currently, it brings Facebook’s priorities into question.