Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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Drones May Soon Track You Using Your Screams

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Scientists may be on the verge of a major breakthrough in search and rescue (SAR), training drones to track people using their screams.

In life and death situations, such as when a natural disaster strikes, finding survivors is a race against the clock. To make matters worse, rescuers often have to proceed carefully and slowly to avoid making matters worse. For example, if people are trapped in the rubble following an earthquake, rescuers must move slowly and methodically to avoid causing any additional cave-ins.

Scientists may have found a solution, training drones to zero in on the sound of a person screaming and track the screams back to their source, according to The Washington Post.

Engineers at Germany’s Fraunhofer FKIE institute have already built a working prototype, and the initial results are promising.

“[Drones] can cover a larger area in a shorter period of time than rescuers or trained dogs on the ground,” Macarena Varela, one of the lead engineers, said. “If there’s a collapsed building, it can alert and assist rescuers. It can go places they can’t fly to or get to themselves.”

While the concept is absolutely brilliant, and the engineers are to be applauded for what they’re trying to accomplish, I for one can’t help but imagine bloodthirsty drones hunting down humans screaming and running for their lives, Skynet-style. Especially in view of recent reportswhere a military drone hunted humans down without authorization, I can’t help but wonder how long it will be until human scream-tracking is turned into a nightmarish Terminator scenario.

Apple Watch May Call 911 While You’re Sleeping

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If the police and ambulances suddenly show up at your house and wake you from slumber…you may have your Apple Watch to blame.

The Apple Watch has an Emergency SOS function, whereby holding the Watch’s side button can automatically call 911. The feature is similar to the one on the iPhone and iPad, where holding the power and volume button can do the same thing.

Unfortunately, it appears some Apple Watch users are sleeping on their Watch in such a way that the Emergency SOS feature is being activated in their sleep.

“What happens is while people are moving around in their sleep or exercising, they’ll get the Apple Watch into the emergency mode. Without knowing it, the watch will actually call 911,” Overland Park Police Captain Jim Sutterby said told Fox Kansas City.

Fortunately, the feature has to be enabled in the Watch app on your iPhone first, so not everyone will be impacted. Of course, another easy way to avoid the problem is to simply to take the Watch off and put it on the charger before going to bed.

If, however, you choose to wear your Apple Watch to bed and the police and paramedics show up in the middle of the night…don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Colorado Lawmakers Pass Colorado Privacy Act

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Colorado has become the third state to pass sweeping privacy legislations, as lawmakers passed the Colorado Privacy Act.

Privacy has become an increasingly important element to consumers and regulators alike, with Colorado the latest state to pass legislation protecting consumer privacy. The state joins California and Virginia as the only states in the country to take such measures.

The new bill stipulates that “consumers have the right to opt out of the processing of their personal data; access, correct, or delete the data; or obtain a portable copy of the data.”

While good for Colorado residents concerned with their privacy, the Colorado Privacy Act illustrates the challenges companies are beginning to face. The EU has the GDPR, while California, Virginia and Colorado will all have their own privacy legislation.

As individual states continue to adopt their own legislation, it will become increasingly complicated for companies to ensure compliance with the patchwork of applicable requirements. It’s little wonder that, in early 2020, then Salesforce co-CEO Keith Block called on the US to pass comprehensive privacy legislation.

In the meantime, the Colorado bill is headed to the governor’s office to be signed into law.

How To Create A Successful Social Design

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After spending some time looking through the list of Facebook’s heaviest hitters I couldn’t help but notice a trend of characteristics that worked in favor of nurturing a positive, active social interaction between the brand and the fans.  However nothing is perfect and the same can even be said for the top three Branded Facebook Fan Pages as there are a handful of things that could be improved to make their social efforts even more successful.

 

Top 3 Branded Facebook Pages

 

One Chance to Make a First Impression

First impressions make lasting statements both in reality and the virtual world. Much like a firm handshake and an inviting smile help break the ice during an introduction, a Facebook welcome page is a great way to say hello to new visitors while inviting them to explore the page’s content and become a fan. Interestingly enough, only one of the top three branded pages welcomes non-fans in this fashion. Both YouTube and Facebook’s Fan Page goes straight to the wall while Starbucks’ page directs non-fans to a tab inviting visitors to “Join the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Celebration.” This is a great example of providing non-fan visitors with compelling content promoting a seasonal product without blatant advertising. The result is an approachable social interaction that gives the users’ visit a purpose and directs them to further investigate the page, and ultimately click the Like button.

 

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Celebration

 

Socializing Requires a Two-Way Street

Once users eventually arrive on the wall of a Fan Page, whether directly or after visiting a landing page, it’s important that the wall appears organized and uncluttered. Unfortunately many companies believe keeping a tidy wall requires restricting or eliminating user posts.  This could give off the wrong impression that a company is too worried about what others might say about them to allow user posting and it denies users the freedom of interacting with each other without the direction of the brand. The use of a display filter can offer greater flexibility that doesn’t remove the users’ ability to post comments to a page’s wall yet still maintains a neat, organized wall by default.

Facebook’s own Fan Page only allows for site managed comments to show up with no option for users to post or view comments of their own while both Starbucks and YouTube defaults to their own comments but enables a filter that allows users to choose from viewing just YouTube’s comments, just others’ comments or all comments.  This gives users a clean glance at the official posts on the wall with the additional functionality of being able to post their own thoughts, feelings and experiences with others, resulting in a more open, inviting social experience than that of Facebook’s Fan Page.

However, this doesn’t mean that your fans should be given free rein to post anything and everything under the sun. Careful monitoring and moderation are crucial for insuring that discussions remain on track and are void of vulgar or offensive material. Maintaining a balance between healthy discussion and a sense of structure lets visitors know their thoughts are being heard and that someone is watching over things to keep comments from getting out of hand while encouraging an inviting atmosphere.

Optimizing Your Website’s Internal Linking

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While many webmasters focus on acquiring more external links, it’s easy to forget that internal link building is still a great way to boost the rankings of other pages within your website. Internal links can be an untapped goldmine and the best part is you have complete control over their implementation.

Microsoft Getting Back Into Retail

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Microsoft appears to be reversing course, getting back into retail with its flagship New York City, London and Sydney locations.

Microsoft famously announced in June 2020 it was closing its retail locations throughout the US. Unlike Apple, whose stores are some of the most profitable retail space in the country, Microsoft was never able to achieve the same degree of success.

When the company announced it was closing its stores, it said it would keep a few locations — New York City, London and Sydney — open as “Microsoft Experience Centers.” The stores would showcase Microsoft’s products, but would not actually sell anything to customers.

The company is now reversing course, and will begin selling products at its Experience Centers. The company confirmed the change of plans in a statement to The Verge.

“Our Microsoft Experience Centers were created to provide customers a way to experience our products in person,” said Travis Walter, Microsoft’s head of retail stores. “We use these spaces to test and experiment, and continue to evolve the experience based on customer feedback. Starting July 1st, customers will be able to purchase select Microsoft products at the New York, London and Sydney locations.”

El Salvador Passes Law Adopting Bitcoin as Legal Tender

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El Salvador has gone down in the history books, being the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender.

Bitcoin is the most valuable, and most well-known, cryptocurrency, hitting a record price of $64,829.14 in April. As its value has soared, so has its mainstream acceptance, with financial companies and businesses alike moving to adopt it.

El Salvador, however, has become the first country to adopt it as legal tender, with the Bitcoin Law passing the Salvadoran Congress with supermajority support. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele announced the law’s passage on Twitter.

There’s still many details to be worked out, especially given Bitcoin’s volatility. But the law promises to “promote the necessary training and mechanisms so that the population can access bitcoin transactions.”

Microsoft Hosting Special Windows Event June 24

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Microsoft is preparing to unveil the next generation of its Windows operating system, just weeks after killing Windows 10X.

Microsoft has been working on reinventing Windows for some time, with Windows 10X a major part of that endeavor. The new version of Windows reportedly had a streamlined interface, abandoned legacy code and was being optimized for multi-screen devices. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced Microsoft to refocus on existing efforts to help meet customers immediate needs.

When Microsoft announced it was killing Windows 10X, the company said it would incorporate its design elements and features into existing products. It appears the world is about to see the fruit of those labors.

Microsoft has announced a Windows event on June 24, with the tagline: “Join us to see what’s next for Windows.” CEO Satya Nadella and Chief Product Officer Panos Panay will both be presenting at the event.

Essential Website Usability Tools

So you have a website, and you’re getting traffic – but the sales aren’t rolling in. Or maybe they are, but they’re not setting the world on fire.

All too often websites are built with little or no consideration given to their usability. And this is often the critical difference between good and great websites.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term:
“Usability is the extent to which a website can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. In other words, good usability implies that users can easily use a website and by doing so, reach their goals quickly and without getting lost or confused.”

For an existing website, the first steps to improving usability are of course assessing the current levels of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction of users.
To help you with this process, here are essential website usability tools to start the process.

Clicktale

Clicktale allows you to visualize your visitors activity and get an overview of complete browsing sessions. It also watches behaviour analytics, which include click heatmaps, mouse move heat maps, and web analytics. These can help improve usability and conversion rates.

CrazyEgg

CrazyEgg enhances your sites usability by keeping a track of pages i.e. it can watch over your website and have an overview of heat maps to track the clicks. It can also track the advanced activities such as top fifteen referrals, browser and search terms.

Feng GUI

Feng GUI simulates human vision during the first 5 seconds of exposure to visuals, and creates heatmaps based on an algorithm that predicts what a real human would be most likely to look at. Feng-GUI Dashboard offers designers and advertisers, a pre-testing service that measures the performance of your design, before it airs, by analyzing levels of attention, brand effectiveness and placement, as well as breaking down the flow of attention.

Five Second Test

Fivesecondtest helps you fine tune your landing pages and calls to action by analyzing the most prominent elements of your design. By finding out what a person recalls about your design in just 5 seconds you can ensure that your message is being communicated as effectively as possible.

Google Website Optimizer

Google Website Optimizer allows you to set up different versions of your web content and then it random displays the versions to different visitors. This form of multivariate testing help you establish which versions are most user friendly and lead to higher conversions.

Loop 11

Loop 11 is a solution for consultants, designers and web managers to get the metrics and optimize a website’s potential. It has an easy process to create a professional usability test, accumulate responses and source them via a social media and finally analyze the data through the usability metrics.

Usabilla

Usabilla integrates usability tests in your daily work-flow and helps you continuously improve your web site’s user-experience and conversions with high quality design feedback.

User Testing

User Testing is a way of getting data on your visitors’ browsing patterns — data that isn’t biased or subjective; data which shows the real activity from people using your website.

UserTesting provides on demand user testing. Post your website usability test requirements on their website and get direct feedback from real users via participant videos of activities completed. With a large database of users, you can target exactly who completes your tests.

Of course there’s plenty of other tools out there which can help you improve your website’s usability. The key is to get started with the process. Whether you invest in one of the tools above or just start looking at some of the basics through Google analytics – once you’ve started testing, you can start improving.

TikTok Updates Terms to Collect Biometric Data

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TikTok is at it again, threatening user privacy as it updates its terms to collect biometric data.

TikTok is one of the most controversial social media platforms, in large part due to its repeated, flagrant disregard for privacy. The company has been sued over accusations it collected and uploaded videos to servers in China without consent, without the user even having an account. The company has been accused of repeatedly violating child privacy, censoring individuals it didn’t consider beautiful enough to be showcased and has been warned by the EU over its handling of data. Even the CEO of Reddit called the platform “fundamentally parasitic.”

The latest controversy involves a change to the company’s privacy policy, allowing it to collect biometric data.

We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined under US laws, such as faceprints and voiceprints, from your User Content. Where required by law, we will seek any required permissions from you prior to any such collection.

In many ways, the change is not particularly surprising. The company recently settled a lawsuit in Illinois for $92 million over its handling of biometric data. Notably, the company never admitted to the accusations in the aforementioned lawsuit. The change to the company’s privacy policy, however, gives it the ability to do what it was accused of doing, while committing to following applicable laws.

All of which does little to change the validity of Reddit’s CEO that the platform is “fundamentally parasitic,” and not one anybody concerned about privacy should have on their phone.