Inside Amazon’s surveillance-powered no-checkout convenience store

By now many have heard of Amazon’s most audacious attempt to shake up the retail world, the cashless, cashierless Go store. Walk in, grab what you want, and walk out. I got a chance to do just that recently, as well as pick the brain of one of its chief architects.

My intention going in was to try to shoplift something and catch these complacent Amazon types napping. But it became clear when I went in that this wasn’t going to be an option. I was never more than a foot or two from an Amazon PR rep, and as Dilip Kumar, the projects VP of Technology, convinced me, they’d already provided against such crude attacks on their system.

As you might have seen in the promo video, you enter the store (heretofore accessible to Amazon employees only) through a gate that opens when you scan a QR code generated by the Amazon Go app on your phone. At this moment (well, actually the moment you entered or perhaps even before) your account is associated with your physical presence and cameras begin tracking your every move.

The many, many cameras.

  1. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  2. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wondered when the idea of Amazon’s cashierless store was first proposed how it would be accomplished. Cameras on the ceiling, behind the display cases, on pedestals? What kind? Proximity and weight sensors, face recognition? Where would this all be collated and processed?

Amazon’s approach wasn’t as complex as I expected, or rather not in the way I expected. Mainly the system is made up of dozens and dozens of camera units mounted to the ceiling, covering and recovering every square inch of the store from multiple angles. I’d guess there are maybe a hundred or so in the store I visited, which was about the size of an ordinary bodega or gas station mart.

These are ordinary RGB cameras, custom made with boards in the enclosure to do some basic grunt computer vision work, presumably things like motion detection, basic object identification, and so on.

They’re augmented by separate depth-sensing cameras (using a time-of-flight technique, or so I understood from Kumar) that blend into the background like the rest, all matte black.

The images captured from these cameras are sent to a central processing unit (for lack of a better term, not knowing exactly what it is), which does the real work of quickly and accurately identifying different people in the store and objects being picked up or held. Picking something up adds it to your “virtual shopping cart,” and you can pop it in a tote or shopping bag as fast as you like. No need to hold it up for the system to see.

This is where the secret sauce is, Kumar told me, and I believe him. As banal a problem as it may seem to determine which similarly dressed person picked up which nearly identical yogurt cup, it’s very difficult to get right at the speed and accuracy level needed in order to base an entire business on it.

A student, after all, with the resources available these days, could probably design a version of this store in a few weeks that would work 80 percent of the time. But to get it right 99.9 percent of the time, frictionlessly and instantly, is a challenge that requires a great deal of work.

Notably, there is no facial recognition used (I asked). Amazon perhaps sensed early on that this would earn them rebuke from privacy-conscious shoppers, though the idea of those people coming to this store strikes me as unlikely. Instead, the system uses other visual cues and watches for continuity between cameras — you’re never not in sight of a lens, so it’s easy for the system to see a shopper move from one camera to another and make the connection.

Should there be a technical problem with a camera or it gets sauce on its lens somehow, the system doesn’t break down entirely. It’s been tested with cameras missing, though naturally it wouldn’t be long before a replacement is put in place and the system re-re-calibrates.

In addition to the cameras, there are weight sensors in the shelves, and the system is aware of every item’s exact weight — so no trying to grab two yogurts at once and palm the second, as I considered trying. You might be able to do it Indiana Jones style, with a suitable amount of sand in a sack, but that’s more effort than most shoplifters are willing to put out.

And, as Kumar noted to me, most people aren’t shoplifters, and the system is designed around most people. Building a system that assumes ill intent rather than merely detecting discrepancies is not always a good design choice.

There is in fact a human in the loop should the system find itself in a bind, but Kumar said this was rare enough that it hardly needed to be considered. He also said that the difficulty of monitoring the store doesn’t increase with square footage, though of course you’ll need more cameras and more processing power.

It’s also been tested with serious crowds; we were there during a slow time in the mid-afternoon, but shortly before that was the lunch rush, they told me, when dozens rather than a handful of people could be found walking in and out without doing anything more than showing their phone to a sensor at the entrance.

There may not be cashiers, but there are staff: stockers who replenish inventory; an ID checker (and erstwhile sommelier I’m sure) in the wine and beer section, and chefs in the back throwing together fresh sandwiches and meal kits. Someone also hovers in the entrance area to help people with the app, answer questions, and take returns.

The selection was mainly grab-and-go lunches and snacks, with the usual handful of household items you grab at the bodega on the way home. Prices were what you’d expect at a supermarket rather than a convenience store, though.

As for the expected Amazon gambits that leverage its existing properties and hooks, few are to be found. The app is self-contained, and your purchases are tracked there rather than on your “main” Amazon account. Prime members don’t get lower prices. Whole Foods has a little section of its own but there’s no broader partnership (and no plans to convert any of those stores to Go, though I can’t imagine why not).

Overall I’m impressed with the seamlessness of the system, and I can see these things successfully operating here and there.

On the philosophical side, I’m troubled, of course — a convenience store you just walk out of is a friendly mask on the face of a highly controversial application of technology: ubiquitous personal surveillance.

It’s a bit overkill, I think, to replace a checker or self-checkout stand with a hundred cameras that unblinkingly record every tiny movement. What’s to gain? 20 or 30 seconds of your time back? Lack of convenience has hardly been a complaint for this market — it’s right there in the name: “convenience store.”

Like so many ways companies are applying tech today, this seems to me an immense amount of ingenuity and resources being used to “solve” something that few people care about and fewer still consider a problem. As a technical achievement it’s remarkable, but then again, so is a robotic dog.

The store works — that much I can say for it. Where Amazon will take it from here I couldn’t say, nor would anyone respond meaningfully to my questions along these lines. Amazon Go will be open to the public starting this week, but whether anyone will find it to be anything more than a novelty is yet to be seen.

17 Instagram accounts showcase how important feminism is in 2018

There’s no surprise that feminism was the word of the year in 2017. After 2016’s political rollercoaster, people began using their voices, platforms, and actions to demand change. 

However, the overwhelming demand to stay in touch with what’s going on in the world can be exhausting especially when it comes to social media. But, there are many accounts using their online presence to spread more good than bad.

They’ve made it their job to promote empowerment, information and overall positivity for the next 12 months. 

So, here’s a list of organizations, companies and online communities to follow to make 2018 the year of prosperity:

The Women’s March became one of the largest inaugural protest in United States history. According to the website, it brought in over six million women and allies around the world.

Social media is a great opportunity to continue on the movement, so their account always tries to inform their followers on the next big project. 

The TIME’s UP movement introduced at the 75th Annual Golden Globes calls out the sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender bias in the workplace. It’s a call to action on the inequality and the newly made Instagram points out letters from female farmworkers to quotes from powerful women in Hollywood.  

In over two weeks, the account has over 553,000 followers and counting. However, the number of followers online is nothing compared to the millions of followers fighting in real life for change. 

Now, immediately you think, ‘Why is a dating app on the list?’ Well, the women-owned business gives women the chance to make the first move. They take charge in developing relationships in business, friendships and dating. 

Bumble uses bold typeface to prove a point in not only the dating world, but what women face everyday from catcalling to societal gender roles. 

Gurls Talk is a social platform for women to share their experiences on topics ranging from body positivity to anxiety. The safe space was founded by Adwoa Aboah, a model and activist, who wanted to create an online safe space for all women to be apart of.

The account primarily provides art and quotes made from powerful illustrators, celebrities and more. 

Sad Girls Club is an online community that sheds light on mental health and dismantling the stigma around it. The online platform was inspired by the founder Elyse Fox’s documentary about her life with depression. 

The almost one year community strives to create a support system and provide services for girls who don’t have access to therapy and treatment. 

MAKERS is a platform that highlights female trailblazers from Oprah Winfrey to Lilly Singh. They’ve created original content and encourage others to tell their own stories with MAKERS Stories. 

The account caters to powerful quotes, clips from their interviewees and highlights from the media.

The Girl Mob is a New York-based online platform catered to women of color. Their mission is to bring solidarity through events, personal essays, and their very own podcast.

The vibrant account promotes art, sexuality, and equality for women. It also promotes events to bring and grow their community. 

The online book club, Our Shared Shelf, was created by Emma Watson. The actress wanted to share her favorite books and essays on equality with her Goodreads group. 

The feminist book club highlights a book of the month and some of the 260,000 and counting readers. 

Five For Feminism creates visualization to bring up a variety of women issues. For every post, the owner of the account donates $5 to a charity related to the post. 

The donations have gone to places like Project Heal, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Planned Parenthood to name a few. 

Girlboss was created by author and entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso for women to take charge of their decisions whether it’s in the workplace or personal life. 

According to their website, there community is made up of “strong, curious, and ambitious women redefining success on our own terms.” It’s determination is shown on social media with positive quotes and fellow ‘Girl Bosses.’ 

Women Interrupted is a mobile app to channel the “mansplaining” or “manterruption” women face on a daily basis. The app’s goal is to detect the interruption, record the conversation and analyze the data. 

On Instagram, the tech start-up developed their ‘Portraits Of Silence’ to depict women from around the world who’ve been interrupted or silence by their male counterparts. 

She Should Run is an initiative to not only get women to run for office, but bridge the representation gap of women leadership in politics. The non-partisan’s mission is to provide support and education those interested in this career.

The movement started since the 2016 election and according to the website, over 15,000 women have been inspired to run for office. 

Feminist Fight Club, based off the novel of the same name, lets women be unapologetically themselves. The account features memes, typography and online forums to get their followers involved. 

Women in the World is an annual summit that brings together leaders, activists and trailblazers who’ve made it their mission to make a change in women’s lives around the world. 

The summit shared stories from people like Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, and Oprah Winfrey to name a few, while the social media highlights these moments for people who didn’t get the chance to attend. 

Global Fund for Women is an organization that invests their time and money on women movements. They are a support system and a resource for people to get involved with these groups.

The foundation’s philosophy is to simply trust women. They’ve mentioned that, “Women are the best agents of change in their communities, and giving them resources and voice can change the world.” 

Ladies Get Paid have a simple mantra, “Help women get promoted and get paid.” They have town halls, workshops and events for women to learn, discuss and participate in women issues. 

The network has helped women with communicating in the workplace, starting their own business and even investing. It’s growing community lives on and offline. 

Planned Parenthood is important more than ever before with the debate around women’s reproductive health care. The 100-year-old non-profit strives to provide health care, sex education and a resources to everyone around the world. 

They strive to use their Instagram account as a visual tool for information and educate their audience on where their reproductive rights currently stand. 

Now, adding new accounts to your list may not change issues, but it can start a conversation. The first step to following a cause is learning and be surrounding my others with the same passion for a change.

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f2634%2f44d8f0e3 efb6 4ab4 bf8e d7cf62bf5228

Try these Honor View 10 tips and tricks to get more from your phone

The Honor View 10 packs in an awesome six-inch screen, a great dual camera lens setup, and the very powerful Kirin 970 processor. Coming in at just under $500, the device will surely be a favorite among people looking for an excellent midrange phone. If you recently purchased one, then you’ll want to check out this list of our top Honor View 10 tips and tricks.

Our first tip is to protect your new phone with one of the best Honor View 10 cases.

Set up Face Unlock

One of our favorite features on the Honor View 10 is Face Unlock, which allows you to quickly unlock your phone without using an unlock screen password or pattern. Since Face Unlock is not as secure as Face ID on the iPhone X, you can only use it to unlock your phone; if you want to make purchases, you’ll need to authenticate either by fingerprint or password.

Setting up Face Unlock is simple. Go to Settings > Security & privacy > Face unlock. You’ll need to enter your lock screen password to continue.  Tap Continue on the Enroll Face screen, then select Allow from the following screen. Make sure your face is centered in the image bubble. Once the camera has captured an image of your face, you’ll see a message saying, “Face successfully enrolled.” Finally, you’ll be presented with the option to automatically unlock your phone or set up a slide to unlock feature.

Enable Navigation Dock

As smartphone screens grow larger, they become increasingly difficult to navigate with just one hand. While most phones have an option that minimizes the screen, the Honor View 10 has a pretty awesome feature called Navigation Dock that allows you to use gestures to move about the screen.

There are two ways to enable the Navigation Dock. The quickest way is to tap the Navigation Dock icon in the Quick Settings tray. You can also enable the feature by going to Settings > Smart assistance > Navigation Dock. Slide the Navigation Dock toggle to the right to enable the feature. Once the Navigation Dock is enabled, you’ll see a circular icon appear on the screen. To move the icon, just hold and drag it to your desired location.

The Navigation Dock requires a series of gestures to move about the screen. Any time you want to return to the Home screen, long tap on the icon. To move back, you just need to quickly tap the icon. If you want to see an overview of apps you currently have open, just tap and slide the icon.

Create a PrivateSpace

If you find yourself frequently sharing your phone, the Honor View 10 offers an excellent privacy feature called PrivateSpace. With PrivateSpace, you can easily set up a private account that can only be accessed with a unique password or fingerprint.  To set PrivateSpace up, go to Settings > Security and privacy > PrivateSpace. Tap the Enable button followed by OK. You’ll then be prompted to set up a numerical password for the feature; this password cannot be the same as your primary unlock password. Once you’ve entered and confirmed a unique password, you can then tap the Associate button to attach a unique fingerprint.

Once PrivateSpace is configured, you can continue using your existing account by using your primary unlock screen password or fingerprint. If you want to use your PrivateSpace account, simply unlock your phone with your unique password or fingerprint.

While PrivateSpace is a great feature, it does not work with Face Unlock. If you previously set up Face Unlock, it will be disabled when you enable PrivateSpace.

Lock specific apps

If you’re looking to lock down just a few apps on your phone instead of creating a PrivateSpace, the App Lock feature on the Honor View 10 may be your best bet. With App Lock, you can require a password or fingerprint to open any app on your phone. To set up the feature, go to Settings > Security & privacy > App Lock. Use your fingerprint or lock screen password to access a list of apps installed on your phone. You can then easily enable the feature for each individual app by sliding its respective toggle bar.

Use Dual SIM cards

Along with the more expensive Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Honor View 10 is one of a growing number of U.S. phones that offers dual LTE SIM support. To manage your SIM cards, go to Settings > Wireless & networks > Dual SIM settings. In the settings, you’ll see options for SIM 1 and SIM 2; if you tap on either of these, you can easily change the name of your SIM card. There’s also a slider for each SIM card that will allow you to enable or disable either card.

Once you have your SIM cards labeled you can then use Dual SIM settings t. You’ll also have the option to prioritize whatever SIM is receiving 4G service.

Use different camera modes

The Honor View 10 packs a pretty impressive dual camera setup. In addition to the 16-megapixel RGB lens and 20-megapixel monochrome lens on the phone, the Kirin 970 chip uses artificial intelligence (A.I.) to identify common settings and makes adjustments to help you get the best photo

When you open the camera app, you’ll be met with a pretty standard viewfinder screen. If you swipe to the left, you’re presented with more than a dozen different camera modes. Swipe right and you’ll see the Settings menu. While most of these modes are pretty standard fare for a smartphone, the light painting mode definitely stands out as one of our favorites.

Light painting lets you make artistic alterations to images. When you select Light painting mode, you are presented with four different scenarios:

  • Tail light trails captures the lights of moving cars in the night.
  • Light graffiti lets you capture trails of light in static images.
  • Silky water captures the flow of moving water in a silky-smooth effect.
  • Star track captures the trails of stars and galaxies in the night sky.

Take the perfect selfie

With Perfect Selfie, you can create preselected different settings to retouch your photos. Perfect Selfie works with portraits on both the front and rear camera; it can also recognize you in group shots. To use Perfect selfie, tap the Camera app on the home screen and swipe left to access the Settings menu. Tap on Perfect Selfie and toggle on. Next click Edit personal info; the app will ask you to take several shots from different angles.

Once you’ve taken all of the images necessary for Perfect Selfie to identify you, a collection of different beauty sliders will appear. You can use these to brighten and smooth out your skin, enlarge your eyes, and even make your face thinner. When you’re happy with your selections, click the check icon in the top right menu bar. You can easily make changes at any time by tapping on Set beauty effects.

Add fun photo filters

If you’re a fan of the AR filters available on Instagram and Snapchat, you’ll love the camera on the Honor View 10. With more than a dozen fun filters, it’s easy to find one that best captures the moment.

To take advantage of filters, tap on the Camera app on the home screen. Swipe right to see a list of different modes. Select the AR Lens mode. In the viewfinder screen, tap on the AR icon on the right hand side of the screen. You’ll see a number of different facial filter options.

If you’re using the front-facing camera, you’ll also see a Backgrounds option. This option allows you to use AR filters to change the background in your selfies.

Create two instances of an app

If you have multiple social media accounts, App Twin is going to make your life a whole lot easier. With App Twin, you can easily create multiple instances of many popular social media apps.

Before you use App Twin, make sure you have the social media apps you want to clone downloaded on your phone. Once you have the apps downloaded, go to Settings > App Twin and enable the apps you wish to copy. Once enabled, you’ll see two icons for each app on your screen or in your app drawer.

Enable voice features

If you like going hands-free, the Honor View 10 offers a nice selection of voice control features. With voice controls on the Honor View 10, you can easily unlock your phone, make phone calls, and even find your phone.

To enable voice control, go to Settings > Smart assistance > Voice Control. Tap on Voice wake up. Press the microphone icon and repeat the wake phrase “Dear Honor” three times. You’ll need to be in a quiet room and say the phrase slowly to get the best results.  If the phone has difficulty recognizing your voice, tap Wake up phrase training to record additional voice samples.

If you want to use your voice to make calls, tap Quick Calling and enable the feature by using the toggle. If you want to use the feature to call your contact Jane, for example, you would simply say. “Dear Honor, call Jane.”

The Honor View 10 also allows you to use your voice to find your phone. If you have voice control enabled, all you’ll need to do is say, “Dear Honor, where are you?”  Your phone will immediately begin ringing and repeating the phrase, “I’m here,” so you can easily locate your phone.

Editors’ Recommendations

Learn life hacks from some of the world’s most successful people

New year, new goals: some of them lofty, some a little more approachable. Whenever the slate is wiped clean with the promise of a fresh start, most people start thinking of ways they can recalibrate, reset, and change their approach to be more successful in the coming months than the year that just passed. 

It can be tremendously healthy to look at the habits of the most successful people in the world when it comes down to modeling our own daily habits. A through-line starts to emerge: What are some of the commonalities that top-performers all share, and what tangible ways can those traits apply to how we live? 

The answer might surprise you: invest in yourself by building intellectual capital. How? Simplicity and mindfulness seem to be a common thread, where some of the busiest, wealthiest people in the world take the time to press pause on urgent matters and invest in activities that have a long-term (rather than immediate) payoff. The notion is called compound time: These small, daily investments to grow oneself and encourage a healthy mental state over an extended period ends up yielding a greater return than focusing on completing a seemingly important business matter at the moment.

Here’s a famous example of compound time: Warren Buffet, a trailblazer and iconic entrepreneur, has (according to his own estimate) spent 80% of his time just reading and thinking. Despite manning the operations of companies with hundreds of thousands of employees, he’s a huge proponent of the ability to think critically — especially in a continually evolving, mostly digital economy. Others include AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, who asks that his executives spend 10% of their day (four hours per week) immersed in thought, and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, who schedules two hours of uninterrupted thinking every day. Bill Gates famously takes a full week off, twice a year, to reflect deeply without interruption. 

What’s the point? In short, if you’re overwhelmed with managing your immediate work deadlines, interpersonal relationships, meetings, and just mundane stuff, the key is to carve out time to build your intellectual capital with a few activities to increase your compound time. Read on for three of the top trends employed by the best, or commit to diving in full force via an online class on productivity for $36. 

1. Develop rituals through journaling. 

Sure, open-ended writing and reminiscing about your day has its value — but specific, intentional questions or prompts that help you evaluate your actions can change your life. 

Steve Jobs always asked, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do?” Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey both do a gratitude meditation, where they count their blessings. In fact, Oprah starts each day writing in her gratitude journal, noting five things for which she’s thankful.

It’s also valuable to make a comparison between the events you expect to happen from the actions you take, and what ends up happening. In any case, writing down your experiences is a valuable way to clear your mind. 

2. Read more. 

Bill Gates, Winston Churchill, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barack Obama, and JFK — all big-time readers. Think of books as providing the ultimate ROI: they improve memory, increase empathy, and help us to de-stress, all while giving impactful knowledge that demands only a few hours of our time. 

3. Slow down — and experiment more. 

Take an hour out of your day and instead of running errands, take the time to pause. Think of something to experiment or play with, knowing that it helps take you out of an automated work process, and encourages higher creativity. 

Pick up more life hacks with The Ultimate Productivity Bundle, which includes eight different courses covering everything from communicating with people and learning to speed read, to tips on better managing your time. You’ll get 27 hours of strategies and tools to be more successful, in a sustainable way. 

Why I deleted the Instagram app — and you should think about it too

Instagram has never been my favorite app, perhaps because I love reading words more than staring at photos. But beyond that core element, it’s continued to be the bane of my existence — at least while writing about the tech industry, chatting with friends, and watching the world around me strain to be more “Instagrammable.” 

I understand some people — maybe a decent amount of Instagram’s 500 million daily users — are inspired by the photos they see in their feeds. For my colleague Miriam Kramer, her highly curated Instagram account is a much-preferred distraction to the Facebook app. For one of my best friends Lizza Monet Morales, Instagram is part of her career as an actress, TV host, and social media personality. 

For me, Instagram is a place of fakeness, humblebrags, and harassment, and I don’t want to be a part of it anymore. That’s why when I got an iPhone X for Christmas and started fresh by not restoring from backup, I didn’t bother downloading Instagram. 

For some, Instagram is a creative outlet, a place where they find happiness spending hours searching for “Instagrammable” moments, taking the perfect shot, choosing the right filter, thinking up a caption with the appropriate hashtags, and waiting to post at the exact right moment. And then, sometimes they delete it if they don’t get enough “likes,” and okay, that’s their choice. For others, Instagram is just a mindless and relaxing way to start or end their day or to take a break. 

For me, it’s a place where I’ve showed off some happy moments of my life, and I don’t really know why. I mean they’re nice memories. It’s like a scrapbook, but why does my scrapbook need to be public? Why does each picture in my scrapbook need a number of likes and the potential for comments? 

Let’s take a brief look at my Instagram: 1) Margaritas 2) White House press briefing room 3) Puppy at startup event [and evidence of me wearing the same dress too close together] 4) Me on the beach with an ex 5) A video of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s F8 conference 6) Badge from F8 

Select photos from my Instagram account.

Select photos from my Instagram account.

Image: @kerrymflynn

Okay, so maybe I just suck at Instagram. I’m not one to look for the perfect shot or “Instagrammable” moment. When I do, it’s a tongue-in-cheek move. But what I can tell from myself is that I really don’t need Instagram. These shots would be better kept in my Camera Roll, or if I wanted the world to see them I go to Facebook or go to Flickr or something. I don’t need a public-facing scrapbook of my life, and I want you to ask yourself if you need one too. 

Of course, Instagram is not all about you and your feed. It’s where you can keep up with friends or obsessions you have. For me, that’s the dogs of Instagram, but I don’t think I need to have them accessible on my phone at all times. When it comes to friends, I know a lot of mine have moved from sharing Snapchat Stories to Instagram Stories. But I don’t feel like I need to see whatever they’re boasting about via one photo or video.

Instagram Stories isn’t fun, at least not for me. I tried Instagram Stories back in November after a 14-month-long protest. Before I posted my first Instagram Story, I spent an hour with Kay Hsu, the global Instagram lead at the Facebook Creative Shop, at one of Facebook’s offices in New York. She took me through what Facebook calls “Stories School,” a training session the company regularly hosts for marketers. 

“Okay, this is going to be really hard, but it’s worth it,” Hsu told me as she explained how to make text have a rainbow gradient. 

I found myself saying, “Whoa” and “Cool,” as Hsu walked me through a bunch of the features I may not have discovered as quickly on my own. I experienced the instant gratification, via “likes” and DMs, you get from posting your first Instagram Story. But high engagement comes at a cost. I was quickly reminded my Instagram audience includes young family members. 

Yeah, Instagram Stories had a few unique functionalities that I loved using, but what frustrated me the most about Instagram Stories was the pressure I felt with every post. I had myself thinking intently about everything I shared or considered sharing. I was curating posts based on what I deemed “Instagrammable”: order Starbucks, attend a work event at Facebook NY, drink champagne, twirl in a sparkly skirt. Very, uh, basic activities. 

All that and there’s just the sour taste that Instagram leaves in my mouth. I personally love using Snapchat, and all of Facebook’s copycat moves annoy me. “How do they sleep at night?” Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s wife Miranda Kerr asked, referring to Instagram employees, and I agree as I watch Instagram transform into a Snapchat wannabe. 

I’m also over the fake followers and bot networks. The black market of Instagram verification where people pay THOUSANDS of dollars to get a blue check from Instagram employees, as I exposed in August, is ridiculous and the fact that Instagram refused to address it on the record with me is BS. 

I’m sick of the Instagram algorithm, and the fact that they don’t seem to care so many people would rather have it return to chronological order. 

The bra and fitspo ads that invaded my feed, as well as the feed of wonderful human Lauren Hallden, are ridiculous and unnecessary to have in my life. 

And I never want to see a comment like this on one of my photos again. 

Image: screenshot from @kerrymflynn feed

So, I’m done. What about you? 

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fvideo uploaders%2fdistribution thumb%2fimage%2f84139%2f3c97e3f5 d856 4d4d b40b d872b68c2e62

Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: VR chairs, LiFi lamps, stirrups for your car

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the fidget spinners and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting new crowdfunding projects out there this week. That said, keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

January 21st

Yaw — VR gaming chair

Despite the fact that virtual reality has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, gaming in VR still isn’t the most polished experience. Case in point? Locomotion. Save for a few notable exceptions, your in-game movement is typically activated with joysticks, while you actually sit still and swivel your head in the real world. This disconnect often makes virtual reality feel less realistic. But what if there was a way to change that?

Enter the Yaw VR gaming chair. It’s essentially a motorized bucket seat that syncs with your VR headset and attempts to replicate your in-game movements in the real world, thereby making the game more immersive and realistic. With three degrees of freedom, it’s best for replicating movement in games where the player sits in a cockpit of some sort — like Eve: Valkyrie, for example. The Yaw chair’s best feature, however, is its ability to collapse and fold up into a neat little dome when you’re done playing.

Luminiser — candle-powered LED lantern

When it comes to outdoor gear, lights are a staple. Whether its headlamps, flashlights, or lanterns, having a rugged and reliable light source is a crucial part of your kit. Luckily, thanks to the rise of LEDs, you have no shortage of options in this category. There are lights that run on rechargeable batteries, lights that adapt to your environment, and even lights that run on saltwater. Now, we can add another one to the list: a lantern that’s powered by tea candles.

The lantern, called the Luminiser, collects thermal energy from a simple tea candle and converts it into electricity, which is then used to illuminate an array of LED bulbs. A single candle will allegedly create enough juice to keep the lantern going for five to six hours, while also creating 15 to 20 times more light than the candle could on its own. Better yet, the Luminiser tips the scales at less than one pound and measures 5.5 inches tall — meaning you could easily stash it away in a backpack.

Uniz UDP line — ultrafast DLP 3D printers

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers have become increasingly common over the past few years — and for good reason. Thanks to the unique way they work (shining light into a pool of light-reactive resin, selectively solidifying it layer by layer), they’re capable of producing extremely detailed objects. But they do have one downside: they’re not particularly fast. Why? Well, after each layer of the object is finished, the printer has to “peel” it from the build plate before starting on the next layer.

To circumvent this issue, California-based company Uniz has developed a clever new technique called “uni-directional peeling,” which drastically reduces the peel time of the SLA/DLP printing process. As its creators note, “by reducing the up-and-down peel to one-directional peel action, UDP sets a new world record of 3D printing speed to over 700mm/hour z-axis speed, without the necessity of pure oxygen or exotic separation materials.” In other words, these printers are blisteringly fast.

MyLiFi — LiFi-emitting desk lamp

[embedded content]

We covered this one last week during CES, so I’ll let my colleague Lulu Chang give you the rundown:

“Li-Fi, or Light Fidelity, is a new technology that connects mobile devices and other internet-enabled objects by way of LED lights. Li-Fi transmits data by modulating light signals emitted by an LED light bulb — in essence, providing the internet through light. Said to be far faster than traditional Wi-Fi, Li-Fi has no need for radio waves, and claims to be supremely secure due to its imperceptible signal.

While Li-Fi has apparently been around since 2005, it’s never been made widely available to the public. Instead, Li-Fi has been mainly applied in the public realm, helping blind people navigate transportation systems, transmitting medical information in hospitals, and even measuring wait times in supermarkets. But now, MyLiFi is bringing the technology to the home.”

Moki Doorstep — aluminum stirrup for your car

If you have an SUV and you mount stuff on its roof, you know firsthand how awkward and annoying it can sometimes be to reach your gear and fiddle with tie-down straps — especially if you’re short. Oftentimes, the only way to make it happen is to pop open a door and use your car floor as a step, and sometimes that isn’t enough. If you keep a kayak or a skybox on top of your rig, you probably know what I’m talking about. Don’t you wish there was a solution to this minor inconvenience? Well lucky for you, there finally is.

The Moki Doorstep, as it’s called, is a compact, lightweight device designed to give you easier access to the top of your car. It’s essentially a metal step that hangs on the U-shaped slam latch on your vehicle’s door. Just hook it through the latch, and boom — you have a stable, reliable stepping platform somewhere between your car’s floor and ceiling. That extra step will presumably give you easier access to all the goodies and gear you’ve stashed up top.

Nike’s Sony PlayStation-themed sneakers are so nerdy, and everyone loves it

[embedded content]

Love PlayStation? Love Nike? Perfect, because these are the kicks for you — even if you don’t like basketball.

George Paul, small forward on the Oklahoma City Thunder, worked with Nike and Sony to create the PG-2 “PlayStation” sneakers, one of the nerdiest, tech-infused sneakers ever created. 

Designed by Tony Hardman, the same lead designer behind Paul’s first sneaker, the PG-1, the new model (in case it wasn’t already completely obvious) is inspired by a PlayStation 4 and its DualShock 4 controller.

Paul says he wanted to make a PlayStation-themed sneaker because he considers himself “one of the biggest gamers in the NBA” and he’s taken his gaming with him everywhere, ever since he received a PlayStation 2 for Christmas as kid.

Dude really loves his PlayStation and it shows. You’ll find elements like the controller’s buttons (circle, X, square, triangle) embossed in its patent leather and PlayStation-colored shoelace eyelets. 

On each sneaker’s tongue, there’s a logo (one for George Paul and one for PlayStation) that lights up when you press it. Sony says they “illuminate and pulsate blue just like when turning on the console.” These lights also don’t need to be charged up. They’re battery-powered and will last about 150 hours. Pretty sweet.

On the back of one of the sneakers, there’s a barcode that owners can scan to redeem a special Paul George theme for their PlayStation 4.

It’s a slick collaboration. Basketball sneakers are usually pretty controversial, but so far it seems like most people dig it:

Of course, there’s at least one person is wondering what the heck is up with in the gaming world recently:

If you’re in the #dopekicks camp, you can pick them up on Feb. 10 for $110. Given the early reaction, they’ll probably sell out.

Https%3a%2f%2fvdist.aws.mashable.com%2fcms%2f2017%2f11%2f246acce9 7dab 40b4%2fthumb%2f00001

LG unveils two patents for foldable smartphones

Foldable smartphones are slowly becoming a reality with the likes of the ZTE Axon M having arrived on the scene last year. However, ZTE is far from being the only company to work on a foldable display. Samsung, LG, and Huawei all reportedly working on foldable devices

The details surrounding most of these devices are still under wraps, but we’ve gotten the first look at the patents for two of LG’s foldable devices. The first design shows a device made out of two bodies which share a single large display. When the phone is open, you’ll get a tablet-sized display. When it is closed, you will have access to a smaller device similar to a traditional smartphone. The front of the devices houses a screen which can provide additional information such as notifications.

The second design is similar to the first, but features a sliding back panel which can be moved to reveal a portion of the main display used for notifications, messages, and other features.

Of course, the company is no stranger to the flexible display — we’ve seen plenty of flexible prototypes from the company over the past few years, and while certainly not ready for consumer devices, they have been getting better. Now, however, it seems as though the company is ready to take things to the next level.

In fact, the firm has reportedly started outfitting one of its factories with the tools needed to mass produce flexible displays, and has completed much of the research required to mass produce a flexible-display device. LG has also signed contracts with Ignis Innovation, a Canadian company that builds flexible circuits.

Ignis’ tech addresses a number of problems often associated with foldable displays. The technology uses both hardware and software charged with constantly monitoring the pixels, ensuring that they’re rendering the right images, no matter what position the flexible circuits are in. The company has filed hundreds of patents for its related tech, and is apparently the only firm to have come up with a solution — which would make sense considering how eager LG seems to be to work with the company. Even more interesting is the fact that Ignis’ contract is non-exclusive, meaning that if the tech proves itself, it could end up with plenty more customers.

As mentioned, LG isn’t the only one developing foldable devices. Samsung is also reported to be working on a foldable phone, to be released sometime in the future. It looks liked 2018 will be a very interesting one for new technology.

Update: Added information about LG’s patents for foldable phones. 

Editors’ Recommendations

Skyline allows you to turn any location into your phone’s background

Looking for a unique new wallpaper for your Android smartphone? The new Skyline app may be just what you need. This app allows users to turn their current location, or any other location, into their phone’s wallpaper.

The app was created by developer Justin Fincher and combines satellite imagery and aerial photos to build interactive images that can then be used as your phone’s wallpaper. When sliding between pages on your smartphone, the image will shift a bit. It also moves when the smartphone is rotated.

It looks impressive, but using Skyline is easy. The app can determine your location through your phone’s GPS service, so you’ll have no trouble setting it up. Some people might be wondering if the app is worth it if their current location is visually uninteresting. After all, a small apartment complex is hardly the most interesting imagery to see everytime you turn on your phone. Fortunately, Skyline allows you to choose from any location in the world in order to create a unique and interesting background

Those users on Android Oreo 8.1 will have access to one other cool feature. The app will automatically change the color of your phone’s menu screen in order to better match your background. It is not a huge feature, but it does help to keep things looking good.

Skyline can be found on the Google Play Store for $2. Fincher has said that he intends to improve the app as time goes on. His current goal is to create a feature that will allow Skyline to change your phone’s wallpaper to automatically match your current location. This could prove to be an interesting little feature that ensures your phone’s background never gets old. Fincher has also said he has other features planned in the future.

One of the big advantages about Android phones is how easy it is to customize the experience and that isn’t limited to the wallpaper. If you want to change your phone’s launcher, you can do that. You can also change the phone’s widgets making it more functional and pleasing to look at.

Editors’ Recommendations

President Donald Trump has signed the FISA reauthorization bill

Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced that he has signed the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 into law. The current authorization will expire in December 2023.

In an official statement, President Trump says that the bill allows the intelligence community to “collect critical intelligence on international terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other important foreign intelligence targets” outside of the US. He also says that he would have preferred to have signed a permanent reauthorization bill, rather than one that would expire.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act provides the director of national intelligence and attorney general with the authority to surveil anyone outside of the country, and remains controversial. While it is designed to target and surveil non-US citizens, privacy advocates say that US citizens can get caught up as well. This new bill includes some new provisions: authorities can now access communications that simply mention the target, even if they are not the recipient of said message.

The House of Representatives voted 256 to 164 to approve the reauthorization after a contentious debate last week. The Senate voted 65 to 34 to approve the bill on Thursday before sending it to the White House for the President’s signature.