All posts in “Technology”

The commute of the future could be really sweaty

The “Idea Train” is pulling into the station and with it comes workout stations, a children’s lounge, and relaxation compartments.

Deutsche Bahn, a German rail system, recently revealed its concept train of the future. It includes many amenities because the company anticipates future trains will be competing with self-driving cars. The appeal of the train as a place to read and work will be eliminated when riders can do the same thing in an autonomous car.

So the train company has to step up its game. As Deutsche Bahn said on its site about the train (translated by Google), “Train travel must be more fun again and become an experience!”

This has prompted the the train company to develop a roughly 90-foot-long double-decker model to show what this future train travel could look like — although right now it’s just a concept and not chugging through the Bavarian countryside yet.

Take a look, even if you don’t understand German you’ll understand what each section of the train is for: 

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Below is a gallery of photos showing stationary bikes to work out on your commute, private rooms, rotating chairs to look out panoramic windows, a snack car, and a kids’ play area. Entertainment consoles let riders play games, huge screens are perfect for watching that big soccer match. 

This is not your ordinary train.

The train has not left the station yet — the railway company wants feedback on its design. Then its all aboard the train of the future. Don’t forget your gym towel.

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Twitter to revoke verification for some accounts as part of overhaul


Twitter says that it’s making progress on its plan to review its authentication system, which it’s conducting in the wake of backlash against the social network verifying the account of a white supremacist rally organizer. In a series of tweets today, the Twitter Support account acknowledges that verification comes across as endorsement, and that the social network’s treatment of verification has led to this. As a result, it’s going to change how it treats verification of accounts, and will unverify some users “whose behavior does not fall within” its new guidelines.

The Twitter Support account begins with an admission that providing “visual prominence” to verified accounts has contributed to the perception that it’s an endorsement by the network of those specific users, and that it should have taken action earlier to clear up any confusion in this regard. It also says that opening up the verification process to public submission further exacerbated this problem.

Now, it says it’s reworking the entire system, and has already changed its official guidelines on what verification means, and it’s still not accepting any submissions for verification from the general public.

The biggest news here is likely that the company will take action to remove existing verification for accounts where their activity doesn’t meet its restated guidelines. It’s unclear who will be affected and when, but there’s bound to be some attention given to it should any highly visible profiles become unverified as a result of this review.

Forward brings its personalized healthcare service to Los Angeles


Forward, the San Francisco-based startup that’s looking to refashion healthcare services in Apple’s image, is expanding with its first location in Los Angeles.

Weaving together a number of Silicon Valley’s favorite healthcare trends, the company’s services combine proprietary, purpose-built medical devices with algorithmically enabled diagnostic tools, and the latest in gene, bacteria and blood tests to provide a holistic view of its patients’ health.

These technologies and services include: unlimited access to its medical staff; baseline screening; blood and genetic testing; wellness and nutrition counseling; and ongoing monitoring from wearable sensors provided at the clinic. Support and access to its AI and 24/7 access to medical staff through the app are available exclusively to anyone who’s willing to pay the $149 per month fee.

At its launch, Adrian Aoun told us about 15 percent of its early users come from underserved communities and had received free membership. Members also get their first month of prescription medicine free through Forward’s onsite pharmacy, which also offers vitamins and supplements.

Forward also plans to offer vitamins and other supplements and wearables through the onsite store, and Aoun said he would like to offer other alternatives, such as acupuncture, in the future.

Opening in a small office on the first floor of the Westfield Century City mall, Forward’s Los Angeles office will contain all of the bells and whistles that brought it so much attention when it opened its first San Francisco location in January.

There are custom-built exam rooms kitted up with interactive, touch-screen displays — part of what the company touts as an integrated, paperless system for new electronic health records.

The centerpiece of the company’s facility is a purpose-built body scanner that collects basic vital signs like temperature, pulse and arterial health, which are then sent to the company’s staff doctors.

Those aren’t the only diagnostic tools. The company also has an app and is rolling out services around fertility and sleep tracking, as well as dermatological and optometry services in its two offices.

Once the scans are completed, doctors then review the results of diagnostic tests with their patients in one of those exam rooms, which is also recording the conversation with voice recognition software that targets key words to help retain the key parts of the conversation and examination.

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    Forward’s Los Angeles office

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    Forward’s slogan

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    Forward’s proprietary diagnostic scanner

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    Forward’s tool for examining arterial health

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    A Forward exam room

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    Forward’s diagnostic process

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    Forward patient kits

This expansion into Southern California marks the next step in the journey that former Google executive Adrian Aoun first embarked on 18 months ago when he started building out the company’s medical devices and first office in a warehouse in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood.

An early entrepreneur who first came to prominence through his work building natural language processing software that would enable users to create searches for specific topics, Aoun was one of the original architects of Google’s artificial intelligence strategies and the founder of the company’s urban technology subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs.

Aoun’s attention turned to healthcare after his brother had a heart attack, he says, which led him to confront the inadequacies of the existing system.

“The existing healthcare system was not built for you,” Aoun says. “Their incentives are not to actually make you healthy and they’re certainly not to make this cheaper.”

While Forward isn’t necessarily making healthcare cheaper either, it is planting a flag for making healthcare better, Aoun says. And he thinks that’s the first step to changing the whole system.

“It’s absurd to think that the disruption is going to come from the inside,” he says.

The problem for Aoun is that existing healthcare solutions can’t “scale” because treatment depends on highly skilled medical professionals (and there’s a shortage of those these days).

“We need to figure out how to scale doctors so that they touch more lives… The same way an engineer can scale through software,” he says.

Aoun sees Forward as building the tools that other companies can then use to drive down costs and bring to a larger market the solutions his company is developing.

And, he argues, the Forward price tag isn’t all that expensive. “$149 per month is about half the price of a fancy gym,” he says. “We have to start somewhere.”

While Forward doesn’t talk about its financing, it has secured investments from some of Silicon Valley’s marquee investors and entrepreneurs.

Muse is a simple dedicated Amazon Alexa add-on for the car


Want to bring Alexa into your vehicle? You now have a few options, including a new $49.99 accessory from voice tech company Speak Music, which is launching Muse, essentially a Bluetooth-enabled Amazon Echo for the car. The small device allows you to access Alexa skills while on the go, using voice commands and the “Alexa” wake word, while connecting to your in-car stereo system via Bluetooth, aux input or USB.

Muse uses your smartphone’s data connection to connect to the Alexa service, which in turn provides you the ability to stream music, listen to live streaming radio stations, command your smart home gadgets while you’re away or even make hands-free calls. You can also get news briefings, listen to audiobooks, add to your shopping list, check the weather and more.

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The Muse ships with a dual socket car USB charger for power, and a magnetic mounting kit. It’s a small, circular gadget which should be relatively easy to stick somewhere on your dash, and it has back and forward buttons as well as a microphone button for physical activation (though it passively listens for the Alexa wake word, too).

There are other methods for getting Amazon’s voice assistant in your car, including first-party support from some manufacturers, but also via accessories like the Garmin Speak with Alexa, which became available just last month. The Speak also has full access to Amazon’s skill library, but builds in Garmin voice-based turn-by-turn navigation and a small, simple OLED screen too for $150, too. You could also plug an Echo Dot into power and connect it to your Smartphone via hotspot.

Muse is the same price as an Echo Dot, however, and offers all the same Alexa functionality, with a form factor and features designed for the car. It seems like the best and most affordable way to bring Alexa into your vehicle at the moment, but we’ll see how well it performs in the real world when it ships starting in December. Those interested can pre-order now for pre-Holiday shipping.