technology

New Study: Tablet Neck Syndrome More Likely For Women Than Men

We all love our devices, but frequently they can be the cause of much consternation for our necks, particularly what’s known as “tablet neck,” if we’re not using the right posture.  A new study finds that due to musculoskeletal symptoms, females may actually be at greater risk of developing neck problems from prolonged use.

Amazon Robots - Coming Soon To a Home Near You?

  Amazon Robots

While Apple's HomePod is struggling to keep up with Amazon's Echo, Amazon may already be on to the next "smart" product in the technology world.  Amazon Robots.  First it was the Kindle, allowing users to put their reading library, all on one digital device, eliminating the need to lug books around.  Then came the Echo, with families across the globe setting multiple timers, while preparing various stages of that evening's dinner.  And now?

Amazon Robots

According to Mark Gurman and Brad Stone, reporting for Bloomberg:

The retail and cloud computing giant has embarked on an ambitious, top-secret plan to build a domestic robot, according to people familiar with the plans. Codenamed “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, the project is overseen by Gregg Zehr, who runs Amazon’s Lab126 hardware research and development division based in Sunnyvale, California. Lab126 is responsible for Amazon devices such as the Echo speakers, Fire TV set-top-boxes, Fire tablets and the ill-fated Fire Phone.

The Vesta project originated a few years ago, but this year Amazon began to aggressively ramp up hiring. There are dozens of listings on the Lab 126 Jobs page for openings like “Software Engineer, Robotics” and “Principle Sensors Engineer.” People briefed on the plan say the company hopes to begin seeding the robots in employees’ homes by the end of this year, and potentially with consumers as early as 2019, though the timeline could change, and Amazon hardware projects are sometimes killed during gestation.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on “rumors and speculation.”

A Mobile Alexa?

While it remains unclear as to what sort of tasks any Amazon robots might perform, those familiar with the project are envisioning a mobile type of Alexa, accompanying homeowners in spots where they might not already have an Echo device.

Some prototypes of the robots that have come up have advanced cameras as well as computer vision software that allow them to navigate through homes.  Self driving cars use similar technology.

These types of robots would differ from Amazon Robotics, a subsidiary of the company in Massachusetts and Germany.  That company utilizes robots within Amazon warehouses for moving around goods and had originated as a company named Kiva Systems, that Amazon acquired in 2012 for $775 million.

The ongoing advances in computer vision technology, cameras and artificial intelligence, along with voice activation make it promising for Amazon to be able to bring a potential robot to the marketplace.

It is also estimated that the consumer robot market will be worth about $15 billion a year by 2023, according to Research and Markets, which would be up from about $5.4 billion this year.

One can't help but wonder though, in this day and age of privacy breaches, will customers be willing to allow even more 'smart' technology into the home?  We can only hope that any product will be friendly enough like another robot of the future:

Amazon Robots

Spotify Debuts on NYSE at $165.90 Per Share

Spotify A direct listing by Spotify Technology SA, owner of the world’s largest paid music service, opened at $165.90 per share as trade tensions and Trump’s tweets pushed tech stocks lower in recent days.

What made the initial listing according to CNBC:

This time, Wall Street isn't taking a central role in the process. While Spotify has some bank advisors, it did what is called a direct listing, allowing it to trade on an exchange without all the regulatory hassles and expensive bankers that are the hallmarks of the traditional IPO. NYSE changed its rules to allow the listing to move forward.

After waiting all morning, Spotify began trading just after 12:30 p.m. ET at $165.90 a share, valuing the company at about $29 billion. That is up 25.6 percent from a reference price of $132, though because banks weren't involved in underwriting the offering, the stock wasn't bought or sold at that lower price.

According to a filing from the company, "there could be greater volatility in the public price of our ordinary shares during the period immediately following the listing," and that "such differences from an underwritten initial public offering could result in a volatile market price for our ordinary shares and uncertain trading volume and may adversely affect your ability to sell your ordinary shares."

Under Armour Announces Data Breach of MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal Lorraine Mirabella, reporting for The Baltimore Sun:

About 150 million users of the MyFitnessPal fitness and nutrition app and website have been affected by a data security breach, the site’s owner, Baltimore-based Under Armour, said Thursday.

The company learned of the breach, which included usernames, email addresses and hashed passwords, four days ago, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The affected data did not include government-issued identifiers, such as Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers, information that the app does not collect from users. The breach also did not affect payment card data, which is collected and processed separately.

The brand began notifying MyFitnessPal users Thursday afternoon, via email and through app messaging.

If anything, just another reminder to make sure you're keeping up on updating your passwords every so often.

West MI Company Herman Miller Developing The 'Smart Workplace'

herman miller If you work at a desk job in a corporate environment, more than likely the exact chair you're sitting in came from Herman Miller.  The West Michigan company, which is known mainly for its infamous Aeron chairs, unveiled a new product today named Live OS, with a goal of workplaces and employees being more efficient, energized, health, and happy.  Read on for more about the features.

The company teamed up with designer Yves Béhar for a new suite of smart office furniture launching today at NeoCon in Chicago, according to The Verge.  How it works is that the system utilizes sensors that can come already installed with Herman Miller desks, or can they can be made to fit any already existing work surface. The sensors then collect data that is anonymized on-the-fly which can then be accessed through a dashboard, giving companies crucial data for how each space gets used.

If you have a fixed height desk, the set up only tracks when people are present, however if it gets utilized with Herman Miller’s sit-to-stand desks, think of it more like an activity tracker you would wear on your wrist.

Via an app, users can set up their preference for parameters like desk height, which can then be recalled at any connected sit-to-stand desk by tapping a button.  If you feel like you're sitting too much, you can also set activity goals (i.e., stand for 12 minutes out of every 60).  Notice you're starting to get a sore back?  If it's time to change postures, the desk will prompt the shift via a soft buzz.  If you're used to sitting at your desk the whole day, then the app will gradually progress toward set activity goals over a period of weeks.

"Our initial testing indicates that employees using Live sit-to-stand desks have become more active,” according to Ryan Anderson, director of commercialization for Live OS, “transitioning between sitting and standing six times as often as previously recorded.”

While at a fraction of the cost of most Herman Miller chairs, sensors that are bought individually cost $100, and then the subsequent software subscription will set users back $36 per desk per year.  Software for sit-to-stand desks with Live OS sensors will run at $60 per year.  On the plus side, Quartz is reporting that there will be volume discounts for enterprises looking to purchase multiples.

If you'd like to learn more, be sure to check out the company's web page.

Snap Stock Whiffs on Q1 Earnings

Snap Stock misses It wasn't a great day for Snap stock.  Perhaps due to the onslaught from the likes of Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat had its lowest pace of growth in years, as their parent company Snap Inc, missed Wall Street's expectations for its Q1 earnings, its first as a public company.  The stock price was down 26.2% at the time of this post per Business Insider.

Snap had added 8 million new daily users in the first three months of the year.  This time last year, the company was growing its DAUs by 52%.  As mentioned above though, the slow growth is happening at a time when Instagram Stories outpaced Snapchat by hitting 200 million daily users.

The reasoning for Snap's net loss of $2 billion during the quarter was due in part to stock-based compensation that was related to its February initial public offering.

Other Notes from Snap's Q1 Earnings:

  • EPS (adjusted): Net loss of $0.20 vs. $0.16.
  • Revenue: $149.6 million vs. $159 million expected, up 286% from $39 million in the year-ago period.
  • Daily active users: 166 million, an increase of 36% from 122 million in the year-ago period.
  • Net loss: $2.2 billion.

Read more after the jump for highlights from the earnings call.

  • CEO Evan Spiegel started Snap's first earnings call stating that the past quarter has been focused on "working on the quality of the Snapchat application," particularly as it relates to Android.
  • 30% of new Snapchat users during the quarter were on Android, a jump from 20% in the previous quarter.
  • Spiegel said Snapchat's recently announced search feature was "exciting" because it surfaces the “so-called long-tail of content on our service." Snapchat users can search for crowd-sourced stories based on a range of topics, from tourist attractions to concerts.
  • 3 billion messages, or "snaps," get sent on Snapchat every day, inching up from 2.5 billion in the previous quarter.
  • Spiegel wrapped his comments up by summing up Snap's Q1 work in three words: "performance, quality, and automation."
  • When asked about Snapchat's slowed user growth, Spiegel gave some insight into why he doesn't believe in "growth hacking" like other social apps. Rather than send push notifications or emails to make them open the app regularly, he said Snap views growth “through the lens of creation" and "removing friction from the creative process” So if it can make Snapchat easier to use, people will use it more.
  • Spiegel also said that poor internet access in less-developed parts of the world is "a real issue" for Snapchat's growth. Snap recently got into hot water in India over an alleged comment Spiegel made about not caring about "poor countries."
  • Snap's approach to hardware like Spectacles is to “usually work on it ourselves" before seeking outside help, Spiegel said. He didn't give much more color beyond that hardware is an “interesting avenue to explore." (We know that Snap has looked at making camera drones.)
  • Over 8 million people have tuned into Snapchat's original shows so far, Spiegel said. He said that while a lot of video content on mobile is repurposed from TV (cough: Facebook), Snapchat works closely with partners like A&E to create scripted shows specific to the app.
  • Spiegel won't budge on specific new features or products that are coming down the road. “At this point, we’re pretty famous for not giving guidance on our product pipeline." Indeed.

Roku Premiere Plus Deal on Amazon

Roku Premiere Plus In addition to the fourth generation Apple TV, the Roku Premiere Plus really helps to complete all of our streaming needs.  While we were able to get ours for free via a special offer through Charter Spectrum, Amazon is currently offering the Roku Premiere Plus at a price of $79 shipped.  If you would prefer not to go the Amazon route though, the deal is also currently being matched for about $1 more at Best Buy and Target.

Features Include:

  • Perfect for HD and 4K Ultra HD TVs, features fast quad-core processor and 802.11ac dual-band wireless.
  • 4K Ultra HD at 60fps with four times the resolution of 1080p HD, delivering crisp detail and brilliant, life-like images.
  • Vibrant HDR displaying an incredible range of colors, brighter whites, and deeper blacks.
  • Enhanced point anywhere remote with headphones for private listening.
  • Unbiased search across top channels. Find where it’s free or cheapest to watch.

For greater savings, MallStop via Amazon also offers a refurbished Roku Premiere for $48 and a refurbished Roku Premiere Plus for $65.

In Ongoing Legal Battle, Qualcomm Hits Back at Apple With Countersuit

Qualcomm logo on building facade Apple stock is only down a point or so in early morning trading as a fight between chip maker Qualcomm and the tech giant has been heating up lately, with the former filing its own countersuit against Apple.  In the suit, Qualcomm is stating that Apple covered up how iPhone 7s that had Qualcomm chips in it, outperformed those that contained Intel chips.

Per Investor's Business Daily, Apple "acted to prevent Qualcomm from revealing to consumers the extent to which iPhones with Qualcomm's chip sets outperformed iPhone's with Intel's chip sets," said Qualcomm in the countersuit that was was filed later in the day on Monday in the US District Court for the Southern District of California.

Allegations from Qualcomm include that Apple lied to regulators to spur investigations of the chipmaker.  Back on January 20, Apple had started the legal battle against Qualcomm over its technology licensing practices.

In that suit from Apple, they alleged that Qualcomm had high demands for its technology and was trying to punish Apple for its cooperation in a regulatory probe in South Korea.  During December, the antritrust regulator in South Korea hit Qualcomm with a huge $902 million regulatory fine for having violated antitrust laws.

To make matters worse for the chip maker, just a few days earlier the US Federal Trade Commission also hit Qualcomm with a lawsuit, alleging they were using anticompetitive tactics to try and hold strong a monopoly in baseband processors that are a mainstay in wireless devices.

In the countersuit, Qualcomm said: "Apple could not have built the incredible iPhone franchise that has made it the most profitable company in the world, capturing over 90% of smartphone profits, without relying upon Qualcomm's fundamental cellular technologies."

This will probably be one to keep an eye on, especially as Apple prepares for its annual World Wide Developers Conference in June and the assumed launch of its next iPhone in the fall.