- Snap Inc is putting out their 2nd generation of camera glasses, Spectacles. The first model was maligned by critics who pointed to the stories excess inventory as a sign that it was indeed a massive design failure. We disagreed with that perspective, citing some well-informed design choices that many wearable tech companies misunderstood. It looks like Snap itself is still bullish on the Spectacles product, with plans for a broader (and more traditional) marketing campaign this time around. The design has also been toned down a bit, with the contrasting bright yellow ring around the camera being replaced with tones closer to the color of the frame.
- A fascinating and troubling first-person perspective on virtual dating assistants, the people hired to run online dating communications for clients. The employer recommends tactics to the crew of personal content crafters that resemble sales techniques for low margin, highly transactional products: fire off some quick attempts to draw in the prospective buyer, and if those fail, move on, rather than taking the time to have a real conversation and build mutual understanding.
- Sarah Jeong has a compelling analysis of Facebook's power (and the difficulty of leaving the platform) being rooted in optimizing the mostly invisible emotional labor of building, and maintaining the myriad of human relationships in our lives. Jeong remarks on the initial joy of leaving the noise of the platform, and then the accidental atrophying of real-world social networks made invisible to her: "The real problem only began to present itself much later. I missed big personal news from people I knew. I missed dance parties and house parties and casual get-togethers. I was the last to find out about births and the last to see baby pictures. Classmates got engaged and married and I didn’t find out until after my hiatus."
- Direct to consumer e-commerce makes acquiring goods easier than ever, but little has been done to deal with the end of a product's life. Mattresses are among the most voluminous objects consumers regularly acquire via the internet, yet few options for responsible processing exist: "From 2015 to 2017, those three states recycled about 1 million mattresses. That’s an impressive 11 million cubic feet of landfill space saved, but it’s only 5 percent of the 20 million mattresses tossed out every year."
- Amazon created a version of their Alexa-powered Echo devices designed specifically for children. As the article points out, Microsoft, Apple, and Google all have their own voice-based, always-on digital assistants, but Amazon is the first to ship a product taking that technology and focusing it on kids. Amazon's researchers are likely interested in how language, phrasing, and lines of questioning develop from childhood on, as a better mapping of human learning processes could dramatically improve the capabilities of their AI products, but privacy concerns loom large. The dangers here extend beyond the usual corporate surveillance and data breaches: if parents have access to what amounts to a child's dialogue with a 'digital friend' or their inner monologue, there may be a temptation to make well-meaning but misguided interventions that constrict the natural wandering of young minds making sense of the world bit by bit.
- The smart factory company Tulip is trying to make it easier for customers to get started with their suite of sensors and software, with a bite-sized solution called Factory Kit. While the company. seems to be mostly pursuing medium to large enterprises, micro businesses may reap the benefits from such technologies being broken down into attainable modules that boost efficiency and increase reliability.