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Samsung will pay your installment plan until 2016 if you buy a Galaxy phone (US only)

samsung galaxy note 5 5 tips and tricks aa (23 of 30)

Competition is fierce in the mobile industry and Samsung is really urging to sell some devices! So much that they are willing to pay part of the phone if you switch to any of their latest handsets! Interested? Of course you are.

Here’s how it works. Eligible users are those who buy a Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Ede+ or Galaxy Note 5 on an installment plan or lease. Samsung will then give customers a rebate amounting for the full price of your installment payments up until 2016 comes around. You just have to go through an online claim.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+-2

The only issue is that there’s a $120 limit, but iPhone users can take this deal to the next level. Apple smartphone users can simply pre-register and trade-in their iPhone to get an extra $100 on Google Play Store credit. The process is simple, just head over to the Samsung Promotions page from the eligible iPhone (iPhone 4s and newer) and enter your email. You can then simply turn in your device and get a Galaxy phone from your carrier.

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As you can expect, this is only a US offer. Another huge caveat is that for some reason AT&T customers are not qualified. Here the terms and conditions, just in case you need to catch all the small print. Most of it is pretty straight forward, though.

Are any of you signing up? If you are not sure which phone to get, remember we have our reviews on the Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5. Go check them out and hit the comments to tell us which one you are getting.



Here are the videos you don’t want to miss this week – September 26, 2015

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We’re just now wrapping up yet another busy week in the Android world. As we get ready for Google to unveil the new Nexus devices in the next couple days, we thought it would be a good idea to catch you up on some of the best Android-related videos of the week.

Both the new Moto 360 and Huawei Watch showed up on our doorstep, and we’ve wasted no time unboxing and giving you our first impressions on both devices. We’ve also published our full reviews of the Huawei Mate S and BLU Vivo Air LTE, and brought you some handy tips and tricks for your brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

Without any further ado, here are the videos you don’t want to miss this week.


Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen.) unboxing and first look

Motorola created one of the best looking Android Wear smartwatches with last year’s Moto 360. How does this new one compare? Josh unboxes and gives us his first impressions on the Moto 360 (2nd Gen).

Huawei Watch unboxing and first look

The second-gen Moto 360 is quite the attractive device, but it looks like it has some big competition. Don’t miss Josh’s unboxing of the Huawei Watch.


Huawei Mate S review

Just recently unveiled at IFA 2015, Huawei’s Mate S boasts some impressive specs and features. Does Huawei have another hit on its hands? Check out Gary’s review to learn more.

BLU Vivo Air LTE review

BLU has proven itself time and time again in the mid-range smartphone market, but the company’s Vivo Air LTE has some quirks you should know about. Don’t miss Bailey’s full review.

Tips and tricks

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 – 5 tips and tricks

Want some advice on how to use your new Galaxy Note 5? Josh is here to give you five tips and tricks for the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

How to…

Make your own Google Cardboard headset

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With the launch of Google Cardboard, VR is making its way to the masses. Here’s how to assemble your very own Cardboard headset.

The latest in VR

New Samsung Gear VR reaction at Oculus Connect

Samsung just recently unveiled a new Gear VR headset. Josh got the chance to try it out, and he’s here to give you his reaction.

Oculus Touch demo reaction at Oculus Connect

Want some more information on the new Oculus Touch controller for the Rift? Josh will walk you through the basics.

Android Apps Weekly

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Free music, cheap apps, FIFA 16 and Eternity Warriors 4 – you don’t want to miss Joe’s newest episode of Android Apps Weekly!


Google’s Nexus 5X hits the FCC with support for all big US carriers

Google's Nexus 5X in white, mint and black

Google’s Nexus phones haven’t had the best cross-carrier support in the US (ahem, Verizon), but that might change when the Nexus 5X and 6P roll into town. The Nexus 5X has just swung by the FCC for approval, and one filing is for a model that appears to support all four major US carriers in at least some capacity — there are concerns that it might not handle T-Mobile’s existing 3G, but this does include Verizon support. There’s also a second variant of the LG-made device that removes some frequency bands and appears destined for other countries. There’s not much to see beyond this, although the FCC’s measurements back rumors that the 5X will have a 5.2-inch screen. Will this Nexus actually work with every major US network when it launches? It’s hard to say for sure, but you’ll likely get the full scoop at Google’s event in a few days.

[Image credit: Android Police]

Via: Android Police, S4GRU

Source: FCC (1), (2)


Nexus 6P presentation leaks in entirety, confirms nearly all the rumored specifications

Google_Nexus 6P_presentation_slides_Android6.0_092615_1A slides presentation just surfaced in its entirety containing the majority, if not all of the specifications for the upcoming Nexus 6P. The leak also includes high quality renders, new features and more.

Apparently, the Nexus 6P hasn’t leaked enough in the past few weeks. Today, just about all the specifications for the upcoming handset was released free into the wild. The Nexus 6P made by Chinese manufacturer Huawei will feature slightly higher-end specifications when compared to the LG made Nexus 5X. It will also be the larger of the two with its 5.7-inch WQHD IPS-LCD display. The design has been described as a metal unibody, slim and sophisticated. Users will get the toughest build out there when it comes to the screen which will boost Gorilla Glass 4. It will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdargon 810 processor v2.1. The amount of RAM is still up in the air, but one could expect to see a minimum of 3GB for this handset. Other specs include high-resolution front and rear-facing cameras that can be activated via a tap of the newly included rear mounted fingerprint scanner. Just in case you didn’t know, Android 6.0 will be making its debut with this one. The handset will boost a large 3,450mAh battery that is non-removable. Type C is also included with ultra-fast charging capabilities and faster data transfer speeds.

The Nexus 6P’s design matches recent leaks and will support dual front-facing speakers. The camera is said to bring fast auto-focusing and improved low light photo taking. The handset will weigh a total of only 178g. Nearing the end of the presentation, Google reminds us about some of the newest features included with Marshmallow such as Now On Tap, new app permissions, a new fingerprint API and better power consumption with dose and app standby.

The handset will come in a variety of color options such as aluminium, graphite, frost, and gold. However, the choices may vary depending on your location. Storage options include 32GB, 64GB and the whopping 128GB many were hoping for. Unfortunately, there has been no word on pricing, but it’s rumored that pre-orders will go up on October 13. Google will hold the conference on September 29 in San Francisco, where is will announce the Nexus 6P alongside a LG manufacturer Nexus 5X. Updated Chromecast models are also expected. Screenshots of the entire presentation have been included in the gallery below. Whose excited?

Google_Nexus 6P_presentation_slides_Android6.0_092615_1
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Google_Nexus 6P_presentation_slides_Android6.0_092615_14

Source: Imgur
Via: Android Police

Come comment on this article: Nexus 6P presentation leaks in entirety, confirms nearly all the rumored specifications


Google has filed a patent aimed at preventing one from dropping their smartphone

Google_patent_slipperyphone_grip_092615Google just submitted a patent of a rather odd design aimed at preventing users from dropping their smartphone.

The patent pictured above was filed last week by Google. It features a brand new smartphone with a design that will hopefully prevent users from dropping their device. The patent indicates better grip, but comes with a cost of a bad design. It shows rather sharp edges and a thick body. On the rear side it has ridges for one to put their fingers along when holding the device. Ultimately guided at helping users maintain control of their smartphone and preventing it from slipping out of his/her hand. It will be interesting to see if this ever hits the market. We’ll keep an eye out.

Source: Patently Mobile

Come comment on this article: Google has filed a patent aimed at preventing one from dropping their smartphone


iPad Mini 4 review: A long wait makes for a potent upgrade

Fans of Apple’s smaller iPad Mini caught a tough break last fall when the company unveiled its new tablets for the year. Although Tim Cook & co. lavished plenty of attention on the faster, slimmed-down iPad Air 2, the upgraded iPad Mini 3 was regarded as a mere afterthought. The list of changes was so short, in fact, that some of us wondered why Apple would introduce a performance gap between the Air and Mini lines. Still more people wondered when they’d get a Mini with enough power to match its larger sibling. Turns out, the answer was “a year later.” I’ve been testing the new iPad Mini 4 for over a week now and can say with confidence this is the Mini we should’ve gotten last year.Slideshow-323041


iPad Mini 4 Review

Apple’s design team did most of the heavy lifting with the iPad Air 2 and now we’re finally seeing that sleek aesthetic trickle down to the Mini. The 4’s fit and finish is still first-rate and, more importantly, the whole package is about a tenth of a pound lighter than last year’s model. That might not sound like a dramatic difference, but when you’re building a device with a bigger-than-phone-sized screen, every ounce and gram matter. The iPad Air 2 felt almost unnaturally light for its size, so you can imagine how light the even smaller Mini 4 feels — holding it aloft and watching YouTube videos for hours was none too painful.

The Minis were never exactly tanks, of course, but this year’s thinner and lighter model (0.65 pound and 6.1mm, the same thickness as the Air 2) makes prolonged, one-handed use a pleasure. The Air-ification of the Mini line also means that handy rotation-lock switch — part of the iPad’s hardware formula for years — has been excised. Keeping your screen from spinning around now requires you to swipe up the Control Center and tap an icon down there. This is one of those little changes that most people won’t notice until they start feeling around for that familiar nubbin. Despite not using it that frequently, I still miss having it there.

It’s easy to imagine Apple just took a shrink ray to an iPad Air 2 and called it a day, but there’s more going on here than meets the eye. You see, rather than carry over the modified A8X from the Air 2, Apple kitted out the new Mini with the same A8 processor that’s currently powering the iPhone 6, albeit except it’s paired with 2GB of RAM instead of one. I’ve never had much reason to complain about the iPhone 6’s performance, and the combination of that chipset and the extra RAM means the Mini 4 is, unsurprisingly, a snappy performer (more on that later). My review unit was a 128GB model, although Apple also offers 16GB and 64GB options with prices starting at $399 for a WiFi-only configuration. Toss in an updated 8-megapixel rear camera, not to mention faster 802.11ac WiFi and 20 LTE bands, and we’ve got a much-improved device on our hands.

Display and sound

The iPad Air 2 might give you more screen real estate, but the Mini 4 wins on pixel density, hands down. Like the Mini 3 before it, the newest generation squeezes 326 pixels into each linear inch of the device’s 7.9-inch screen, making for crisp text and eye-popping visuals. Even better, Apple finally got rid of that tiny gap between the Mini’s display panel and the slate of arsenic-free glass covering it; it’s all been combined into a single, laminated panel.

What sounds like an exercise in LCD screen minutiae makes for some dramatic changes: It means less glare, better viewing angles and a touch more crispness. When we tested the Air 2 and the Mini 3, the difference in color clarity and saturation was pretty pronounced, but that’s thankfully now a non-issue. Oh, and a brief aside: Older Minis also made a bit of a hollow thunk sound when you tapped them a certain way, an issue that’s been addressed on the new model.

If you’re hell-bent on using the Mini as a media machine, you’ve probably got a decent pair of headphones to go with it. Thankfully, you needn’t fret if you accidentally leave them at home: The speakers housed on the Mini’s bottom edge are impressively loud for their size. You won’t be able to fill a room with the mid-heavy sound they churn out, but I discovered I could leave a video playing in the kitchen and still hear it while folding laundry downstairs.


iOS 9 is such an important step forward that we just published a few thousand words all about it. Assuming you don’t have the time to sift through our full review, here’s a quick rundown on what iOS 9 means for the new Mini. In short, Apple’s latest software update is focused more on stability and thoughtfulness, using Siri’s new proactive smarts to surface information and apps when you might want them. Throw in plenty of neat design changes — like a revamped app switcher and a fantastic “Back” button that lets you follow the breadcrumb trail of apps you were just using — and we’ve got a more smartly put-together update than we initially gave Apple credit for.Slideshow-322375

iPads got plenty of attention in this update, and fans of mobile multitasking should be especially pleased. Consider Slide Over, which lets you swipe open a drawer full of first-party apps that can be opened in a smaller, separate window that takes up about a quarter of the screen. By jumping into any of those apps, you’re effectively putting the other, primary application you were just using on pause until you’re done texting or checking Apple News. You can go a step further and drag the line that divides those apps; that resizes both of them until they each take up 50 percent of the screen. Why hello, Split View. Honestly, as neat as this trick is, it feels sort of silly on a screen this small. Running two apps side by side makes sense on a larger display — say, on a full-sized Air 2 or an enormous iPad Pro. Shoehorning two apps onto an 8-inch screen can feel a little claustrophobic after a while.

Then there’s picture-in-picture mode, which, yes, is exactly what it sounds like. Any time you play a video in Apple’s stock media player, you can tap an icon to shrink it down and stick it in a corner so you won’t miss a moment of JK Simmons being an epic jerk in Whiplash. Give that small window a quick pinch-zoom and it’ll roughly double in size; the default view on the Mini 4 is pretty tiny, so you’ll probably spend most of your time in this mode.

Moving on, the Notes app also now supports richer text formatting (heck yeah, subheadings) and packs a reasonably thorough sketching tool for adding drawings and diagrams to your text. The smaller screens on iPhones make random doodling tricky, but that’s not a problem with the Mini’s nearly 8-inch screen. All told, iOS 9 is a must-have download, and the Mini 4 gives it plenty of space — and power — to shine.


I’ll be the first to admit I sometimes glare at people shooting tab-photos in public, but the appeal is pretty obvious. For one, it might be the only camera folks have on them, and we all know the adage there. A bigger screen also makes it easier to frame shots, and really, who among us couldn’t stand to be better at that? What I’m saying is this seemingly silly habit isn’t going anywhere, and the iPad Mini 4’s rear-facing 8-megapixel camera does a fine job of capturing the world around you. Slideshow-323032

Tablet photos are hardly ever outstanding, but the Mini 4, like the Air 2 before it, is capable of capturing crisp colors and reasonable detail when the light is right. White balance is generally more accurate now too, which is especially apparent since the Mini didn’t get left in the display quality dust this time. Things obviously get muddier in dimmer conditions, but really, if you’re using a tablet to take photos in the middle of the night, you might want to rethink your strategy. Meanwhile, the front-facing camera is stuck at 1.2 megapixels, but it now has an f/2.2 aperture lens to help suck in the light bouncing off of your face. Still, I haven’t noticed much of a difference between this camera and the one in last year’s Mini.

Other changes include the ability to shoot in burst mode thanks to the A8 chipset thrumming away inside, and improved support for HDR photos and video. The iPad Mini 4 isn’t going to be anyone’s first choice for mobile photography, but it’s a solid, if unremarkable, performer.

Performance and battery life

I sort of alluded to this earlier, but let’s be clear: The Mini 4 is not just a shrunken-down Air 2. The difference in the chipsets powering these things is apparent in our benchmark tests below, but the Mini 4 is still no slouch compared to its more premium cousin. It’s buttery smooth as you leap in and out of apps and swipe through web pages. The only time I noticed the Mini’s A8 chipset struggling was while running two apps in Split View, and even then, it was only when I was trying to fiddle with both simultaneously. While I’m comparing the Mini 4 to other iPads, it’s noticeably quicker to react than last year’s Mini. In fact, Apple says the A8’s CPU is 30 percent faster than the Mini 3’s A7, and that graphical performance is up 60 percent from last year. That helps explain why Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 5: Blackout ran like a dream, but I’ll let the numbers do the rest of the talking.

iPad Mini 4 iPad Air 2 iPad Mini 3 NVIDIA Shield Tablet
Geekbench 3.0 3,236 4,510 2,470 3,423
Basemark X 17,212 29,518 14,839 TBD
3DMark IS Unlimited 16,291 21,659 14,595 30,970
SunSpider 1.0 (ms) 349 303 439 463
SunSpider: Lower scores are better.

So, pretty much exactly what I expected: The Mini 4 strikes an appropriate balance between the Mini 3 and the Air 2 (which has the edge thanks to an extra CPU core). Usually it performs just a hair better than last year’s iPhones too. Of course, horsepower means nothing without battery power, and the new Mini has that in spades. The usual Apple refrain is that the Mini is rated for about 10 hours of continued use, but that might have been understating things a bit. In our usual video rundown test (video looping with the screen brightness set to 50 percent), the Mini 4 lasted 13 hours and 4 minutes before needing an emergency trip to the power outlet. That’s just short of the 13 hours and 45 minutes on last year’s model, which isn’t bad at all considering the new Mini 4 actually has a smaller, 5,124mAh battery.

The Mini fared similarly well in the battery test called “living with me.” After pulling it off of the charger at around 7 AM, schlepping to the office and using it for emails/reading articles/the occasional game, I’d usually wind up with 10 percent remaining when I returned home at 9 PM.

Tablet Battery life
iPad Mini 4 13:04
iPad Air 2 11:15
iPad Mini 3 13:45
iPad Air 13:45 (LTE)
Apple iPad Mini 12:43 (WiFi)
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (10-inch) 12:30
Microsoft Surface 3 9:11
Galaxy Tab S2 7:30

The competition

If you’re in the market for a sleek tablet, consider Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 (starting at $400 for the 8-inch model). While it lacks the kooky style of its immediate predecessor, the 10-inch screen is one to behold — it is Samsung after all — and it’s only 5.6mm thick. The downgraded battery might sting, though: It only managed 7.5 hours in our tests, down from 12.5 hours for the previous-gen model. Itching for something more portable? ASUS just launched its 8-inch ZenPad S, a $200 Android slate with a waistline similar to the Mini 4’s and a 2,048 x 1,536 display, to boot. Then there’s the iPad Air 2 itself, which is still the most powerful tablet in Apple’s roster. It’s incredibly sleek and can be held one-handed for longer than you might expect, but its size means it’s just not going to fit into some lifestyles. The thing is, it’s almost worth trying to see if the size can work for you; prices for the Air 2 start at $499, and sales or buying refurbished can bring that base price down even lower.


Some might gripe about the Mini 4’s year-old internals, but after my week of testing, I feel confident saying that it doesn’t matter much. The tablet’s entire package, from the still-snappy A8 chipset to the beautiful and almost-pocketable screen, to the incredibly sleek chassis, makes it worthy of your consideration. If you’re on the lookout for a super-portable tablet with strong fundamentals and great app support, you probably won’t find a contender better than this one. That said, if you can fit a bigger tablet into your life, you could easily upgrade into an iPad Air 2 for not much more money and get even more processing power.


Blackberry CEO John Chen awkwardly showcases the Blackberry Priv

BlackBerry Priv

Not too long after we brought you some exclusive images of the BlackBerry Priv (aka Venice), the company officially confirmed that its Android-powered smartphone would be launching by the year’s end. To get consumers excited about the device before its official launch, BlackBerry CEO John Chen went on camera with Canadian news outlet BNN to showcase the new smartphone… only it seemed like Chen only had a passing familiarity with the device. 

The first thing the interviewer asks is to see the slide-out physical keyboard, which is the Priv’s spotlight feature. Chen says he’s going to hold off on showing that until the end, because it’s the big reveal. The interviewer seems fine with this, so Chen jumps into a spec rundown as smooth and graceful as middle-schooler belly-flopping off the high dive.

John ChenSee also: In his own words: BlackBerry CEO John Chen explains why his company’s Priv is all about Android74362

“It runs Google,” says Chen, meaning that the Priv runs the Android operating system (which is at least a little better than saying “the Google”). He points out the curved screen which is… curved. He shows off the device’s touchscreen capability. He boasts of its cameras and “all that good stuff.” He almost pulls up Chrome successfully.

Eventually, Chen seems to realize he should have stuck with shock and awe and left the spec work to someone from the design department. He snaps out the keyboard and…

Well, maybe it speaks to the elegance of the hardware that, even in the midst of this cringe-fest, the keyboard still comes across as slick as hell and damn impressive. The physical keyboard doubles as a touch mouse (which I have my doubts about, but which looks cool nonetheless) and can be snapped in and out of the bottom of the phone.,ctvgmglobal&section=video%20-%20hub&site=bnn&shareUrl=&v7=player&v8=&v9=&v10=

Blackberry hopes the Priv will draw back all those users who were addicted to physical keyboards for years but who eventually acquiesced to touch keyboards once phones like the Droid 4 slipped out of existence. Whether or not this will work for the one-time mobile giant is yet to be determined, but so far the Priv looks pretty smooth even in the most un-smooth of hands.


We spent two weeks wearing employee trackers: Here’s what we learned

This article originally appeared on Fast Company and is reprinted with permission.

By Greg Lindsay

I almost didn’t notice I was wearing it, at first. The plastic box strung around my neck was roughly the size and weight of a deck of cards, lighter than I expected. It was only when I spotted the occasional flash of blue light that I remembered this “sociometric badge” was listening to everything I said, where I said it, and to whom—especially if they were wearing a similar device around their own necks. In those cases, our conversations were captured for analysis—ignoring what we said in favor of how long we spoke, and who did all the talking.

I started to turn painfully self-conscious around my first visit to the bathroom: Did the badge know I was in there? Would it listen? Would it freak someone out that I was wearing a giant sensor in the stall next to him? By the time I left the building for lunch, I had zipped it beneath my jacket, less concerned that it was counting my every step than having civilians think I was some new species of Glasshole.

Like Google Glass, sociometric badges were prototyped in Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s Human Dynamics Lab within the MIT Media Lab—a place where his cyborg doctoral students once wore keyboards on their heads and no one thought it strange. Unlike Glass, the badges are still a going concern—five years ago, Pentland and several former students spun out a company now called Humanyze to consult for such companies as Deloitte and Bank of America. Just as Fitbits measure vital signs and REM cycles to reveal hidden truths about their wearers’ health, Humanyze intends to do the same for organizations—only instead of listening to heartbeats, its badges are alert for face-to-face conversations.

For two weeks in April, Fast Company was one of those subjects. (Humanyze provided the badges and analysis for free.) Twenty Fast Company editorial employees—and me, as a visiting observer—agreed to wear the badges whenever we were in the building. Our goal was to discover who actually speaks to whom, and what these patterns suggest about the flow of information, and thus power, through the office. Is the editor in chief really at the center of the magazine’s real-world social network, or was someone else the invisible bridge between its print and online operations? (Or worse, what if the two camps didn’t speak at all?) We would try to find out, though we would be hampered somewhat by the fact that not everyone was wearing a badge, and we didn’t give Humanyze the full range of data, like integration into our email and Slack conversations, that would allow the company to truly understand our work relationships.

More importantly were the questions we chose to not ask: How did these patterns impact performance? Should editors and writers talk less or more, and what did it mean when they talked amongst themselves? Did it result in more posts on Fast Company‘s website, or more highly trafficked ones? Demonstrating and understanding these relationships are what Humanyze’s clients pay for; perhaps we were too scared to learn.

For the better part of two weeks, staff members suffered the badges in silence. Some people found wearing them uncomfortable and awkward. “It was oppressive,” says associate news editor Rose Pastore. “I think it ruined my posture.” “It does not play well with statement necklaces,” says senior editor Erin Schulte, who, like many others, resented needing to wear the badge on her sternum for maximum audio fidelity (and so the infrared sensors that establish the wearers’ identities have a clear line of sight). Several wished it could be a pendant or lapel pin or wristlet—anything less intrusive.

Others complained about the user interface, or lack thereof. The blue twinkling I’d noticed was only one of several colors, none of which had been explained during orientation. Some found this Orwellian; others reported being lulled into complacency by its low-tech appearance and cheap plastic casing. Still more wanted feedback: Was this thing on? Was I doing this right? Cognitive dissonance soon manifested. Writers and editors who complained in one breath about opaque surveillance suggested in the next that only if the badge could replace their Jawbone UPs and Fitbits—in the process capturing their quantified selves for their employer—would the exercise be worthwhile.

Co.Exist editor Morgan Clendaniel took this idea to its logical conclusion, proposing that flat-screens mounted around the office broadcast our interactions in real time, à la the visualizations produced by the likes of Chartbeat, which depicts the performance of individual online stories on a moment-by-moment basis. (A Los Angeles-based startup named Rexter does exactly that.)

Humanyze CEO Ben Waber understands their concerns, from the interference with statement necklaces to the deliberate lack of clarity from the badges. “Lights blinking all the time is distracting,” he says. “It’s a difficult line to manage.” As far as the wearer’s comfort goes, he’s confident that Moore’s Law will reduce the weight of sociometric badges until they are indistinguishable from standard-issue IDs. (The latest version of the badge, which we did not wear, is half the size of the previous iteration.) But he’s adamant that the badges will always be worn on the chest, as it’s the only way to guarantee conversations will be heard clearly.

Humanyze prides itself on privacy. Several weeks after our badges had been shipped back to Boston for analysis, we each received a link to our individual results. Not only was this data shielded from our employer, we were assured, but Fast Company was also contractually forbidden to ask us what was in our reports. Which explains why Laura Freeman, the “quantitative social scientist” who prepared our reports, was audibly dismayed when I announced my intentions to reverse-engineer them.

In my own case, the results confirmed what I already knew: that I was a marginal figure in the office, which I rarely visit. While I may have spent more time moving and speaking than most participants in order to gin up conversations about the badges, the extent of my connections would be considered subpar at best. (“You can increase your face-to-face network breadth by making an effort to meet new colleagues,” my results helpfully suggested.)

The true org chart of Fast Company, based on whom workers interact with.

This made it easier to locate my likely position on the periphery of the network map created by the badges (pictured above). My best guess is that I’m the node at the very bottom, confined to speaking with my fellow “digital writers.” We were a chatty group; one of the few surprises was that the seven writers talked more amongst ourselves than any other group (which included an equal number of digital editors, along with a smattering of magazine editors and developers). “Surely, they must be complaining,” said Cliff Kuang, Fast Company‘s director of product.

The other surprise had to do with Kuang himself, who was revealed to be the center of the network. He was the only participant with strong ties to multiple members of the other groups. Editor-in-chief Bob Safian, it turned out, had stopped wearing his badge after only a few days and was likely on the fringes. Executive editor Noah Robischon’s position as one of several highly connected digital editors was impossible to determine. But Kuang’s central role makes perfect sense in retrospect: As director of product, he straddles multiple domains, and as a former editor of Co.Design, he has prior relationships that aren’t reflected on the org chart.

Humanzye also measures how much people on each team move.

Unearthing those relationships, understanding and visualizing them, is perhaps the most potent thing sociometric badges can do. For more than 30 years, the sociologist Ronald S. Burt has mapped and described what he calls “structural holes”—the naturally occurring gaps within organizations. Those who bridge these holes, he has found, produce more ideas, make better decisions, and prosper accordingly. But they aren’t necessarily the ones in charge.

To demonstrate, Burt recently mapped the relationships between top managers at one of the largest pharmaceutical giants in the world. He discovered a relative nobody several rungs below the CEO who appeared to be the only person keeping the company’s Asian leadership tethered to the mother ship in Europe. When the results were published, Burt told me, the company immediately began grooming him for leadership.

Our experiment had no such tidy ending, however, which leads to the questions posed by critics of the trackers and the quantified workplace: What can this data be used for besides squeezing more work out of its users? There are few use cases outside of fixing the bottom line. If we had a specific business goal, perhaps the data could have been used to make changes to achieve that, but the information didn’t do much to improve individual workers’ understanding of their jobs.

[Top Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images]


Step inside NASA’s astronaut training simulators

Next weekend, theater-goers will watch astronaut Mark Watney battle to survive on the red planet in The Martian. Meanwhile, the Mars One initiative whittles down a list of Earth dwellers to journey to the very same planet by 2020. In a hostile and alien environment like Mars, it takes knowledge, preparation and practice to survive. You can’t just, as Watney put it, “science the shit out of this” if you don’t have a clue what to expect. To honor past orbital pioneers and future planetary explorers, we look at some of the simulators and mockups that real astronauts used in preparation for launching themselves off this blue orb and into the well-studied, yet unpredictable vastness of space.

[Image: NASA / Mercury astronaut training on gimbal rig 1960]



Insteon and Amazon Echo now support each other


Insteon and Amazon Echo have joined forces to bring support for Insteon’s line of lights, dimmers and relays to the Echo’s set of devices that can be controlled using voice commands. The ability to use Echo’s Alexa to control Insteon devices does not cover everything quite yet, but Insteon says they are working on adding that support.

Currently, Echo users will find they can use use voice commands to turn lights on and off, dim lights with a voice command, or control groups that include up to five items. For example, users could put five lights that make up their living room lighting in one group and then use a command like, “Alexa, set living room lights at fifty percent” to adjust all of them. The groups are agnostic, so Insteon devices can be grouped with hardware like Belkin’s WeMo, Phillips Hue, or Samsung’s SmartThings. Echo does not yet support Insteon’s Scenes feature which supports an unlimited number of devices being combined, but that should be added in the future.

Amazon’s Echo will work with the regular Insteon Hub device, but not the Hub Pro which was built specifically for HomeKit.

source: Insteon
via: Engadget

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