Apple’s new ‘battery health’ feature is a great reminder that my iPhone will be a piece of trash some day

Everything dies.
Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

My iPhone isn’t even two years old, and it’s already dying.

That’s the upshot of Apple’s new “Battery Health” feature, introduced in iOS 11.3 Thursday. Though the device assures me it’s operating at “peak performance,” it also indicates that the battery can only hold 93 percent of the charge it once did.

So it goes. Every battery degrades over time, and there’s not a lot Apple can do about that. In fact, this new feature is a step in the right direction: it’s a sort of mea culpa after the tech giant was caught slowing down old devices without user consent, supposedly to combat unexpected shutdowns. The more information users have to counteract — or at least anticipate — the negative effects of iPhone aging, the better.

… Right?

Perhaps not! Though I’m certainly against secret iPhone throttling and generally in favor of information that helps consumers make good choices, this new battery indicator seems destined to result in two things: anxiety and iPhone-related purchases. That my iPhone now only operates at 93 percent of its original capacity is empty knowledge at best. It makes me extremely aware that my iPhone will eventually tick down to uselessness, and, yikes, it kind of makes me want to buy a new battery.

Conceded: This is extremely obsessive. (I am extremely obsessive.) But If you want to do something about your battery, your options are limited. Apple’s temporarily offering a great price on battery replacements for certain models, though you’ll typically shell out $79 for the company to handle this for you.

And folks, you will most likely need the company to handle this for you. iPhones are sealed shut and locked down with proprietary screws — not uncommon in the electronics industry — and they require specialized knowledge to take apart. We are an awfully long way from the Samsung Galaxy S4, which, back in 2013, allowed users to pop off a plastic back with their fingers, take the battery out, and slot another in. Apple has never allowed such a thing with its iPhones.

Replacing a battery on the Galaxy S4 was easy.

Image: ifixit.com

Which is to say, if Apple was serious about making this information useful to consumers, it would make devices that were easier to repair when things go wrong. When my battery capacity hits 50 percent, say, it would be nice to buy a battery from a third-party source (they retail for about $25) and slide that sucker in without completing a minor feat of techno-surgery.

We can applaud Apple for informing consumers, but this information will in fact be most valuable to Apple itself, which will profit when we buy new iPhones or the AppleCare+ plans that give us discounted battery replacements. 

Thanks, but no thanks.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/03/30/iphone-battery-health-feature/

Bill Gates throws shade at other tech giants in his Reddit AMA

Image: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Bill Gates isn’t a fan of tech’s popular buzzwords: cryptocurrency and hyperloop. The Microsoft co-founder hosted his sixth Reddit AMA on Tuesday, and didn’t hold back on his answers. 

Gates doesn’t like what most people find appealing about cryptocurrencies: anonymity.

“The Governments ability to find money laundering and tax evasion and terrorist funding is a good thing,” he wrote, “I think the speculative wave around ICOs and crypto currencies is super risky for those who go long.” 

When u/dikkepiemel pointed out that hard cash is still used for fentanyl and “god knows what else,” Gates responded: “Yes – anonymous cash is used for these kinds of things but you have to be physically present to transfer it which makes things like kidnapping payments more difficult.”

Gates also threw some shade at a concept from fellow tech mogul Elon Musk, whose plans for a “Hyperloop” through the East Coast drew some ridicule. Musk tweeted in July, “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.” 

In Gates’ AMA, u/123lift asked if the Gates Foundation had any plans to tackle inadequate public transportation, since “it seems overlooked.” 

“I think electric cars and autonomous vehicles will be great things … I am not sure the hyperloop concept makes sense,” Gates said, “Making it safe is hard.” 

It’s a not-so-subtle jab at the Tesla CEO, whose Boring Company just got a preliminary permit to start exploratory digging in DC. 

Gates also took a stance on one of the most divisive debates for coders: tabs or spaces? 

“When I code I use tabs because you want the columns to line up,” he responded, “For some word documents I use tabs. You want things to adjust when you go back and edit them and tabs help.”

Silicon Valley’s Richard Hendricks would agree. 

He also shared his take on beer: “I am not a big beer drinker. When I end up at something like a baseball game I drink light beer to get with the vibe of all other beer drinkers. Sorry to disappoint real beer drinkers.”

Not all of Gates’ answers were so passive aggressive, though. He talked about when he finally considered himself successful. His markers for success includes “many domains.”

“I was a success in getting good grades and test scores in high school. I was a success at writing good code by my early 20s … Now I am working on being a good father.” 

His other goals include eradicating polio and malaria, and reducing climate change.

Gates also wants to see more innovation in reducing healthcare costs, improving education, and addressing poverty. “The benefit of getting these things right would be amazing,” he said, “With all the talk about inequity it is interesting that we still work on vertical areas like health, education, housing, food, etc.. as separate things rather than having a full view of the challenges someone faces.”

He wants the same innovation seen in tech applied to humanity’s greater issues. When asked if he missed his time at Microsoft, Gates said he missed the “certain urgency to everything we were doing to stay ahead that meant the speed of activity was very high.” 

“Now I work on things like malaria where I wish there was more competition to solve the problems and things moved faster,” he said. 

Gates also answered the burning question that we’ve all thought of at least once:

“Why is this question so popular?” Gates quipped, “Hello to all the Gills out there. You probably run into someone with the same name less than I do. I don’t think my name has affected me much. My formal name is William.” 

Then he threw in a shout out to some well-known spoonerism:

If Bill Gates calls you “very cool” does it count as a marker of success?

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/27/bill-gates-reddit-ama-hyperloop-cryptocurrency/

Facebook is more dangerous than ever. You can make it stop

Cambridge Analytica's chief executive officer Alexander Nix. His firm recently found itself in the spotlight for misrepresenting itself and harvesting data from millions of Facebook users to aid the Trump campaign / AFP PHOTO / PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA
Image: AFP/Getty Images

Remember the Marlboro Man? He was a sexy vision of the American west, created by a cigarette corporation to sell a fatal product. People knew this and used that product anyway, at great detriment to themselves and those around them who quietly inhaled toxic secondhand smoke, day into long night.

An agreement between states and tobacco companies banished the rugged cowboy at the end of the 1990s, but the symbol is useful even 20 years later as we contend with a less deadly but no less frightening corporate force. Social networks that many of us signed up for in simpler times — a proverbial first smoke — have become gargantuan archives of our personal data. Now, that data is collected and leveraged by bad actors in an attempt to manipulate you and your friends. 

The time for ignorance is over. We need social responsibility to counterbalance a bad product. The public learned in alarming detail this weekend how a Trump-aligned firm called Cambridge Analytica managed to collect data on 50 million people using Facebook. All, as the Guardian put it, to “predict and influence choices at the ballot box.” Individuals who opted into Cambridge Analytica’s service — which was disguised as a personality quiz on Facebook — made their friends vulnerable to this manipulation, as well.

There were better days on the social network. When you signed up for Facebook, it’s likely because it was an alluring way for you to connect with old friends and share pictures. You hadn’t ever imagined “Russian trolls” or “fake news” or, lord knows, “Cambridge Analytica.” Chances are, you signed up before 2016, when Wired recently declared the social network had begun “two years of hell,” thanks in no small part to reporting efforts from current Mashable staffer Michael Nuñez

By then, the vast majority of Facebook’s 239 million monthly users in America had registered, had likely built an entire virtual life of friends and photos and status updates that were primed to be harvested by forces they couldn’t yet see or understand. Unlike those who continued smoking after the Marlboro Man arrived (two years after a seminal 1952 article in Reader’s Digest explained the dangers of cigarettes to the broad American public), these Facebook users lit up before they knew the cancer was coming.

Running with a health metaphor, Wired‘s “two years of hell” feature was promoted with a photo illustration by Jake Rowland that depicted a bloodied and bruised Mark Zuckerberg:

Image: photo illustration by jake rowland/esto. courtesy conde nast.

Zuckerberg may have been assaulted from all sides, but we — his users — took more of a licking than he did.

That’s because Facebook’s past two years have been all about ethical and technological crises that hurt users most of all. A favorite editor of mine hated that word, “users,” because it made it sound as though we were talking about something other than people. I can agree with that, but also see now that “users” is the word of moment: Facebook’s problems extend forever out of the idea that we are all different clumps of data generation. Human life is incidental.

Facebook’s problems extend forever out of the idea that we are all different clumps of data generation

The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful.

And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.

None of this has been secret for some time. Braver, more fed up, or perhaps more responsible users have deactivated their Facebook accounts before. But any change they made was on the basis of their experience as individuals. New revelations demand we think more in terms of our online societies.

I have exactly 1,000 Facebook friends, and about 10 actual, best friends I see on a regular basis. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to care much about those other 990 Facebook friends until revelations from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. We have to admit now that the choices we make on Facebook can directly impact others.

The social network’s policies have changed since Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 operation. But Facebook’s business model — gather data on people and profit from that data — hasn’t. We cannot expect it to. But a reasonable person would anticipate it’s only a matter of time until the next major ethical breach is revealed to the public.

We know from bad faith campaigns surrounding Brexit and the 2016 U.S. election that individual users are extremely susceptible to viral disinformation. But until now, it was less clear how Facebook’s own tools could be used by third parties to manipulate an entire network of friends in an attempt to manipulate voter behavior.

Your irresponsibility on Facebook can impact a lot of people. A link you share can catch on and influence minds even if it’s totally falsified; more to this immediate concern, a stupid quiz you take could have opened your friends’ information up in a way they’d never have expected.

You could throw the pack away and deactivate your Facebook account altogether. It will get harder the longer you wait — the more photos you post there, or apps you connect to it.

Or you could be judicious about what you post and share, and what apps you allow access to your account. There are easy ways to review this.

But just remember: There’s no precedent for a social network of this size. We can’t guess what catastrophe it sets off next. Will a policy change someday mean it’s open season on your data, even if that data has limited protections in the here and now? 

Be smart: It’s not just you, or me, out there alone.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/03/19/protect-yourself-and-your-friends-from-facebook/

E-cig vapor tested positive for arsenic, lead, and other toxic metals

E-cigarette vapor has tested positive for lead and arsenic.
Image: Getty Images/EyeEm

Bad news, vapers. Your e-cigs might not be the healthier alternative to cigarettes you think they are.

A new study has found that vaping may be exposing e-cigarette users to harmful toxins and carcinogens, like lead, chromium, and even arsenic.

The study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives by researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, sampled 56 vape devices. They gathered these e-cigs from actual vapers who they recruited for the study at smoke shops and vape conventions. Prior studies have only looked at newly purchased e-cigs, and the authors of this study wanted to test devices that people actually use for a more representative sample, since they often contain modifications and wear-and-tear.

The study’s authors tested three elements of the e-cigs: the liquid itself, the liquid inside of the vape pen’s chamber, and the aerosol (or vapor). They were specifically interested in whether the metal coil that vape pens use to heat the liquid in order to turn it into vapor was leeching or generating toxic metals. 

And it turns out, their hypothesis was right. There was not a significant amount of toxic metals in the e-cig liquid itself. But in over half of the e-cigs, the liquid inside the dispenser and the aerosol contained significant levels of chromium, nickel, and lead. According to the study’s authors, chromium and nickel have been linked to respiratory disease and lung cancer. And lead can cause neurotoxicity and cardiovascular disease — there is also no safe amount of lead exposure.

“It’s important for the FDA, the e-cigarette companies and vapers themselves to know that these heating coils, as currently made, seem to be leaking toxic metals—which then get into the aerosols that vapers inhale,” study senior author Ana María Rule, PhD, MHS, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, said in a statement.

Troublingly, the authors also found arsenic in over 10 percent of the sampled e-cigs. Unlike the metals, arsenic was present in the liquid, liquid in the dispenser, and aerosol alike. While the study’s authors hypothesize that the metals appear in the e-cig vapor thanks to the metal coils, they do not know how arsenic apparently finds it way into the e-cig refill liquid itself.

I asked some acquaintances who vape what they thought of these findings. These vapers, who preferred not to be named, used to be daily smokers. But they almost entirely vape now; vaping, they have said, is what allowed them to quit cigarettes. 

“I’m not really surprised to be honest,” one vaper said. “I never expected them to be good for me.”

“My question is why is arsenic a necessary ingredient,” said another. “I would love to understand why these toxins are remotely necessary.”

Cigarettes, of course, also contain toxins including lead and arsenic — with the hugely unhealthy bonus of inhaling burnt tobacco, which itself is damaging to the lungs. And several studies have shown that vaping is far healthier than smoking. One showed that vapers have far fewer toxic substances in their bodies than smokers; another suggested that the cancer risk of vaping is one percent of smoking’s cancer risk. However, a study that claimed vaping was 95 percent healthier than smoking was widely criticized. And study author Dr. Ana María Rule sees a comparable risk in terms of metal exposure between e-cigs and cigarettes.

“We found the emission rates were similar between cigarettes and e-cigarettes for elements like chromium, nickel, zinc, lead and silver (all toxic to the lung),” Dr. Rule told Mashble over email. “We found lower concentrations in e-cigarettes for cadmium and arsenic.”

Plus, comparing e-cigs to cigarettes is complicated. Dr. Rule said cigarette risk is easier to quantify, because they can measure risk by cigarette. With e-cigs, risk is studied by a designated amount of puffs, which may or may not represent an accurate unit for any given user. 

Furthermore, comparing vaping to cigarettes was not the study’s authors’ primary aim. 

“We know there are many young vapers that have never smoked,” Dr. Rule said. “A better comparison for them is to breathing ambient air, so for them this represents an increase in risk.”

The study’s authors hope that their findings will prompt the FDA to regulate e-cigs for the presence of these toxic chemicals, as evidence mounts that vaping is not a risk-free endeavor.

“Our results add to the existing evidence that e-cigarettes are a relevant source of exposure to a wide variety of toxic metals,” the study’s authors write. “Due to potential toxicity resulting from chronic exposure to metals in e-cigarette aerosols, additional research is needed to more precisely quantify metal exposures resulting from e-cigarette use and their implications for human health, and to support regulatory standards to protect public health.”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/23/e-cigarettes-toxic-metals-lead-arsenic/

Imagine Facebook and Instagram without the Like button

Off with their thumbs!
Image: bob al-greene/mashable

The Like button must die. 

More than any other feature, the thumbs-up on Facebook — along with its cousins, the Instagram and Twitter hearts — encapsulate everything that’s wrong with social media. It’s time to start visualizing a world where it doesn’t exist.

The Like has become the currency of carelessness — a way to show we approve without being deeply invested. In many cases, it covers for a lack of attention. It helps fake news propagate, discourages meaningful conversations, encourages shallowness, and exacerbates the most psychologically damaging effects of social media. 

If social media addiction is the disease of our age, it’s difficult to think of a feature that feeds that addiction more than the thumbs up. Pressing it repeatedly, like a rat in an experiment, we feed our innate need to be noticed. 

The question of how many Likes we’ve received keeps us coming back to our feeds over and over again to see who has acknowledged us in this most basic way. 

That has trained us to be passive, lazy friends who substitute Likes for real conversation. 

And who can blame us? It’s just too easy. Instead of asking how people are or what’s new in their lives, we can just double tap on their latest Instagram selfie and convince ourselves that it’s the same as actually keeping up with a friend.

More disturbing are the potential longterm effects of all this empty Liking. Putting aside the physical consequences of ingesting laundry detergent in the name of Likes — to take an extreme example — research suggests that liking is detrimental to mental health.

Even Facebook admits this. The company’s executives have cited research that suggests passively using Facebook leads to worse mental health. One study found that liking more posts was tied to worse mental and physical health and “decreased life satisfaction.”

This is pretty much why Facebook’s 2018 News Feed revamp is placing less emphasis on posts that get a lot of Likes and more on those that spark conversation in the comments. 

That’s a start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The entire feature should be eliminated from every public-facing part of the service.

I’m aware that Facebook isn’t any more likely to get rid of the like than it is to kill News Feed. The company, after all, runs on Likes. The button is one of the most telling signals the company has in determining what its 2 billions users, well, like. 

Figuring out the details of what each Facebook user likes and dislikes is literally what fuels Facebook’s multi-billion dollar advertising business. Taking away that signal would have unknown implications on Facebook’s business.

But Facebook should, for once, put its users before its business and do it anyway. Perhaps a world where we can only comment, rather than mindlessly mash the button or choose an emoji, would be better for all of us.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/06/facebook-should-kill-the-like/

Facebook is overhauling its News Feed so users feel better again

Facebook is re-tweaking its News Feed again. 

This time it wants to bring it back to friends and family instead of viral videos and media posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post Thursday. 

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” he wrote.

He said the change should make everyone feel better: “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health.”

With fewer posts from businesses, brands, and media, expect to see more of what your “friends” are sharing and liking. 

Zuckerberg didn’t mention Facebook’s role in the 2016 election or Russian meddling through the platform as motivation to change what shows up on the social network.

A breakdown of the “closer together” initiative (also outlined in a video above) indicates news stories will get de-prioritized, while conversations that Facebook thinks will spark a lot of engagement will get a boost. 

To achieve a happier Facebook user base, it looks like Facebook will focus on comment-heavy posts — and not just quick comments like, “Oh no!” or “Thanks!” but lengthy (meaningful!) comments.

All those “likes” won’t mean as much as full-on engagement, which under the new rules seems to mean back-and-forth conversations. Sounds like posting links back and forth won’t count as much in the meaningfulness meter.

In other words, publishers will almost certainly see traffic drop and video views decrease.

Zuckerberg rationalized that the changes will ultimately make for a better Facebook experience, naturally, but might actually cause people to spend less time on the social network.

“I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote.

UPDATE: Jan. 11, 2018, 5:07 p.m. PST This post has been updated with more information about the News Feed changes.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/11/facebook-news-feed-algorithm-changes-family-friends/

Here are the 2017 innovations that changed the world

Image: Morgan’s Inspiration Island; eSight; Petit Pli; Manu Prakash/Stanford

2017 may have been a rough year, but there were plenty of inventions, innovations, and gadgets that made the world just a slightly better place.

From global health to social justice to humanitarian aid, a slew of scientists, technologists, and activists came together this year to create impactful solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

In no particular order, here are 30 innovations that made a tangible difference in 2017. For even more inspiration, check out our list of incredible innovations from 2016.

1. The 20-cent paper toy that can help diagnose diseases

This paper device, which only costs 20 cents to make, can help scientists and doctors diagnose diseases like malaria and HIV within minutes — no electricity required.

The Paperfuge, developed by Stanford assistant professor of bioengineering Manu Prakash, is a hand-powered centrifuge that was inspired by a whirligig toy. It can hold blood samples on a disc, and by pulling the strings back and forth, it spins the samples at extremely fast rates to separate blood from plasma, preparing them for disease testing.

It could prove revolutionary for rural areas in developing countries, and save lives in the process.

2. The soft robot sleeve that can restart a failing heart

Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital created this customizable soft robot sleeve that can wrap around a failing heart and squeeze it, allowing blood to keep flowing throughout the body. In tests conducted on pigs, the device allowed the animals’ hearts to start pumping again.

The innovation is still in testing stages, but the goal is to one day be able to use it in order to save human lives. According to Harvard, heart failure affects 41 million people worldwide.

3. A Facebook translation bot for refugees

Tarjimly is a Facebook translation bot that connects refugees with volunteer translators, wherever they are in the world. Whether they need to speak with doctors, aid workers, legal representatives, or other crucial services, users can tap into the power of Facebook Messenger to get real-time, potentially life-saving, translations on the spot.

4. Smart glasses that help legally blind people see

The eSight 3 is a set of electronic glasses that can drastically improve a legally blind person’s vision, helping them see and perform daily activities with ease.

The device fits over a user’s eyes and glasses like a headset, using a camera to send images to tiny dual screens in front of their eyes. Two sensors adjust the focus, while a handheld remote lets the user zoom and contrast, among other functions. For a user with 20/400 vision, for example, it can improve their eyesight up to 20/25. 

5. A cardboard drone for humanitarian aid

Image: OTHERLAB

Otherlab, a San Francisco-based engineering research and development lab, developed what it calls the world’s most advanced industrial paper airplane. The cardboard gliders are made with a biodegradable material and equipped with GPS and other electronics, allowing them to be dropped by a plane and deliver two pounds of life-saving materials without needing to be retrieved. 

6. 3D-printed sex organs to help blind students learn

Image: Courtesy of Benetech

Holistic, inclusive sex ed is hard to come by as it is. For blind students, it’s even harder. That’s why advocates and researchers at Benetech created 18 3D figures that show sex organs during a various states of arousal, letting students “feel” their way through sex education. Benetech partnered with LightHouse for the Blind and Northern Illinois University to create the models.

7. A texting service that contacts Congress for you in 2 minutes

2017 was a year of resistance, and one of the most tangible ways of taking action has been contacting your reps. Enter Resistbot, a simple service that lets you text RESIST to 50409 or message the accompanying Facebook bot in order to help you find the right members of Congress and send your message to them directly.

8. The app for detained immigrants to contact their family

Image: Notifica/Huge

The Notifica app helps undocumented immigrants who get detained or caught up in raids to send out secure messages to a designated support network of family and friends.

9. A mobile-based ambulance taxi program in Tanzania

Vodafone has developed an innovative ambulance taxi program in the rural Lake Zone of Tanzania, using the power of mobile phones. The program helps pregnant women in health emergencies dial a special hotline number, through which health workers connect them to a local network of vetted taxi drivers who can get them quickly to clinics when there are few ambulances available.

The drivers are paid by the organization through the mobile money system M-Pesa, so it’s free for users.

10. An app that gets kids moving — and help other kids, too

Image: Lili Sams / Mashable

The UNICEF Kid Power app is a standalone app that expands on the organization’s fitness bands program, helping kids convert their daily steps into life-saving nutrition for malnourished children in the developing world. The app counts your steps — every 2,500 steps earns you a point, and 10 points “unlock” a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) package that UNICEF and sponsors will deliver to a child with severe acute malnutrition.

11. Facebook’s digital maps that help with disaster relief

Image: Facebook

In June, Facebook announced a new product called “disaster maps,” using Facebook data in disaster areas in order to send crucial information to aid organizations during and after crises. The information helps relief efforts get a bird’s eye view of who needs help, where, and what resources are needed.

12. The chatbot that wants to help you with your mental health 

Image: Woebot

Woebot is one of the first chatbots of its kind, using artificial intelligence to talk to you, help improve your mood, and even alleviate symptoms of depression. It’s not a replacement for a therapist by any means, but a Stanford University study showed that Woebot “led to significant reductions in anxiety and depression among people aged 18-28 years old.”

13. An app connecting refugees with crucial services

Image: RefAid

RefAid is an app that connects refugees with nearby services in education, health, legal aid, shelter and more by using their location. It originally started as a side project, but now more than 400 of the largest aid organizations in the world, including the Red Cross and Doctors of the World, all use it. 

14. A solar-powered tent designed for homeless people

Image: Scott Witter / Mashable

Earlier this year, 12 teens in San Fernando, California, joined forces with the nonprofit DIY Girls to invent a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack for homeless populations. They won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop the tent, and presented their project at MIT in June.

15. The app that could help end female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) affects millions of women and girls around the world. In Kenya, where the procedure is illegal but still practiced due to cultural significance, a group of five teen girls  created the i-Cut app to fight back.

i-Cut allows users to alert authorities as a preventive measure, and also lets survivors send reports and find local rescue centers. The app earned them a place in the 2017 Technovation Challenge in August. 

16. An eyeglass accessory to alert deaf people of sound

Peri is an accessory that attaches to a deaf person’s eyeglasses and translates audio cues into visual ones. Inspired by first-person shooter games, in which the screen glows as your character is hit, Peri lights up in the direction of loud sounds.

It can help deaf and hard of hearing users not only with increased awareness, but also to avoid dangerous situations more easily. 

17. The tool that turns your extra computer power into bail money

Bail Bloc, created by a team at The New Inquiry, uses your computer’s spare power to help contribute to community bail funds, assisting people in jail and their families who can’t afford bail.  

Bail Bloc uses the power to mine a cryptocurrency called Monero, which is then converted into U.S. dollars to donate to the Bronx Freedom Fund and The Bail Project. No cryptocurrency knowledge required — all you have to do is run it in your computer’s background. 

18. This game-changing Braille literacy tool for kids

The Read Read is an innovative learning device that teaches blind people and those with low vision how to read Braille. Each tile has Braille lettering printed on metal to touch, and the device also reads the letter out loud along with how many dots it contains. This helps the user sound out each word they learn.

19. An air-powered wheelchair for kids with disabilities

Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a new, accessible water park in San Antonio, Texas, specifically designed for kids with disabilities. But what about kids who use electric wheelchairs? No problem — the theme park teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh to develop the PneuChair, a light, air-powered wheelchair that can get wet and only takes 10 minutes to charge.

20. The first gender-inclusive educational toy

Meet Sam, a new set of stacking dolls in which each layer shows a different stage of gender questioning and exploring. Created by Gender Creative Kids Canada, which calls the doll “the world’s first educational transgender toy,” Sam was designed with trans youth in mind. The creators hope it will help educate all children and their families.

Gender Creative Kids Canada launched a Kickstarter for the toy, and also released an e-book and accompanying video to introduce Sam to the world.

21. A robot lawyer for low-income communities

The chatbot DoNotPay offers users free legal aid for a range of issues, including helping refugees apply for asylum, guiding people in reporting harassment at work, and even aiding everyday consumers who want to fight corporations who try to take advantage of them.

22. These period-friendly boxers for trans men

Image: Courtesy of Pyramid Seven

A new company called Pyramid Seven launched a line of period-inclusive underwear for trans men, filling a much needed gap in the period-friendly underwear market. Each pair of boxers is stylish and includes an extra panel inside to support period products, like pads. Due to high demand, the line of underwear quickly sold out.

23. A revolutionary gene therapy treatment for cancer

An illustration of a white blood cell.

Image: Shutterstock / royaltystockphoto.com

Kymriah is a newly FDA-approved cancer gene therapy treatment from the drug company Novartis. It’s part of a new class of therapy called CAR-T, which is made by “harvesting a patient’s own disease-fighting T-cells, genetically engineering them to target specific proteins on cancer cells, and replacing them to circulate possibly for years, seeking out and attacking cancer,” according to Reuters.

It’s not cheap — it costs $475,000 per patient — but the results in patients with aggressive blood cancer are unprecedented. In fact, 83 percent of patients were cancer-free after three months with one dose (they continued to respond after six months, according to new reports).

24. The empowering hands-free breast pump

Willow is a wearable breast pump that allows people to pump hands-free and quietly. You can wear two of the pumps underneath your bra, so it’s discreet and allows you to multitask.

25. A wheelchair that allows its users to stand

The Laddroller is a wheelchair that helps its users stand. Designed by Greek architect Dimitrios Petrotos, the Laddroller uses four wheels, and can also navigate rough terrains. After 13 prototypes, it’s now awaiting regulatory approval to go to market.

26. A portable, reinvented IV pole

Image: Courtesy of IV Walk

IV-Walk is a reimagining of the traditional IV pole to grant its users more flexibility and range. It was designed by Alissa Rees, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 years old and had to stay attached to an IV pole for weeks at a time throughout her two years in the hospital.

“Stimulating mobility by using the IV-Walk speeds up recovery,” Rees says on her website. “Besides that, holding the pole is a cheerless way to present yourself to friends or family. Presenting yourself in a proper way can be important during a long stay in hospital.”

27. A solar-powered water delivery cart

Image: Watt-R

Watt-r is a solar-powered water delivery cart that aims to improve the experience for women and children, who often are the ones in developing countries to be tasked with gathering water for their families. The cart is still in development, but it will be able to carry a dozen 20-liter containers of water at a time, and solar power will allow it to move, according to Fast Company.

28. Clothes that expand as your child grows

Petit Pli is a line of clothes that grow with your child using expansion and growth technology. The garments are waterproof, lightweight, and gender-inclusive with pleated designs, allowing each item of clothing to grow up to seven sizes. It’s not only sustainable by reducing waste, but also can save families money on new clothes.

29. Nike’s professional sportswear hijab

Nike launched its Nike Pro Hijab worldwide this year, to further the company’s idea that “if you have a body, you’re an athlete.” Working with professional athletes who wear hijab, the product is made of single-layer mesh that’s breathable, stretchy, and easily customized for any sport.

30. GPS-enabled turtle eggs to help track poachers

Image: Paso Pacifico

According to the wildlife conservation nonprofit Paso Pacifico, poachers in Central America destroy 90 percent of endangered sea turtle nests to illegally sell the eggs, which are considered a delicacy. So the organization created the GPS-enabled “InvestEGGator Sea Turtle Eggs” — 3D-printed eggs that track poachers and reveal smuggling routes, which can help Paso Pacifico work with authorities and stop wildlife crime. The innovation has already won a number of awards.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/23/social-good-innovations-2017/

In 2017, the Apple Watch became the most important wearable in the world

Apple is victorious in the wearable wars at least for now.
Image: bob al-greene/mashable

The Apple Watch conquered all comers and became the most important wearable in the world in 2017.  

The iPhone maker flexed its muscles to take over the young wearable space in a relatively short period. Apple only released its first smartwatch in April 2015, and its latest, the Series 3, is just the third iteration of the device. 

“Apple has shipped 34.4 million smartwatches worldwide since it entered the category in 2015,” said Canalys analyst Vincent Thielke in an email to Mashable. “In other words, Apple accounts for 51.6 percent of all smartwatches ever shipped.” 

These numbers comes from Canalys’ estimates, not an official tabulation from Apple itself, since the company doesn’t publicize total Apple Watch sales — but the estimates still point to dominance in the wearables space, where smartwatches currently reign supreme

The Apple Watch’s success is certainly a result of the company’s status as one of the most popular (and valuable) brands in the world, but it wasn’t Apple’s branding presence alone that made it the wearable king in 2017. 

Third time’s the charm

The biggest reason Apple won the wearable war this year was the realization of the Apple Watch’s potential as a standalone device. 

The addition of LTE connectivity finally showed skittish consumers that the company was willing to cut the link between the smartwatch and the iPhone. Standalone functionality has long been a point of contention for those who couldn’t justify such an expensive device that only served as an extension of the smartphone in their pocket.

That new feature appears to have paid off. Demand for the new Series 3 devices has reportedly outpaced supply, and Apple is primed to sell even more in 2018 as it brings more devices to market. 

Apple isn’t the first with smartwatch with LTE connectivity — LG and Samsung have both released their own standalone devices — but Apple’s market clout helped the feature make more of an impact. Thielke thinks the brand was helped by its strong ties with all of the major wireless carriers, which he said has been essential to showcase the new functionalities.

The Apple Watch Series 3.

Image:  LILI SAMS/MASHABLE

Another of the keys to Apple’s success has been its ability to expand its focus beyond fitness and into wider health categories. 

“We’re flipping the page and looking at health,” IDC Research Manager Ramon Llamas told Mashable on a phone call. “People want to know more about themselves and how they can lead a better life.” 

Llamas said an industry-wide focus on health features is giving consumers more value and functionality than the simplistic fitness trackers that once dominated the market, and Apple is leading the charge.

The company teamed up with Stanford researchers for a heart health research study, and the FDA just cleared a mobile electrocardiogram (EKG) band accessory for the Apple Watch from AliveCor. Apple’s top-secret health facility is centered around collecting data for the smartwatch, and rumors about Tim Cook sporting a special glucose-tracking prototype could hint at even more revolutionary features.  

Thinning of the herd

But the Series 3 isn’t perfect. The device is expensive, and a monthly data plan costs extra on top of the already steep purchase price. Apple even admitted in a rare moment of fallibility there was a glitch in how the service worked at launch, although the issue has since been fixed.

The Apple Watch’s shortcomings were trivial compared to the issues faced by other wearable makers during 2017. Competitors faced bigger challenges throughout the year, and some were eliminated from the space entirely. 

Fitbit began the year with layoffs and didn’t release the smartwatch CEO James Park promised until October, while old stalwarts like Jawbone, Motorola, and TomTom totally killed off their operations at various points. Android Wear, meanwhile, is a mess that got no better with version 2.0, which was released in February.

More skirmishes on the horizon

Just because Apple won the war in 2017 doesn’t mean that other companies are totally eliminated from relevancy. Llamas isn’t fully convinced of Apple’s dominance, or if its reign will be permanent. 

“We’re still only talking about a couple million units quarter in and quarter out,” he said. The war might be over, so to speak, but there’s room for other companies to carve out their own space and take a shot at the king.

Apple wasn’t always on top this year, showing that there is space for other makers. Xiaomi topped the wearables market twice during the year with its cheap fitness trackers, and Fitbit clung on stolidly though its ups and downs.

Fitbit Ionic

Image: Raymond Wong/Mashable

Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch didn’t drop until October, but it just received a slick new OS update that could actually give consumers a reason to check it out. The company, like Apple, is working to develop health-focused technologies for its smartwatch. 

Samsung’s Gear watches could find their own audience, and if Google can find a way to make Android Wear better, other makers like LG could still have a shot at success. The rise of AI could be a major boon here, since Assistant is becoming more ingrained in consumers’ lives through Google’s most recent round of hardware products, and it would make sense for users in the Google ecosystem to open up a spot for it on their wrists.  

For now, though, Apple is on top. 2017 was a good year for the company’s wearable efforts, and the future looks bright. 

Every editorial product is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our journalism.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/12/apple-watch-won-the-wearable-war/

Equifax breach proves we cant leave it up to businesses to protect us

Equifax gets a cyber security score of zero.
Image: RHONA WISE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

The Equifax data breach disaster is the last straw.

This can’t go on. 

We can’t let companies flout cyber security best practices and common sense, and we can no longer rely on Social Security numbers as a secure and discrete form of identification. Equifax hasn’t shared its own cybersecurity practices, but it’s fair to say even if they were indeed subpar, it’ll likely survive this storm longterm, even while victims suffer.

It’s time for some changes.

Equifax, a company best known for helping us check our credit scores and protecting consumers from identity theft(!) announced Thursday that it suffered a massive hack impacting 143 million Americans, that’s 44% of the population. The monumental security breach exposed millions and millions of personal data bits to hackers.

I would laugh if it weren’t so horrifying.

Equifax learned of the breach, which apparently came through its website (which is not nearly enough information about the cause), in late July, two months after it started. The company promises that the hackers did not access “core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases,” but they got everything that matters: Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.

Holy hell.

There is, it seems, no end to these kinds of breaches. Hackers see every company as a target, and they’ve been wildly successful with Yahoo, Target, Sony, the Democratic National Committee, Verizon, HBO, Ashley Madison, and many others. 

Each time, the company (or group) apologizes, promises to fix it, protect their customers and do better. 

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do. I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard F. Smith in a statement.

Hahahahahahaha!

Disappointing? The heart of who you are? You’re a freaking identity protection company. Through your credit check business, you have access to much of our most precious financial information and then you ask us to pay more for identity protection. This event should destroy your business. It won’t, but it should.

You know why it won’t? Because these breaches haven’t shut down any of these businesses. Some face civil litigation and pay, some just endure a lot of public shaming. 

None of them face criminal prosecution. 

No one learns anything, certainly not the next company that will be hit. They just look on and breathe a sigh of relief that it’s not them.

Some new rules

Nothing will change here until we have national standards for data security and strong penalties for not applying the necessary technologies, checks, and balances.

Currently in the U.S., only a handful of industries, have federal, mandatory cyber security regulations. These include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for healthcare and the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which was enacted in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, for the federal government. Even in finance, which has other strict federal mandates for financial disclosures and internal controls, legislators struggle to implement sweeping cybersecurity rules.

Truth in financial reporting seems like a worthy goal, no less so than safety in data security. And yet there is virtually nothing to encourage general business to clean up its cybersecurity act. By comparison, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which brought sweeping financial management and corporate governance regulation to U.S. businesses in 2002, put in place hefty fines and prison terms for those who don’t follow it. Put simply, Sarbanes-Oxley mandates that company management must certify the accuracy of all financial statements and enact expensive internal controls. 

One reason for the lack of cybersecurity rules is that data security and best practices in business is an intricate web of legacy hardware and software, byzantine practices, and bottom line concerns. 

Companies running old operating systems have long been prime hack targets. Most of them continue running old software because 1) it costs money to upgrade and 2) the vertical industries they serve use old legacy software that doesn’t run on the newest platform or hardware.

It’s not just the software, though. Companies like Equifax, Yahoo, the Democratic National Committee, and others don’t follow best practices when it comes to cyber security. They don’t protect or back up their databases off site, they don’t train their employees to not open unknown emails, click on random links, or how to identify a social engineering attack. 

Cyber-security regulations with the same power as Sarbanes-Oxley and penalties would change that. It would stop companies from sitting back and hoping they can dodge the bullet much like young people avoid the doctor because they believe they can never get sick. 

In 2016, 28 states either had or were considering cyber security legislation, but most of it only considers state-controlled systems and services and doesn’t look at the businesses that manage consumer data.

If you think the idea of force-feeding cyber security to business is draconian, look at Microsoft Windows 10. This platform no longer asks you if it can upgrade, it only allows you to specify when. Why? So, home users can have the most up-to-date and secure systems. Microsoft doesn’t even leave cyber security in the hands of third-party companies any more (you can still buy it if you want). Instead, there’s Windows Defender. It’s free, always up-to-date and running 24/7 on Windows 10 PC.

Ideal legislation to regulate cybersecurity would create the foundation for rating agencies to keep track of companies’ cybersecurity prowess. So Equifax would get an Equifax. The quality of a company’s cyber security across a wide variety of metrics (up to date systems, encrypted data, company wide training) would result in a score, much like one’s credit score; 1 would be the worst and 5 would be the best. Simple.

If I were writing this legislation, I would also tie it to the winding down of the Social Security number as an identity tool. Numbers are flat, discoverable things and the fact that we use a combination of nine digits as the skeleton key for life stuff should be a grave concern to everyone.

We have options. Biometric security is growing by leaps and bounds. Facial recognition on the level I have with Windows Hello can’t be fooled with a picture or someone who looks almost just like me. Iris scanning is even more foolproof and now on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8. We have heartbeat sensors that might eventually be used to recognize the unique rhythm of each heart. 

A new Cyber Security Act, with some real regulatory teeth (read penalties) could set a timeline for retiring Social Security numbers, giving businesses and people five years to change systems and upgrade to biometrics.

Leaving these things to chance and the whims of business, which care more about money than they do about you, is no longer sustainable. 

This must end.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/08/equifax-hack-cyber-security-regulation/

The iPhone 8 might cost up to $1,200

The iPhone 8 (or Edition or X, take your pick) could weigh down your bank account.
Image: loris ravera/mashable

Apple is finally slated to reveal the highly-anticipated deluxe anniversary iPhone on Sept. 12, and you will want to buy it immediately — but the sticker price could wind up dampening your excitement for the phone’s next-gen features. 

Rumors claim the iPhone 8 (or Edition or X, depending on who you trust) will be much more expensive than any of its predecessors, pushing the starting cost up to at least the $1,000 mark. That means the top-of-the-line model will cost a whopping $1,200, for anyone who wants more than just the basic level of storage on their deluxe device. 

Leaker Benjamin Geskin tweeted out a pricing tier for the new iPhones, citing information from a friend who has a friend at Apple. 

The sourcing sounds sketchy, but Geskin is far from the first to suggest that the next iPhone will cost more than $1,000. Apple insider John Gruber suggested the deluxe new device would debut at the price point back in July, speculating that Apple could justify the cost by showcasing next-level tech that will be common in future iPhones in a premium device today. 

A New York Times report also backed the idea of a starting price “around $999,” for the iPhone, citing anonymous sources who had been briefed on the device. That’s a much more reliable report than just the whispers of friend of a friend — but others aren’t so convinced that Apple will ask such a high price for a phone.

UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Benjamim Wilson wrote in an investors note that they “questioned the logic” of Apple putting such a premium on an iPhone. They claim instead that the company will roll out the deluxe device at a $900 starting point for a 64GB model, with a 256GB version eclipsing the $1,000 mark. 

The analysts also noted that Apple typically takes some cues from its competitors, and with Samsung’s latest offerings starting well under $1,000 — the new Galaxy Note 8 starts at $930 unlocked — there’s little incentive for Apple to set the bar any higher.   

None of these projections questioned the features expected in the deluxe iPhone, which include a new edge-to-edge OLED display, a nearly bezel-free screen with no home button, and a new sensor system for facial recognition. 

Speculation over the price of the iPhone is nothing new for the rumor cycle, with reports flying about the extra costs for as long as there have been rumors about a new OLED screen. Now that we’re a week away from the big reveal, however, those projected costs are all the more pressing, since we’re finally closer to getting a shot to put down the cash for one of our own.  

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/05/iphone-8-price-tier-rumors-/