advertisement
advertisement

Cold or flu? Here’s where to track CDC outbreak data for 2018-2019

Cold or flu? Here’s where to track CDC outbreak data for 2018-2019
[Photo: Narrissa Spies/Wikimedia Commons]

Last year’s flu season was especially awful for vulnerable populations, including children. According to the CDC, some 183 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported for 2017-2018, almost double the number of deaths during the same period two years earlier. The agency said activity began to increase in November, peaked in January and February, and remained high even in March.

Sadly, this season is already off to a tragic start, as the CDC reported today that the flu has already claimed its first pediatric death. The death was reported as part of the agency’s weekly surveillance report, which resumed its tracking of flu activity last week after its usual summer break.

To help people keep track of outbreaks in their area, the CDC publishes new information—and a number of interactive maps—on its weekly surveillance reports.

The good news, at the moment, is that flu activity remains low throughout the country—with local activity reported in North Dakota and Massachusetts, and only sporadic activity elsewhere. But the CDC warns that the flu season is upon us. Vaccinations remain the best way to prevent the flu, and the CDC is recommending that you do that before the end of this month.

You can find more info on that here.

advertisement
advertisement

Super Deluxe, where many comedy creators got their start, is shuttering (again)

Super Deluxe, where many comedy creators got their start, is shuttering (again)

Things are tightening up at Turner Media and, as Deadline reports, the latest victim is Super Deluxe Studios.

Super Deluxe launched as a digital comedy hub for Turner Broadcasting System back in 2006, and served as a platform for talented-but-green creators looking to make a name for themselves. With a pronounced bend toward alternative comedy, Super Deluxe put out early videos from the likes of Zach Galifianakis, Maria Bamford, Chelsea Peretti, and Tim and Eric.

After Super Deluxe petered out, Turner rebranded it in 2015 as “a tech incubator,” still producing comedy videos but chasing the same mobile ubiquity as its Funny or Die peers. The refurbished studio teamed up with a new wave of creators, including Joanna the Scammer, Jamie Loftus, and warped political comedy wizard Vic Berger. In addition, it released regular series like Cheap Thrills and Mansplaining.

Super Deluxe had been branching out at the time of its shuttering, with a series order at Netflix for a Stephan Gaghan-produced supernatural drama, Chambers. (No word yet on whether this series will live on.)

The axing is another sign of consolidation at Time Warner, following the shutdown earlier this week of its Korean drama streamer DramaFever. It looks like the ongoing trend of throwing money toward becoming the next monolithic content provider has the unfortunate side effect of squeezing out the (weird) beloved little guy.

advertisement
advertisement

DOJ charges Russian accountant with targeting 2018 midterms

DOJ charges Russian accountant with targeting 2018 midterms
[Photo: falco/Pixabay]

In a federal criminal complaint unsealed on Friday, a Russian national named Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova was charged in relation to an online influence campaign that targeted U.S. elections, including the 2016 presidential election, this year’s midterms, and even the 2020 vote.

advertisement

The 44-year-old St. Petersburg resident was allegedly the chief accountant of the influence operations dubbed “Project Lakhta,” preparing multimillion-dollar budgets for operations funded by the Russian oligarch and Putin ally Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin. The operating budget for the first half of 2018 alone was $10 million, according to a U.S. Justice Department statement.

The operation allegedly generated divisive social media posts, targeting audiences on both sides of issues like immigration, LGBT rights, gun control, and the Confederate flag.

[Image: courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice]
“Posting can be problematic due to time difference, but if you make your reposts in the morning St. Petersburg time, it works well with liberals–LGBT groups are often active at night,” read one document translated in the complaint. “Also, the conservative can view your repost when they wake up in the morning if you post it before you leave in the evening St. Petersburg time.”

The group allegedly created bogus Facebook personas, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts to promote partisan viewpoints and even advertise real-world protests. Investigators received “exceptional cooperation from private sector companies, such as Facebook and Twitter,” according to the Justice Department.

Although the complaint mentions that U.S. people communicated with the fake accounts, there’s no allegation that any Americans knowingly participated in the influence operation, according to a Justice Department statement.

“We didn’t vote for Trump because of a couple of hashtags shilled by the Russians,” said one tweet allegedly posted by the Russian group. “We voted for Trump because he convinced us to vote for Trump. And we are ready to vote for Trump again in 2020!”

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Tim Cook wants Bloomberg to retract that Chinese spy chip story

Tim Cook wants Bloomberg to retract that Chinese spy chip story
[Photo: Flickr user Austin Community College]

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called upon Bloomberg Businessweek to retract a report that Chinese spies installed tiny microchips designed for espionage on server motherboards sent to the company, BuzzFeed News reports.

There is no truth in their story about Apple,” Cook told BuzzFeed News. “They need to do the right thing and retract it.”

Bloomberg Businessweek insists that its story, which claimed that hardware maker Supermicro hid chips on server motherboards designed to enable malware to be installed on the computers, is true. Supermicro, Apple, and Amazon, which also allegedly spotted the spy chips, have all denied the claim.

One possibility is that the companies involved have been urged to keep the spy chips under wraps by the U.S. government, but Apple has strenuously insisted that’s not the case. It’s the first time that Apple has called for a retraction of a story about the company, according to BuzzFeed.

“Apple has never found malicious chips in our servers,” the company said in a statement published earlier this month. “Finally, in response to questions we have received from other news organizations since Businessweek published its story, we are not under any kind of gag order or other confidentiality obligations.”

advertisement
advertisement

Hy-Vee meat Salmonella recall: 6 products to avoid right now

Hy-Vee meat Salmonella recall: 6 products to avoid right now
[Photo: Flickr user Picture Des Moines]

Grocery chain Hy-Vee is voluntarily recalling six of its meat and potato products due to possible contamination with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, the company said yesterday. The recall affects products in all eight states where the company operates: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

According to the recall notice published by the FDA, the potential contamination was discovered after McCain Foods—a supplier for the West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee—said it was recalling caramelized mushrooms and fire-roasted tomatoes, which are ingredients in the six affected Hy-Vee products.

No illnesses have been reported as of yet.

Below is a list of the impacted products. All of them have “best if used by” date of October 22, 2018, or sooner. If you have any of these products in your fridge, don’t eat them! Throw them away or bring them back to their place of purchase for a full refund.

  • Hy-Vee Bacon Wrapped Cowgirl Chicken Grillers–8 ounce each (UPC Code 023092600000)
  • Hy-Vee Fire Roasted Tomato, Spinach, Mozzarella Twice Baked Potato–5 ounce each (UPC Code 023755400000)
  • Hy-Vee Cowgirl Chicken Griller Patty–6 ounce each (UPC Code 023100200000)
  • Hy-Vee Gourmet Steakhouse Mushroom & Swiss Burger–6 ounce each (UPC Code 023168400000)
  • Hy-Vee Ground Beef Sliders Mushroom & Swiss–2 ounce each (UPC Code 023164300000)
  • Hy-Vee Ground Beef Sliders Mushroom & Swiss–12 count, 30 ounces (UPC Code 023266600000)

You can read the full notice here.

advertisement
advertisement

Congratulations to Nick Clegg, who just got the world’s worst job

Congratulations to Nick Clegg, who just got the world’s worst job
[Photo: Moritz Hager/Wikimedia Commons]

In case you were wondering who in the world would want the job of rehabilitating Facebook’s reputation after its scandal-ridden year, you have your answer: It’s Nick Clegg, the former U.K. deputy prime minister and one-time head of the Liberal Democrat party.

Clegg will join the social network in Silicon Valley as its head of global affairs and communications, thereby inheriting the fallout over its many privacy, data, PR, and metrics controversies. According to the Financial Times, Clegg, 51, got the job after successfully “wooing” Mark Zuckerberg and will be one of the few high-ranking British officials to enjoy a position close to the chief executive’s side.

Earlier this year, reports surfaced that Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s longtime VP of global communication and public policy—and a close Zuckerberg confidante—would step down from his post after a decade at the social network.

In a Facebook post today, Clegg acknowledged the obvious challenges of the job he’s just agreed to take, saying Facebook and its subsidiaries—including WhatsApp and Instagram—lay at the heart of some of the most difficult questions facing society today, including privacy, the integrity of the democratic process, and the tension between local cultures in a connected world. “I believe that Facebook must continue to play a role in finding answers to those questions,” he wrote,” not by acting alone in Silicon Valley, but by working with people, organizations, governments and regulators around the world to ensure that technology is a force for good.”

In a surprise defeat last year, Clegg lost his seat in parliament in the U.K.’s general election. You can check out his full post here.

advertisement
advertisement

Girl gamers are more likely to study science and tech

Girl gamers are more likely to study science and tech
[Photo: Carl Raw/Unsplash]

The Girl Scouts may want to add a Gamer merit badge to their STEM program. A new study from the University of Surrey in the U.K. found that girls between the ages of 13-14 who identified as “heavy gamers”—that is, clocking in over nine hours of playing time a week—were three times more likely to pursue a STEM degree compared to girls who were non-gamers.

The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, also found that 100% of the girls who were already in STEM programs identified as gamers.

The same cannot be said of boys studying in the STEM fields. While girls seemed to relate their interest in STEM to being gamers, boys identified themselves as gamers or not regardless of what field they were studying, leading the researchers to suspect that boys still experience far less pressure to conform to the gamer stereotype if they were studying a STEM degree.

Researcher Anesa Hosein, who led the study, thinks this correlation can help identify young women who may be interested in STEM early and get them on track to a career in the sciences.

“Our research shows that those who study PSTEM [physical science, technology, engineering, and math] subjects at degree level are more likely to be gamers, so we need to encourage the girl gamers of today to become the engineering and physics students and pioneers of tomorrow,” she said in a statement. “It therefore makes sense, in the short term, that educators seeking to encourage more take up of PSTEM subjects should target girl gamers, as they already may have a natural interest in these subjects.”

advertisement
advertisement

Lufthansa and IBM Watson think AI can convince you to use your vacation days

Lufthansa and IBM Watson think AI can convince you to use your vacation days
[Image: courtesy of IBM]

Move over, Mad Men. Watson has just landed an airline advertising campaign.

Lufthansa has teamed up with IBM Watson Advertising to launch an AI-powered ad, a first for the airline industry. The campaign focuses on exploring a world of new possibilities in an effort to get would-be travelers off the couch and into a seat on one of Lufthansa’s planes.

[Image: courtesy of IBM]
The interactive ads, powered by IBM Watson, let consumers chat in natural language and ask general airline questions about what it’s like to fly Lufthansa. The ads (being ads and all) also try to lure customers into taking a European vacation by showing them photos of Rome, Paris, and Barcelona, as well as offering travel tips and vacation ideas accompanied by a link to a flight reservation page.

“Lufthansa continues to drive value to the consumer through the use of new and innovative technologies such as A.I., both on our aircraft and off,” said Benita Struve, Lufthansa’s head of marketing communications and campaigns, in a statement. “This marketing campaign not only inspires exciting travel, it also utilizes the most innovative methods to provide a personalized experience.”

Currently the AI-powered ad campaign is running on weather.com, The Weather Channel app, and across Lufthansa’s digital advertising ecosystem. You can also give it a try on Watson Advertising’s website.

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

China wants to launch a fake moon in 2020 that is definitely not a Death Star

China wants to launch a fake moon in 2020 that is definitely not a Death Star
[Photo: Mike Petrucci/Unsplash]

China is giving the moon an upgrade.

The country’s government has announced plans to send a fake moon–or even a few fake moons–into the sky over Chengdu, in the southwestern Sichuan province. Officials hope to launch the artificial moon in 2020 so its fake light can brighten the shadows. The so-called “illumination satellites” are not meant to replace the moon, China Daily reports. Instead, the satellites will be designed to complement the light of the real moon, although it’s hard to imagine they won’t outshine the real thing, as their light is expected to be eight times brighter.

The government hopes the illumination satellites will make the “moonlight” a little brighter and lessen the need for street lamps and lower electricity costs, state media reported. The satellites will provide a “dusk-like glow” over the city capable of either spreading their artificial light over a large swath of the city or pinpointing a few feet, which could let the city replace streetlights.

The fake moon was dreamed up by Wu Chunfeng, the chairman of private space contractor Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co (Casc), which is the main contractor of China’s space program. He reportedly has already started testing the satellites and hopes to have them lighting up the night sky in just a few years. The satellite will produce light thanks to a reflective coating that can “deflect sunlight” back to Earth in the same way the moon does, according to China Daily.

This is not the first time someone has tried to improve on nature’s design. Not only did Russian scientists attempt something called Project Znamya in the 1990s, but a Bond villain attempted it as well. It would have worked, too, if not for James Bond.

Now it’s up to China to prove whether illumination satellites will work in practice or if the idea is truly pie in the sky. Assuming it will end up looking like this:

advertisement
advertisement

Kendall Jenner’s fave lipstick is (big surprise) bad for your health

Kendall Jenner’s fave lipstick is (big surprise) bad for your health
[Photo: Juliana Malta/Unsplash]

Want to know if the beauty products you’re buying are bad for you? There’s an app for that. Actually, there are many apps for that. Bloomberg today writes about the new trend of apps that tell consumers how bad the ingredients in their cosmetics are.

One app from Canada, Think Dirty, has a home screen that asks “Is your bathroom Kardashian-filthy?” Because, as it turns out, many of the products hawked by the reality TV stars aren’t so great. In fact, according to the app, Estée Lauder’s Drop Dead Red lipstick–which is a known favorite of Kendall Jenner’s–rates quite poorly on Think Dirty. On a scale from 1 to 10–where 1 is good and 10 is the worst–Drop Dead Red rates a 7. Says Bloomberg, this is because it contains an ingredient called polyethylene, which is said to cause allergies. (Estée Lauder tells the news outlet that it is “not a known allergen.”) Of course, many cosmetics are known to have loads of unhealthy ingredients, so this shouldn’t come as a huge shock.

Apps like these are becoming more and more popular, and may become a threatening tool for larger cosmetics companies that use less-than-ideal ingredients. Will the app’s poor rating cause Kendall to change her mind about the lipstick? I suppose that depends on how much Estée Lauder is paying her.

You can read the full Bloomberg story here.

advertisement
advertisement

Uber now lets you call your driver using VOIP

Uber now lets you call your driver using VOIP
[Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash]

Riders typically contact their Uber driver before they arrive for the pickup if they are running late or think they’ll have other problems meeting at the pickup point. Now the company has added the ability to VOIP your driver in addition to texting, using in-app messaging, or a regular phone call, reports Engadget. VOIP is the ability to place a voice call over a data network instead of a cellular one. The tech is already used for services such as Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp calls.

The addition of VOIP calling in the Uber app could be a godsend to foreign travelers who often don’t have a cellular connection when touching down in another country’s airport. Now those travelers will be able to place calls to their drivers as long as they are still within range of an airport’s free Wi-Fi, for example. The VOIP calling feature is available in the latest update to the app.

advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Tesla announces a cheaper, midrange version of the Model 3

Tesla announces a cheaper, midrange version of the Model 3
[Photo: courtesy of Tesla]

If you’ve been waiting for the price of a Tesla to drop before you buy one, now might be the time to plunk down that cash. The company has announced a new midrange version of the Model 3 that starts at $45,000.

The midrange version has the same battery pack as the long-range model but uses fewer cells. That means the midrange model will get you 260 miles on a charge and has a top speed of 125 mph and goes from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. That compares with the long-range Model 3 that has a top speed of 145 mph and goes from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Announcing the new version of the Model 3, Tesla said in a statement:

“As Model 3 production and sales continue to grow rapidly, we’ve achieved a steady volume in manufacturing capacity, allowing us to diversify our product offering to even more customers. Our new mid-range battery is being introduced this week in the US and Canada to better meet the varying range needs of the many customers eager to own Model 3, and our delivery estimate for customers who have ordered the Standard Battery is 4-6 months.”

But if you still want to hold out for an even cheaper Tesla, the company has promised a base model that will cost $35,000 sometime in 2019.

advertisement
advertisement

Ford’s new Mustang gets leaked on Instagram

Ford’s new Mustang gets leaked on Instagram
[Photo: Jonathan Gallegos/Unsplash]

The upcoming 2019 Mustang Shelby GT500 is one of the most anticipated cars of 2019, and Ford has carefully built up hype around it. But all that might have been for naught as it appears a 20-year-old with the Instagram handle @sinister_lifestyle just leaked the first clear photograph of the car months before its official unveiling at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit this upcoming January.

@sinister_lifestyle, also known as Kyle, posted a photo he said was sent to him that is allegedly a legit pic of the 2019/2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. But if it is legit (and the consensus says it is), how did Kyle get the snap? Most likely it was sent to him by a car dealer attending a national dealer meeting in Las Vegas. Ford would presumably show off the car there–under tight NDAs–to dealers to whet their appetite for their 2019 flagship, says Road and Track.

advertisement
advertisement

Bryan Cranston wants you to yell at him

Bryan Cranston wants you to yell at him

Bryan Cranston has a job for you. The acclaimed actor is starring in a stage adaptation of the 1976 movie Network, which is moving to Broadway this month after a successful run on the West End. Cranston stars as Howard Beale, the cantankerous fictional news anchor whose famous “mad as hell” speech never seems to go out of fashion.

In a video posted to YouTube today, he asked viewers to film themselves screaming Beale’s timeless tirade into their smartphone cameras—or computer cameras, or whatever. Then he wants them to post the videos on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the hashtag #MadAsHellBway.

“Do it as enthusiastically as possible,” Cranston implores, “even angry!”

What’s the point of this exercise? Well, you will be screaming for your chance to (sort of) appear alongside Cranston in the show. The play, Cranston says, needs “all kinds of videos from all walks of life,” presumably as accompaniment for the immersive, screen-laden set, which won praise from critics in the London version.

Sure, this all sounds a little gimmicky, but having seen Cranston’s amazing performance as LBJ in 2012’s All the Way, I can tell you that appearing on stage with him—even in a video—would be its own reward. Plus, are we not all truly mad as hell in 2018? How hard will it be to channel some of that anger for this once-in-a-lifetime chance?

Forgive me for the mixed ’70s-movie reference, but that’s an offer we can’t refuse.

advertisement
advertisement

Are you smarter than Bill Gates about climate change? Take this quiz to find out

Are you smarter than Bill Gates about climate change? Take this quiz to find out
[Photo: Kuhlmann/MSC/Wikimedia Commons]

Bill Gates knows a lot about climate change.

The Microsoft cofounder launched the Breakthrough Energy Coalition two years ago, and they just signed a $115 million clean energy investment fund in the EU. Plus, Gates has joined an international coalition determined to figure out how to protect people from heat waves, floods, and storms as the temperatures rise and the climate shifts. The Global Center on Adaptation will advance “bold actions to help societies across the world become more resilient to climate-related threats” and hopefully help the human race survive extreme weather.

“We are at a moment of high risk and great promise,” Gates said in a press release. “We need policies to help vulnerable populations adapt, and we need to ensure that governments and other stakeholders are supporting innovation and helping deliver those breakthroughs to the people and places that need them most.”

For the effort, Gates has teamed up with former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, and 17 countries, including China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada, and the U.K. (but not the U.S., natch).

So yeah, Gates knows a lot about climate change. But perhaps you know more? If so, Gates is challenging you to test your knowledge and try to beat his scoreTake this quiz and find out if you have what it takes.

advertisement
advertisement

22 Halloween costume ideas that won’t get you in trouble at work

22 Halloween costume ideas that won’t get you in trouble at work
[Photo: Cristina Gottardi/Unsplash]

Halloween is coming, and in some offices, that means the office Halloween party is fast approaching, too. While you may think your sexy Handmaid’s costume or Steve Jobs costume is hilarious, you don’t want to be the kind of person who alienates all the women and Apple fans in your office by your insensitive attire. And let’s not forget that, every year, someone seems to go viral after wearing an ill-conceived costume, only to face enormous social media backlash—and sometimes even get fired.

To help avoid that happening to you, here are a few work-appropriate Halloween costume ideas that won’t earn you a scolding from the HR department:

  • Microsoft’s Clippy
  • Zombie MySpace
  • A Herman Miller Aeron Chair
  • A No. 2 pencil
  • Facebook’s new community standards
  • Beige
  • The Houston Astros left field
  • A giant rabbit
  • Ghosts
  • Non-Twilight vampires
  • Harry Potter
  • Elon Musk on a podcast
  • A carrot
  • Gary Vaynerchuk
  • A full office watercooler (JK, that doesn’t exist!)
  • The ghost of Friendster
  • A Seamless delivery driver (you’ll be really popular!)
  • An Instagram influencer
  • An anonymous corporate drone
  • A regular drone
  • A fax machine
  • Anything that is not “slutty,” misogynistic, racially insensitive, culturally appropriative, or involves mocking the HR department to their faces
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

Important ontological spoiler from Stephen Hawking

Important ontological spoiler from Stephen Hawking
[Photo: Alexander Andrews/Unsplash]

Not to be more of a downer in these already downer times, but the late Stephen Hawking said there is “no possibility” of God in our universe. In other words, we’re on our own, and we only have ourselves to blame for atrocities like this and this and this.

In Hawking’s final book, Brief Answers to Big Questions, published Tuesday, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who was smart enough to be played by Eddie Redmayne in the movie of his life, tackled one of life’s oldest and most difficult questions—Is there a God? His answer: A resounding no.

“There is no God. No one directs the universe,” he wrote, per CNN.

While that answer is undoubtedly unsettling for people of faith, they may take some comfort knowing that Hawking doesn’t think we’re entirely alone in the universe. He wrote that there are “forms of intelligent life out there.” They’re just not “God” in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim sense of the word.

The famed author died earlier this year at the age of 76, leaving his final book unfinished. Hawking’s family and colleagues worked, er, religiously to complete the manuscript with help from his archives. The book was intended to collect Hawking’s answers to the questions he received most frequently from answer seekers.

advertisement
advertisement

Why hasn’t Jeff Bezos weighed in on Jamal Khashoggi?

Why hasn’t Jeff Bezos weighed in on Jamal Khashoggi?
[Photo: Flickr user Steve Jurvetson]

The disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has led to a number of tech companies, as well as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, pulling out of a Saudi Public Investment Fund conference scheduled for later this month. And several (including Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, and Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Alphabet unit Sidewalk Labs) have cut ties to the Saudi Arabia’s Neom smart city project after being named as advisors, CNBC reports.

But so far, Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has been silent on the matter, which is curious when you consider some of the especially gruesome details emerging around the story. Turkish officials have reportedly said they have recordings indicating that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he traveled there on routine business.

Asked about Bezos’s silence on the matter, a Washington Post spokesperson told Fast Company that, “Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan and Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt are the two speaking on behalf of the company at this time.”

Bezos was among a number of tech executives who met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he visited the United States in March. What’s more, Amazon has reportedly been in talks to open data centers in Saudi Arabia, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Fast Company.

Saudi Arabia has become a major tech backer in recent years, investing significant funds in companies like Uber, Tesla, and WeWork and contributing billions of dollars to SoftBank’s Vision Fund as it looks to move its economy beyond oil. That puts Silicon Valley in a sensitive position in responding to Khashoggi’s disappearance. And Bezos, who owns the newspaper where Khashoggi wrote, is in a doubly sensitive position.

advertisement
advertisement

Gmail gets its hooks into Box, Dropbox, and more

Gmail gets its hooks into Box, Dropbox, and more
[Photo: Free-Photos/Pixabay]

Gmail users can now work with online services like Box, Dropbox, and Atlassian’s Jira without ever leaving their inboxes.

With a new feature called “compose actions,” users can save files directly to Dropbox, attach Jira or Bitbucket links with comments included, and attach files from Dropbox, Box, or Egnyte. (The Dropbox actions actually launched over the summer, but the others are new.) Google says more compose actions are coming soon, and they’ll be available through the G Suite marketplace.

Compose actions are an extension of Gmail add-ons, which launched last year. They also make use of Google’s recent Gmail redesign that added lots of new features and a fresh look. It’ll be interesting to see what other actions emerge as more developers get on board.

advertisement
advertisement

Exclusive: Will Americans ditch the gym for the Peloton model? Survey sheds light

Exclusive: Will Americans ditch the gym for the Peloton model? Survey sheds light
[Photo: courtesy of Peloton]

With the onslaught of at-home connected fitness innovations–everything from Peloton to smart rowing machines, even weight lifting systems–one wonders: Will Americans soon prefer working out in their living room versus going to the gym?

advertisement

As the health and wellness category continues to explode, the U.S. fitness market has swelled to more than $30 billion, with approximately 16% of the population holding a gym membership card, reports the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). We’re sweating (or simply paying gym fees) more than ever before: Membership increased more than 10% over the last three years.

But how many Americans will really ditch the gym for these new smart cardio tools, many of which cost well over a $1,500? Will convenience soon trump the neighborhood boutique fitness studio?

A new report from user insights platform Alpha looks at whether consumers are ready to bunker down inside, as well as the biggest obstacles facing the $14 billion home fitness equipment market. In their findings, analysts learned that 54% of Americans who work out at least once a month are interested in buying an at-home fitness system, but several concerns keep them from pulling the trigger.

Of those surveyed, 34% claimed they have “no room in their home or apartment” for the equipment, while 24% said the trendy systems were too expensive. In third place, 11% said they simply preferred the live environment of fitness classes.

While those all seem like reasonable objections, it’s interesting that the majority did not single out price, notes Alpha cofounder Nis Frome. “The rest of the objections seem easier to overcome than being too expensive,” says Frome via email. He also echoed what many industry insiders have said before: Prices will continue to drop as tech advances and adoption continues to grow.

View this post on Instagram

Focus. Sweat. Repeat. The Mirror is ready for you.

A post shared by MIRROR (@getthemirror) on

Space is one issue already being addressed by this still burgeoning industry. The newly launched Mirror is one startup attempting to reclaim living spaces with a $1,495 full-length connected mirror that can be hung on one’s wall. It’s essentially a virtual personal trainer the size of a yoga mat.

Price, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to hold back companies like Peloton, whose popular $1,995 stationary bicycles (and soon-to-be released $3,995 treadmills) propelled it to a $4 billion valuation. The company boasts over 1 million subscribers and 32 showrooms in the United States. It plans to further appeal to more income levels with the addition of a new monthly financing program.

“Right now, this tech is very early in the adoption cycle, and it may never make sense for everyone,” explains Frome, “but for early adopters, the enthusiasm is pretty next-level, so the tech looks promising. What these companies are doing in almost all cases is making consumers’ lives easier.”

Alpha’s report found that 27% of those who work out at least once a month have a gym membership–the same percentage as those who claim to have gym at their apartment building or home–while only 7% say they subscribe to an in-home fitness class like Peloton. The remaining 10% is evenly split between those who take individual classes and those who depend on a class membership model like ClassPass.

Men were said to be more inclined to work at home and therefore more likely to purchase an at-home fitness system. But companies such as Mirror report increasing demand from women–including young moms–who prefer the convenience of living-room workouts.

While 46% of those surveyed reported “never” or “rarely” working out, there might be a way to appeal to a new form of keeping (mildly) fit, adds Frome. “There’s an opportunity for home fitness systems to reeducate almost half of the marketplace on what constitutes ‘working out’–it doesn’t have to be an hour at the gym, it can be as little as 5 or 10 minutes at home for results to occur,” he says.

Despite the relatively smaller pool of buyers, Frome is optimistic about the growth potential of the market, particularly one specific advantage it has over standard gym competitors: customization. It’s a trend that’s swept nearly every sector–fashion, beauty, food, tech–with fitness being no exception.

“Generally speaking, over the last 15 years, products that offer a tailored, individual experience–think Netflix or, earlier, the iPod–tend to perform better over time than those offering a generic experience,” says Frome. “Clearly most of America doesn’t own a Peloton or attend SoulCycle. But at some point that was also true of cell phones or HDTVs.”

advertisement
advertisement

12117 Stories