Teen Develops New App That May Help Alzheimer's Patients Recognize Family

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iStock

A progressively worsening form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is best known for the way it affects memory. As the condition interferes with nerve cells in the brain, it can become increasingly difficult for patients to recognize close friends and family.

Researchers are committed to finding a cure—more than 90 percent of what we know about Alzheimer’s was discovered in the past 20 years alone, according to the Alzheimer's Association—but those affected and their loved ones are hoping to find faster solutions in other venues. Fourteen-year-old Emma Yang put her programming skills to work creating an app that may one day help her grandmother, who was diagnosed with the disease, remember her loved ones.

According to Fast Company, Yang coded an app called Timeless, which uses facial recognition to inform users about who a person is and what their relationship is to the patient. If a user doesn’t recognize someone, he or she can snap a photo and Timeless will try to fetch details. With repetitive scrolling and browsing of photos, it’s possible patients will be better able to retain information about that individual.

Timeless also brings up appointment reminders and can notify users when they might be performing a task repetitively. If a user calls a friend after failing to remember the first call, for example, Timeless will put up a notification that it’s the second call made in a short period of time.

Yang is hoping that an Indiegogo campaign will be able to raise enough funds for further development and a formal study on the app’s efficacy.

[h/t Fast Company]

Smart TVs Are Cheaper Than Ever, and It's Because They're Selling Your Data

iStock.com/97
iStock.com/97

Thanks to plummeting retail prices on televisions, it's possible to walk out of a store with a 55-inch or 65-inch display for under $500. These aren't bare-bones models, either. Smart TVs from manufacturers like Vizio and TCL offer cutting-edge 4K resolution and High Dynamic Range (HDR) capability. If you have the right video source from a streaming service or 4K DVD player, the image quality can be staggering.

Depending on the model and manufacturer, some of these budget-friendly televisions achieve their attractive price points by collecting and selling your data.

In a candid interview with the Verge in January 2019, Vizio chief technology officer Bill Baxter illustrated the business model. Baxter explained that the low profit margins of televisions meant that the company was more interested in covering the cost and then seeing revenue from consumers using the television.

"You make a little money here, a little money there," Baxter said. "You sell some movies, you sell some TV shows, you sell some ads, you know. It's not really that different than the Verge website."

Because these televisions are often connected to the internet, they're able to track usage—what kind of content you watch through a built-in streaming app like Roku, your location, and which ads you're paying attention to. Depending on the video service you're using, Vizio can also get a portion of sales from on-demand content like movies.

According to Baxter, Vizio's philosophy is that monetizing hardware in this manner keeps costs down for every consumer, even if they opt out of data collecting. Of course, viewers paying only halfhearted attention to the television's disclaimers during the initial set-up process may not realize the extent of the information they're agreeing to share by default.

Nor has the company always been so transparent. In 2017, Vizio settled a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that alleged they collected data from 10 million sets without the consent of the consumer, including IP addresses. The information was gathered through a feature called Smart Interactivity, which promoted itself as being able to help the consumer find content and customize advertising based on viewing habits. The complaint, filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, was settled for $2.2 million. Vizio admitted no wrongdoing and said that no viewing data was paired with personal information.

Another data collection service, Samba TV, has relationships with manufacturers like Sony, Sharp, TCL, and Phillips. The consumer is urged to enable the software when a television is first plugged in to get content recommendations. If users opt in, Samba TV tracks virtually everything that appears onscreen, learning what shows viewers are watching, and then works with advertisers to target ads to other devices connected to the internet in the home. (A notable exception is Netflix, which has agreements with manufacturers that prohibit third-party tracking on their service.) In 2018, Samba TV said it was collecting information from 13.5 million televisions in the United States.

The moral? If you own a smart TV, it's probably in your best interests to examine the data acquisition policy and opt out through the menu system. If not, be aware that your television is no longer a passive display. It's watching you.

[h/t Business Insider]

Sesame Street Deals With Cell Phone Addiction in New PSA

Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Sesame Street has tackled a lot of complicated subjects over its 50-year run, from divorce to post-traumatic stress. For a new PSA, Elmo, Big Bird, and the rest of the characters from Sesame Street address a problem that's unique to modern viewers: cell phone addiction.

As Fast Company reports, the new Sesame Street video, produced in honor of the show's 50th anniversary this year, is part of the "Device Free Dinner" campaign from Common Sense Media. In the clip, the cast of Sesame Street is shown getting ready for dinner by putting away their digital devices (or whatever they use to communicate: Abby Cadabby hangs up her magic wand and Ernie puts away of his banana phone).

The only Muppet who brings his phone to the dinner table is Cookie Monster. But despite his addictive personality, even he understands the importance of screen-free time with his friends—and he gets rid of his device by eating it.

The PSA is brief, but it brings an important issue to light: The average smart phone owner touches their device 2600 times a day, and when they do, they get a small dopamine boost. That pleasurable feeling associated with phone use can lead to compulsive behaviors that look a lot like addiction.

You might be addicted to your mobile device if it starts interfering with your life—i.e. you would rather check your phone at dinnertime than interact with the real people at the table with you, the same thing the "Device Free Dinner" campaign is trying to prevent. You can watch the full PSA below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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