Customer Service Agents Can 'Sneak Peak' Your Live Chat Messages Before You Hit Send

In the pre-internet dark ages, talking to a customer service representative meant waiting on hold for the better part of an afternoon. Now, there's live chatting: Instead of pressing the same key several times to reach a human, this option connects you to a real person right away—and their responses are just as quick as what you'd get on the phone, if not quicker. Gizmodo reports that there may be a unsettling explanation for that speedy service: Some customer service agents can see what you're typing into your chat box in real time even before you hit send.

A Gizmodo reader recently discovered this while using a mattress company's live-chat feature. The representative responded to a question that the customer had typed out but hadn't sent. When asked about it, the agent wrote that they "get a preview" and it "Gives us a little bit of extra time to look up information."

Others have reported customer service representatives responding to messages with detailed information in less time than it would take to read them. Some live chat services, like Snap Engage and JivoChat, even advertise this feature on their websites under names like sneak peak. One of the biggest companies to offer this feature, Live Chat, provides the chat platforms for PayPal, McDonalds, and IKEA.

If you think a stranger creeping on your unedited messages is a small price to pay for fast service, proceed with your live chats as usual. Unfortunately there's not much you can do to tell if this feature is enabled if you feel differently. Your best option is to draft your messages in a word processor and copy and paste them into the chat box when you're ready to hit send. Or, if you have time to spare, you can always use the old-fashioned method of giving customer service a call.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.