Gizmocrazed – Future Technology News Artificial Intelligence, Medical Breakthroughs, Virtual Reality Fri, 22 Jun 2018 16:37:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 4 Tips to Activate Employees on Social Media Fri, 22 Jun 2018 16:20:18 +0000 Nowadays it is very had to see a successful business without vibrant social media campaigns. Businesses that are on social media are easily outdoing those that are not. This is because billions of people use social media daily. Be it Facebook, Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn, whatever social media platform you choose to use; you can find thousands of people interested in your products or services.

Social media is permanently embedded in our business structure; it is almost a department now. Those that are left behind soon become irreverent.

Since employees are your most important assets, you need to involve them in all your social media campaigns actively.

These time-tested tips will aid you to make your employees active on social media.

1 Start small

Social media is a massive industry. Let your employees choose which media they are comfortable in. This is the best way to start seeing improving social sharing analytics as every person will be working in a platform they are used to. Do not force anything on their throat otherwise; you will be advertising services you won’t deliver. After the majority of your employees are settled in, and you have started seeing results, you can then introduce another platform, one at a time.

2 Engage them on a personal level

Before you start any campaign, have a clear strategy; understand what you hope to achieve, how to achieve it, and when you expect results. Let them know what the campaign is all about and let them suggest better ways to meet your now common goal. Make sure everyone who counts is in and well versed with your vision. You can also let them have each a copy of deliverables you hope to achieve. Set goals that are realizable and reasonable always.

3 Consider outsourcing a trainer

The social media industry is growing very fast. You can not keep up the pace alone. You need a person who is well versed with the current trends to your team. Your employers will be more comfortable with a consultant than you; no matter how nice you think you are. Do you know a good number of employees do not like their bosses? Others will do anything to prove your alleged incompetency, just because they were not promoted. You don’t want to bring your battles to social media. A trained and experienced consultant will ensure your business’ dirty linens are not washed in public.

4 Compensate them

When an employee adds any value to an organization, he believes he is entitled to a reward. Make your rewards enticing enough to boost their morale but not big enough to make them forget the core reason why they were employed. Since rewards create competition, it is your job to maintain such competition at a healthy level.

Businesses need to adjust to the ever-changing online platform. You can’t afford to leave your employees because they are the drivers of these changes. You should be of the same mind as your employees to navigate through this vast sea of online marketing.

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Pain Is Weird. Making Bionic Arms Feel Pain Is Even Weirder Fri, 22 Jun 2018 14:53:27 +0000 Pain Is Weird. Making Bionic Arms Feel Pain Is Even Weirder

Pain is an indispensable tool for survival. The prick of a nail underfoot is a warning that protects you from a deep, dirty wound—and maybe tetanus. The sizzle of a steel skillet is a deterrent against a third-degree burn. As much as it sucks, pain, oddly enough, keeps us from hurting ourselves.

It’s a luxury that prosthetic users don’t have. But researchers report in Science Robotics that they’ve developed a prosthesis that can feel sharp pain and automatically drop a pointy object—in addition to telegraphing that pain to the wearer. Theoretically, that could one day lead to bionic limbs that detect pain in more detail, so amputees can better care for their devices. But is that something amputees, who already deal with uncomfortable prosthetics, actually want? That question, like the concept of pain itself, is surprisingly complicated.

The prosthesis, a modified Bebionic hand that’s already on the market, feels much like we feel. In your skin you have mechanoreceptors, which are good for feeling blunt objects, and nociceptors, which sense pain. Similarly, the fingertips of the prosthesis are coated with something called an e-dermis, which is made up of layers of pressure sensors. The top layer is primarily loaded with “nociceptors,” and the bottom layer is loaded with “mechanoreceptors.”

Give the prosthesis a curved object to pinch, and a whole lot of both sensor types will activate across the fingertips. Meaning, it’s blunt. “That gives you an indication that the object is what you’d call innocuous, or it wouldn’t be painful if you picked it up,” says Johns Hopkins biomedical engineer Luke Osborn, lead author on the paper. “With a pointy object, it’s a highly localized pressure when the fingers grab it, and so from the prosthesis’ point of view that’s something that’s more uncomfortable.” By sensing the distribution of pressure, the prosthesis knows something is wrong and automatically drops the pointy object.

Then the user gets the information—by way of a model that turns pressure information from the sensors into electrical signals, which run through electrodes that stimulate nerves in the wearer’s upper arm, where the prosthesis is attached. “The reason that works is we have peripheral nerves that go through our body,” says Osborn. “They convey the sensory information back to our brains. And even though somebody has had an amputation—the ends of those nerves may have been cut off—the nerves are still connected to the spinal cord, which is then connected to the brain.” Thus the test subject can feel pain in a limb that’s not there.

The feeling, though, isn’t exactly what you’d feel if you picked up a sharp object. “It’s like a steady growth of discomfort leading up to this localized sharp pressure, but there’s also some tingling aspect as well,” says Osborn. “Obviously the idea is to improve it to get to the point where it’s natural.”

It’s not obvious to everyone, though. “It’s interesting, pain is something we’ve always tried to avoid providing to our amputees,” says Cleveland Clinic neuroscientist Paul Marasco, who researches prosthetic technologies but wasn’t involved in this research. Amputees don’t just have to deal with the pain of the injury itself, but the pain of wearing a device that can be … less than comfortable. “So this is an interesting thought. It really sort of forced me to think about what actually leads to the richness of the sensation that you feel every day. It’s just like spicy food: It hurts, but it’s good.”

Couple problems here, though. For one, doctors aren’t supposed to dish out pain. “A lot of what we have to physically write into our protocols is that we’re going to do our best not to cause pain,” says Marasco. “Now, from an ethical perspective, where does the line between OK and not OK lie?”

Osborn’s study did go through proper review before it started. “We set up these experiments very carefully and wrote up the protocol to get reviewed by the institutional review boards, so we make it very clear that we’re not going to do anything that’s going to damage the volunteer,” he says. Volunteers could stop at any time, and there was a clear limit on how much stimulation they could receive.

Which brings us to the second problem: Pain is a notoriously subjective experience. This particular “feeling” prosthetic takes discomfort and turns it into ones and zeroes, but the person attached to those mechanical fingers will still have a distinct experience if they’re hooked up to a system like Osborn’s. So if you were to develop a commercial prosthetic limb that could feel pain, you’d have to carefully tailor it to the wearer’s tolerance.

That is, if the wearer would want to feel pain in the first place. “I get the idea of having some type of notification via prosthesis that you’re damaging the device,” says Angel Giuffria, aka the bionic actress, who has studied stigma against amputees at Southeastern Louisiana University. “Does it necessarily need to hurt? No.” She adds, though, that because the researchers reproduced pain non-invasively and on a commercial device, this could lead to more natural sensations in prosthetics.

But maybe there’s another way to telegraph that the user is inadvertently damaging their prosthesis: a light, or some other stimulus. But part of the benefit of pain is its immediacy: The sensation of a burning pot handle is so shocking that you have no choice but to reel away. Maybe pain has to feel terrible to work.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Robotic prostheses have come a long way—Giuffria can put on her bionic arm and shake your hand. But she can’t feel herself shaking your hand. Commercially available prostheses don’t provide feedback. (Lots of R&D, but no availability, alas.) “Currently I have no feedback of any kind,” Giuffria says. “The only way I know how hard I’m holding something is because I’ve practiced, whether on pinching myself or holding an egg.”

So it will take a while longer for bionic limbs to provide users with robust feedback, let alone pain. And those sensations will need to be tailored to individuals’ needs. “If you lost one foot to vascular disease, and your other one has compromised circulation, then definitely having something that could alert you to surface texture and heat could definitely help,” says Peggy Chenoweth, a below-knee amputee and cofounder of Amp’d, a resource for amputees. For others, though, reconstructed sensations might be confusing. “For congenital amputees, those who have never had the limb, it could really be disconcerting to all of a sudden be feeling sensations that you’ve never experienced before,” Chenoweth says.

Researchers are just beginning to explore how to make machines feel. The quest is as much about replicating the senses as it is about ignoring certain stimuli. Will the bionic limbs of tomorrow feel pain? It’ll probably depend on what the user wants, really. No pain, no gain, after all.

More Great WIRED Stories

Google StreetView cars to help map pollution in London Fri, 22 Jun 2018 05:33:51 +0000 Google StreetView cars to help map pollution in London

From next month two Google StreetView cars will be driving around London’s streets fitted with sensors that take air quality readings every 30 meters to map and monitor air quality in the UK capital.

There will also be 100 fixed sensors fitted to lampposts and buildings in pollution blackspots and sensitive locations in the city — creating a new air quality monitoring network that Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, is billing as “the most sophisticated in the world”.

The goal with the year-long project is to generate hyperlocal data to help feed policy responses. Khan has made tackling air pollution one of his priorities.

It’s not the first time StreetView cars have been used as a vehicle for pollution monitoring. Three years ago sensors made by San Francisco startup Aclima were fitted to the cars to map air quality in the Bay Area.

The London project is using sensors made by UK company Air Monitors.

The air quality monitoring project is a partnership between the Greater London Authority and C40 Cities network — a coalition of major cities around the world which is focused on tackling climate change and increasing health and well-being.

The project is being led by the charity Environmental Defense Fund Europe, in partnership with Air Monitors, Google Earth Outreach, Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants, University of Cambridge, National Physical Laboratory, and the Environmental Defense Fund team in the United States.

King’s College London will also be undertaking a linked study focused on schools.

Results will be shared with members of the C40 Cities network — with the ambition of developing policy responses that help improve air quality for hundreds of millions of city dwellers around the world.

LGBTQ truckers talk embracing identity and finding community over thousands of miles Fri, 22 Jun 2018 05:32:31 +0000 LGBTQ truckers talk embracing identity and finding community over thousands of miles
Uber’s Greg Murphy hosts a Pride panel for LGBTQ truckers.

Image: sasha lekach/mashable

Long-haul truck drivers already face plenty of dangers on the road, but if you also happen to be a gay couple or a trans woman emerging from the cab at a gas station or rest stop, these can potentially expand to discrimination, violence, and hate.

That’s why Shelle Lichti, a 25-year veteran of the trucking industry, created an online community for the disparate and wide-ranging truckers who identify as LGBTQ. 

Lichti was one of six panelists Uber Freight brought Thursday to its San Francisco offices to speak about driving, technology, and identity. When Lichti came out, she was told she was supposed to look like the assigned stereotype of a lesbian trucker: flannel shirts and combat boots. “It doesn’t matter your orientation to get the job done,” she said.

The truckers featured on the panel all work for different companies and don’t use Uber Freight themselves — it’s an app that works like Uber’s ride-hailing app, but connects truck companies to loads. But truckers like Ellie O’Daire, a trans woman, are anxious to incorporate more tech into the business — anything to “get paperwork out of trucking faster,” she said.

Married couple Ricky and Bobby Coffey-Loy truck between Boston and Los Angeles as a team.

Married couple Ricky and Bobby Coffey-Loy truck between Boston and Los Angeles as a team.

Image: uber

Married couple Ricky and Bobby Coffey-Loy drive 6,000 miles a week between Boston and Los Angeles as a team. They often feel singled out for being a husband-and-husband team, but they also relish the opportunity to work together and see the country with the “best office window.”

O’Daire said she’s encountered problems on the road at truck stops and rest areas, and she still keeps track of gender neutral bathrooms throughout her routes, just to be safe. But overall, she says, “Everyone’s focused on driving their own equipment.” 

Anne Balay, a one-time commercial trucker herself and author of the forthcoming book, Semi Queer: Inside the World Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers, pointed out that trucking is hard on trans women in particular, with high incidents of assault and violence. “Being a queer trucker, you’re living with a lot of fear all the time,” she noted.

“Being a queer trucker, you’re living with a lot of fear all the time.”

For Keaira Finlay, trucking has been more about opportunity. With a consistent source of income, trucking allows her to see the country, and be as far or close to family as she wants. She also won’t ever forget the dead boar carcasses she once hauled from Texas to North Dakota — or the stench. 

Lichti also sees trucking as a good fit for anyone struggling with their identity. “Trucking gives them an opportunity to explore their inner selves,” with hours and hours to think, she said.

“The miles can be so loud,” Bobby Coffey-Loy said. That’s where the social media group Lichti started comes in, serving as a support network. 

And it’s there, on Facebook, that the independent, often loner truckers can come together (the group now has about 4,000 members), and even post about visiting San Francisco and Uber for Pride celebrations.

Life doesn’t have to feel so isolated on the road after all.

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Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play Fri, 22 Jun 2018 05:31:46 +0000 Microsoft and Nintendo release Minecraft trailer focused on cross-play

In the world of gaming, cross-compatibility between platforms has always bene a bit of a white whale. While most players hope for it, console makers and game publishers haven’t always been so willing. Until recently.

Microsoft, Nintendo and PC game makers have started making games more cross-compatible. Most notably, the companies have made Fortnite Battle Royale, the biggest game of the year, cross-compatible on the Switch, Xbox, iOS, and PC. Yes, there is a big name missing from that list.

Sony has yet to budge, forcing PS4 players inside of a walled garden. Obviously, players have been outraged.

But today, Microsoft and Nintendo are seemingly putting salt in the wound with a new trailer for Minecraft.

Rather than focusing on the game, the trailer’s entire thesis is centered around the fact that it offers cross-play between Xbox and the Switch. In the video, you can see a Switch player and an Xbox player gaming together in the wonderful world of Minecraft.

The tag line at the end reads “Better Together.”

Long story short, cross play is happening in the gaming world. Finally. Whether or not Sony chooses to catch up is anyone’s guess.

This Video Game Lets You Explore Mars' Actual Surface Fri, 22 Jun 2018 05:30:18 +0000 This Video Game Lets You Explore Mars' Actual Surface

What Over 1 Million Genomes Tell Us About Psychiatric Disorders Fri, 22 Jun 2018 03:41:11 +0000 What Over 1 Million Genomes Tell Us About Psychiatric Disorders

(Credit: SpeedKingz/Shutterstock)

The brain is an enormously complex thing. Trying to suss out the genetic overlap of the disorders that strike it is perhaps even more complicated. Still, the Brainstorm Consortium, a collaboration of researchers from Harvard, Stanford and MIT, is aiming to do just that. A new study put out by the group shows there are distinctions in how psychiatric and neurological disorders relate to each other; some personality traits may even be at play.

The study, led by Verneri Anttila, a brain and genetics researcher at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, looked at 25 different brain disorders that had been examined in past studies. These were so-called called genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that look at complete DNA sets from large swaths of the population. The goal of a GWAS is to try and find genetic variations associated with a disease.

Primarily focused on these 25 disorders, Anttila and his team combed through over 1 million genomes from populations of European ancestry; about 265,000 of those came from patients with diagnosed neurological and psychiatric disorders and about 784,000 came from healthy controls.

After their analysis, the researchers found that neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), didn’t tend to have much genetic overlap. So, if someone had genes that made them prone to developing say, MS, those genes likely wouldn’t be involved in them developing another neurological disorder, like AD.

On the other hand, psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder, did share a decent amount of overlap. Those that shared the most overlap? Anorexia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and schizophrenia. Interestingly, autism spectrum disorder and Tourette syndrome seem to not be influenced by other psychiatric disorders.

Additionally, the personality trait of neuroticism was associated mainly with psychiatric disorders. Those included anorexia, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, Tourette’s, schizophrenia and OCD.

These trends aren’t a surprise and add to past research. But, as the authors point out, they also highlight an issue clinicians need to be aware of. Because psychiatric disorders seem to be highly interconnected, we may need to start rethinking how we classify these disorders — and ultimately, how we treat the patients who have them.

The Powerful Groups Stonewalling a Greener Way to Die Fri, 22 Jun 2018 02:53:17 +0000 The Powerful Groups Stonewalling a Greener Way to Die

This story originally appeared on The New Republic and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Samantha Sieber’s grandfather had a traditional American burial. His body was embalmed, put in a metal casket, and laid to rest at a cemetery, where the grounds would be perpetually cared for. “It felt good to give him what he wanted,” said Sieber, who herself works in the funeral industry. But, she added, “I think my grandfather’s funeral is going to become extinct.”

In 2016, cremation became the most common method of body disposal in the US, overtaking entombment for the first time. This shift is often attributed to the high cost of traditional burial and the waning importance of religion. But experts also point to society’s changing views about how dead bodies should be disposed of. The spectrum of what’s morally acceptable is broadening, at the same time that the most common disposal methods are coming under scrutiny for their environmental impact. More than four million gallons of toxic embalming fluids and 20 million feet of wood are put in the ground in the US every year, while a single cremation emits as much carbon dioxide as a 1,000-mile car trip. Thus, the rise in America of “green burials,” where bodies are wrapped in biodegradable material and not embalmed.

Sieber is a part of this trend, but she doesn’t want a green burial. When she dies, she told me, she wants her body to be dunked in a high-pressure chamber filled with water and lye. That water will be heated to anywhere from 200 to 300 degrees, and in six to twelve hours her flesh, blood, and muscle will dissolve. When the water is drained, all that will remain in the tank are her bones and dental fillings. If her family desires, they can have her remains crushed into ash, to be displayed or buried or scattered.

This process is known colloquially as water cremation and scientifically as alkaline hydrolysis, or aquamation. It’s the most environmentally friendly method of death care, says Sieber, the vice president of research at Bio-Response Solutions. Founded by her father in 2006, the company manufactures aquamation equipment for funeral homes and crematories throughout North America. “This has no emissions, it’s greener, it’s a clean technology to work with,” Sieber said.

But Sieber may not get her wish of being aquamated when she dies. Only 15 states allow alkaline hydrolysis for human remains, and Indiana, where Sieber lives and where Bio-Response is based, is not one of them. Casket-makers and the Catholic Church are working to make sure it stays that way.

Alkaline hydrolysis was patented in the US in 1888, and the process hasn’t changed much since then. The body is submerged in a solution of about 95 percent water and 5 percent alkali—usually sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. The liquid is heated and set at a high pressure to avoid boiling, causing the body to shed its proteins and fats. The decomposition creates a coffee-colored liquid, which contains amino acids, peptides, sugars, and salts. That liquid gets flushed down the drain, and treated like any other type of wastewater. Only bones and metal remain.

Alkaline hydrolysis was originally marketed as a way to rapidly decompose animal bodies and use their nutrients for fertilizer. It was later adopted by scientific labs to dispose of disease-contaminated bodies, like cow carcasses infected by mad cow disease in the 1990s. Its commercial use for animals began in the early 2000s, Seiber said, as grieving pet owners sought a sentimental disposal option that didn’t require an expensive burial or involve burning Fido to ashes.

In addition to its gentleness and cost (aquamation for dogs runs anywhere from $150 to $400, while cremation is around $100), veterinarians and pet funeral homes began to market aquamation’s environmental benefits. “Unlike cremation, there are no toxic emissions and no contribution to greenhouse gases,” wrote Jerry Shevik, owner of Peaceful Pets Aquamation in California. “It has a carbon footprint that is only one-tenth of what fire-based cremation produces.” Roughly the same is true for human aquamation, which, according to Staudt’s book, “requires about 90 kwh of electricity, resulting in one quarter the carbon emissions of cremation, consuming one-eighth the energy, while costing the consumer roughly the same amount as cremation.” Environmental issues can arise if the water poured down the drain after a liquid cremation has a pH level above local regulations. If that happens, however, funeral homes can easily treat the water with carbon dioxide before releasing it.

The growing use of aquamation for pets created more demand for human use. Minnesota was the first state to legalize alkaline hydrolysis for humans in 2003, and other states eventually followed. Oregon and Maine passed bills in 2009; Florida and Kansas in 2010. Ten more states followed, the most recent being California, which passed a bill last year officially deeming aquamation a type of cremation. Funeral homes will be allowed to offer it beginning in 2020.

Sieber’s business isn’t suffering from the fact that the process isn’t legal in every US state. “We’re selling at the pace we can grow right now,” she said. “It wouldn’t help us if every state was approved.”

But her family did suffer personally. In March of 2013, two of her grandparents died just one day apart from each other. Each had wanted to be aquamated. Sieber’s family had planned to use the closest funeral home that provided the service—a few hundred miles away, across the state border in Illinois. But the shock of losing two grandparents at once was too much to handle the logistics. “There was so much grief,” Sieber said. “We couldn’t get it done.”

Angered by their inability to fulfill their loved ones’ wishes, Sieber’s family launched a lobbying effort to get aquamation legalized in Indiana. And after more than a year and $40,000 spent, Sieber said they had gathered enough votes for a bill to pass. When their aquamation legalization bill came to the floor of the state House of Representatives, however, it was derailed by a gruesome speech by a lawmaker who also happened to be a casket-maker.

Representative Dick Hamm’s speech made national news that day, and not only because of his business interest in keeping human aquamation illegal in Indiana. “We’re going to put [dead bodies] in acid and just let them dissolve away and then we’re going to let them run down the drain out into the sewers and whatever,” Hamm said, comparing the process to “flushing” a loved one. This wasn’t accurate. Aquamation uses lye, not acid, and similar fluids are flushed down the drain during the embalming process. But Hamm’s hyperbole was effective. Though he was the only lawmaker to speak against the bill, it failed in a 34-59 vote.

The idea that aquamation is unnatural or gross or even immoral has impeded its adoption in other states. A bill to re-legalize it in New Hampshire, where it had been legal for two years before being repealed, was rejected in 2009 after lawmakers gave speeches similar to Hamm’s. “I don’t want to send a loved one to be used as fertilizer or sent down the drain to a sewer treatment plant,” Republican John Cebrowski said. His Republican colleague Mike Kappler added that “he didn’t want to drive by a sewage lagoon where a relative’s liquid remains would wind up.”

The Catholic Church of New Hampshire came out against that bill as well, and testified against later efforts to re-legalize aquamation in the state in 2013 and 2014. Each testimony said alkaline hydrolysis “fails to provide New Hampshire Citizens with the reverence and respect they should receive at the end of their lives.”

But those who choose aquamation for their loved ones overwhelmingly do so because they believe it’s a kinder way to treat a body, said Philip Olson, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and a death studies expert. “Embalming is invasive and violent, and so is fire,” he said. But alkaline hydrolysis, he said, is more like a warm bath. “That’s becoming a more prominent value in American death care, the idea of gentleness,” he said. “That’s why we’ve seen such growth in the home funeral movement—the idea of using your hands is more intimate, of having contact with the body, not mediating your contact through instruments which are hard and cold.”

The environmental benefits of aquamation are less of a motivating factor. “We thought families would want this because it’s more eco-friendly,” Sieber said. “They like that, but it’s not why they’re choosing it.” That may be a good thing, because alkaline hydrolysis is not an environmental panacea. Its widespread adoption could increase production at industrial chlor-alkali plants, which are known to emit mercury and other pollutants. The process also uses about 300 gallons of water per body, or three times as much as the average person uses in a day. And while replacing cremation with aquamation would have some climate benefits, they wouldn’t be as huge as, say, getting rid of coal-fired power plants—which is perhaps why there are no large environmental advocacy campaigns to change the death care industry.

Olson sees a more existential value in greening up death care. “The funeral industry has always been about making your body immune to nature, preserving yourself in spite of it,” he said. Processes like aquamation require an acceptance of becoming part of it. “It’s new to think about bodies that way, as a kind of eco-product,” he said. “It demonstrates a shift in how people are thinking about our relationship to the natural world.” If more people respect the planet in death, it bodes well for how they’ll treat it while they’re still alive.

Bag Week 2018: Mission Workshop’s Radian rolltop starts simple but grows piece by piece Fri, 22 Jun 2018 00:02:31 +0000 Bag Week 2018: Mission Workshop’s Radian rolltop starts simple but grows piece by piece

Welcome to Bag Week 2018. Every year your faithful friends at TechCrunch spend an entire week looking at bags. Why? Because bags — often ignored but full of our important electronics — are the outward representations of our techie styles, and we put far too little thought into where we keep our most prized possessions.

I’ve always been wary of modular, rail-based bag systems. They’ve always struck me as rather military and imposing, which I suppose is kind of the point. Even Mission Workshop, whose other bags I have always enjoyed, put out one that seemed to me excessive. But they’ve tempered their style a bit and put out the Radian, a solid middle ground between their one-piece and modular systems.

The Radian is clearly aimed at the choosy, pack-loving traveler who eschews roller bags for aesthetic — which describes me to a tee. Strictly rolltop bags (originating in cyclist and outdoors circles) end up feeling restrictive in where you can stow gear, and rollers are boxy and unrefined. So the Radian takes a bit from both, with the added ability to add bits and pieces according to your needs.

What it is: Adaptable, waterproof, well-designed and not attention-grabbing

What it isn’t: Simple or lightweight

The core pack is quite streamlined, with no protruding external pockets whatsoever. There’s the main compartment — 42 liters, if you’re curious — and a cleverly hidden laptop compartment between the main one and the back pads. Both are independently lined with waterproof material (in addition to the water-resistant outer layer) and the zippers are similarly sealed. There’s also a mesh pouch hidden like the laptop area that you can pop out or stow at will.

You can roll up the rolltop and secure it with Velcro, or treat it as a big flap and snap it to a strap attached to the bottom of the bag — the straps themselves are attached with strong Velcro, so you can take them off if you’re going roll style. The “Cobra” buckle upgrade is cool but the standard plastic buckles are well made enough that you shouldn’t feel any pressure to pay the $65 to upgrade.

Access is where things begin to diverge. Unlike most rolltop packs, you can lay the bag on the ground and unzip the top as if it were a roller, letting you access the whole space from somewhere other than the top. The flap also has its own mesh enclosure. This is extremely handy and addresses the main ergonomic issue I’ve always had with strictly top-loading bags.

In a further assimilation of rolltop qualities, there’s a secret pocket at the bottom of the bag that houses a large cloth cover that seals up the pack straps and so on, making the bag much more stowable and preventing TSA or baggage handlers from having to negotiate all that junk or bag it up themselves.

Of course, a single large compartment is rarely enough when you’re doing real traveling and need to access this document or that gadget in a hurry. So the Radian joins the Mission Workshop Arkiv modular system, which lets you add on a variety of extra pockets of various sizes and types. Just be careful that you don’t push it over the carry-on size limit (though you can always stuff the extra pockets inside temporarily).

There are six rails — two on each side and two on the back — and a handful of accessories that go on each, sliding on with sturdy metal clips. The pack I tested had two zippered side pockets, the “mini folio” and the “horizontal zip” on the back, plus a cell phone pocket for the front strap.

They’re nice but the rear ones I tried are a bit small — you’d have trouble fitting anything but a pocket paperback and a couple of energy bars in either. If I had my choice I would go with the full-size folio, one zippered and one rolltop side pocket. Then you can do away with the cell pocket, which is a bit much, and have several stowage options within reach. Plus the folio has its own rails to stick one of the small ones onto.

There’s really no need to get the separate laptop case, since the laptop compartment would honestly fit two or three. It’s a great place to store dress shirts and other items that need to stay folded up and straight.

As far as room, the 42 liters are enough on my estimation to pack for a five-day trip — that is to say, I easily fit in five pairs of socks and underwear, five t-shirts, a sweater or two, a dress shirt, some shorts and a pair of jeans. More than that would be kind of a stretch if you were also planning on bringing things like a camera, a book or two and all the other usual travel accessories.

The main compartment has mesh areas on the side to isolate toiletries and so on, but they’re just divisions; they don’t add space. There are places for small things in the outside pockets but again, not a lot of room for much bigger than a paperback, water bottle or snack unless you spring for the folio add-on.

As for looks — the version I tested was the black camo version, obviously, which looks a little more subdued in real life than my poorly color-balanced pictures make it look. Personally I prefer the company’s flat grey over the camo and the black. Makes it even more low-profile.

In the end I think the Radian is the best option for anyone looking at Mission Workshop bags who wants a modular option, but unless you plan on swapping out pieces a lot, I’m not personally convinced that it’s better than their all-in-one bags like the Rambler and Vandal. By all means take a look at putting a Radian system together, but don’t neglect to check if any of the pre-built ones fit your needs as well.

bag week 2018

Should Your Business Consider Mobile App Integration? Thu, 21 Jun 2018 20:09:56 +0000 Should Your Business Consider Mobile App Integration?

“Does a brand truly require an application to thrive today?” This is a question that comes up when companies are assessing their mobile strategy. There is however, no basic answer to the question so, we have created this guide to help you ascertain if you need a mobile application for your brand to succeed in today’s economy.

An application is not just a means of distribution. It is a communication channel and if used correctly, applications can help you learn, adapt and interact with your customers, so that you can meet their needs in meeting your business goals.

What Is the Integration of Mobile Applications?

Nowadays, the integration of mobile applications offers innovative ways to work effectively and offers the possibility to use the complete infrastructure behind your applications, much more like the evolution of thecloud, which offers a variety of hosting services. Therefore, it is possible to have a robust and convenient service framework and an easy-to-use user interface.

Many organizations are now integrating mobile applications with their back-end applications such as CRM, POS and ERP for better results and improved productivity. The integration of mobile applications helps give employees and users a good experience.

Does Your Brand Need An Application?

Here are some statistics to illustrate the huge amount of opportunities for the mobile application development industry in the coming years. Starting in March 2017, 2.2 million apps and 2.8 million apps are available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and mobile apps are expected to generate up to $ 188.9 billion by 2020 of revenue through Application Stores and in the advertising application.

Websites are essential today, especially with e-commerce brands. They provide countless advantages to reinforce the customer experience.Having an online existence alone is however, no longer enough. Why? Because customer expectations are changing.

Customers demand comfort. They want prompt access to information, the capability to discover alternatives, irrespective of where and when. And above all, they anticipate their involvements with businesses to be tremendously significant to them. This is what a mobile app provides that website does not.

If your brand does not include mobile app, it will not be “located” where your customers are located. As a result, you lose important opportunities to connect, participate, influence, negotiate and support your current and potential customers.

The Advantages of Developing a Mobile Application

  • Improve the customer experience
  • Increase brand visibility
  • Promote customer engagement
  • Get a competitive advantage
  • Generate additional revenue

What Do Mobile Apps Offer That Websites Do Not Offer?

The following:

  • Biometrics
  • Camera functionality
  • Augmented reality

Is A Mobile Website Sufficient?

There are obvious advantages of having responsive websites; however, they do not offer the same user experience as applications. Websites optimized for mobile devices are critical to the success of any company; however, they offer the user a completely different experience to applications. With a responsive design, a website can function as a mobile experience, but it is still limited by the mobile browser. An App is not.

Final Thoughts

The biggest concern of many companies is the cost of developing a mobile application. But the question is not so much if you can afford to build an application, as it is another means of generating income, but if you can afford to lose your customers compared to the competition that is already ahead of the game.

An application is essentially an extension of your brand and a means for companies to become more involved with their customers. Customers want hyper-personal and immediate experiences. For this reason, changing user behavior over the past years is a chance to enlarge the mobile strategy of your brand, beyond a mobile-optimized site.

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