Walmart will Train Workers with Oculus Go



As someone who has spent several years working in retail environments, I know how boring and tedious training can be. Nobody wants to sit through videos, with awkward actors, who resolve customer service situations in ways that would never work in real life. Walmart might have found a way to make training less terrible for employees.

Walmart is providing Oculus Go virtual reality headsets to all of its stores in the United States. The headsets are part of a VR-based employee training program. Employees will use the headsets to access 45 activity-based modules created by STRIVR.

Walmart will send four headsets to every Walmart supercenter and two to every Neighborhood Market and discount store. More than 17,000 Oculus Go headsets will be in stores by the end of 2018.

The information on Walmart’s website states that every associate – including those on the floor who interact with customers the most – will have access to the same training that their managers and department managers do at the Academies.

One good thing about using a VR-based training is that employees can make mistakes in a virtual environment. I think that would be much less intimidating than having to make mistakes on the sales floor, with irate customers, while all of your coworkers watch you struggle.

Training videos make employees passively absorb information in a way that doesn’t match what happens on the sales floor. The Oculus Go VR activities are interactive, and can be done over and over again. That’s a much more interesting way to learn new skills and to perfect them.


Chrome 69 has a Forced Login Policy



There is something disturbing you should know about Chrome 69 before you update it. S. Bálint pointed out that starting with Chrome 69, logging into a Google Site is tied to logging into Chrome. Matthew Green describes the change as a “forced login policy”, which sounds pretty accurate to me.

The easiest to understand explanation I found about this change comes from S. Bálint’ blog post:

So what changed with Chrome 69? From that version, any time someone using Chrome logs into a Google service or site, they are also logged into Chrome-as-a-broswer with that user account. Any time someone logs out of a Google service, they are also logged out of the browser. Before Chrome 69, Chrome users could decline to be logged into Chrome entirely, skipping the Sync and other features that require a login and they could use Chrome in a logged-out state while still making use of Gmail for example.

I use a Mac, but was using Chrome for a few websites that didn’t work very well on Safari. I noticed that the photo I use on my Gmail account was appearing in the corner of the Chrome browser. I have since deleted Chrome from my computer and the Gmail app from my phone.

Personally, I’m not entirely clear on what, exactly, Chrome 69 wants to Sync from my Gmail account and the Chrome browser. It feels kind of grabby. The impression I got from the blogs I read (and linked above) is that even if Google says that it’s not automatically activating the Sync feature, that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t do that in the future.

Google started out with a code of conduct that started with the sentence: “Don’t be evil.” The changes coming to Chrome 69 might not technically be “evil”… but they certainly aren’t nice.


Amazon Made it Rain Alexa



Amazon made it Rain Alexa! They announced so many different offerings of the devices that if it was not evident before it’s now. Amazon is playing for keeps and they will flood the market with every conceivable Amazon Alexa device. No one knew and maybe I am still not convinced that I need an Amazon-powered wall clock.

The folks at Geek Wire have done one of the best comprehensive reviews of the new product lineup. But there are some direct shots at Apple and Google in this product line up. The Echo Plus and the Echo Sub, in my opinion, is targeting the Apple Home and then you have the whole refresh of the existing lineup of products plus over 70 new enhancements to Alexa.

So if you already have a few Amazon devices you’re going to be at a point soon where you are in lock-in. So the strategy that Amazon is employing is smart.  I say let is rain Alexa


Are Google’s American Values In Question?



Are Google’s American Values in Question? Likely most will never care. I do and so do a growing number of employees at Google. Call me old-fashioned I bleed Red, White & Blue and I get very irritated anytime I hear that companies that want or do business in Communist China are willing to let China walk over them when it comes to human rights.

Americans already put up with a great deal of privacy invasion but in China people live in fear of the government. Yet the US Government does not have open license to just spy on American citizens unless they are under investigation and a court has allowed specific surveillance. Granted in recent years the government has more power than they used to.

But in China, the government thrives on spying on their people. So now Google is now under greater criticism over the search engine they are building. The intercept is reporting that a Google engineer has disclosed that search engine being built codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data.

Well, that partner is obviously the government. The disclosure by the engineer in the form of a memo has leaked all over the place and Google is pissed. They are sending C&D emails with tracking codes to their own employees demanding that the delete the memo. But here we now have Google spying on their own people through tracking pixels.

Google got caught red-handed doing something here that brings Google’s American values in question. They have egg on their face and it’s a PR hot potato considering the current political environment. Google needs to understand here that they are on notice that most of the world does not condone actions that will result in Chinese citizens being arrested, locked up and sent off for re-education at some labor camp.

Google should come clean and say exactly what they are doing, how Chinese citizens will be spied upon, and provide full disclosure so that those that will be affected the most will decide on their own if they will use it. But my guess based on their reaction that it will be a cold day before they do that.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash


Anglepoise Goes Small with the 90 Mini Mini



Anglepoise lamps are classic, timeless designs, with a pedigree going back to the 1930’s. As any company with history, Anglepoise improves and updates the lamps, remaining faithful to its heritage. Last year, Anglepoise brought out a giant version of the Type 75, standing over 2 m tall.

This year, Anglepoise have gone the other way with a small edition of the Model 90, which was originally produced in the 1970’s. The 90 Mini Mini is less than 50 cm high, making it the perfect desktop companion. Even better, the 90 Mini Mini is USB-powered with an integrated dimmable LED that’s rated for 20,000 hours.

Anglepoise already have small versions of other lamps, including the Type 75 Mini and Original 1227 Mini.

The 90 Mini Mini is available in three colours: Steel Blue & Grey, Warm Silver & Blush and Carbon Black & Black. It’s priced at GB£95 and is available from the Anglepoise website.

Seems that they’re all sold out except for the Steel Blue & Grey one. Must be popular. I still want a Type 1228….


70 New Amazon Alexa Announcements #1314



Today Amazon announced over 70 new Alexa related announcements with a whole stack of new devices and refreshes. You can tell that Amazon Alexa and the entire team there is serious about making these platform stick. The sheer number of devices gives Amazon an amazing head start.

Today’s show is unique I introduced a brand new live show deployment system that had the podcast being simulcast on 6 different locations including Twitter. Next show we will add one more live deployment space and that will be Mixer. So pretty exciting I learned a few things tonight in doing the live show as I need to be patient in letting the show complete before I pull the plug due to the delay across all platforms. I have some new support initiatives that I explain during the show Amazon Business, Amazon Offers and my health supplement recommendation page which will continue to expand and I will do some videos on how I use my supplements and in what order.

Thank you for your subscribing to the podcast over there >>>>>>>>>>>>>

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Amazon Fire TV Recast



Newfire TV REcastAmazon Fire TV Recast is the long-rumored product that is a Cord Cutters dream come true. This is a unique offering where you deploy the DVR anyplace in your home attach an Antenna to it and then it will record over the air content for playback at a later date.

Amazon says dependent on the Recast model you buy it “can record two to four shows at once, and stream on any two devices at a time.” It then can stream both live and recorded video to almost any Amazon device whether it be a Fire TV, Fir Tablet, Mobile Device, Echo Show etc.

The Amazon Fire TV Recast will have a programming guide that you will access through the connecting devices. This is another nail in the coffin for connected TV. You can tell the cable companies are getting nervous as they offered me digital TV when I recently cut the cord which I declined.

It will be available later this fall in two versions: the two-tuner 500GB model for $230, and the four-tuner version with 1TB of storage for $280. It’s available for preorder now, and ships Nov. 14.

This device from Amazon was one of 13 launched today as part of a bigger play to Amazon Smart devices everywhere.


Facebook Dating has Launched in Columbia



Facebook has launched Facebook Dating in Colombia. One can assume that it will roll out to other countries eventually if the test goes well.

In my opinion, Facebook Dating is an attempt by Facebook to attract younger users. In February of 2018, The Guardian reported that teens and young adults were leaving Facebook (in favor of Snapchat and other forms of social media). At the same time, Facebook’s popularity surged among people who were over the age of 55.

I also think that the addition of Facebook Dating is a way for Facebook to entice current users to stay in Facebook’s “walled garden”. Assuming the test of Facebook Dating is successful, Facebook users won’t necessarily have to leave Facebook in order to make use of a dating app made by some other company.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook Dating will be opt-in. Users who are 18 or older will get a notice at the top of their News Feed that invites them to try Facebook Dating (when it comes to their country). Right now, Facebook Dating is mobile-only and is bundled into Facebook’s main iOS and Android apps.

Users who choose to opt-in can verify their city using their phone’s location services. They can decide if they want to add information like a bio, workplace, education, religion, height, and if they have children. According to TechCrunch, Facebook Dating offers non-binary genders and sexual orientations.

I guess it comes down to how much additional information someone wants to give to Facebook. It’s obvious that Facebook is going to use that data in some way. How certain are you that Facebook will be able to keep the personal messages you send through Facebook Dating private and secure?

Image from Pixabay


Equifax Hit With £500,000 Fine



The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has hit credit reference agency Equifax with a GB£500,000 fine for the 2017 data breach.  Equivalent to US$660,000, the fine is the largest ever imposed by the ICO and is the maximum permitted under the legislation in force at the time. Under the newer GDPR laws, the fine could’ve been as high as $20 million.

The Equifax data breach involved the records of 146 million people, with nearly 15 mlllion being UK nationals. The ICO was scathing in its comments about Equifax, saying, “The ICO found that measures that should have been in place to manage the personal information were inadequate and ineffective. Investigators found significant problems with data retention, IT system patching, and audit procedures. Our investigation also found that the US Department of Homeland Security had warned Equifax Inc about a critical vulnerability as far back as March 2017. Sufficient steps to address the vulnerability were not taken meaning a consumer facing portal was not appropriately patched.”

During the cyber attack last year, a range of personal information was taking including, names, dates of birth, addresses, passwords, driving licences and financial data.

The Information Commissioner herself, Elizabeth Denham, went on to say, “The loss of personal information, particularly where there is the potential for financial fraud, is not only upsetting to customers, it undermines consumer trust in digital commerce. This is compounded when the company is a global firm whose business relies on personal data.”

Equifax’s approach to data protection and the care of our personal data was negligent, and frankly, I don’t think they deserve to be in business. The full judgement is here pdf.

Money photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.


Amazon Considers Opening Cashierless Stores



Would you like to shop in a store where there aren’t any cashiers? You might have the opportunity to do so in the next few years. Bloomberg reports that Amazon is considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 new AmazonGo cahsierless stores in the next few years.

The Bloomberg article says this information is “according to people familiar with the matter”. To me, the news of Amazon considering adding up to 3,000 new AmazonGo stores seems plausible. There currently are three AmazonGo stores in Seattle, Washington, and one in Chicago, Illinois.

In order to shop at an AmazonGo store, you need to have a smartphone and the free AmazonGo app. Shoppers use the the app to enter the store. Once inside, the person can pick up items off the shelf the same way they would usually shop. Sensors and computer-vision technology detect what shoppers take, and then automatically bills them.

For some, this may be a big convenience. But, this convenience comes at the expense of others. Older people, who don’t use smartphones, can’t shop at an AmazonGo store. Neither can low-income people who can’t afford a smartphone or who struggle to pay for a data plan.

That might not be a big issue while there are only four AmazonGo stores. It’s going to turn into a huge problem if and when the number of AmazonGo stores grows to 3,000. The Bloomberg article indicates that Amazon wants to compete with convenience stores and places where people can get lunch or dinner quickly.

In other words, AmazonGo could, potentially, push out stores like 7-Eleven, and some fast food places. It reminds me of the Bodega that was designed to only be accessible to people who had smartphones.

In my opinion, it is immoral to replace stores where low-income people can shop with stores that designed to exclude them. It is also troubling that the AmazonGo stores, which have no cashiers, won’t be able to offer jobs to local people.