I originally said burger but McChickens are great
Earlier in the decade, McDonalds made a dramatic shift in course when they decided to sell high-end (or, well, faux high end) coffee products with their McCafé lineup. Now today McDonalds is taking another new bold direction as the company has hired a new U.S. vice president of digital, Julia Vander Ploeg, in a new position created for a new digital direction. To supplement this new hire, McDonalds is looking to hire a brand new team to work on – wait for it – a new digital music delivery program.
McDonalds is looking for a team to work on “a variety of digital music and entertainment experiences that McDonald’s will provide to customers”, specifically with an emphasis on “establish[ing] multi-channel music and emerging entertainment programs to reward our most enthusiastic customers and drive frequency.” CNBC reached out for an official comment on the new direction and received no comment.
Of course, that’s not all – if you’re a fast food joint with a new emphasis on digital, you’re going to want to allow customers buy your product on the go from your smartphone, a la Panera Bread’s new direction. And that’s exactly what McDonalds wants, with another new job posting revealing that McDonalds is hiring a team that will focus on “removing physical boundaries to allow our customers to connect to and order McDonald’s any time or place, globally.” Or, simply put, they’re looking for people to build an online ordering app.
McDonalds has been dabbling more and more with digital promotions in recent times, with the company beta testing and then subsequently launching the new McD App which comes with monthly promotions and deals for customers.
Hey, they have a lot of competition
Pebble was one of the first out with a functional, usable, and not-too-ugly-looking modern smartwatch in 2013, but things have changed drastically since then. The smartwatch competition has heated up like perhaps nobody could have expected; Samsung, Sony, Fitbit, LG, and even Google have gotten into the game big time, and Apple is expected to launch its very real and very powerful “iWatch” smartwatch before 2014 draws its last breath. In early 2013, Pebble had little competition – today, there’s little shortage. Pebble is fully aware of its situation, and has responded with full force; the company has today announced that they have hired away Itai Vonshak and Liron Damir from LG. Vonshak and Damir are best known, of course, as the head UI designers of LG’s incarnation of webOS.
Make no mistake, this is the real thing. Pebble knows they’ve got a good thing going, and the company is in no way ready to drop the ball to the likes of Google and Apple. Today’s hiring of two of the industry’s top designers will absolutely make a mark on the company’s inevitable next-generation smartwatches. And with almost two years of experience, two talented designers, and quickly growing brand recognition, Pebble may very well have what it needs to keep up its title as the industry’s leading manufacturer of smartwatches.
How I stopped typing and started writing
When I was taking college classes, I didn’t see the point of paper. I’m what one might call in one of my Communications classes a “Digital Native” – I’ve been around technology for so long, that it’s basically my default setting for everything in life. That tendency towards technology fully affected the way that I worked in school. Wake up. Hit the snooze button. Grab my iPad, or my laptop, depending on the day’s schedule, and off to class. Most days I wouldn’t even think of grabbing a pen or notebook from my desk. A class’s worth of notes, two essays, some last-minute homework – it didn’t matter, I could do them all with my computer. I type faster than I write – my handwriting is too messy – I can multitask, and no, I won’t open Twitter, I say as I tweet.
But there’s always been a feeling there, nagging at the back of my head. A feeling that I wasn’t being as productive as I could have been. A feeling that I was more distracted, even if it’s just a little, than I should have been. A feeling that what I’m being told went into my ears and out of my fingers onto the keyboard, but the concept never really hit that learning center of my brain.
There was the impression that typing everything out, I was just going through the motions.
I’ve always had a love of pens, but I’ve never had a love of actually writing with pens. I have more pens than, to be honest, I really know what to do with. When I decided, completely on a whim, to purchase a pack of Field Notes Memo Books last month (a pack of the Shelterwood collection, by the way) I didn’t really have a problem finding a pen to start writing with. That didn’t mean I didn’t have a problem actually starting to write, however.
At first, it was tough. What do people who write actually write about? Should I pen out posts like the one I’m writing now in here before transcribing them to my computer? (I’m not.) Should I write down shopping lists, or maybe reminders, to keep track of my not-that-busy schedule? (I don’t.) It was tough. I don’t take classes anymore, so my notebooks aren’t even really good for, well, writing notes anymore.
I had almost given up, putting away my notebooks. But then, amazingly enough, once I stopped thinking about what to write, I actually began to write. And sketch. It all came naturally for me at this point; I like to consider myself a creative person, and maybe it should come as to surprise than that the things I’ve begun writing are those short, frequent but small bursts of ideas. I began to write down my brain blasts, for all you 90s-kids familiar with Jimmy Neutron out there.
So now, today, I finally see what I’ve been missing. I still type out all my blog posts, and I’m not even sure if I’d be able to actually write notes in class as frequently as I probably should. Maybe what I’m doing isn’t even writing, maybe a better way of looking at this is the concept that I’m building, but with paper.
On page one, I’ve got a list of names for ideas I’ve come up with. Page two is filled with small doodles and sketches of logos, complete with font names, font sizes, and hexadecimal color codes, for if I ever decide to open Photoshop and play with them for real. Pages three through ten or so are littered with ideas for a new web project idea I’ve had kicking around for a while. Page eleven is blank, but who knows what’ll be written there in a week’s time.
You don’t have to use paper like I do; you don’t even have to use them to write anything at all. That’s what’s so amazing about paper – you can do with it whatever you like, however you like, with whatever you like – you don’t even have to use a pen! But if you’ve ever felt like I did, with an inkling that you’ve been missing out on something as you type, may I suggest the Shelterwood collection?
Company wants to focus on Twitch
While Justin.tv hasn’t exactly been the media rockstar it used to be for quite some time now, owner Twitch – which was originally spun from Justin.tv in mid-2011 – has officially announced that, effective immediately, Justin.tv has closed its doors and the site is no longer in service. Users hoping to see Justin.tv’s homepage one last time today are being met with a newly barren homepage with a simple goodbye message reading “The Justin.tv website, mobile apps, and APIs are no longer in service. Thank you sincerely for seven years of live video memories.”, video, and FAQ.
Twitch says the site is being shutdown so the company can focus all of its resources on Twitch.com, the company’s primary video game streaming site. All Justin.tv accounts are invited to transfer their account information over to Twitch by September 5th, however Twitch’s rules still strand – all streams must be related to video gaming, thus alienating a significant portion of Justin.tv’s content.
Live video streaming has become immensely popular in recent years, with Justin.tv, Twitch, and Ustream all bringing the concept to the mainstream in a big way. While Justin.tv and Ustream have both declined in usage as of late, Twitch’s popularity has exploded. Today, Twitch is built into two out of three of the industry’s leading current generation video game consoles – the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 – and Wii U users have been practically begging Nintendo to include the feature into their console as well.
The internet’s slow, and that’s a real problem
It’s hard to imagine living at any one place for any amount of time without having direct and easy access to high speed wireless internet. The productivity lost alone would be enough to make the concept foreign to most of working America – and the lost leisure time makes the concept straight up intolerable for the rest of us.
So if high speed wireless internet is so pivotal to most of modern day America, why is it that we continue to tolerate such subpar and spotty internet service while traveling?
As I sit here, in a condominium in Maine penning this very post, I see my wi-fi symbol on my status bar struggling to get past beyond one or, tops, two bars. Pocket takes a solid minute and a half to load to a usable state, and my messages are hitting my iPhone on LTE a solid 30 seconds before hitting the Messages on my Mac. I really don’t even want to spend the time waiting for the latest issue of my favorite online comic strip (Beeserker, by the way) to load. And I love Beeserker.
What gives me some solace is the knowledge that I’m not alone. Thousands of hotels, motels, and other places of extended stay have internet service just as bad, if not significantly worse, than what I’m dealing with right now. This seems so bizarre to me. We fully expect our vacation homes to have all the basic amenities – electricity, clean running water, plumbing, etc. and so forth – yet we’re all too quick to give internet access a pass in this area, even though the reality is that today, in the twenty-first century, it impacts our lives essentially as much as many of the above.
Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider the status of the internet. Perhaps having access to at the very least a usable (and not frustratingly slow) internet connection capable of doing what the average working American needs should no longer be considered a luxury; it should be considered a basic need. Some would argue that in this scenario I should just deal with my iPhone or tether that to my notebook, but let’s be honest here – so many people today have either no interest in or no way to access high speed LTE or an equivalent on their smartphone or a personal hotspot.
Or, and just hear me out for a second – perhaps it’s time for us to readjust our expectations and needs when it comes to technology to match what today’s infrastructure is actually capable of.
But what’s the fun of that?
It turns out the internet is good for a lot
The internet has done a lot for the world – it has revolutionized the way we consume information, its revolutionized the way we express ourselves, and even revolutionized the way we communicate with one another. But this week, it’s helped bring about yet another revolution – one for the heart and soul of a regional supermarket chain.
If that sounds even a little crazy, then you absolutely won’t believe the specifics. First, the Board of Directors at Market Basket – a family operated supermarket chain located throughout the North East of the company – voted to oust beloved CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas from the company following a long running family dispute with Arthur S. DeMoulas, who control of Market Basket’s Board of Directors recently. Then, the company employees (all of which aren’t unionized, by the way) decided to take matters into their own hands. Using social media, supporters of Arthur T. DeMoulas, known also as “Artie T.”, decided to encourage like-minded fellow employees and customers alike to boycott the company, refusing to work and encouraged patrons to shop at other supermarkets until Arthur T. is reinstated as CEO.
“This is a movement to stop the avarice of Arthur S. and his board of directors who have stopped caring about the company, the associates, and the customers.” said Sean Brown, an employee at Market Basket Store #09 in Haverhill, MA regarding the protestors’ motives. Joseph Medici, another longtime Market Basket employee in Haverhill, believes that former CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas was key to the success of the once growing chain, saying that Mr. DeMoulas “kept the prices low” while “still [having] one of the largest profit margins in the grocery industry.”
The movement has been historic; supporters of the movement have flocked to various groups on Facebook to get the word out; one such group, “SAVE ARTIE T. & SAVE MARKET BASKET” has amassed 17,918 members as of this writing; another, “Save Market Basket”, a whopping 62,760 members.
Likewise on Twitter, hundreds of people have been expressing their support by tweeting with the hashtag #SaveMarketBasket, getting their message out to a total of over 85,000 Twitter users in all. Protestors are even using Instagram to get the word out, posting around a thousand images in all with similar hashtags.
On top of the now countless social media posts, protestors are also making their voices heard – and helping touch lives – using some of the web’s most popular crowdsourcing applications. A petition regarding the Market Basket on Care2 has grown to become one of the largest ones active on the site, reaching 23,824 signatures with many leaving messages of support: “I fully support all these hard working people in their pursuit of what is right and true.” GoFundMe is also being used to help support truck drivers and warehouse workers involved in the strike, who have stopped receiving pay from the company. That’s managed to raise an impressive (and growing) $3,520.
So for all of this excitement, all of this talk, and all of this effort on the behalf of the employees, how effective has the strike been thus far? Incredibly, an absolutely massive one. According to unconfirmed reports, Market Basket suffered a 90% profit loss on July 22nd, and an even greater 91% loss on July 23rd. Market Basket parking lots are virtually empty – aisles are deserted, and food is seldom longer being restocked; even the back rooms are empty, as you can see in the photo above. And how about those nearby competitor supermarkets? Well, let’s just say that bread is flying off the shelves.
What does Market Basket’s new management have to say about all this? Why, “no comment”, of course; hardly any surprise for the likes of new co-CEOs James Gooch of Radio Shack and Felicia Thornton, formerly of Albertsons, who Sean pointed out to us has a “terrible track records where they have destroyed their previous companies and lined their own pockets.” Of course, I’ll be sure to update you on how the Market Basket saga plays out once all is said and done. The Board of Directors is scheduled to have a meeting regarding the issues tomorrow, the same day that the protestors are planning their biggest demonstration yet. Stay tuned as this continues to develop.
Photographs provided for use courtesy of Katie Langlois, Johanni Manon.
Yes, we said earholes, and that's kind of funny
I’ve got a small problem with earbuds – though I love their small size and the convenience that goes along with them, they just don’t seem to fit my ears all that well. I usually throw out the pair that comes with every smartphone or MP3 player, even the EarPods that came with my iPhone 5s – because, well, they just don’t fit my earholes. I’ve taken to buying in-ear earbuds to circumvent the problem and continue my love of music listening on the go, but to be honest, in-ear earbuds aren’t perfect. Luckily for me and anyone else who shares in my earhole frustration, Nikki Kaufman of the awesome online store Quirky has come up with a potential solution – a new line of earbuds called Normal, earbuds that are specifically designed for your – yes, your – earholes.
How can that be? Through the magic of 3D printing, of course. To begin, download the new Normal app on your iPhone or Android smartphone and take a photo of your earhole next to a quarter. That way, Normals knows exactly what shape – and, thanks to the quarter, what size – your earholes are, the dimensions of which will be used to custom design and 3D print earbuds that are literally perfect fits for your earholes.
Normals will begin shipping soon, and each pair will sell for $199. While that may seem pricy for earbuds from what essentially amounts to a no-name company, Kaufman promises that these earbuds will be worth the price – not only will they be a perfect fit for your earholes, they’ll also be awesome sounding. Kaufman revealed to The Verge that the team behind Normals has worked with contractors and engineers behind some of Sonos, Harman, Skullcandy, Bose, Beats, and Shure’s earbuds, all of which are known for their high quality sound.
Sound good? Head to Normal’s website to download the app and get started. Oh, and, one last thing. Earholes.
Things aren't perfect, but they're getting better, faster
For centuries now, mankind has been using technology to benefit nearly every corner of civilization. Since the early days of applied sciences, we have been using technology to grow more crops, faster, with less waste and more product. Technology has been used to extend the human lifespan far beyond what human kind has ever seen before; modern medicine and increasingly advanced surgical procedures saves countless lives every year. Horse drawn carriages, roads, and boats stretch the possibilities of human migration and transport – trains, cars, and planes shatter any preconceived notions of limitations in their entirety. The abacus made number crunching easier – the calculator made it faster, the computer so powerful, it was nigh magic.
Read more after the break.
"Tell lawmakers how disappointed you are"
Aereo may have suspended its regularly scheduled programming, but that doesn’t mean it is giving up without a fight. Today, the online television streaming service has sent a letter to customers begging them to tell Congress to overturn a Supreme Court ruling that has stopped Aereo’s broadcasting in its tracks.
In the email, Aereo tells customers to “tell [their] lawmakers how disappointed [they] are that the nation’s highest court issued a decision that could deny you the right to use the antenna of your choice to access live over-the-air broadcast television.” Aereo, and many of Aereo’s supporters, believe the Supreme Court’s decision to be based on a faulty and archaic set of laws and failed to accurately understand what exactly Aereo is and what it does.
Congress would effectively need to revamp a significant portion of copyright law to undermine the Supreme Court’s earlier decision, a process that – even if it were to happen – would likely takes years, even if we weren’t stuck with the lame duck Congress that we are. But hey, there’s no better time to look into supporting a third party candidate for this November’s midterm elections, right?
Will make you feel bad about that Cola
In the future, your spork will tell you how fast you’re chowing down on that Chicken Alfredo, warning you when you’re overeating – a wristband will tell you just about exactly how many steps you’ve taken in a day – and your cup will be able determine when you’ve had one too many caloric almost-juice drinks. That was the dream (ok, it was a dream), but no longer. The food sensing silverware is here, and those wrist bands made their debut some time ago. It’s taken a little bit longer, but now one startup thinks they’ve finally gotten the final piece of the puzzle just right with a new smart cup (yes, I just said smart cup) called Vessyl, and it’s absolutely amazing.
Vessyl may look like any other cup, but if it does even half of what the team behind it claims its will, it’s something closer to magic than your average cup. Brought to you by the folks at Mark One, Vessyl will “automatically know and track what you’re drinking in real time.” Having a glass of water? How many glasses of water have you had today? Vessyl knows, and it’ll keep track of it for you, syncing with the associated smartphone application over Bluetooth.
What’s even more amazing than its tracking capabilities is its ability to recognize and analyze exactly what’s in the cup. Mark One promises the recognition technology is good enough to recognize that Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino you’re drinking, and tell you how much sugar, protein, caffeine, and more are in it. That could be absolutely huge for people with specific dietary needs. Sensitive to caffeine? Vessyl will let you know when you’ve gone over your daily limit.
A feature called “Pryme” lets you know when you’ve had just the right amount of your daily needs, while the associated iOS or Android application allows you to keep track of individualized goals. Better yet, it automatically works with various existing fitness trackers already on the market.
If that didn’t wow you, well, I’m honestly not quite sure if anything will. Vessyl is slated to go on sale in “early 2015” for a regular price of $199, though if you pre-order now you can pick it up for $99. If Mark One can deliver on Vessyl’s lofty promises, the future was once written only in fiction, but now that it’s here. And I couldn’t be any more excited.
Can they beat them all?
I’ve tweeted about this a couple of times in my personal Twitter account, but this deserves all the attention it can get – a group of gamers has taken to their beloved Wii U to play, and beat, (almost) every single console Mario game in the “main” series in an attempt to raise money for Child’s Play charity, which donates games and toys for children in hospitals around the world. This massive effort is called Mario Marathon, which has just begun their seventh year.
I’ve personally been watching since year three and I have to tell you, this initiative just gets better and more entertaining every year. As of writing this post, they’ve raised an amazing over $26,300 and it’s only just begun! Make sure you check them out, donate, share their link, whatever you can do. Remember: it’s for the children.
Check out Mario Marathon here!
Amazon thinks they can do it better
Amazon has certainly made a big name for itself in the handheld computing realm with the likes of the Kindle and the Kindle Fire tablet, but things just got a whole lot serious for the marketplace. Amazon has just announced what they’re calling the Fire Phone; a 4.7-inch smartphone with a whole lot of cameras – including an impressive 13-megapixel shooter on the backside with optical image stabilization.
The Fire Phone comes packed with a 2.2 GHz Quad-Core processor, 2GB of RAM, and Amazon’s Fire OS platform that they’ve built and honed over the last couple of years for both their Kindle Fire line of devices as well as the recently released Fire TV. It plays nice with all of Amazon’s partners, of course, meaning the likes of IMDB support in X-Ray, Spotify, Pandora, so on and so forth – the usual suspects. There’s also a new feature called Firefly, and get this – it allows the Fire Phone to detect labels, bar codes, QR codes – practically whatever – of products and bring you to the appropriate Amazon Marketplace page where you can buy or rent that product. You can literally point your camera at a jar of Nutella and have the Nutella storefront page appear on your phone in an instant – which will lead to even higher sales for the online marketplace, I’m sure. It’ll even work from a distance – see a passing billboard? Click the Firefly button, point your phone in that direction, and get out your debit card.
What’s beat for developers is the possibilities Firefly creates. Amazon has created a new API developers can tap into to enable Firefly technology. Anybody will be able to use the camera recognition functionality to create enhanced camera enabled applications – one example Amazon gave being MyFitness Pal, who required only a day to get Firefly working on their existing application to enable better, faster, more powerful product recognition. Point your camera at a Cheetos bag and boom, it’ll he added to your calorie counter. Quite a bit easier than fumbling for that barcode.
Mayday is here as well, first seen in the company’s latest lineup of Kindle HDX devices. Surely at this point you’ve seen the commercials. Have a question or need help figuring out how to do something? Click the Mayday button and you’ll be connected to a live, anonymous video chat with an Amazon Customer Service agent. As per the usual, you’ll be able to see them, but they’ll only be able to hear you – enabling Mayday usage on some prime toilet opportunities.
As for all those other, front facing cameras, Amazon likes to say that those enable something called Dynamic Perspective. Think iOS 7’s Parallax home screen and you’ll be on the right track – the cameras track your eye movement and figure out where you’re looking to created an faux 3D effect and give the impression of depth. It’s a neat trick, but still a trick – the Fire Phone doesn’t actually have a 3D screen after all. The cameras are also used to allow scrolling without ever touching the screen, similar to the eye tracking technology found on Samsung’s more recent phones.
As for the operating system itself, there’s pretty much everything you’d expect here. We’ve got the Fire OS launcher with widget support, which has become the norm on most recent devices (including the iPhone, starting with iOS 8), Amazon’s usual suite of applications, high end “console like” gaming (which was a point of focus on the HDX). The extra camera sensors should help create some pretty innovative gaming as well, I can imagine.
The Fire Phone will be available soon on contract for $199, which gets you 32GB of storage, or $299 for 64GB. Unfortunately for most of us, the Fire Phone is slated to be an ATT exclusive, though given the state of the market I’d be shocked if it stated that way in the long run – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that they’ve “always done an amazing job” for Amazon.
(Photo credit goes to Engadget.)