What’s new in tech
New safety features for Uber
“Uber has overhauled its app in an ambitious bid to become ‘the operating system for your everyday life,’” said Andrew Hawkins in TheVerge.com. The company combined its ride-hailing and food-delivery apps and added new safety features, “introducing a new four-digit PIN verification system to make sure riders don’t get into the wrong vehicle. If you opt in, you’ll need to say the PIN out loud to your driver before he or she can start the ride.” The app will also let you text 911 in case of an emergency and will “automatically include the make, model, license plate number, and location of the vehicle in the text.”
Finding calm in the app store
Apps designed to calm your anxiety are flooding the market, said Sigal Samuel in Vox.com, and “market researchers are forecasting that growing numbers of people will increasingly turn to apps instead of pills.” Initially I rolled my eyes at these apps, which all seem to offer a “relentless spirit of playful positivity.” But I tried one of the most popular ones, SuperBetter, and found it really fun. It “presents a curated series of ‘quests’ and ‘power-ups,’ such as deep breathing or exercise.” As you play, you also vanquish “bad guys”—“like black-and-white thinking or catastrophizing”—and collect rewards points. “It feels just like a video game—so much so that I didn’t notice the smorgasbord of exercises was mined from clinically proven treatment approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy.” I kept going back to it when I wanted to de-stress.
Amazon goes all-in on Alexa
Amazon is getting into wearables, said Sebastian Herrera in The Wall Street Journal. The e-commerce giant unveiled a new suite of products to bring its Alexa virtual assistant “further into people’s lives.” There are new earbuds, Echo Buds, representing Amazon’s answer to the Apple Airpods—and at $129, they are $30 cheaper. “Amazon also introduced Echo Frames, eyeglasses that the company said will feature microphones and speakers to communicate with Alexa”—though, unlike Google Glass, they will not include cameras. Humans aren’t the only ones getting outfitted with Amazon tech: The Ring Fetch “will connect to a dog’s collar in order for customers to track their pet.” In addition to the wearables, the company unveiled a high-end smart speaker to compete with Apple and Sonos, and a “multifunction oven that can double as a microwave and air fryer.”