Her GadgetMatch

Fribo smart speaker wants you to connect with your friends

Less lonely people in the world…

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The age of social media and technology can be lonely and isolating. One device tries to solve this problem by encouraging people to meet to interact with friends.

Meet Fribo.

This tiny robot speaker is solely designed to foster connections between people. The cute device is hooked up to a group of houses and between these houses, Fribo detects movement or activity and encourages interactions. Equipped with an LCD screen that shows this robo-critter’s curious eyes, Fribo listens in on what each person is doing. For example, when Friend 1 walks into his apartment, Fribo prompts Friend 2 and Friend 3 with a casual, “Oho, your friend opened the front door. Did someone just come home?” Knocking twice near Fribo will prompt it to send a message directly to Friend 1 asking what he’s up to.

Of course, Fribo never reports which friend is doing which directly, as that can be a little too intrusive. Instead, it gives general statements on your friend’s activities and then gives you the choice to respond, or just message them yourself.

Fribo can detect activities that range from opening the fridge, doing the laundry, opening a closet — even going as far as checking which friends have been home and which friends stay out late. It literally prompts you to check up on your friends with random suggestions based on what they’ve listened in on. Basically, it learns your activities and creates possible conversations based on that.

With this unique robot, researchers hope to create a “virtual living space” that fosters conversation and interconnection — a possible solution to millions of lonely millennials living alone. If you’re worried about privacy, researchers assure us that though this robot operates by listening in on your “living noise,” voice recognition on this thing is minimal and it doesn’t record sounds.

At a time when technology has seemingly divided and segregated people, this robot attempts to foster human interconnectedness and relationships. And, it does so without any big gimmicks; just sheer making conversation between friends.

I’m personally curious as to how this will all pan out. Studies conducted in South Korea have been highly successful with researchers noting that Fribo brought about “a commonality with the state of living together… in the presence of a robot middleman.

I mean, if we’re willing to open our homes to virtual assistants like Google Home and Alexa, why can’t we do the same to a cute robot that fosters friendship?

Apps

What I learned about myself using Android Pie’s Digital Wellbeing Dashboard

Am I on my phone too much?

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When Android Pie was unveiled and released last week, I pretty much craved pie because everyone was talking about the delectable dessert. But, I was also very excited about one particular feature: The Digital Wellbeing Dashboard.

Image of me actually eating pie the day after the Android Pie unveiling

Announced earlier, this dashboard was supposed to be a ticket to a healthier lifestyle — well, at least in theory. In an effort to curb unhealthy phone user habits, a dashboard that tracks app usage is built in to Android’s newest operating system. Although not available to everyone as of writing, Pixel users (like yours truly) are able to try out the beta version of the dash. Since I’m a sucker for self-actualization and information that may potentially heal (and hurt) me, I tried it out for the last week or so and here’s what I learned.

I’m on my phone — a lot

No sh*t, Sherlock.

I know I’m always looking at these tiny screens but I didn’t realize I was literally living my life in front of it. A record day saw me looking at the screen for — get this — 11 hours and 55 minutes. That’s half a day! Legitimately, that’s the whole time I’m not sleeping. And take note, I review phones so this isn’t the only screen I look at in a day.

Given these numbers, I’m honestly unsure how I get anything else done in my life.

I get a ton of notifications

I mean sure, technology connects people, but I didn’t realize just how connected we are.

According to my data, I get around a minimum of 250 notifications per day and this number varies. At some point, there was a whopping 620 notifications. Let’s think about that for a minute; that means around 51 messages per hour in a 12-hour day. There are only 60 minutes per hour so that means almost a message for each freaking minute.

On average, Facebook Messenger tops the list for these notifications followed by Gmail and Telegram.

I check Instagram more than I should

Now, this is funny because as you just saw, Instagram isn’t on that list of top app notifiers. But, this might also be because I turned off IG notifications because they were distracting me (yay for being self-aware?). This health dashboard tells me that I unlocked my Instagram app most, with as many as 153 times in one day. This was, on average, followed by Facebook and Twitter.

The top three apps I spent time on are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, which just tells me that I’m ‘gram crazy and I’m on social media too much (which isn’t really news to anyone).

Grayscale is annoying and I hate it

Part of the dashboard is a feature aimed at curbing being on your phone before bed (which I do a lot 🙄). Wind Down allows you to set such times and then gives you an option to turn on Do Not Disturb and a Grayscale that makes browsing less desirable for people who should be sleeping and not looking at their phones.

The mess of an app IG becomes on grayscale

Reading tweets on grayscale is weird and browsing through Instagram is just plain wrong. I guess, in that way, this function is effective in getting me to stop being on my phone — until I turned it off the next day and never turned it on again.

I refuse to turn on the app timer as I justify social media use as work

Say what you want because it’s true. 😅

See, there’s a timer option on the dash that allows you to limit app usage time. Thing is, I’ve never turned it on. Why? Because I work on the internet and turning it on may amount to catastrophic consequences.

I will keep using this to justify my action of disallowing app time limits, so what’s your excuse?

It must be noted that, as mentioned earlier, I use more than one phone on a daily basis and am on social media on my laptop a lot, too. That being said, it’s worth pointing out that this still isn’t a complete picture of my daily phone and internet habits. Even though this data only shows a fraction of the grand picture, it already says a lot.

As with everything in life, the choice is in your hands (er, on your phone). Though I am ultimately left to decide what to do about my phone habits, knowing is always the first step.

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Her GadgetMatch

Alphapot is a biodegradable self-watering planter

Saving the world one pot at a time

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Do you garden? Do you care for the environment?

If you do, you’re going to love this. This is the Alphapot planter.

It’s a great indoor planter that can house indoor plants or even your herbs.

At first glance, the curious-looking thing doesn’t seem like it’s anything special.

But, consider this: The planter is made completely from repurposed food waste. That means that every pot you use makes the world a greener place.

What’s cool is that they’re also self-watering. There’s a tiny area where you can put water and a wick delivers the moisture to the plant.

Aside from being completely sustainable, these pots are also modular.

Meaning you can connect them together — the more the merrier!

They’re also completely biodegradable so if you want to transfer your plant to the garden, it’s so much easier. In six to twelve months, the pot will break down into soil. In fact, that grooved design at the bottom of the pot is there to help it break down.

These amazing pots will ship this December. Let’s get gardening!

Check them out on Kickstarter here.

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Apps

US FDA approves first contraceptive app

Can an app stop you from getting pregnant?

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I now truly believe that there’s an app for everything. 😱

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the very first app to be marketed as a method of contraception. Yes, ladies, you read that right. Not a period tracker, but an actual birth contraception method.

Natural Cycles is a phone application from a European startup. For EUR 65 per year, it works by using the fertility awareness method via basal body temperatures and menstrual cycle information to tell whether a woman is fertile or not. It then advises which days you should “abstain” or “use protection.”

According to the US FDA, “consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly.” They report that clinical studies have shown that the app has a “perfect use” failure rate of 1.8 percent (meaning 1.8 in 100 ladies get pregnant in spite of using the app correctly) and a “typical use” failure rate of 6.5 percent (which accounts for wrong app usage, etc).


To put in context, the US CDC pegs the typical use failure rate of birth control pills at nine percent and condoms at 18 percent. Interesting enough, this same information gives fertility awareness-based methods, the same method being used by Natural Cycles according to the FDA statement (though, in this case, unassisted by apps or algorithms), a typical use failure rate of 24 percent.

The FDA warns that “no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”

The contraceptive app is not one without their share of controversies. Early last year, they were certified as the very first contraceptive app by the Europen Union. It has since been reported, however, that out of the 668 women who sought abortions from September to December 2017 at one of Stockholm’s biggest hospitals, 37 were relying on Natural Cycles as a contraceptive method.

Natural Cycles claims that they are “responding to each reported case,” and that “as [their] user base increases, so will the number of unplanned pregnancies coming from Natural Cycles users. This is an arithmetic truth applicable to all contraceptive methods.”

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