Posts Tagged ‘Business Insider’

This is what your smartphone is doing to your brain — and it isn’t good

your brain on apps 1200px_bi graphics

Dopamine versus serotonin top image Samantha Lee/Business Insider
  • Scientists aren’t sure if technology is destroying our brains, but they’re pretty confident it’s addictive and can lead to depression.
  • It’s also slowing down our thinking processes.
  • And some tasks are better done off the phone, research suggests.
  • This is an installment of Business Insider’s “Your Brain on Apps” series that investigates how addictive apps can influence behavior.

All day long, we’re inundated by interruptions and alerts from our devices. Smartphones buzz to wake us up, emails stream into our inboxes, notifications from coworkers and far away friends bubble up on our screens, and “assistants” chime in with their own soulless voices.

Such interruptions seem logical to our minds: we want technology to help with our busy lives, ensuring we don’t miss important appointments and communications.

But our bodies have a different view: These constant alerts jolt our stress hormones into action, igniting our flight or flight response; our heartbeats quicken, our breathing tightens, our sweat glands burst open, and our muscles contract. That response is intended to help us outrun danger, not answer a call or text from a colleague.

We are simply not built to live like this.

woman phone smartphoneGarry Knight/Flickr (CC)

Our apps are taking advantage of our hard-wired needs for security and social interaction and researchers are starting to see how terrible this is for us. A full 89% of college students now report feeling “phantom” phone vibrations, imagining their phone is summoning them to attention when it hasn’t actually buzzed.Another 86% of Americans say they check their email and social media accounts “constantly,” and that it’s really stressing them out.

Endocrinologist Robert Lustig tells Business Insider that notifications from our phones are training our brains to be in a nearly constant state of stress and fear by establishing a stress-fear memory pathway. And such a state means that the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brains that normally deals with some of our highest-order cognitive functioning, goes completely haywire, and basically shuts down.

“You end up doing stupid things,” Lustig says. “And those stupid things tend to get you in trouble.”

Your brain can only do one thing at a time

Scientists have known for years what people often won’t admit to themselves: humans can’t really multi-task. This is true for almost all of us: about 97.5% of the population. The other 2.5% have freakish abilities; scientists call them “super taskers,” because they can actually successfully do more than one thing at once. They can drive while talking on the phone, without compromising their ability to gab or shift gears.

How dopamine and serotonin circulate differently in the brain Samantha Lee/Business Insider

But since only about 1 in 50 people are super taskers, the rest of us mere mortals are really only focusing on just one thing at a time. That means every time we pause to answer a new notification or get an alert from a different app on our phone, we’re being interrupted, and with that interruption we pay a price: something called a “switch cost.”Sometimes the switch from one task to another costs us only a few tenths of a second, but in a day of flip-flopping between ideas, conversations, and transactions on a phone or computer, our switch costs can really add up, and make us more error-prone, too. Psychologist David Meyer who’s studied this effect estimates that shifting between tasks can use up as much as 40% of our otherwise productive brain time.

Every time we switch tasks, we’re also shooting ourselves up with a dose of the stress hormone cortisol, Lustig says. The switching puts our thoughtful, reasoning prefrontal cortex to sleep, and kicks up dopamine, our brain’s addiction chemical.

In other words, the stress that we build up by trying to do many things at once when we really can’t is making us sick, and causing us to crave even more interruptions, spiking dopamine, which perpetuates the cycle.

More phone time, lazier brain

Our brains can only process so much information at a time, about 60 bits per second.

The more tasks we have to do, the more we have to choose how we want to use our precious brain power. So its understandable that we might want to pass some of our extra workload to our phones or digital assistants.

But there is some evidence that delegating thinking tasks to our devices could not only be making our brains sicker, but lazier too.

The combination of socializing and using our smartphones could be putting a huge tax on our brains.

Researchers have found smarter, more analytical thinkers are less active on their smartphone search engines than other people. That doesn’t mean that using your phone for searching causes you to be “dumber,” it could just be that these smarties are searching less because they know more. But the link between less analytical thinking and more smartphone scrolling is there.

We also know that reading up on new information on your phone can be a terrible way to learn. Researchers have shown that people who take in complex information from a book, instead of on a screen, develop deeper comprehension, and engage in more conceptual thinking, too.

Brand new research on dozens of smartphone users in Switzerland also suggests that staring at our screens could be making both our brains and our fingers more jittery.

In research published this month, psychologists and computer scientists have found an unusual and potentially troubling connection: the more tapping, clicking and social media posting and scrolling people do, the “noisier” their brain signals become. That finding took the researchers by surprise. Usually, when we do something more often, we get better, faster and more efficient at the task.

But the researchers think there’s something different going on when we engage in social media: the combination of socializing and using our smartphones could be putting a huge tax on our brains.

Social behavior, “may require more resources at the same time,” study author Arko Ghosh said, from our brains to our fingers. And that’s scary stuff.

Driving texting smartphoneFlickr/André-Pierre du Plessis

Should being on your phone in public be taboo?

Despite these troubling findings, scientists aren’t saying that enjoying your favorite apps is automatically destructive. But we do know that certain types of usage seem especially damaging.

Checking Facebook has been proven to make young adults depressed. Researchers who’ve studied college students’ emotional well-being find a direct link: the more often people check Facebook, the more miserable they are. But the incessant, misery-inducing phone checking doesn’t just stop there. Games like Pokemon GO or apps like Twitter can be addictive, and will leave your brain craving another hit.

Teens Texting Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Addictive apps are built to give your brain rewards, a spike of pleasure when someone likes your photo or comments on your post. Like gambling, they do it on an unpredictable schedule. That’s called a “variable ratio schedule”and its something the human brain goes crazy for.This technique isn’t just used by social media, it’s all over the internet. Airline fares that drop at the click of a mouse. Overstocked sofas that are there one minute and gone the next. Facebook notifications that change based on where our friends are and what they’re talking about. We’ve gotta have it all, we’ve gotta have more, and we’ve gotta have it now. We’re scratching addictive itches all over our screens.

Lustig says that even these kinds of apps aren’t inherently evil. They only become a problem when they are given free reign to interrupt us, tugging at our brains’ desire for tempting treats, tricking our brains into always wanting more.

“I’m not anti technology per se,” he counters. “I’m anti variable-reward technology. Because that’s designed very specifically to make you keep looking.”

Lustig says he wants to change this by drawing boundaries around socially acceptable smartphone use. If we can make a smartphone addiction taboo (like smoking inside buildings, for example), people will at least have to sanction their phone time off to delegated places and times, giving their brains a break.

“My hope is that we will come to a point where you can’t pull your cell phone out in public,” Lustig says.


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New leaked images claim to show the screen of a massive ‘iPhone X Plus’

iPhone X Hollis Johnson
  • New leaked images claim to show parts from a 2018 iPhone.
  • The photos show a large notched display that would reportedly be for an “iPhone X Plus,” a massive 6.5-inch phone said to be coming later this year.
  • The parts may not be for an Apple phone however, since the original post claims they were manufactured by LG rather than Samsung.

New leaked photos claim to show the screen of an “iPhone X Plus,” a 6.5-inch iPhone said to be coming in 2018.

The photos first showed up on the MacX forums, although the post has since been taken down. MacRumors saved the images and said the original post claims the parts are from an LG facility in Vietnam, and are part of a “trial run of production equipment.”

Apple is said to be releasing three new iPhone models in 2018: an upgraded iPhone X with a 5.8-inch OLED screen, a larger model with a 6.5-inch OLED screen, and a third iPhone model with a less expensive LCD screen.

The leaked parts would seemingly be for the larger, 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus:

—MacRumors.com (@MacRumors) February 25, 2018 //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js ” data-e2e-name=”embed-container” data-media-container=”embed”>

It’s clear from the photos that the screen is larger than the iPhone X but has the roughly the same size notch at the top of the screen. According to MacRumos, the part number printed on the flex cable attached to the screen is similar to Apple’s format. Still, there’s no way to verify whether these parts are legitimate and not made for an iPhone knockoff.

Plus, if the original post is to be believed, the parts were manufactured by LG in Vietnam. While Apple did reportedly invest $2.7 billion in LG Display to build the OLED displays, Samsung was Apple’s exclusive OLED supplier for the iPhone X.

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The early stage slump

Silicon ValleyHBO

  • The seed and early stage angel investing market has cooled over the past few years.
  • On a dollar basis, the cooling off has been mild.  On a deals basis, the cooling off has been dramatic and looks to be getting worse.
  • For entrepreneurs just starting out, this means it will be tougher to raise your first rounds. For investors, it means seed rounds are going to be the place to be. 

I tweeted out this article from TechCrunch in the middle of last week:

And the response from the Twittersphere was a desire to hear my views on it.

The data is pretty clear. The seed and early stage investing market has cooled substantially in the past few years.

Angel seed activityAVC/Venture Monitor

On a dollar basis, the cooling off has been mild.

On a deals basis, the cooling off has been dramatic and looks to be getting worse.

So what is going on?

When I talk to my friends who do a lot of angel investing, I hear that they are being more selective, licking some wounds, and waiting for liquidity on their better investments.

When I talk to my friends who started seed funds in the past decade, I hear them thinking about moving up market into larger funds and Series A rounds.

You can see that in the data. Less deals and bigger deals.

Here is the thing. Seed is really hard. You lose way more than you win. You wait the longest for liquidity. You lose influence as larger investors come into the cap table and start throwing their weight around.

It is where most people start out. Making angel investments, raising small seed funds. They learn the business and many see better economics higher up in the food chain and head there as soon as they can.

If you hit one or two right, you can make a fortune in seed. But those bets take a long time to get liquid. And if you don’t hit one or two right, you end up with a mediocre portfolio.

The Facebook IPO in May 2012 was a real boon to the angel and seed markets. A lot of instant millionaires re-invested their gains back into startups (just as BTC and ETH instant millionaires are re-investing their gains into ICOs right now). Many startup people reinvented themselves as angel investors, AngelListers, seed VCs, and early stage VCs. As I quoted TechCrunch in my tweet “2012-2016 was a bubble in early-stage funding.” I think the bubble actually started letting out air in mid 2015.

You could see all of this in the pricing of seed rounds. For most of my career, seed rounds were sub $1mm and they bought 15-25% of the company ($4-6mm post money). At the peak of the seed bubble, uncapped notes of $3-5mm were the norm for seed rounds. That wasn’t going to work. It was unsustainable.

So where does that leave us now?

For entrepreneurs just starting out, it will be tougher to raise your first rounds. That is how it always has been so it is a return to normal. It is not great news, but it is the reality. If you price your seed round appropriately and have a good team and plan, you can raise money. But it will be harder.

For investors, it means seed rounds are going to be the place to be. When others leave the market, it is time to get in. The uncapped note will turn into a priced $1mm round at $4mm pre/$5mm post. This is as it should be. The risks of seed investing are so significant that the valuations need to be reasonable. When you lose on 60-80% of your investments, you really need the ability to make 10-20x on your winners. And getting the entry pricing right is part of how that happens.

You can tell where there is too much money and too little money by looking at valuations. When valuations are extended, that means there is too much money. That was seed in 2014, growth in 2015/2016, and ICOs in 2017. The trick is to get into these sectors before the money shows up and get out when it does. And then get back in after it leaves. And not get burned along the way.


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50 startups that will boom in 2018, according to VCs

50 hot startups 2018BI Graphics

2018 is almost upon us and so it is once again time to predict which startups will take the tech industry by storm next year.

Who better to ask than the startup experts, the VCs that watch the industry, guide the startups, hear their pitches, and invest in them?

We reached out to a number of top VCs and asked them which startups will boom in 2018. We invited participation from investors from a variety of backgrounds and investing philosophies. This includes some of the top VCs in the Valley (Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, Bessemer, Greylock Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia).

We included VCs of note who specialize in seed and early rounds (8VC, Bloomberg Beta, BBG Ventures — which backs startups with at least one female founder.) We also asked some top VCs from the startup nation Israel (JVC, OurCrowd) and VCs that have been known for picking hits (like IVP’s Somash Dash).

We asked them to name a company they’ve backed that’s on track to have a great 2018. After all, they believed in those companies so much they invested. But we also asked them to name another startup they think is cool that they don’t have any financial interest in.

As startup lovers, they gave us this list chock full of amazing up-and-comers creating tech for businesses, gamers, personalized health, robots, high-tech money, new forms of super computers, and even outer space.



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Here’s why I like Google’s speakers better than the Amazon Echo

google home mini The Google Home Mini in a Google-exclusive “coral red” color. Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

  • This holiday season, Google Home and Amazon Echo will be very popular gifts, with both companies releasing new products in the line.
  • Amazon Echo is great for Amazon fans, with a wide range of hardware and some nifty software.
  • But Google Home is better for most people — Google’s AI and ability to answer even weird questions makes all the difference.

This holiday season, the escalating war between Google and Amazon is coming to a store shelf near you.

Amazon will be pushing its revitalized line of Echo smart speakers, powered by the Alexa voice agent. That includes the ever-popular Echo Dot, now $40, a revamped $99 Echo, the $129 Echo Spot alarm clock, and more Alexa-powered gadgetry, besides.

In the other corner is Google, which is hyping up the $50 Google Home Mini, powered by its own Google Assistant. Also on offer: The original $129 Google Home, and, come December, the $400 block-rocking Google Home Max.

There are other options, sure. The Harman Kardon Invoke is powered by the Microsoft Cortana agent, for instance, while Apple’s Siri-powered HomePod will likely be on store shelves before Christmas.

But I’m here to make the case that it’s Google, and the Google Assistant, that reigns supreme. There are all kinds of little reasons I believe this, but there’s really one big one: Google Assistant is much smarter than Alexa, Siri, or pretty much anything else on the market today.

Here’s the skinny.

Amazon Alexa is good…

At the most basic level, Amazon Echo and Google Home can do most of the same things. You can set alarms and timers, play music, check your calendar, add items to your shopping list, get the weather, make phone calls, and control your smart-home gear.

Both products also carry some corporate synergies. With an Amazon Echo, you can shop on Amazon, control a Fire TV streaming box and listen to Amazon Prime Music; with a Google Home, you can control Chromecast streaming devices, access Google Play Music, and shop with Google partners like Target and Walmart. It’s a matter of taste.

amazon echo spot Checking your calendar with the Amazon Echo Spot Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

Amazon Alexa has been around for a little longer, and it shows in a few areas: Alexa supports a slightly wider range of smart home appliances, and sports nifty Echo-to-Echo voice and text messaging features. Plus, Amazon keeps releasing new and innovative Echo devices to showcase what Alexa can do. Google Assistant is adding new features to catch up all the time, Amazon has been relentless about improving Alexa.

Okay, so if the two devices are the same in so many ways, why do I like the Google Home better? Well, to answer that, I’m going to have to take a big step back and explain why I like the Google Assistant better than Amazon Alexa.

…but Google is smarter

Because it taps straight into Google’s base of knowledge, both global and personal, Google Assistant can answer lots of questions, even the really obscure ones. “OK Google, what day was the Battle of Hogwarts?”

Here’s a great example of how that translates into a more usable device. If you ask Amazon Alexa if your dog can eat tomatoes (or carrots, or cereal), it gives you a canned response with all sorts of things dogs shouldn’t eat. Ask Google Home if your dog can eat something, and it usually gives you a yes/no answer, with its source cited.

In general, the Amazon Echo can answer some basic questions (“When do the Yankees play next?”). But, despite Amazon’s efforts  to smarten Alexa up over the years, it tends to stumble over anything more complicated (“How do I get rid of a depleted fire extinguisher?”)

google home The $129 Google Home speaker. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

If you ask a question Alexa doesn’t know, it nudges you towards “skills” that extend its knowledge and functionality — skills for recipes, for games, and trivia, and relaxation. Not every Alexa skill is great, though, and frankly, I don’t always remember which skill I need when I’m just trying to figure out a question.

And that smarts manifests itself in other ways, too. This goes back to those corporate synergies, but it’s nice to be able to say “OK Google, display my engagement photos on the bedroom TV,” and have it grab the relevant imagery from the Google Photos service, and use the Chromecast to put them up on the correct screen.

So, yeah, it’s a matter of taste, especially as more and more smart speakers come online. But in the battle between Amazon and Google, the artificial smarts really make all the difference.


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This GIF nails how the iPhone X could be the foundation for Apple’s rumored smart glasses

In case you haven’t noticed, Apple is slowly but surely pushing augmented reality into the mainstream.

But if you’re wondering how Apple can make the jump from something like the new iPhone X to a pair of smart glasses, this GIF nails how that evolution could take place:

This GIF was a concept made by Leo Costa, which he uploaded to the 3D-sketching “uMake” app for iPad. As you can tell from the GIF, Costa uses the same TrueDepth camera system from the iPhone X — with its front-facing camera and sensors to capture 3D information — to serve as the foundation for Apple’s augmented-reality (AR) smart glasses.

Augmented reality, for those unfamiliar, lets you see virtual images in the real world. As Paul Canetti put it so well recently, AR is like “photoshopping the whole world.” So if you look at the GIF, putting the TrueDepth camera system on the front of a pair of smart glasses would make a great deal of sense, since a pair of AR glasses would need to be able to capture depth information on an ongoing basis to work properly.

For over a year now, we’ve been hearing that Apple is working on a pair of AR smart glasses. Apple laid the foundation in June with the announcement of ARKit, which effectively baked augmented reality into iOS. A few months later, it announced the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, the first iPhones with the A11 Bionic chip that’s capable of producing more detailed AR experiences. Apple even showcased several AR demos at its September event.

Apple isn’t the only tech company invested in AR. Snapchat uses AR for its popular “Lens” feature, which adds special effects to your selfies. Microsoft also makes an AR headset, the HoloLens, which is currently available to developers. And Magic Leap, based in Florida, recently raised $502 million in October to bring its rumored AR glasses to life.


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First-day preorders for the iPhone X sell out in minutes, Apple says demand is ‘off the charts’

iphone x YouTube/MKBHD

  • The iPhone X became available for preorder early Friday morning.
  • Only people who ordered in the first few minutes will get their preorder the first day it comes out, though.
  • Apple stores will also have stock next Friday, though Apple advises to get in line “early.”

Apple’s most advanced iPhone saw its shipping times slip to weeks in the minutes after it first went up for preorder on Friday morning.

The iPhone X starts at $999 and comes in two colors, with each color coming in two models with different amounts of storage.

Less than an hour after launch, models for all four US carriers on Apple’s online store were showing delivery times weeks after the device’s November 3 launch date.

In some cases, Apple’s website now says the iPhone X would be delivered in “2-3 weeks.” Other people got confirmation messages that said their iPhone X wouldn’t ship for four to five weeks.

Some people on social media reported issues with the official Apple Store app, which Apple retail officials had called the fastest way to preorder. Carriers such as AT&T also appeared to have limited inventory.

In a statement sent to media outlets, an Apple spokesperson said that demand was “off the charts.”

“We’re working hard to get this revolutionary new product into the hands of every customer who wants one, as quickly as possible,” the statement continued, mentioning that Apple stores will have stock on November 3.

iPhone X preorders Screenshot

The iPhone X will be in short supply for the rest of the year, according to reports from Apple’s factories in Asia. The reason for the shortage is that several of Apple’s components, like the 3D True Depth camera, are delicate and difficult to manufacture.

One analyst predicted that only 2 million to 3 million iPhone X units would be shipped by launch time.

The iPhone X is desired by Apple fans for several reasons:

  • It’s Apple’s highest-end iPhone.
  • It features a visually different design from older iPhones.
  • The screen covers a much larger percentage of the front than that of older iPhones.
  • The screen uses a new technology called OLED that sports blacker blacks and other benefits.
  • It has a longer battery life than the iPhone 7.
  • It has a 3D depth-sensing camera on the front of the phone called TrueDepth.
  • TrueDepth is used to unlock the phone, taking the place of the fingerprint sensor.

If you weren’t lucky enough to nab a preorder, your best bet is to line up at an Apple store or another authorized retailer on Friday. Just get there early.


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