AT&T and Verizon team up to build hundreds of new cell towers

Posted by Carl on 13th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Tillman is a relative newcomer to the cell tower space. Its parent company, Tillman Global, was founded in 2013, while tower big shots like American Tower, Crown Castle and SBA Communications have been around since the 80s and 90s. “We need more alternatives to the traditional tower leasing model with the large incumbents. It’s not cost-effective or sustainable,” said Susan Johnson, ATT’s senior vice president of global supply chain. “We’re creating a diverse community of suppliers and tower companies who will help increase market competition while reducing our overhead.”

While it makes sense from a business standpoint to share cell towers, it will also benefit consumers as the new towers will help fill in areas that are currently lacking wireless coverage. Verizon recently came under fire for cutting off service to thousands of rural customers, many of whom didn’t have access to other wireless providers.

Construction on the first round of towers will begin in early 2018.

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2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 12th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Being far away from America, Dubai may seem like a strange place for Chevrolet to launch its 2019 Corvette ZR1. But using a city whose mantra is “impossible is just an opinion” as a launchpad for the most powerful Corvette ever actually feels completely natural once you’re here on the ground. 

GM may have chosen to reveal the ZR1 at a studio sound stage on Sunday, but its real coming out party will be at the Dubai Motor Show on Tuesday, where it will sit shoulder-to-shoulder with six- and seven-figure luxury sedans, SUVs and hypercars.

Based on the seventh-generation Corvette, this is only the fourth-generation ZR1, and it features a number of key innovations that help make it the most powerful production Corvette ever. General Motors isn’t releasing all of its performance stats just yet, but we do know some tasty tidbits. Namely: 755 horsepower and 715 pound feet of torque in a package that weights 3,650 pounds. 

Chevy officials promise that the ZR1 will do better than 210 miles per hour, and with 105 more horses and 65 pound-feet more torque, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that it will be quicker to 60 mph than 2.95 seconds, GM’s official time for the Corvette Z06. (For added perspective, 715 is roughly two-thirds more horsepower than the 455 in the base Stingray).

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Enlarge Image

The Sebring Orange Design Package displayed at the ZR1’s Dubai reveal is not for shrinking violets.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

Of course, the ZR1 isn’t just a case of cranking up the boost on the Z06’s 6.2-liter V8. On the contrary, the powertrain has been comprehensively reworked from its air and fuel delivery systems on through its exhaust, with the goal of creating more power up and down the rev range. Despite being “conservatively spec’d,” Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter says, “after you drive this car for a while, a Z06 feels really sluggish, like it can barely get out of its own way.” He only sounds like he’s half joking when he says that to us assembled journos.

Not only have significant upgrades in breathing capacity necessitated major changes to the ZR1’s front end, aero changes have been carried throughout the bodywork, all the way to the rear end. You’ll hear a lot of that word in this story: “necessitated.” As it turns out, when building an envelope-pushing supercar, solving one problem often creates another technical challenge to be surmounted. 

As you can see from these images, the ZR1’s resulting bodywork is incredibly aggressive, from a completely unique front clip featuring markedly bigger air inlets and front splitter (that incorporates a Corvette-first underwing) to a massive, high-set rear airfoil that’s part of an option package.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Enlarge Image

The 2019 ZR1 has the most radical aero of any production Corvette ever.


One of the biggest challenges for the ZR1 was working out improved cooling for the 2.65-liter Eaton supercharger that’s 52-percent bigger than the Z06. That in turn necessitated sourcing a 95-millimeter throttle body — GM simply couldn’t find one big enough anywhere that could produce a large enough throttle opening to keep from choking the engine, so it had to design its own. 

Case in point: Chevrolet learned the hard way with this car’s Z06 forebearer that too much cooling is just enough. Embarrassingly, the company suffered a small but statistically significant number of heatsoak/overheating-related issues reported by Z06 owners at racetracks, a development that forced the company to make some changes for the 2017 model year.

That shouldn’t be a problem with this new ZR1. It boasts no fewer than 13 heat exchangers, including a pair of additional radiators on each side of the nose. That key addition along with the bigger supercharger changed the weight distribution on the car, so Chevy compensated by widening the front wheels by half an inch for better grip. That, along with the need for more fresh air and a higher hood to clear the supercharger necessitated that the ZR1 would get all-new front bodywork — no Z06 bits would fit. 

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Enlarge Image

The ZR1 features a shaker hood with bookmatched carbon fiber.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

If you scroll through the gallery of photos accompanying this story, you may take notice of the hood, what with its bare carbon midsection. It may look like one piece, but it’s not — that’s the top of the intercooler cover poking through. That’s right, the ZR1 has a shaker hood. It couldn’t have been easy to engineer this solution and still effectively manage any air and drainage concerns. You can practically hear the mix of pride and weariness in Juechter’s voice when he speaks of the difficulty in bookmatching the carbon-fiber weave between the hood itself and the intercooler cover.

Better breathing is only half the solution, of course: to get more power, you need more fuel, and that necessitated the development of a new duel fuel injection system, a first for Corvette. Like the Stingray and Z06, the LS9 in the ZR1 relies on direct injection, but it has a supplemental port injection, too.

Transmission-wise, Chevy’s 7-speed rev-matching manual will come standard, but GM has chosen to make an 8-speed automatic optional for the first time on a ZR1 — the new 10-speed from the 2018 Camaro doesn’t fit. The paddle-shift 7-speed gearbox has received numerous upgrades to improve shift times, and Juechter says those upgrades will filter back down through the rest of the Corvette lineup.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 live reveal in Dubai

Let’s go back to the aerodynamics for a moment, because if you’re like me, you can’t stop staring at that wing. It’s actually part of an option ZTK Performance Package, which incorporates a unique front splitter with tall carbon-fiber end caps, as well as specific chassis and Magnetic Ride Control calibrations and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 summer rubber.

The wing itself was codeveloped with Corvette motorsports partners Pratt Miller, and its angle of attack is manually adjustable up to five degrees. Those tall stanchions bolt directly to the chassis for maximum effect, and the wing itself can deliver upwards of 950 pounds of downforce at speed, yet it actually creates less drag than the “wicker bill” fencing on the Z06’s wing. The uprights are actually so tall that Juechter says the rear wing clears the rear window so that you can still see out back, and cargo room avoids taking the hit that an active wing’s mechanism might necessitate.

The Corvette Z06 sounds plenty snarly, but the new ZR1 promises to go a step further. It still has the former’s active clapper valves to sound more socially acceptable around town, but new internal passive valves help build sound more progressively, so it’s not an all-or-nothing auditory experience. “It’s brutal when you’re in track mode and you’re revving on it,” Juechter says. 

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Enlarge Image

For the first time ever, ZR1 is available with an optional automatic transmission.


According to Tom Peters, director of exterior design for GM, customers have been clamoring for a new orange paint option, so for those buyers, Chevy has developed the decidedly unsubtle Sebring Orange Design Package shown here. It includes Sebring Orange Tintcoat paint, as well as matching brake calipers and accents on the rockers and splitter. Inside, orange seatbelts play off carrot-colored stitching, and there’s unusual bronze-finish aluminum interior trim accents, as well.

Most of the Corvette range’s other options, including competition sport seats, Bose premium audio and Chevy’s trick Performance Data Recorder are also available. After years of downmarket interiors fitted with uncomfortable seats and cheap plastics, the C7 generation took huge strides to make living with a Corvette on a daily basis not just easier, but more enjoyable.

2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1Enlarge Image

A revised active exhaust insures they will hear you coming… and going.

Chris Paukert/Roadshow

No word yet on price, but it won’t be cheap — the C6 ZR1 was about $110,000, and this one should be priced appropriately for a model that will likely only see two or three thousand examples built per year.

Despite repeated pestering, company officials still won’t talk about the much-rumored mid-engined Corvette that’s still in the pipeline. But the 2019 ZR1 that hits dealers in spring not only looks good enough to be more than just a placeholder until that car arrives, it looks like formidable competition for both track day and valet stand honors — even here in Dubai.

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iHome iAVS16 Alarm Clock with Amazon Alexa review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 11th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Let me start by being very clear about something: $150 is way, way too much to spend on an alarm clock.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you all about iHome’s new $150 alarm clock. It’s called the iAVS16, and iHome will point out that it’s not just an alarm clock, but a full-fledged Alexa device with Amazon’s voice-activated virtual assistant built right in. Save for calling, messaging, and ESP, which makes it so only the Alexa device closest to you responds to your command, it can do everything the Amazon Echo can do. It’s Alexa’s brain transplanted into an alarm clock body.

If that pitch sounds a bit familiar, it’s because Amazon has an Alexa alarm clock of its own in the works. That soon-to-be-released gadget, the $130 Echo Spot, costs a little less than the iAVS16, and unlike the iAVS16, it includes a touchscreen and a camera. That might sound like bad news for iHome, but I’d actually argue the opposite — plenty of folks who’d be interested in an Alexa alarm clock will likely prefer that it not keep a camera pointed at them while they sleep, thank you very much.

On top of that, the iAVS16 offers decent, full-size sound quality that, to my ear, sounds almost as good as the Echo, and certainly good enough for bedside listening. It’ll even wake you up by playing a Spotify playlist — something the Echo still can’t do. If it looked a little nicer, I might even call it a legitimate temptation. But at $150, it’s just too pricey to recommend.

Design and features


You can use those LEDs at the bottom of the clock as wake-up lights, or set them to change colors in rhythm with whatever music you’re listening to.

Ry Crist/CNET

The iAVS16’s build is a bit bulky as far as alarm clocks go, especially considering that it doesn’t include a dock for your phone. The size was necessary, I suppose, to give it full-sounding audio, but I would have gladly traded some of that fidelity in exchange for a design that gobbles up less of my nightstand’s real estate — especially if that also meant a lower price.

The aesthetics leave a lot to be desired, too. With the time in large print surrounded by the date, the weather, the Wi-Fi status and your alarm info, it’s a cluttered, inelegant display that doesn’t do much to set itself apart from good-looking competitors like Beddi, or even from iHome’s own, less-expensive alarm clocks.

Speaking of which, those cheaper iHome offerings include an alarm clock that doubles as a dock for the Amazon Echo Dot. I liked that product when I reviewed it, but thought that it was too expensive at $70. iHome has since marked it down to $50, which feels a lot more reasonable. At any rate, if you’re already using an Echo Dot to wake you up in the morning, then that product would make a much more sensible upgrade.

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Don’t let the voice controls fool you — this alarm clock still has plenty of buttons.


Whereas that alternative includes no buttons at all, the iAVS16 has a whopping 14 buttons up top, including two programmable smart buttons that can trigger playlists or turn iHome smart plugs on and off. There’s also a button to pair via Bluetooth, a button to put the clock into speakerphone mode, a full set of buttons for music playback, a separate, programmable button that’s supposed to trigger multiple things at once when you wake up or settle in, a button to wake Alexa, a button to mute Alexa, a button to toggle the color-changing LEDs on the bottom of the clock, and, of course, the venerable snooze button. 

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See battle royale brawler ‘The Darwin Project’ in action this weekend

Posted by Carl on 11th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

The alpha is launching alongside a first developer diary video (below) that explains what helps the game stand out from the pack. Darwin Project places a strong emphasis on tracking, which reduces some of the downtime you see in games like PUBG. You have to craft fires to avoid freezing to death, but those give away your position — it won’t take long before someone knows where you are. Footprints can reveal your path, too. Combine that with up-close weaponry (you have a bow and axe to defend yourself) and a strong emphasis on spectating and it promises to be tense whether or not you’re playing.

The game isn’t due to launch until spring 2018, when it should arrive for both PCs and Xbox One. It probably won’t usurp PUBG‘s crown (Bluehole’s title has already sold over 20 million copies before it’s even finished), but it could offer a refreshing twist on an increasingly well-worn formula.

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Jibo review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 10th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

The age of the robot companion is here. There’s no sign of Rosie the robot maid yet, but given the Jetsons was based in 2062, she’s still got time. Several new robots are making a buzz in 2017 though, including Jibo, a $899 social robot. What can Jibo do? Not as much as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant. His cute personality feels determined to distract you from his otherwise basic skills. Given Jibo’s limited talents, I can’t recommend bringing him home unless you have $899 just burning a hole in your pocket. In which case, go ahead, because he’s adorable.


Jibo is a social robot, crowd-funded on Indiegogo and engineered by a Boston-based startup of the same name. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Officially a “he,” Jibo got his start three years ago as an Indiegogo crowd-funded project by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal of MIT. The project was fully funded by September 15, 2014, preceding the release of the first Amazon Echo, which showed up in November of that year. Three years later, Jibo is finally available for purchase, and I have to wonder if Alexa’s speedy rise to the top stacked the cards against Jibo.

Weighing nine pounds and measuring 12 inches tall with a 6-inch base, Jibo is essentially a countertop robot. He’s stationary, but does have two spherical halves rotating on a three-axis motor system to animate his personality, along with a 5-inch rectangular color display. Jibo dances, purrs when your pet his head and swivels to look at you when he hears a “Hey, Jibo” command.  

The Jibo app manages the robot’s settings as well as his “Loop.” The Loop holds names of up to 16 people Jibo can recognize by face and voice. Jibo is COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) compliant. Any children under the age of 13 will need the assistance of a parent to sign up, and the parent must also be in Jibo’s Loop. You can adjust Jibo’s settings via the app. This is where you’ll connect Jibo to Wi-Fi, set your location for local results, and view a history of recent Jibo interactions.


Jibo works with IFTTT triggers and can turn on Philips Hue lights or adjust a Nest thermostat. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

When it comes to skills, Jibo has limited capabilities. He can set reminders and timers, as well as check the weather, sports scores or a flight’s status. Jibo can answer a host of questions through resources like Bing, Wolfram Alpha and Wikipedia, or read headlines from the Associated Press. Jibo also tells jokes, most of which I’m pretty sure he got from my dad. Jibo dances and reads random facts, poems and short stories. With two front-facing cameras, Jibo can also take photos and store up to 700 images locally as 1-megapixel, JPEG files.

Interestingly, Jibo also works with IFTTT triggers. You can ask him to find your phone, turn on your Philips Hue lights, or set a Nest thermostat by using a trigger word. I was also able to create IFTTT recipes for Lutron lights and shades. That gives me hope for Jibo’s future as a useful robot. He doesn’t work with IFTTT actions, though. You can’t set him to congratulate you on hitting the step goal on your fitness tracker, for example. It is interesting that Jibo is IFTTT compatible, given that he isn’t really optimized for any other smart home functions.

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2018 Subaru Crosstrek review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 9th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

We loved Subaru’s first-generation Crosstrek and a lot of you did too. However, it wasn’t perfect; the dashboard tech in particular left much to be desired. And in the years since its debut, the tall-wagon-slash-small-SUV segment that Subaru pioneered has become crowded with fresh and hungry competitors. Volkswagen’s Golf Alltrack, for example, was a German shot directly over Subaru’s bow, borrowing heavily from the Crosstrek’s formula.

But Subie fans needn’t fear, because the Crosstrek is back and this second-generation model promises to be even better than before. I hit the road in a loaded up 2018 Crosstrek 2.0i Limited to find out just how much better.

New StarLink tech

The area where the Crosstrek sees the most massive improvement is in the dashboard. Changes range from small upgrades like improved graphics on the color multi-information displays in the instrument cluster display and atop the dash to an all-new Subaru StarLink infotainment system shared with the new 2018 Impreza.

The new-generation StarLink tech features a standard 6.5-inch display and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. That’s alongside the native app integrations with Pandora, Aha, iHeartRadio, Yelp and SiriusXM. There’s even a Magellan smartphone app that can be mirrored on the in-dash display for navigation.

Subaru’s new StarLink tech is a huge improvement

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek upgrades with more full-featured dashboard infotainment, standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus a cool hidden feature.

by Antuan Goodwin

At the top Limited trim level, StarLink can be upgraded to an 8-inch display, bringing with it onboard navigation powered by TomTom software and maps. The TomTom system is very responsive and accurate in its routing. I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the extremely simplistic interface, but it got me everywhere I needed to be.

Between the TomTom system, the Magellan app and Google and Apple’s respective Maps apps, Crosstrek drivers have four navigation options available; half of which are totally free. Aside from the larger screen, I can’t see why I’d upgrade to the more expensive navigation system. Especially considering how I spent most of my testing hooked into Android Auto.

The Crosstrek features an NFC chip embedded in the dashboard that can be used to quickly pair a smartphone to its Bluetooth system. Simply tap a compatible phone to the icon on the dashboard just below the StarLink screen and be instantly connected for hands-free calling and audio streaming. It’s a feature most will only use a few times during ownership, but a nice touch.

Improved EyeSight driver aid

The previous-generation Crosstrek already featured Subaru’s excellent (and optional) EyeSight driver aid system, but the 2018 model adds a new trick to its bag. The new lane keeping assist system uses electric power steering assist to help prevent the Crosstrek from unintentionally drifting out of its lane.

2018 XV Subaru Crosstrek

Of course, the rest of EyeSight’s features return this year, including lane departure alert, forward collision alert with auto pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition. All of this is powered by just two cameras located at the top of the windshield. Wow.

The rear end of the Crosstrek is protected by Subaru’s blind-spot monitoring system at highway speeds and a rear cross-traffic alert system in the parking lot. The Crosstrek also features a standard rear camera and optional reverse auto-braking at the Limited trim level. So equipped, the Subie can automatically brake to prevent an accident if it detects an obstruction or pedestrian in its path while backing up.

Boxer-four and symmetrical all-wheel drive

Next, we come to the engine bay where the Crosstrek’s 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed “Boxer” four-cylinder engine has seen tweaks and revisions for the 2018 model year. Power is stated at 152 horsepower, while torque sits at 145 pound-feet. Those aren’t particularly impressive numbers, but the tall wagon manages to feel lively enough when accelerating.

A six-speed manual is available, but most examples will put their power through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT has the advantage of improved fuel economy. The EPA estimates 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, a 4 mpg advantage across the board compared to the standard gearbox. I averaged 27.4 during my week of testing.

2018 XV Subaru Crosstrek

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

At the upper trim levels, the CVT can be had with paddle shifters, but they don’t add much at all to the performance. The “manual” shifts were slow and revealed annoying dips in the powerband. Left in its automatic setting, the CVT did a better job of keeping the engine in the meatiest part of the torque curve and returning the best acceleration and responsiveness.

Like every other Subaru (that’s not a BRZ), the Crosstrek comes standard with the automaker’s symmetrical all-wheel drive system. For 2018, the system gets upgraded with “Active Torque Vectoring”, a brake-based system that uses light pressure on the inside wheel when turning to help the vehicle rotate around a bend. It’s not “true” torque vectoring, but the Crosstrek feels more dynamic than before.

The all-wheel-drive system is also upgraded with a new X-Mode off-road traction program with hill descent control and, for CVT models, a hill-start braking assist that prevents rolling backward when lifting from the brakes on a hill.

Off-road-ready, standard roof rack

The changes to the Crosstrek’s design language are subtle, but a side-by-side comparison with the previous-gen reveals a more muscular body, new headlights and larger wing-shaped tail light. Beneath the sheet metal, the Crosstrek rides on the automaker’s all-new global platform — the same platform you’ll find beneath the new Impreza.

The Crosstrek preserves the old car’s 8.7-inch ground clearance — that’s more than a Cadillac Escalade or Chevy Tahoe — as well as its impressive approach, departure and breakover angles. The robust suspension, tallish ride and standard all-wheel drive make the Crosstrek surprisingly capable on rough dirt trails.

5 things to know about the improved Subaru Crosstrek

Subaru’s Crosstrek is just as great as before, but now even easier to live with. Before checking out our full review, here are five things you should know.

by Antuan Goodwin

Subaru claims a massive 100.9 cubic feet of interior volume, which is more easily accessed for this generation thanks to an enlarged rear hatch opening. Even the doors seem to open wider than average; the rears swing to nearly 90-degrees for easy loading of cargo, car seats, etc.

Fitting with its rugged aesthetic and off-road capability, the Crosstrek is fitted with a standard roof rack that can be used as a mounting point for a bike or board rack.

Competition and pricing

The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek starts at $21,795 for the base 2.0i model, but our close-to-fully loaded Limited with its tech upgrade tips the scale at an as-tested $30,655.

The sweet spot in the lineup is the midtier $22,595 Premium model. That gets you access to the optional EyeSight driver aid tech ($1,395), but saves a bit of dough by skipping leather trim and a few other amenities. You’ll also have to go without the larger infotainment display or TomTom navigation, but with standard (and arguably superior) Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, you’ll make do. Add $1,000 for the CVT and $915 for destination charges to reach my recommended price of $25,905.

The 2018 Crosstrek fixes most of my nitpicks with the previous generation while keeping intact everything I already loved. It’s spacious, comfortable and reasonably efficient. You can actually drive it over fairly rough trails. And now it’s packing new modern tech that makes it much easier to live with and safer on the road.

2018 XV Subaru Crosstrek

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The Subaru will inevitably be cross-shopped with the likes of the Mazda CX-5, the Honda CR-V and their ilk, many of which boast better on-tarmac performance. However, for those active types who want to take their small SUV off-road, the closest competition comes from Volkswagen’s new Golf Alltrack and the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.

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Your therapist will text you now

Posted by Carl on 9th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Rather than trek to a lavishly-appointed therapist’s office uptown, users can simply reach into their pocket and get help. These e-therapy platforms offer a variety of options, from a Skype-esque video and phone calls through to a more instantaneous, text-based chat protocol. Talkspace claims to have around 500,000 users engaging with more than 1,000 professionals.

In fact, you can expect to hear more from Talkspace in the very near future, as it recently signed a deal with medical giant Magellan Health. At some point soon, Magellan’s clients will be able to access on-demand psychotherapy, provided by Talkspace, through its own assistance program. That means if Magellan runs your employer’s health-care provision, you’ll have the option of contacting a therapist online as part of your package.

Talkspace emphasizes the benefits of online therapy, including the pros of having an on-demand, asynchronous relationship with their caregiver. Time-poor folks who struggle to carve out a couple of hours each week to journey to a clinic can still get the help they need. Plus, it’s cheaper: An hourlong session in the real world could cost hundreds of dollars and may require wrangling with your insurance provider.

By comparison, Talkspace’s plans begin from $32 a week, for which you can talk to a therapist once per day via text. For $39 a week, you’re entitled to two check-ins per day, while for $49 a week, you can get that, plus an additional half-hour “live session” with your therapist each month. Other services charge similar prices, with rivals 7Cups charging $150 a month and Betterhelp asking $280 monthly.

Talkspace’s Scott Christnelly believes that this push online has been beneficial. As well as overseeing therapist performance for the service, he is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist. Before joining Talkspace, Christnelly worked at a community organization offering therapy to individuals with chronic physical and mental illness. “The job became more about paper and chart compliance and less about the healing relationships I formed with clients,” he said. Talkspace enabled him to quit his job and build up an independent practice by going directly to individuals.

The challenges are different when offering therapeutic services online, especially when compared to the real world. Face-to-face, therapists are able to read a person’s nonverbal cues in order to understand the subtext of what they’re saying. “It’s definitely a unique experience,” says Christnelly, adding that “there is a learning curve in figuring out how to bridge that gap.” For his part, he says that experts also need to “learn how to communicate warmth and empathy and understanding through the written word.”

Another issue is the belief that, because it’s online, the client’s journey toward gratification or success is shorter. Christnelly says clients make more progress when they drop their need for an instant response or an ostensible cure. “It takes time for some clients to adjust to asynchronous communication,” although he believes that the delay is actually “beneficial.” The extra time between missives “gives the therapist and client time and space to explore their actions.”

Technical issues aside, Christnelly doesn’t believe that there’s a big difference between therapy online and in the real world. “The issues are the same that I saw when working with clients face-to-face,” he explained, and the clients are the same, too. “Everyone has different life circumstances,” says Christnelly, “but share the same internal struggles as everyone else.”

One of the benefits of online therapy is that the interactions can be instant, but also asynchronous, and you ultimately have the ability to choose how engaged you are. But when your motivation flags, or life gets in the way, it’s easier to walk away from the project than a real-world therapist. Much like that gym subscription you bought January 3rd, a Talkspace account may be left fallow for long periods of time. Neglect could, over a year, amount to the better part of $2,000-worth of wasted money. Talkspace will only unsubscribe you if a therapist marks you as absent — unless it’s related to a complaint.

Then there are the risks and dangers inherent with switching from a direct doctor-patient model to an Uberized marketplace. In 2016, former Talkspace therapists blew the whistle, telling The Verge about the company’s apparent failure to properly safeguard those who may be at risk. Whereas traditional mental-health professionals have a duty of care to notify law enforcement when individuals could be in danger, Talkspace users are anonymous to their therapists.

Other controversies have also hurt the service somewhat, including cutting off a therapist from clients when the therapist filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Todd Essig, a prominent critic of TalkSpace, wrote in Forbes that the company behaved in a “hasty, ill-advised and hurtful,” way. Essig has also said that online therapy platforms are no substitute for the real thing, creating “momentary feelings of being understood, which should never be confused with actually being understood.”

Talkspace CEO and co-founder Oren Frank says that the platform has remedied a lot of these issues, revising and updating its approach as it goes. He told Engadget that it has been a process to “learn and improve our understanding of how remote delivery of therapy is different.” Frank, a former advertising creative, founded the site with his wife in 2012 with the aim of making therapy cheaper and accessible “to all.” The CEO says that the service has received “overwhelmingly good feedback,”

For all of Talkspace’s potential pitfalls — of which some therapists may believe there is many — the company’s success may not be tied entirely to its business. In fact, online therapy platforms more generally may be helping to make mental health care more accessible to more people. Talkspace even cites an extensive study concerning almost 99,000 veterans with mental-health issues before and after exposure to long-distance psychiatric help. It claims that online therapy managed to reduce instances of hospitalization by around 25 percent.

There are still, however, caveats, like the sort found by Gabrielle Moss when she tried Talkspace out for Bustle back in 2015. Moss, who has lots of experience using real-world therapy, found it far too easy just to ignore the app’s requests for contact. “I hadn’t realized that much of what I was paying for,” she wrote, “was the accountability.” “Since there was no appointment,” she added, “and since I could erase those push notifications without even reading them […] I fell off the web-therapy wagon almost as quickly as I started.”

Talking to Engadget two years later, Moss said that, on reflection, “in-person therapy is the gold standard for a lot of reasons — not least of all because you can easily ignore an email from an online therapist.” “The fact that it’s hard to cut and run on an in-person therapist is positive,” because, she added, “when you feel the urge to flee, it’s tied to the fact that it’s bringing up scary feelings or memories that you don’t want to deal with.”

The distance created by online therapy, as Moss says, makes it “just too easy to end things because I was being pushed even slightly out of my comfort zone.” That’s not to say that online therapy has no value, however, and she believes that it can be a “great tool” for people who “can’t physically access a therapist.” Be it because of cost, geography, mental health or any other barrier, online therapy “can bring therapy to people who would not have been able to access any other form.” Although, in her mind, it remains a useful but not entirely satisfying substitute for the real thing.

In the future, the service’s sheer availability could well help reduce the stigma around mental health and encourage more folks who need help to seek it. Not to mention that having ubiquitous access to a calm, helpful voice on the other end of your smartphone or computer should reduce potential crises.

Online therapy cannot replace more direct interventions that are required in serious cases. If a person is in direct risk as a consequence of their own feelings or those of others, then the platforms discussed in this article are not a suitable place to seek help. In those instances, people are advised to reach out to agencies like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the emergency services.

Image Credit: Wavebreakmedia via Getty Images

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Netgear Arlo Outdoor Smart Home Security Light Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 8th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

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Securifi Almond Guard Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 7th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Securifi was one of the first companies to add a touchscreen to its routers and have since built on that hook from the original Securifi Almond. Its newest product, Almond Guard, is a Wi-Fi mesh system, smart home hub and a home security system wrapped in one device. 

The kit, which includes a router and multiple accessory devices, will start at $250 when it ships (international pricing isn’t currently available, but roughly converts to £190 for the UK and AU$330 for Australia). Almond Guard isn’t available yet, but you can back its Indiegogo campaign starting today.


Almond Guard’s app lets you monitor your home when you are away and automatically arms your system when you leave.


Almond Guard communicates with your devices via Wi-Fi, GPS, ZigBee and cellular signals to keep everything connected. The home security feature uses wireless sensors placed around your home and a free iOS or Android app, which lets you monitor your house from anywhere. There’s camera integration and you can connect up to 100 sensors. 

The system can also track your phone’s physical location, using it to automatically arm or disarm the system whenever you leave your house or return home (hopefully optional). Should that not be enough, it even offers no-contract professional 24/7 emergency monitoring for $20 per month (roughly £15, AU$25).

Almond Guard also acts as a smart home hub and mesh Wi-Fi system, allowing you to control all your smart devices, while also integrating with Amazon’s Alexa assistant. You can expand your Wi-Fi broadcast area with up to two additional units for better coverage throughout your home. 

As a smart home kit, Almond Guard feels pretty complete. It includes the Almond 3S router, which has all the features of the original Almond 3 router plus a battery and SIM slot for cellular backup, and an assortment of sensors for motion, leaks, doors and windows. I’ve reached out to Securifi for clarification on the router hardware, and will update this post once I receive more detail. 

Securifi says that the Almond Guard package is essentially a mash-up of all of their previous devices — which include the Almond 3 Wi-Fi system, the Almond+ router/range extender and the Almond 2015 ($79.99 at router/range extender — with an added home security component that’s unique to the Guard.

Securifi is discounting the price of the system for Indiegogo backers, dropping the hardware kit down to $150 (roughly £115, AU$200) and the security monitoring to $10 per month (roughly £7, AU$15).

As always, please note that CNET’s reporting on crowdfunding campaigns is not an endorsement of the project or its creators. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site’s policies — in this case, Indiegogo — to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.

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Samsung’s hardy Galaxy S8 Active comes to Sprint and T-Mobile

Posted by Carl on 7th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

The S8 Active shares much in common with the standard S8, including the processor, cameras and 64GB of expandable storage. Really, it’s all about a design that can take a bruising: the bumper-clad design can take falls from up to 5 feet high, and the flat 5.8-inch screen is designed to be shatter-resistant. Naturally, dust and water resistance are part of the package. There’s only one internal change, but it’s a big one — the S8 Active touts a hefty 4,000mAh battery (versus 3,000mAh on the regular S8) that should last through day-long adventures.

Sprint hasn’t detailed pricing as of this writing, but T-Mobile will sell the S8 Active for $30 per month over 2 years (plus $100 down), or $820 outright. That’s not a trivial outlay, especially when the base S8 is several months old, but it could be justifiable if you can’t stand the thought of your phone breaking mid-expedition.

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