FutureMobile AppsPandemicProductivityProgrammingTechnologyWeb Development

Foundation is Panda Rose’s internal user-interface toolkit, which we built from the ground for rapid-development of rich, interactive applications spanning multiple platforms. Our initial targets were web-based single page applications and mobile iPhone and Android applications, and recent developments have allowed us to add Mac and Windows to that growing list.

Foundation integrates very closely with our internal backend framework, Kojo, and most who’ve worked with Foundation have encountered it in its conjoined form, Kojo-Foundation.

Our foundation has a bit less rebar and cement.

Standardised Technologies

We’ve rolled the first version out over the past couple years and achieved many of our objectives. The development cycle in Kojo-Foundation utilizes a core of well-standardised, well-understood web technologies: PHP, HTML and CSS, TypeScript and React. Our cross-platform environment allows all versions of an application to share common business logic and even presentational views, and our common toolkit of components allows the application to shape-shift into different environments. A straightforward plugin interface allows individual applications to easily expand the core, and the expansive reach of React Native means that no capability of iPhone or Android is out of reach.

The end goal: fully native applications that look and feel great on every platform, with a cycle of development and maintenance that is as straightforward as composing and updating simple web pages.

The Sequel

In 2020, however, we took a pause along with the rest of the world, and out of this we’ve produced a sequel.

The world of frontend development, driven by JavaScript and its derivatives, is notoriously dynamic and fast-changing (much to the displeasure of managers the world over) and much had changed over the course of our initial development cycle. Here we had a chance to reckon with those advancements and plot a course forward.

Further, over the past few years we’ve encountered many pain points in the modern web development toolkit. A toolkit which, to be sure, is wonderful, largely free of cost, and enables vast leaps of individual creativity, but also adds heaps of complexity to a toolkit which is, at its core, simple, intuitive, and eminently teachable to a broad audience. In short, the very qualities that introduced many of us to the creative potential of the web many years ago.

A Return to Simplicity

Simplicity is beautiful.

At the core of our effort is to return to that place of simplicity and rapid, accessible development, while taking on and making broadly accessible the many wonderful advancements of the past 20 years which enable us to do more and reach a broader audience than we’d ever have imagined, hacking together homepages in Notepad in 1999.

In the coming weeks, we will count the ways.

FutureProgrammingTechnologyWeb Development

and now for something completely different

In the our 20-odd years with PHP, there have always been people attempting to work a step or two ahead of where the language was at the time. Working with PHP4 in the early 2000s, when a very elementary Java-derived object model was grafted on the language, people attempted to write proper Java without the guardrails. Objects are the sort of thing that, if your language doesn’t give you, you will probably try to invent, as people before that with PHP3.

PHP5 brought the gradual strengthening of the language’s object model, as well as dynamic “magic methods” which people ran wild with in the late 2000s, stretching things every which way. By the early 2010s the ecosystem had sobered up and begun to build serious structures around it. The language got a proper package manager in Composer, and in playing by a set of community-established conventions, one could draw upon vast resources for free. Many of us did, and over the lifespan of PHP5, the language completed a transformation from its hobbyist origins to something more enterprise-worthy. This was only aided by the widespread shift to cloud-centric computing, which PHP — stateless by nature — was uniquely equipped to handle.

PHP: The Next Generation

PHP7 came at an opportune time in the mid-2010s. Apparent competition from Facebook’s PHP-based hacklang seemed to kick the release schedule for PHP5’s sequel into high gear, amidst worries that a competing, partially-compatible offshoot would fragment the ecosystem. The internals team, which typically ties major version jumps (3 to 4, 4 to 5, 5 to . . . 7) to significant engine improvements, did not disappoint. Version 7 arrived with huge speed improvements (5x, by many counts) and set about, over the lifespan of the 7.x line, finishing the task of strengthening the language’s guardrails. The end result took much of the wind out of hacklang’s sails and, though it continues as a part of facebook’s internal toolset, the feared splintering of the community did not arrive.

Now, as we await the arrival of PHP Next Generation — Version 8 — in the closing months of 2020, let’s look at how we’ve continued to work at the margins in our time with PHP 7, and how we can expect to see our visions realized in future PHP.

make it so

Building a more reflective environment

Beyond the speed boost, PHP greatly strengthened the type system, once considered a critical weakness of the language. Once a weakly typed language, its modern incarnations are more accurately gradually typed — that is to say, while you can still work in a fast and loose way as before, structure and boundary may be introduced as the lines become more defined.

Through external tools, through linters and validation, structure and boundary may be enforced on a project level. The language may be wielded in a way acceptable to the enterprise, without losing the dynamism, flexibility and lightness of weight that characterize a scripting language.

If PHP is the best of both worlds, it’s the hardening of its type system that has brought it there, and it’s around its type system that our work has revolved.

class Before {
protected $database;
public function getUser($id, $password);
}
class After {
protected $database;
public function getUser(int $id, string $age): User;
}

Before is an example of a method signature, PHP5-style. We can infer that $id is probably a number, and $password is probably a string of text. getUser probably returns a user record. These are all reasonable assumptions, but there’s no actual indication of this, and certainly no enforcement. What happens if you pass in a textual ID and a numeric password, or trick it to return something other than a user record? And putting aside everything that could go wrong at runtime, there’s little usable information here for an IDE to provide hinting as you work.

(In the months before PHP7 was announced, our team had a working model that looked an awful lot like After, running entirely on plain-vanilla PHP 5.4. We stopped work on it at that point, and the less we say about how we did it, the better.)

After, using the syntactic enhancements of PHP7, is replete with useful information for automated tools and human readers, and establishes clear boundaries for runtime operation. Try feeding in the wrong values, or coaxing out a bad result. The engine itself will refuse.

So what did people do before 2015? Labour with blind IDEs, unable to analyze their code? No, the PHP community did what it does in the face of adversity and established sensible community standards. Deriving from the Javadoc format, DocBlocks became a standard way of expressing the intent of a program.

class Annotated {
/** @var Connection */
protected $database;
/**
* Retrieve a user from the database.
* @param int $id
* @param string $password
* @throws UserNotFoundException
* @returns User
*/
public function getUser($id, $password);
}

In this way, people were pretending that PHP was well-typed long before it was. Now, these specifications are suggestions, not rules: the language does not register them and will not enforce them at runtime. But they provide a standard way to provide a wealth of metadata beyond what the type system can adequately capture, even now. (Referring back to the After diagram, you’ll notice that this diagram contains more information. PHP 7.0 was incapable of attaching type information to $database, and it doesn’t specify possible error states.)

So on our side we’ve got a consistently improving type system and well-defined documentation format with broad community support. We’ve got powerful Reflection capabilities built in to the language — that is, programs can read their own blueprint, make decisions based on their own structure. All this within a language with a history of dynamism and “magic” undefined conditions.
So let’s look at one way in which we worked past a shortcoming of PHP, and had the opportunity to loop back once the language caught up.

Typed Properties in PHP 7

Let’s dwell for a second or two on a fragment of the last two code samples, to see a shortcoming of PHP 7.0 as it initially shipped.

class After {
protected $database;
}
class Annotated {
/** @var Connection */
protected $database;
}

In contrast to methods, class properties such as the $database are as weakly-typed as ever before. Within a class, it’s the honour system. If you were to make $database public rather than protected, you’d be merely trusting the rest of your system not to pass in a bad value, and you’re telling the rest of system nothing (except by way of commentary) of its intended content.

Meanwhile, our team is building a framework around a Dependency Injection container, and this is a crucial bit of missing information for us as we attempt to analyze and fulfill the needs of a class.
But since we have metadata available in another way, we end up with something like this:

class ExampleController {
/**
* @var UserEntity
* @Inject(required=true)
*/
protected $user;
}

No, not the prettiest. We earnestly wished, at the time, that we could express property types like this:

class ExampleController {
protected UserEntity $user;
}

and Annotations like this, such as in Java:

class ExampleController {
@Inject(required=true)
protected $user;
}

but we continue to build our system as if the language had those functionalities, without our own implementations as a stopgap. In each case, we were expecting the language to go that way eventually, though we couldn’t say for certain any timeframe.

Sure enough, as development of PHP 7.x continued and initial shortcomings were resolved one by one, we got one item checked off our wishlist with PHP 7.4. Typed Properties now allowed the above to be slimmed down to:

class ExampleController {
/** @Inject(required=true) */
protected UserEntity $user;
}

Furthermore, the properly typed property doesn’t function just as a suggestion for the dependency system to interpret and fulfill. Another guardrail, formally in place, and we began supporting this method within our framework immediately. But its addition didn’t invalidate the old method. @var annotations remain valid and will remain so indefinitely.
But speaking of annotations…

Annotations in PHP 8

This is a bit of a “stop the presses” moment, as I had already written how this remains a long-running, major item on our wishlist. How I had followed various RFCs over the past decade, hopeful for each of them, resigned to the reality that it might never be accepted.

Our half-way implementation might be all we ever had, and that was okay. Then, with my press date looming, this lands in my inbox:

i just closed the vote. [Attributes v2](https://wiki.php.net/rfc/attributes_v2) was accepted with 51 yay, 1 nay. The selected syntax will be <<Attribute>>.

Thank you everyone for participating in the discussion and vote!

I was more than glad to tear up that draft, and I’ll be glad to see DocBlock annotations become an optional feature as code like this becomes the norm:

class ExampleController {
<<Inject>>
protected UserEntity $user;
}

Yet, even as the language has caught up with our intentions and we’ve adapted our course accordingly, functionality has remained consistent throughout. The language gave us enough rope to mock-up both features to the degree that we didn’t feel impoverished in their absence, and were able to pivot effortlessly when both were introduced.

It remains to be seen what aspect of PHP 9 we end up building, but we look forward to discovery.

There are many reasons to be excited for PHP 8!

Annotations — er, Attributes — are a definite favourite here, but a major PHP release is a big deal and we’ll be here in future weeks to go through them all.

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I5 to downtown Seattle, puget sound, and Olympic mountains, photograph by Thatcher Kelley https://colorbent.com

I’m going to take a wild guess and say that probably most of you reading this right now have approximately a three-step daily commute these days. I mean, literally, you take three steps and you’re there. And if more than that, it’s probably still shorter than one minute, right? So what better time than now to talk about your commute to work?

OK, maybe I’m being a little ironic. Don’t you think?

And isn't it ironic, don't you think
#sorrynotsorry

No daily commute = no more pants!

But think about it. For those of you able to work from home right now, you may be at any of a number of stages of wondering if you might like to continue working from home once the rules are loosened around this pandemic. After all, you can roll out of bed, maybe change your clothes, and there you are, right at the office! You don’t even need any pants! Just this morning, I led a very public Zoom live broadcast with a nice blouse on top, and my pyjamas on the bottom. At the end of the day, I can just meander downstairs and hang out with the kids, or I can unlock my bedroom door and let them all burst into my bedroom while all yelling things at me at the same time. It’s convenient!

man video internet broadcast no pants
Pretty fancy live broadcast setup for a guy who isn’t even wearing any pants.

But have any of you noticed that maybe this non-commute isn’t totally ideal? And I’m not talking about just the working-at-home factor with kids or a spouse wandering into Zoom meetings and the temptation to eat an entire bag of chips because nobody else is looking. I’m talking strictly about commuting. The lines between work and home are blurred. Sometimes I work until late at night if my kids or husband don’t pull me away (like I’m doing right now, hahaha . . . ha . . . ha *ahem*). Some days I might work all day . . . and then keep working until I’m dragged away for supper (my awesome husband is the cook). I’m no expert, but this can’t be a good thing. Does this mean that I might NEED a commute to separate work from home?

The long commute

I’m sure you all know that a long commute isn’t a great. You know this because you’ve probably experienced it. Depending on various factors, it can be stressful and tiring, both physically and mentally. But did you know that a long commute can affect you negatively in more ways than that?

Researchers found that each extra minute of commuting time reduces both job AND leisure time satisfaction and increases strain and worsens mental health for workers, and multiple studies even suggest that commuting can be more stressful than actually working. 😮 In fact, an 20 additional minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut. Yikes.

It can be particularly stressful and dangerous during open season on the LA Freeway.

An employee’s long commute isn’t good news for an employer either. An employee who commutes a long distance is more likely to have a higher rate of absenteeism and more sick days, caused the extra stress on joints, or for those who take public transit, more time spent in close proximity to others.

With all of this in mind, one might also wonder, “so why isn’t a zero commute perfect?”

The importance of transition time

Well, as it turns out, a regular daily commute is a great time for preparing for your day before work and decompressing from your day after work. People often use their drive in to work to think about upcoming projects, meetings, events, and various other work-related things, and the people who do this also experience more work satisfaction as well.

I can personally speak to this — normally my commute is approximately 45-50 minutes long. Fortunately, it’s a reverse-commute, so I rarely hit bad traffic, and a lot of it is through the countryside with very little traffic. After living here for five years, I STILL haven’t found a radio station that I like, so I’ve turned to podcasts; educational podcasts as well as podcasts that offer insight into how I can improve myself.

Oprah: bees!!!
Did you know that the world record for most bees in a person’s mouth is 109? Well now you do.

I learn something new almost every day, either a piece of knowledge about how I might be able to improve how I work, or something about psychology and how I might adjust the way I work with other people, or just a fact about the world that is incredibly interesting. (If you’re wondering, some of my favourites include Hidden Brain, Something You Should Know, No Such Thing as a Fish, and 99% Invisible.) I can’t leave out the detail that such a long drive is exhausting. By the time I get home, I’m usually too tired to do anything.

Alternative transportation (this isn’t just about cars!)

“OK,” some of you might be asking, “what about the differences in modes of transportation?” Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. It turns out that people who walk and cycle are the happiest and most satisfied and even find that their commute is often the best part of their day. As for distance, the happiest are the walkers and cyclists who have a short distance to travel. And not only that, the behaviour improves their physical health and can enhance job performance.

Monty Python ministry of silly walks
I can only imagine how joyous and meaningful one’s life would be if one were to adopt a silly walk for his or her daily commute.

And what about those who ride public transit? They fall somewhere in the middle. Transit riders do experience stress, particularly if their bus is delayed or stuck in traffic (an occurrence that walkers and cyclists rarely need worry about), but when they have stressful days at work, their detachment from the commute actually helps them de-stress so by the time they are home, they have recovered from the stress and are ready for home life.

Why is this long commute such an issue anyway?

I know some of you might be sitting there saying, “well duh, just move closer to work!” which does seem to be an obvious solution, but like most things, life is not really that simple. Did you know that the average distance from home to work has increased over the last several decades? Now, this is information out of the US, but I’m going to bet that Canada isn’t that different. On average, US commute is about 50 minutes. Yeah. FIFTY MINUTES. Which surprises me and doesn’t surprise me at the same time.

As an aside, I’m a native of Seattle, and I knew many people who had commutes like that, and even longer. I asked my dad what his worst commute ever was, and he said it was from our home in Des Moines (south of Seattle) to Redmond (that’s where Microsoft lives). On a good day, that’s about a 40 minute drive. During rush hour it’s twice as long. And out there, rush hour starts at 6 AM and ends around 9:30 or 10:00 AM. So there’s no avoiding it.

kingdome implosion
Eventually, you start to feel a bit like the Kingdome by the end of the day.

Anyway, back to what I was saying, why don’t people just live closer to work? Well, the population has just about doubled, while homebuilding has decreased, leading to an increase in housing prices, especially in metropolitan neighbourhoods. Any jobs close to where people work are next to impossible to afford, and even if they are, they aren’t ideal for families. So affordable housing is pushed further and further away from centres of where people work. Enter: the long commute.

If 50 minutes is too long, and 0 minutes is too short, then what IS the ideal daily commute?

Good question, and I could be annoying and say that everybody’s ideal commute is going to be different from person to person, but I won’t do that to you. I mean, yes, the preceding statement is true, but you know that already. But interestingly, when a study in San Francisco asked people about their ideal commute times, they found the ideal daily commute was approximately 16 minutes.

luke skywalker in his hovercraft
I’m not sure I’m settled on my ideal length of commute, but this is definitely my ideal mode of transportation.

About one-third of the respondents said their ideal commute time would be 20 minutes or more, less than 2% said theirs would be ideally under 4 minutes, and only 1.2% desired a zero commute. However, nearly 52% preferred a commute at least 5 minutes longer than their (on average) 10-minute commute. Meanwhile, 42% of participants whose actual AND ideal trips were the same, their average commute time was 15 minutes.

So there you have it: your average commute time is probably somewhere around 15 or 16 minutes.

So what do I do now?

I mean, you can do whatever you want, really. But I recommend you take this information, and start planning for the future. Someday we’ll be able to leave our homes for work, but for now I’ll leave you with these tips:

  • If you remain at home with zero commute, consider a 15 minutes before and after work virtual commute, whether it’s a walk around the block, or sitting quietly with your eyes closed thinking about the upcoming day, or the day you have just finished.
  • If your commute feels too short, go ahead, leave a bit earlier in the morning and take the scenic route. I add five minutes to my drive just so I can avoid traffic and so I can drive the scenic way, and it’s well worth those five minutes.
  • If your commute is ideal and you are a happy person, then keep doing what you’re doing. You’re a rockstar!
  • If your commute is too long, then you’ve got a few things to think about:
  • Is it possible to move closer to work? Is your current job worth the drive? Would you consider getting a job closer to home? If the answer is yes, then try one of those, if the answer is no, then find ways to make your commute more enjoyable:
    • Find someone who lives near you and works near you to carpool with.
    • Turn off the radio and start listening to something that will really engage your brain and get it in gear for the day. Yup, that’s right. No music. (See my podcast suggestions above.)
    • Consider requesting to telecommute once or twice a week, just to give your body a break from the long drive.
  • If you ride public transit, keep your brain engaged. Prepare for the work day, listen to podcasts, or read a book.
  • Talk with the strangers around you. I know it seems like you might be annoying, but it turns out that most people are pretty happy when someone reaches out to talk with them. Don’t know how? Start with a classic, like commenting on the weather.
  • If you walk or bicycle to work, you’re probably already happy, and you probably shouldn’t distract yourself whilst doing so anyway, so you just keep being your happy self.
dog walking on hind legs down grocery aisle making decisions
There are so many things you can do to improve your life! So many choices! What will you do?!

You’re not alone

We all have our own commuter stories, so I asked some friends, family, and coworkers about theirs:

DeborahWorst: My worst commute might have been when I had to go to a chiropractor twice a week in Bothell. Because I didn’t want to deal with traffic, I scheduled my appointments extremely early. However, if I left just five minutes too late, my drive time was doubled. And then I had the commute from there to work (which was only a 15 minute drive from my home).
Best: When I worked at the same company as my dad for three years. I lived only a mile from my parents, so my dad and I carpooled, it was a reverse commute, and only 15 minutes. I loved having that good quality time with my dad.
-Deborah (me)

TimBest: I used to live a 5 minute drive away from the Safeway I used to work at. I’d start at 6:30am so there were no cars going there. And almost guaranteed no traffic on my way home.
Worst: Worst would’ve been going to and from Spruce Grove during the winter.
-Tim, systems administrator

StefenWorst: Worst was bussing from Edmonton to Spruce Grove about 5 years ago. Bus service has improved significantly since then — at the time, I’d get up at 4:30am to catch a connecting bus at 5, which would drop me off at the bus garage. There I’d wait half an hour for the one departing bus to leave for Spruce Grove, and if I missed it for some reason, there wasn’t another.
Best: Best was the 15 minute walk from my house to the office. Winter, summer, not too bad. Just enough time to collect my thoughts and plan the day.
-Stefen, developer

LeahBest: Best was a 10 minute drive during my summer job; I worked at the golf course, no traffic (or just small town traffic)
Worst: Worst commute is driving in the winter into Spruce Grove, the first like 25 minutes of my drive the roads NEVER get cleared if its snowed until the afternoon, so if it has snowed it’s always risky.
-Leah, social media specialist

KellyWorst: I had to take the streetcar or subway from [in Toronto] Dundas and Roncesvalles to Dundas and University… However, if I caught the streetcar or subway between the hours of 730-930 on the way in, I’d be standing the entire way and stopping constantly, turning what would be a 30 min commute to usually an hour and a half. If I caught the subway at those times, it’d be shoulder to shoulder the whole way in and super uncomfortable. On the way back was worse though. There was a shortturn about 10 blocks before my stop, and the streetcars never were marked for when they were shortturn or not. So regularly I’d catch the streetcar, be standing and uncomfortable the whole way, and then be dropped off in -20C weather 10 blocks short of my apartment, and have to wait for the streetcar that isn’t shortturning. If I tried to take the subway instead, it was worse than the morning. So I basically had to not leave until 630/7 at the earliest.
Best: Best commute was living downtown Toronto, literally a block from Panda Rose at our Dundas and McCaul location. Simply being able to walk and avoid public transit changed my quality of life immensely.
-Kelly, CEO

MaxineWorst: Worst commute was roughly 60 mins, first heading west to drop kids at dayhome and then back north to the office.
Best: Best commute was 15-20 mins to Spruce Grove Panda Rose office but won’t compare to the 30 second walk to my kitchen table as of late.
-Maxine, operations manager

GerardWorst: I used to commute up and down to university daily. It would take an hour drive to get to the city and then I would need to catch a bus from the park and ride area which would take another 20/30 mins. And if you got caught during traffic time between 8-10 in the morning or 4-6 in the evening you might as well add another hour on to the journey.
Best: Does the current situation count? Haha
-Gerard, developer

JoshWorst: Working at Metro East Base in Bellevue was the worst (only for 3 weeks). Having to be there at 5:30 or 6 AM. Traffic on I405.
Best: My favourite commutes were on my way in to work at NWCN in South Lake Union. The drive on the viaduct at sunset was epic.
And traffic was light.
-Josh, Deborah’s twin brother, public bus driver

Thatcher KelleyWorst: Culver City CA commuting from Whittier, CA. 1.5 hours each way 5 days a week.
Best: We were shooting at the airport and I lived in Seatac. But that was only a couple days.
-Thatcher, Deborah’s other brother, Digital Imaging Technician

PatWorst/Best: I don’t think I have had any worst commute. I guess when I worked at World Vision it was the furthest but reverse commute so not bad at all. I guess my best commute was when I worked from home. I drove from Des Moines to Burien, Des Moines to Des Moines, Des Moines to Federal Way (nice drive down along Redondo), Redwood City to Palo Alto. Really most were within 15-20 minutes and traffic not bad. I mean from Normandy Park to World Vision was always nice because it was reverse commute and I just listened to the radio the whole way. 20 minutes tops.
-Pat, Deborah’s mum, retired

Well look at that — the Boomer had perfect commutes her whole life. 😉 But seriously, her experience backs up the research!

EducationFuturePandemicProductivitySelf-ImprovementTechnology

Men with toilet paper headdresses: Post-Coronavirus males, displaying their hunter gatherer prowess in order to attract mates.

The title seems so simple, “how to survive a pandemic in 5 easy steps,” right? I’m sure the extroverts out there think I’m nuts. It’s true, as an introvert, this is my time to shine. I’ve never felt better. Working at home in front of my computer with my kids locked out of my bedroom has been like a dream! Sometimes I can work overtime and nobody gets annoyed at me for getting home late because . . . I’m already home! It’s a little like being back at university, but without six female housemates arguing over who should have done the dishes.

I’m only sorta surviving

To be fair, instead I get the eight-year-old picking my lock (I can hear him doing this as I type right now) and coming into my room and asking if I can purchase “violent games with lots of killing” for his iPad, and once he leaves, he leaves the door wide open, so that . . .

My four-year-old can come dancing in and announces, “I wish I still had hands!”. After a short, but strange conversation involving Elsa and unicorns, I tell her to go back downstairs to dad, but she forgets to lock the door, so that . . .

The two-year old can boisterously BURST into my room and joyously yell, “HI MOM!”, then say a few things that half make sense, try to get into several things she shouldn’t get into, climb on the bed, jump on it, come over to me and look up with her big blue eyes and ask me a question that also doesn’t make sense that ends with “mom??” and when I message dad to fetch her, she hides in my closet.

But they’re a lot cuter than my housemates were. So it’s OK. Anyway . . .

Please please please do more than just sit on your couch.

Knowing how to be by yourself in your home is, in and of itself, a great trait to have. Being able to entertain yourself is something we strongly encourage our own children to do — without TV, iPad, or phones. So why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standard?

Hobbies

I’ve got to be honest with you right now: watching Netflix is not a hobby. Sure, it can be an entertain way to pass an evening or a Sunday afternoon, but it’s going to turn your brain into mush. If you’re one of the many people who isn’t able to work from home, now is a great time to work on a hobby.

Pick up an old hobby

Is there an old hobby that you used to do that you miss doing? Just recently, I decided I’d try learning how to use a serger that I’ve had for two years, but was too intimidated to try. Unfortunately, the serger conquered me and I went back to using my sewing machine, and I ended up sewing some sweet clothes for my children for Easter.

I used to really enjoy doing seed bead work by hand, but because I’d spend about 2 hours a day commuting to and from work, I was too exhausted to do anything once I finally got the kids to bed. Now that I’m home all the time, I have a lot more energy!

I used to do beadwork before I had kids, and starting up this creative work again has been wonderful.

Is there a hobby you used to do? Something you did as a child, a young adult? Try picking that up again. You may rediscover your love for it. I know that every time I start sewing again, I’m reminded how much I truly enjoy it.

Learn a new hobby

Is there that hobby that you always wish you could do, but haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it yet? Now is the perfect time! And in this day and age, it’s incredibly easy to learn new things. There are countless youtube videos, blogs, and other resources for learning how to try out new hobbies. If you have a friend who does it already, you can video chat with them.

I enjoy knitting, but once got caught up on a particular stitch that I kept messing up, so I had a video chat with my husband’s aunt and she helped me figure it out. This weekend when I was trying to figure out my serger, I had a video chat with Pauline at Laberge Engraving (check them out!) while she tried to help me figure out what was going on with my machine. And of course there is the great Facebook network of brains!

Teach a hobby

My son has expressed an interest in sewing, so I’m helping him learn that as a new hobby, which I think is great — not only is it a fun hobby, but it’s a great skill to learn. It’s helpful that Walmart is still open — the tools and bits you might need for hobbies that you might want to pick up are available at Walmart.

Skills

I’ll admit that this is an impressive skill.

The topic of hobbies really leads me into the next topic: skills. Right now is also a good time to develop an old skill or learn a new one. If you’re not able to work from home, maybe now is a good time to try building on a skill that might be profitable now or in the near future. Do you know if you will still have a job when the world starts opening back up? What will business be like? The way we do business is already significantly different now. Having more and better skills will certainly improve your odds!

Practise a skill you already have

You might already have some great skills under your belt, but there’s always room for improvement. Do you know several programming languages? Learn a few more! Are you good at writing? Work on improving different writing styles. Are you generally good at repairing things? Break some of your household electrics and try to repair them (OK, maybe not this one.) If you’re already good at something, work hard at getting better at it. Don’t be complacent.

I don’t even have any good skills. You know like nunchuck skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills. Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!
-Napoleon Dynamite

Improve upon and learn new skills

My husband has always been interested in hunting, but he has really developed this new skill during the quarantine. The nice thing about hunting is that he CAN leave the house, but he remains isolated. What’s even better? He’s developing his hunter-gatherer skills! He now brings home bunnies weekly.

Food for thought: take one of your hobbies and develop it into a useful skill that can be practically applied to your life! Me? I’ve taken my sewing skills and developed them into learning how to alter clothing — that was how I made my children’s easter outfits. I converted an old dress and blouse of mine into dresses for the girls and a bow tie for my son!

Cute little gremlins.

Education

As they say, knowledge is power, and I don’t know about you, but I like power. And I’m sure you think that sitting around watching documentaries on Netflix is educational, but I’m sorry, folks, but not every documentary is good, and Tiger King is not really educational.

However, there are scores of websites out there offering some pretty amazing free and significantly discounted educational courses right now. You can learn very serious things and very silly things. You can get a good education in something that will support that skill you are learning or developing!

I can hear it now though, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Ah, but you can. I once had a dog who was old and I taught her “go away”. Was that new? Yes. Was it a trick? I think so. It was certainly useful when she was annoying me begging for food at the dinner table.

Studies have shown that constantly learning through life is one of the best things you can do for your brain, so even when you’re not in pandemic mode, pursue learning!

Resources

Here are just a few sites you can check out:

Prepare for a new world

What world do we even live in now?

We will need some serious hunter-gatherer prowess when the world opens back up? I don’t know. We may need better Walmart prowess. But you know, unlike my hunter-gatherer husband, Walmart doesn’t sell bunny.

Tasty tasty Peter Rabbit

A new Renaissance?

In all seriousness, what do you think things will look like? We may still need to remain more isolated than we were before. People will have to be far more careful than they were before. What are new industries that can come out of this? How can YOU be a phoenix rising from the ashes?

Some say that the Renaissance occurred because of the Black Plague. Is it possible that we could have a new Renaissance come out of this global event? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with optimism, because this is quite a serious war we are fighting here, but having hope for the future is important too.

Going social

You know what else you’re going to have to prepare for? Being social again. It might be a shock to the system. Make sure you have a plan so you don’t overdo it. Plan to see family, plan to see close friends, plan to reengage with society slowly but surely. You may be surprised to discover that there is something to this whole introvert thing.

Prepare for death

You might die. In fact, you will definitely die.

Not to be a downer, but it’s also possible that despite doing all these great things, you might die. It’s OK though, because everybody dies eventually, and the sooner you accept that and deal with the reality, the better. Once you have prepared yourself for death, you can better live a full and complete life.

Speaking for myself, I don’t particularly want to die, but I’ve come to terms with it. We talk about it with our children, so our children aren’t afraid to talk about it with us. We don’t need to hide from death, and we don’t hide it from our children.

The children issue

If you have children, give them some credit. They are capable of having these kinds of discussions. They can talk about death, disease, pandemics, and all these issues that we like to shelter them from. We can be honest with children and still shelter them at the same time. Don’t be afraid to tell them your concerns, but remind them how you will always do everything within your power to protect them.

There’s a lot of death in my family. (Don’t feel sorry for me.) Fun fact: this is exactly where I will be buried!

Be practical

It also doesn’t hurt to prepare for death in more practical terms. What will happen if you die? Will your family be burdened with the cost of dealing with your body, burial, and all that stuff? I’m speaking to myself on this one too! We’ve purchased our plots — we did so when we lost a baby 8 years ago, but beyond that, haha, good luck kiddos, you’re going to have to deal with everything else!

If there’s one thing that was particularly memory about my grandfather’s death (aside from him, you know, dying . . . with his jaw hanging open), was as soon as it happened we called Neptune Society and they took care of everything. We didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, I pushed his mouth back up and sorta tried to hold it there to see if it would stay closed. But aside from that.

Conclusion

So there you have it, there are your five simple steps of how to survive a pandemic. I think it can mostly be summed up as: don’t sit on your bum watching Netflix all day. DO SOMETHING.

BusinessFutureGovernment

Thank you for shopping local sign

This is based off of a Facebook post I made over the weekend:

Let’s go over some of the things that the federal government has promised to help small businesses and the arbitrary restrictions they have put on it, likely to prevent abuse, but in reality those arbitrary restrictions prevent businesses that actually really need the money from getting it. Please note, I am glad these efforts are here, but they are nowhere as much as is necessary to help small businesses.

First, the Canadian Wage Subsidy: Covers 75% of salaries for up to 3 months of business.

However, you need to have a 30% drop in revenues from your business. So companies like Perks, which are working night and day to keep their revenues up… well they get screwed. Worse, they actually end up worse off because they hired someone to provide the new service (delivery) so they are spending more on employees, and with the new delivery service they were able to keep their revenue drop from going as high as 30%.

delivery

So a business, that needs that subsidy the most, which is actually doing things to adapt to the economy, and could use it and is CREATING JOBS ends up worse off. While a business that has a 30% drop and isn’t doing anything at all to try and stem it, would be able to get 75% of their salaries paid for. So, if their salaries are 40% of their expenditures (which is a really low amount), it is 100% in their interest to ensure they keep that 30% drop in revenues. Do you not see how this causes more problems than it solves?

Second, the Business Credit Availability Program is basically a free cheque to the banks.

The banks get to decide who gets it, and they have tightened up, not loosened their lending standards. Especially since, in the words of a banker I spoke with recently, we are expecting most businesses applying for loans to fail, so we are going to end up rejecting the majority of them. Literally does nothing for the small businesses on Main St.

working

As well, it requires your NoAs and your tax returns to be completed and up to date and _no taxes owing_. Which completely counters the governments’ program of allowing businesses to not pay taxes for the next while to keep their cashflow up.

So, basically a cheque to the banks with absolutely no assistance to the businesses that need it most.

Third, the Canadian Emergency Business Account.

Unfortunately I cannot completely speak to this one that much. However, the restriction that payroll needs to be 50k-1mil actually kills it as a useful loan (assuming, of course, the banks don’t add more restrictions) for most small businesses. Many business owners pay themselves outside of payroll, and try to keep their payroll as minimized as possible. So while there may be 100k+ in revenues in any given year, it wouldn’t be hard for them to keep their payroll below 50k, especially if they hire subcontractors. Commonly these businesses are also the most agile, so yeah. Sucks to be them.

So, again… useless. This time for businesses that are best suited to try and weather this type of disaster.

All 3 programs, while they work for some, so many will slip through the cracks by the arbitrary restrictions that they really don’t do what they are supposed to do.

My advice:

  • Make the 75% for all businesses that are equal to last years, or have reduced revenues. A company could be equal to last March’s revenues, but had expanded employment to compensate. Punishing those companies is literally punishing the successful companies, it’s absolutely stupid.
  • Force the banks to remove restrictions on the small business lines of credit (under 100k) or at least to severely dial them back. Possibly by offering some form of loan insurance.
  • Open up the CEBA to all businesses that have above 100k revenue, regardless of payroll.
  • Open up tax credits for businesses that are implementing unique technological or other solutions to provide their services in this time. Such as Perks adding delivery to their system, or an art gallery finding a way to offer their art online, or a private school developing online learning tools. Similar to SRED, but more broad-based.

There are probably other ideas a well, but the current plan looks good on paper, but fails almost everyone who needs it and who would be the best businesses to succeed at this time.

FutureTechnology

Technology is taking over the classroom and there are a lot of opinions, policies, loopholes and rebellions. Its messy and can be frustrating, but it is an issue every teacher and student go in this day and age and I would like to touch on the subject.

 

In the average North American classroom today, there is a laptop for the teacher and maybe a smart-board. The students might have iPads or laptops available to them, or the school supplies list requested such devices. It is apparent, tech is used in the classrooms. These tools are a benefit to the learning experience of students and for the teaching efficiency of teachers.

The issues arise when it comes to the smartphones. On average, children age 10 get their first smartphone. Though I would assume before that age, kids are immersed into smartphone use. And we all know that come high school, students are practically attached to their phones. It’s no wonder why teachers are banning phones from their classrooms. No one wants to teach a room full of students with their eyes glued to their personal 5 by 2 inches of screen.

 

But here is why I stand on the progressive side of things. Kids with smartphones will one day be adults with smartphones. Who is going to teach them how to best use their smartphone?

 

I know this is a real issues because of the elderly. They have trouble understanding their smartphones, the correct purposes of them and therefore they make avoidable mistakes. For example, at times my grandparents will interrupt a conversation to investigate a notification they receive, whether it is important or not. They are found to spend too much time on their phones than is appropriate in social gatherings. Plus seniors are adding themselves into the social media world and they post, comment and share as often as the rest of us, just with less of a filter, for better or worse. (No wonder people can’t stand Trump on Twitter.)

 

I love my grandparents and the other elderly in my life, they are great at many things, but they are definitely lacking in the best ways to use their smartphones. Though they deserve some slack, they didn’t grow up with these devices, giving them the chance to learn what is appropriate and what is not.

 

Now considering our current students, would we not like to give them the education about phones they need in order to be socially correct, polite and efficient?

 

One would like to think parents and others in the leadership positions of children to be perfect examples of phone efficiency and etiquette. But we all know we are less than perfect ourselves when it comes to using our phones politely. Texting and driving, being on phones during meetings and other social gatherings, taking information on social media too seriously and forgetting where we are or what we are doing because our phones can distract us are not good demonstrations for the leaders of tomorrow.

 

Should we not take full advantage of the learning environment school provides to teach about the best ways to use  the smartphones they already have in their pockets? Imagine the issues that would cease to exist! Their generation would look at ours and wonder why WE use our smartphones so poorly.

 

I am not suggesting full out courses on smartphone etiquette. Though I’d imagine a couple classes about phones at a younger age wouldn’t hurt. But I am recommending smartphones be used in the classroom. Due date reminders, Google translate, a second way to view the textbooks, calculator, camera, calendar, research, etc. are all simple ways we use our smartphones everyday, why not teach tomorrow’s adults how to use these tools best?

 

Today, students with smartphones are punished for bringing their smartphones to school which is understandable, as currently there is no lesson plan to implement the smartphones into the teaching. But as you can see, I believe this needs to be changed.

 

At Panda Rose, we are often using smartphones as they are needed to develop and test Apps and websites. We understand the importance of them for our world today and moving forward into tomorrow.

I am aware that I am not in the classroom right now attempting to get the full attention of  two dozen 10 year olds. While there are hero teachers doing just that right now and we all applaud you. Who am I to tell you that your students all need smartphones at their desks?

 

Teachers know their students and will make the best decision for the entire class. Whether that means a no phones allowed rule, that smartphones can only be used in English class for dictionary and thesaurus uses or only at the end of the day to set up reminders and events to replace paper agendas.

 

Depending on the class, smartphone policies could be applied to fit the teacher and student needs as well as be a prime time for students to learn smartphone etiquette.

 

Let me know your thoughts on children using smartphones in classrooms, this subject is worth the discussion.

 

Tessa Houcher

FutureProductivityTechnology

limousine

Mobile homes were an all round great idea. Most include beds, a kitchen, living room furniture, it can all be packed up for safe transfer and you can drive it along with all you that you need wherever!

The food truck is genius for restaurant chains and those who want to put their food creations on wheels. In some cases the trucks can come to requested locations and other times they pop up and give food lovers a pleasant surprise.

limousine

The limousine… need I say more?

These vehicles with extravagant features and purposes were amazing ideas. So whats next?

Apparently there has been development in mobile offices.

Now you may be thinking, ‘well that doesn’t sound very fun.’ And I would agree. Fun is not the goal, but when I got thinking about the mobile office, my trailing thoughts made me excited for such development.

Whether or not people have been developing these specific concepts or not I do not know, but these are the ideas I myself put together.

Here are my ideas

Imagine the floor of a vehicle, that looks nothing like a vehicle’s floor. The floor is a perfect rectangle that comfortably fits a table, four chairs, a coat hanger and water cooler. There are four walls. These walls are giant one-way windows that are also touch screens. There are two sliding doors, one on each of the long sides of the rectangle. And of course there would be wifi and charging stations for all the needed electronics.

You may be thinking, ‘Now that sounds dangerous.’ Not to worry friends, by the time mobile offices become a priority, all vehicles will be self driven.

What’s the point?

People would use the mobile offices for getting work done while they are still on the go. No more clocking in late for your office job.

Still not convinced?

How about mobile meetings? What if the mobile office could hold 12 chairs comfortably? A presenter could show the actual location of the proposed hotel building to the board all while everyone still has their devices on a table and notes are drawn by finger tips on the walls around them. Your designer team needs inspiration? Rent a mobile office and allow them to all get out of the office, with the ability to continue working but their surroundings are changing and influence can be pulled from anywhere! Or a mobile art class!

people at conference table

I think there is real potential for the mobile office and I hope that one day I get to use one!


I also have my own idea for the next mobile features. A vehicle with workout equipment! For now we will call it the mobile gym.

It looks very similar to the mobile office from the outside. But inside, there is gym equipment. Now, before you roll your eyes let me explain.

The mobile gym would have space efficient equipment that would be customized to the owner/renter. The touch screen would display your workout schedule, music and could also have a virtual trainer. People would use the mobile gym as they would workout as they commute.

woman weight lifting

If someone wanted to make sure that they worked out daily, they could set up a program that helped them do so. A program could make it so that their phones would only charge if they were producing power through working out. Or maybe the one way mirrors would shut off exposing the interior if no one had been working out for the last 5 minutes.

Can you even imagine?

Yes I thought about the fact that a mobile gym could look ridiculous as people can walk, run or bike to places they need to go while being fit. But running in -22 degrees is not ideal and biking to work is not a reasonable option for those with a commute that is already 20 minutes of driving outside of city limits.

There is still a lot of development needed before these ideas are put into action. But I still think it’s fun to imagine what the future of transportation will look like. Maybe our mobile homes, food trucks and limos will all hover and fly by the time we get around to adding offices and gyms.

street

Where do you see our technology in transportation taking us? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Tess Houcher

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FutureTechnology

Apple put cellular into a watch…

apple watch

This year was the 10th anniversary of Apple’s iPhone. The live event that showcased their newest products was exciting for everyone. They displayed their new iPhones, iOS, AR tech and the newest edition of the Apple watch. All incredible products. Over the years Apple has paved the way for mobile phones to take on the masses. They raised the standards and fulfilled the expectations (for the most part anyways).

But it seems that the attention of Apple and other developers has moved from devices that can fit in your pocket to devices that you can wear.

The Apple watch now uses LTE and is capable to function without your iPhone also being present. The watch can really do everything your phone can except for the functions that require a camera. (Somehow, I hope that changes in future upgrades.)

This is a remarkable product as it allows for people to leave their phones behind and still be connected. You can workout, swim, casually check a notification during a meeting, make calls, listen to music and the faster, smarter Siri will help you send texts on the go.

If this is the present day tech, what does our future hold?

Movies have always been good at sparking our imaginations. Giving us ideas of the potential technology we could see in the great tomorrow. For instance, watches we communicate through, personal robots, self driving cars, spy glasses, augmented reality and virtual reality possibilities…

Developers have already made these once abstract ideas available for the public to purchase. We are on our way to a world where these are not dreams, but a reality for everone.


It is odd to think of a time in future tense, when Apple isn’t releasing a new iPhone every year. Though I imagine that Apple would keep up with the times. Creating the next best wearable tech. Would Samsung fall apart? Would Google pull ahead of the rest?

Person wearing Google glassesThere has already been development in glasses as wearable tech in the form of Google Glass. These glasses were being tested in 2014 then seemed to be forgotten. But earlier this year the glasses were found being used in factories where they are now used as informative assistants to the factory workers improving productivity.

Cars can drive themselves and we have home assistants in the form of a small speaker. The futuristic imaginary world we aspire to have is nearly in our grasp.

But I don’t think that phones are leaving picture for a long time. I believe this because of the iPhone X. It’s not perfect yet.

The concept of your phone recognizing your face to unlock is super cool. Animated characters that are replicating your face is incredible. Animation is known for its days of work with giant teams of professionals for creating animated big screen movies. Now you can do the same thing just on a much smaller scale. It’s crazy! The iPhone X makes us feel like we are holding the future.

But it isn’t perfect yet. The phone has been hacked by family members of those owning the special iPhone. Until they perfect the phone, my guess is that we will see new ones out each year. If Apple cannot perfect the iPhone with their current technology and knowledge then we can be sure that they will not get a watch or glasses that is made to be superior to our phones.


Without phones, would the human race replace our addictive boxes with other tech, or would we use the watches and glasses as tools and not become addicted?

That is where I am unsure if we will steer away from our mobile phones. There is a limited number of games made for the watch due to its size. Could people be comfortable with leaving their games on home devices? What about Snapchat?

hands holding phones

If we could forget about the games and lack of social media for on the go, could people be satisfied with just a watch?I imagine that the watches and glasses would be improved so they can better suit the gamers and those who need their social media.

…Could there eventually be a chip that we insert into our brains to replace all visible tech? If that becomes a reality, I will gladly be the old lady who is dedicated to her legendary iPhone refusing to upgrade to a chip.

What tech do you think we will all have on our person in the next 12 years concerning tech?

Tess Houcher

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FutureProductivityTechnology

Each college student’s avatar is popping up in the desks around you. Most of them look like actual humans. There are a couple avatars that look alien like. The people who use those avatar types as their identities are usually artsy and can create pretty cool looking creatures. You tried making one of those but you don’t usually wear it out.

Some people display their brands on their avatar clothing. Though, this isn’t common in a classroom setting compared to social media platforms where each person is wearing their brand. This is the case as everyone collectively realizes that the classroom setting is not a place for marketing. It’s like an unspoken rule. Those who do try marketing in settings like a classroom are usually hurting their brands more than helping.

Your hour long class ends and you double check to make sure the notes were saved to your system. You decide to give your brain a break by looking through Facebook.

To look at posts on Facebook you are transported to a small, box shaped, white room. This is your profile. There is a special desk against one of the walls which you can sit at to create a post. There are pictures, posts and your shared content on another wall and your settings on the third wall. The fourth wall has a door which leads you to a hallway.

You exit the room through this door. The hallway is filled with labeled doors. Each door brings you to different group chats, Facebook groups or your feed. For now, all you want is to browse through is your feed, so you open that door and enter. As you enter, the door shrinks and puts itself in your “pocket tools” so you can access it later.

You are put in another white room but it is so big you cannot tell the exact distance between all the walls. You cannot see where the walls meet the floor or ceiling. But you haven’t taken notice of these details in years. The room is full of avatars walking around.

The avatars are the people who you follow on Facebook who are also active for the moment. Those who are active can see you too but none of you are actually interacting. If you wanted, you could talk with groups of people or an individual but once you are doing so you and those involved in the chat become invisible to everyone else.

This is because the speech between you and the other starts to show up in the old school text bubbles between you and the person you are talking to. If you are in a group setting, the speech bubbles show on the left side of your peripheral so you can still view the avatars you are talking to.

For right now you just want to take a walk and view all of the posts hovering above. These hovering posts are high enough so that no one else walking around hinders your view. The posts appear in two rows facing forward going down the never ending room. You take your time and stroll through them. You pause a few times to watch videos that catch your attention. When the video senses that you are watching it the sound will turn on and the video will start again.

After spending 10 minutes walking through Facebook you remember that you were supposed to text your girlfriend after class. You quickly grab the exit door from your pocket tools and hop back into your profile where you switch to the texting portal.

You had changed this portal’s theme months ago from the original pure white to a deep blue that has small white lights resembling stars that move around like fireflies. You figure it’s time to switch up the theme of your texting rooms again, but right now you still need to get back to your girlfriend.

You click the tile on the wall with your girlfriend’s contact which was easy to locate as it was on your most recent conversations wall. This is opposed to the wall that you have to scroll or search for contacts. You speak a quick message that turns into text before your eyes and click send. Relieved you got back to her before it had been too long since your class ended, you decide to pull out your favourite game.

Suddenly everything turns black except for the light coming in through your bedroom door. Your mom has just walked into the room so the VR glasses have switched to AR. She lets you know that your aunt and uncle have made a surprise visit for supper and you have to clean your room before they head up.

You stretch, remove your glasses, click the ON button of your Roombot, fix your hair and head down the stairs.

Tess Houcher 

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FutureTechnology

You’ve heard it a million times, “This is nothing like we have seen before.” “This is our first ever…” And “The new and improved..” Our world is in an era of new. This is a fascinating time to be alive. We are constantly seeing new brands, products and technologies made to be the biggest, best and improve our everyday lives. Please tell me I am not the only one who gets excited about our future technology and what it means for each of us personally.

All of this new, also means that there is a lot that we don’t know. We don’t know what consumers will actually use. We have to learn what works and what doesn’t. Learn about the benefits of our new tech along with the negative repercussions.

But I have a concern. What happens when our technology advances us? And this time I am not referring to a robot army taking over the planet. What I do mean is that robots could take all of our jobs.

Good quality customer service and homemade products are hard to beat. How could we replace the well trained friendly staff for robots? Customers want fresh products made by the people who care about what they are selling, there is no way a robot made meal will feel authentic. While there are these and other points to consider, what happens when a robot is considerably cheaper than human employees?

Employees need hours of training, maybe years of schooling, vacations, maternity or paternity leave, sick days and benefits. Compare that with a specially designed robot who can do everything a taxi driver can. This robot will most definitely cost a lot of money, but it will not need the list of necessities including interpersonal relationships and the HR department that a human does. Yes, computers crash and robots malfunction but they can be replaced. A human cannot, at least not without a company falling behind for a moment or for weeks.

About 4.6 million people in the US alone work in retail and almost 5 million people drive a vehicle for a living. (Truckers, taxis, ubers, transit bus.) These are just two categories of jobs that could very soon be handed over to the robots. The amount of people in unemployment would be devastating.

A few more places of work that I can imagine being altered greatly by new technologies are libraries, pharmacies, restaurants, custodian work, sales and even farms. I obviously don’t know exactly what tech will affect the jobs involved in these businesses but I know that we have already seen these places of work changing to keep with the times.

Did you know that milk farms milk their cows with robots? This giant machine can feed and wash the cows all while the cow is milked. This cuts back on the number of people needed to get all this work done, meaning fewer jobs. I’m sure the cows love the 24 hour service though.

Our watches can diagnose us with a low or high heart rate. Imagine if we didn’t meet with a doctor to be diagnosed, but instead a robot was able to tell us the next steps we should take on the road to recovering from a flu or virus.

Japan has one of the first fully automated restaurants and America was quick to do the same. The orders are made digitally and in the Japan restaurant your food will be delivered via conveyor belt. In the American restaurant the order will appear in a cubby on the wall with your name and order number on the screen for you to take.

Then there is the Amazon go store. As you walk into this store you scan your amazon account code which signs you in. Then it is able to track when you pick up an item and it adds it to your cart. You are also able to put items back and not be charged for it. As you leave the store you pay for your purchase by exiting the building and the cost is charged to your amazon account. Pretty cool huh?

What will our world look like when all these places of work are occupied with robots to fulfill every task? Will our jobs become strictly management positions as we monitor robots? Would we go to school to basically learn about design to continue development of these robots? How would different political parties deal with automation and employment?

It’s hard to picture a world where robots are more than tools we use to assist us. In reality, it does sound very far away still. But what would that world look like? If you have thoughts on this topic I would love to hear them as none of us actually know what the future holds. Your hypothesis could be the opposite of mine and I would love to understand your thought process.

Thanks for reading, I hope to hear from you very soon.

Tess Houcher

Be sure to check out these posts as I was informed and amazed by them and I know you would love to be too. ❤

417 views
FutureMobile AppsSocial MediaTechnology

As futuristic as it sounds, the idea of a robot taking your every request and helping you with daily tasks around your home, the office and on the go, does not sound far off from reality. We are not at the point in technology when these luxuries are available to all of us but I do not doubt we are on our way to such a life. Our phones are already smart enough to text people for us, order takeout or groceries from our couches, replace a wallet, and can be used to make other devices function without that device even being in sight.

The next steps for our phone automated functions, start with bots. If you’re like me, when you hear the word bot, you imagine a small, friendly, helpful robot ready to help you as it would be their pleasure. Bots today, do happen to be those small, friendly, helpful individuals made to provide you with your requested assistance. Even though not long ago we would have considered such technology to be fictional. They may not look exactly as they do in the movies, but we do have bots at our very fingertips.

The bots that we have today are created for two main uses. Search bots are designed for searching information from a specific website or search the whole Internet. The utility bot accommodates you by fulfilling an assignment you give it.

We use search bots to see when the next showings of that new movie is in theaters or to find the latest news stories by simply speaking the request. The utility bot is used when you need to make a grocery purchase and the bot already has the groceries picked out for you as it has remembered your orders from last time. If you think about it, you use bots just like these all the time, we may just not think of them as bots.

Facebook has been working on bots of their own, they call them chatbots. They are creating these with hopes of providing a wide variety of services that could all be reached through their own app. During the development of these bots they noted that the bots were capable of conversing with humans intelligently. Which is a definite breakthrough as we all know how frustrating certain bots can be when they cannot follow the conversation needed in order to fulfill their tasks.

Some people I talk to about bots and the potential they have, are afraid of what will become of the human race if we create these robots to function better than our own species. For the time being, that is not at all a concern of the bot developers. These bots still need hands on development and constant upgrading to keep up with tasks required of them in order to become useful, let alone take over the planet.

When bots do fail while operational, it causes the same negative appearance that a poor website or unqualified sales rep gives the face of the company they work for. That situation is avoided at any cost, meaning highly intelligent bots are not normally released for our use until they really are highly intelligent. Though some of us would argue that we have already been in contact with these less than intelligent bots. But I guess that is all part of the learning and growing process for the bot builders.

 

Bots are capable of possessing the reliability and knowledge needed for great customer service or the ability to complete an assignment requested by just a text. This will make it possible to avoid human error and will allow for much less struggle for you! I am quite excited thinking about all the ways these bots will assist me as they start replacing the very applications that started them.

Tess Houcher 

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