Skype and PowerPoint Make Huge Accessibility Gains; Bose Enters the Augmented Reality Space; More in Five for Wednesday

photos of hotel lobby and airport terminal

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, our weekly round-up of tech-focused news.

      1. Microsoft stalwarts Skype and PowerPoint are able to display captions and subtitles in real time, matching the capabilities of Google Slides and other applications. These changes are a huge win for deaf users and others with hearing loss.
      2. Bose’s new augmented reality (AR) glasses are audio-only, and the company suggests they will be useful for context-aware audio-based tours. Can anyone imagine a REALTOR® using these to supplement their presence during open houses and walkthroughs? We can.
      3. If using Amazon’s Alexa has become part of your daily routine, check out these 12 new things she can do.
      4. Volkswagen is the latest vehicle manufacturer that’s pumping the brakes on making cars with combustion engines. Electric cars are definitely in everyone’s futures.
      5. Lastly, a great article on the new crop of productivity apps (and suites of apps) competing to make your and your team’s work-life easier.

More Transformed Malls; the Tesla of Pickup Trucks; and More in Five for Wednesday

inside of a shopping mall

  1. Last week, we looked one startup looking to create prefab housing inside of malls; this week, we’ve found another firm looking to turn malls into mini-cities. This would include housing for homeless in the community, as well as preserve the retail functions of the mall, provide job training, and more. The profits of some of the retail outlets within the mall would go towards the upkeep of the transitional housing.
  2. Rivian is a new company looking to break in to a market Tesla hasn’t yet – electric pickup trucks and SUVs. The company calls them “adventure vehicles,” and while they’re still two years from launching, they look to be incredibly promising.
  3. The buzzword in the Blockchain world we think will change real estate are “smart contracts,” programs that exist within the Blockchain to execute aspects of contracts. The MIT Technology Report is tracking development, and takes a look at where the technology stands today.
  4. If you’re looking for a longer read, this look at how Starbucks is partnering with Microsoft to create human-centered technology for their stores is a great look at how design and technology intersect with customer service and interaction.
  5. 802.11a, n, b, ax – what does it all mean? Ars Technica makes sense of the Wi-Fi alphabet soup.

Some Thoughts about Public WiFi; Black Friday and Chromebooks; More in Five for Wednesday

photos of hotel lobby and airport terminal

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, our weekly round-up of tech-focused news.

      1. You should always, always, always be careful when using public wifi, but this article argues that for most of us, it’s ok to relax a bit. (The article contains some solid safety tips, so even if you’re in the “Free hotel wifi? No way!” camp, read on.)
      2. It’s hard to navigate the large number of Chromebook models and configurations. Here’s a guide to what you should be looking for on Black Friday if you’re in the market for a new machine.
      3. Microsoft is making a number of its products password-free. What’s the catch? You need to use a hardware key and some another form of authentication. Still, though, for those who don’t practice good password hygiene, this is pretty awesome.
      4. With large commercial spaces like shopping malls languishing, there’s no shortage of ideas for how to reuse all those square feet. There’s even a start-up that will put pre-fabricated housing inside old malls. (Reaction here in CRTLabs ranged from “cool!” to “ewww.”)
      5. We have no fifth item this week, other than to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving and to thank you for reading and for your RTs.

Autonomous Cars in More Cities, Pushback Against Smart Cities, and More on Five For Wednesday

Google-Self Driving Cars

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, our weekly round-up of tech-focused news.


  1.  Dallas adds itself to the list of cities making autonomous vehicles available between city landmarks. Dallas is an incredibly car-dependent city, and the start-up bringing AVs in is hoping to alleviate congestion by offering self-driving shuttles during peak driving times between popular destinations.
  2. Waymo, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is launching a self-driving competitor to Uber and Lyft. The project is a highly-guarded secret, and is thought to be sending it first fleet of cars into the Phoenix metro area in early December. We’ll be keeping an eye out on this!
  3. Last month, I told you about Sidewalk Labs’ (another Alphabet company) pilot program in Toronto to rethink the smart city. The ambitious undertaking has recently come under fire from multiple groups, citing surveillance and data privacy concerns. I think the idea of the public civic trust of data sounds great on the outside, but would be interested in the details of that trust, and it looks like others are wanting information as well.
  4. Speaking of surveillance, the “smart neighborhood” is a trend we identified to watch for 2019, and we’re starting to see the pushback when neighbors start using their doorbells to set up a passive (but very digitally present) “neighborhood watch.” The “sharing video with your neighbors” trend started with footage of cute animals in yards going viral, but now has grown to include entirely crime-focused footage sharing apps. Again, the key here is about balancing the surveillance aspect between “too intrusive” and “helpful for the community,” and the balance of those two purposes is not as cut and dry as we’d hope.
  5. Having houseguests for the holidays? Build them an Alexa skill to let them know how to use the finicky universal remote, where to find spare towels, or what creaky step to skip on the staircase.

And this week’s bonus, spend some time with the Emoji Builder online app that I can’t stop using – making Emoji more nuanced means I can fully express myself with icons such as “smiling angry surprised face with hand covering mouth.” smiling angry surprised face with hand covering mouth

Samsung’s Foldable Phone / Tablet Is Real; Google’s Home Hub Reviewed; More in Five for Wednesday

two origami birds

Welcome to Five for Wednesday, our weekly round-up of tech-focused news.

      1. While not yet in production, the existence of Samsung’s rumored foldable phone has been confirmed. What looks like a normally-sized Android phone unfolds to become a (roughly) 7-inch tablet. If this is done and received well, look for all sorts of experimental form features for phones in the coming months.
      2. Here’s a thorough review of Google’s Home Hub, right before the holidays 🙂
      3. If you’re a Google Maps user who’s always envied some of the features of Waze, these developments should make you happy.
      4. If your office has, or wants, to improve its green profile, here’s something to aspire to: the greenest office in the world.
      5. No REALTOR® if ever going to escape email, but here’s an interesting way to tame it.

Apple’s Latest Hardware Updates; “Downtown” Walmarts; Communications During Disasters; and More on Five For Wednesday

mac mini on desk with display and iphone

  1. Apple announced a bevy of newly updated hardware this week, including updates to their Mac Mini and MacBook Air computers and iPad Pro tablet. Apple is embracing augmented reality, touting their iPad Pro as the best AR device on the market. The coolest announcement, however, was that they’ve redesigned the Apple Pencil to make it far less awkward – instead of having to charge from the iPad’s lightning port, it now charges wirelessly when it snaps magnetically to the iPad itself. The MacBook Air and iPad Pro feature Apple’s push to standardizing USB-C, but the Mac Mini will still come with USB-A, Thunderbolt, and HDMI ports.
  2. Instead of heading to your city’s downtown, what if you headed to Walmart? The retail giant wants their parking lots to be your next shopping destination. Each Walmart Town Center would resemble an open air mall, and feature stand alone shops from Shake Shack, Chipotle, Orangetherapy Fitness, and others. This model would reflect the chain’s recent messaging about being a “one-stop shop” for consumers while still proving there’s plenty of innovation in retail still to come.
  3. IBM recently launched their first Call for Code contest, asking developers to build some disaster relief technology. The winning tech, called Project Owl, uses low-frequency Wi-Fi to allow for communications in a disaster. Project Owl is a network of LoRa (long range data communications) and Wi-Fi routers that work similarly to the pop-up windows you see when connecting to hotspots at places like Starbucks; but instead of asking you to agree to ToS, the popup window allows you to communicate with first responders.
  4. iBeacon technology never really took off; VentureBeat took a look at the reasons why. Don’t rule out the technology yet, but don’t expect more retailers to be using beacons in their establishments anytime soon.
  5. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at how autonomous vehicles will shape how we design not only cars, but also roads – and even cities. We’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, and if you’re headed out to NAR Annual, you can check out the Emerging Business & Technology Forum, which takes a look at real estate and the future of mobility. Hear about not only driverless cars, but bike shares, ride-on-demand services, mobile offices, and more from a panel of experts in Boston on Saturday, 11/3, from 1:30-3:00P local time. Heads up – the WSJ article is behind a paywall, but if you subscribe, it’s definitely worth a read!