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NOTEBOOK: 10 great tech ideas of ’17


The folks at Fast Company point out that you don’t have to create the next Google to change the world. Sometimes making things easier to use, or fine-tuning existing apps to line up better with our daily lives is plenty. Here is Fast Company’s take on “The 10 Cleverest Tech Ideas of 2017.”

Multitasking assistant
Google Home has gained the upper hand in its game of feature leapfrog with Amazon’s Echo, allowing users to string two actions together in a single voice command. Now you can say, “Dim the lights and play some jazz,” or “What’s on my calendar, and what’s the weather?”

Faster binge watching 
Netflix now offers a “Skip Intro” button. While the move has led to some fretting about the demise of dazzling title sequences, Fast Company wouldn’t mind passing some of them.

Less-distracted driving
Apple’s iOS 11 includes a “do not disturb while driving” mode that automatically switches on when the iPhone senses vehicular travel, or it connects to the car’s Bluetooth speaker. The system then mutes all non-urgent notifications, and you can choose to have it respond with an “I’m driving” message. It locks the phone unless you claim to be a passenger. Distractions lead to thousands of U.S. deaths a year. 

AI in a squeeze 
With HTC’s U11 smartphone, users can squeeze the phone’s bottom half to bring up Amazon’s Alexa. The same feature also appears on Google’s Pixel 2 phones, tied to Google Assistant. Either way, initiating voice commands this way could change how you use your phone.

Auto photo sharing
Not convinced that the power of Google Photos’ facial recognition outweighs any creepiness? The “Shared Libraries” feature that arrived this year might sway you, Fast Company contends. Just designate a trusted contact (such as your spouse), and once the other person approves, Google will automatically share your photos with them. You can even limit sharing to specific faces, which would be useful for allowing only family photos to come through. This can save hours of manual sorting.

Sharing the tab on Airbnb
Airbnb’s bill-splitting feature puts an end to one member of a group having to charge everything — or getting all the points. Airbnb isn’t the first sharing economy service to accept group payments — Uber and Lyft have been doing it for years. But we’re talking bigger bucks at Airbnb. 

Multitasking mastery
The Samsung Galaxy Note8 improved multitasking by adding a shortcut bar from which you can launch your favorite app combos in a side-by-side view. 

Smarter drag-and-drop
The concept of drag-and-drop has existed on Windows and Macs for decades, but a notation app called Goodnotes shows how the iPad’s version might pass up the competition. When dragging a snippet of handwriting into another app, Goodnotes converts the writing into text. 

Intercompany communication
Although Slack’s group-chat service has helped kill countless intra-office emails, it’s never excelled at facilitating conversations between companies. That’s starting to change with a beta feature called Shared Channels, which allows any two companies to create common workspaces for their employees. It should be less of a hassle than the existing guest account system, which requires separate logins and workspaces.

Bridging the workout gear gap
Conflicting exercise data is no longer a problem for Apple Watch users who like to hit the treadmill. Now that WatchOS can sync with gym equipment, users can gather information about elevation, distance and stairs climbed, and combine it with heart rate and other data from the watch’s sensors for a more accurate workout summary. The gym equipment can even mirror the Apple Watch’s display so that users don’t have to check their wrists while exercising. Only a single gym supports Apple’s GymKit framework for now.

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