IKEA Is Now Selling Solar Panels & Batteries for Your Home

IKEA never fails to offer must-have essentials for your home, as the Swedish multinational furniture company is now selling solar panels and home batteries.

Exclusive to customers in the U.K. for now, IKEA has partnered with solar firm Solarcentury to make the sale possible.

“We’re committed to helping homeowners reap the benefits of going solar and our business partnership with Ikea is a significant step forwards for the renewable energy industry,” said Susannah Wood, head of residential solar at Solarcentury in a statement. “The cost of solar installations has dropped considerably in recent years and is in fact 100 times cheaper than it was 35 years ago.”

With prices for solar battery storage starting at around $3,970 USD — the home batteries are designed to work with existing solar panels, or as part of a new combined home solar panel / battery storage system that IKEA is selling.

The batteries will allow users to store electricity generated by the sun from their solar panels, and use it when they want. IKEA says that an average UK home with solar panels will typically consume around 40 percent of the solar electricity it generates, although, using storage, an average home can double its solar electricity usage to 80 percent, while electricity bills can be cut by up to 70 percent.

Also, the company recently unveiled a cookable “Easy Recipe Series” book to encourage more creativity in the kitchen.

Elon Musk’s First Tesla Solar Roof Is Here, and It Looks Awesome

Elon Musk’s house runs on solar. The Tesla CEO made the announcement during Wednesday’s second quarter 2017 earnings call, where he revealed that both himself and Jeffrey B. Straubel, the company’s chief technology officer, have installed solar roof tiles on their houses.

“We have installed and working the Solar Roof tiles,” Musk told investors during the conference call.

Tesla started taking pre-orders for the textured black and grey smooth tile styles back in May, with U.S. orders expected to start shipping this year. Unfortunately, those that didn’t order immediately have a long wait on their hands: the tiles sold out until next year in just 16 days. The company is expected to start taking orders for the remaining Tuscan and slate styles in November, with deliveries starting next year. International orders are expected to start shipping next year.

The solar roof tiles are offered at a competitive price point. Tesla has priced them at an average of $21.85 per square foot, bringing them down to below the cost of a normal roof.

Musk is one of the first to have the tiles up and running. When he first announced the tiles in October, he laid out a vision of a future house with a Tesla Model 3 in the garage, a Powerpack lithium-ion battery on the wall, and a roof made of solar tiles. The tiles would provide energy to the Powerpack, which would provide a steady stream of power to the car and house at all times of day. With the Powerpack already available and Model 3 shipments starting last month, the tile was the last missing piece of his vision.

“I want to emphasize that there’s no Photoshopping on the roof,” Musk said. “That is actually how it looks, and it wasn’t taken by some… ‘it was take some pics with your phone and send them over.’ That’s what we’re talking about here, not some special lighting conditions, pro-photographer situation. And this is version one, and I think this roof’s going look really knockout as we just keep iterating.”

The solar roof works out as cheaper than a new roof even before the energy savings brought by using the roof. When those are factored in, the roof starts to pay for itself:

These tiles are tough. They’re made of tempered glass, which makes them about three times stronger than slate or asphalt. On top of that, the tiles are capable of defrosting by using a similar method employed by anti-ice wires used in windshields. All this means the tiles are capable of working through extreme conditions.

“Solar Roof is the most durable roof available and the glass itself will come with a warranty for the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first,” Tesla said in a May blog post.

Musk explained during the call that solar roof tile production should increase exponentially, in a similar fashion to Model 3 production. That means initial growth will be slow, followed by a sharp increase, ending with a plateau where Tesla produces a consistently high number of tiles per month. Even when production reaches its peak, though, it’s going to take a long time before every house has a solar roof.

“I think eventually almost all houses will have a solar roof,” Musk said during a May TED conference in Vancouver. “The thing to consider the timescale to be probably on the order of forty for fifty years. On average, a roof is replaced every 20 to 25 years but you don’t start replacing all roofs immediately but eventually if you were to fast forward to fifteen years from now it will be unusual to have a roof that doesn’t have solar.”

Beyond the tiles, Tesla’s solar operation has had big success recently. Last month, it was announced that Tesla will build the world’s largest battery in South Australia to solve the state’s energy woes. The 100 megawatt pack will store renewable energy for 30,000 homes. A storm last September left 1.7 million residents without power, and it’s hoped that Tesla’s solution will avoid a similar situation occurring again.

In the future, these technological breakthrough could transition the whole of the United States onto solar energy. Musk has laid out an ambitious plan that involves using rooftop solar panels, utility-sized power plants and localized power infrastructure.

“If you wanted to power the entire United States with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States,” Musk said during his keynote conversation at the National Governors Association event in Rhode Island last month. “The batteries you need to store the energy, so you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile.”

The solar roof could be the first step toward a major shift in energy production.

This Fitness App Plays Music That Changes Pace When You Do

Co-creator and co-founder of Google Maps, Lars Rasmussen and Elomida Visviki have recently launched a new music app Weav Music and fitness app Weav Run built on the progression of adaptive music.

Lars and Elomida have made technological advancements that will pair music to match your speed and steps while running. This goes further than the classic algorithm and genius technology because each song changes pace as you do, matching cadences and steps. Each song then acts as a motivational tool to push you forward and make runners reach new heights and increase their abilities. The songs will continuously change tempos to real-time making sure you are always on beat.

Weav Music has made partnerships with Sony Music, Warner Music, and many of their affiliated labels. Universal Music Group has given them permission to “experiment” with songs from their catalog to have a large and diverse choice of tracks for the listeners using Weav Run.

The creators say this is just the beginning of hyper music adaptation, and will soon become a part of video games, virtual reality, meditation, and dance apps. Having the ability to go from 60 to 240 bpm will give musicians more room to blend genres and sounds into each individual track, which could and will probably make a new genre of recorded music.

For those that love to run and jam, make sure to be apart of the high intelligent and groundbreaking app Weav Run, which is now available and can be downloaded for immediate use.

How Amazon Is Quietly Taking Over Your Living Room

From Sony vs. Microsoft, to Roku vs. Apple TV, to LG’s webOS vs. Android TV, there’s always some battle being waged to rule the TV and stereo in the room where families spend the brunt of their time. Well, Amazon is quietly working to beat everyone — and it’s okay if you didn’t notice. Most folks haven’t.

Obviously, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is already one of the biggest players in the digital assistant game, with an install base of millions and a sales trend expected to put the system at a mind-boggling 500 million global users by 2020. But in addition to controlling your light switches, playing Bluetooth audio and reminding you of the day’s date on occasion, Amazon has been adding “skills” to the system by the armload every week, and it now offers more than 10,000, ranging from smart home add-ons to flash news briefings.

Another area that’s been on the rise as of late? Television.

You know the first part of the equation. The company’s Trojan horse has been the wildly successful Fire TV Stick (currently the No. 1 selling Electronics item on Amazon) and the Amazon Fire TV (which comes with a few extra features, including 4K video), both of which are basically Amazon’s beachhead against products like the Roku and Apple TV in your entertainment center. Amazon has sold millions of them, and the past several editions have included a killer feature that’s popping up in more and more devices these days. You guessed it: Alexa. The voice command button takes up a piece of prime real estate on the remote control, and cuts out the middle man when it comes to menus and searching. It’s a handy feature that sets Amazon’s line apart, and a brilliant (if not obvious) way to leverage all the time and energy the company has put into Alexa. Amazon is already a key player in the set-top box market, and they’ve been weaving Alexa into its DNA for years — and now it’s time for the next phase to begin.

Amazon has started cutting deals with TV manufacturers and satellite companies to make Alexa the easiest way to control your television — no remote control, or Fire stick, required. Sony recently announced some of its 4K TV lines would be adding Alexa functionality, while Westinghouse is also adding Alexa to its features list. Looking beyond the out-of-the-box experience, Amazon has also worked with Dish Network to add Alexa functionality to its higher-end satellite receivers, which allows the system to change channels, retrieve recorded content, and pause with nothing more than a few words. I tested the Dish skill myself, and there’s something freeing and truly geeky about being able to tune to ESPN, or pause the TV for a beer run, without fishing the remote out from between the couch cushions. Just say it, and it’s done. It also worked surprisingly well and fast, with straightforward commands that were just as snappy as manually pushing the button.

Putting Alexa into Amazon’s own streaming box is one thing, but now those skills are getting baked into devices and tech that make them more and more useful for all the Echos and Echo Dots already littering end tables and desks all over the world. Amazon is adding skills to Alexa on a daily basis, and with that tech showing up in a first wave of living room devices, Amazon continues to build its living room lead on Google and Apple’s AI offerings. If you’re trying to decide between an Apple HomePod, Echo or Google Home, learning your brand new TV — or the satellite or cable service you’re locked into a contract on — works with Alexa could easily be the deciding factor when it comes to platform choice. And Amazon knows it. More TV manufacturers will almost certainly join Sony and Westinghouse, and it stands to reason other cable and satellite providers won’t let Dish hold onto this advantage when the next iteration of their set-top boxes start rolling out.

Amazon is on the verge of changing the way we watch TV, and the “trick” has been to just put Alexa into everything and make it work well. Or at least well enough. Make it so convenient that you just use it because it’s always there — and at that point — why would anyone look to a competitor when they already have the feature set built-in, no add-ons required? If your satellite service, TV and streaming box all just work with the Echos already in your house, would you ever seriously consider a different platform? Not likely.

Amazon is winning the battle for the living room by making its ecosystem so wide-ranging and accessible that you might not even realize you have it. The company is already a leader for smart home early adopters thanks to the low buy-in cost (Dots can typically be snagged for between $30-40 when a sale is on) and expansive feature set, and if you’re already using Alexa to turn the lights on, isn’t the next step just firing up the TV and turning on some Fixer Upper?

Reddit Is Redesigning to Look More Like Facebook

For some, Reddit’s pared-back design is part of the charm. But for others, it’s an instant turnoff. After raising $200 million in new venture funding, the news aggregator says it’s ready to catch up with the rest of the internet by undergoing a polished redesign.

The money has been donated by a number of Silicon Valley firms and individual investors, meaning the company’s overall value currently sits around the $1.8 billion mark. Reddit launched in 2005 and has remained much the same in terms of appearance, but co-founder Steve Huffman has confirmed the site will now undergo a full aesthetic overhaul.

“We have a lot of perception debt,” Huffman told Recode. “Reddit feels old. We don’t want to be associated with old.”

“We want Reddit to be more visually appealing,” he continued. “So when new users come to Reddit they have a better sense of what’s there, what it’s for.”

Recode then went on to claim that one of the early redesigns looks similar to Facebook’s News Feed or Twitter’s Timeline. In addition, the article claims that part of the money will be put towards beefing up its video operation to allow users to upload more easily.

Redditors – how do you feel about the plans to overhaul the site? Let us know in the comments below.

The Most Advanced Wearable Fitness Device Is Finally Here

We have reached the point where fitness tracking is ubiquitous in our society. For a relatively low price, it’s easy to find a wearable device that does basic tracking of how many steps you take, what your heart rate is, what your sleep patterns are, and so on. Such technology has become baseline in wearables. And if you’re just looking for help counting your steps, or some inspiration to put more effort into getting a goodnight’s sleep, the products on the market are just fine — they do the trick.

But with only one piece of equipment used to gather data, you’re not getting a full picture or really advanced reading of your body’s movements and metrics. To this end, unfortunately, wearing a popular fitness tracker is nothing like going to the doctor and getting a checkup.

Most trackers fall short for this reason: While the consumer industry leaders like Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band, and Misfit have enough technology to document steps and pulses, they don’t have the ability to put together the bigger picture of their user’s health. Essentially, they’re not dynamic enough to be clinical-quality. And when you’re looking to track your vitals, why settle for anything short of what a doctor might use?

That’s where Biostrap comes in. They assert that their aim is to change the industry standard, and to this end, they have created a device with biometrics so advanced that physicians actually use the same tech to monitor their patient’s physical health. So you can count on an accurate and dependable recording, and wearing a Biostrap feels like you’re going to the doctor.

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Investing in a Biostrap is taking a fast-track road to getting into shape. While it’s a bit more expensive than the other trackers on the market, priced at $249, it’s a serious device that’s perfect for people who want to get (or already are) serious about their health.

The Biostrap is a platform of two different devices that work in tandem to capture all of your body’s efforts. Together, the wristband and shoe clip create a precise picture of your every move. To break down the specifics, the Biostrap extracts more than 29 parameters to offer reliable accounts of user’s Heart Rate Variability, Oxygen Saturation, Respiratory Rate, and more. And because exercise is more than just “steps taken in a day” it’s programmed to recognize over 20 different kinds of physical activities. From squats, to strides on the elliptical, to butterfly strokes in the pool—the Biostrap is counting every physical activity its users engage in.

And if it doesn’t recognize what they’re doing, they can teach it to. After recording a few reps of the movement, the Biostrap will remember it for the future. You’ll never again have to wonder: if you work out and no one else is at the gym, have you even worked out at all? If you’re wearing a Biostrap, it’s always watching.

Why People Are Moving to Apps to Get Therapy

While the nature of mental health issues has not changed, the way people are getting help is. United States startups are disrupting the talk therapy tradition with apps that give you unlimited access to therapists. Angela Waters explores the virtual deconstruction of the therapist’s couch.

Traditional therapy happens on a couch, once a week, for 60 minutes, at roughly $100 per session — while it works for some, a lot of people fall through the cracks of the mental health system. To fill these gaps, tech companies have sprouted up offering a different take.

“I realized that the mental health system in the United States is completely broken,” Roni Frank, co-founder of online therapy app Talkspace told Highsnobiety. “Recent studies show that one in five Americans — 50 million people — suffers from mental health issues each year. However, 70 percent of those have no access to mental health services.”

Cost is one of the main barriers to therapy as many insurance policies only cover physical health. Even among those who can afford a therapist, there is often an old-fashioned conviction that you should just be able to pick yourself up by your bootstraps instead of asking for help. But even if money and stigma are not a problem, there is the complicated process of picking the right therapist and finding a time to put sessions into your schedule.

The main difference between traditional therapy and mental health apps is that they make the process casual with less commitment. An algorithm helps you find a therapist and switching to find the right fit is a quick chat to customer service.

You are accessing therapists the way you would speak to your friends, via text, video messaging/calling and voice notes. This also means you have way more access to your therapist.

Talkspace offers an unlimited text, video and audio messaging plan starting at $32/week, where therapists respond one or two times a day five days a week.

“You are talking to a therapist the way you would friends and colleagues so it makes the whole process feel more normal, compared to going to a private practice which feels like a doctor’s room. It is very intimidating to go to the waiting room and sit on the couch,” Frank said.

Maybe this is what has attracted 500,000 people to the platform, sixty percent of which have never tried traditional therapy

Couple’s Therapy

The idea for Talkspace actually came to Frank when she and her husband were going through couple’s therapy. Although she credits the sessions with saving her marriage, she believes that putting feuding partners in a room with a therapist may not be the best way to deal with relationship problems.

“In traditional couple’s therapy the couple has to be together on the couch for 90 minutes, which is more expensive than regular therapy because it is longer than a single-person session,” Frank said. “It can actually be more stressful for the couple to sit in the same room together. There is too much tension and too much anxiety.”

She argues that in a messaging-based model some of the heat is being removed from the fights and it gives the two people more distance to really listen to each other and understand what the other person is saying. Another upside to the alternative model is a more immediate response to active issues.

“Let’s say they have a huge fight, right there and then they can reach out to a therapist and get help. Relationships are not easy; there is a lot of drama,” Frank said. “Couples deal with heavy things like anxiety and cheating. Sometimes it is unbearable to wait to talk to a therapist so we are providing immediate help.”

But Not Everyone Is a Fan

While many are warming to the casual vibe of therapy app platforms, some insist there are reasons traditional therapists do things a certain way and that cutting corners to reduce the costs can be dangerous when dealing with mental health.

Marlene Maheu, executive director of the Telebehavioral Health Institute, has been working with virtual therapy for more than twenty years and sees major red flags with popular mental health apps.

“Many groups use licensed professionals, but in many cases those professionals have absolutely no training and for the most part are unsophisticated about what their obligations are,” Maheu told Highsnobiety. “There are licensed people doing illegal and unethical things at a cut rate. This means that the consumer is not getting the services that they expect when they approach these professionals.”

One of her main concerns about online platforms is anonymity. While many apps let you volunteer what information you give to a therapist, including your name and locations, this prohibits therapists from contacting the proper authorities if a patient plans to harm themselves or others.

“The problem is everybody looks alike when they are showing up the first time,” Maheu said. “Most of these websites will say if you are suicidal or homicidal, don’t come here because we can’t help you, but the truth is that every clinician worth their salt knows that people overcompensate in the first few sessions, then they may fall apart and become violent.”

Another concern with anonymity is that a therapist may not have all the information necessary to help someone.

“You have to find out what the situation is – you have to do an intake. With some of these companies you just type in a question and you are supposed to be getting a legitimate answer; that is not psychotherapy. If the person is going to talk to you about a problem and not ask about if you are taking medication, if you have physical disorders then it is kind of strange. How can they council if they haven’t ruled out a physical problem,” Maheu said.

She added that a virtual therapist has to actually do more work than an in-person therapist to deliver the same quality of care, because they cannot use sensory cues to pick up on things that a person may not be telling them.

“There is definitely a benefit to virtual therapy, but the rubber meets the road with the training of the therapist,” Maheu said. “Look at the therapists and their bios, if they aren’t certified in online therapy, you need to ask yourself if you want to be their experiment.”

Twitter Lost 2 Million Users This Quarter, and Now Its Stock Is Tanking

Twitter‘s pre-market trading is down 9.73% at $17.71 a share. The company has reported an average of 68 million monthly active users in the United States this past quarter, down from 70 million in the previous quarter. However, its revenue grew at the same time. Twitter beat Wall Street’s predicted revenue of $537 million USD by $37 million USD, with earning per shares coming higher at $0.12 than the expected $0.05, making this the eleventh quarter Twitter exceeded earnings expectations.

During the first quarter, the company grew 9% in monthly users due to President Trump‘s frequent use of the platform. Twitter has also gone through redesigns of its web and mobile interface in the second quarter to compete with Facebook and other rivals, as well as to narrow their focus on “live” content. Twitter informed shareholders in a letter that it was able to improve engagement thanks to timeline and notifications improvements, attributing the inactivity of user growth to ”lower seasonal benefits and other factors.”

Read Twitter’s Q2 shareholders letter here. 

Scientists Say You Should Play Video Games On Your Breaks At Work

It’s no secret that our jobs — often riddled with endless to-do lists and office politics — can be a source of tension. But a short break with some video games may be one of the best ways to help us relieve stress at work, a recent study suggests.

In surveys by the American Psychological Association from 2007 to 2015, work was consistently one of the most commonly named stressors, while a separate survey suggests that 80% of Americans may be stressed at work. All of that adds up — and considering stress is linked to impulsive decision-making, lowered productivity and a higher chance of mistakes, employers should really care about how we feel at work.

To test what helps alleviate employees the most, scientists asked 66 study participants to perform computer-based work that induces “cognitive fatigue,” which is often the result of stress, frustration or anxiety. Then they asked the participants to take a break, telling them to either rest quietly in the room without a phone or computer, take part in a guided relaxation exercise or play a video game called Sushi Cat for a bit.

Participants who just sat there reported little positive results after their break, while those who did de-stressing exercises felt less negative effects, the study said. However, only those who played the video game actually reported feeling better.

“We often try to power through the day to get more work finished, which might not be as effective as taking some time to detach for a few minutes,” Michael Rupp, one of the study authors and a doctoral student in human factors and cognitive psychology at the University of Central Florida, said in a release. “People should plan short breaks to make time for an engaging and enjoyable activity, such as video games, that can help them recharge.”

Now, we just have to convince our bosses a PS4 in the office is a worthy expense.

Roomba Has Been Quietly Mapping Your Home, Now It Wants to Sell The Data

In 2015, the Roomba robotic vacuum received a major upgrade to its sensors, letting the robot build a map of the house or apartment it patrols for dirt. And now iRobot, the company behind the Roomba, could make a deal with Amazon, Apple, or Google within the next few years to sell those maps and other user data.

While iRobot CEO Colin Angle insists that providing this data to “the big three” could greatly improve a smart home’s ability to serve customers, this potential deal represents a major privacy concern for people who use the robotic vacuum to clean their home. While most people seem to have more or less come to terms with the fact that their browsing history and online activity is being sold, data collected by a Roomba includes camera footage and updated maps of their personal space.

Angle told Reuters that he felt most people would opt into the services provided by integrating Roomba data with other smart home devices, which could include targeted ads from Amazon or orchestrating indoor lights to be most compatible with the natural light coming in through windows.

Not that consumers would necessarily have a choice in the matter. Gizmodo took a look at Roomba’s terms of service and revealed that iRobot can sell data to other companies or the government whenever any or all of their company is purchased — just like the potential deals that have Angle so excited in the first place.

Roomba develops its maps using cameras and advanced sensors to understand the layout of the room or building it’s cleaning. Previously, robotic vacuums used infrared sensors just to detect obstacles in their immediate paths, with no permanent sense of the space they were cleaning. Going back to that older model of robotic vacuum would sidestep the privacy concerns the Roomba now presents, but it would also mean taking a step back in vacuum quality and navigation.