Have you ever been there waiting for an Amazon package to arrive and constantly updating your screen to see current location updates? This is how it works in an Amazon warehouse as well. The only difference is that Amazon not only tracks packages, it tracks the movements of its workers.
This week, Vice revealed internal Amazon documents which outlines the techniques the company uses to monitor its warehouse employees. The documents describe how intricate Amazon tracks workers and monitors the activity of each worker’s handheld package scanner to determine if that worker is using “leisure time”. Amazon keeps a record of each employee’s TOT down to the minute. TOT can include chatting with others, walking around and sometimes even a trip to the toilet. After accumulating more than 30 minutes TOT within a day, the worker is disciplined. Ghosts can be fired. Managers are also instructed to interview workers with high TOT numbers and ask them to explain each case of TOT.
These controversial practices have been brought to light before, but this is the first time the formal details have been revealed to the public. Amazon implemented these tactics at its warehouse in Staten Island, New York, which in April also became the first Amazon warehouse to be organized. This uncompromising push towards productivity at any cost, combined with one wave of damage in Amazon department stores, has caused disagreement in the ranks and led to a warehouse employee taking the issue directly to Amazon shareholders.
Here are some other news from the Gear desk this week.
Come with the holograms
When you use your phone to take a picture in portrait mode, you record tons of 3D data. Your phone uses this data to establish depth in the image and give the background the nice bokeh effect, but the resulting image still looks 2D. The same can be said for any Pixar movie, which is composed of characters generated in 3D but seen on 2D screens. Looking Glass, a company known for its holographic displays, is trying to leverage all of this data with its new prototype image format called Blocks. This format turns any 3D media into a hologram that can be viewed on any device with just a simple web link. See an example here.
Click on the link on your phone, computer screen or virtual reality headset – no holographic display required – and you will see a holographic image. These can really jump off the screen and you can use your finger or mouse to move the image left and right to see the parallax effect in action. We’ve seen this kind of technology before, but Blocks’ goal is to make it simple and integrated throughout the Internet, just as it’s dead simple for anyone to create and share a GIF these days.
Looking Glass has one pilot program creators can join in to transform their creations into shareable holographic blocks, and the hope is to launch an open beta this summer.
New Surface Laptop, Go!
Microsoft announced an update to Surface Laptop Go, the company’s budget laptop, released in 2020. Surface Laptop Go 2 is a $ 600 clamshell that weighs just under 2.5 pounds. It’s a fairly straightforward Windows laptop with a 12.4-inch screen and an Intel i5 processor. The screen does not pop off or rotate like a typical Surface laptop.
Some features of the new machine were built with repair ability in mind. You can replace the keyboard cover, SSD storage module or battery and replace them. Microsoft’s announcement also took a shot at Apple’s infamous laptop keyboards, saying the Go 2 has 30 percent more key travel than a MacBook Air. Go 2 starts airing on June 7th.
If there’s one thing Google has become good at, it is to put things together. The company’s latest action of app fusion combines its voice and video apps, Meet and Duo. The resulting merger will retain the Meet name, but it’s Meets features that will be transferred to the renamed Duo app later this year. New features from Meet include the ability to schedule meetings, customize virtual backgrounds and host video calls with up to 100 people (the previous limit was 32). The additions will make the new Meet feel much more Zoom-y, though Google’s video messaging platform has a fraction of the users that Zoom does.
WWDC starts Monday
Apple’s annual software developer conference returns next week with a keynote address on Monday, June 6, which will be packed with product and software announcements. Here is our review of what to expect at WWDC. (New iOS features! Maybe a new MacBook!) Be sure to check back at WIRED on June 6th, where we’ll cover all the important parts of everything Apple announces.
Hi, have you checked your texts recently? If that question sent a small jolt of anxiety through your chest, you are not alone. As WIRED’s Lauren Goode points out, messages are terrible in the modern era, where everyone is theoretically available at all times. But sometimes you do not want to be connected or you just need a break. Unfortunately, Away Message – one of the key features of AOL Instant Messenger that enforced healthy boundaries – has almost disappeared in the smartphone era.
This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, Goode and co-host Michael Calore talk about what a hell of a text message has become and how you (and the companies that control those apps) can fix it.