Author Archives: 46302

FOREST – an app that will help you stick to your new year’s resolutions

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Forest App: Stay focused and plant real trees
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Probably many of you, when the 1st of January comes, decide to create a list of resolutions for the whole year. If anyone wants to be more productive this year, I recommend to you FOREST.

This is, in my opinion, the best productivity app, that helps you with staying focus. When you have a list of things to do and you lack motivation, there comes Forest. As many of you know, the Pomodoro technique is a productivity method where you have around 25-minute blocks of being focused mixed with 5-minute blocs of relaxation time. Forest allows you to set your own duration time of “work time” and time for breaks.

screenshot from my phone, the 1st thing you see after opening the app

How does it work?

During the time you are focused, the tree of your choice is growing in the app. When you set the timer for example for 25 minutes, it will start counting down that time and you will see a tree starting to grow in that time. The more time you spend, the more trees you will have in your own forest. Also you can choose from the 80 tree species.

Aplikacja Forest - Your Focus Motivation w App Store
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Does our forest have an impact in real life?

Yes it does! In the app, you not only get to plant your own forest, but you also collect points, and after every 2500, the sponsor of the app “Trees for the future” will plant a real tree on your behalf, which I think is really great.

Why is it so helpful?

Avoiding distractions becomes much easier, when the app turns your effort into a game-like experience. One tree represents one successful session of undistracted work. Why undistracted? Because disturbing a session (so turning off the app or switching to another) results in a dying tree. When you find yourself tempted to use your phone and you exit the forest app, as you leave the app, you will almost instantly receive a notification that says that your tree will die if you don’t go straight back onto the app and continue with the timer.

Can you play with your friends?

Yes you can and I think it is a great option. You can add your friends in the app, which creates a little bit of a competition, because you can compare your focus time, but also allows you to study together (and then when one of you fails, the tree you were working on together, dies).

To sum up, I think Forest is an ideal choice if you are trying to become more focused and spend less time on your phone while completing your day-to-day tasks. And what’s important you are not only boosting your own productivity and focus, but you are also helping to encourage and contribute to the planting of real trees around the world

SOURCES:

https://www.forestapp.cc

https://happyheadspace.com/2018/09/19/how-to-use-forest-app-and-the-pomodoro-technique-to-increase-your-productivity/amp/

https://lizard.global/blog/apps-that-boost-your-productivity/

https://youtu.be/iL4HSVv5Ac4

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Meet Ameca – the human-like robot

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ameca is a robot created by a British company – ENGINEERED ARTS. As you can see on the video above, it amazes with hyper-realistic facial expressions. It is being described as a world’s most advanced human shaped robot.

WHAT IS AMECA DESIGNED FOR?

Will Jackson, founder of Engineered Arts, said that “the reason for making a robot that looks like a person is to interact with people”. Ameca has a grey coloured skin with deliberately gender and race neutral characteristic. Although it can perfectly mimic the human’s reactions and moves, it cannot walk yet. The engineers from the team say that this ability is currently under research and we can expect it very soon. Ameca has been designed as a robot platform—customers who buy it can add AI and other software to give the robot desired abilities, which I think might be very promising for example as a use in a metaverse. Just imagine taking your metaverse character into a real world or sending a robot to a meeting across the world.

photo: Engineered Arts website

Will Jackson spoke to the press recently, telling them that the abilities of Ameca and the company’s prior robots are the result of over 15 years’ worth of research and development. He also said that the goal of the company has remained the same – to develop robots that are able to interact in human-like ways, with humans. As for now, Ameca is available for purchase or event rental through Engineered Arts website.

video published by Engineered Arts on Vimeo

HOW THEY MADE AMECA SEEM SO REAL?

The appearance of the Ameca robot is based on 3D scans of real people. Thanks to that, they were able to imitate the human-like bone structure, skin surface and facial expression. Engineers also use high-precision sensors, cameras, depth sensors, LiDAR technology and microphones.

SOURCES:
https://smartme.pl/en/the-humanoid-robot-ameca-impresses-with-its-facial-expressions/

https://www.engineeredarts.co.uk/robot/ameca/

https://techxplore.com/news/2021-12-ameca-robot-human-like-facial.html

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Woebot – the future of the mental health?

Reading Time: 2 minutes
https://woebothealth.com/img/2021/05/06_Encouraging_2.gif

WHAT IS A WOEBOT?

Woebot is a bot, that invites people to talk with him and encourages them to have an honest conversation about their feelings, thoughts. On the webpage of Woebot is it said that:
“Woebot uses AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to learn from millions of conversations annually and to provide therapeutic encounters that are psychologically related, responsive to a person’s dynamic state of health, and targeted using tools from cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal disciplines.”

The Woebot has a different versions for different people, like for example for being in control of a maternal mental health, not only during the pregnancy, but also in time of a postpartum etc. I think this is a really helpful for women especially during this time, because as shown by the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), CDC research shows that nationally, about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. 

https://woebothealth.com/science-and-technology/

THE ADVANTAGES OF HAVING AN ONLINE CONVERSATION

Personally, I think that many people have the problem with being honest when it comes to talking about their feelings. Furthermore, the problems with mental health are often neglected, because of the social view on them. Many people are ashamed to talk about mental health, due to being scared of what others may think of that. When it comes to human-like therapeutic encounters and talking with a bot, many problems vanish. The fear of being judged is not an issue anymore. I also think it’s worth to mention that Woebot is free, so it’s available for everyone with a smartphone.

IS THE BOT REPLACING THERAPISTS?

No, Woebot isn’t created to replace the professional help. It’s only a useful tool for people who are seeking help in something different than traditional methods.

IS WOEBOT AVAILABLE IN EVERY LANGUAGE?

Unfortunately, as for now, the bot is talking only in English and partly in Italian.

The mental health awareness is really important and I’m really happy that initiatives like Woebot are becoming a thing.

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Bitcoin as a legal tender in El Salvador

Reading Time: 5 minutes
The ocean waves in El Zonte
(Photo of “Bitcoin Beach on El Salvador by Kate Linthicum / Los Angeles Times)

El Salvador in September became the first country to accept digital currency (Bitcoin) as a legal tender. As a county in Central America, El Salvador has a hard time dealing with natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. It’s economy has also been hampered by government policies that mandate large economic subsidies, and by official corruption. Subsidies became such a problem that in April 2012, the International Monetary Fund suspended a $750 million loan to the central government. President Funes’ chief of cabinet, Alex Segovia, acknowledged that the economy was at the “point of collapse”.

A man buys soda in a store that accepts Bitcoins in El Zonte.
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In June 2021, President Nayib Bukele said he would introduce Bitcoin as a legal tender in El Salvador. It was said by Jack Mallers, (founder Strike which is a Venmo-like application that allows people to send bitcoin to each other almost instantly and allows them to freeze their money in a dollar amounts) that Bitcoin would help countries like El Salvador protect themselves against “potential shocks” of inflation for traditional currencies – as El Salvador doesn’t have it’s own central bank and is contigent on monetary policy of the United States. The Bitcoin Law was passed by the Legistalive Assembly on 9 June 2021, with a majority vote of 62 out of 84. Bitcoin officially became legal tender ninety days after the publication of the law in the official newspaper. Since then bitcoin, as well as the United States dollar, is the official currency of El Salvador. Also, what I think is interesting, in the law it is said that foreigners can gain permanent residence in El Salvador if they invest 3 Bitcoins into the country. It is also worth to know that as a resident of this country you don’t have to pay capital gains tax.

Is it an easy thing to use cryptocurrency in such country as El Salvador?

Critics have pointed out that the plan is very light on details and that Bitcoin is notoriously difficult to use as a day-to-day currency partly due to its volatility. In addition, there’s a good chance that a large number of businesses in the country won’t even be able to accept the cryptocurrency; El Salvador has the lowest number of internet users in Latin America (about 45% of population). Bukele (El Salvador’s President), however, has been pointing to a El Zonte where residents have been using Bitcoin for nearly two years as evidence that the cryptocurrency could help power the economy nationwide. But he didn’t mention the fact that people there also had a long introduction to the cryptocurrencies.

What is a bitcoin beach and how it’s gotten it’s name?

Playa El Zonte, also known as “Bitcoin Beach” is a beach located in El Zonte, El Salvador. It all started with an anonymous donation from an American donor. It is said that he had gotten rich while trading the cryptocurrency and believed it “was going to change the world.”

How the people from Bitcoin Beach were able to learn about Bitcoin?

The investors firstly were trying to convince older people that bitcoin is a good thing for them, they started to pay their children in digital coins to pick up the trash from the beach etc. Also the main factor that helped them to introduce Bitcoin was the pandemic and the fact that the tourism industry collapsed. The families from the city started receiving from Michael Peterson, a 47-year-old California native, about $35 in Bitcoin and when they wanted to cash the money, they needed and app which allows that. That’s how Bitcoin Beach Wallet was created. It is said that 18 months after the project launched, roughly 90% of El Zonte’s households are interacting with the currency regularly.

What are pros and cons of using bitcoin on El Salvador?

So firstly – 70% of the population is unbanked (according to study from 2017) which is an estonishing number. We can hope that introducing Bitcoin would increase a percentage of bank users, but also we have to take under consideration that only 45% of the population is using internet, so it might be not only a hard thing for them to learn, but it also might be hard to convince them that using digital currency can be good or even life changing.  Reports indicate that some residents have struggled to access the payment system because of limited data plans and lack of access to more advanced smartphones.

We also have to think about the Bitcoin itself. According to the Bank of America bitcoin industry’s global CO2 emissions have risen to 60 million tons, equal to the exhaust from about 9 million cars. Considering the environmental impact it has, maybe there would be better cryptocurrency for everyday use.

In an interview with Roxana Valles, the 42-year-old proprietor of a small beachside grocery store she said that using Bitcoin has allowed her to invest for the first time. But what if the Bitcoin’s value drops like it happened in April 2021? One Elon Musk’s tweet about Tesla not accepting Bitcoin caused a big crush (about 50%) “I’d be very interested in seeing what happens if we enter a bear market,” says McCormack, the British podcaster. “If you’re a shop owner and you have $50 a day in Bitcoin sales and all the sudden that goes up to $60, that’s cool. But what happens when it starts going down to $40 or $30?”

Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Cato institute’s Troubled Currencies Project says that “Businesses tend to unload Bitcoin as fast as they can because of the fluctuating exchange rate. If you receive it in the morning, it could easily be down 5 or 10 percent by the close of business,” said Hanke. “Are you running a business in which you’re speculating in Bitcoin, or are you running a business where you’re selling clothes or shoes?” People on El Salvador simply need currency that they can either hold or sell without worrying about it’s value changing over night or even in hours.

How the Latin American nation reacted to Bitcoin being announced as a legal tender?

Protester with "no to Bitcoin" sign
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Since the day the Bitcoin Law went into effect — when the coin was valued at just $46,777 — the value of Bitcoin has already significantly increased. But this optimism is not shared by everyone. It’s a country where not only internet or bank access are hard to reach, but also an education opportunities are limited. Not everyone is open to cryptocurrency and people are not interested in learning about it. They have hard time accessing Chivo app, which is supposed to help them with receiving and paying with Bitcoin. Chivo wallet makes the transactions instant and almost costless.

SUMMARY

Making Bitcoin a legal tender in El Salvador is definitely a bold decision. Like every groundbreaking innovation it has it’s supporters and opponents. We will see in the future how it turns out for El Salvador’s economy. I hope it’s going to end up well for them, but personally I think there may be a better cryptocurrency than Bitcoin for them to use, possibly more eco-friendly one.

SOURCES:

https://www.reuters.com/business/el-salvadors-bitcoin-beach-town-digital-divide-slows-uptake-2021-06-14/

https://www.ft.com/content/56588fee-dca8-450d-a848-80d29f02f45e

https://slate.com/technology/2021/06/el-zonte-el-salvador-bitcoin-beach-legal-tender.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-06-17/world-s-biggest-bitcoin-experiment-is-a-surf-town-in-el-salvador

https://www.inverse.com/innovation/bitcoin-el-salvador-protests-chivo-app

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