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7 things you can do right now to protect your vision

Andrea Ayres-Deets is the Lead Writer at Crew, an invite-only network connecting short-term software projects with handpicked developers and designers. Andrea writes about psychology, creativity, and business over on the Crew blog.


I spend all day on a computer. No, wait, that’s an understatement. I spend nearly every waking hour of every single day in front of a digital device.

By 4:00 p.m. my eyes are dry, bloodshot, and begging for relief. They are out of luck though because I have maybe four or five hours left of work here.

When it’s really bad, I can actually hear myself blinking.

The majority of us spend all of our work and free time in front of one form of digital device or another. It’s not difficult to protect your eyes from damage caused by the light emitted from screens, it just requires some knowledge and minor adjustments.

How long do you spend in front of a screen?

Four hours, Seven hours, more than ten? Most of us spend around 6-9 hours a day on a digital device, another 28% spend more than ten hours a day in front of one type of screen or another.

Your eyes can begin to feel strain in as little as two hours. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how good your eye sight is, all of that screen time isn’t good for you.

The eyes clean and moisten themselves each time you blink. Computer use reduces your blink rate by as much as five times. When you are on a computer you also more likely to have incomplete blinks. That is when a blink does not fully cover the cornea of your eye. This can result in eye strain, fatigue, and headaches.

Reduced blinking is most associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). It sounds like something out of a failed Law and Orderepisode but it’s a real disorder. Symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck and shoulder pain
  • double vision
  • light sensitivity

Sound like anyone you know?

Light influences everything from our hormone secretion and heart rate, to our cognitive abilities. When we get too much, or not enough of the good kind of light, these biological and behavioral processes are effected. First things first, what happens when light first hits your eyes?

Well, most light passes through your cornea, lens, and macula:

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Cornea and Lens: responsible for absorbing much of the UV light that enters our eyes with the lens absorbing most shorter wavelength light.

Macula: absorb around 40% of high energy blue light.

The cornea, lens, and macula absorb electromagnetic radiation up to 460 nanometers (nm). Anything above 460 nm—like light from your computer screen—cannot be absorbed and that’s a problem. The 460 nm—1400 nm range is known as retinal hazard region. Light in that range goes directly into your retina and that can cause damage.

Blue light bad news

Blue light (or high-energy visible light) is bad for you when you are trying to sleep and it’s equally bad for you when you are working. All of your electronic devices give off this high-energy visible light (HEV).

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Blue light is able to pass through what is called the retinohypothalamic tract, or pathway. This pathway is responsible for regulating our circadian rhythm a number of other biological and behavioral processes.

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Because of how sensitive our eyes are to blue light, it is believed that it effects our behavioral and biological processes more than other types of light.

Early research into rat retina’s shows that the damage caused by blue light occurs in the rhodopsin. Rhodopsin is located in the rod of the eye and it is involved in our first perceptions of color. It kind of looks like a tangled up phone cord:

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Here’s where it gets interesting/terrifying:

So these rhodopsin are normally purpley-reddish in color, but when they are hit by light, they bleach. Rhodopsin decomposes when it is exposed to light, the bleaching is rhodopsin being changed into another compound.

It is only when you remove yourself from light that they regenerate into new purpley-reddish proteins. This is the natural cycle and it needs to happen in order for your vision to work properly.

Blue light causes rhodopsin to regenerate photochemically (meaning it happens in the presence of light instead of in its absence). The blue light causes your rhodopsin to become unbleached very quickly, much more so than when it occurs naturally. This allows more light to enter the retina before it is ‘ready’ which can cause damage to the sensitive cell tissue in your eyes.

So you take the cumulative effects of blue light and regular light and what you are left with is a big old mess. Our eyes don’t need any more help with wear and tear, it happens naturally as we age. Digital devices can compound and intensify this damage.

Okay, now that we’re all sufficiently depressed…

Here are seven simple things you can do right the eft now to help protect your vision:

Dim the lights

You want your computer screen to be the brightest thing in the room. If it’s possible you want to have your light mimic that of a fire, this means turning off or reducing overhead lights.

Make sure that your desk laps (task lighting) is setup to provide you with indirect light, you want your office space to have as few ‘bright spots’ as possible.

Reduce glare

Glare usually means there is one spot on your screen that is particularly bright. Your eyes have trouble adjusting to the brightness of the glare with the rest of the screen which can result in discomfort.

You could ask your employer for one of those handy-dandy anti-glare computer screens. If that’s not your style make sure your computer screen is away from a window and clean it regularly.

Minimize blue light exposure

You should definitely avoid exposing yourself to blue light at least 2-3 hours before bed, as it disrupts your circadian rhythm. During the day you can try programs like flux which adapts the color of your computer screen to the time of day.

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Follow the 20-20-20 rule

Look away from your computer or screen every 20 minutes and focus on a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

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Make your workspace eye friendly

Most of us have our desks setup completely wrong, I’m especially guilty of this. I like to scrunch my neck up and hunch over my screen like a ghoulish fiend. Unsurprisingly, this is bad for you.

I’m no expert in ergonomics, nor do I have access to one, but this website can help you figure out how to optimize your workstation to protect your eyes. Here’s mine for a reference:

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Get some vitamin-A

Retinal is processed vitamin-A, and retinal is essential to the process your rhodopsin goes through when you perceive light. The average human needs between 700-900 micrograms per day…or 5,000 International Units (IU).

Sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens all have high levels of vitamin A in them, so get to noshing.

Listen to those ol’ eye sacks of yours

If your eyes feel tired, it’s not just you being annoyed with your work. That means that are actually tired. Don’t try to write off eye fatigue as something else because like most health issues, this one isn’t likely to get better when ignored.

If you feel eye strain or headaches, take a break. Try blinking slowly for ten times to re-wet your eyes. You can also trace a figure-8 pattern with your eyeballs, and cup or palm your hands over eyes. The idea is to give your eyes some variation which can provide you with some relief.

A few other tips for the not-so-right-now:

Try to have regular eye exams to keep track of your eye health and note any changes in your vision.

You could also look into buying some computer glasses, but having an eye exam first will help determine your need for such gadgetry.

And please, remember to wear some sunglasses when you are outside too.

After I finished research for this article, I may or may not have immediately done the following: purchased computer glasses, drank a ton of carrot juice, purchased lubricating eye-drops, and installed flux on my computer.

Overboard? Perhaps. If there’s anything I can do to help protect my eyesight, even a little bit, I figure it’s worth a shot.

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We all want to work hard, but we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our health in order to do so. Making some of the changes I listed above can ensure that you can both work hard and protect your eyes at the same time. Woot!

Excerpt from: 7 things you can do right now to protect your vision

Ion Is A Wireless Smart Light That Reacts To Touch And Tunes

Make way for another smart light in the room. Ion, currently in production-ready prototype form seeking $20,000 from the Kickstarter community for its final push to market, is best described as a digital updating of the 1960s classic slice of kitsch called the lava lamp.

(It’s clearly no accident that Ion’s Michigan-based makers have named their company lava.)

Lava lamps are of course very long past their best. Those waxy innards aren’t quite as viscous as they used to be. And, well, let’s face it, they were always pretty dumb — reacting purely in an organic fashion to rising temperature, and lacking any user controls beyond the on/off switch.

Fast forward some half a century and Ion wants to update the lava lamp for our control-freakish times. This digital mood light is way more controllable and also reacts to its environment — thanks to Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a bank of 40 tri-colour LEDs, a microphone, audio processing and capacitive touch sensors. The latter allows the current mood to be changed by tapping on the top of the lamp.

Plus there is the now pre-requisite app where users can select different colours to match their mood, much like Philip Hue‘s light recipes.

Except with Ion it’s not just colours on tap; users get to choose from various light displays — aka “moods”, which are basically different coloured flashes, pulses and spins (given aptly headachey names like ‘Pulse’, ‘Plasma’ and ‘Strobe’). The lamp will ship with 15 different moods out of the box — but lava says they plan to keep adding more as the Kickstarter campaign goes on, and after Ion ships.

The app also lets Ion owners set the brightness and speed of these displays, so you can dial down or up the headache-factor. Ion’s makers have built a website where you can remote-control their prototype to test the moods out yourself.

Ion

The flagship feature of Ion is called ‘Rave’ mode — which does kind of hint at the demographic lava is targeting here. Rave mode utilizes the audio processing abilities of the lamp, meaning it listens to the music you’re playing and generates a real-time light show that’s in sync with your phat beats. In other words: party in your basement!

Low frequencies produce reds, mids produce greens, and highs produce blues. Every time a beat is detected (kick drum, bass, etc), you’ll see a bright pulse of light. Using the app, you can customize the emphasis of each color as you see fit.

Ion can also be have more subtle uses, though, such as notifications — albeit, it’s still taking the concept of hardware smartphone add-ons, like myLED or FLASHr, and sizing it up so that new Facebook missive or weather alert is rather harder to miss.

Ion

Another use for the lamp is as a visual alarm clock — if waking up to a strobe is your kind of thing. There’s also an open API for developers to play around further. Lava says Ion can be controlled by a Raspberry Pi, as well as an Android or iOS device.

So how much is Ion going to cost? Its current Kickstarter entry point is $199, with an estimated delivery date of this August. The $20,000 in crowdfunds being sought by lava is needed to finalize Ion’s firmware, build the iOS and Android apps, and scale production, it says.

See more here: Ion Is A Wireless Smart Light That Reacts To Touch And Tunes

Box CEO Aaron Levie Takes To Quora About His (Sorta) Small IPO Stake: It’s All Gravy

Reporters and industry watchers go nuts when an S-1 is filed for an initial public offering because there are always a few surprises to be found while digging through the numbers.

The Box IPO filing this past week was no exception. Along with details on Box’s revenue (growing quickly) and bottom line income (still in the red), the filing revealed that Aaron Levie, Box’s well-known and charismatic co-founder and CEO who is indisputably the face of the company, held a smaller stake of the firm than outsiders might have expected.

The S-1 indicates that Levie’s ownership of Box prior to the offering stands at 4.1 percent, and when his unexecuted stock offerings are taken into account, his overall ownership is 5.7 percent. It’s a stake that’s worth more than $100 million, which is of course a lot of money. But Levie’s holdings seem relatively small in light of his contributions to the company and the 25.5 percent stake held by VC investor Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Someone took to Quora to anonymously wonder, “Aaron Levie is down to a 4% stake heading into the Box IPO. How does he feel watching DFJ and USVP laugh to the bank after 10 years of sweat, blood, and tears?”

Surprisingly, Levie himself pitched in with a reply:

“So far, I have yet to bleed while building Box (well, one time I was late to a meeting and cut myself shaving). And honestly, if anyone is regularly bleeding while building a software company, I would have some serious questions about their strategy and if they’re executing properly. Definitely lots of tears and sweat though. Start your company because you want to change the world, and the rest is gravy.”

It’s a response that’s equal parts funny, clever, and earnest — fun without breaking any big rules (and there are a lot of those, for a company that’s officially on the road to an IPO.) In short, classic Levie.

For more classic Levie, you can watch his fireside chat with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington from our Disrupt Europe conference this past fall. It was a lively and solid conversation about Box’s past and future that’s fun to re-watch in light of the IPO news this week:

Originally posted here: Box CEO Aaron Levie Takes To Quora About His (Sorta) Small IPO Stake: It’s All Gravy

The Father Of 3D Printing Is Being Inducted Into The National Inventors Hall Of Fame

With all the hubbub surrounding 3D printing as of late, it’s easy to think of it as something new. Something that, before 5 or 6 years ago, only existed in Sci-Fi novels.

Surprise! 3D printing has actually been around for decades. In fact, the first kinda-sorta functional 3D printer prototype was built way back in 1984. This year, its inventor, Chuck Hull, is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall Of Fame.

This puts him up in the ranks, in the U.S. Patent Office’s eyes, with folks like Thomas Edison, Jobs/Woz, the Wright Brothers, Einstein, and Eli Whitney.

In 1984, Hull had a realization: if you pointed a highly focused UV light at a special, goopy material (called a “photopolymer” ), the material would instantly turn solid wherever the light would touch. If you did this repeatedly, layer by layer, you could “print” an object into existence. He dubbed it “stereolithography“, and bam! 3D printing was born.

3D printing has come a long way since 1984, of course. Materials — and the objects being printed with them — have gotten much, much stronger. We’ve developed new techniques, like laser sintering (which companies like Tesla use to print their prototypes in metal) and FDM extrusion (think Makerbot, which uses quick-solidifying melted plastic to print its layers). Most importantly, the software has gotten easier to use and the hardware has gotten cheaper — and it’s only going to get better.

But it all started in ’84 — and for that, Hull is finding his place in the National Inventors Hall Of Fame.

(To connect some dots here: when you hear people talking about those “important 3D printing patents” expiring that’ll open the floodgates for affordable 3D printers in the home, they’re often talking about Hull’s patents and those owned by his company, 3D Systems.)

Another name you might recognize, inducted this year: Actress Hedy Lamarr, who, along with composer George Antheil (also being inducted), invented one of the earliest forms of frequency hopping — a technology that, while initially created to help keep the Navy’s torpedoes from getting jammed, can now be found in everything from WiFi routers to Bluetooth headsets.

See more here: The Father Of 3D Printing Is Being Inducted Into The National Inventors Hall Of Fame

Mojang In Talks With Warner Brothers To Make A Minecraft Movie

Mojang game studio founder Markus Persson, who was the main creative force behind worldwide indie game hit Minecraft, revealed via his Twitter account today that his company has been in discussions with Warner Brothers Studios to make a movie based on the popular world-building sim.

Persson says he “leaked” the info to beat another leaker to the punch, which is a pretty hilarious way to announce something. A Minecraft movie makes a lot of sense, especially in light of the success of the recent Lego movie, and in light of the fact that there are now 100 million registered users playing the original PC-based Minecraft (it now appears on virtually every platform, including mobile and home gaming consoles), and that the game had sold over 14 million copies as of the beginning of this month.

In short, people like Minecraft, and people will also probably like a Minecraft movie. So, dollar signs in studio executive eyes, etc etc. People are already vying for casting, but obviously we need the venerable Nicholas Cage as a Creeper.

The rest is here: Mojang In Talks With Warner Brothers To Make A Minecraft Movie

Hardware Needs To Be Harder To Hack

News that Linksys and Belkin hardware was inherently insecure and could easily allow hackers to access your local network and control your gear.

First, there is “The Moon,” a piece of malware that can infect E1000, E1200 and E2400 routers from Linksys. The malware spreads itself from router to router and but doesn’t seem to do much except spread itself far and wide.

More frightening, however, is a hack that allows hackers to access their WeMo line of smart home devices. WeMo is a line of smart wall switches and controllers that let you sense motion and control lights and appliances remotely. Hackers have inject their own firmware into the device and access the switch, change settings, and even gain access to the local network. Security firm IOActive recommends “unplugging all affected devices from the WeMo products.”

As we approach a true “Internet of things,” these things we’re connected better be secure. As devices like health trackers and thermostats become a true personal sensor systems, the data they supply will be increasingly valuable and the services they preform are increasingly mission-critical. In-home hardware, for a long time, has been unconnected. Now it isn’t.

What needs to be done? In short, hardware manufacturers must harden their systems. The WeMo hack exist simply because Belkin got lazy. They allow attackers to digitally “sign” modified firmware, thus turning the WeMo into an attack vector. While it’s probably not scary if an average intruder tries turn your light on and off, the exploit is worth quite a bit to a determined hacker who wants access to your files. The same goes for our Fitbits, Basis bands, and Pebbles – the average user has nothing to worry about but getting the heart rate of a target in various situations could offer attackers a way to socially engineer an unsuspecting target. Add in remote control of health devices like pacemakers and you have something truly scary.

Hardware has long been too hard to hack. It was unconnected and the big manufacturers tended towards the creation of dumb protocols that, while secure, couldn’t do much. Now that we expect big things out of every gewgaw, we need to be ready that those things will be hackable and, more important, hacked.

Read this article: Hardware Needs To Be Harder To Hack

LuMini Makes Smart Home Lighting Easy And Affordable With Bluetooth LE Connectivity

A new Kickstarter project debuting today offers a lower barrier of entry to those interested in testing the smart lighting waters. At just $25 for an entry-level pre-order of a single unit, the LuMini is the cheapest way to get started with a smart home lighting system, albeit with some trade-offs compared to category leaders like the Philips Hue.

The LuMini comes from TABU Design, a Hong Kong shop that makes the Lumen Bluetooth smart bulb. The full-size Lumen is fairly large, though, and has a 40-watt equivalent output all for $69. The LuMini has the lower retail cost, but it’s also less powerful: TABU Design says it’s ideal for a “night lamp,” but doesn’t specify how many lumens it actually outputs. It uses 3 watts, compared to 7 watts for the standard-sized Lumen, so you can expect it to be probably around half as bright.

With a companion app, you can control the light color, brightness and scheduling, but the difference from most other connected lighting systems with the LuMini is the Bluetooth connectivity: It uses the low-power standard introduced in Bluetooth 4.0 to connect, which greatly simplifies the connection and setup process, but which also has some disadvantages in terms of range (20 ft. maximum) and the ability to remotely connect to your lighting system, which allows you to control bulbs like the Hue from anywhere with connectivity.

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The BLE approach still allows for things like proximity activation, however, and it can even be set to trigger light-based notifications for incoming calls. The real innovation here is on price, however, since this is a long-lived LED bulb (rated at 30,000 hours) that will retail for around $30. Also, it’s a very small bulb, whereas others like the LIFX smartbulb have been criticized for their larger-than-normal size.

The TABU Design team hopes to ship the LuMini in April this year, which isn’t that much of a stretch when you consider that they’re already actively shipping the original Lumen, which is sold via its website and through Amazon. The project is seeking $50,000 in 30 days, and hopefully it gets there, because what this market really needs is more price pressure to drive mass market adoption.

Original post: LuMini Makes Smart Home Lighting Easy And Affordable With Bluetooth LE Connectivity

Nate Silver’s soon-to-relaunch FiveThirtyEight will focus on more than sports and politics

nate silver crop 520x520 Nate Silvers soon to relaunch FiveThirtyEight will focus on more than sports and politicsAcclaimed big data journalist Nate Silver may be best known for his coverage of sports and politics, but his new site – FiveThirtyEight — is going to adopt a far broader approach when it relaunches. Silver says that reboot — in partnership with ESPN and ABC News — will happen “early” this year, and will see the focus extended into economics, lifestyle and science.

“By design, almost any topic in the news can potentially fit into one or more of these categories. Our idea is that the site’s mission will be defined by how we cover the news rather than what we cover,” Silver says in a blog post. Thus far, Silver has recruited 15 reporters and is hiring more.

Going into more detail, he explains that the site “will seek to apply the concept of data journalism on a wider scale,” by both analyzing big data related to stories,  as well as shining light or critiquing “irresponsible uses of data and statistics” in reports and among key topics.

➤ Status Update: Building FiveThirtyEight [FiveThirtyEight.com]

Image via Randy Stewart / Flickr

Follow this link: Nate Silver’s soon-to-relaunch FiveThirtyEight will focus on more than sports and politics

Revolv, The Missing Link For Home Automation, Comes To Home Depot Stores

Revolv, the device that connects all your smart devices, will begin sales in selected Home Depot stores across the U.S. and on Home Depot’s website.

As a reminder, Revolv could become an important piece of the so-called Internet of Things. It’s a simple $299 box that you plug in your house, and after that you can control all your smart devices from your phone and get smarter triggers.

For example, TechCrunch’s Matt Burns tested the Revolv with a Nest thermostat, WeMo outlets and a Kwikset deadbolt. These devices couldn’t talk together and didn’t know that they existed in the same house. Now, instead of having to open three separate apps, everything happens in the Revolv app.

And thanks to location sensing, when someone is close to his or her home, Revolv can turn on the heating (Nest), switch on the light (WeMo), unlock the door (Kwikset), etc. It’s as simple as that.

Software could still be improved as the geofenced area only works with one smartphone. It could be an issue if you leave your house but someone is still there.

Other integrations include Sonos, Philip Hue lights, Insteon and GE smart systems. As some of these devices are already available in-store at Home Depot, adding Revolv to the lineup will put the device in front of interested eyeballs.

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Read this article: Revolv, The Missing Link For Home Automation, Comes To Home Depot Stores

Withings Wants To Wake You Up Right And Provide True Sleep Tracking With The Aura

At CES 2014, Withings was showing off the latest product in its lineup of home health tracking connected gadgets, the Aura. The Aura looks vaguely like a submarine’s periscope, but it lives on your nightstand, connects to a sensor pad that goes under your mattress, and provides super sophisticated sleep tracking along with intelligent wake up and sleep sequences to give you your best possible rest.

The Aura is a wake-up like, not unlike other products on the market from companies including Philips, but it uses light combined with sound to help trigger melatonin release, which the company says happens via scientifically sound processes. These are triggered variously to relax you at night, or wake you up in the morning, using different tones from the LED light in the nightstand component, which also doubles as an alarm clock and speaker.

withings-aura2The Aura connects to a pad of sensors via cable, providing power and collecting data from said attachment. This pad picks up “micromovements” according to Withings, which are far more subtle than the kind of tossing and turning detectable by most wrist- and pocket-borne activity trackers, including Withings’ own Pulse. The sensor can detect small movements from under a pillow-top or even a tempurpedic mattress (which are designed to minimize the effect of movement), and up to two can be used to monitor sleep patterns for two people in the same bed. It can detect not only movements, but also breathing cycles and heart rate to arrive at much more sophisticated conclusions about that nature and quality of your sleep. Using this data, it can help the Aura alarm unit start to wake you up more gently when it makes sense, rather than abruptly right at a specific time.

withings-auraThese can be used in combination with Withings’ existing suite of health products to provide a more complete picture through their smartphone app, the company says. It’s aiming to ship the Aura starting in spring, 2014 and the whole kit, including one sensor pad and one nightstand alarm/light will cost $299. That’s steep compared to the Philips wake-up light at $99, but Withings is essentially the first to combine that product with highly sophisticated sleep tracking. Still, you have to be very committed to the self-monitored health movement to make that leap, I’d imagine.

Visit link: Withings Wants To Wake You Up Right And Provide True Sleep Tracking With The Aura