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Open offices have driven Panasonic to make horse blinders for humans

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At what point do we just give up and admit we’re living in exactly the dystopian nightmare speculative fiction warned us about? It probably ought to be these horse blinders for people, which look like something straight out of a Terry Gilliam movie.

Panasonic design studio Future Life Factory designed the things, but open space offices are basically the worst. The startup-driven push to eliminate the world from the tyranny of the cubicle has apparently driven us to create cubicles for our faces that have the added bonus of making workers look like their identity has been blurred out on Cops.

Along with obscuring the wearer’s peripheral vision, Wear Space (weirdly Office Face is still unclaimed), also sports noise-canceling headphones to really get the job done.

“As open offices and digital nomads are on the rise, workers are finding it ever more important to have personal space where they can focus,” the company told Dezeen. “Wear Space instantly creates this kind of personal space – it’s as simple as putting on an article of clothing.”

The device, which debuted as a prototype at SXSW earlier this year, is now the subject of a crowdfunding campaign. Early birds can snag one for around $260, but we’re going to say neigh on this one.

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mrobold
1 day ago
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#neveropenoffice
Orange County, California
freeAgent
1 day ago
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I thought this was a joke when I first saw it. I guess not.
Los Angeles, CA
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PwC staves off disruption with immersive emerging tech training

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The big accounting firms are under pressure from digital disruption just like every industry these days, but PwC is trying a proactive approach with a digital accelerator program designed to train employees for the next generation of jobs.

To do this, PwC is not just providing some additional training resources and calling it a day. They are allowing employees to take 18 months to two years to completely immerse themselves in learning about a new area. This involves spending half their time on training for their new skill development and half putting that new knowledge to work with clients.

PwC’s Sarah McEneaney, digital talent leader at PwC was put in charge of the program. She said that as a consulting organization, it was important to really focus on the providing a new set of skills for the entire group of employees. That would take a serious commitment, concentrating on a set of emerging technologies. They decided to focus on data and analytics, automation and robotics and AI and machine learning.

Ray Wang, who is founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says this is part of a broader trend around preparing employees inside large organizations for future skills. “Almost every organization around the world is worried about the growing skills gap inside their organizations. Reskilling, continuous learning and hand-on training are back in vogue with the improved economy and war for talent,” he said.

PwC program takes shape

About a year ago the company began designing the program and decided to open it up to everyone in the company from the consulting staff to the support staff with goal of eventually providing a new set of skills across the entire organization of 50,000 employees. As you would expect with a large organization, that started with baby steps.

Graphic: Duncan_Andison/Getty Images

The company designed the new program as a self-nomination process, rather than having management picked candidates. They wanted self starters, and about 3500 applied. McEneaney considered this a good number, especially since PwC tends to be a risk-averse culture and this was asking employees to leave the normal growth track and take a chance with this new program. Out of the 3500 who applied, they did an initial pilot with 1000 people.

She estimates if a majority of the company’s employees eventually opt in to this retraining regimen, it could cost some serious cash, around $100 million. That’s not an insignificant sum, even for a large company like PwC, but McEneaney believes it should pay for itself fairly quickly. As she put it, customers will respect the fact that the company is modernizing and looking at more efficient ways to do the work they are doing today.

Making it happen

Daniel Croghan, a risk assurance associate at PwC decided to go on the data and analytics track. While he welcomed getting new skills from his company, he admits he was nervous going this route at first because of the typical way his industry has worked in the past. “In the accounting industry you come in and have a track and everyone follows the track. I was worried doing something unique could hinder me if I wasn’t following track,” he said.

Graphic: Feodora Chiosea/Getty Images

He says those fears were alleviated by senior management encouraging people to join this program and giving participants assurances that they would not be penalized. “The firm is dedicated to pushing this and having how we differentiate this against the industry, and we want to invest in all of our staff and push everyone through this,” Croghan said.

McEneaney says she’s a partner at the firm, but it took a change management sell to the executive team and really getting them to look at it as a long-term investment in the future of the business. “I would say a critical factor in the early success of the program has been having buy-in from our senior partner, our CEO and all of his team from the very start,” She reports directly to this team and sees their support and backing as critical to the early success of the program.

Getting real

Members of the program are given a 3-day orientation. After that they follow a self-directed course work. They are encouraged to work together with other people in the program, and this is especially important since people will bring a range of skills to the subject matter from absolute beginners to those with more advanced understanding. People can meet in an office if they are in the same area or a coffee shop or in an online meeting as they prefer.

Each member of the program participates in a Udacity nano-degree program, learning a new set of skills related to whatever technology speciality they have chosen. “We have a pretty flexible culture here…and we trust our people to work in ways that work for them and work together in ways that work for them,” McEneaney explained.

The initial program was presented as a 12-18 month digital accelerator tour of duty, Croghan said. “In those 12-18 months, we are dedicated to this program. We could choose another stint or go back to client work and bring those skills to client services that we previously provided.”

While this program is really just getting off the ground, it’s a step toward acknowledging the changing face of business and technology. Companies like PwC need to be proactive in terms of preparing their own employees for the next generation of jobs, and that’s something every organization should be considering.

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freeAgent
1 day ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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Environmentalists Flip Out Over San Diego's Plans To Erect an 80-Foot-Tall, $975,000 Straw Statue

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Given the ferocity with which environmentalists have demonized normal-sized, plastic drinking straws, it comes as little surprise that they have lost their minds over a giant, taxpayer-funded straw slated to be installed at a water treatment facility in San Diego.

On Tuesday, San Diego Voice reported that some 600 people have signed a petition against the design for a public art installation at the city's North City Pure Water Facility.

The initial concept, developed by Los Angeles-based artist Christian Moeller, would have featured an 80-foot structure resembling two tangled, single-use plastic straws, which the Voice reports would cost some $975,000.

San Diego, like many localities around the country, has a requirement that a fixed percentage of public infrastructure costs (in this case, two percent) be spent on beautification. That requirement has led to any number of questionable designs around the country.

But few have proven as controversial as Moeller's straw statue.

"Don't let the city memorialize a monument to a product that endangers our natural world. Erecting two intertwining, 78 ft. straws is wrong," reads an online petition against the proposed design at addup.org, which stressed that the straw statue was not just immoral but also "just plain BAD ART."

While I sympathize with San Diego taxpayers who don't want to fund monuments to something they find abhorrent (a position libertarians find themselves in quite often), the anti-straw fanaticism behind this campaign is plain bizarre. It's also misplaced. The immense size of Moeller's design would prevent it from being ingested by any sea creatures, save perhaps for the mighty Gamera. And, while brittle plastic straws are quick to degrade into dangerous microplastics that can then filter into the flesh of sea creatures, Moeller's straw should be easy to spot and remove from any body of water it might fall into.

But the merits of Moeller's design—as art and kaiju utensil—are now moot: the City of San Diego has decided to scrap plans for the giant straw after the outcry. A spokesperson for the city says Moeller is currently "re-evaluating his conceptual approach" to the structure at the North City facility.

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freeAgent
1 day ago
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This is kind of hilarious. The government mandates that it spend money on things like this public art display. It also now mandates things like straw bans. When those two worlds combine...
Los Angeles, CA
StatsGuru
1 day ago
I've wanted to take plastic straws to CA and give them out on street corners.
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Hulu to offer 'skinnier' live TV packages to cut costs

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A year and a half after getting into the live TV game, Hulu plans to scale back their live offerings. With a new "skinnier" bundle, Hulu would offer less live channels but more shows on-demand. Hulu CEO Randy Freer told The Information that the decis...
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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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SimpliSafe launches a new video doorbell for $169 - CNET

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Available today at Best Buy, SimpliSafe's new doorbell plants a camera at your front door, and you don't need a SimpliSafe security system to use it.
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freeAgent
2 days ago
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This looks like a much uglier Nest Hello.
Los Angeles, CA
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Amazon makes Kindle Paperwhite waterproof—and it still starts at $129

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Amazon

Amazon updated its best-value Kindle with some of the coveted features found in its high-end, $249 Kindle Oasis. The new Kindle Paperwhite announced today has a thinner, lighter design that's now waterproof, making it the first Kindle other than the Oasis to have an IPX8 rating.

Amazon last updated the Kindle Paperwhite in 2015, giving it a better screen without raising its price. Now, the newest Paperwhite appears to be a mix of the old model and the now-defunct Kindle Voyage (the latter disappeared from Amazon's site about a month ago). It has a 6-inch, 300ppi touch display with five backlighting LEDs, and the new screen is now flush with the black bezels around it. It's still a black slab, but now it's just 8.18mm thick and weighs just 6.4 ounces.

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Los Angeles, CA
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