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Not OK, Google

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I was, frankly, amazed when I saw this tweet:

Let me remind you that Washington Post Editor-in-Chief Baron’s industry — newspapers — is an industry without a business model (Baron’s newspaper is more fortunate than most in its reliance on a billionaire’s largesse). Said lack of business model is leading to a dwindling of local coverage, click-chasing, and, arguably, Donald Trump. That seems like a pretty big problem!

Fake news, on the other hand, tells people who’ve already made up their minds what they want to hear. Certainly it’s not ideal, but the tradeoffs in dealing with the problem, at least in terms of Facebook, are very problematic. I wrote last fall in Fake News:

I get why top-down solutions are tempting: fake news and filter bubbles are in front of our faces, and wouldn’t it be better if Facebook fixed them? The problem is the assumption that whoever wields that top-down power will just so happen to have the same views I do. What, though, if they don’t? Just look at our current political situation: those worried about Trump have to contend with the fact that the power of the executive branch has been dramatically expanded over the decades; we place immense responsibility and capability in the hands of one person, forgetting that said responsibility and capability is not so easily withdrawn if we don’t like the one wielding it.

To that end I would be far more concerned about Facebook were they to begin actively editing the News Feed; as I noted last week I’m increasingly concerned about Zuckerberg’s utopian-esque view of the world, and it is a frighteningly small step from influencing the world to controlling the world. Just as bad would be government regulation: our most critical liberty when it comes to a check on tyranny is the freedom of speech, and it would be directly counter to that liberty to put a bureaucrat — who reports to the President — in charge of what people see.

As if to confirm my worst fears, Zuckerberg, a few months later, came out with a manifesto committing Facebook to political action, leading me to call for checks on the company’s monopoly. What was perhaps the most interesting lesson about that manifesto, though, was that most of the media — which to that point had been resolutely opposed to Facebook — were by and large unified in their approval. It was, I suspect, a useful lesson for tech executives: ensure the established media controls the narrative, and your company’s dominance may proceed without criticism.

Google’s Algorithm Change

Today Google announced its own fake-news motivated changes. From Bloomberg:

The Alphabet Inc. company is making a rare, sweeping change to the algorithm behind its powerful search engine to demote misleading, false and offensive articles online. Google is also setting new rules encouraging its “raters” — the 10,000-plus staff that assess search results — to flag web pages that host hoaxes, conspiracy theories and what the company calls “low-quality” content.

The moves follow months after criticism of Google and Facebook Inc. for hosting misleading information, particular tied to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Google executives claimed the type of web pages categorized in this bucket are relatively small, which is a reason why the search giant hadn’t addressed the issue before. “It was not a large fraction of queries — only about a quarter percent of our traffic — but they were important queries,” said Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering for Google.

I noted above that deciding how to respond to fake news is a trade-off; in the case of Facebook, the fact that fake news is largely surfaced to readers already inclined to believe it means I see the harm as being less than Facebook actively taking an editorial position on news stores.

Google, on the other hand, is less in the business of driving engagement via articles you agree with, than it is in being a primary source of truth. The reason to do a Google search is that you want to know the answer to a question, and for that reason I have long been more concerned about fake news in search results, particularly “featured snippets”:

My concern here is quite straightforward: yes, Facebook may be pushing you news, fake, slanted, or whatever bias there may be, but at least it is not stamping said news with its imprimatur or backing it with its reputation (indeed, many critics wish that that is exactly what Facebook would do), and said news is arriving on a rather serendipitous basis. Google, on the other hand, is not only serving up these snippets as if they are the truth, but serving them up as a direct response to someone explicitly searching for answers. In other words, not only is Google effectively putting its reputation behind these snippets, it is serving said snippets to users in a state where they are primed to believe they are true.

To that end I am pleased that Google is making this change, at least at a high level. The way Google is approaching it, though, is very problematic.

Google and Authority

Danny Sullivan, who has been covering Google for years, has one of the best write-ups on Google’s changes, including this frank admission that the change is PR-driven:

Problematic searches aren’t new but typically haven’t been an big issue because of how relatively infrequent they are. In an interview last week, Pandu Nayak — a Google Fellow who works on search quality — spoke to this: “This turns out to be a very small problem, a fraction of our query stream. So it doesn’t actually show up very often or almost ever in our regular evals and so forth. And we see these problems. It feels like a small problem,” Nayak said.

But over the past few months, they’ve grown as a major public relations nightmare for the company…“People [at Google] were really shellshocked, by the whole thing. That, even though it was a small problem [in terms of number of searches], it became clear to us that we really needed to solve it. It was a significant problem, and it’s one that we had I guess not appreciated before,” Nayak said.

Suffice it to say, Google appreciates the problem now. Hence today’s news, to stress that it’s taking real action that it hopes will make significant changes.

Sullivan goes on to explain the changes Google is making to autocomplete search suggestions and featured snippets, particularly the opportunity to provide immediate feedback. What was much more convoluted, though, was a third change: an increased reliance on “authoritative content”.

The other and more impactful way that Google hopes to attack problematic Featured Snippets is by improving its search quality generally to show more authoritative content for obscure and infrequent queries…

How’s Google learning from the data to figure out what’s authoritative? How’s that actually being put into practice? Google wouldn’t comment about these specifics. It wouldn’t say what goes into determining how a page is deemed to be authoritative now or how that is changing with the new algorithm. It did say that there isn’t any one particular signal. Instead, authority is determined by a combination of many factors.

This simply isn’t good enough: Google is going to be making decisions about who is authoritative and who is not, which is another way of saying that Google is going to be making decisions about what is true and what is not, and that demands more transparency, not less.

Again, I tend to agree that fake news is actually more of a problem on Google than it is Facebook; moreover, I totally understand that Google can’t make its algorithms public because they will be gamed by spammers and fake news purveyors. But even then, the fact remains that the single most important resource for finding the truth, one that is dominant in its space thanks to the fact that being bigger inherently means being better, is making decisions about what is true without a shred of transparency.

More Monopoly Trade-offs

I wrote last week about Facebook and the Cost of Monopolies: Facebook wins because, by virtue of connecting everyone on earth, its apps both provide a better user experience even as they build impregnable moats. The moat is the network is the superior user experience. The cost, though, as I sought to quantify, at least in theory, is the aforementioned decay in our media diet, increasing concentration of advertising, and, in the long run, diminished innovation.

That raises the question, though, of what to do about it; I noted in a follow-up that Facebook hasn’t done anything wrong, and under the current interpretation of the law, isn’t even really a monopoly. The fact of the matter is that people like Facebook1 and that it generates a massive amount of consumer surplus. It follows, then, that any action to break up that monopoly is inherently anti-consumer, at least in the short-run.

The conundrum is even worse with Google, in large part because the company’s core service is even more critical to its users: being able to search the entire Internet is a truly awesome feat, and, thanks to that capability, it is critical that Google get the answer right. That, though, means that Google’s power is even greater, with all of the problems that entails.

At the same time, that is why Google needs to be a whole lot more explicit about how it is ranking news. Perhaps the most unanticipated outcome of the unfettered nature of the Internet is that the sheer volume of information didn’t disperse influence, but rather concentrated it to a far greater degree than ever before, not to those companies that handle distribution (because distribution is free) but to those few that handle discovery. The result is an environment where what is best for the individual in the short-term is potentially at odds with what is best for a free society in the long-term; it would behoove Google to push off this reckoning by being more open, not less.

Sadly, it seems unlikely that my request for more transparency will get much support; Google’s announcement was widely applauded, and why not? It is the established media that will have a leg up when it comes to authority. That, it seems, is all they ever wanted, even if it means Google and Facebook taking all of the money.

  1. Even if you don’t personally, dear reader
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jontanggaard
32 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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Katrinelunds Gästgiveri

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Affiliate links / In cooperation with Tesla

This weekend, we were invited to the wedding of my best friend at Kolmården in Sweden. Since the drive was about six hours, we decided to make a trip out of it, with a few select pitstops on the way. Our first destination was Katrinelunds Gästgiveri by lake Hjälmaren near Örebro – a restaurant that has been on my watch-list for a while. Once again, we asked Tesla to lend us a press car, and this time we got to drive the brand new Model S 100 D.

Supercharging!
Supercharging!

The Fastest Production Car on the Market

This car has a battery of 100 kWh, which gives it a potential range of 632 km. We were among the first lucky ones to try it out in Norway. How cool is that? It’s also available in a Performance version, Model S P100 D, and in Ludicrous Mode it rips through 0-100 km/h in just 2,5 seconds, making it the third fastest accelerating production car ever produced – and the fastest one you can buy today. We could have driven the entire distance in one go but decided to stop in Karlstad on the way to Supercharge for 20 minutes. Mostly because we didn’t know what the charging options would be at Katrinelund. Also, we needed to stretch our legs and grab a bite.

Tesla Model S 100 D
Tesla Model S 100 D
Destination: Katrinelund
Destination: Katrinelund

Entering Astrid Lindgren Land

When we passed Örebro the landscape changed. The closer we got to Katrinelund, the more the scenery resembled that of Astrid Lindgren’s Bullerbyn. All buildings were small, cottage-like, red-painted wooden houses with white window frames. A sign pointed us towards Katrinelund and Sjökrogen. The latter is the summer-only al fresco restaurant, but unfortunately, that opened a week later. This time, we were only here for Gästgiveriet restaurant. If you enjoy this story and get inspired to go to Katrinelunds based on my visit, I hope you will use my affiliate link to book your stay. At no extra cost to you, I will receive a small commission which helps me make even better guides to your next travel destination as well. Thank you!

A car with a view Hearty lunch of chicken leg, bean ragu, crispy onions & tarragon mayo Head chef Mark Monkman and executive chef Anders Johnsson
Sauna and jacuzzi
Sauna and jacuzzi

But First – Champagne and a Bath!

All restaurants should have a sauna and jacuzzi installed in their back yard! After checking in and eating lunch we hit the pre-warmed sauna and whirlpool in Katrinelund’s lovely garden. With Champagne in the glass and fresh forest air surrounding us, we could enter zen-mode before dinner.

Inside the jacuzzi at Katrinelund
Inside the jacuzzi at Katrinelund
Champagne in the glass Zen-mode Nails done
This is how you start a meal!
This is how you start a meal!

It’s All About the Local Heroes

Executive chef Anders Johnsson has been in charge of the food at Katrinelund for more than three years, and in that time he has worked on lifting the quality to a new level and making Katrinelund a destination worth visiting. He has managed that in part by working with farmers to buy local produce and surrounding himself with great people – it’s all about the local heroes. In the kitchen, head chef Mark Monkman, originally from Yorkshire, is in charge. His style of cooking draws inspiration from both the traditional Swedish as well as the New Nordic cuisine, but there’s definitely elements of both French and, of course, British on his plates.

Sourdough bread The menu Terrine of Mangalitsa pork, pickled cucumbers, and black horseradish
Taking in all impressions
Taking in all impressions

We were welcomed at the door by a warm smile from the lovely receptionist Hanna Larsson. She’s the kind of person that just makes you smile back, due to her humble and sincere nature. Inside the dining room, restaurant manager Sofie Lönnström took further care of us, making sure the glasses were always filled with wine as one dish after the other arrived at our table. We had the six-course menu (SEK 900), but that also included some snacks, a bread serving, a few bonus dishes and a petit four, making it a total of 11 different plates. The sourdough bread, made with flour from Råberga, was of the type it’s really difficult to stop eating, and came with a terrine of Mangalitsa pork, pickled cucumbers, and black horseradish.

Hjälmaren taco! Buckwheat tortilla, lettuce, blue cheese cream & almonds.
Hjälmaren taco! Buckwheat tortilla, lettuce, blue cheese cream & almonds.
Almost summer at Katrinelunds
Almost summer at Katrinelunds

Hjälmaren Tacos and the Head of a Fish

First course was a Hjälmaren taco and one of my favorites. A buckwheat tortilla filled with various lettuce leaves from Arne’s vegetables in Odensbacken, a blue cheese cream and almonds. “You eat it with your hands, it’s a taco,” Sofie said, in case that wasn’t obvious from the look of it. Crunchy, toasted almonds added contrast against the soft blue cheese cream inside. “It tastes like summer,” Hedda added, referring to the grilled buckwheat tortilla and crispy lettuce leaves. We looked outside, and we could indeed see that summer was getting closer (sunset after 8 PM!) even though the trees were still naked.

Lumpfish roe, green asparagus, sour cream & asparagus juice
Lumpfish roe, green asparagus, sour cream & asparagus juice

I love lumpfish roe, which was excellent combined with the season’s first asparagus from Stenhuse farm at Gotland, sour cream and a juice from asparagus as well. However, I missed acidity or something else that would have given the dish a bit more punch. That goes for the next dish as well, a Swedish squid, cut in thin strips like tagliatelle pasta and mixed with browned butter. On top was equally delicate ribbons of celeriac with lovage, and underneath a celeriac mash and squid ink. If I could only feel the browned butter some more! Still, I thought it was elegant and tasty, and Hedda completely loved it.

Squid, squid ink, celeriac & lovage
Squid, squid ink, celeriac & lovage
Poached egg, mushroom & cabbage Fish head with potato blinis and smoked fish roe dip Pike perch, cucumbers, butter and white wine sauce

Poached egg, bouillon of mushrooms, roasted cabbage, crispy cabbage and Swedish mushrooms was a rich dish. Great flavors of salt and umami, paired with a wine that added acidity and cleaned our palates. The grilled head of a fish arrived! That’s where the best meat is, they say, and I easily believe that after clearing the pike perch’s skull – leaving only bones and the eyes (I don’t care how tasty you claim they are). Grilled on coal, the skin was perfectly crispy. Personally, I would have made the small potato blinis thinner and maybe paired with a herb emulsion in addition to the smoked fish roe, just for more contrast in both taste and color.

Lamb, onion tart and truffle
Lamb, onion tart and truffle

Of course, the fish head also had a body. Fresh fish from lake Hjälmaren, mainly pike perch, is delivered every day to Katrinelunds Gästgiveri by fishermen Anna and Björn, and is certified sustainable. Served with both fresh, baked and grilled cucumbers, butter and white wine sauce. The final savory course was lamb with onion and truffle. Luckily a small piece of meat, because those were some rich flavors on the plate and we were starting to get full at this point.

Sorbet of blood orange with hazelnut cake, chocolate cream with airy chocolate and blood orange gel, topped with shavings of chocolate and hazelnuts
Sorbet of blood orange with hazelnut cake, chocolate cream with airy chocolate and blood orange gel, topped with shavings of chocolate and hazelnuts

Funny, though, how there’s always room for dessert! I’m usually not that into the combination of chocolate and sorbet, but Mark’s sorbet of blood orange with hazelnut cake, chocolate cream with airy chocolate and blood orange gel, topped with shavings of chocolate and hazelnuts was amazing! The second dessert of rye sourdough pancake with maple syrup and a sour cream ice cream would normally have been my favorite of the two, but I found it slightly too sweet, and the frozen cream was too acidic for my liking. Hedda did not agree with me.

Rye sourdough pancake, maple syrup & sour cream ice cream
Rye sourdough pancake, maple syrup & sour cream ice cream

Grand Four!

Now, I don’t know where Mark learnt his French, but he’s clearly mixed up some words because that was not a petit four we got at the end, but a grand four! However, it was so damn tasty, I actually had to restrain myself not to finish it (because NOW, I was really getting full). A fluffy cake soaked in honey with pickled ginger. It reminded me of the rose cake I was served at Fäviken Magasinet by chef Riccardo Camanini during the Grand Gelinaz Shuffle 2015.

Grand four!
Grand four!

Breakfast and Departure the Next Morning

We spent the night in room no. 10 of Katrinelunds Gästgiveri and woke up relaxed and refuelled with energy (just like our car) the next morning – although still not very hungry after yesterday’s big meal. However, we couldn’t miss the cozy breakfast, which is one of the best parts of waking up at a combined restaurant and guesthouse like this. After coffee, juice, yoghurt, and a local ham sandwich, we were all set to hit the road again. The destination this time: Nora. Stay tuned for the next story.

Katrinelund from the sky. Shot with DJI Mavric drone
Katrinelund from the sky. Shot with DJI Mavric drone

What’s the most relaxing dining experience you’ve had? Please share in a comment below.

Disclaimer

The car was borrowed from Tesla, but they are not a sponsor. The post contains affiliate links to booking.com.

The post Katrinelunds Gästgiveri appeared first on andershusa.

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jontanggaard
33 days ago
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BlocksWave – FREE – GET IT!

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If you are a musician and like creating music with your iOS device then this is the deal of the day for you!

Blocks WaveBlocs Wave is FREE – Not sure for how long and I’ve got to go rehearse so this is just a copy and paste from the App Store. I will say you may have to spend a few seconds to figure it out AND I will say they want you to buy their IAP’s . The reason I’m saying download it is because YOU can put your OWN content in their! Create loops and perform with loops!

Think Ableton Live but not at that level BUT one of the closest apps you will find on iOS.

Blocs Wave is a powerful and beautifully designed music app for making and recording new music quickly. For songwriters and electronic music makers alike, it is an on-the-move portable music studio.

Start new musical ideas by discovering new sounds across genres. Make your tunes unique by slicing and rearranging your sounds. Play with beautiful touchable waveforms and build up loops in real-time by recording your voice or other sounds, and build bigger ideas using song sections. Blocs Wave is also great for live looping, thanks to its real-time stretch and pitch engine.

Features
• Find ideas quickly – Combine sounds across genres
• Chop up sounds – Use Slice Mode to make every sound unique
• Play with sounds – Beautiful, touchable waveforms
• Record new sounds – Capture your own vocals and instruments
• Explore a huge sound library – Find amazing sounds across genres from electronic to indie, EDM to songwriting, and more
• Expand your collection – Download more sounds from an ever-expanding soundpack library
• Export your music – Create a mixdown or export individual tracks
• Launchpad Soundpack sharing – Get hundreds more genres and styles through our Launchpad for iOS app

Advanced Features
• Real-time stretching – Change tempo while playing
• Real-time recording – Build up live recorded loops in real-time
• Export and Import – Bring in your own sounds from other apps, or export to them
• Key aware – All library sounds stay in-key with each other
• User library – Manage your recorded and imported sounds
• Works well with others – Supports Audiobus, AudioCopy/AudioShare and hardware input
• Jam in sync – Supports Ableton Link

Compatible with iPad 2, iPad (3rd Generation), iPad (4th Generation), iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Pro (12.9 inch and 9.7 inch), iPhone SE, 7/7 Plus, 6/6s Plus, 6/6s, 5/5s/5c, 4s.

Supports iOS 8, 9 and 10.








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jontanggaard
33 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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The work of photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue

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Jacques Henri Lartigue

Jacques Henri Lartigue

Born into wealth, Jacques Henri Lartigue got his first camera at age seven and began documenting the world around him: his friends and family at play in the world. His work presaged the “prolonged adolescence” of the “leisure class” readily on display on Instagram these days.

Taking pictures gave Lartigue a hobby and a purpose. His immediate surroundings and leisure class milieu provided the subject matter and Lartigue, a native user, wielded his camera with technical mastery almost from the beginning. He also brought a child’s whimsy to photography’s staid practice of posing and composing. Lartigue had a low vantage, a wandering eye, and a loose frame that was far ahead of his time. He also had the resources and time to experiment. Lartigue continued photographing prolifically into his teens and early adulthood, finding muses in his wives and mistresses and the diversions of prolonged adolescence.

Lartigue’s photography was an influence on director Wes Anderson, particularly in Rushmore and The Life Aquatic. If you can’t see Rushmore’s Max Fischer in the top photo of the homemade go-kart, you certainly can in this one:

Jacques Henri Lartigue

And the kid in the tire boat in the other photo? That is Lartigue’s older brother, Maurice. Everyone called him Zissou. (Curiously, none of this is in The Wes Anderson Collection. Come on! The photo of Zissou’s mentor Lord Mandrake in The Life Aquatic? That’s a self portrait of Jacques Henri Lartigue!)

Tags: Jacques Henri Lartigue   photography   Wes Anderson
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jontanggaard
33 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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★ Judging Apple Watch’s Success

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Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz, “Two Years After Its Launch, the Apple Watch Hasn’t Made a Difference at Apple”:

Apple’s biggest launch since the iPad in 2010, the Apple Watch was expected to be a hit: Given the massive financial success of the iPhone, it stood to reason that a companion device might be something customers craved.

Not so much. Apple has never shared hard numbers on how many wearables it has sold, and doesn’t even break out Watch sales in its quarterly earnings report. Instead, the device is bundled into Apple’s “Other products,” which the company says includes, “Apple TV, Apple Watch, Beats products, iPod and Apple-branded and third-party accessories.”

These articles come out like clockwork every 3 months, as Apple’s earnings report draws near. Apple told us they were not going to report hard numbers on Apple Watch right from the start, six months before it shipped. They want to keep them secret for competitive reasons.

Two years and two iterations after its launch, the Apple Watch has not proven to be as indispensable as the iPhone, or even as lucrative as the Mac, the iPad, or Apple’s services businesses. It’s unclear whether an iPhone-like overhaul, or attempts to market the watch directly to athletes or millennials, will ultimately make a difference.

(“Two years and two iterations after its launch” — I don’t know if that’s a mistake, if Murphy is counting WatchOS releases, or if he’s counting Series 1 as a full hardware iteration. But it’s sloppy writing. Most people would surely agree that there’s been only one iteration since launch, the Series 2 watches released last September.)

The nut of every “Apple Watch is a dud” story is the fact that it’s clearly not an iPhone-size business. But that can’t be the only measure of success. The iPhone is the biggest and most successful consumer product in the history of the world. Nothing compares to the smartphone market, and it’s possible nothing else will in our lifetimes. You and I may never again see a product as profitable as the iPhone — not just from Apple, but from any company in any industry. Or maybe we will. It’s a complete unknown.

But if Apple gets it into its head that they should only work on iPhone-sized opportunities, it would paralyze the company. In baseball terms, it’s fine for Apple to hit a bunch of singles while waiting for their next home run. According to Apple, they had more watch sales by revenue in 2015 than any company other than Rolex, and Apple’s “Other” category, which is where Watch sales are accounted for, had a near record-breaking holiday quarter three months ago, suggesting strongly that Watch sales were up over the year-ago holiday quarter.

These two facts are both true: Apple Watch sales are a rounding error compared to the iPhone, and Apple Watch is a smash hit compared to traditional watches and other wearable devices.

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jontanggaard
33 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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Turn Touch: A Smart, Flexible Remote Control

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Samuel Clay, the founder of NewsBlur, is seeking funding on Kickstarter for an interesting new project: Turn Touch.

Turn Touch is a four button remote control carved out of solid wood. Get instant control of your devices and your home. With only four buttons, your Turn Touch connects you to apps, lights, speakers, and more.

While most smart devices found in the home today are designed to be controlled via a smartphone or a voice-controlled device like Amazon Echo, Turn Touch is a more tactile option. It's designed to look less like a standard remote control and more like a piece of decor in the home.

Turn Touch was made to be compact and attractive.

Turn Touch was made to be compact and attractive.

The power of Turn Touch is found in its versatility. Though it only has four buttons, it is fully customizable using the Turn Touch app for iOS or macOS. The app allows you to program your remote to work with different devices, such as Hue Lights, Sonos speakers, or a Nest thermostat. You can also integrate Turn Touch with various apps on iOS or macOS, such as Apple Music or Spotify. Additionally, there are built-in Turn Touch apps to do things like set a timer or alarm clock. The Kickstarter page shows a list of integrations that are currently promised, and states that more are in the works. Lastly, Turn Touch can also be configured to trigger a URL on the web, opening up its possible benefits immensely.

The iOS app for Turn Touch.

The iOS app for Turn Touch.

The ability to activate several different integrations wouldn't be as useful if only one action could be assigned to each of the Turn Touch buttons. Fortunately, the device's interface provides clever ways to make the most of its four buttons. Actions can be assigned to activate through either a single tap of a button or a double tap, making eight actions available at once. And holding a button down for half a second will switch the app you're interacting with, meaning a new set of actions will be activated.

Turn Touch is available in three different styles.

Turn Touch is available in three different styles.

The Kickstarter campaign for Turn Touch ends on March 9th, and units are projected to ship this November. If you'd like to make a pledge, there are varying backer levels depending on the style of Turn Touch you'd like.


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samuel
108 days ago
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This is what I like to see!
The Haight in San Francisco
jontanggaard
108 days ago
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Oslo, Norge
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