Sam’s Club will deploy autonomous floor-scrubbing robots in all of its US locations

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The past six months have seen a fairly aggressive acceleration in the option of robotics and automation as companies look for ways to augment (and, likely, replace in some instances) human workers. The appeal is certainly clear during massive pandemic-fueled shutdowns.

Sam’s Club has been into robotic floor cleaning for a bit longer, having already deployed Tennant’s T7AMR scrubbers in a number of locations. But this week the Walmart -owned bulk retailer announced that it’s adding another 372 this year, bringing the technology to all of its 599 U.S. stores.

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Top tech trends for 2021: Gartner predicts hyperautomation, AI and more will dominate business technology

Top strategic technology trends for the enterprise

Operational resiliency is key as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change how companies will do business next year.

There are nine top strategic technology trends that businesses should plan for in 2021 as the pandemic continues, according to Gartner’s analysts. Their findings were presented on Monday at the virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas conference, which runs through Thursday.

Organizational plasticity is key to these trends. “When we talk about the strategic technology trends, we actually have them grouped into three different themes, which is people centricity, location independence, and resilient delivery,” said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. “What we’re talking about with the trends is how do you leverage technology to gain the organizational plasticity that you need to form and reform into whatever’s going to be required as we emerge from this pandemic?”

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Whole Foods predicts top food trends for 2021

John Mackey discusses how supermarket chain has adjusted amid the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Expect veggie jerky, probiotic-packed sauerkraut and chickpea tofu in snack food aisles.

The future of snacking will be packed with immunity-boosting ingredients, like mushroom broth, fruit and veggie jerky and probiotic-fueled packs of roasted garlic sauerkraut.

More Americans are apparently looking to incorporate healthy supplements into their snacking habits, according to Whole Foods Market’s list of “Top 10 Food Trends for 2021,” released Monday.

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‘Zoom towns’ are exploding in the West

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And many cities aren’t ready for the onslaught.

First, there were boomtowns. Now, there are Zoom towns.

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a new phenomenon: a migration to “gateway communities,” or small towns near major public lands and ski resorts as people’s jobs increasingly become remote-friendly. This is straining the towns’ resources and putting pressure on them to adapt.

A new paper published in the Journal of the American Planning Association shows that populations in these communities were already growing before COVID-19 hit, leading to some problems traditionally thought of as urban issues, like lack of affordable housing, availability of public transit, congestion, and income inequality. And while COVID-19 has accelerated the friction, the study suggests that urban planners can help places adjust.

There has been a drastic increase in remote work since March, when the pandemic hit the U.S. Nearly 60% of employees are now working remotely full or part time, according to a recent Gallup poll. Nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working remotely would like to continue to do so, according to that same poll. That would seemingly give workers a lot more flexibility when it comes to where they call home.

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The Flaming Lips performed a concert with the band and fans encased in plastic bubbles

The Flaming Lips perform in plastic bubbles

It’s unclear whether The Flaming Lips are using jelly — or vaseline, for that matter — at their concerts these days. The rock band is, however, trying plastic bubbles.

The rock musicians from Oklahoma City are literally blowing up in 2020, using inflatable human-sized bubbles to defend themselves and fans against Covid-19 while finding a way to play live.

Performing at The Criterion in their hometown on Monday evening, The Flaming Lips placed themselves — and all attending fans — inside individual plastic spheres. The concert — which was part live show, part music video shoot — was born out of a sketch doodled by Wayne Coyne during the pandemic’s early days, the frontman told CNN.

“I did a little drawing… where I drew a picture of The Flaming Lips doing a show in 2019. And I’m the only person in the space bubble, and everybody else is just normal,” Coyne told CNN during a phone interview on Friday. “Then (I did another drawing with) The Flaming Lips playing a show in 2020. The exact same scenario, but I’m in a bubble, and so is everybody else.”

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COVID-19 has changed the housing market forever. Here’s where Americans are moving (and why)

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 Amid all the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 over the past six months, one thing is assured: the pandemic has re-ordered real estate markets across the board on an unprecedented scale.

Some of this may be irreversible. Real estate’s re-sorting this time isn’t just based on markets crashing (the Great Recession), political turmoil (the 1979 oil embargo), or financial speculation (the first and second dot.com busts)—after which there’s generally confidence that overall consumer demand and buyer preferences will sooner or later snap back to normal.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, more deep-seated, tectonic-sized questions beyond markets and interest rates are being asked this time around that no one really has the answers to yet—like will people feel safer living in the south and southwest where they can spend all year social distancing outside? What if companies let workers work remotely for the rest of their lives? Why go back to retail shopping when I’m already ordering everything online? What’s the point of living “downtown” if half of the restaurants, bars, and museums never open back up?

How these questions get answered will fundamentally re-order how Americans live in the “new” pandemic normal, and as a result will play a huge X-factor in which cities and states will experience growth, demand, and price appreciation over the next 3-5 years, and which ones will stagnate and lose out. More broadly for large metropolises like Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, the answers risk slowing or even reversing a wave of gentrification and wildly profitable downtown revitalization that’s been accelerating since before the Great Recession.

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Coronavirus: test that can detect pathogen in 5 minutes developed by Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna

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The research team was led by University of California, Berkeley’s Dr Jennifer
Doudna, a joint winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for chemistry. Photo: Reuters

California-based researchers develop a test that can detect the coronavirus using gene-editing technology and a modified mobile phone camera.

Mobile phones were used for ‘their robustness and cost-effectiveness, and the fact that they are widely available’, say the researchers.

A team of California-based researchers have developed a test that can detect the coronavirus in five minutes using gene-editing technology and a modified mobile phone camera, a discovery that could solve the issue of under-testing in epidemic-stricken countries.

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10 tech predictions that could mean huge changes ahead

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CCS Insights published 100 tech predictions for the next few years, and the COVID-19 pandemic lurks behind many of them.

An ongoing health crisis and a global recession: even for the most attuned of analysts, the past months have brought in a load of unexpected events that have made the coming years especially difficult to envision.

Yet research firm CCS Insights has taken up the challenge and delivered a set of 100 tech predictions for the years 2021 and beyond. The exercise is an annual one for the company, which last year anticipated, among many other things, that the next decade could see the rise of deep fake detection technology, or the adoption of domestic robots in some households.

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Breast milk could stop virus spreading, researchers claim

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Whey proteins in cow and goat milk also could inhibit the virus but is less effective than human breast milk.

 

Human breast milk could help to prevent or treat COVID-19, according to a new study by Chinese scientists, lending support to World Health Organisation guidelines that mothers should breastfeed their newborn babies even if they are infected with the coronavirus.

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Will we ever trust crowds again?

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If socializing makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Scientists say the pandemic is re-shaping our senses of fear and disgust, and it’s unclear how long the change will last.

WATCHING A RERUN of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld gave me the first inkling that COVID-19 might be rearranging my mind for the long term. On the screen, the characters sat across the table from each other at Monk’s Café. Kramer flopped into the frame, draping his arm around another occupied chair. As his arm touched another person, I physically recoiled.

By then, my hometown of New Orleans was a few weeks into the pandemic, and I was already stepping off the curb whenever a stranger approached. If someone slipped by my paranoia and caught me unaware on the sidewalk, I held my breath and rolled my eyes as they barged past. Those behaviors felt natural, even though by mid-March, scientists were already pointing out the low risk of coronavirus transmission in the outdoors. All of my friends reported feeling something similar, and one told me that she had to turn off the TV if a subway scene came on. We’re not alone. Even as some states begin to reopen, most Americans—regardless of political affiliation—say that they’re uncomfortable going into crowded situations, indoors and out, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Neuroscientists and psychologists propose that people aren’t cringing around strangers and crowds because of pre-existing senses of fear or disgust. Instead, many in society are simultaneously learning a new emotional experience.

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The Pandemic Plutocrats : How Covid is creating new fintech billionaires

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In 2015, Nick Molnar was living with his parents in Sydney, Australia, and selling jewelry from a desktop computer in his childhood bedroom. Hocking everything from $250 Seiko watches to $10,000 engagement rings, the 25-year-old had gotten so good at online marketing that he had become Australia’s top seller of jewelry on eBay, shipping thousands of packages a day.

That same year, he teamed up with Anthony Eisen, a former investment banker who was 19 years his senior and lived across the street. They cofounded Afterpay, an online service that allows shoppers from the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada to pay for small-ticket items like shoes and shirts in four interest-free payments over six weeks. “I was a Millennial who grew up in the 2008 crisis, and I saw this big shift away from credit to debit,” the now 30-year-old Molnar says today. Either lacking credit cards or fearful of racking up high-interest-rate debt on their credit cards, Molnar’s generation was quick to embrace this new way to buy and get merchandise now, while paying a little later.

Five years later, Molnar and Eisen, who each own roughly 7% of the company, have become billionaires—during a pandemic. After initially tanking at the start of lockdowns, shares of Afterpay—which went public in 2016—are up nearly tenfold, thanks to a surge in business tied to e-commerce sales. In the second quarter, it handled $3.8 billion of transactions, an increase of 127% versus the same period a year earlier.

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Pandemic accelerated cord cutting, making 2020 the worst-ever year for pay TV

 couple watching tv in their home

The pandemic has accelerated adoption of a number of technologies, from online grocery to multiplatform gaming to streaming services and more. But one industry that has not benefited is traditional pay TV. According to new research from eMarketer, the cable, satellite and telecom TV industry is on track to lose the most subscribers ever. This year, over 6 million U.S. households will cut the cord with pay TV, bringing the total number of cord-cutter households to 31.2 million.

The firm says that by 2024, the number will grow even further, reaching 46.6 million total cord-cutter households, or more than a third of all U.S. households that no longer have pay TV.

Despite these significant declines, there are still more households that have a pay TV subscription than those that do not. Today, there are 77.6 million U.S. households that have cable, satellite or telecom TV packages. But that number has declined 7.5% year-over-year — its biggest-ever drop. The figure is also down from pay TV’s peak in 2014, the analysts said.

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