The Ugly Business of Beauty Apps

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Google Maps Pulls Calorie-Counting Feature After Criticism

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The iPhone app told her that walking instead of driving would burn 70 calories. While it was perhaps meant as an incentive to walk, those with eating disorders might instead fixate on the number, a dangerous mind-set that counselors try to minimize, she said… Some users were especially upset that the app used mini cupcakes to put the burned calories into perspective, framing food as a reward for exercise, or exercise as a prerequisite for food.

Can an App Make You a Better Runner?

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Running is simple. But I, with the help of some demanding technology, have managed to complicate it. The last three months have been fueled by a small arsenal of apps, equipment, and playlists that have turned me into a pavement beater with a desperate compulsion to best myself. Their promise was that I would become a better, more efficient runner; I would have hard data that went far beyond the capabilities of a lowly stopwatch and a gut feeling of improvement. But somewhere along the line, technology went from complementary to supplementary in my training. The apps turned a solo leisure activity into an obsessive, not-always-healthy pursuit. Throughout my training, I couldn’t tell if I enjoyed the intensity or whether I’d allowed another set of technology tools to take over my life. But I do know it worked.

Feeling stuck in your social media bubble?

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Now the KIND Foundation is trying to bring more diversity to Facebook feeds — so people can try to understand each other better. Its “Pop Your Bubble” tool, …matches Facebook users with at least 10 people who have a different political perspective, and who live in another part of the country or represent a different generation.

The tool is one of several that have appeared in recent months to help social media users become more exposed to other perspectives. Flip Feed, a chrome extension designed my MIT researchers, allows people to see what a Twitter feed looks like for someone with different political leanings. And Escape your Bubble, also a Chrome extension, inserts posts in your Facebook feed with a news article representing a differing political perspective. The posts are deliberately upbeat and friendly, intended to contrast with the way opposing viewpoints often are presented on-line, via argumentative comments.

FaceApp: a selfie filter in tune with our narcissistic times

Tim Dowling on FaceApp … ‘Offers two smile options, at least one of which is guaranteed to make you look like a git.’

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Luckily, I’ll never have to smile for a picture again, because now there’s an app for that. FaceApp uses “deep generative convolutional neural networks” to turn your frown upside down. It is meant to be more realistic than previous selfie filters, making subtle adjustments to the eyes and the rest of the face to produce a look of genuine merriment, instead of a cheese-hating grimace.

…Along with the smile facility, the app can also deploy those neural networks to make you younger or older. “Meet your future self,” is how the app puts it, as if such a reunion were somehow desirable. It’s never going to be good news, is it? In either case, the effectiveness of the transformation probably depends on your actual age. The youth option turned me into a 12-year-old, which is a bit further back than I think I’d want to go. The ageing button took me not forward in time, but backwards. It’s more or less how I looked in the mirror that morning.