Amazon monitors its employees and expects them to fail

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never sat there waiting for an Amazon package to be delivered, constantly refreshing your screen to see up-to-the-minute location updates? That’s kind of how it works in an Amazon warehouse too. The only difference is that Amazon doesn’t just track packages, it tracks the movements of its workers.

This week, Vice revealed internal Amazon documents outlining the techniques the company uses to monitor its warehouse workers. The documents detail the complexity with which Amazon tracks workers, monitoring each worker’s handheld package scanner activity to determine if that worker is spending “time off.” Amazon keeps a tally of each worker’s TOT down to the minute. TOT can include chatting with others, walking around, and sometimes even going to the bathroom. After accumulating more than 30 minutes of TOT in a day, the worker is disciplined. Repeat offenders can be fired. Officials are also instructed to interview workers with high TOT counts and ask them to explain each case of TOT.

These controversial practices have already come to light, but this is the first time the formal details have been revealed to the public. Amazon rolled out these tactics at its Staten Island, New York, warehouse, which in April also became Amazon’s first warehouse to unionize. This uncompromising push for productivity at all costs, combined with a series of injuries in Amazon’s warehouses, has caused dissension within the ranks and led to a warehouse worker taking the issue directly to Amazon shareholders.

Here’s more Gear desktop news this week.

Bring the holograms

When you use your phone to take a portrait mode photo, you capture tons of 3D data. Your phone uses this data to establish the depth of the photo and give the background a neat bokeh effect, but the resulting image still looks 2D. The same can be said for any Pixar movie, which is made up of characters generated in 3D but viewed on 2D screens. Looking Glass, a company known for its holographic displays, is trying to harness all of this data with its new prototype image format called Blocks. This format turns any 3D media into a hologram viewable on any device with a simple web link. See an example here.

Click the link on your phone, computer screen, or VR headset (no holographic display needed) and you’ll see a hologram-like image. These can really pop out of the screen, and you can use your finger or mouse to pan the image left and right to see the parallax effect in action. We’ve seen this kind of technology before, but Blocks’ goal is to make it simple and embeddable anywhere on the internet, just as it’s extremely easy for anyone to create and share a GIF these days.

Looking Glass has a pilot program that creators can join to turn their creations into shareable holographic blocks, and the hope is to launch an open beta this summer.

New Surface laptop, go!

Microsoft has announced an update to the Surface Laptop Go, the company’s budget laptop released in 2020. The Surface Laptop Go 2 is a $600 shell that weighs just under 2.5 pounds. It’s a fairly basic Windows laptop, with a 12.4-inch screen and an Intel i5 processor. The screen doesn’t jump or spin like a typical Surface Laptop.

Some features of the new machine were designed with repairability in mind. You can turn off the keyboard cover, SSD storage module or battery and replace them. Microsoft’s announcement also dealt a blow to Apple’s notorious laptop keyboards, claiming the Go 2 has 30% more key travel than a MacBook Air. The Go 2 starts shipping on June 7.

Google Duo

If there’s one thing Google has gotten good at, it’s mixing things up. The company’s latest app merger act combines its voice and video apps, Meet and Duo. The resulting merger will retain the Meet name, but it’s the features of Meet that will be ported to the renamed Duo app later this year. New Meet features include the ability to schedule meetings, customize virtual backgrounds, and host video calls with up to 100 people (the previous limit was 32). The additions will make the new Meet much more Zoom-y, although Google’s video messaging platform has a fraction of Zoom’s users.

WWDC starts Monday

Apple’s annual Software Developers Conference returns next week, with a keynote on Monday, June 6, which will be jam-packed with product and software announcements. Here’s our rundown of what to expect at WWDC. (New iOS features! Maybe a new MacBook!) Be sure to check back on WIRED on June 6, where we’ll cover all the important bits of everything Apple announces.

Text Revolution

Hey, have you checked your texts lately? If that question sent a little jolt of anxiety through your chest, you’re not alone. As WIRED’s Lauren Goode points out, messaging is terrible in the modern age, where everyone is theoretically reachable at all times. But sometimes you don’t want to be connected or you just need a break. Unfortunately, away message, one of the key features of AOL Instant Messenger that imposed healthy limits, has all but disappeared in the smartphone age.

This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, Goode and his co-host Michael Calore talk about what has become of texting hell and how you (and the companies that control these apps) can fix it.

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