Amazon Ripped For Firing Virus Protest Leader; New Fitbit; Plessey Teams With Facebook on Consumer AR Glasses; F-1 Engineers Building Breathing Aids; Virgin Orbit Will Mass-Produce Breathing Device

After a protest at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center, where 60 employees walked off the job yesterday, Amazon has admitted to firing the employee who claimed he led the walkout. Engadget.com reports that Chris Smalls, a former assistant manager, said the walkout revolved around a demand that Amazon close the center for proper cleaning after several employees had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Amazon is claiming that Smalls violated safety rules, including failing to see-isolate after being exposed to a colleague with a confirmed case of the virus. The company says he had been asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which Amazon claims they are doing at sites world wide. Amazon also says only 15 employees walked out, not the 60 claimed. NY Attorney General Letitia James released a statement calling Amazon’s firing of Smalls ‘disgraceful,’ and called for an NLRB intervention. She pointed out that the right to organize is codified in New York law, and said the Attorney General’s office is considering legal options.

Fitbit was snatched up by Google last year for $2.1 billion. Now, the first new product is out, and it is…to the shock of no one…a fitness tracker! According to gizmodo.com, the new model is the Charge 4. It has been updated with built-in GPS, NFC payments, Spotify compatibility, and a new focus on active minutes in addition to steps. While there has been a big move to smartwatches, the fitness tracker has a list price of $150, and will probably be available for less quickly. It will ave Fitbit’s Smart Wake alarm feature, in addition to other features already on Fitbit models. Charge time is expected to be 7 days. The Charge 4 is available for preorder now in black, rosewood, and storm blue/black. Again, the base model is $150, or you can opt for a Special Edition for $20 bucks more that has an extra granite reflective or black woven band.

Facebook is teaming up with UK based Plessey on some lightweight AR glasses that they say will be good for a whole day of use without recharging. Venturebeat.com reports that this is not an acquisition, but that Plessey will be dedicating their LED manufacturing operations to Facebook’s use. Plessey’s LED tech partnered with the Oculus Quest and other Oculus ongoing research will lead to such lighter weight and useable glasses. Most smart glasses put a thumbnail sized box in the wearer’s field of view. The Plessey CMOS-based RGB displays allegedly combine high pixel density and very high brightness, and can be used all over the lens area. The are supposed to have low power consumption, despite running a high frame rate. Facebook and Plessey hope to have the lightweight model out by 2023-2025, but will make an interim model in the meantime. Facebook is working with glasses maker Luxottica on fashionable frames for the gadget. Facebook, Google, Apple, and others see AR tech to be a transformational technology over the next 50 years.

Mercedes Formula One engineers and researchers at University College London have teamed up to make a coronavirus breathing aid in less than 100 hours that has been approved by UK’s National Health Service. Cnet.com says Mercedes can start producing 1000 machines a day within a week to start delivering them to hospitals. It is basically a CPAP machine, but with a mask that covers from the chin up over the nose to between the eyes. In Italy, they found that about half the patients treated for COVID-19 with a traditional CPAP machine were able to avoid the need for mechanical ventilation. The use of this device and others will free up more ventilators for patients that need those the most.

Virgin Orbit, one of Richard Branson’s companies that develops rockets to launch small satellites, is converting to make a new medical breathing device. According to theverge.com, they are waiting on FDA approval. The new gadget is a step beyond so-called ambulatory bags, which are used by emergency responders to manually pump air into a patient’s lungs. This device has a mechanism which automatically pumps the air on its own…they are intended for patients who need oxygen, but don’t need to be hooked up to a ventilator. The Virgin Orbit engineers worked with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, which includes researchers from UC Berkeley, Irvine, and UT-Austin. They hope to be mass producing the devices soon.

I’m Clark Reid



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