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Sidewalk Labs launches Toronto Transit Explorer App

Sidewalk Labs continues to impress Torontonians. The company won a bid to develop Toronto’s waterfront from the eastern section of Queen’s Quay, over to Parliament, into a high- tech hub. Many have shared worries about transparency and security, because the New York-based company has promised to collect data to help improve Toronto living. They will focus data collection on aspects like housing costs, and congestion, in addition to others like safety and development.

The Google-affiliated company has now launched  apps and made them “open-source,” which means they are open to the public. The latest app is Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto Transit Explorer, which was first presented at a public roundtable back in March.

The web application is available on desktop and mobile and takes data from a variety of open data sources, then creates an interactive map of transit in Toronto. This allows users to find out how accessible each form of transit is to them, and to compare which mode of transportation is best for reaching their destination by outlining the time it will take using each option.

 The app shows different colours; anything in blue means biking in that area is the most efficient form of transportation, white means that both transit and biking take about the same amount of time and red means public transit is fastest. Software Engineer Samara Trilling developed Toronto Transit Explorer and spoke about the benefit of the application.

This tool “can be really useful if you’re looking for the most accessible new apartment or a new school or if you want to compare if it’s worth it for you to buy a bike-share membership,” said Trilling.

Although there are a number of transportation modes to choose from on the app, Toronto Transit Explorer does not add the car as a mode of transportation because Sidewalk Labs is focusing on how accessible the city is to people, without the use of a car.

The company shared that its engineering team will build in scenarios in the future to see how changes to transit infrastructure might have an impact on city accessibility.

In addition to the Toronto Transit Explorer app, Sidewalk Labs also previously launched Old Toronto, which is an application that shares the history of Toronto by pairing old photography with landmarks in the city on an interactive map. It was developed by Software Engineer Dan Vanderkam.

Despite worries about security and data sharing, it’s clear that Sidewalk Labs is helping to ease these fears by demonstrating how devoted the company is to enhancing life and experience in Toronto through technology.

Hang up on your social media hang-out

Has social media made it easier to make friends, or is it even more difficult with our mobile devices in hand?

Technology has vastly changed the way younger generations make friends. With the overconsumption of various social media apps ranging from Facebook to Snapchat, the rules have changed on the how-to’s of finding your bestie.

There are many pros and cons of the social media world people live in today. There is a lot of accessibility, opportunity, and connection that can happen because of computers and cellphones. On the other hand, these positive developments in technology are also paired with pressure to constantly be plugged in and responsive, resulting in face to face interactions becoming less valued. Remember when people used to call a friend’s house and make plans in order to hang out? Now, it’s possible to have a Skype date with a friend across the world and watch a movie without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Though there are perks to social media, there are still some issues that need to be ironed out. Call me a skeptic, but I’m very hesitant about social media. There is something innately creepy about having your every breathing moment tracked online. It’s also clear that people are addicted to their phones. It also puts more pressure on friendships. If someone doesn’t answer immediately, it is quickly assumed that something is wrong (guilty as charged). This need for immediacy and instant gratification creates a lot of issues and useless drama. It is also anxiety provoking to be expected to be available at all times.

It is all too easy to hide behind the computer screen and utter disrespectful statements on a whim that would never fly in person. Social media’s accessibility has made people quicker to cut another person off permanently with the flick of a button. Being able to ‘block’ someone so easily or bully them online has caused a lot of hurt, and instigates more issues. I’d like to believe that most people are decent human beings, but online communication can turn even the kindest friend into a ruthless beast if an argument occurs over the interweb. The golden rule folks: if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online.

So far, I’ve only touched on the direct affects of social media on friendships, but there are also a a lot of unusual rules and social patterns developing. Instead of watching concerts, people are often too busy taking a video of themselves being “cool” or appearing “valued.” When people hang out in groups, oftentimes it feels like the other person isn’t there because of the phone they can’t tear their eyes from. And of course, there is the “don’t eat until I’ve taken three dozen photos for my Instagram” phase.

It is time to put down the phone or computer! Relying on social media to build and maintain friendships is not the way to go. Instead, try the good old-fashioned in person hang-out without phones. You will find yourself looking at the world in a whole new way without any distractions in your face. There is still hope for people to interact without a social media hang-up, all is not lost, but it is vital to put down your phone first.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Hello Spring! Now, get outside!

Have you ever gone outside just for the sake of going outside?

Taking a walk outside and breathing in the fresh air, running along the beach, or just sitting in a field of green can work wonders for relaxation and stress-relief. Nature can be incredibly peaceful and rejuvenating — and luckily in Canada, these green spaces and beaches are accessible throughout any landscape.

Most people feel they need a reason to go outside, whether it be to play sports or for a planned outdoor adventure to get their next Instagram photo opportunity. Instead, why not just go outside for the sake of it. When I’m in a bad mood, taking a break and walking outside cures the blues faster than almost any other possible solution. The fresh air, sunshine, and peaceful silence creates an appreciation of life that is impossible to find anywhere else.

If you aren’t quite sure how to get outdoors for the pure enjoyment of it, the secret to success lies in making sure you do it mindfully. Don’t go outside equipped with your phone to distract you. Free yourself from all your devices and take your lovely self for a walk and really look at the world around you. You will find that there is so much beauty to see once you remove yourself from the bubble of technological existence. Birds still exist. Trees actually grow taller. It is amazing how much can be noticed without our phones two inches from our faces at all times.

Take note of how your body feels when you are outside as well. It is good to stretch out in the open space and understand which muscles are sore and target those areas. Even doing yoga outside would feel relaxing and in tune with how nature can make our aching bodies feel better.  Even if you have a cold, talking a brief walk can help get some fresh air into your body and may rejuvenate you if you have been inside sleeping for a long period of time.

Next time you find yourself with a free 30 minutes (or even an hour), go outside and revel in the oncoming spring. There is so much to be thankful for in good weather, and taking time to appreciate it leads to a more fulfilling and connected life. The more people use the greens paces and natural areas, the more likely it is to be conserved for future generations. Get outside today and enjoy it!

Why you should unplug this year

Are you rolling your eyes yet? Have you closed this window? Please, before you leave to read something else, hear me out!

It’s true that every year someone makes a claim for a tech-free existence. As a reporter, that very thought terrifies me. Technology has become such a critical part of not only my life, but society as a whole. There is, quite literally, no way to live a digital-free life, which in itself is a pretty scary thought.

What I am arguing is the benefits of a short-term unplugging, or rather the importance of limiting your digital intake this year.

In this digital age, it’s nearly impossible to go a day without technology. For example, personally, I wake up in the morning and look at my phone — what time is it? What’s the weather? Did someone comment on my Facebook page? I then travel to work, listening to a podcast and checking my Twitter feed as I go. Once I get to work, I’m on the computer for all but my bathroom breaks. Then, I travel home and sit myself down in front of the television to unwind. If I feel like it, I’ll check my emails after dinner and my social networks. Maybe I’ll play a game or watch Netflix in bed? All of this is to say that technology has, quite literally, become my life.

This is what led me to this realization: every once in a while we have to unplug, get rid of the temptation to check social media or the need to be up to date with our work 24/7. By unplugging from the digital world, it gives you the opportunity to live in the REAL world — not one that is judged by hashtags and filters.

According to Forbes, 61 per cent of people feel depressed after checking social media and 71 per cent say their devices contribute to their overall stress. This doesn’t shock me. Every time I pick up my phone, I see friends and colleagues succeeding in their workplace and/or messages from people upset with their life. Both scenarios evoke strong emotions in me, and that’s before I read all of the heartbreaking news posted in my feeds.

Technology also makes it incredibly difficult to separate your business and personal life. If you are always checking your emails on your phone, you’ll never get to experience anything else. Do your work at work, and when you get home, make sure to spend time with your family or on yourself.

An easy way to start this new chapter of your unplugged life is to remove all technology from your view an hour before you go to bed. Instead, do the dishes, read a book, or go for a walk. The artificial lights in your television or cell phones can actually trick your brain into thinking it should be awake. You may find you sleep better if you don’t check your devices in the middle of the night.

In the morning, instead of checking your phone first thing, make yourself a cup of tea and/or coffee first. Take that 10 minutes for yourself and think about what you are doing that day. Maybe do a short yoga practice or meditation. Starting the day with presence of mind, deciding what YOU want rather than what Twitter tells you to want, will help set the tone for the rest of the day.

Resist the temptation to take a photo of your food at a restaurant. Keep that phone in your purse! Unless your job is in food photography, no one really cares! Why not enjoy what’s in front of you, as well as the conversation happening around the table?

And finally, try to spend one day a week away from the television and/or computer. Go out of the city, meet up with friends, or simply run some errands. Find a hobby that doesn’t involve technology — knitting, writing, painting, or a sport! The entire goal of this unplugged time is to allow yourself to be present and aware of what is happening around you, without interruption or distraction.

I know unplugging can be hard — I myself suffer from withdrawal if I don’t check my phone after an hour or so. But, this year, my plan is to be more present. I want to try more things, be more alive, and that is not something I can do if I’m constantly glued to my computer or my phone.

Ultimately, remember this: living life is much more important than documenting it. With this kind of mentality, you can’t go wrong!

How to lose a guy in ten days: the tech version

Dating has become more accessible since the invention of the Internet and the cell phone, but it comes with it’s challenges. There are potential land mines everywhere — and so many ways to mess up a potential relationship.

How soon should you text him or her back? When should you add the prospective person on Facebook? When should you call instead of text? Here are a few ways this technology can leave your potential partner running for the hills, with their cell phone in tow.

  1. Text five minutes after your first date

Your date has gone well, it had good conversation and you were left wanting more. This is GREAT news! So what do you do next? You text them after you leave, just a little note to remind them that you had a great time. To this, I say no! DO NOT PROCEED, turn the car around. Always wait to text your prospective partner back. It shows that you are confident and in it for the long-run. Texting large blocks of text is another no-no. Basically, wait until the following day and send a casual text that lets the person know you are still interested and otherwise refrain from contact.

  1. Stay glued to your phone while on your date

You have made it to your second date without blowing it via text overload and this is fantastic, but you remain glued to your phone the entire date, checking emails, Facebook, Instagram and maybe even a quick swipe on Tindr. This is another big N-O. Having your phone glued to you while on a date is rude and takes away from the authentic experience of getting to know the person sitting across from you. I take this rule so seriously that even having your phone on the table while on a date will set alarm bells off.

  1. Don’t use cute nicknames too quickly

I am a big fan of using nicknames for people such baby, hun, or darling. I think pet names are endearing though many would disagree. But using them right away is a sure fire way to scare the crap out of a potential boyfriend or girlfriend. Nicknames need to be avoided before a certain point in the dating game otherwise it will come off as clingy or rushed. Once you are sure of the person though, bring out the nicknames and create some of your own personalized versions. It can be quite fun, hunny buns.

  1. Deep and dark texting

Keeping it light and easy via text once you are dating is a good step forward to getting to know someone without being too intense. Asking deep and dark questions to your new lover can be terrifying and set a tone in the relationship that is unnecessarily intense. Certain questions can also denote a sense of insecurity or pessimism when a new relationship should be enjoyable and light-hearted to start. If you feel you have ask to ask serious questions, make sure to do it in person. On the other hand, avoid the excessive use of emojis to lighten the mood. Too many LOLs or smiley-wink faces can be a real turnoff and can make you come across as immature, needy, and just plain weird.

  1. Drunk texting

Breaking out your phone after a few drinks can seem like the best idea ever, but in reality, it is a recipe for disaster. When we text after a few cocktails, the message seems to be the most humorous and interesting thing we could ever say.  Oftentimes, the texts that are sent are less appealing. Keep your phone away from you when drinking so that you don’t feel inclined to send silly messages that you will regret in the morning along with your headache.

If you can avoid texting too quickly, using your phone too often, or breaking your phone out after a few drinks, you may find yourself a dating guru.

What are your funniest technology fuelled mess-ups while dating? Post in the comments below.