The FDA OK’d an app as a form of birth control

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Don’t want to get pregnant? There’s a Food and Drug Administration approved app for that. The FDA has just given the go ahead for Swedish app Natural Cycles to market itself as a form of birth control in the U.S.

Natural Cycles was already in use as a way to prevent pregnancy in certain European countries. However, this is the first time a so-called ‘digital contraceptive’ has been approved in America.

The app works using an algorithm based on data given by women using the app such as daily body temperature and monthly menstrual cycles. It then calculates the exact window of days each month a woman is most fertile and therefore likely to conceive. Women can then see which days the app recommends they should avoid having sex or use protection to avoid getting pregnant.

Tracking your cycle to determine a fertile window has long been used to either become pregnant or avoid conceiving. But Natural Cycles put a scientific spin on it by evaluating over 15,000 women to determine its algorithm had an effectiveness rate with a margin of error of 1.8 percent for “perfect use” and a 6 percent failure rate for “typical use.”

What that means is almost two in every 100 women could likely conceive on a different date than the calculated fertile window. That’s not exactly fool-proof but it is higher than many other contraceptive methods. A condom, for instance, has an 18 percent margin of error rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

And though the app makers were able to convince the FDA of its effectiveness, at least one hospital in Stockholm has opened an investigation with Sweden’s Medical Products Agency (MPA) after it recorded 37 unwanted pregnancies among women who said they had been using the app as their contraception method.

“Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly,” assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health Terri Cornelison said in a statement.

However, she also acknowledged there was a margin of error in the app’s algorithm and other contraceptive methods. “Women should know that no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device,” she said.

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Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

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sunset on the water - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Over the years, HDR Photography has become synonymous with over-saturated, over-processed, and unrealistic images. Some hear the term HDR and never give it a second thought because of their perception of what it is. Add to that, all the camera dynamic range improvements and many say that HDR has lost its place for good.

So how exactly can HDR photography still be beneficial to you? How can you use it to your advantage?

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

The oversaturated look that has become synonymous with HDR photography. 

What exactly is HDR Photography?

HDR or high dynamic range refers to the difference between extremes – the brightest and darkest areas of your image. In reality, your eyes can adjust for shadows and highlights in the same scene, but a camera cannot (again this has come a long way over the years).

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

A more realistic looking HDR image.

Have you ever witnessed a scene that took your breath away, but were unable to capture it as is because you had to choose what your camera captured?

Exposing for the highlights left some of your image too dark or exposing for the shadows left your highlights too light. Or maybe you tried for somewhere in between and ended up with both dark shadows and light highlights?

Well when you want to capture the dynamic range of an area, you sometimes need to take more than one photo. To do that, you need to use bracketing, which is taking multiple images of the same scene at different exposures.

Most cameras now come with auto bracketing modes (AEB) , but you always have the choice to manually adjust your exposures between shots.

house in the trees - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

HDR Photography usually involves several bracketed images with a minimum of three images to capture the dynamic range. One image is exposed for the darker areas in your scene, another for the mid-tones and the third for the highlights. When you merge these images, you create an HDR image which reveals more detail than a single shot.

Fun Fact: Did you know that HDR photography has existed since the days of film?

How does this work to your advantage?

If you are not interested in creating mind-bending images with HDR, what’s the point? Well, the main benefit is capturing/revealing any lost details and doing so in a realistic way.

Think of it as extending the tonal range of what your camera reproduces to mimic what your eyes see, as opposed to the graphic style that HDR has become synonymous with.

building ruins - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Subtle HDR also helps reveal textures in an image.

Steps for a Realistic HDR Photo

Truthfully the steps for making a realistic HDR are not drastically different from one that looks overly processed. The key is to know when to stop processing.

1. Selecting a scene

So what kind of shots are right for HDR photography?

Typically these include scenes that have a lot of contrast, for example, landscape and architectural photography. HDR is not recommended for scenes with a moving subject, or for shooting portraits (as it has a reputation for aging faces).

It is fun to experiment with bending the rules though and seeing the results.

old saloon hotel - Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

2. Capturing your images

To eliminate or minimize movement between your shots, a tripod is an essential tool. This also ensures that each image in your sequence has the same composition.

An HDR image is usually composed of between three to seven bracketed images. Three exposures are sufficient for a more photo-realistic HDR, at two stops (EV) apart. If done manually, this means that your first shot will be metered for the mid-tones of the image (0EV), followed by dialing down your exposure to -2 for your second shot, and lastly where your meter is at +2 for your third shot.

dark image -2 Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Bracketed image underexposed (exposure -2).

Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage

Overexposed (exposure +2).

Bracketed image mid-tones (exposure metered at 0).

Use the HDR or Auto Bracketing (AEB) feature of your camera to accomplish this automatically.

Note: If you are shooting into the sun, you may need to do five exposures at one or two stops apart.

3. Processing your images

Processing HDR photography is essentially combining your images and adjusting your tonal mapping for detail. When it comes to processing, you have a choice of software: Photoshop, Photomatix, Lightroom and Aurora HDR to name a few.

Processed bracketed images – reveals more details (warmth boosted).

Again, processing is the place where you can push your HDR too far or end up with a nice photorealistic image.

Usually, HDR software comes with presets that give you a range of looks. If you want your image to be more on the realistic side, you need to take control of the settings. Some of the settings you want to control include; reducing noise, fixing chromatic aberrations and dialing back your tonal adjustments.

Conclusion

The main benefit of HDR photography is recovering detail in your images. Landscape and architectural photographers often use HDR realistically to portray high contrast scenes.

HDR photography is often associated with overcooked images, but when it’s not overdone it can balance out a scene and makes it more appealing to your viewer. Your objective is to post-process just enough to maintain a natural look.

The post Using HDR Photography to Your Advantage appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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This machine turns a truck into a tent in seconds – here’s how it’s installed

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  • This machine turns a truck into a tent in seconds.
  • It connects to the car’s battery and elevates up to 17.5 inches.  
  • It fits any truck and anyone can install it.  

The TopperEZLift is a mechanical system that elevates trucks to make room for cargo or for camping.  

The company has made a tutorial with the step by step installing process of how to install it making it easy and accessible for anyone who’d like to expand their truck. 

This machine can be ordered online and costs $1,195.00 if self-installed.

Produced by Amanda Villa-Lobos

SEE ALSO: A professional Yu-Gi-Oh! card expert valued our childhood collections — and they’re worth more than we expected

Join the conversation about this story »

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What to Know Your First Time Paddleboarding

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Photo: Kai Schwoerer (Getty)

Canoes and kayaks are always fun, but the trendiest rental at boat places these days is the stand-up paddleboard, or SUP. They’re fun to paddle, and can provide an excellent core workout too.

A paddleboard looks like a large surfboard. You propel yourself along with a single paddle that looks like a very long canoe paddle (a blade at the bottom, a handle at the top). You can take a SUP into the ocean and ride some waves, which I’ve never done. You can also take a take a paddleboard out onto a calm lake or river and paddle around for fun, which I have.

Here’s what you should know before you show up to rent a board.

Expect to get wet.

My personal policy with boats (even paddleboards!) is to prepare as if I and everything I carry are guaranteed to fall in. So I wear a swimsuit or quick-drying clothes, and I put my phone in a secure pocket in a waterproof case, or at least a ziploc bag. That said, you probably won’t fall in…but wear your life vest just in case.

Ask about the shoe situation.

My first time on a paddleboard, the rental place said we have to wear sneakers or grippy water shoes. My second time, it was a different rental place, and they require everyone to go barefoot. (If I had the choice, I prefer barefoot.)

You can strap your stuff to the front of the board.

I’ve seen people with bags in front of them on the board, waterproof speakers blasting tunes, even small dogs. Remember our first rule, though (prepare to get wet) and if you ever do bring a dog—not ideal for your first time, obviously—observe boating safety precautions for your dog.

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Once you’re there, it’s time to paddle! Here are some beginner tips to get you started.

You don’t have to stand up.

You can paddle just fine while kneeling or even while sitting cross-legged on the board’s surface. Kneeling is the safest way to approach a dock or any time you’re worried about falling. You can also sit down if you get tired, or just because you feel like it (I find it very relaxing).

You paddle with your whole body.

You’ll need to use muscles from your arms and shoulders, through your core, all the way down to your legs. Think about planting the paddle in the water and using your ab and back muscles to pull yourself toward it.

If you learn correct technique, you can paddle on just one side.

At first, you’ll take a few strokes on one side and notice you’re veering off course, then switch. Watch a stroke technique video like this one to learn how to stay straight.

Once you get comfortable on the paddleboard, consider trying paddleboard yoga—where, yes, the chance of falling off is a little higher. It can be expensive, because you’re paying for a paddleboard rental and a yoga class, but if you get the chance it’s an experience worth doing. If you want to try it on your own paddleboard, make sure to get an anchor (about $10 at fishing supply places) so you don’t drift around the lake.

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Wasps Are Getting Drunk At Beer Gardens And Going On ‘Stinging Rampages’

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There are happy drunks and there are aggressive drunks. It turns out that wasps are angry drunks. Wasps are reportedly getting plastered at beer gardens and then going on “stinging rampages.” So wasps get drunk at the bar and then cause a ruckus? Wasps, they’re just like us!

The Daily Mail reported that “Britain is under attack from ‘lager lout’ wasps who are going on stinging rampages after getting drunk on fermented fruit and leftover pub-garden cider.” Duh. Wasps are assholes. What else do you expect them to do?

“Wasps have built absolutely massive nests and, now that all the larvae have grown up and the queen has stopped laying eggs, the colonies have a workforce with nothing to do – and nothing to eat. So they go down to the pub, obviously,” Shane Jones of Ridtek Pest Control told the Daily Mail.

It turns out that wasps, scientific name: Vespula vulgaris, might have a legit reason for all of their rage – Worker wasps cannot reproduce and don’t have sex. A lot of pent-up sexual frustrations that are just waiting to be unleashed by stinging someone for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

The worker wasps’ main goal is to find food for the nest’s larva. In late summer, nectar starts to dry up so wasps look for other sweet substances such as fermented fruit, soda, and beer. This summer has been warmer and drier than normal in Britain causing flowers to wither earlier than usual, causing the angry insects to hit up more beer gardens in search of sweet fermented liquids.

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And just like your friend Mike who is transformed into a douchebag when he has too many shots of Jack Daniels, wasps become aggressive after drinking and start stinging people because they can. Soused wasps, they’re just like us!

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Just How Bad an Idea Is the ‘Carnivore Diet’?

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Photo: Pexels

If you ate nothing but steak for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, would you die? Get scurvy? Have terrible poops? To be honest, the science isn’t totally clear on this, but we asked some experts anyway. (Spoiler: they think it’s a bad idea.)

Do people actually eat this diet?

There are definitely people who say they have eaten only meat for years. I’m not sure if I truly believe them, though. There are also people who say they don’t eat food and survive off the energy of the universe, but they kind of have to be sneaking snacks when nobody is looking. How many supposedly strict carnivores give in and have a doughnut every now and then (or, hopefully, a fruit or vegetable?) Nobody knows.

What nutrients is meat missing?

It depends how you define “meat”. A raw ribeye steak, fat trimmed off, has little to none of your vitamins A, C, E, D, and K; very little folate, another vitamin; and very little calcium or manganese.

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But if you allow yourself other animal products, you’ll do a lot better. Eggs can make up for the missing vitamins A, E, D, and folate, for example. Still, you’re at serious risk of scurvy.

Of reddit’s and Facebook’s carnivore diet support groups, all encourage eating muscle meat and fat. Most allow eggs and fish as well. Dairy is controversial: in some groups it’s allowed, in others you’re encouraged to stick to butter and avoid milk, and for the purists it’s not really being a carnivore. Some groups call themselves “zero carb,” although that label is a misnomer if you eat dairy; milk contains tons of lactose, which is a sugar and therefore a carb.

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When people like the Inuit live on mostly meat diets, they’re not just having steaks and eggs. Traditional animal-based diets typically involve organ meats and even the stomach and intestinal contents of herbivores. That is, you’ll note, a way to get the nutrients in vegetables since you are in fact eating vegetables. (The Inuit also gathered and ate plants too.)

So what happens?

We don’t have any large, rigorous studies on what happens to the body when people eat a “carnivore diet.” Nutrition professor Rachele Pojednic pointed us to this account from the late 1920s of two men who ate nothing but meat for a full year. Both had been Arctic explorers, and were used to living on animal products for months at a time. They lived in a metabolic ward, under observation, for a few periods of weeks at a time; the rest of the time they lived at home but promised they were keeping the same diet.

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They didn’t die. By the end, “the subjects were mentally alert, physically active, and showed no specific physical changes in any system of the body.” Both lost weight for a short period at the beginning, but weren’t significantly lighter by the end of the study. They excreted ketones in their urine, a sign that their bodies were burning fat in exactly the way you would expect if you’re eating a ton of fat and no carbs. Their blood, when drawn, had a visible fatty layer in it.

Their diet was very different, though, from Mikhaila Peterson’s three steaks a day. Each man ate, on a typical day, between 100 and 140 grams of protein, 200 to 300 grams of fat, and almost no carbs. (Meat has a tiny amount of carbohydrate. Very tiny.) Here’s what they actually ate:

The meat used included beef, lamb, veal, pork, and chicken. The parts used were muscle, liver, kidney, brain, bone marrow, bacon, and fat. While on lecture trips [one subject] occasionally ate eggs and a little butter when meat was not readily obtainable.

While one of the subjects was settling in to the metabolic ward, the researchers wrote, “the subject had a craving of calf brain of which he ate freely.” At one point the men requested frozen raw meat for a change of pace, but this was the days before freezers were standard equipment, so none was available.

What about the poops?

This is a major subject of discussion in carnivore diet groups, with many people reporting diarrhea as they try to get used to the diet, and others describing what sounds like constipation. These groups are optimistic places, though, and posters typically put a sunny spin on any obstacles they face. You’re not having trouble with the diet, you’re just getting used to it.

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Back in 1930, the researchers were happy with the explorers’ output. “The stools were smaller than usual, well formed, and had an inoffensive, slightly pungent odor,” they write. One man had diarrhea, but they chalked that up to a too-high protein intake (around 40 percent of his calories).

Ashwin Ananthakrishnan of the American Gastroenterological Association explains that a meat-only diet is likely to be bad for your gut in many ways. By avoiding plants, you’re missing out on bacterial species that tend to be anti-inflammatory, and you’re not getting the soluble fiber from fruits and vegetables that helps to keep your gut barrier intact. If you want to keep good intestinal health, you really need to include plants in your diet.

Are there long-term risks?

“I honestly think one of the biggest risks of the carnivore diet is colon cancer,” says Pojednic, the nutrition professor, “but we won’t have data on that for years to come (and this would also mean that someone needs to do a study on this diet, which I honestly don’t see happening).” People who eat a lot of red meat and processed meat are at a high risk of developing colorectal cancer.

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Diets high in fat have been associated with risk factors for heart attacks and other cardiovascular disease. This is still somewhat controversial, because it’s been hard to separate the effects of fat from those of other foods like sugar (people who eat a lot of cheeseburgers also eat a lot of doughnuts) and because there are different types of fats, and whenever you remove one from the diet, you have to replace it with another. This is the classic question about whether butter is good for you or bad for you; the answer is, it’s complicated.

The bottom line is, this may not kill you right away, but the internet’s version of the carnivore diet (no relation to animal-product-heavy traditional diets) is missing essential nutrients and is probably bad for your health in the long term.

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7 steps you can take to capture images that grab attention

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Capturing images that grab attention is a goal of any photographer. It’s exactly this skill that separates a good photographer from an average one.

An image can grab the viewers attention in many ways. A typical one the last years has been through the use of strong and vivid colors. However, such images (with many exceptions, of course) tend to give only a momentarily “wow”-effect, just to be forgotten as quickly. You want to do more than this, though. You want the viewer to remember your image. You want them to come back and look at it again and again. You want to trigger a certain emotion.

This is easier said than done and it’s a skill that takes years to develop. Even after years, it’s something photographers struggle to achieve.

These tips will help you on the way to capture attention-grabbing images; Follow them and implement them and you’ll be one step closer.

#1 Have a Point of Interest

Your image must have a point of interest in order for it to grab attention. Without a strong point of interest, people are likely to pass by your image without even noticing it.

A strong point of interest doesn’t need to be a spectacular subject. Mountains are great but anything has the possibility to be a POI if used right.

Put yourself in the viewer’s shoes: is there an obvious point of interest in the image? If there isn’t a natural place for your eyes to rest, the answer is no and you need to re-evaluate the image.

Perhaps you have an interesting subject but there aren’t any elements leading your eyes towards it. In that case, try to work with the elements around you to emphasize this subject.

#2 Use lines to guide the viewer

Having a point of interest is only step number one. As I mentioned above, even when you have a point of interest it might not be obvious as you don’t have any elements leading towards it.

That’s where leading lines come in. Leading lines are compositional elements found almost everywhere that will dramatically improve your images. They help guide the viewer through the frame and in many ways tell them where to look.

A very obvious leading line is a tree or a road leading directly towards the main subject. Your eyes will naturally follow these lines up to this point.

Leading lines are more than just roads and paths, though. It can be rocks, branches, cracks, mud, bushes, flowers; you name it. Anything that helps guide your eyes to the subject is considered a leading line.

#3 Use light to guide the viewer

There are more ways to guide the viewer than through leading lines; directional light is another equally important method.

Light is essential in a good photograph. There’s a reason why photographers often revisit locations regularly even after months or years; they are waiting for the light that best showcases the emotions they want to bring forward in the image.

Good light is what makes the difference between a good shot and a decent. Without it, the image lacks life and is simply flat and dull. Just look at the example below. Without the light, the image wouldn’t have been anything special.

Wait for the light to become interesting. If you don’t have time then try to read how the light is impacting the current frame. Is the light harsh? Is it soft? Does it reflect on a subject? Are there sun-rays? Use the given elements to work around the scene and make the most out of the given situation.

#4 Have a strong composition

This is perhaps the biggest indicator of the photographer’s skill level. A strong composition makes the image more enjoyable to view and it’s a crucial part of the story told through your image.

The composition is something photographers continuously work on improving. Many believe that you’ll never fully learn compositions and that it’s something that evolves throughout your artistic career.

Guidelines such as The Rule of Thirds and The Golden Ratio are great tools to help improve your compositions but I recommend looking further than these and take other elements such as color harmonies, directional light and visual weight into consideration as well.

Most importantly, don’t follow these “rules” too strictly. A great composition doesn’t have to be the perfect example of a compositional rule – as long as the visual flow is pleasing.

#5 Be aware of the weather

Unfortunately, not all weather is great for all photography. Certain scenes benefit from certain types of weather and that’s something you should take into consideration. There are always subjects to photograph but it’s a matter of being able to find those who excel in the given conditions.

Take the images below as an example. I returned to this spot countless times over a 6-month period searching for the conditions which best suited the scene. The first image shows the conditions I often had and the picture itself is nothing special. However, when the conditions one morning included colorful and quickly moving clouds, as well as a semi-rough ocean, the image became much more interesting.

Similarly, if you’re photographing the forest certain conditions will make the image more appealing; perhaps the sunlight is creating sunrays through the trees or there’s a thick layer of fog.

If you’re planning to visit a local photography spot make sure that you’ve checked the forecast and visit on a day that seems to offer the highest possibility of interesting weather.

#6 Photograph More Selectively

“Photograph as much as possible” is a common advice told to beginner photographers. While it’s a great way to learn how your camera works and to improve your skills, learn to be more selective with what you photograph; or at the very least be more selective with what you post online.

The truth is that attention-grabbing images aren’t occurring on a daily basis. In fact, 99% of the images a professional photographer captures will never see the light of day. They might be decent images but decent isn’t what they’re aiming to capture.

Ask yourself this one simple question before pushing the shutter button: Does this image have the potential to be good? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and capture it. If the answer is no, think of why it doesn’t have the potential; is the composition not good enough? Is the light boring? Is the subject boring?

Answering these questions will give you an indication whether you should make adjustments and capture the image or simply just move on.

#7 Capture More Than Just a Snapshot

That brings us to the 7th and final advice for capturing images that grab attention: Capture more than just a snapshot.

If you’re just capturing images to document your trips and travels and their purpose is to be shared with friends and family, photography anything you want. But if you’re aiming to become a better photographer and capture images that awakes an emotion within the viewer, stop ‘snapping’ images.

Ask yourself the questions given in the previous tip. Use these to determine whether or whether not you’ll capture the image. Don’t be afraid to leave a beautiful place without capturing one single image. Not all beautiful places are photogenic. Learn to enjoy the surroundings instead and don’t worry about ‘snapping’ everything with your camera.

There isn’t a blueprint for a great image but elements such as light, composition, a point of interest and weather play an important role. If the image is lacking these elements, will it really grab attention?

About the Author

Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. You can see more of his work on his websiteInstagram, and Facebook page. You can download his free guide 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography here. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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Meet the Snap exec leading product strategy, driving monetization, and debunking myths on augmented reality

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  • Carolina Arguelles is Snap’s head of augmented reality (AR) Monetization and Product Strategy.
  • Arguelles told Business Insider that AR education, as well as tackling misperceptions about the space, are a core part of her role.
  • Another focus is how to make AR into something that’s accessible to more brands for more reasons.
  • She also said that Snap welcomed competition in the space, and that she believes the company is in a good position because it was an early adopter.

Snapchat has carved a name for itself as an augmented reality pioneer. 

But while most people are familiar with its barfing rainbows and dancing hot dogs, not much is known about the people working behind-the-scenes to help pull those fun filters and lenses off.

As Snap’s head of AR Monetization and Product Strategy, Carolina Arguelles works across the company’s product and engineering teams to bring new AR capabilities and buying methods to the market for advertisers. 

The former Nielsen manager spends a lot of time thinking about how to make AR accessible to all brands, both big and small, giving them the measurement tools they need, and battling misperceptions about the nascent space.

Business Insider caught up with Arguelles to chat about all things AR. Here’s a lightly edited version of the conversation.

Tanya Dua: What has been a priority for you in terms of Snapchat’s AR filters and lenses?

Carolina Arguelles: One of our key areas of focus is education. Just trying to make people understand what it means to be in the camera. To advertise in the camera, how it is accessible, how it’s not something that you should be super scared of — which, especially with a new audience is something that’s just core to anything that we can try to build off of.

Dua: And you’ve been hosting events as well. Two years ago the perception was that Snap wasn’t really talking to people much, and that’s completely changed now. What is the strategic aim behind all of this? Are you trying to get more advertisers on board? What’s the longer term play?

Arguelles: With AR, we’re not just trying to sell to people, we’re really trying to educate people, because we find it opportunistic for them. So that’s one goal, we need a platform to help educate. And by being very quiet, it was hard for us to do that. And then the second one, of course, is to try to mobilize more traction as we’re launching these new features, like shoppable AR.

Dua: How did you fall into leading revenue product strategy for AR?

Arguelles: When I started at Snap, I was actually on our measurement team. I was previously at Nielsen for a long time, that really helped the transition into that. I was running all measurement for every kind of vertical, except for entertainment. And then I also started leading thought leadership and evaluation of all of our ads. That’s how I really fell into AR. My job was figuring out how does AR really drive measurement results for advertisers, what works better than others, what are creative best practices. I was really passionate about that, I got close to the team, and then that’s when they invited me to kind of come over and lead the AR product strategy on that side. 

Dua: Tell me more about your job. What does leading AR product strategy entail?

Arguelles: So, my main job is to bookend the product development process. I’m trying to understand industry trends: Where is the industry going, not just in tech, but actually just where is society going? How are social economic issues effecting how people are living their lives? And what are advertisers saying about what they need? That helps me understand where our priority should be, from a product development standpoint.

Then, I work with Peter Sellis [Snap’s director of revenue product] and his amazing team on developing the right technical features. It’s their main job to actually build the features. What I do is help synthesize what the market is saying about what we should be building, based on what they want and what’s going to really drive impact for them.

The next phase is helping them tweak, making sure the products that they’re building have the features that advertisers actually really want. The last phase is around positioning storytelling and packaging from a market standpoint.

So that’s kind of the other side, which is: How do we go to market? How do we educate people about something that they don’t even understand? That when you say AR, they’re like, "What? Augmented reality. Oh, that, is that the headset?" It’s a really interesting and difficult, but exciting job on that side, of how do you educate, how do you bring things to a market.

Dua: What about pricing? Do you decide that as well?

Arguelles: Yes, I help direct strategy for entire pricing teams. There’s pricing experts, and they do the analysis around how we price things. What I do is I say, "Hey, this is what we’re launching. Based on my analysis, this is what I’m recommending for pricing. Please look at this and give us your recommendation." That’s really how it works. I basically inform the pricing team on what they need to prioritize and how they need to look at some analyses to figure out how we price things.

Dua: Have you also been focused on bringing down the cost of lenses and filters? They were exorbitant when they first started.

Arguelles: Yeah, that’s been a key focus area of mine specifically, but also other people. We can’t just have this $500,000 option for a single-day buy. That was a part of the reason for launching audience lenses. The reason why it’s priced that way is because you’re reaching that many people. It’s not arbitrary. It’s actually based on impressions and reach. If we don’t have an alternative that’s lower reach, then how are we ever gonna sell this? 

But we were still challenged because if we’re the only ones producing, we can only take on so many lenses in so much time. First we said if you spend up to this amount, we’ll build for you for free. Then we realized that at the $300,000 level, you’re still not going to have a mid-market brand. That’s their budget for two quarters.

That’s what was so amazing about the push of Lens Studio out to the public. Lens Studio democratizing that access to AR and AR development is such a big part of how we can scale to, not just the bigger advertisers, but the mid-market brands and potentially, eventually, small businesses, which I think is exciting.

Dua: So small businesses are a huge focus for Snap, even in AR?

Arguelles: Definitely. I think one of our focus areas is how do we continuously make AR something that’s accessible to more brands and for more reasons. For the medium mid-market, how do we make this tool something that’s achievable to them? I think that’s just starting, these brands actually starting to dabble and be experimental with the tools, which is why I think AR is really set to take off over the next year, especially.

Dua: How big of a priority has measurement been for Snap’s AR products? How do you prove to marketers that a barfing rainbow lens does not only drive engagement but ROI?

Arguelles: We have tried to make sure that we had parity on measurement for lenses the same way we had for Snap ads. It was making sure that Datalogics and Nielsen Catalina and in-app polling and every single measurement solution was available for lenses, and what’s most recent is that we just announced pixel attribution and app-install attribution for lenses as well. For us, that was a huge priority with working cross-functionally to make sure that we have that.

Dua: What are some of your biggest challenges, both in your job internally and plus with clients?

Arguelles: One core challenge, I continue to say, is education. I don’t know how many meetings there are when we’re starting again on 101, because there’s a fresh person in the room, or there’s maybe an older person or more senior and hasn’t much experience with Snapchat. But there’s starting to be more people getting into it, and it helps that the industry is starting to talk about it. That helps, actually. We don’t see it as super competitive. We actually think building an ecosystem around AR is important.

Dua: So you’re saying that you welcome competition?

Arguelles: I think we welcome, whether it’s Amazon or Apple or any platform that’s talking about AR. In a way, a rising tide lifts all boats. I think that is true for AR a little bit is it helps us with people becoming more familiar, which is what we’re talking about.

Dua: And do people still have misperceptions about AR and Snap in general?

Arguelles: Yes, this idea that you can only buy one day, or it’ll cost a million dollars. That is something that’s not true. That’s an important misperception to shake, pricing misperception. The other is that AR is upper funnel. Snapchat AR is not just upper funnel. We actually measured all these very upper funnel-flighted campaigns, these big national buys, and even those drove really strong sales results. The fact that this unit can drive sales is really important to understand. Those are the two big misperceptions that I think we’re trying to battle.

Dua: On a broader company level, do you believe that AR is Snapchat’s core key differentiator? It’s the area Snap wants to own? 

Arguelles: I do believe that AR is one of our key benefits. I do think that’s there’s actually something else around just how you use our platform and our platform for communication, not just social. There’s no question that because we open straight to the camera, because we focus on our user experience, that AR is one of our unique aspects, not just for our users but for our advertisers as well. Because we invested in AR 2 and a half years ago, it puts us in a good position today.

We know what happens. We understand what our users like and how they respond. We understand what works for advertisers and what doesn’t work. We have 2 and a half years and thousands of campaigns. That puts us in a position where we’re not just launching and experimenting, we’re actually already optimizing and tweaking. That  position in the marketplace really sets us up now that the industry is starting to catch up to it.

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NASA launches Parker Solar Probe in mission to ‘touch’ the Sun

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After a few delays, the Sun-chasing Parker Solar Probe is on its way. NASA launched the spacecraft aboard a ULA Delta IV Heavy rocket at 3:31AM Eastern this morning (August 12th) and confirmed that the vessel was healthy at 5:33AM. The probe still has a ways to go before it’s conducting scientific studies. It’ll spend its first week in space deploying its high-gain antenna, the first part of its electric field antennas and its magnetometer. In early September, the probe will start a roughly four-week instrument shakedown to be sure it’s ready for science gathering.

The trip to the Sun will take a while. NASA’s probe will pass by Venus a total of seven times (starting in early October) as it uses the planet’s gravity to whip itself ever closer to the star. The spacecraft will make its first close approach in early November, when it will travel 15 million miles from the Sun — inside the Sun’s corona (aka the solar atmosphere). Its closest approach will put it at just 3.8 million miles from the Sun, at which point it should be the fastest-ever human-made object with a speed of 430,000MPH. The first science data should return sometime in December.

It’s a risky mission, to put it mildly. The Parker Solar Probe is completely dependent on its directional heat shield for survival. While it won’t be as dangerous as you might think — the corona is millions of degrees Fahrenheit, but very sparse — even a brief shield failure could expose the equipment and burn it beyond recognition. As you might guess, NASA is relying on automation to make this work.

If the gamble pays off, though, the mission will provide an unprecedented understanding of how the Sun works. It should help explain the corona’s extreme heat, the forces driving the solar wind and the energetic particles that shoot out of the sun at more than half the speed of light. These findings, in turn, could serve a practical purpose by helping space agencies anticipate and protect against solar flares that can disrupt satellites and electrical grids on Earth.