There is one drug in the world that can make you smarter — here’s why you can’t take it yet

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pill medicine
Skye
Gould/Tech Insider

There are several things you can do right now to clear up brain
fog that makes it hard to keep up with everything you have to get
done.

You could go for a run or hit the gym –
exercise has been shown
to effectively boost cognitive
ability. You could get
a good night’s sleep
, something that refreshes energy levels,
is essential for memory, and makes it significantly easier to
focus. You could have a cup of coffee and benefit
from that proven
little helper, caffeine.

But sometimes none of that seems like enough. It makes you want
an additional solution, a pill that can boost you for long enough
to get you over that hump.

While students and overworked employees frequently experiment
with substances like Adderall or Ritalin in an attempt to do just
that, it hasn’t been shown that most of these "cognitive
enhancers" actually make anyone’s brain work "better."

But there’s one substance that a
recent review published
in the journal European
Neuropsychopharmacology found actually does improve attention,
memory, learning, and other cognitive abilities – modafinil.

Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement isn’t a new idea. People
have used drugs to try to boost their brainpower for more than
100 years.
Early in his career in the late 1800s
, Sigmund Freud
experimented prolifically with cocaine, which he described at the
time as his "most gorgeous excitement." Mathematician Paul Erdős
had such a serious relationship with amphetamines that when he
once stopped taking them for a month to win a $500 bet, he
immediately got back on drugs afterwards. He famously
told the friend he bet
: "You’ve set mathematics back a
month."


brain

synapse
on Flickr


Those substances, however, come with significant negative side
effects. That’s what makes modafinil so interesting.

In their review of the literature on modafinil, Oxford
researchers Ruairidh Battleday and Anna-Katherine Brem found that
it didn’t seem to have any particularly serious side effects and
didn’t seem likely to cause dependency – though there are still
unanswered questions there.

How modafinil affects your brain

Battleday and Brem reviewed 24 studies that assessed how
modafinil affected healthy non-sleep deprived people’s minds
(they considered 267 studies, but rejected those that weren’t
placebo controlled, used unhealthy subjects, or tested animals
and not people). The fact that subjects were healthy is an
important distinction – many of the ways we look at drugs that
affect thinking ability are designed to assess people with
cognitive deficiencies.

Most studies could be broken down into either "basic" or
"complex" tests of cognitive function, Brem and Battleday tell
Tech Insider.

Basic tests assess just one sub-component of cognition and tend
to be very simple tasks. On these tests, the effects of modafinil
were mixed. It was on complex tests that the authors found
consistent improvement, especially in terms of attention, the
ability to focus on a task and process relevant information;
learning and memory; and executive function, which includes the
ability to take in information and use it to come up with plans
or strategies.


lucy scarlett johansson

Films where characters
suddenly gain access to new mental powers take the idea to an
extreme, but cognitive enhancement is a real
possibility.


Universal


These complex tasks are much better ways to answer the question
of "does this substance actually improve cognitive ability" than
the basic ones, the authors tell Tech Insider.

"Rarely in life do we spend an entire day using a sole cognitive
sub-domain – attention, for example. Rather, we constantly plan,
predict, and problem solve – all of which involve marshaling
subdomains of cognition and integrating their output – over
varying tasks and difficulties," they wrote in an email. "It is
in this sense that complex tasks can approximate everyday
functioning better than simple."

As for how modafinil works, we still really don’t know. It was
originally designed as a treatment for narcolepsy to keep people
awake. But no one is entirely certain how it affects cognition.


brain
Matt Cardy/Getty

"The best idea we have is that by directly altering the
concentration of a group of chemicals in the brain – called
‘catecholamines’ – modafinil upregulates activity in attention
and executive control networks in the brain," the authors tell
Tech Insider. "These changes are then hypothesized to allow
individuals to perform better on cognitive tasks: particularly
those requiring good focus and problem solving."

Can I take it?

So, will your doctor write you a modafinil
prescription?

The answer for now is no, unless you have narcolepsy. But that
may not always be the case.

When it comes to safety, Brem and Battleday said that the studies
they reviewed didn’t note serious side effects.

Most studies reported a slight boost to positive mood and no
adverse effects. In the studies that found adverse effects, a
small number of participants reported insomnia, headache, stomach
ache or nausea, and dry mouth.

That may not sound great, but in context, those effects aren’t
such a big deal. That’s essentially like having an extra cup of
coffee that you didn’t need, UCLA clinical
psychiatrist
James
McGough told
The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan.

Only one study assessed the potential for abuse, and reported
that it was low.


Adderall pills on magazine

Substances
like Adderall have a higher risk of abuse.


Alex
Dodd/flickr



But none of these studies tested long term use, so we don’t know
if it’s safe for someone to take modafinil over an extended
period of time. As the authors point out, most of these studies
only tested one single dose, which comes nowhere close to
assessing risks of regular use.

Funding is scarce for drugs that help healthy
people

Interestingly, Battleday and Brem point out that there isn’t much
research on cognitive enhancement for healthy people and that
there’s a lack of funding and perhaps even a bit of a taboo on
studying the topic.

"It appears that funding for drug-based studies on healthy
individuals fails to attract typically medical-oriented grants
and awards," they say.

That’s why they say it was hard to find good complex tests of
cognitive enhancement, and they hope that perhaps their work will
encourage researchers to further investigate the topic.

If that does happen, there may be surprises out there – perhaps
some of the other drugs used for cognitive improvement, things
like Adderall, work better for healthy people than we think they
do despite their potential dependency risks.

But even if modafinil were to be proven safe long term and its
cognitive boosting ability affirmed by further studies, there are
still reasons why – for now – doctors aren’t going to start
prescribing it to healthy people.

At the recent annual meeting of the American Medical Association,
the
group decided to adopt a policy
"discouraging the nonmedical
use of prescription drugs for cognitive enhancement in healthy
individuals."


nootrobox

There’s little evidence so
far that tells us how effective many other nootropics are or are
not.

Dylan Love

Of prescription stimulants, they say that the cognitive effects
appear limited for healthy people. Of other supplements and
"smart drugs," known as nootropics, they say that there’s limited
research right now and that more analysis is needed before anyone
can conclude that they are safe.

So don’t expect a modafinil prescription soon. Not that that
stops many users. There are healthy internet communities dedicated to nootropics,
and plenty of user
reports on modafinil specifically
.

Most of those users order it off the internet from somewhat-shady
pharmacies, a practice strongly
discouraged by law enforcement
, since it’s illegal and
potentially dangerous.

Will you someday be able to take the smart pill?

Let’s say it turns out that multiple studies show that it’s safe
to take modafinil occasionally over long periods of time – for
the rest of your life, even. Let’s say that there are no
additional negative side effects that come with that use.

If that’s the case, should you be able to use the drug?

"That is a very interesting question, and one society must
properly address in the near future; not just for modafinil, but
for all potential neuroenhancement agents," say Battleday and
Brem. But they point out that even if something proves to be safe
for an individual, that doesn’t answer all questions about how
its use affects the rest of society.


brain computer interface

A number of other devices
might be able to stimulate the brain as well.

REUTERS/ Morris MacMatzen

Some people fear that if we permit any use of cognitive enhancing
drugs for individuals, it will eventually lead to people being
required to use those substances, even if they don’t want to.
That could be due to internal pressure that comes from a fear of
keeping up – if my co-workers are taking this brain-boosting drug
and I’m not, will I be judged as not working hard enough?

There’s even a concern that people in certain professions might
be compelled to use brain-enhancing substances. Could we get to
the point that it’s considered unsafe for pilots to fly or
surgeons to operate without using focus- and attention-boosting
drugs?

In
The Conversation
, researchers Emma Jane and Nicole Vincent
describe how the use of beta-blockers became widespread among
classical musicians. While some people first used these drugs to
get over performance anxiety, they were so effective and had
minimal enough side effects that other musicians felt they were
losing out by not using beta-blockers as well.

"Just as the use of beta blockers has become widespread in the
classical music scene, so too cognitive enhancement threatens to
become a new ‘normal’, a de facto standard that pressures
everyone to bio-hack their brains to keep up," they write.

And the ethical questions don’t stop there. There are questions
about justice – if wealthy people can easily afford cognitive
enhancement but no one else can, that’s likely to create an even
more unequal society.

Cognitive enhancing substances are already out there and
more are likely to become available in the near future. These
questions about how to use them or how to regulate them are
important.

"This is not a future but already a present scenario," say Brem
and Battleday.

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We tried granola bars made from beer waste — and they were surprisingly delicious

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regrained
Regrained
makes two flavors of granola bars from beer waste: Honey Almond
IPA and Chocolate Coffee Stout.

Leanna
Garfield/Tech Insider


To make that craft beer you love, breweries generate a lot of
food waste. For every five-gallon batch of beer (or a third of a
keg), they expend nearly 30 pounds of leftover grains.

Regrained, a new San
Francisco-based company that makes granola bars from recycled
beer grains, is putting that waste to good use.

Beer has four main ingredients: water, yeast, hops, and grains.
When brewers make beer, they extract sugar from the grains (like
barley and wheat, for example) by soaking them in hot water. The
sugary liquid is then drained, and yeast converts the sugar into
alcohol. But the original grains are usually thrown out – and
that’s where Regrained comes in.

The company goes to breweries and collects the wet grains. The
team then dehydrates them, adds flax and quinoa, and gets them to
stick together by mixing in honey and syrup made from tapioca and
brown rice.


regrained
An up-close view of the
Chocolate Coffee Stout bar.

Leanna
Garfield/Tech Insider


In December 2015, Regrained raised $30,670 on
Barnraiser,
a
crowdfunding tool for food entrepreneurs.
Co-founder Dan Kurzrock tells Tech Insider that the company used
the money to develop and improve its two granola bar flavors:
Honey Almond IPA and Chocolate Coffee Stout.

Neither bar tastes like the beer it’s named after, but each
one does take on similar characteristics. The IPA bar is sweet
and spicy with a hint of cinnamon. The stout bar, which
Kurzrock says features ground coffee beans, has a
chocolatey overtone with a slightly smokey aftertaste.

Selling for $2.50 each in specialty food stores around
California, on Amazon, and on Regrained’s site, t
he bars
(which don’t contain any alcohol) look like traditional
granola. But w
hen I took a bite, I could tell they
weren’t made from normal oats, mainly because they were so
chewy.


Overall, though, both are tasty – I prefer the stout
bar since it has hunks of

chocolate.


Screen Shot 2016 06 27 at 12.04.08 PM
The components of a
Regrained IPA bar.

Regrained/Instagram

To make the bars, the Regrained team collects grains from three
craft breweries in San Francisco: 21st Amendment, Magnolia, and
Triple Voodoo. Other ingredients, like almonds and puffed quinoa,
come from local California farmers, Kurzrock says.

The specific grains that the breweries use to make their stouts
and IPAs will sometimes end up in the IPA and Stout-flavored
bars, but not always, Kurzrock says. It depends on what
type of beer the breweries are making when Regrained picks up the
waste.

beer

Kurzrock says that in order to make a six-pack of
beer, a brewery uses about a pound of grains. Six billion gallons
of beer are brewed annually in the US, which means roughly 36
billion pounds of grain get wasted each year.


Copy of FoundersBaking
Regrained cofounders Dan Kurzrock and Jordan
Schwartz.

Regrained

Used beer grains aren’t always thrown out, however – some US
breweries pay farmers to take them to use in compost and,
eventually, fertilizer. But over the past few years, more
American craft breweries have moved to city centers to be close
to consumers, which makes it more difficult and expensive for
farmers to collect the grains, Kurzrock says.

For example, about 30 micro-breweries now reside in San Francisco
(or as much as
120
if you count the outer Bay regions). The grains, in turn,
often end up in landfills.


SpentGrainInVat
Spent
grains in a brewery’s vat.

Regrained

Regrained is currently only making a small dent in this waste,
but it’s a start. In the future, the team hopes to expand to more
US cities.

“Our goal is to help urban breweries to do more with what they
produce,” Kurzrock says. “We’re taking something that’s
typically wasted and turning it into something delicious.”

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Watch These Artists Forge Famous Paintings by Photoshopping Stock Photos Together

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Watch These Artists Forge Famous Paintings by Photoshopping Stock Photos Together

Ankur Patar is an artist with a talent for recreating famous paintings. His forgeries wouldn’t fool a child, let alone an art expert, but they’re still absolutely remarkable pieces of art unto themselves because they’re painstakingly assembled in Photoshop using nothing but stock photos.

Here’s a timelapse video of Patar rebuilding Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and even going so far as to replace the artist’s included self-portrait in the painting with a photo of himself.

Patar isn’t the only artist with a talent for digital forgeries, though. Continuing with the theme of using stock photography and Photoshop instead of a brush and paints, Karla Cordova recreated Frida Kahlo’s The Wounded Table.

Jean‐Charles Debroize recreated Caravaggio’s Saint Matthew and the Angel.

And Mike Campau brought Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Cathedral Towering over a Town, which was destroyed by fire in 1931, back to life using nothing but pixels, time, and Photoshop’s handy magnetic lasso tool.

[YouTube via PetaPixel]


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Google invented a new way to teach kids how to code using blocks

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Project Blok

Children learn through playing and interacting with one another, with everything around them. Google is tapping into the natural ways children learn by making code physical — something they can touch and manipulate collectively rather than a string of code on a screen to be worked with in issolation.

Project Bloks, the initiative behind making physical code, is part of a research partnership between Google, a Stanford University professor and design firm Ideo, the search engine’s research arm announced in a blog post Monday.

So far, demonstrations include sending signals over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi from a string of assembled bloks to control the movement of a nearby toy robot or producing music. Here’s what it looks like:

SEE ALSO: The CEO candidate of $3 billion Docusign bailed at the last minute to join Google

The "brain board", a Raspberry Pi Zero through which all signals travel, serves as the head of operations.

The "pucks" are the physical representations of a single piece of code.

The "pucks" communicate instructions such as "go forward", "turn left" or a direction to repeat the previous command, back to the "brain board."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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AUDUSD Bounces Back Into Daily Cloud, Following Yesterday’s Close In Red

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Aussie managed to pare some losses of yesterday’s bearish acceleration that extended today to 0.7317 session low, where bounce commenced. Near-term structure remains weak after yesterday’s failure to hold in daily cloud, as fresh weakness closed well below cloud base and also closed below 0.7335 (Fibo 61.8% of 0.7143/0.7645 ascend)

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These new wireless earbuds not only let you play music, but also customize how the world sounds around you

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doppler female hero
Doppler

Doppler Labs has announced its
first mass-market product, called Here One, which combines Doppler’s
sound-morphing technology with wireless bluetooth earbuds.

Last summer,

Doppler Labs made
noise


in the tech
world by introducing earbuds that didn’t play music, but instead
customized the sounds that were coming from the world around you.
The pitch was that “Here” earbuds would let you turn the bass up
during a concert, or tune out the screeching of cars on the
street.

Doppler racked up a
100,000-person waitlist, a resoundingly successful Kickstarter
campaign, and $17 million in venture capital money. The company
then followed up with a product that
actually delivered
on the bulk of its promises, especially
the music functionality (though the automatic filters were still
a bit raw).

But there was still one main
problem: the buds felt more like a cool gadget you would use
occasionally rather than something you’d put on every day. Though
music lovers were the people initially blown away by the product,
the top things people actually used the Here buds for were the
following, according to CEO Noah Craft:

  1. Dealing with an open
    office.
  2. Commuting.
  3. Amplifying hearing.

These everyday uses weren’t the
buds’ strength when I tested them out, and Doppler seems to have
recognized this. Now the company is aiming at the everyday with
its Here One buds, which will cost $299 when they are released in
November.

The idea is to create a “1-stop”
product, Doppler CEO Noah Kraft tells Business Insider. Doppler
wants you to be able to listen to music, make calls, and so on,
all while being able to take in the sounds you want from the
outside world.


here one dopper
Doppler

Kraft touts a few key features
Here One will have that sets it apart from Doppler’s first
product and traditional bluetooth headphones.

The first is “adaptive
filtering,” meaning in plain English, the filters will be a lot
better and more specific, Kraft promises. They will be able to
target particular sounds “such as human speech, sirens, a crying
baby, a jet engine,” and so on, the company says. I haven’t yet
got a chance to test that element myself.

The second is “layered
listening,” which will let you blend whatever you are listening
to with the outside world. The example Kraft gives is being at a
baseball game and having commentary layered over the sounds of
the ball game. When the product initially ships, you won’t be
able to combine the adaptive filters with the sound blending, but
this is actually the prospect I’m most excited about. Imagine
walking around the city with filters set to zap out the sounds of
cars and clanging, while your earbuds blend some pleasant music
with the other sounds of the city. That would be a sublime
product – but we won’t be there yet at launch.

While the bluetooth earbuds
aspect is the biggest new feature for Doppler, Kraft says the
focus of Here One will still be on Doppler’s sound-changing
technology.

“Headphones are such a piece of
commodity tech,” Kraft says, though he adds that Doppler will not
skimp on the quality. They aren’t trying to reinvent the
bluetooth earbud, but rather, create an entirely new type of
device. Think of it more like Amazon’s Echo rather than a
bluetooth speaker.

That said, Doppler will still
have to deliver on the music quality, especially given the type
of early backers the company has attracted. And other companies
have had problems with wireless bluetooth earbuds. One common
issue is battery life. Kraft says the Here Ones will get five
hours (three to four when streaming audio), along with two
additional full charges in the carrying case. Again, we’ll have
to test them to confirm that.

If you’ve tried Doppler’s first
buds, the form factor of the Here Ones will not significantly
change, and will add just one millimeter to its size. Doppler
purposefully left extra room in the initial product, Kraft
says.

We’ll have to hold off judgment
until we get our hands on the prototype, but as of now, it seems
that Doppler is working to address many of our practical concerns
with its first product, while retaining the technology that
allowed the original Here buds to capture the imagination of
music lovers, including big-time backers like Hans Zimmer and
Tiesto.

You can preorder Here Ones
here.

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Wink’s smart home controller can hail an Uber car

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Wink’s Relay controller is about to do a lot more than tie your smart home together. The company is rolling out third-party service support that accomplishes tasks you wouldn’t normally expect from the device controlling your light bulbs. For one thing, you can order a ride through Uber — it’ll even show a ride you’ve ordered on your phone, in case you need a heads-up that your driver is nearly there. You can also get updates on your Fitbit progress from the Relay’s sleep screen, or use the controller’s two physical buttons to trigger automated IFTTT tasks. Will you use these often? Probably not, but they’ll beat walking across the house to get your phone.

Source: Wink

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Bionic Earbuds Are Like a Smartphone You Can Leave in Your Ears Forever

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Bionic Earbuds Are Like a Smartphone You Can Leave in Your Ears Forever

Doppler Labs, the company that wants to stick a Jarvis-like computer in every ear, will go live with its first bionic buds. Anyone can buy the device later this year, and it is some futuristic shit.

We’ve been following Doppler Labs for a few years now. The company made its first inroads to your ears via a set of fashionably-designed earplugs. Since then Doppler has been plugging away at the concept of what it calls “active listening” with the idea that it might be the first company to turn in-ear computers into a thing. In February, we had the opportunity to test out Doppler’s proof-of-concept Here Active Listening System, a set of computerized buds that altered the sound of the world. It was an impressive if imperfect execution of its lofty ideas.

Available for pre-order today and launching in time for the holidays, the new Here One is the company’s first proper consumer product. It will be available to anyone who can shell out $300. Like the Here Active Listening System, Here One is a pair of smart wireless earbuds. They process sound from the world around you and either amplify, deaden, or modify it, depending on what settings you use. With the concept product you could use the company’s app to block out the unwanted sounds of your commute or modify the sound of live music. Some of the more experimental settings allowed you to do things like apply psychedelic flange to the world, just in case the bad trip scenes from Fear and Loathing are something you’d like to experience without taking drugs.

The company is also beefing up the audio powers for its first widely-available product. The Here One will be a set of truly wireless buds that can stream music and access phone-based assistants like Siri and Google Now. This is something of the white whale for the audio world. Despite a number of Kickstarters and even a few products that are coming to market, nobody has nailed it yet. And again, the combination of sound from your phone and sound from the real world can be customized, so you can wander around aware of what’s going on while also rocking tunes.

Additionally, Doppler Labs is launching some new audio processing powers, based in part on feedback from the early adopters who bought into Here Active Listening.

First, you’ll be able to personalize the sound of the Here One using a brief on-boarding procedure that takes about one minute per ear. You’ll be asked questions and played some sound, and your input will be used to tailor the device’s algorithms to your ears.

Second, Doppler says it has improved its real-world sound filtering so that the buds can better differentiate between the screech of a subway car and the shrill voice of your whiny best friend. Oh goody.

Doppler isn’t disclosing the specifics of the hardware under the hood, but it will say that it’s using several processors and several microphones to make the magic happen. In particular, the microphones are “directional,” meaning the system can tell which direction sound is coming from and adjust its listening powers accordingly.

Doppler Labs’ ambition is to create, “the last thing you ever put in your ears,” and the company knows it hasn’t gotten quite there yet. For one thing, Here One still needs a phone to work so it’s not quite Jarvis-in-a-bud yet. What’s more, the hardware is still on the clunky side and limited battery life will be an issue for the foreseeable future. Hell, I’m not even sure Doppler’s ambitions are something I want or that people will accept. Do you want a computer talking into your ear at all times forever? That said, with all the promises Doppler is making about its forthcoming product—I’m ready to listen.

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Watch This Tiny Flying SpaceX Falcon 9 Replica Totally Stick its Landing

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GIF

You can pretend to be disappointed every time SpaceX’s Falcon 9 crashes during a landing attempt, but deep down you know part of you wants to see an explosion. That’s why this video of a miniature flying SpaceX Falcon 9 drone is both awesome and disappointing, because there’s never going to be a fireball.

Created by Adam Woodworth, who was previously responsible for building a flying Return of the Jedi Speeder Bike replica, this Falcon 9 doesn’t carry any rocket fuel or other explosives on board, so there’s zero chance it will explode while touching down on its floating foam launch pad.

It’s instead powered by four tiny propellers, since it started out as a tiny quadcopter toy. Woodworth added the rocket’s fuselage, retractable landing gear, and an optional flame attachment to make it appear more like a rocket in flight. From the right camera angle, without a house or Adam in the background revealing its scale, this rocket could almost pass as footage of the real Falcon 9 the next time something goes wrong and SpaceX doesn’t want anyone to know.

[YouTube via The Verge]

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Everyone Is Lying About Not Watching TV

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GIF

Saying “I don’t own a TV” is a good way to let people know that you’re a pretentious asshole. But even though more and more people are eager to tell you they don’t “have TV,” don’t be fooled! You better believe that they are still “watching TV.”

According to a new Nielsen report out today, Americans watch about 4.5 hours of television a day. That sounds like a lot! But that’s only live TV. If you add in DVR time, that’s over five hours a day.

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN ALL OF IT.

If you look at the way the data has been trending since 2014, technically the time the US has spent “watching TV” on an actual television broadcasting content is going down, slightly. But the time devoted to “watching TV” on every other platform like a tablet or a smartphone is going up—way up.

Look at the chunk of time spent on tablets and smartphones, it’s more than double what it was in 2015. That’s an hour more of total media time just since last year. So for some Americans that’s a grand TV total of SIX HOURS PER DAY.

Another big milestone noted by the survey: For the first time, more than half of American households have some kind of streaming subscription like Netflix or Hulu (a category called Subscription Video on Demand or SVOD). DVR services are plateauing or declining. Which means people will probably start to spend even more time watching TV.

Surely millennials aren’t watching TV, though, right? Because they’re so busy doing other things like not driving and being poor? Nope. Millennials watch slightly less television (it varies depending on their living situation) but they are still watching about two-and-a-half hours per day.

Yes, the way we consume content is changing. But television remains our primary way to consume it. And anyone who says they don’t watch TV is lying.

[Nielsen]

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