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September 11, 2022 | View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Kate Dehler

IN THIS ISSUE

Manning vs. Manning

Europe's "freeze"

New software is offering innovative solutions for the deaf and hard of hearing

 

VIBE CHECK

 

"Just to be clear, Harry Styles did not spit on Chris Pine."—Chris Pine's rep to People Magazine

"We will deliver, we will deliver, and we will deliver."New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss during her victory speech

"Queen Elizabeth has been the absolute protagonist of world history for the last 70 years."—Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi

 

MANNING-OFF

 

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Sherry Qin

 

GROUP CHAT

 

The big chill: Europe is in for a tough winter

The big chill: Europe is in for a tough winter

Europe may have to cut the heat this winter as energy rationing looks inevitable. Earlier this week, Russia walked back plans to reopen a major natural gas pipeline to Germany. The decision left the European Union reeling: France is asking citizens to carpool and lower their thermostats. They've also asked businesses to shut off signs at night. Governments are spending billions to shield their countries from ballooning energy bills. But winter is coming, and leaders fear energy prices will get out of hand as temperatures drop.

The crisis is exposing Europe's overreliance on Russian energy. (Germany and Italy in particular are in jeopardy after taking advantage of cheap Russian exports.) Months of tension have brought Russia and its European neighbors to an impasse—EU countries have backed Ukraine in the war and sanctioned Russia; Russia has responded in turn, wielding its power by making power a problem.

To make it through this crisis, the EU will have to stick together. Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said on Monday that the EU states need to cooperate while finding alternatives to Russian gas. "That this is going to be somehow easy, or over, I think is a fantasy that we should put aside," he said. The crisis, Belgian Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten warned, may last for the next decade.

Twenty-seven member states already backed a voluntary 15% reduction of gas usage in July. But during a meeting Friday, EU energy ministers asked the European Commission to broadly cap revenues of non-gas power producers, rather than targeting Russia directly. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would let Europe "freeze" before giving in and supplying energy that "contradicts our interests" if the EU issued a price cap on Russian energy imports.

Before the pipeline closed, Europeans, who are seeing inflation rates as high as 9.1%, were already in for a tough winter. In the UK, where annual household energy bills are expected to jump 80% in October, newly minted Prime Minister Liz Truss is inheriting the energy crisis. On Thursday, she announced a plan to cap energy bills for two years, a move considered a larger economic intervention than any ever staged by the UK—even during the early months of the Covid-19 crisis.

Whether or not she and other European leaders can get energy costs under control will determine if industries and citizens there see rolling blackouts and a deep recession.

Amanda Hoover

     
 

SUNDAY FUNDAY

 

a puzzle piece, a chess piece, a rendering of a crossword

A Sunday Mini crossword that nods to the news of the week. Play it here.

 
Bambee
 

LONG READ

 

Subtitle the world

an image of glasses with flowers growing from them, rendering in cool colors Kate Dehler

Sirens blare and the roar of impatient drivers echoes in the background. Jake Giovanni, who is deaf, sits across from me in his apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, to test out XRAI Glass—new tech that produces captions in real time for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Giovanni, 24, is one of the first in the US to see the tech in action. A compatible smartphone running XRAI Glass software captures audio while a pair of augmented reality glasses—in this case, the Nreal Air AR glasses created by Beijing-based Nreal—display captions on Giovanni's lenses. After selecting "start captions," the app begins captioning our interview as if we were watching a TV show or film with subtitles.

"I'm really thankful that somebody's doing this," he said. "You have to start somewhere. And the impact that this could make on someone's life is incredible."

On the top left of Giovanni's lens is a small icon that shows network strength, and in the middle is me. The sleek glasses, tinted—with space for prescription lenses—allow a person to view what's in front of them as captions appear on the bottom left side. London-based tech startup XRAI Glass provided Morning Brew with a compatible device from Nreal in order to test the software with interviewees.

Giovanni, a consulting analyst, explained his profound hearing loss was caused by a mutation in a particular gene on his X chromosome.

"Play K-pop in reverse and watch a show in Portuguese, and try to understand anything—and that's what my world sounds like all the time," he says with a laugh.

Everything Giovanni says out loud appears as "speaker 1," while anything I say is labeled as "speaker 2." In theory, the software allows for an unlimited amount of speakers to be labeled within the same conversation. The UI's minimalistic design includes color-coded tags for each speaker. If Giovanni could describe the tech device in three words, he'd call it "rudimentary," "modular," and "futuristic."

"This application seems like the first and foremost logical step in terms of something that's actually helpful and beneficial in everyday life," he said.

Giovanni's black cat makes a grand exit from the living room after begging to be the center of attention. The software is something Giovanni—who reads lips and uses hearing aids—could see himself using during date nights and social outings.

"If I meet a girl online dating and take her to a nice restaurant—it's very loud in there, right?" he said. "We're trying to have a nice conversation, but I can't crack a joke after I just asked her to repeat herself like four times. There's the whole social dynamic to having a hearing impairment that most people don't [understand] that purely derives from the problems that the glasses are trying to solve."

Around 40 percent of speech sounds in English can be lip-read if the environment is well lit, which means a lot could be missed in the absence of context cues. On top of this, lip-reading can be mentally taxing for many since it requires immense concentration.

"I prefer captioned video meetings to in-person meetings because captions fill in a lot of missing words," accessibility consultant and TEDx speaker Meryl Evans said. "That said, captioned glasses may make this possible for in-person settings."

The software could still use a few tweaks, according to Giovanni, who said he'd like to toggle captions on and off to focus on specific speakers at a time. "It's a struggle between looking at you and looking at the captions," he admitted. "It's a little bit distracting, especially because as I'm speaking it's still [transcribing]. I'm sure there are workarounds for that."

Even so, Giovanni says the app has incredible potential. "The thing about having a disability—and it's not just disability because everybody has something in their lives—we all have weaknesses, and we all have strengths, and we rise by using our strengths to help other people's weaknesses," he said. Continue reading this story on accessibility tech by Amanda Florian.

     
 

Q&A

 

Brew Questionnaire with Mark Bergen

Brew Questionnaire with Mark Bergen Broomvector

Mark Bergen's new book, Like, Comment, Subscribe, explores the business of YouTube, particularly the platform's technology and its complicated relationship with Google. It's the first book to cover YouTube's evolution as told from the perspective of those who created the streaming giant, the Google executives who took it over, and the micro-celebrities it created. When Bergen isn't writing books, he covers everything Google (and watches a lot of YouTube). He's currently a reporter for Bloomberg.

What's the best advice you ever received?

If you want to be a good business reporter, move to Asia.

What's the most embarrassing song you'll admit to liking publicly?

"76 Trombones."

What fictional person do you wish were real?

Saul Goodman.

What real person do you wish were fictional?

The Winklevoss twins.

How would you explain TikTok to your great-grandparents?

You can watch Jack Benny, Howdy Doody, and thousands like them on a tiny device that fits in your pocket, whenever you like.

What always makes you laugh?

Bill Wurtz's "still a piece of garbage."

If you were given a billboard in Times Square, what would you put on it?

"Go Spend Money in the Other Boroughs."

—Interview by Rohan Anthony

     
 
Cisco
 

BREW'S BEST

 

#BamaRushTok delivers again: While sorority recruitment TikToks can look like the seventh circle of hell, some companies are using the trend to bolster their social media outreach. Jewelry designer Kendra Scott bet big on the new sorority rush season, and it definitely paid off for her brand. [Marketing Brew]

Upward of 2500 petabytes a day can be collected from surveillance cameras alone in smart cities. But the smarter the city, the more important cybersecurity becomes when dealing with personal information. [Emerging Tech Brew]

Hem fatale: You might want to think twice before you crop that baggy t-shirt. Even with well-known fashion brands like Lululemon and Tommy Hilfiger launching resale programs in the last few years, some brands don't allow altered clothing to be resold on their platforms. [Retail Brew]

Oceans 11, but on the internet: The hacker economy is "booming and robust" according to Corey Thomas, CEO of cybersecurity company Rapid7. He joined Business Casual to talk about why it seems like there are so many software companies right now and why we're seeing so much investment in the cybersecurity industry. [Business Casual]

The best thing we read this week: From spitting and Aperol spritzers to Chris Pine memes, perfect purple outfits, and papers being served, here's everything you wanted to know about the drama-filled Don't Worry Darling press tour. And admit it, you definitely want to know.  [The Ringer]

And one more thing: Take your time with this comprehensive obituary for Queen Elizabeth II. [The Guardian]

Fend off the feet sweats: Bombas Performance Socks are made with sweat-wicking, easy-breathing material that keeps feet dry, cool, and oh-so-comfy. For every pair purchased, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. Grab yours here.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.

 

THE END

 

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Sherry Qin

         

Written by Rohan Anthony, Stassa Edwards, Amanda Florian , Amanda Hoover, Sherry Qin, Ashwin Rodrigues, and Holly Van Leuven

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