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These Utah tech companies are behind some pretty unique innovations. Check out this month's latest inventions here.

The strangest tech to come out of Utah: September edition

The Utah tech space has been all aflutter lately. Season two of The Secret Of Skinwalker Ranch dropped on the History Channel, and ranch owner and real-estate millionaire, Brandon Fugal is under blast by the interwebs for his “pencil neck,” and “aggro behavior,” some theorizing that Fugal’s an alien pranking all the Earthlings

Moving on, Utah, a co-lead in the multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google’s in-app fees, has taken center stage thanks to Attorney General Sean Reyes geek-cred flex―his much-quoted comment, “Google is kind of like Godzilla.” Yes, alliteration is great and all, but the analogy suggests that Reyes needs to catch up on his monster movies; for starters, in recent iterations, Godzilla assumes an antihero persona striving to protect nature, and more importantly, generally wins out. Whaddya think now Reyes?

These Utah tech companies are behind some pretty unique innovations. Check out this month's latest inventions here.
Brandon Fugal at Skinwalker Ranch, photo appears courtesy of Brandon Fugal

Overall, Utah’s still a fair way from “normal”—as evinced by the sadly continued deferment of Senator Mike Lee’s Jell-O Wednesdays… and that the Salt-Lake City-based chain, Mystery Escape Rooms, have evolved from a playful pastime into miserable work-disguised-as-fun offerings. Case in point: Each adventure has a different team training focus! Gee, thanks. Players ahem, colleagues can opt for one of four virtual adventures, depending on if they want to focus on team coordination, agility, collaboration, or communication. 

Post-play, their “professional team facilitators,” debrief the teams—imagine your promotion resting on whether you found the skeleton key or searched the toilet properly… Well, maybe that works for some people.

Anyhoo, let’s see how well you fare in our monthly game of Two Truths And A Lie, the Utah Tech Edition. This month, given the double-digit temperatures, let’s cool down by looking at some temperature-tastic startups.

Out of the following startups, which one is the fake one?

(Head to the end for answers)

  • A startup that sells a full-face transparent ski mask so skiers can enjoy each other’s faces.
  • A startup that sells a two-in-one blanket/hoodie combo, to keep you warm in all positions.
  • A startup that sells app-controlled fans that clip to your thighs, so you can discreetly cool down at work.

9,900 digital driver licenses up for grabs!

In atypical Utah fashion, what’s giveth with one hand is taketh away with the other. Replacing those easy-to-lose driving driver’s license cards with a mobile version? Genius! The first state in the nation to officially do so (according to their press release)? Rock on! Rolling them out to an “elite selection” of 100 drivers in March. Eh, not so much. 

Thankfully the Department of Public Safety (DPS) figured out that scaling 100 licenses to 10,000 by the end of the year, as stated, meant ramping up their availability, and in July they opened the doors to 9,900 plebs. Around 1,169,000 people aged 20-59-years-old reside in Utah; that’s 0.8 percent of the said population as long as the 10k cap remains in place, so let’s slow down that clap, yeah?

Plus, I call bull on their “first state” qualifier. Louisiana launched its mobile driver’s license app, LA Wallet, in 2018, now adopted by 30 percent of their populace. Digital driver’s licenses have popped up across the US since 2015—as pilot programs, true—but Utah’s DPS program is ALSO A PILOT; the term “pilot” is mentioned SEVEN times in their release. Le sigh. 

True, the small print clarifies “first” relates to being the first-digi license using the AAMVA’s fancy cryptography standards, but hold up! The AAMVA’s REMOVED said guidelines from their website, “to avoid confusion and development that may CONTRADICT the eventual standard.” Updates posted in Fall 2021. Mmmkay.

These Utah tech companies are behind some pretty unique innovations. Check out this month's latest inventions here.
Utah digital driver’s licenses. Photo appears courtesy of Utah.gov

We now have a butt-lie detector

I hope you’re sitting pretty for this one… as every wriggle tells a story. 

Converus, the Lehi-based startup that developed the eye-tracking lie detector (as featured in the initial Two Truths And a Lie, Utah edition) has upgraded to the EyeDetect+ 2.0. Their new setup merged their eyeball-reading tech with polygraph-style physiological tracking gizmos; finger and chest electrodes that track pulse and respiration, and a sensor-loaded seat pad to record every awkward squirm. 

It turns out that your butt can unconsciously grass you up as people make shifty micro-movements when fudging the truth. Countermeasures, such as moving weight into your feet for the control questions, won’t fool Converus’ butt-reading AI. Converus says their AI assessment is fairer than a human… sounds peachy, but there’s a well-documented history of algorithm-led wrongful arrests and built-in bias against POC, so watch this space.

Does this float your boat?

Nothing says chillax like an alien-styled pyramid structure in your living room, right? Fill said inflatable vinyl pyramid with 180 gallons of water, and I’m sure there’ll be no insurance nightmare WHATSOEVER. But hey, now you have an IRL way of hiding from your pesky kids/dogs/partner/boss—step inside, and enjoy amped-up sensory deprivation, courtesy of Salt Lake City-based Zen Float Co

She-sheds and man-caves are sooo 2019. Chuck in 800 pounds of Epsom salt, lean back, and defy gravity. The company’s mantra is to democratize access to home-floats by cutting costs of the materials, and their newest float tank, the Zen 2.5, offers their primo experience for $5,249. Two heating pads keep the water at a pleasant 93 degrees, and users just pop in the provided earplugs or Underwater Float headphones and chillax. 

In their videos, the pyramid tank emits a magical pink glow, however, these atmospheric lights are not included in your package—“buy them on Amazon,” the company suggests in a set-up video. It’s insulated but not soundproof, so be sure to lock the littles in another room to avoid the tank becoming their jungle gym during your chillax time. Getting salt in the eyes RLY hurts, yo.

Answers To Two Truths And A Lie: The knee-fan startup is the fake one. The Salt Lake City-based Coalatree makes the $79.99 hoodie/blanket combo and Provo-based MicroClimate makes the fog-free ski mask (though they pivoted to Covid masks during the pandemic).

These Utah tech companies are behind some pretty unique innovations. Check out this month's latest inventions here.
Zen Float Co. float tank, image appears courtesy of Zen Float Co

Zara Stone is a freelance journalist covering technology, culture, and everything in between. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and VICE.

Comments (1)

  • Kevan M Blair

    Nice article Zara!

    reply

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