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Utah Business

In this month's strange tech roundup, learn about VR flying in Utah, caffeine-less cafes, and the Stretch Armstrong of foam rollers.

The strangest tech to come out of Utah in January

Happy new year, beautiful people! Here’s to new adventures, new gizmos, and looking fabulous while doing it—au naturel, obviously. You didn’t hear it from me that beehive state baes get a little extra help from someone special, but there’s one ASPS plastic surgeon per 30,000 of y’all. For reference, the land of milk and honey has more surgeons per capita than California’s city of angels. For real.

Let’s hope the stars shine brightly on us all over the coming year. According to Salt Lake County Health’s zodiac readouts, it looks like January’s Aquarius babies are off to a head start. Seriously, the county dug into their data to discover that Aquarius residents are second only to Leos in terms of achieving fully vaxxed status. It must be that independent progressive streak gifted to ya, or maybe it’s just some old-fashioned common sense, mmkay? By the time this column is live, perhaps the crafty Capricorns will have taken the lead.

Now, let’s take a look at what stories have been making the rounds—and no, VC Scott Paul’s come-hither Jesus hair did not make the shortlist. That’s what happens when you ask people to call you the “great king.”

In this month's strange tech roundup, learn about VR flying in Utah, caffeine-less cafes, and the Stretch Armstrong of foam rollers.

JUMP into faux flying…maybe

Ever since Utah’s resident virtual reality evangelist James Jensen exited VR playground The Void, he’s been crafting the “future of entertainment”—flying. Hyper-real flying, that is, courtesy of his new startup, JUMP. JUMPers will pull on a wingsuit, slap on an Iron-Man-esque virtual reality helmet, and launch themselves into something involving “wind systems” and a 360-degree VR landscape. This vagueness conjures up some kind of tethered wind tunnel, which sounds both exhilarating and terrifying to experience inside a VR helmeted space. “It enables people to experience the extreme thrill of jumping off cliffs and skyscrapers without the danger,” Jensen explains on LinkedIn.

On paper—and in the various electrified promo videos—this looks awesome; a heart-in-your-chest kind of experience for the not-ready-to-actually-wingsuit daredevils (fair enough, given the one-in-500 fatality rate). But JUMP has been in the works…forever. Despite the social media hype and “early passes” they’ve been flogging for the past year, their opening has been delayed multiple times. 

Anywho, as of November 2020, JUMP’s promised people will get to faux-fly IRL in Salt Lake City (and maybe New Jersey?) this January. They’ve completed their VR footage capture (via helicopter rigs, GIS systems, etc.) to craft experience number one: base jumping off Notch Peak, a 2000-foot straight drop, second only to Yosemite’s El Capitan in height and verticality. “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone,” the company wrote on Facebook. Indeed, but “beginning” is key here.

In this month's strange tech roundup, learn about VR flying in Utah, caffeine-less cafes, and the Stretch Armstrong of foam rollers.

Provo’s Latter-day Café embraces caffeine cancel culture

Ever felt like enjoying some java, minus the pep? Nah, me neither. But then again, I like alcohol in my cocktails and desks in my office—all things that are anathema to Gen Z. Headlines like Cool girls don’t drink alcohol anymore” and “The booze-free cocktail has arrived” make me wonder WTF I’m doing with my life. Dry January, amirite? Cancel culture has now come for caffeine, too. Say hello to Provo’s Latter-day Café, which serves up caffeine-free frappes and lattes. The cafe’s logo is an LDS spin on the Starbucks siren, replacing the smiling green temptress with the angel Moroni quaffing a cuppa.

You can thank co-owner Michael Draper for this turn of events—the dude’s been gagging for a good brew since he converted to Mormonism at 17 years old. Church dogma requires followers to refrain from addictive substances—which includes coffee, cannabis, and green tea, but Draper never stopped craving his beloved McDonald’s drip coffee or his caramel frappuccino fix (sugar doesn’t qualify as an addictive substance, it turns out).

Most coffee replacements “tasted like hot garbage,” Draper told The Herald Extra. Enter the Capomo seed, grown in Guatemala. Via a complex extraction and refining process, Draper managed to engineer a rich, coffee-like, caffeine-free cup that lived up to his exacting standards. “I invented the best fake coffee in the world,” Draper says. He also offers flavored and seasonal versions—think red velvet cake, Irish cream, and pumpkin spice. Draper’s one concession to the caffeinated masses is that caffeine can be added in if requested. But by designing this as an “opt-in” service, it’s clear where the cafe’s priorities lie.

In this month's strange tech roundup, learn about VR flying in Utah, caffeine-less cafes, and the Stretch Armstrong of foam rollers.
Photo appears courtesy of the Latter-day Cafe

Get hella swole with the Hella Roller

I didn’t know what to think about this product when I first saw it. At first glance, it resembled those 90s ab rollers and made me think of the awful commercials that promised teen-Britney abs with minimum effort. I wasn’t wrong—the Lehi-based Hella Roller does come with a set of ab roller handles—but it’s multipurpose in that it’s also good for kneading out those tight muscles. I’m #teamfoamroller all the way, but it’s not the most portable thing to cart around. The Hella Roller (stupid name, but I’ve heard worse) addresses that with its nifty, adjustable core. Think Stretch Armstrong but for foam rollers! The company sells this with a bunch of interchangeable wheels, some ridged for extra deep massage. I’m still not a fan of the jokey “hella relief” tone that’s peppered throughout their marketing, but it does look like this would solve a real problem, so I’ll overlook that. The roller is still just a Kickstarter dream, so it won’t be getting to you until April 2022 at the earliest.

In this month's strange tech roundup, learn about VR flying in Utah, caffeine-less cafes, and the Stretch Armstrong of foam rollers.
Photo appears courtesy of Hella Roller

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.

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