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Cozy houseplants and self-care: how one startup is reimagining mobile gameplay as a healing activity

Mobile well-being apps were on track to top a billion downloads last year, while leading meditation app Calm alone pulled in $118.2 million in revenue,…

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Mobile well-being apps were on track to top a billion downloads last year, while leading meditation app Calm alone pulled in $118.2 million in revenue, data from Sensor Tower indicates. That may leave some to believe the digital well-being market is essentially solved, but a new startup, Lumi Interactive, believes the opposite is true. The Melbourne-based, women-led company has identified a under-explored niche in the mobile market which involves translating offline, self-care activities into games as a means of reducing our collective stress and anxiety.

While most mobile games focus on having users compete against one another or achieve some sort of goal, the startup’s forthcoming title, Kinder World’s main aim is to help users relax. It accomplishes this through short, snack-sized sessions where it asks players to care for virtual houseplants by taking care of themselves in the real world.

In the game, players are encouraged to perform simple acts of kindness — like practicing daily gratitude, for example — in order to improve their own well-being and that of the game’s wider community. The game features a variety of non-stressful activities — like watering houseplants, interacting with animal neighbors, and decorating a cozy room with plants, among other things.

Image Credits: Lumi Interactive

In some ways, this recalls how many of us spent months in creative play during the height of the pandemic engaged with games like Animal Crossing, the popular Nintendo game whose pressure-free environment helped many relax and pass the time under Covid-19 lockdowns. In Animal Crossing, players designed indoor and outdoor spaces, shopped for outfits and home accessories, planted flowers, and chit-chatted with animal pals.

As it turns out, the pandemic played a big role in Lumi Interactive’s founding, too, the company told TechCrunch.

“In late 2020, we were a small team of three, exhausted by the pandemic and a hard year for the business,” explains Lumi Interactive co-founder and CEO Lauren Clinnick. “We decided to take two weeks to refresh ourselves with a game jam to make something totally new, and mental well-being was very much on our minds. We’d also all become closer to nature over the harsh Melbourne lockdowns, and wanted to examine why houseplants had become part of a self-care routine for so many people we knew,” she says.

That gave rise to a question as to whether houseplant care could be brought into the digital world, and the team prototyped Kinder World as a result.

“It had a spark of something special after just two weeks, and the concept tested very strongly with our target audience straight away,” Clinnick says.

Both Clinnick and Lumi Interactive co-founder Christina Chen had a background in gaming before founding their new company, and had known each other for nearly a decade. Clinnick first entered the games industry as a marketing consultant for games like Crossy Road, co-founded a boutique games marketing agency, then moved into direct games development. Chen, meanwhile, had a technical background that saw her working on payments at Xbox Live and later as a Senior Producer at PopCap in Shanghai, before co-founding games publisher Surprise Attack (now known as Fellow Traveller).

The duo had bonded over their mutual love for data, underserved player communities and the new opportunities they believed were still on the horizon for mobile gaming, Clinnick says.

Image Credits: Lumi Interactive

As the team investigated the idea for a more collaborative, self-care-focused title, they discovered that many of today’s consumers weren’t finding satisfaction with mainstream well-being apps.

“When we actually interviewed users — especially Gen Z and millennial women and nonbinary folks — we found that 97% had dropped out of apps like Headspace and Calm, citing they ‘felt like work’ or became another thing for them to fail at,” says Clinnick. “Instead they often have fragmented relaxation hobbies such as gaming, houseplants, Squishmallow collecting, crafting, and ASMR. These are mostly distraction activities that helped their short-term anxiety but didn’t help them build important resilience skills in the long-term,” she says.

Lumi Interactive responded to this feedback by making sure their game was designed in a way where you couldn’t fail, no matter how you played. For instance, all the activities in the game are optional and the virtual houseplants will never die.

We’ve consciously made these choices to prevent a burdened feeling for players,” says Clinnick. 

In keeping with a strategy to co-develop the game along with their community, the startup turned to TikTok to test various elements, like game design, the art style, and to find out what interested their users.

Now a full-time team of 12 and growing, Lumi Interactive closed on $6.75 million in seed funding in March in a round led by a16z — which it’s officially announcing this week. Other investors include 1Up Ventures, Galileo Ventures, Eric Seufert’s Heracles Capital and Double Loop Games’ co-founder and CEO, Emily Greer.

The startup is using the funds to grow the team so it can further develop the larger concept it calls “crowd healing,” informed by Lumi Interactive’s full-time well-being researcher, Dr. Hannah Gunderman, Ph.D. The company believes the idea — which references sharing kindness with others through self-care style gameplay — could become a new gaming category.

Lumi Interactive, of course, is not the first to imagine games that aren’t goal-focused. There are games that are interactive stories or graphic novels or other indie projects, but they often still have the gamer play through the experience to come to a conclusion. Kinder World, meanwhile, would be something players come back to whenever they need to relax, which is why the company is considering a subscription offering, in addition to standard in-app purchases. It’s also exploring online-offline experiences with physical items that could unlock certain game benefits or activities. 

Kinder World is currently in alpha testing on iOS and Android and aims for a full release later in 2022.

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Government

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Ivermectin Bill

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Ivermectin Bill

Authored by Alice Giordano via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

New Hampshire’s Republican…

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New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Ivermectin Bill

Authored by Alice Giordano via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill that would have made Ivermectin available without a prescription.

Ivermectin tablets packaged for human use. (Natasha Holt/The Epoch Times)

The Republican governor vetoed the bill on June 24, the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Some fellow Republicans questioned the timing.

It certainly seemed like a convenient way to bury a veto of a bill that won support from the vast majority of Republicans in New Hampshire,” JR Hoell, co-founder of the conservative watchdog group RebuildNH, told The Epoch Times.

Hoell is a former four-term House Republican planning to seek re-election after a four-year hiatus from the the New Hampshire legislature.

Earlier this year, the New Hampshire Department of Children Youth and Family (DCYF) tried to take custody of Hoell’s 13-year old son after a nurse reported him for giving human-grade ivermectin to the teen months earlier.

Several states have introduced bills to make human-grade ivermectin available without a prescription at a brick and mortar store. Currently, it can be ordered online from another country. In April, Tennessee became the the first state to sign such a measure into law. New Hampshire lawmakers were first to introduce the idea.

Both chambers of the state’s Republican controlled legislature approved the bill.

In his statement explaining the veto, Sununu noted that there are only four other controlled medications available without a prescription in New Hampshire and that each were only made available after “rigorous reviews and vetting to ensure” before being dispensed.

“Patients should always consult their doctor before taking medications so that they are fully aware of treatment options and potential unintended consequences of taking a medication that may limit other treatment options in the future,” Sununu said in his statement.

Sununu’s statement is very similar to testimony given by Paula Minnehan, senior vice president of state government regulations for the New Hampshire Hospital Association, at hearings on the bill.

Minnehan too placed emphasis on the review that went into the four prescription medications the state made available under a standing order. They include naloxone, the generic name for Narcan, which is used to counter opioid overdoses, hormone replacement therapy drugs, and a prescription-version of the morning after pill.

It also includes a collection of smoking cessation therapy drugs like Chantix, which has been linked to suicide, depression, and other neuropsychiatric conditions. Last year, Pfizer, the leading maker of the FDA-approved drug, conducted a voluntarily recall of Chantix. Narcan has also been linked to deaths caused by severe withdrawals that have led to acute respiratory distress.

Rep. Melissa Blasek, a Republican co-sponsor of the New Hampshire ivermectin bill, told The Epoch Times, that one could veto any drug-related bill under the pretense of overdose concerns.

The reality is you can overdose on Tylenol,” she said. “Ivermectin has one of the safest track records of any drug.”

The use of human-grade ivermectin became controversial when some doctors began promoting it for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. Government agencies including the FDA and CDC issued warnings against its use while groups like Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) heavily promoted it.

Some doctors were  disciplined for prescribing human-grade ivermectin for COVID-19 including a Maine doctor whose medical license was suspended by the state.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Thu, 06/30/2022 - 20:30

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Aging-US | Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone…

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BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Credit: Hillje et al.

BUFFALO, NY- June 30, 2022 – A new research paper was published in Aging (Aging-US) on the cover of Volume 14, Issue 12, entitled, “Time makes histone H3 modifications drift in mouse liver.”

Aging is known to involve epigenetic histone modifications, which are associated with transcriptional changes, occurring throughout the entire lifespan of an individual.

“So far, no study discloses any drift of histone marks in mammals which is time-dependent or influenced by pro-longevity caloric restriction treatment.”

To detect the epigenetic drift of time passing, researchers—from Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, University of Urbino ‘Carlo Bo’, University of Milan, and University of Padua—determined the genome-wide distributions of mono- and tri-methylated lysine 4 and acetylated and tri-methylated lysine 27 of histone H3 in the livers of healthy 3, 6 and 12 months old C57BL/6 mice. 

“In this study, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing technology to acquire 108 high-resolution profiles of H3K4me3, H3K4me1, H3K27me3 and H3K27ac from the livers of mice aged between 3 months and 12 months and fed 30% caloric restriction diet (CR) or standard diet (SD).”

The comparison of different age profiles of histone H3 marks revealed global redistribution of histone H3 modifications with time, in particular in intergenic regions and near transcription start sites, as well as altered correlation between the profiles of different histone modifications. Moreover, feeding mice with caloric restriction diet, a treatment known to retard aging, reduced the extent of changes occurring during the first year of life in these genomic regions.

“In conclusion, while our data do not establish that the observed changes in H3 modification are causally involved in aging, they indicate age, buffered by caloric restriction, releases the histone H3 marking process of transcriptional suppression in gene desert regions of mouse liver genome most of which remain to be functionally understood.”

DOI: https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.204107 

Corresponding Author: Marco Giorgio – marco.giorgio@unipd.it 

Keywords: epigenetics, aging, histones, ChIP-seq, diet

Sign up for free Altmetric alerts about this article:  https://aging.altmetric.com/details/email_updates?id=10.18632%2Faging.204107

About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging (Aging-US) publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

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For media inquiries, please contact media@impactjournals.com.

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Government

FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components…

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FDA asks for COVID boosters to fight Omicron’s BA.4, BA.5 subvariants

By Michael Erman

June 30 (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines be modified beginning this fall to include components tailored to combat the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the coronavirus.

The FDA said manufacturers would not need to change the vaccine for the primary vaccination series, saying the coming year will be “a transitional period when this modified booster vaccine may be introduced.”

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

The new booster shots would be bivalent vaccines, meaning doses would target both the original virus as well as the Omicron subvariants.

The decision follows a recommendation by the agency’s outside advisers to change the design of the shots this fall in order to combat more prevalent versions of the coronavirus. read more

BA.4 and BA.5 are now estimated to account for more than 50% of U.S. infections, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have also become dominant elsewhere.

The FDA said in a statement on Thursday that it hoped the modified vaccines could be used in early to mid-fall.

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) with partner BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) have been testing versions of their vaccines modified to combat the BA.1 Omicron variant that caused the massive surge in cases last winter.

Although they have said those vaccines worked against BA.1 and the more recently circulating variants, they did see a lower immune response against BA.4 and BA.5.

The companies had already been manufacturing their BA.1 vaccines, and said on Tuesday that swapping to a BA.4/BA.5 version could slow the rollout.

Pfizer/BioNTech, which on Wednesday announced a $3.2 billion contract to supply more COVID vaccine doses to the United States, said they would have a substantial amount of BA.4/BA.5 vaccine ready for distribution by the first week of October. read more

Moderna said it would be late October or early November before it would have the newly modified vaccine ready.

Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: Reuters

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