This Is Why You Get So Distracted At Work

Apparently, that sunny, Instagram-ready, open-space office you inhabit each day, before nosediving into a pile of work, isn’t helping your concentration.

No matter how hard you try, that open-space environment your company switched over to in an effort to keep you social and create a more collaborative space for productivity, is killing your productivity. The culprit?

Visual noise. And just what is visual noise you ask…

— The office plants positioned asymmetrically in front of you.

— The crowd of co-workers, within an earshot, holding a watercooler discussion.

— That pile of wires and that broken keyboard sitting idly to your left…

Basically, anything you can see while glancing up from your desk.

In a story published by The Wall Street Journal, it one CEO explained that the warehouse-style setup many offices have transitioned to over the years, creates “these long lines of sight across the workspace, where you have people you know and recognize moving by and talking to each other. It was incredibly distracting,” said CEO Peter Reinhardt, of Segment, a San Francisco-based company.

More recently, Segment redesigned its setup to feel more like a maze or a “jungle” as Reinhardt explained to WSJ. Employees’ workspaces are now further apart and though the space is still open, their desks are more curved, giving them less opportunity to be distracted by passersby. In some areas, large potted plants block out unwanted visuals.

“Open-plan office layout is commonly assumed to facilitate communication and interaction between co-workers, promoting workplace satisfaction and team-work effectiveness,” said the journal, ScienceDirect in a 2013 study. “On the other hand, open-plan layouts are widely acknowledged to be more disruptive due to uncontrollable noise and loss of privacy.”

Will labyrinth-style offices soon become the trend? Possibly. But one thing is certain, humans, like horses, need blinders sometimes.

What company tries to give you a solid work environment for peak productivity you’re still doomed to be distracted.

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120,000 IoT Cameras Vulnerable To New Persirai Botnet

A new Internet of Things (IoT) botnet is targeted over 1,000 different models vulnerable of IP cameras and using the hijacked devices to carry out DDoS attacks.

Over 122,000 cameras from a variety of manufacturers are vulnerable to becoming part of the Persirai botnet – and the vast majority of owners don’t even know their devices are exposed on the internet and thus easily targeted by malware.

Discovered by cybersecurity researchers at Trend Micro 122,069 of the affected IP cameras across the globe can easily be discovered via the Shodan IoT search engine– with vulnerable products visible in China and Japan, through Europe and all the way across to the Americas.

distribution-of-devices-vulnerable-to-persirai.jpg

Distribution of devices vulnerable to Persirai


Image: Trend Micro

Like many internet connected devices, these cameras are built to be easily set up by the user – a design feature which often results in cybersecurity being an afterthought. As a result of this, the IP cameras can open a port on the router and act like a server, making them highly visible to IoT malware.

Taking advantage of this, the attackers are able to access the IP camera by the open port then simply perform a command injection to force the camera to connect to a download site which will execute a malicious script shell and install malware onto the camera, roping it into the botnet.

Once downloaded and executed, the malware will delete itself and will only run in memory in an effort to avoid detection. Persirai’s developers also take the step of blocking the exploit they use in order to prevent other attackers from targeting the camera and keep the infected device to themselves.

The cameras can be instructed to carry out DDoS attacks against target networks – an attack which while unsophisticated has the potential to do massive damage – as demonstrated by the Mirai botnet attacks last year, which resulted in bringing large swathes of the internet and online services to a standstill.

While researchers have been unable to specifically identify those behind this IoT malware, the C&C servers have been traced to Iran and the author of the malware used some special Persian characters in the code.

Internet of Things device remain vulnerable to cyberattacks as many manufacturers rush out devices without proper security measures and ship them to consumers who are unlikely to know how to change the default credentials, leaving devices open to attack.

The bad news is the security worries around the IoT are only likely to get worse as more and more devices become connected, providing cybercriminals and hackers with billions more devices to breach.

These not only provide them with the opportunity to carry out DDoS attacks, a vulnerable IoT device could provide a gateway onto a network as a whole, allowing hackers to carry out other criminal tasks including espionage on target organisations.

READ MORE ON CYBERCRIME

via News ≈ Packet Storm http://bit.ly/2re2k8v

5 Apps and Sites for Awesome Last-Minute Mother’s Day Gifts

Have you planned something special for Mother’s Day? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some fantastic apps and sites that double up as cool gifts.

These aren’t limited to gifts you can give your mom alone. These are for any mother you know, so you can surprise your wife, your daughter, or even your grandma.

If you aren’t using it already, then get Google Photos to back up all your pictures


Get Free Unlimited Photo Storage & More with Google Photos




Get Free Unlimited Photo Storage & More with Google Photos

If you aren’t using these hidden Google Photos features, you’re really missing out. (Hint: There’s free and unlimited photo storage!)
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. It’s the best service out there, since you get unlimited image backups at a decent resolution.

Google Photos has launched a special Mother’s Day movie maker for this occasion. It’s completely automatic, but you’ll need to have a decent amount of images stored in Google Photos for this, of course.

The movie-maker shows an array of people, and asks you to choose the mother as well as her children. That’s all you need to do. With its face recognition technology


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How to Make Google Photos Work for You with These Tips

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, Google Photos will identify and pick appropriate images from your collection and make a neat movie.

It works well, and the end product is something you’ll love to share with your mom. And yes, you can download and share the video anywhere, your mom doesn’t need to have Google Photos.

If you aren’t using Google Photos, then use Commaful’s app to create a Mother’s Day video card. It’s not automatic, but it does offer a little more.

mothers day commaful

Commaful won’t auto-pick photos for you, you will need to upload them manually. It also supports GIFs, the language of the internet. But this isn’t just a video from images, it’s a video card.

The app encourages you to add some text on each slide. It’s kind of like a PowerPoint, only a lot better. You’ll get tips on how short to keep your text, and so on.

At the end of it, you get a wonderful video card that you can post on Facebook. And no, this isn’t one of those things you shouldn’t share on social media


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. Celebrate your mom! Commaful only supports Facebook sharing, I couldn’t find a way to download the video.

The greatest gift you can give your mom on this day is a chance to get to know you better. And in turn, find out a little bit more about her.

mothers day quiz

StoryWorth made a Mother’s Day quiz to find out how well you know your mom, and vice versa. As the child, tap “How well do you know your mom?” to get started, and answer the multiple-choice questions.

The questions are quite entertaining. For example, what’s her dream vacation, or which type of cat would she be, or which celebrity would be her best friend. Finish the quiz, save your answers, and send it to your mother. She’ll take the same quiz and then you can match your answers.

It’s a great personality quiz


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Top 5 Websites with Fun and Insightful Psychological Tests


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and can offer some new insights into who your mom is. Once you’re done, encourage your mom to take the “How well do you know your child?” quiz and send it to you.

There’s a new social network on the block. Peanut is made for mothers to find other mothers nearby. Think of it as Tinder, but for moms to find nearby moms who might make good playdates for children.

mothers day peanut

Peanut connects to your Facebook account (much like Tinder


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How to Use Tinder Without Facebook Friends Knowing

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) and pulls data from it, as well as photos (but you can edit these). Add information about how many children you have, what age they are, and so on.

Customize your profile (single mama, neighborhood newbie, geek chic, spiritual gangster, fashion killa, etc.) so that you can find like-minded people.

The rest of the app is like any of the dating apps. Swipe to accept or send a request, swipe to reject someone’s “wave” at you. Of course, you’ll only find other moms with iPhones since Peanut isn’t on Android yet.

DownloadPeanut for iOS (Free)

If she isn’t too tech-savvy, this might be the coolest tech gift you can give mom


Need a Mother’s Day Gift? These 10 Gadgets Are Perfect Choices!




Need a Mother’s Day Gift? These 10 Gadgets Are Perfect Choices!

Still searching for the perfect Mother’s Day gift? Take a look at these 10 smart home gadgets that can give Mom a break.
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. It’s easier than ever to create a personalized website, so make one for your mother.

mothers day aboutme

Our recommendation, as always, is to use About.Me. It’s the easiest to set up, even if you don’t know anything about creating a website. Plus, the free option gives you a simple web address, like “about.me/momsname”. And for $80 per year, you can customize the web address to whatever you want.

How Tech-Savvy Is Your Mom?

Even though we’re a bunch of geeks here at MakeUseOf, several of us have mothers who would charitably be called technologically challenged.

What about you? How tech-savvy is your mom?

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via MakeUseOf http://bit.ly/2r4TjCc

This Futuristic Brand Is Obsessed With High-Tech Fabrics (& Actually Looks Good, Too)

Sometimes, we run across a brand that doesn’t fit neatly into a single category (or two), and instead takes a very hybrid-happy approach. Take, for example, ONU: it’s a melange of activewear, outdoor performance gear, and travel staples (and, perhaps, even office-ready threads, depending on your work environment). Or, as the brand terms it, "EveryWear." The label takes an obsessive approach to fabric development, with cutting-edge new materials preceding, and informing, the subsequent designs.

But the aesthetic certainly isn’t overlooked: Each collection is whipped up by a different designer, with consistently sleek, Matrix-y sci-fi vibes. The talents tapped by the brand’s founders, Thomas Moon and Paul Lee, have day jobs at other brands, and ONU is a side hustle, essentially, and a chance for young designers to play around with high-tech fabrications that, in some cases, aren’t yet being used elsewhere.

Ahead, Moon and Lee explain more about the development of the brand and talk us through the technological innovations behind the brand’s first three collections. Because you, too, could soon be wearing clothing crafted from fish scales and Tencel-powered cashmere…

What were you up to before launching ONU?
Thomas Moon:
"I had originally started out doing surf, snow, and skate graphics out in California…I left California in 2004 and came to New York to start a new part of my career. I spent most of my time in branding and ad agencies. Since then, I’ve worked on a variety of projects, ranging from the corporate, for clients like Chase, Unilever, and Verizon, to the creative, for brands like Warner Brothers Music, Nike, and Jaguar. During this time, I always had side projects that I created for myself and making non-performance performance apparel was one of them."

Paul Lee: "I was in corporate finance in the film and music industry in Los Angeles, working at major players like Warner Bros. and LiveNation. I left the corporate world and saw the growth perspective in Asia as a new opportunity, so picked up and moved to Hong Kong to pursue my MBA. Halfway through the coursework, I found the right strategic backers, met Thomas, and then we founded ONU together. Beyond my corporate experience, I’ve always been a student of the art of business, so was always tied to the public markets outside of my regular 9-to-5."

ONU Funnel Neck Pullover, $225, available at ONU; ONU Ceramic Leggings, $125, available at ONU.

How did you come up with the concept for ONU?
TM:
"As someone who spent four to six months out of the year traveling and doing sports, I wanted to minimize not only what I had to carry but the process of travel: like checking in bags and carrying items you don’t end up using. That basically meant finding garments that were durable, easy to clean, and interchangeable from sports to day to day activities. Eventually, out of frustration with what the market was offering, I was creating my own garments. And here we are today."

PL: "I have developed a reliable and future-forward network of manufacturers and material producers. Spending time in this space allowed me to notice that innovation and thoughtfulness are often sidelined for speed and cost reduction. This is due to inefficiencies and under-communication in the supply chain, from fabric-dying, construction, design, and the final product. What I wanted was to create a brand that would be involved in different aspects of manufacturing throughout the creative and operational process, in order to work together and find synergies across departments, versus merely have singular departments executing one thing. And after meeting Thomas our different visions were surprisingly complementary; that’s how ONU as a company and brand was created."

ONU Laser Lace Shorts, $125, available at ONU.

What truly sets ONU apart in an already-crowded market of "Jack of all trades"-touting brands?
PL:
"As time progressed, ONU began to evolve from personal realization to a stronger focus on innovation. Innovation could mean a variety of things: maybe it’s a new fabric, or way of constructing a garment, or a custom zipper head designed for better ergonomics. That being said, we aren’t the only ones in this space trying to put out everyday performance wear. There is a niche community of brands that have started to push the envelope in terms of what’s possible for the consumer market. As the market beings to adopt more brands like ours, not only does this spark a new sense of curiosity, but it creates greater variety and avenues for what is possible.

Where we are truly unique right now is our ability to invent and create new textiles that aren’t currently in the market place. We have fostered collaborative relationships with our vendors and they are eager to create alongside us. Though we are a start-up company we have access to an amazing network that believes in our vision and is helping us beyond just the garments themselves. Some of the things we produce might seem gimmicky or odd, but what we want is for people to be curious about their garments, and not just expect things from them."

ONU Breathable Rain Coat, $495, available at ONU.

Hardcore Cashmere:
Behold, "Synthmere," a material ONU used in collection one. It’s comprised of a cashmere core, wrapped with Tencel and nylon strands that amount to a stronger, more-breathable, quicker-drying form of cashmere.

ONU Synthmere Long Sleeve Cover-Up, $275, available at ONU.

Rain Gear, Retooled:
The second collection includes a water resistant but antimicrobial fabric that’ll keep you warm, even in wet weather, per Moon and Lee, thanks to a blend of cordura and merino-nylon fibers.

ONU Funnel Neck Pullover, $225, available at ONU.

Wearable Fish Scales:
The brand’s third collection, which will be out this July, uses a fabric containing fish collagen peptide amino sourced from recycled fish scales. The purported benefits? Protection from UV rays, moisture management (a.k.a. perspiration gets wicked away from the skin), moisture regain (so it has a moisturizing effect on skin, and is also supposedly well-suited for sensitive skin), heat management (the fabric supposedly cools on contact with skin), a silk-like sheen. Oh, and it’s also apparently deodorizing, anti-microbial (as in, it won’t stink), and anti-static. That’s a tall order, no?

There’s also a jade particle-infused fabric in the mix (pictured above), which has heat-dissipating, cooling capabilities via low thermal conductivity. Translation: a jade-packed garment could stay cooler than your body temp, for a longer period of time. Plus, it purports to be anti-microbial and sweat-wicking. As for the forthcoming collection, it’s meant to channel air and light; that cool print is a"cobogos" pattern found in modern Brazilian architecture.

ONU Funnel Neck Pullover, $225, available at ONU; ONU Ceramic Leggings, $125, available at ONU.

ONU Ceramic Leggings, $125, available at ONU.

ONU Merino Tank, $75, available at ONU.

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Elite dating app The Inner Circle is going after ‘Tinder-tired’ people in the US

david michael at summer polo cup 2015 inner circleThe Inner Circle

The Inner Circle, an exclusive dating app that launched in Europe in 2013, is going after "Tinder-tired" singletons in the US.

The app, which vets people’s LinkedIn profiles before letting them use the platform, went live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston this week as it continues its expansion across the US. It launched in New York City last October and signed up 32,000 people within the first three months.

"The US has become our fastest growing market, with New York and Boston leading the way," Michael Krayenhoff, cofounder of The Inner Circle, told Business Insider. "Now with the launch of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston we expect the US to be our largest market by the end of the year."

Krayenhoff added: "This success mainly seems to come from the fact that Americans seem to be Tinder-tired and looking for a more meaning full and less shallow way of connecting with people who are on the same page."

In contrast to more established dating apps like Tinder and Happn, where it’s all about speed and getting through profiles, The Inner Circle allows people to share considerably more information about themselves beyond a short bio. People arrange meetups at high-end venues and they can let overseas members know if they’re planning to visit a particular city in the near future.

The Inner Circle The Inner Circle But The Inner Circle is still significantly smaller than Tinder and some of its other rivals, which boast tens of millions of users.

Overall, there are currently 280,000 people using the app, according to The Inner Circle. For every person that’s accepted onto (or into) the elite community, another is turned away.

"At the end of the day we are looking to create a close network of like-minded, inspiring singles who are kicking ass in their profession," Krayenhoff previously told Business Insider. "Whether they are from the creative or corporate world, it’s about having that ambition and zest for life. And it’s these qualities that makes The Inner Circle work for our members around the world."

The Inner Circle, similar in many respects to The League, claims to be a profitable business. However, Krayenhoff was unable to disclose any of the company’s financials.

It is also active in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Milan, Paris and Stockholm, as well as London and Berlin.

The company makes money by offering a premium version of its app and a number of events that it puts on throughout the year including a polo event in Richmond, South West London, where tickets were sold for £25 each.

Krayenhoff said the company doesn’t need to take any investment at this stage as it’s cash flow positive and growing.

NOW WATCH: Everything we know about the next iPhone — including a completely new look

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via Business Insider http://read.bi/2qfPhV4

The World’s Most Extreme Sandbox

WORKING THE CONTROLS OF AN EXCAVATOR is a little like flying a helicopter in that it requires the use of both hands independently, as well as your feet. I say that having never flown a helicopter, and having been in an excavator for all of five minutes, but it is definitely more like flying a helicopter than driving a car. When do I get to crush something?

These are the thoughts I’m having in the climate-controlled cab of a 26-ton Komatsu PC210LC-10 idling in a north Texas pasture while Jason Nibbe speaks calmly into my headset via two-way radio. Prior to handing me the keys to this bright yellow beast, Nibbe asked me and another client to watch a brief instructional video demonstrating the basics of operating this excavator, as well as the bulldozer and wheel loader that we would be driving later. Nibbe says I am to ignore the two ­pedals—each of which is paired to one of the machine’s ­independent steel treads—and focus on my hands.

The joystick on the left controls the “stick” and “swing,” while the one on the right controls the “boom” and “bucket.” None of these are useful terms, of course; I’ve never heard them used in the context of a mechanical arm so powerful that it could, says General Manager David Beardsley, “rip out a road before the cops even knew what you were doing.”

That arm is hydraulically powered and has three parts that you can easily equate to a human limb. The boom is the part from shoulder to elbow, the stick is the forearm, and the bucket is your hand. (Swing refers to how you pivot the cab atop its tanklike treads so you can work in a 360-degree circle around the vehicle without moving the tracks.)

Before this excavator, the largest machine I’d operated was a U-Haul box truck. I’ve never driven a Bobcat, nor dug a hole with anything but a shovel. Yet shortly after firing up the PC210, I am confidently maneuvering its 28-foot-long arm, ripping up chunks of thick brown clay, and, of course, spinning the machine’s cab around and around at high speed until I’m so dizzy that the world goes white.

“Are you done yet?” Nibbe asks, as I move the left lever back to neutral, which stops the swinging of the cab. I pause to regain my senses, and then push the stick all the way to the right, causing the cab to spin just as fast the other way.

This is acceptable behavior at Extreme Sandbox, a company founded five years ago precisely so regular people like me can pay to screw around on machines that we’ve fantasized about since childhood. It’s not a free-for-all. Instructors emphasize safety, and mostly the idea is to perform a series of increasingly difficult jobs, but excavator cabs will do infinite 360s—so fast!—and instructors understand that it’s something we students just have to get out of our systems. They all make the same Dad joke about “optional vomit insurance” in the classroom sessions.

The 26-ton PC210 is your middle-of-the-road excavator. It’s neither some wimpy starter machine nor a full-on ­metal dinosaur; mostly you see this digger on a normal ­building site. “It’s not so intimidating for a new operator,” Rich Smith, VP of Products and Services for Komatsu, would tell me later. “It’s large enough to be impressive, but you don’t have to climb an 18-foot ladder to get into the cab.”

Still, it’s big; and it’s surprising how effortless manipulating the massive arm and claw feels. There is virtually no feedback; moving the stick is no more physical than playing an arcade game, thanks to a combination of electronic and hydraulic controls. I expected to somehow experience the weight of lifting a bucket filled with 500 pounds of earth—to sense the strain—but I feel nothing; ditto when I push the claw into clay that’s nearly as firm as concrete.

The controls are so responsive that you have to make small, smooth inputs that aren’t immediately logical to greenhorns (especially male ones), who tend to apply too much force, which makes the entire machine shudder and jerk. Instructors call this “stabbing” the controls. Proper stick work, Nibbe says, should be delicate, “like surgery.”

“OK, Josh,” he says, after I’ve dug two holes, made a pile, and lifted the boom as high as possible to rain a “Texas dirt shower” upon the land. “You’ve been in this machine 10 minutes, and you know as much about excavation as I do.”

Nibbe is exaggerating. What he means is that anyone who pays attention to the classroom instructions and then practices a little can perform basic operations. I can move around, position the arm, dig and dump dirt—but I do so slowly and awkwardly. Experienced operators can do multiple things at once—like dig while swinging the cab. They’re also much faster and smoother.

Slow or not, I’m having fun. And, apparently, I’m being safe. If I had done something stupid or dangerous, Nibbe would have hit the kill switch that every instructor carries.

“OK,” he says. “You wanna go pick up a car?”

THE HISTORY OF EXTREME SANDBOX IS SHORT and sensible. Back in 2009, when he was still a manager for Target Corporation, company founder Randy Stenger drove by a construction site with his 9-year-old son. The boy stared at the heavy equipment rolling around in the dirt and asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go drive those things?”

“Yes, it would,” Stenger answered, and the thought stuck. Later, over beers, he mentioned it to his brother. They spent the next year turning the idea into a business, and nearly another year looking for space. They finally opened the first Extreme Sandbox, three rented machines on a leased 10-acre lot outside Minneapolis, in April 2012.

At first, Stenger taught the sessions himself, after getting a crash course from his equipment dealer and practicing for hours. Clients assumed he had a background in construction. “Absolutely not,” he’d tell them, with a smirk that he often deploys. “Does that give you a feeling of confidence?”

The business took off. Stenger hired help—including Nibbe, a former heavy-equipment operator—leased more machines, and built a 6,400-square-foot facility to serve as offices, a classroom, and storage for the equipment. ­Every month was busier than the one before.

This doesn’t surprise me. Who hasn’t felt the urge to hop the fence of a construction site and hijack a crane? My 6-year-old son, Charlie, loved excavators even before he could talk, and throughout his toddler years, he would search for them obsessively out of car windows, screaming “DIGGER!” every time he saw one. His 2-year-old brother, Nicky, is partial to dump trucks and bulldozers.

I’ve read them Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site probably 800 times, and I know I have company. The author, Sherri Duskey Rinker, used to watch her own son get too worked up reading about trucks at bedtime. She made up a calmer story about how diggers and dump trucks and cranes slow down and sleep after dark. Her book earned the No. 1 slot on The New York Times Children’s Picture Books Best Seller list, bought by millions of parents like me.

If it seems like we’re hardwired to love machines, it’s ­because we actually might be. “There is a deeply ingrained attraction to tools that initially evolved long ago with anthropoid primates for object manipulation, and which evolved more dramatically in our hominin line,” says Thomas Wynn, professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, and one of the world’s foremost experts on early tool use. “Humans like to fiddle with tools,” he says.

Rob Shumaker, director of the Indianapolis Zoo and a specialist in animal tool use, agrees. Using implements to dig, pound, and hammer, he says, “is universal in great apes, which includes humans. Tool use is fundamental. It’s at our core.” Obviously, there’s a big difference between a rock and an excavator, Shumaker says. “But I think our attraction to this stuff is almost primal.”

That’s the sense I got from Tony Roberts, a retired Navy chief who now teaches aircraft maintenance in Fort Worth and whose wife bought him an Extreme Sandbox experience for Christmas. Roberts spends his days tearing apart airplanes. He flies them, from Cessna single-props to DC9s, for fun. But he was so excited about the prospect of driving bulldozers around an old horse pasture that he’d barely slept the night before and arrived an hour early. “I really joined the Navy just to run equipment,” he admits.

IN 2015, STENGER COLD-CALLED A PRODUCER from Shark Tank and got on the show. Both Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary immediately embraced the concept. They decided to go halfsies on a $150,000 investment in exchange for 15 percent of the company.

Stenger isn’t even alone in this space. His primary U.S. competitor, in fact, beat him to market by five years. That would be Las Vegas-based Dig This, founded by Ed Mumm, a fence contractor who drove an excavator for the first time while building his own home, and went nuts for it. “I realized that if I enjoyed it this much, what about all the other people who never get the chance?” he told me. Mumm looked around to see who else had the idea and saw only some failed one-offs and the U.K.-based Diggerland.

Diggerland had four locations around the U.K., but it was too family-focused, in Mumm’s estimation. It featured mostly mini machines and gimmicks—like excavators converted to rides for kids. He wanted bigger equipment. Mumm opened first in Colorado, then moved to Las Vegas with a marketing slogan he’s still very proud of: “There’s a new way to get dirty in Las Vegas… even your wife will like it.” One pleasant surprise: Almost half of his clients have been female. “I also didn’t expect so many engineers,” Mumm says. “They’re just fascinated with this kind of stuff…. A lot of us never really grow up, I guess.”

So far, Stenger and Mumm are friendly rivals, but that might change when the second Dig This location opens in May—in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Los ­Angeles will follow that. (Diggerland now has a U.S. ­location too, in Philadelphia’s New Jersey suburbs.)

Being in Vegas, Mumm attracts lots of bachelor ­parties, as well as corporate groups in town for conventions. Groups are huge for Stenger as well, making up about half of his business. They follow a different program than individual clients, typically doing some kind of team-building exercise or competition after the standard instruction. In Texas, there’s an entire back pasture with boulders and dirt piles where instructors set up courses. A team might have to build a “garage” out of dirt and rock, and move a wrecked car across the field and into it, using “roads” that the instructors have destroyed. So before a team can start building anything, it might have to move boulders or fill holes. The point is to use all of the equipment.

“When we first started, HR people got nervous,” Stenger says. They pictured desk jockeys drunk on diesel, unleashed upon expensive machines—all on the company’s dime. “I told them that this is safer than bowling. We use very large equipment on a very solid base. It is virtually impossible to flip one over. You couldn’t do it if you wanted to.”

THE NEWEST MACHINE IN TEXAS IS A WHEEL LOADER—a vehicle with a huge bucket on the front to move dirt and other material around a job site. It works almost like a car, with a steering wheel, an accelerator, and a brake—plus a joystick on the right that controls the bucket. It replaced a much smaller machine, a skid steer loader that weighed only around 3 tons. Stenger made the swap after recognizing something counterintuitive: People are much more dangerous in a small, nimble machine. “We had more close calls on the skid steers than any other vehicle.”

While the original concept of Extreme Sandbox was that it would be a “bucket-list” thing, some customers want to come back. One way to encourage that is to introduce new toys such as the loader. Stenger’s got a firetruck in Minnesota now, and has at times offered a road grader and a combine harvester, thanks to a local farmer. Texas had a giant, articulated, off-road dump truck for a while. How about a crane? That’s the machine my 2-year-old son screams at the most. “I would love it,” Stenger says. It’s one of the few pieces of heavy equipment that requires a license, but he swears he’s “working on it.” Lately, Stenger says, he’s been lusting after those house-size dump trucks.

The thing that really hooked O’Leary on Shark Tank was the prospect of crushing a car, which any customer can do for an additional $500. Extreme Sandbox gets (mostly) intact cars from junkyards and lets you go at them with an excavator. Sadly, that wasn’t in my budget, but I do get to pick up a junker with the excavator and move it to a new “parking” spot, as well as push around an old minivan and an F150 with the wheel loader and bulldozer, respectively.

Two cars flattened by a corporate group a few days earlier taunt me from the cockpit of the bulldozer, which rumbles like a war machine. I suppress the urge to make a slow turn toward them. What I really want, though, is to drive across the lot and straight through the side of the trailer that’s serving as office and classroom until Stenger can build a permanent structure. That would be satisfying.

Stenger laughs when I mention this later, and says I’m not the first to suggest it. He’s thought about getting some old RVs for people to crush, but they’re filled with plastic and foam, and are, he says, “a nightmare to clean up.”

He’s got all sorts of ideas for the future. He’s even ­fantasized about how cool it would be to partner with ­demolition contractors—guys who get paid to tear down houses—and arrange for his customers to do their work. “I have people who will pay to do it,” Stenger says.

I’d be down. I bet Matthew Frick—who came out to the Sandbox with his wife when I was there—would be too. ­Toward the end of the day, I run into the two of them in the office, already plotting their return. They both loved the excavator, but it was the bulldozer that stuck with ­Matthew. “Until you get in it and feel the torque and ­power at your fingertips, you don’t know,” he says. “I’m still ­coming off the power trip from that bulldozer.”

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