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Does working in a call center have to be so miserable?

Odds are that most call-center employees won’t last long. (Jim Mone/AP)

Here are seven ideas that could impact how we live, work and play.

1. Bringing gamification to call centers.

There are plenty of tough jobs out there, including working at a call center. The pay isn’t great and employees often find themselves berated by unhappy callers. It’s no surprise that one study of call centers found an annual turnover of 33 percent. For call centers, it’s expensive to constantly be finding and training new employees.

Uptivity, a company that seeks to optimize call center employees, thinks gamification might be the solution. Gamification is the process of bringing game-like goals and rewards to situations where they don’t traditionally exist. A call center could use Uptivity’s software to track productivity and then grant perks to outstanding employees. The chance to compete and be rewarded for good work may be an incentive to last longer at the job.

“It’s pretty similar to things like the Xbox Live network where you receive recognition or a badge inside the software that would appear next to your name. If you were receiving it everyone would get an alert that you had achieved this piece of recognition,” Uptivity chief marketing officer Patrick Hall said.

Uptivity has begun rolling out the technology to interested customers this month. Its software can track and reward things such as whether employees arrive on time, how quickly employees complete training materials and how satisfied surveyed callers are. How well an employee sticks to the provided script, or how quickly they resolve issues could be tracked as well.

“We essentially can record every interaction an employee has with a voice and their computer and how they handle the call. Are they being as effective as possible?” Hall said.

One common frustration among call centers is that training materials don’t resonate with employees. In exit interviews, employees often cite a lack of training and preparation, according to Hall, which frustrates the call centers that provide digital training materials. When some recognition and a prize are on the line, employees might study those materials a little harder.

2. Virtual reality’s impact on movies. From Wired:

All kinds of filmed entertainment, from documentary films to CGI masterpieces, are going to change. When the first Oculus prototype popped up in summer of 2012, everyone raved about how it would revolutionize the way we play videogames. But it’s got all the components to change the way we watch films, or create an entirely new kind of visual experience. That’s why Mitchell and the Oculus hit Sundance: They want to know what filmmakers can do with their system.

Visitors to the Consumer Electronics Show test out Oculus Rift. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

3. Lasers that intercept missiles. Army officer Jonathan Jeckell writes that we need to more fully embrace lasers as a defense system:

The U.S. and Israel have had increasing success lately testing lasers to intercept missiles and artillery. We could be entering a new laser age — with huge implications for American military power. … In December, the Army shot down 90 mortar rounds and several drones using a truck-mounted laser. The Navy is adding an experimental laser gun to its Persian Gulf base ship Ponce.

4. Digital Legos. When we asked female scientists and engineers about the toys that inspired them, Legos was a common response. Now playing and creating with Legos is getting even easier due to a partnership between Lego and Google:

We think the creative freedom of LEGO bricks shouldn’t be limited to plastic bins — which is the idea behind Build with Chrome, a collaboration between Chrome and the LEGO Group that brought these colorful bricks to the web using WebGL, a 3D graphics technology.

5. Leadership is about listening. From Forbes:

Malcolm Forbes once said: “The art of conversation lies in listening.” Some of the best leaders make it a point to not have their opinions heard right off the bat, but rather sit back and truly listen to what their teams have to say, maybe occasionally asking a question or two. You can get some amazing insights and inspire some great ideas just by sitting there and not contradicting (or agreeing, for that matter) with the opinions of others. Those leaders tell me that it is very hard to do, but tremendously rewarding to exercise this every now and then.

6. Crossing a street at 6 p.m. is asking for trouble, says io9.

7. WalMart tests an easier way to buy groceries. From TechCrunch:

Wal-mart To Go, the retailer’s on-demand shopping service offering home delivery of general merchandise, including in some cases, groceries, is expanding its test in the Denver market today to also include a local pick-up option. Denver area customers will now be able to order their groceries online, then pick up at a nearby store – without having to set foot inside the store.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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