The Cure to a Pain Point

The Hub, Amazon’s new delivery locker for apartments, is now being offered to building management companies around the country. Last July, Amazon launched the program, which places a large metal locker unit in a common area of an apartment complex where people can pick up their packages 24 hours a day. Now (as of this past Tuesday) Amazon officially announced that over 500,000 residents across the country who live in buildings managed or owned by AvalonBay, Fairfield Residential, Pinnacle, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, WinnResidential and Equity Residential, already have access to the Hub, and thousands more are getting access each month.

How it works:

  • A delivery is sent to shoppers’ usual address.
  • Upon delivery to the Hub, the intended recipient gets a code sent via email or text.
  • They then enter the code into the machine, and a door pops open to reveal the package.

While this might sound similar to the Amazon Lockers delivery storage that was launched back in 2011 at public pickup stations including grocery stores, gyms and convenience stores, the Hub, unlike the Amazon lockers, hold packages from any sender.

Why it’s hot:
Some of the biggest complaints that companies like USPS face, is that customers will stay home from work all day waiting for a package and in some cases, they still do not even get it. This issue is also a pain point for the sender, as they often have to resend a package that has been lost or stolen. Amazon is tapping into a massive market by offering the Hub as a solution for both the online shopper and the sender. Further, building owners also benefit, as the device could be useful for keeping hallways and package rooms relatively clear – in other words, who wouldn’t want this?


Everything About This Ad, From the Film to the Audio, Is 100% Recycled

The brand, Everybody.World, has a staple product called the “Trash Tee,” a 100 percent recycled cotton T-shirt, made from meticulously processed waste fibers.

They shot new footage on vintage Kodak film, so it would match with 14-year-old stock footage. And for the voiceover, they spliced together snippets of PSAs from the 1950s.

“So, we invented a new fabric for our T-shirts that’s made from 100 percent recycled cotton, which means that we can use the waste that other companies disregard,” it continues. “We can use what others find useless to create something useful for us and less stressful for the environment. Because if we don’t care enough to change the way it’s done, who will?”

Why it’s Hot

This company is taking the old adage – the medium is the message – to a new level. The idea of the, not just the product being recycled, but the ad itself provides a whole new ad trend and, of course, reinforces a worthwhile message. 

Hand Coded Digital Artwork

Developer Diana A Smith has been working on using only code and style sheets to create digital artwork. Each element is coded separately to make up the composite image.

Smith created this with the Chrome browser in mind. When opened in older browsers however, the image can become distorted. Examples below:

Why It’s Hot: Users are frequently reminded to update the browsers, but it is often unclear why it matters and what the difference will be. On the other hand, it’s helpful to think about how we are designing experience for users who may be using different browsers, older computers, etc rather than designing for the newest, crispest, and fastest devices.


Plastic Measures

Plastic is one of the most abundant man-made materials found on earth. With over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic recorded in 2017, it’s safe to say that it’s a massive problem. Bottles and bags are spearheading this problem. When purchasing a water bottle it’s evident that there are some ridiculously priced products in the market but a common misconception is “because of the brand name”, though that plays a part in the price, the cost pertains mostly to the plastic, not the actual water (how shocking).

Image result for plastic pollution

Evian, noticing this issue, is taking the first step forward and has pledged that by 2025 all of their bottles will be made from 100% recycled plastic. Eliminating the use of plastic overall would be best case scenario but this is still a righteous move. National Geographic states, “every year another 350 million tons of new plastic is created but only a tiny percentage is ever recycled.” A breakthrough came from Loop Industries’ founder Daniel Solomita who wanted “to find a way to take all of the world’s PET plastic – the most common kind of plastic”. Loop has found “a unique catalyst that breaks down PET plastic with zero heat and zero pressure” this monumental discovery is incremental to the future of recycling plastic due to the fact that the only two methods of recycling plastic at the moment utilize high heat and intense pressure.

Additionally, “This zero energy depolymerization is what allows Loop Industries to do what nobody else can do—recycle any size, shape and color of PET plastic waste into virgin-quality PET plastic resin on an industrial scale.”

Why it’s hot:
It’s so hot that it’s super cool. It really takes the pressure off of traditional methods and because the main focus is to keep the technology as simple as possible for simpler implementation and distribution no one has to take the heat. This is super exciting because this is an absolutely smashing step towards sustainability and guilt-free plastic. Now when you see a plastic bag drifting through the wind, you know it’s on its way to start again.


“Dank” learning system autogenerates memes

We all know that in the near future humanity will come to a crossroads. With 99% of the world’s population currently tasked with creating memes and/or dank memes, what will happen when computers get better at it than humans? Researchers may have just found out.

Using machine learning, a pair of Stanford researchers, Abel L. Peirson V and E. Meltem Tolunay, have created a system that automatically generates memes including the ones visible above. Their system, they’ve discovered “produces original memes that cannot on the whole be differentiated from real ones.”

The system uses a pre-trained Inception-v3 network using the long short-term memory model to produce captions that are applicable to a particular picture. Humans then assess the humor of the meme, rewarding the system for true LOLs.

The researchers trained the network with “400.000 image, label and caption triplets with 2600 unique image-label pairs” including funny memes generated by actual humans. The system then recreates memes in a similar vein.

Why it’s hot:

The headline uses the word “dank.” And the application of machine learning is taking a turn into culture town.

Uber Wants to Use AI to Tell if You’re Drunk

Uber has applied for a patent to use AI to determine a passenger’s “user state” before they’re picked up by their driver. While this may trigger alarm for those who rely on Uber to get them home safely after a night of drinking, it seems as though the company has the passenger’s safety top of mind.

If implemented, the technology would scan for patterns in behaviors like interaction speed, typing, device angle and even walking speed to understand when a customer seems to be acting out of the ordinary. It will also measure how far from normal the behavior appears.

The company hasn’t clarified exactly what this will mean for users, but the patent application mentions that passengers may be paired with drivers “with experience or training with users having an unusual state.” It may also encourage drivers to use pickup and drop off locations that are well-lit and easy to find.

Why It’s Hot:

This unique application of AI can potentially make for a smoother ride for both Uber drivers and passengers. It may also inspire other apps to push the boundaries of how to improve customer experience based on user behavior data.

Free Power From Freeways? China Is Testing Roads Paved With Solar Panels

The experiment is the latest sign of China’s desire to innovate in, and dominate, the increasingly lucrative and strategically important market for renewable energy. The country already produces three-quarters of the solar panels sold globally, and its wind-turbine manufacturing industry is also among the world’s largest.

The potential appeal of solar roads — modified solar panels that are installed in place of asphalt — is clear. Generating electricity from highways and streets, rather than in fields and deserts packed with solar panels, could conserve a lot of land. Those advantages are particularly important in a place like China, a heavily populated country where demand for energy has risen rapidly.

Because roads run through and around cities, the electricity could be used practically next door to where it is generated. That means virtually no power would be lost in transmission, as can happen with projects in outlying locations. And the land is essentially free, because roads are needed anyway. Roads must be resurfaced every few years at great cost, so the installation of durable solar panels could reduce the price of maintenance.

Solar roads could also change the driving experience. Electric heating strips can melt snow that falls on them. Light-emitting diodes embedded in the surface can provide illuminated signage to direct drivers to exits and alert them to construction and other traffic hazards.

Uber’s Beer Goggles Patent

One of the great things about Uber Pool is that it offers people who have had a few too many drinks on a Saturday night a safe and cheap alternative to driving home drunk. On the other hand, a sober ride sharer has to deal with a belligerent passenger who can create an uncomfortable situation for everyone.

Enter Uber’s plan to detect drunken behavior before users get into a Pool. They have applied for a patent for a keystroke system that tracks how a user normally uses the Uber app through AI; how often they make typos, how precisely they click on buttons, how often they drop their phone, their normal walking speed, etc. The algorithm will track changes in these factors along with where and when the ride was requested which then may result in notifying the driver that the passenger may have been drinking. Depending on their level of intoxication, they may be prevented from joining a Pool or could match with drivers trained to handle people in this state.

Why it’s Hot: There’s two obvious issues that could result. 1.) This technology will motivate drivers who don’t want their car ruined to decline drunk passengers, possibly resulting in people driving home drunk instead. 2.) Another, more disturbing possibility, are drivers who would use this information as a draw rather than a deterrent. A common theme in many of Uber driver’s past assault cases have been the passengers level of inebriation. This feature could essentially allow drivers to scan neighborhoods for passengers in a drunken state for this exact purpose.


Uber wants to patent a system that knows when your drunk

Uber has drawn up a plan for AI that detects a user’s drunken behavior to accommodate them before they get into the backseat. The system, described by members of Uber’s Trust & Safety team in 2016 and published yesterday, tracks how someone typically uses Uber’s app: how quickly they type (and with how many typos), how precisely they click on buttons, their walking speed, and the way their phone is typically held or dropped on any given day.

Someone who hails a car to get home after hitting the bars probably won’t be the best at typing out their home address or walking too quickly (if at all). Factors like these are plugged into Uber’s planned algorithm, along with details about when and where the ride was requested. A late-night Uber call or one that’s from an area loaded with bars, would tip the system off about a rider’s sobriety differently than a daytime call from the suburbs.

Why It’s Hot 

Although this could enhance the rider experience for those who carpool, and arm the drivers with information on the rider’s state before they get in the car, there are also some clear issues. It could deter drivers from picking up passengers, perhaps forcing them to drive, or could act as a draw for assault. It will be interesting to see how this unravels; it appears it could cause more issues than it could mitigate..

Twitter Is Definitely Making an Edit Button Now

So Twitter is definitely going to make an edit button because Kim Kardashian corned Jack Dorsey at some party and made a case for one.

So that means it’s definitely happening. Probably

This is actually the second time Kim K has brought this up to Twitter’s CEO. The last time was in 2015.

So what’s different now? Well, probably not much. But Twitter would certainly love a quick win given how often they’ve been hammered in the press for how they handle banning abusive users, cleaning out phony bot accounts, and handing out verification check marks.

Maybe an edit button will be some easy positive press.

There’s also the power of Kim K. If she doesn’t get the edit button she wants, maybe she just tweets something negative about Twitter, delete her account, and tank their stock. Kim’s sister Kendall Jenner did it to Snapchat already!

Why it’s hot

Personally, I don’t want an edit button, but I think I am in the minority and people would rather have it than not. Threading tweets makes it possible to add context to amend previous tweets, but to be able to go back and change things you’ve tweeted could cause a lot of problems trying to hold powerful people responsible for their posts (ahem, Donald Trump). Perhaps the edit ability expires after 5 minutes or something like that. Could be a good compromise.

espn brings a different kind of air to nba finals…

To promote its live stream of the recent NBA Finals, ESPN pulled an interesting stunt in Manhattan – Airdropping images with text connecting what people were doing with watching the finals.

Why It’s Hot

I’m not sure it is either real, or hot, but what’s seemingly interesting and clever is the fact that they utilized an overlooked iOS feature and used it to personalized their message on a one-to-one basis.


Snap launches developer kit

Snap Kit lets developers like you integrate some of Snapchat’s best features across your platform — and lets your community share their favorite moments from your app with their friends, and Snapchatters across the world!


Why it’s hot

Snap understands that other apps are copying its core functionality. Rather than sprawling out and trying to make its own product even bigger, the company is attempting to keep itself in the center by disseminating the functionality and making it something anyone can add to their product.

The Harry Potter chess board is now a real thing.

You’re a chess enthusiast, but let’s face it: your chess board is probably collecting dust in your closet. Since no one in your household wants to play, you’re forced to play a game online or, even worse, not at all. Don’t worry—InfiVention Technologies will solve your issue with artificial intelligence.

InfiVention Technologies is redefining board games with the help of AI. Their product Square Off lets you play a game of chess on a real board with real chess pieces against opponents online or the artificial intelligence of the board. You will see your opponent’s every move in real-time, right in front of your eyes. The board uses magnets to move the pieces, while careful to not dislodge the adjacent pieces from their positions.


Training Mode

Why it’s Hot:

No one expected AI to take over board games—it’s often associated with computers. Since board games are rarely single player, many games have transitioned online to allow you to play at your own convenience. This brings back the charm in playing chess.

Source:  This Robotic Chessboard Is Like Something Out of Harry Potter

A French hospital is testing VR as a painkiller (!)

VR has been used on patients in medical settings before, from distracting nervous patients at the dentist to helping patients combat phantom pains. But now graduate students in France are working on bringing VR into a new territory: the emergency room.

Students at St. Joseph’s Hospital have designed an immersive VR program that has two goals: 1) to help patients calm down in the stressful setting, and 2) to help increase the patients’ pain tolerance without any drugs. It’s a simple implementation – basically the patient simply straps on a VR headset, and is transported via auditory and visual stimuli to a Zen garden or a tranquil forest setting.

The VR experiences help calm patients down just by nature of being calming settings, but the really interesting part is relating to the pain tolerance response. Patients exhibit increased pain tolerance because of several affects of the VR experience. Distraction is important, because the patient is less aware of what’s happening to their body when their focus is successfully held elsewhere. But also significant is the way the VR actually helps trigger changes in the patient’s brain and nervous system, which can slowly be reprogrammed to give the patient a lesser response to the pain. This neural reprogramming has already been studied and implemented for treatment of chronic pain and illnesses, and now the work of these French grad students is exploring the potential for VR as a tool in acute, immediate situations as well.

Why It’s Hot: An innovative new approach to pain management that has zero side effects -especially promising given the increasing dangers of addiction with many pain medications currently being used (and overused) in hospitals today.

Learn More: Engadget

Study shows participants recall information more in VR

A new study at the University of Maryland shows that people remembered information better when in VR versus on a desktop.

Participants were first handed a print out of faces. They they had 5 minutes to a explore a scene and remember where all the faces were located.

“Half the faces were positioned in different locations within the interior setting–Oprah Winfrey appeared at the top of a grand staircase; Stephen Hawking was a few steps down, followed by Shrek. On the ground floor, Napoleon Bonaparte’s face sat above majestic wooden table, while The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was positioned in the center of the room.”

After 5 minutes, the scene went dark for two minutes and then reappears. This time though, the faces were replaced with numbered boxes. The participants were then asked to recall what face was in each box.

After they finished answering, they were asked to remember new faces and explore another scene, but this time on a different platform. The 40 participants were split into two groups. One went that went through the study in VR first and then desktop, and another group that explored it on desktop first and then in VR. All but 2 participants said they were confident with their answers on both platforms, but preferred VR.

The results? There was an 8.8% improvement in recall accuracy when the participants used VR over desktop.

“Many of the participants said the immersive “presence” while using VR allowed them to focus better. This was reflected in the research results: 40 percent of the participants scored at least 10 percent higher in recall ability using VR over the desktop display.”

“By showing that virtual reality can help improve recall, it opens the door to further studies that look at the impact of VR-based training modules at all levels–from elementary school children learning astronomy to trauma residents acquiring the latest knowledge in lifesaving procedures. We believe the future of education and innovation will benefit greatly from the use of these new visual technologies.”


Why It’s Hot:

  • Shows more potential for VR as a platform for educating users



By The Numbers: The State of Newspapers

It’s no news that newspapers have been on the downtick for years. But despite the uptick in news consumption in America, largely thanks to the Trump bump, the newspaper industry’s survival remains in jeopardy, according to the Pew Research Center’s newly-released newspaper fact sheet for 2017. (SOURCE: Axiom)

From Axiom:

“The big picture: The future for newspapers remains bleak. Though web traffic has grown for many news outlets, the industry’s subscriber-based audience has steadily declined since the 2000s, per the report. Meanwhile newspapers, which have failed at finding fresh ways to compete with digital products, are using antiquated business models that show no signs of improving their readership.”

Although newspaper advertising revenue was $16.5 billion in 2017, down 10% from 2016, newspaper ads for digital are on the rise, and accounted for almost a third of ad revenue in 2017. That’s only up 3% from 2016, but it’s a number that stayed out of the red.”

As major papers with the budget to innovate to combat these headwinds, they (read: NYTimes) are creating new digital products and services to expand the role of the publication in the lives of their readership. We have begun to see publishers treating their paper more like a service offering, and less like a traditional journalistic outlet.

The emerging era of eCommerce

Snapchat and Instagram, two popular social media platforms are entering the world of e-commerce. Both platforms point users in a shopping direction. Each of the apps increase their competition amongst each other as they battle to gain the most following. In today’s digital era, eCommerce is transforming the way we absorb information and online shop.

For Snapchat, eCommerce is utilized as Snapchat presents the “Shoppable Snap Ads”. In this specific ad, Snapchat promotes Spectacles camera sunglasses. Meanwhile, Instagram utilizes shopping in its feature of “Instagram Stories”. With this feature, retail stores can promote their merchandise one user at a time. Brands are slowly beginning to take over each Instagram user’s feed and what they see. Snapchat like its competitor, has a feature in which users can stay in the know about their favorite brands and see how they can take action.

Snapchat additionally utilizes eCommerce to promote Dunkin’ Donuts. As America runs on Dunkin (no pun intended), it allows for users to interact with the brand by playing a virtual reality game, designed as an ad. Snapchat additionally includes “carousel-style” shopping ads, where users can interact with different filters for their favorite brands and send to their friends.

Why it’s hot

eCommerce remains to be a hot topic in today’s ad world. eCommerce is a major influence to how agencies and brands engage with their clients and users. The social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat use eCommerce to their advantage. With fun and eye-catching ads, eCommerce helps increase brand awareness and grow meaningful relationships with clients. As a global customer relationship agency, MRM//McCann works to use eCommerce as a specific tool in which clients can successfully and effectively interact with their users.

Snapchat Expands It’s Ecommerce Offerings with Shoppable Snap Ads

Snapchat, everyone’s favorite love it or hate it app.

To keep up with other social platform’s Ecommerce capabilities, like Facebook, Snap also wants to attract advertisers by convincing them that users do want to shop when seeing an ad on Snapchat.

Snap is currently testing Shoppable Snap and Story ads that can run on both the “Discover” page of the app and between stories. The new Shoppable ads lets consumers shop a product catalog within the app. The new Shoppable Snap ad is simple, and familiar to those who browse through brands on social media. You see a video ad with a product catalog at the bottom. The consumer taps on an item, and they’ll be directed to the brand’s website to complete the purchase. Companies on the advertiser’s side have to enable features like auto-fill or Apple Pay on the mobile website. Something Snap is not responsible for.

The added benefit for retailers and advertisers running these Shoppable Snap ads is using the Snap Pixel to see the total number and value of purchases of an advertiser’s Snapchat campaign.

The Shoppable Snap ads will have to prove it’s worthiness of having low Cost Per Purchase for advertisers, meaning with little spend, receiving a ton of purchase conversions – more bang for your buck for advertisers.

Why it’s hot: Many people in the industry are seeing the future of social commerce. As the next major storefront may very well be a social platform.


Taco Bell is Serving Frosé!

On June 6th Taco Bell announced that they will be testing Berry Frosé (frozen rose) at two Taco Bell Cantina locations in Newport Beach, California, and Chicago. The drink combines frozen rosé features blended with berry flavors. The frosé will cost $7.99 at the Newport Beach Cantina and $5.49 at the Chicago location.

Why It’s Hot: 
Taco Bell is continuing to give the millennial what they want. In 2015, Taco Bell launched its first Cantina, which features designs geared towards foot traffic (no drive-thru) and offers beer and mixed drinks. Cantinas are especially appealing to the millennials, with their digital menu boards, trendy décor, DJ’s blasting music and tapas style appetizers. And now, by adding Frosé to the menu, Taco Bellis even more in line with the millennial. It will no longer be a late night treat or stop on the road, but instead, it will be a destination. The fast-food chain isn’t doing something new (think Pinknic) but they are following a smart trend. “Rose All Day” has become a cultural movement and by joining in, Taco Bell is sure to gain traction.


Drones Doing Good in the Rainforest

The Peruvian Amazon has already lost over 1 million hectares of forest in the last 15 years, and indigenous communities are seeing their water grow more polluted by the day and their lands dry up.

Last year, residents of the indigenous northern Peruvian communities that populate the Amazonian rainforest between Yurimaguas and Lagunas noticed the beginnings of a new highway running through their lands. New roads through the Amazon often mean that logging and mining companies are preparing to move into the region.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), an indigenous rights organization, recently partnered with Oxfam to deploy a drone to indigenous communities facing land rights infringements. The drone enables community members to track changes to their land and provide precise location data for where these changes are occurring.

The drone program, says Oxfam program manager Neal McCarthy, is still very much in the pilot stage. AIDESEP holds the drone at its main office in Lima, and deploys it out for use when one of the 109 indigenous communities it coordinates with detects an invasive development to document. (AIDESEP has operated another independently funded drone since 2015, but its capabilities and scope were more limited.) With around $25,000 in funding from Oxfam, AIDESEP sourced the drone and hosted trainings through the Amazonian rainforest to instruct community leaders in how to use it.

Why its hot

Drones can deliver packages and drop tear gas on protesters, but what good can they do. It’s good to see noble uses of drones and given that they are a relatively cheap technology, they should be more accessible to under-served communities.

Microsoft Just Dumped a Data Center Into the Ocean


In an effort to reduce costs, Microsoft has deployed it’s first full scale data center, 864 servers, into the ocean. Coined Project Natick, this is the second test deployment they’ve submerged underwater and the hope is “We know if we can put something in here and it survives, we are good for just about any place we want to go,” Microsoft Project Natick chief Ben Cutler said in a statement.

Why take all this effort to dunk data centers underwater? According to Microsoft, it’s about energy efficiency and fast data transfer. The company notes that roughly half of the world’s population lives within 120 miles of the shore, so being able to house servers near them could allow for quicker access to online services.

Next, these can be powered by wind mills located near the water, so you’d never have to worry about outages or energy costs. Lastly, the water in the ocean is perenially cold, and can thus take care of cooling the data centers without incurring additional costs for thermal balance.

Why it’s hot?

Companies are pushing the limits on finding alternatives to save costs and meet customer demand. This is the second test Microsoft has run and they won’t know if it’s sustainable or harmful to the environment for at least 12 months. How far is too far to stay ahead of the competition?

Tech gossip roundup

After Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, the two teams seemed to have difficulty merging culturally, with the founders of WhatsApp expressing concerns over the potential commercial applications of their platform versus the maintenance of user privacy. Even more telling in the wake of the founders’ public split with Facebook is that the campus itself became a place of tensions between the two teams. According to WSJ,

Some Facebook staffers considered the WhatsApp unit a mystery and sometimes poked fun at it. After WhatsApp employees hung up posters over the walls instructing hallway passersby to “please keep noise to a minimum,” some Facebook employees mocked them with chants of “Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!”

A sign in WhatsApp’s offices at Facebook headquarters. Some Facebook employees mocked WhatsApp with chants of ‘Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!’

Why it’s hot

Charged contributor Owen Williams has the tl;dr on this situation

Both WhatsApp founders have now left the company, and Facebook is getting what it’s always wanted: a way to monetize the product with its 400 million active ‘Status’ users…

Read the story about WhatsApp, and how it attempts to paint the founders as exasperated by losing a billion over resigning early, then consider the naiveté of selling your company to a advertising giant and being surprised when it wants you to monetize it with ads.

A surprise came early this week for the tech world and even employees of GitHub, with the news that the code repository had been sold to Microsoft. Few people even seemed to know that the company was up for sale, but it seems that the company that brought us both stable software for decades, as well as ironic icons like Clippy, narrowly beat out Google, Atlassian, Amazon, and Tencent for the chance to print their own Octocat stickers.

Williams notes in this week’s Charged:

it was almost a fire-sale price, in which no cash directly changed hands. The company was losing a lot of money, and it appears it decided pursuing acquisition actively was a better idea than trying to IPO.

While most people are excited about Microsoft’s track record for supporting software for decades, a few couldn’t resist the temptation to joke about the behemoth’s occasionally less-than-stellar product design track record.

Why it’s hot

Much of the code that powers what we know as the internet lives in GitHub, so the future of the platform is a hot topic for many developers, designers, and product teams. It seems that Microsoft has every intention of maintaining the service, but the future is relatively unknown at this point.


Words don’t matter. Buttons do

Xbox One used guerrilla tactics to promote the release of Fifa 18 despite losing the right to market the football simulation video game. Sony PlayStation, Xbox’s main competitor, had secured the exclusive marketing rights to FIFA 18 prior to its release (on both PlayStation and Xbox). Microsoft-owned Xbox decided to promote the game anyway – just without mentioning or showing the product.

Xbox achieved this with The Beautiful Combination, a campaign created in partnership with football team Real Madrid. The activation kicked off with an online film featuring several Real Madrid players showing off their skills while the corresponding Xbox button combinations for FIFA 18 loom large in the background.

Viewers see slick passes, shots and skill moves before a voiceover announces: ‘Xbox and football – a beautiful combination’. At no point in the film is FIFA’s product or brand mentioned.

Xbox extended this mechanism into several Real Madrid football games, including the much-anticipated Uefa Champions League fixture between Juventus and Real Madrid – a match watched by millions around the world in April this year. Passes, tackles and shots by the Real Madrid football players were ‘decoded’ into Xbox button combinations in real time by a ‘world-class gamer’ (shots became Bs, passes As, and so on) during the game. These button combos were then broadcast on pitch-side boards around the stadium, turning the football match into a live tutorial for Xbox gamers.

Meanwhile Talksport, a popular sports radio broadcaster, adapted its live football commentary to chronicle the equivalent button combinations throughout the match. The day after the Champions League game, Xbox published a post-match report teaching readers how to recreate moves from the game on their consoles. The report was published in the sports section of London Evening Standard, one of the most widely-read newspapers in the UK.

Why its hot?
-Beautiful Truth Well Told: Gamers don’t just watch to enjoy the game. They want to learn the moves.
-Xbox hijacked competitor’s sponsorship by speaking the fans language.

Ikea: People and Planet Positive

In attempts to reduce their carbon footprint, Ikea has announced it will no longer use plastic bags, straws or other single-use plastics, with a goal of phasing these items out completely by 2020. The move is part of an initiative by the furniture giant to become “people and planet positive by 2030,” which will also involve the introduction of affordable home solar products.

Ikea said plastic straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, bin bags, and plastic-coated paper plates and cups would all be phased out and where possible replaced by alternatives. It has invested in a plastics recycling plant to help push the plan forward.

Ikea’s sustainability manager is aiming to design all products “from the very beginning to be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold and recycled.” They also plan to implement more plant-based food options in its eatery, like a vegetarian hot dog, which will be available starting in August. They will be offering products such as a tap nozzle that could save more than 90% of water used and solar panels in 29 markets.

Why it’s Hot:

Ikea’s decision to remove single-use plastic products from all stores is a major step towards influencer big retailers and corporations to follow suit and reduce the amount of throwaway plastic on their shelves. Other brands like Adidas, Dell and Nestle have launched similar movements to combat plastic waste and promote sustainability. Adidas has released a line of shoes made from upcycled plastic waste intercepted before reaching the ocean. Dell is repurposing plastic ocean waste for electronic packaging. And Nestle plans to make all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025. The EU has even proposed banning plastic products altogether and although come US cities have taken action on plastic, the effort has been less impressive in the US.


Emirates moves toward windowless planes, starts with first-class seats

Emirates president Tim Clark has been talking about virtual windows in an interview with the BBC.

And no, this isn’t just some wacky concept outlined in a recently granted patent. The first virtual windows are already here, in the first-class cabin of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Clark said external fiber-optic cameras stream images to the virtual windows, apparently offering high-quality images that are actually superior to what you see when looking through a regular aircraft window.

The Emirates president said there was “absolutely no reason” why we can’t have passenger planes fully kitted out with virtual windows in the near future. Windowless cabins would give the aircraft more structural integrity while making it lighter, allowing for faster flights and improved fuel efficiency, Clark said.

But as the BBC points out, the design could prompt safety concerns. For example, in an emergency situation like a fire, cabin crew need to be able to see outside the aircraft to assess the situation before initiating evacuation procedures. If the plane’s power systems fail, that could result in the displays shutting down, leaving crew and passengers stuck inside a truly windowless, and possibly dark, aircraft.

When asked about this apparent obstacle, the European Aviation Safety Agency said it didn’t see “any specific challenge that could not be overcome” with the use of virtual windows inside passenger planes.

While some first-class Emirates passengers already have the chance to try out the virtual windows, it’s likely to be a while before an entirely windowless aircraft — one looking a lot like a cargo plane from the outside — takes off with hundreds of passengers inside.

The technology brings to mind an idea put forward by Airbus several years ago for windowless cockpits. The aircraft manufacturer suggested in a patent — one which you may or may not wish to describe as “wacky” — that it would be beneficial to move the cockpit to the back of the plane. It said that having it at the front reduces the aircraft’s aerodynamic qualities because of the complex shape and structure required to house it. The heaviness of the reinforced windows also adds to the aircraft’s overall weight, reducing its fuel efficiency.

As with Emirates’ design, on-board cameras would feed real-time video and pre-stored data to displays in the cockpit, providing pilots with all the visual information they need.

Source: Digital Trends

Why It’s Hot

While possibly more pleasant for travelers AND efficient for air travel, could this also be an additional engagement opportunity for brands? Or an educational opportunity for travels?

Lyft and United Way partner to provide free rides

Lyft has been making moves in the corporate benevolence arena lately, starting with their Lyft Relief Rides program which provides free rides after natural disasters and other crises. They announced in May that they’re expanding the program and committing $1.5 million to it over the next year. And they’ve now provided more details on how they’re expanding the program: they are partnering with United Way to provide free rides to appointments for passengers in need – not just for medical visits, but also other vital appointments like job interviews and veterans services.

United Way is integrating Lyft into their 2-1-1 referral helpline in twelve cities across America, including Austin, Denver, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. 2-1-1 is a free, confidential referral and information helpline that allows people in need to connect with essential services via phone, text, and the internet. Per the United Way U.S. President Mary Sellers, last year the 2-1-1 network received over 250,000 transportation requests, and they could not meet 20% of the requests due to resource issues. The Lyft partnership will enable United Way to meet more community needs than previously allowed.

Why It’s Hot: It’s unclear what the corporate/profit motivation is behind this – maybe it’s truly just an act of generosity by Lyft? Either way, this is a great example of a company thoughtfully and appropriately helping to meet a need through offering their unique resources.

Learn More: Engadget | Lyft

Screen reduction solutions from Apple

A few weeks ago Google released its plans to implement elements to make phone use less addictive. This week Apple released similar plans at the WWDC Keynote talk this week. These implementations will include:

Do Not Disturb:

When you set a bedtime the background screen is displayed in muted tones to detract from bright notifications in the middle of the night. You will also be able to automatically set do not disturb at certain times or when you are in certain locations.

Nested Notifications:

Notifications from the same app will be nested to reduce as many notifications. Siri will also suggest deactivating notifications from infrequently used apps.

Screen Time:

Similarly to the Google updates, users can track which apps they use and for how long as well as set time limits for apps per day.

Why it’s hot: This is nothing new, since Google already announced it will release similar changes. This is another point for how reducing screen addiction is a growing trend and how this pain point is being addressed. The more I read about these new changes the more excited I am to see them implemented on my own device.


Coke Created A Sweet Message of Solidarity for Muslims Fasting During Ramadan

FP7 McCann UAE 

As one might imagine from Coke, the story is ultimately a positive one, as the woman—preparing to break her fast with the traditional meal of three dates—is offered a soda from a supportive passerby. Once the sun goes down, they enjoy the drinks together in a lovely shared moment.

The closing message is:
“What unites us is bigger than what divides us.”

Coca-Cola is doing something against the discrimination of Muslims. There is also others are upset claiming it’s unhealthy breaking fast with a Coke.

Why it’s Hot

Advertisers are known for jumping on every holiday, but Ramadan has traditionally been an exception. During a time of fasting, it represents the exact opposite of most marketing messages. But, somehow Coke managed to create an uplifting moment in a touch topic.

Lyft partners with 25 cities to integrate public transit options

Lyft has partnered with 25 cities to integrate public transit options into its app. This is part of a larger app update that takes effect this month. The new app will give users the ability to walk to set destinations along a route for pickup to make shared rides faster. Lyft Line is also taking on a new name: Shared Rides. In early testing among employees, the company says that shared rides have increased 5% with the new app design.

This update is intended to have a Lyft drop off a passenger at (for example), a train station, and then pick them up once they reach their destination to take them on the next leg of their journey. In effect, a Lyft could roll up to meet you just as you’re stepping off the bus. If it makes sense for the rider to take public transit as part of their journey, Lyft will suggest a route and include the price of public transit in its total fare.

Why it’s hot: I think this is a step in the right direction for Lyft – they already have had superior ride-share options than Uber (cheaper, direct pick up and drop off), and I think this is the logical next step for them. Additionally, it’s not surprising that this new app design has increase rides by 5% already!

Source: FastCo


Mercedes Benz is Launching an App-Based Subscription Service

Mercedes Benz is launching an app-based subscription service that will give drivers access to different luxury vehicle for up to $2,995 a month. Mercedes is offering two plans: Signature for $1,095 a month and Reserve $1,595 a month. A one-time $495 joining fee is also required. Each plan includes insurance, roadside assistance, service, and maintenance as well as a “personal concierge” who will flip you from one vehicle to another. That makes Mercedes’ plan notably cheaper than comparable subscription services by BMW ($2,000–$3,700 / month), Porsche ($2,000–$3,000 / month), and Cadillac ($1,500 / month).

For now, the service is just a pilot. The monthly subscription called Mercedes-Benz Collection will be tested in Nashville and Philadelphia. BMW’s U.S. subscription pilot, which launched in April for up $3,700 a month, is also in Nashville.

But the subscription service could expand as customers shift away from owning vehicles and move towards short-term rental services like car2go and peer-to-peer options, such as Turo.

Why It’s Hot

The automotive industry has been shifting to mobility as a service, and even luxury brands will have to respond to this new ecosystem and provide the same level of flexibility, convenience, and cost-savings to compete.