Zara’s AR

Zara mannequins are coming to life. The fast fashion destination is giving its display windows an AR makeover, enabling passersby to simply point their smartphones at empty display windows to make virtual models appear, move, and converse on their screens. If they like what they see, they can shop items directly from their mobile phones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upWC8v-SQc

Why It’s Hot

-First retailer to implement AR at a mass scale

-Really smart and effective way to dress up retail…one that has fast turn arounds and less man power

-Bridges the purchase gap from brick and mortar to .com

The (Physical) Book Was Better

Despite all of the advances of on-screen entertainment, from Netflix to Kindle, there are a lot of people who prefer to buy physical books. But Ambient Literature wants to change that and get people turning to their screens to read books.

The project, a collaboration between the U.K. universities UWE Bristol, Bath Spa University, and the University of Birmingham, Ambient Lit uses GPS and weather data to adapt to the user’s environment. The goal is to create an immersive experience that books just can’t match (apparently).

“We’re living in a phase where visual media is so readily available to us and visual media is so seductive for us,” says Kate Pullinger, an author who worked on a mobile-first ghost story called Breathefor Ambient Lit. “Part of what I’m interested in is what does it mean to read on screen in this world we live in that’s dominated by visual media. What kind of reading experience might be native to the smartphone in a way that just sticking an e-book on your phone isn’t?”

Open up the link to Breathe–which recommends you use a smartphone to read it–and the page will ask for your permission to use information like your location and your camera. When you agree, it uses three different data sets to personalize the story to your setting every time you read it: location, weather, and season. When you read the story on a rainy Monday in New York City, that’s referenced in the story.

Ambient Literature commissioned two other stories besides Pullinger’s, both of which take the form of apps. One, It Must Have Been Dark by Then by Duncan Speakman, combines a physical book with audio–which people listen to via an app–and incorporates the reader’s geographical surroundings into the story. The other, The Cartographer’s Confession by James Atlee, can only be experienced in London, and combines audio with historical photos. Both utilize location data to create different kinds of stories that adapt to the reader–a stark contrast to traditional novels that ask readers to engage in their fictional world.

Other features of the smartphone besides location data can find their way into the story, too: Another thriller Pullinger wrote (outside the Ambient Lit project), called Jellybone, pulls out all the stops, utilizing vibrations, video, audio, and even pinging notifications.

Why its hot

This is certainly a cool use of technology to make reading more interactive and engaging for the reader, creating unique experiences. It might be more interesting to younger readers and I’d love to see how they could adapt the technology to pre-existing books to make them more engaging. But I’ll stick with my old person physical books, small NYC apartment be damned!

Fighting Stereotypes with Stereotypes

Colombians have struggled with a negative perception of their country for decades. Shows like Narcos, which distort the country’s history continue to perpetuate misconceptions. In collaboration, the mayor’s office of Medellin, Bancolombia and El Colombiano have created a series of videos aimed at fighting stereotypes with stereotypes.

Source: http://colombianambush.com/site/

Why it’s hot:

Turns a negative into a positive, capitalizes on the spotlight that the entertainment industry has placed on Narco culture, and it’s funny.

 

Beer Vending Machine Uses Blockchain To Verify Age Before Dispensing Cans

Blockchain startup Civic found a creative way to show off the technology—and facilitate alcohol sales. At the fourth annual CoinDesk Consensus summit from May 14 to 16, Civic introduced a vending machine that users can grab a beer from free of charge, provided they have the Civic app handy on their phones to confirm via blockchain that they’re of legal drinking age.

You anonymously verify your age via the app to get your hoppy goodness sans human intermediary.

The idea is a one-off partnership with Anheuser-Busch, though it could be the start of additional measures in which blockchain-based technology is used to “facilitate on-demand, secure, low-cost access to identity-verification services,” as Civic’s website notes. That’s the calling card of the San Francisco-based company, which launched in 2016. Titus Capilnean, the communications and marketing director at Civic, told CoinDesk that unmanned access to casinos is another potential area where blockchain technology could come in handy. For now, though, Civic is content with giving out beers to test its prototype.

In action on Twitter

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot: Can I get closer to understanding what blockchain is if it’s connected to beer?

Microsoft announces new adaptive Xbox controller

Microsoft announced a new video game controller on Thursday, aimed at gamers with mobility limitations. Larger buttons and joysticks and an ecosystem of peripheral devices that plug directly into the game pad enable gamers with a variety of abilities to create a system that works for them and can be customized for any game they play on the platform.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is the most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company.

Made with the help of a community of disabled gamers, this system of controllers is an important step to opening up gaming to a wider community.

Patient Jonah Karpman, left, watches as Mike Luckett of Warfighter Engaged plays during Craig Hospital's gaming night.

Why it’s hot

Microsoft retail learning specialist Solomon Romney was born without fingers on his left hand and was an early tester and adopter of this new technology. To him, the new device is about inclusion.

Growing up, he was always “the other, the person on the outside, the one who’s different.” Even as an adult, he struggles with being around children, whose blunt observations can sting. A sense of belonging was something he craved but never had. Talking about what it means to have a device created for gamers like him, Romney becomes emotional, his eyes welling.

“It goes to the core of everything I am, everything I’ve grown up with, everything I’ve experienced,” he said. “It’s nice when a person considers you. It’s unbelievable when a company does it, when a company thinks about you, designs something for you.

“All of a sudden, I’m not the person on the outside.”

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/videoplayer/embed/RE25Rw4

Read more at Microsoft.com

Zillow wants to serve you right

Zillow plans to build AI into its search engine with the goal to transform the site from a real estate search engine to an assistant that understands what people want and are looking for. The idea is to learn and understand the types of criteria people are looking for and recommend homes based on that.

For example, the AI will be able to understand your taste in decor. It’ll be able to take into account the interior photos of homes people are looking at, understand what they might like and make recommendations based on that.

Why it’s hot (or not): There’s a chance that a home buyer might miss a house that has a lot of potential but does not meet the right criteria according to AI.

Zillow recommends homes with your preferred amenities that you may have missed in your selected region.

Source: Mashable

kit kat gives delayed fliers a proverbial break…

In both a kind gesture and a great demonstration of its brand’s stated “purpose”, Kit Kat created a vending machine at Sao Paulo airport in Brazil that reads travelers’ boarding passes and dispenses them a Kit Kat if their flight is delayed.

Why It’s Hot:
It’s always great to see a brand use its marketing dollars toward something that isn’t completely and utterly self-serving. Instead of an ad, they made something that might truly do something for people, a true relationship builder. Plus, they did it to address a notoriously painful experience all of us have had.

[Source]

Try on your kicks before pressing “place order” online

When it comes to clothing and footwear purchases, customers still sometimes have no choice but to purchase products online blindly without being able to try them on, hoping that it looks good when it shows up. AR company Vyking is offering a new feature that hopes to solve this problem by letting customers try on a pair of sneakers virtually before they make a purchase.

While AR facial recognition is already being used by retailers for things like letting shoppers virtually try on beauty products, this could be a first for ‘foot recognition’ technology. The app uses AR and computer learning to sense where the wearer’s foot is and projects a model of the sneaker onto their foot.

Why it’s hot: This not only helps customers find styles that match their preferences but also cuts costs for retailers with returns.

Source: PSFK

Sleepiest ad in the world

Ikea has created a sensuous print ad to help give people a great night’s sleep. The Sömnig (meaning ‘sleepy’) ad with Ikea as part of the brand’s 2018 bedroom campaign after discovering that nine out of 10 people in the UAE don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. To aid people’s sleep, the agency created a soporific print ad that was designed to be placed on a nightstand.

The ad is printed with ink made from lavender (which is associated with relaxation), has a portal which gives off more lavender scent, and it also has speaker that plays white noise (a sound that cancels distracting noises and induces sleep).

The advert was placed in Good magazine (the April 2018 issue). It could be torn out of the magazine and it had adjustable tabs to help it stand upright. The ad was also fitted with a USB port, to charge the battery when it ran out.

Why its hot?

Turned a print ad into a problem solving object that people want to keep and use in their home.

Birth Control Pill Emoji Officially Under Consideration

The process of getting an emoji added to the Unicode Standard is a surprisingly complex one. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out the 99% Invisible podcast episode linked below!) It involves submitting a lengthy application to the Unicode Consortium, who can then vote on the proposal, request revisions, or deny the proposal altogether, then getting final approval by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in a process that can take over 18 months to complete. The Unicode Consortium is responsible for selecting and approving of all emojis, and their voting board comprised mostly of multinational American tech companies like Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Netflix, Oracle, and SAP. (The government of Oman is the only non-tech voting member.)

You have to be savvy about getting emojis approved because the voting members are huge corporations and, once approved, the emoji will literally populate every emoji-enabled keyboard in the world – so the voting vendors have to feel comfortable releasing the emojis in all markets and all cultures. For example, as Emojination co-founder Jennifer 8. Lee mentions in Engadget, the same-sex family emoji was scorned in Russia, and the alcohol emojis were a big issue in Muslim countries. (Unicode circumvented the alcohol issue by calling the emojis “wine glass” and “beer mug” instead of “wine” and “beer”.) In 2015, Durex submitted an application for a condom emoji, and that was pretty swiftly rejected. (Part of the reason may have been because it was submitted by a company who stood to profit financially from the popularization of the emoji – but still, yeah, that did not go over well.)

So, basically, to get an emoji approved, you have two obstacles: the thoroughly corporatized and self-interested voting board, and the complex cross-cultural norms and expectations. Within this framework, it’s easy to see why a birth control pill emoji would be a complicated one. But last month, two women, Nora Hamada and her friend Megan Giller, sent in a proposal for just that.

Hamada and Giller submitted their application with the support of the organization Emojination, a nonprofit dedicated to democratizing the emoji approval process through encouraging and supporting people in submitting emoji proposals to the Unicode Consortium. Some of Emojination’s successful projects include the dumpling, hijab, and ballet flat emojis.

The women came up with the idea after attending an Emojination workshop in NYC. Hamada says, “When you search for emoji to represent women and safe sex, the things that come up most often are breastfeeding and babies,” and she realized there should also be an emoji for women who are deciding not to have children. They were also inspired by the invention of the birth control pill in the 60s as a historical turning point for women. As Giller says, “the pill stands for equality and the right to choose.”

In their application, Hamada and Giller smartly named the emoji “pills in a circular case” – but that’s the only politically-minded concession they made. The rest of their application, in fact, is very explicitly political. They go into depth on the historical significance of the pill and how relevant and widespread it is in today’s society. And it’s no coincidence that their application coincides with the current devastating rollbacks in female reproductive rights in America. As Hamada says, “Our rights for birth control are being taken away. In a way, this is a small form of protest against that.”

In a positive development, the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee recently came back to the two women asking for revisions and more statistics. (The original submitted design is on the left above; revision is on the right.) The next steps are certainly not guaranteed to go well, but it’s a good sign that the Subcommittee showed interest and engagement with their proposal. Hopefully we’ll hear more news about this potential emoji soon.

Why It’s Hot: With their emoji application, these two women are forcing the hands of each voting member of the Unicode Consortium to vote on a symbol that represents so many things that corporations are historically total cowards about: feminism, female sexuality and sexual autonomy, womanhood separate from motherhood, etc. The emoji is politically charged for the corporations either way – which message will they decide to send?

Learn More: Engadget

99% Invisible podcast: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/person-lotus-position/

Netflix’s New Research Website

Netflix’s platform has always been very focused on research and data science. They have recently launched a research site that highlights the type of research they do, such as machine learning, recommendations, experimentation and casual interface, and analytics. Each section features research articles from the Netflix blog.

Why It’s Hot: Research is cool! This is a step forward in how a company is being public about the research they are doing and where they are going with their research endeavors. On the other hand, there are always some scary implications about what can be done with the research that is collected.

Source

The rise of compassionate technology

The UK technology sector is booming – and one of the biggest growth areas was is compassionate tech.

Compassionate tech is things like apps and online services aimed at helping society’s most vulnerable. Examples include Beam, a pledge site that lets people contribute to training for someone that is homeless. Another is ‘GP at Hand’, which allows you to book an appointment with an NHS doctor on your smartphone within two hours. A third is Komp, a high-resolution easily controlled screen that is helping the elderly communicate with others more easily to combat isolation and loneliness.

Komp

The UK has more investments in compassionate technology companies than the rest of Europe put together. Why the U.K.? Well, it already ranks as the 8th most charitable country in the world.

Read more: BBC

Why It’s Hot
Leveraging tech to help people who most often don’t have a seat at the industry table is a great reminder of the positive potential of innovation.

Boring Company’s Ridiculous Terms and Conditions

People that have bought The Boring Company’s Flamethrowers received an email saying they need to agree to some Terms and Conditions.

Once they clicked on the link, they were brought to a page that starts off some silly terms to agree to.

Eventually it does get to more legit Terms and Conditions

Why It’s Hot:

  • By starting with something more fun and engaging, users may be more likely to actually read through the terms and conditions
  • Fun thing that got people talking about their flamethrowers again

 

New Technology Analyzes Gender Equity in Scripts

At this point we are all familiar with the disparity between men and women’s roles and screen time in film, TV and even ads. Year after year, women appear less often, say fewer words, and general do less on screen than their male counterparts.

A new screenplay software can automatically tell whether a script is equitable for men and women. It only took a few weeks for Christina Hodson, a screenwriter who is involved with Time’s Up, to take her idea from theory to reality, working with the developer of screenwriting software Highland, John August, to create Highland 2. She wondered if screenwriters could tackle the problem before casting directors and producers even stepped in.

Above: an analysis of La La Land.

WHY IT’S HOT:

The next issue will be one of buy-in. While Hodson has already inspired others in the film community to come up with tests and tools of their own, will gender representation become the new benchmark of getting a film, show, or even script for TVC green-lit? And how might this tool or others tackle other issues of underrepresentation in Hollywood, and beyond? The Times writes, “Ms. Hodson and the software makers say they expect their tools will be expanded to address other issues of representation, like race and ethnicity, although that is more complicated, because those details are not always mentioned in scripts.”

Sometimes the Internet Can Be Used for Good

Last week and NYC lawyer went viral for threatening to call ICE on employees of a restaurant who were speaking to a customer in Spanish. This viral video helped people on the internet discover his real identity

It turns out this isn’t even a new move for Schlossberg. He’s confronted people all over NYC. Including YouTube star Willie Morris. This 2016 video has now been updated with Schlossberg’s real name.

But sometimes the internet works for good. Schlossberg was identified and DRAGGED. There are now gofundme campagins to send mariachi bands to his law firm, a facebook event organized lati party for outside his building and …

Maybe this wouldn’t have happened anywhere outside of NYC, but it’s interesting to see private citizens get shamed for anti immigrant sentiment in the same week as Donald Trumps “animals” comments.

Why it’s hot?

The dress, yanny/laurel, loose llamas and Aaron Schlossberg. Sometimes the internet can be a great place.

Interruption Advertising Dies Hard

Despite growing consumer resistance to intrusive mobile ads — over 600 million devices have ad blocking software installed, 62% of them mobile — Snapchat has broken from its longstanding policy of voluntarily-only ad viewing with the introduction of six-second forced-view ads promoting movies like Deadpool and Adrift and products such as Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Snapple. The move comes in response to pressure from advertisers unhappy with the dismal two-second average view time for Snapchat’s skippable spots. But it risks blowback — both from users, who recently forced Snapchat to roll back a widely hated redesign, and from advertisers, who will lose the ability to link the new ad units to longer videos or e-commerce experiences.

The ads display a bar showing the exact time remaining if the viewer tries to skip by tapping the screen.

Snapchat Introduces A Redesign… Again

After Snapchat swore that they were going to stick by their decision to separate “Friends” stories and “Professional” stories they have updated their platform yet again. This time, they’ve kept the stories separated but now you can view all of them on the same page.

Users and celebrities alike commented on how much they did not like Snapchat’s (former) redesign. Back in February, Kylie Jenner Tweeted out that she doesn’t even open the app anymore. This little Tweet led to Snapchat losing $1.3B from it’s stock market value.

Snap’s CEO, Evan Spiegel spoke on the new redesign stating, “We are now focused on optimizing the redesign based on our ongoing experimentation and learning,” he said, explaining the changes. “For example, when we separated friends’ Stories from creator Stories, we also moved them to the left side of the camera and merged them into the Chat feed. We learned that combining watching Stories and communicating with friends into the same place made it harder to optimize for both competing behaviors.”

Why It’s Hot: It seems as though Snap’s former redesign all but killed off the platform. It will be interesting to watch and see if this latest update will win back some love from their (former) users.

Source: Newsweek 

Google is fighting screen addiction that they helped create

At Google IO this past week Google announced plans to help people with “digital wellness” to help people combat screen addiction – something they helped create.

Here are a few of the features they discussed:

Shush

“With a feature called Shush, Android P will automatically silence your calls and notifications when you flip your phone over, screen side down. That means you don’t have to push any buttons or dig through deep settings menus. To put the phone down you just . . . put the phone down.”

Wind Down

““We heard from people that they checked their phone right before bed, and before they knew it, an hour or two went by,” say Sameer Samat, VP of product management at Google. Google and Apple have both already introduced warm, color shifting modes at night so that your phone’s blue light doesn’t disrupt your natural sleep cycle. But with Digital Wellbeing, Google is doing more with a feature called Wind Down mode that turns your phone gray.”

Dashboard Data View

“Most studies show that we check our phones more than 100 times a day. But that’s the sort of generalized stat that’s easy to brush off. Android P will have a personalized data visualization of your actual phone usage, from how many times you checked it in a day, to how many push notifications you received. It will even display what you did inside various apps–and on this front, third- party developers will be able to specify trackable metrics inside their software.”

Why It’s Hot: This won’t solve all of our problems, but will hopefully help reduce screen time.

Source

When I Tried To find a Locksmith

I was recently having trouble with my front door, neither here nor there, I wasn’t locked out, but I couldn’t lock my door in the morning.

It turns out finding a locksmith is the hardest thing to do in New York City. “Why don’t you just Google it?” you might ask. Because Googling locksmiths is rife with fraud.

“The goal of lead gens is to wrest as much money as possible from every customer, according to lawsuits. The typical approach is for a phone representative to offer an estimate in the range of $35 to $90. On site, the subcontractor demands three or four times that sum, often claiming that the work was more complicated than expected. Most consumers simply blanch and pay up, in part because they are eager to get into their homes or cars.”

Scammers would go as far as adding fake “offices” into google maps so you can’t even use mapping to research. I wound up getting a referral, but I thought about going to a nearby locksmith in person to triple check they were real.

This is not new, the first reports of this problem are from 2011. Maybe you already know about it. So my question is, if this problem is an old problem why are you posting about it. Well, because it’s 2018 and its only just being fixed. In fact google was sued about it just last month.

Google has been sued time and time again.. and the good news is, they’re finally fixing the problem. Enter Google Guaranteed (October of this year).

Image result for google locksmith guarantee

Ok, Lisa this is all old news! But it isn’t old news for my locksmith, Nick, who has  the arduous task of applying to be google guaranteed. Apparently this is a months long process that has some expenses involved. This can be hard for someone trying to start a small business, like Nick.

Why Its Hot?

What happens to businesses if you’re not Googles priority?

“Defendants knowingly and deliberately flood organic search results displayed in response to queries such as “locksmith” (and related terms) with scam locksmith listings they know: 1) do not exist at all, or at least not at the locations indicated, 2) operate for the purpose of defrauding the consumer public, 3) are not licensed in jurisdictions mandating locksmith licensing, 4) are unregistered to do business in jurisdictions (such as DC) requiring business registration.

Defendants flood the market with fictitious listings to dilute Plaintiffs’ and other legitimate locksmiths’ listing in the organic and map results to the point of obscurity, thereby compelling legitimate locksmiths to pay Defendants for paid advertised results merely to be seen by the same prospective customers.”

Google made money off of locksmiths “problem” by creating artificial demand for their ads.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the real life heros spotting locksmith bots check out this article from the NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/business/fake-online-locksmiths-may-be-out-to-pick-your-pocket-too.html

A Load Of Garbage

We all know the pain of waking up too early because the garbage truck just can’t keep it down as it devours fresh trash. But Volvo has that covered, the new garbage truck design is called the Volvo FE Electric and it’s designed to optimize efficiency meaning that it’ll be quietly towing your trash away (only if you live in Hamburg, Germany). The truck is powered by lithium-ion and has a 125-mile range. The truck will be available in Europe in 2019 and has a dual-electric motor model that is built to handle heavier lifting and store up to 60,000 pounds.

The Volvo FE truck is a quiet electric garbage truck.Volvo's rendering of the new electric garbage truck shows a man cradling an infant and overlooking trash collection.

Why it’s hot:
The truck is relieving the city of 66 pounds of carbon dioxide that the city’s 300 traditional garbage trucks emit. Plus it gives the garbage men a smoother ride with fewer vibrations and less rattling that’s great for the workers and for those who went to bed just an hour before garbage pick-up.

source: Mashable | waste360

 

Seeing is believing

Ford created a device that lets blind and visually impaired people feel the view from a car passenger seat by transforming car windows into a haptic display.

“The Feel The View appliance takes a picture of the view from the window and converts the image into greyscale. Every shade of grey is then translated into a vibration on the car window, which allows visually impaired passengers to experience contours of the landscape by feeling the window.”

It also comes with a voice assistant connected to the car audio system that explains the view to the passenger.

Why it’s hot: It’s machine vision’s (algorithms that can analyse and understand images and videos) time to shine.

Facebook Is Blocking Foreign Ads in Ireland During Abortion Vote

Facebook might have finally recognized that letting foreign countries advertise during important political moments is a bad idea.

Facebook announced Tuesday that it would not be accepting ads related to the upcoming Irish referendum on abortion laws from sources outside Ireland. The country is set to vote on May 25 on whether to ease abortion restrictions, currently considered some of the strictest in the world.

“Today, as part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence, we will begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland,” Facebook’s Dublin office wrote in a blog post.

Facebook’s move to block outside advertisers comes as the platform continues to implement new rules about political advertising. The company has been criticized for allowing foreign entities to buy ads targeting voters in other countries without disclosing the source of those ads.

In the U.S., Facebook is launching a “view ads” tool, which lets users see all the ads a particular source is running, as well as a verification process to make sure advertisers are from the country where an election is taking place.

Why its hot

This is the first time Facebook is proactively taking steps to block foreign advertisers from trying to influence and election. I think this is a good step for Facebook to take in order to try and preserve some sense of safety around their platform.

Is it illegal to cheat at video games?

While the legality of creating or distributing cheats or modifications to competitive video games has been explored through different lawsuits, a recent court case against a 14 year old explores a different aspect of cheating in video games.

In Epic Games v. Rogers, defendant C.R. (whose name has been redacted once it was discovered that he was a minor) is being sued by Fortnite studio Epic Games “for live-streaming himself using a cheat he found online and then linking out to it in the YouTube description box.”

“C.R. has a YouTube channel with over 8,000 subscribers. One day, he was live-streaming a demo of a Fortnite cheat when Epic issued a takedown. When YouTube took his video down, C.R. belligerently posted a second video in protest.”

From Epic Games v. Rogers

C.R. then created a new YouTube account to live stream the cheat again. This new video got taken down, prompting C.R. to file a DMCA counter-notification over the first video.

“i did noting rong this strike is all wrong i was modding in a video game that isnt against youtubes TOS Why was i striked!!!!”

It was probably this counter-notice that kicked off the unlikely lawsuit to begin with. The way that DMCA counter-notices work is that YouTube will keep the content offline for 10 days, but if the copyright claimant — in this case, Epic Games — files a legal action, YouTube has to continue to keep it offline. And that’s exactly what Epic Games did, before even realizing they were going after a 14-year-old. […]

By playing Fortnite without his mother’s permission, technically speaking, C.R. is outside of the EULA. But also technically speaking, playing Fortnite without being covered under the EULA might be a digital trespass, or worse, computer fraud and abuse. That might sound wild and ridiculous in a world where minors are almost certainly clicking through EULAs without their parents’ permission, but the whole underage internet exists on the precarious legal fiction that all these teens are being supervised by their parents, who are bound by these contracts that no one is actually reading.

But, minors can still get sued for copyright infringement, so this is interesting but irrelevant.

Epic Games is claiming that C.R. violated copyright law by modifying his version of Fortnite with a downloaded mod and then again violated copyright law by live streaming the game on YouTube.

Why it’s hot

Video game mods on YouTube are hugely popular, with series like Polygon’s “Touch The Skyrim,” “in which one host installs a bunch of weird mods on Skyrim and the other host plays through haplessly while trying to figure out what the mods do.” But the 1998 copyright decision Micro Star v. FormGen found that user-created levels within Duke Nukem were derivative works. While streamers might have a case for claiming fair use for something like “Touch The Skyrim,” the player versus player (PvP) mechanics of competitive games like Fortnite mean that mods can really harm the company’s profits. Epic Games is going after players create or distribute cheats for Fortnite, making in clear that they view cheating as a serious threat to their business. Some of the other defendants, however, have not responded with the same level of grativas.

It’s possible that C.R. would not have been sued if he hadn’t fought the DMCA notice or… doxed an Epic Games in-house lawyer… but “while everyone else who was caught in Epic’s shotgun blast of lawsuits late last year has either settled out or defaulted in court, C.R. is the last one remaining, defiantly posting videos as recently as two days ago.”

Read more at The Verge

Undetectable Commands for Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa Raise Serious Security Risks

Researchers in the U.S. and China have discovered ways to send hidden commands to digital assistants—including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant—that could have massive security implications.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doorswire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

“My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors.

Last year, researchers at Princeton University and China’s Zhejiang University also found voice-activated devices could be issued orders using inaudible frequencies. Chinese researchers called the technique DolphinAttack.

 

Amazon told The New York Times it has taken steps to ensure its speaker is secure. Google said its platform has features that mitigate such commands. And Apple noted an iPhone or iPad must be unlocked before Siri will open an app.

Still, there are several examples of companies taking advantage of weaknesses in the devices, from Burger King’s Google Home commercial to South Park‘s stunt with Alexa.

And the number of devices in consumers’ homes is on the rise. Digital assistants have been among the hottest gifts of the past two holiday seasons. And Amazon, alone, is expected to sell $10 billion worth of the devices by 2020.

Source: NY Times and Fortune

Why It’s Hot

It seems like every week we are posting something else about Voice (Alexa, Google Home) and emerging capabilities or how brands are using them. As with any tech, there are concerns about how it will be used. I do wonder though if there’s something positive here, versus scary?

Fitbit (FINALLY) Adds Period Tracking Functionality

Fitbit’s plan to launch “women’s health” tracking (aka period tracking – not necessarily just for women!) has finally come to fruition and was launched this week. The tracker is available on the Fitbit app and on two devices, the Ionic and Versa smartwatches. All Fitbit users who have self-identified as female will receive a notification that tracking is available; all other users who wish to use the tracking have to opt in manually.

The tracker offers four features, none of which are new or revolutionary at all:

  • In-app period tracking: Log your period, record symptoms, and get notifications alerting you to predicted period start date
  • Smartwatch integration: See where you are in your cycle directly from your smartwatch
  • “News You Can Use”: Tracker includes relevant content written by doctors
  • Community feature: Fitbit created new community groups focused on periods, birth control, trying to conceive, pregnancy, and perimenopause/menopause

One perceived benefit could be that users can now see their period tracking data alongside their other health data – but even that isn’t a value-add for Fitbit specifically, because many standalone period tracker apps integrate with Apple Health so that you can see all your data side-by-side through that platform.

What’s the most interesting about this development is how uninteresting it is, ultimately. The fact that Fitbit just now, in 2018, rolled out period tracking is pretty bad optics. Apple Health, after much outcry, added period tracking in 2015! As The Verge notes, Fitbit itself admitted that period tracking has been a top-five user requested feature for “a while” (sideeye). Is it purely a coincidence they’ve finally decided to focus on period tracking after a dismal holiday earnings report, a bad year last year, and the news that they are no longer the top wearable maker in the US? Their users currently are over half men, so creating this female-focused feature seems like a pretty transparent grab at a new audience segment.

Why It’s Hot: A seemingly thoughtful, well-meaning update meant to benefit a historically ignored population turns out to (probably) be a thinly veiled ploy to buy more customers.

Learn More: Engadget | The Verge

Instagram introduces Emoji Slider Stickers

Want to know just how smiley your followers are from your post? Just slap an emoji slider sticker on your video or image post and see the feedback come in!

Why it’s Hot:

  • Followers can give more detailed reactions to posts
  • Fun and useful way to add interactivity to stickers

How Juuling became a public health crisis (via Instagram and Snapchat)

From a New Yorker article this week, Jia Tolentino explores how Juul has become a major threat to big tobacco, the hottest thing for teenagers across the country, a social media phenomenon, and a public health crisis.

The health professionals are already calling Juuling a “nathional health crisis,” made possible by co-opting a wellness trend in America. And it’s getting huge. “An analyst at Wells Fargo projects that this year the American vaporizer market will grow to five and a half billion dollars, an increase of more than twenty-five per cent from 2017. In the latest data, sixty per cent of that market belongs to Juul.”

According to a 2017 study by the C.D.C., about fifty per cent more high schoolers and middle schoolers vape than smoke. Tolentino writes, “Young people have taken a technology that was supposed to help grownups stop smoking and invented a new kind of bad habit, one that they have molded in their own image. The potential public-health benefit of the e-cigarette is being eclipsed by the unsettling prospect of a generation of children who may really love to vape.”

And on the viral marketing of Juul, Tolentino writes: “Just as the iconic images of Malboro were shaped by Madison Avenue, Juul has been defined by Instagram and Snapchat. The company’s official Instagram account, @juulvapor, is age-appropriate and fairly boring—it has an aesthetic reminiscent of Real Simple,and forty-four thousand followers. But viral, teen-centric Juul fan accounts like @doit4juul (a hundred and ten thousand followers) are populated with a different sort of imagery: a bodybuilder Juuling in a tank top that says “Real Men Eat Ass”; a baby (labelled “me”) being shoved into a birthday cake (“the Juul”) by her mom (“my nicotine addiction”); a topless college student who has a Juul in her mouth and is wearing a pink hat that says “Daddy.” Teen Juul iconography radiates a dirtbag silliness. Vapes are meme-ready, funny in a way that cigarettes never were: the black-and-white photograph of James Dean smoking in shirtsleeves has been replaced with paparazzi snaps of Ben Affleck ripping an e-cig in his car. In one popular video, a girl tries to Juul with four corn dogs in her mouth. In another, teens at a party suck on a flash drive that they’ve mistaken for a Juul. “I know one of the girls in that video!” a high-school senior from Maryland told me. “It was a huge deal at my school.”

Above, the Juul website. Below, a post with the #Juuling hashtag on Instagram.

WHY IT’S HOT:

This is a classic example of a brand stepping back and letting viral marketing do its job – whether it was for the “intended” audience or not – with major consequences.

IKEA is dropping furniture like NIKE drops sneakers

IKEA seems to be taking a Nike approach to its sales and marketing by dropping limited editions into the market to see how a new generation of buyers reacts and the product sells. All items on display were also labeled ‘prototype’ and they were debuted through a livestream from a gallery in NYC and promoted via influencers.

IKEA followed up on the recently announced skateboard-lifestyle inspired line by Chris Stamp with a furniture collection by fashion designer Virgil Abloh. This is aimed Gen Z and Millennial adults moving into their first homes. To appeal to this audience, Abloh took classic pieces and gave them “subtle ironic twists.” As part of the collection, the designer created a glass cabinet with a wooden frame which stores goods but also acts as a showcase of those products.

Why it’s hot: From a brand that usually shows how their furniture items look in your home (from the layout of their store, to their AR app that you can literally see how they look in your home…) – it is an interesting approach to see them separate new items from in-situ and position them like limited-edition art pieces. It seems more like a stunt than a new Gen Z strategy, however I would be interested to see results from this tactic!

Source: PSFK