Artificial, and [somewhat] intelligent: Can common sense be taught?

In a new article by MIT Technology Review lays bare the shortcomings of the current AI landscape: AI Assistants Say Dumb Things, and We’re About to Find Out Why

The goal is to inform a new approach to machine learning that yields better AI experiences. Basically, looking for ways to teach machines common sense and worldly experiences, rather than limiting them to one area of competence and one narrow set of performance benchmarks that create less-than-desirable experiences for end users.

From the article:

Language systems that rely on machine learning can often provide convincing answers to questions if they have seen lots of similar examples before. A program trained on many thousands of IT support chats, for instance, might be able to pass itself off as a tech support helper in limited situations. But such a system would fail if asked something that required broader knowledge.


“We need to use our common sense to fill in the gaps around the language we see to form a coherent picture of what is being stated,” says Peter Clark, the lead researcher on the ARC project. “Machines do not have this common sense, and thus only see what is explicitly written, and miss the many implications and assumptions that underlie a piece of text.”


Here’s one question: “Which item below is not made from a material grown in nature? (A) a cotton shirt (B) a wooden chair © a plastic spoon (D) a grass basket”


Such a question is easy for anyone who knows plastic is not something that grows. The answer taps into a common-sense picture of the world that even young children possess.

It is this common sense that the AI behind voice assistants, chatbots, and translation software lacks. And it’s one reason they are so easily confused.

Why it’s hot: This new approach to testing AI voice command tools like Alexa, Siri, and Google may help lead to breakthroughs and improvements in the space that open up new possibilities in communication.


Rihanna Blasts Snapchat for Ad Mocking Domestic Violence

Snapchat is dealing with more celebrity backlash – this time from Rihanna.

A Snapchat ad ran promoting the mobile video game “Would You Rather” featuring animations of Rihanna and Chris Brown. Under each animation, the copy asked users whether they would rather “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.” The ad references a 2009 incident where Chris Brown plead guilty to assaulting Rihanna to the point of hospitalization during their relationship.

Rihanna took to Instagram to speak out about the situation, and expressed the problematic nature of the ad. She said that the focus shouldn’t be on her feelings, but rather the “women, children and men that have been victims of [domestic violence] in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet.”

Even though the ad was created by the gaming company, Snapchat issued a statement that the ad was “reviewed and approved in error.” Snapchat announced that they are investigating how the ad was approved in the first place. Regardless of their apology, an hour after the post, Snap Inc. shares fell 4.9 percent. This incident shows just what not to do when referencing popular culture. Now more than ever it is important to consider all the implications of branded content and look at it from every possible angle.


YouTube is backpeddling

YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki announced at SXSW that YouTube’s infamous conspiracy theory videos will now be paired with text from Wikipedia. “We will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event,” she said. YouTube is “using a list of well-known internet conspiracies from Wikipedia” to cull from.

Apparently Susan didn’t feel the need to inform Wikipedia before making this announcement:

Why it’s hot:

Wikipedia gets to cover itself legally while fact checking — but doesn’t really take responsibility and still gets to cash out on these videos. I don’t think its enough.

Nest Finally Ships Suite of Smart Home Devices… 7 Years Later

You might recall when Google shelled out $3.4 billion to acquire Nest in 2014– just more than a year after Nest released its first smart thermostat. Not two years later, people were pointing to the acquisition and subsequent influx of cash as an employee demotivator and company killer– calling it a classic case of why acquisitions fail. Granted, it had been 5 years since its first product launch, and the company that looked poised to shape the future of the Internet of Things, hadn’t innovated much further than where they started from. Fast forward to just this week, and Nest is finally launching a suite of connected home devices that really make sense– and are cleverly integrated with Google Assistant.

Top: Nest x Yale Lock, Bottom: Nest Hello


The new line of products are not just designed as a matched set, but they truly integrate in a way that has yet to be seamless in the world of jerryrigged combinations of smart home appliances and devices. Nest smartly stuck to its core competencies, and partnered with Yale instead of trying to design, manufacture, and market its very own lock. Director of Product Marketing Maxine Vernon puts it nicely:

“In a fully Nest-equipped home, for example, unlocking the Nest x Yale lock using its keypad will disarm the Nest Secure security system, adjust the thermostat, and shut off Nest Cams to preserve your privacy. Though it’s possible to orchestrate similar feats with products from multiple companies using methods such as IFTTT recipes, “we’re not building for the IFTTT people,” stresses Veron. “Very clearly, we’re building for the average user.”


Building Business Ecosystems

L’Oreal group is buying Canadian beauty technology company ModiFace, as it tries to expand its digital offerings. Specializing in AR and AI, ModiFace builds products that tap into the beauty industries’ growing need for digital solutions. The purchase is meant to be a foundation for reinventing the beauty experience in the years to come.

L’Oreal is not a stranger to innovation, they have already launched tech-savvy items like sensory brushes that tell you how to care for your hair and phone apps for virtual testing.

ModiFace’s technology also extends to services such as skin diagnosis.

Why It’s Hot:

Competition is fierce in every industry, finding ways to grow business ecosystems to stay ahead of the curve will only become more prevalent.

How many stars would you give to a platypus?

” We all know it’s a good idea to check the product reviews before buying something, whether it is a washing machine or a bottle of hair conditioner. Most people are used to seeing a 1-5 star rating next to inanimate objects, however, Oregon Zoo decided to put a twist on the usual format.

On Friday, they started celebrating the start of the weekend by posting humorous reviews of their animals as if they were ordered on Amazon. The lighthearted joke went viral instantly and other animal enthusiasts picked up the trend as well. Soon, zoos, aquariums, wildlife centers and even regular pet owners all over the world were sharing their own witty comments under the hashtag #rateaspecies. Scroll down to see what animals received five-star ratings and don’t forget to vote and comment on your favorites!”

Amazon Animal Review


Amazon Animal Review

Amazon Animal Review

Amazon Animal Review

Amazon Animal Review

Amazon Animal Review

From: Bored Panda

Why it’s hot:
One more case of smart use of a media and smart use of a cultural trend in order to engage with people.

Choices, choices…

According to WSJ, an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. And a Cornell University study says that we make more than 200 decisions alone on food each day. And it isn’t always a good thing to have many options available. In fact too much choice could cause choice paralysis in which too much choice prevents purchases.

According to psychologist Herbert A. Simon, there are two basic choice-making styles: Maximisers and Satisficers. Maximisers evaluate every option, looking for the best one, and potentially exhaust themselves in the process. Satisficers look for the option that is good enough; it might not be perfect but it fits the minimum criteria.

Brands can help these two types of consumers narrow choices down in different ways.

To target Maximisers, the solution is to make the choice easier through providing guidance. One good example is Tesco’s Online Beauty Sessions where consumers can have a private consulting session with a beauty expert to talk about their needs and preferences. After the session the expert will recommend a selection of products to the consumer.

To target Satisficers, the solution is to create convenience and make the produce easy to buy. One good example is Australia’s fast food brand Hungry Jack’s Brekk-e-tag. Similar to how road-toll e-tag works, a driver can instantly order a pre-programmed breakfast order as he pulls into the drive thru and head directly to the pickup window.

Why it’s hot: crafting solutions based on human behaviors.

The Internet Is Still Weird: Toto’s Africa in an Empty Mall; Simpsonwave; Know Your Meme is 10

It’s Internet Recess!

Jia Tolentino has a great article in the New Yorker about a video of Toto’s “Africa” being played in an empty mall. Apparently this is a thing, that people do. They edit videos to make it sound like songs are being played from another room. This particular video has roughly 751,000 views, and the comments look like this:

She ends the piece by saying:

Our lives increasingly play out in virtual spaces: instead of going to malls, we surf on Amazon; many of us would happily forgo the mess of a party to stay home and flirt through an app. Listening to music, too, is now mostly frictionless, and this quality is why the little shadow world of music that Robert, allyson m., and others inhabit is so appealing to me. It’s nice to think of a handful of young people playing around on Ableton on their laptops, in their bedrooms, trying to reintroduce a sense of physical space into a listening environment of digital isolation: conjuring the sort of scenario in which, say, you’re down the hall from your older sibling who loves the Beach Boys, or in a place where, for a change, someone else controls the music—in a crowd, or at a mall, or in a pounding bathroom—someplace where you’ve taken the chance of being lonely in public, instead of retreating and clicking around alone.

This brings me to Simpsonwave, which has been a favorite meme for a couple years now. Simpsonwave is a flavor of Vaporwave. Vaporwave has been described “as a satire of corporate and consumerist culture and modern capitalism,” but we don’t have to get into that right now.

Simpsonwave is Simpson Vaporwave.

According to Know Your Meme, it was born with this vine:

It has spawned many videos, like this one:

That’s all, I just like this meme. The Internet is still weird.

Finally, the cataloger of the weird Internet is 10 years old this year. Know Your Meme has been explaining memes on the Internet for a full decade now, and The Verge has a great article cataloguing its history. 

Why the things are hot

Despite everything, the Internet is still weird.

PS: All the fish in the ocean are going to be extinct by 2048. The sea will be empty.

Be Careful Putin That Away

Apparently, a ton of gold, over 170 gold bars as a rough estimate, fell from the sky due to a plane malfunction. A Russian cargo plane carrying platinum, gold, and diamond worth £265m just happened to malfunction, causing the hatch to fly open resulting in 20kg bricks plummeting down to earth. Talk about some heavy metal action.

Why it’s hot:
It’s basically golden. The airport runway was littered with the bricks as workers were Russian around to collect as many as they cold. Reports say that the bricks were scattered up to 15 miles away from Yakutsk Airport which is located in a major diamond producing region.

Source: Sky News

Strangers looking at the moon is beautiful and pure

Filmmaker and space enthusiast Wylie Overstreet took his telescope onto the streets of Los Angeles to show strangers the moon, and recorded their reactions with his creative partner Alex Gorosh. They created a lovely short film about the process.

Why it’s hot

There are a couple of things that this film brought to mind. The first is how we engage people in experiences. Overstreet’s simple invitation of “Would you like to look at the moon?” is simple and enticing. He does not go into details about his telescope or astronomy, but allows people to see for themselves, untainted by anyone else’s expectations.

The second lesson is about demystifying science and technology and bringing it to people within the context of their everyday lives. The unexpected view of the moon, which is easily Googleable, elicited awe from the people in the film because it gave them a direct connection between the moon in the sky and the moon they were seeing. How can we aim to bring that feeling to people through digital experiences?

Successful Brands Focus on Users Not Buyers

According to an article from Harvard Business Review:

“What makes a brand successful in the digital age? A joint study by SAP, Siegel+Gale, and Shift Thinking suggests that digital brands don’t just do things differently; they also think differently. Where traditional brands focus on positioning their brands in the minds of their customers, digital brands focus on positioning their brands in the lives of their customers. Furthermore, they engage customers more as users than as buyers, shifting their investments from pre-purchase promotion and sales to post-purchase renewal and advocacy.”

The article also discusses the difference between legacy/traditional brands (customer-focused) and newcomer/digital branders (user-focused) and found a fundamental difference: legacy brands are brands that people “look up to” while digital brands “make people’s lives easier.” Examples included:

  •  Hilton/Marriott vs. Airbnb
  • Gillette vs. Dollar Shave Club
  • American Express/Visa vs. Venmo

Highly recommend reading the article as it goes on to examine the mindset shift that new, digital-savvy brands have been able to make in treating customers as users vs. buyers, and the success they’ve seen.

Why It’s Hot

At the highest level, looking at customers as continual users vs. one-time buyers is a core principle to be considering when designing the customer experience around your brand.

To be fair, there are certain industries that lend it self better to usage than others. For the pharmaceutical industry, this is a crucial mindset change that we need to help our clients understand if the industry is to evolve.

By thinking of physicians as people that use a specific drug to treat patients with a specific condition and patients that use the products to help treat illnesses, we can focus our efforts on optimization each instance of use around these treatments to be a positive one. This is crucial to the initial trial and ultimate habit formation that drives adoption and retention.

Posted in CX

sell my old clothes, i’m off to the cloud…

In the latest episode of life imitating art is a Y Combinator startup whose proposition is essentially uploading your brain to the cloud. Per the source: “Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.”

Why It’s Hot:

What’s not hot is you have to die in order to do it, but what’s interesting is the idea of exploring our consciousness as almost iPhone storage. That reincarnation by technology could be possible.


Andre Agassi is building a dyslexia assessment game

You probably know Andre Agassi from his incredible tennis career. But the former champion is making incredible moves in a totally different space – early childhood education and science. He’s not new to this space – he already has a foundation, the Andre Agassi Early Childhood Neuroscience Foundation, which he created to fund research and development of early literacy apps. And he is deeply involved in the education space in general – he’s helped build 70 charter schools in the past four years, educating 33,000 students.

For his latest project, Agassi announced at SXSW this year that his foundation is spearheading a dyslexia screening initiative. The initiative, called Readvolution, is focused on creating a dyslexia assessment game that will be completely free. Agassi’s foundation is partnering with neuroscientists from leading universities including California at San Francisco (UCSF) and the Weill Institute of for Neurosciences to formulate and scientifically validate the game.

Then, to actually build the game and provide further learning support, the foundation is partnering with Square Panda. Square Panda is an edtech startup that invented an AI-powered phonics-based system for early childhood reading and cognitive learning. They’ll use their AI to not only create the dyslexia assessment game, but also expand their educational offerings so that kids with dyslexia can acquire a broader range of language and literacy skills, too.

In an interview with Engadget, Agassi said he’s been using Square Panda’s offerings in his charter school in Las Vegas, and he immediately saw the difference it made in the students. “I’m very interested in this space,” Agassi said, “because I’ve seen first-hand what a challenge it can be to guide an entire classroom full of kids at the pace that each kid individually deserves.”

Why It’s Hot:
1: Collaborative teamwork across industries is an incredibly powerful tool.
2: Use your money and power for good, everyone!

Learn More: Engadget

Facebook Opened Its Instant Games Platform to All Developers

Developers can now create games for Facebook’s Instant Games product, which launched to all Messenger users in May 2017. As part of the change, Facebook’s Ad’s API is also now available to all developers, meaning we can integrate interstitial and rewarded video ads, powered by Audience Network, into games.

In a Facebook Newsroom post, product manager Michael Weingert said, “Monetization Manager will help Instant Games developers maximize revenue with advanced optimization tools, simplify management of ad placements across apps and provide enhanced analytics functionality and deeper reporting. We also added Instant Games-specific reporting into Facebook Analytics to help developers understand and optimize the unique social contexts of the platform.”

Weingert also said Facebook will soon roll out the ability for developers to create user-acquisition ad campaigns that will take players directly into games after they click ads on Facebook.

Why its hot

Instant Games is quickly building its roster of games. There are currently nearly 200 games available, up from 70 last December. By leveraging Facebook’s huge user base, game developers are able to get their games in front of a lot of people right away. And these new ad features opens another channel as well. These games, and ads, are another way Facebook is trying to keep people on the site.

Traveling in Oregon (Slightly Exaggerated)

Travel Oregon spent $5m on an animated campaign based on true stories that are only slightly exaggerated.

They have a campaign landing page on their site and also reuse assets throughout various pages. For example an image from the forest scene is used on the page about hiking.

Oregon, Only Slightly Exaggerated


Why it’s Hot:

  • Awesome unique campaign
  • Beautiful animation
  • Field trip to Oregon?

Spotify is testing a new voice search feature

Spotify is testing a voice search feature that lets users more quickly access their favorite artists, tracks, albums, and playlists. The feature, which appears based on a 2017 experiment involving a “driving mode,” has begun appearing inside the iOS app for a small number of users.

To access the new voice search feature, you tap the magnifying glass icon at the center of the bottom row of tabs. If you have it, you’ll see a microphone icon inside a white bubble in the lower-right hand corner of the screen.

So far, voice control appears limited to finding music inside inside Spotify’s vast catalog. Ask it “Who are the Beatles?” and it will start playing a Beatles playlist without telling you anything about the band.

Why it’s hot: This is a great step forward for navigation in app that has sometimes requires too much tapping and typing to get where you’re going.

Source: The Verge

This Is How You Use Facebook Live To Get Men To Understand Gender Inequality


CMI International Women’s Day Blackout

International Women’s Day was a lot of carefully planned images and status updates but the Chartered Management Institute went a step further and hammered home the gender pay gap among managers using an innovative video strategy.

Facebook Live was used to amplify a panel that discussed gender inequality in the workplace but with a surprise for male viewers (thanks to Facebook’s gender targetting). 22 minutes into the livestream, male viewers were shown a pixelated stream for the remainder of the panel event highlighting the gender pay gap among managers based on data from the CMI’s ‘Mind the Gender Gap’ report. The report puts the pay gap at manager level between male and female salary currently standing at 26.8%. Male viewers were further frustrated by not being able to ask questions or register votes for polls (although they were not told about this until later). Altogether a smart and subtle execution – the full video can be seen at the bottom of post.

CMI International Women’s Day Blackout

CMI International Women’s Day Blackout

Petra Wilton, Director of Strategy & External Affairs for CMI, said: “By disrupting the male viewers’ Facebook livestream, men could experience how frustrating a small thing like a slightly obscured screen can be, which feels particularly unfair when it’s applied simply on the basis of gender. This way we made the point that small, discriminatory and often incidental behaviour, despite seeming minor, all contribute to allowing gender inequality to flourish in the workplace. We believe this is the first time this Facebook hack around gender-based livestreaming has been used in this way so it’s a truly novel way for people to experience gender inequality first-hand rather than just reading about the latest stats. We’re now going to continue using Facebook to tackle this issue with the creation of the CMI Women group. This will become a forum for men and women to crowdsource solutions.”

International Women’s Day was even more poignant this year as strong women across the globe remain in the spotlight thanks to the #metoo movement, President’s Club fiasco, the recent gun tragedy in Florida, the political landscape and strong female leaders. Every year, women come together to show solidarity but also, sadly, to show how much more work there is still to do. Digital can help level playing fields in this struggle and smart strategies like this one can really affect behavioural change if the comments on the livestream are anything to by.

Source: Forbes

Why it’s hot: Gender equality was all the rage this International Women’s Day as brands looked to unique opportunities to honor the female gender and show their support. CMI found a way to celebrate International Women’s Day while teaching a lesson to those who don’t understand the severity of the gender wage gap.

Bring me to life (wake me up inside)

Now to those who believe in prophecies this may seem like the end of the world. To be frank, a lot of people think that this may be a step too far … but it’s for science! Apparently someone at Swedish funeral agency, thought it would be brilliant if they can create an AI “replicate” of deceased loved ones so that families can have them back in their lives. They’re asking for donations (yes they’re asking for all the corpses) so that they can try to create a synthetic replica of the deceased’s voice.

Why it’s not hot:
Basically The world is going to end and we’re just going to be replaced by the AI replicas of the dead. Fun.


What even is social media anymore?

For the past 24 hours, Wendy’s and Little Debbie have been hosting a “talk show” on Twitter.

Denny’s was invited, but apparently was too busy, so Pop-Tarts stepped in. Moonpie also stopped by to talk about teens and their new interest, tweens.

Why its hot

Twitter is free, by the way! So much of the news around social media today is about Russian bots, toxicity, and fake news. But then, over here, brands are just throwing out the playbook and having fun. Strategy-scmategy. Just hop on Twitter, tweet some stuff, tag another brand, they respond with some more stuff, and so on. They’re not promoting a product, it’s not part of a campaign. Or maybe it is a strategy and the strategy is no strategy. Such is social media today.

How easy is it to trick AI?

Today, an article in WIRED describes how easy it may be to “break” AI-powered technologies– i.e., anything that uses machine learning– particularly computer vision, can be somewhat easily tricked to see things that aren’t really there.  This has resulted in much debate over how and what constitutes as trickery (mostly done in labs by MIT students), and how vulnerable new AI-enabled technologies will be to “hallucinations.” See, for example, below from the aforementioned WIRED article:

“Human readers of WIRED will easily identify the image below, created by Athalye, as showing two men on skis. When asked for its take Thursday morning, Google’s Cloud Vision service reported being 91 percent certain it saw a dog. Other stunts have shown how to make stop signs invisible, or audio that sounds benign to humans but is transcribed by software as “Okay Google browse to evil dot com.”


As AI-powered technology starts to revolutionize the way we live our lives (think: self-driving cars) the security considerations must be front of mind for scientists and researchers. We are eager to make major leaps with this technology, but many caution that deep neural networks are fundamentally not human brains, and therefore the way we think about machine-learning (and safety) must be re-thought.

For more reading on on AI exploitation:


There was Digital Transformation…now there’s Operational Transformation

Most business leaders are talking about the need for digital transformation. They’re trying to figure out ways to bring their organizations into the digital age, leveraging the latest in search, social, analytics, content, commerce, mobile, etc.

These leaders are quickly realizing that digital transformation is a moot point if they can’t shift their operations to facilitate the digitization of their business.

Data from digital sources like CRM, transactional, 3rd party, and now the Internet of Things (IoT) has been growing exponentially to the point that increasingly sophisticated data management and analytic tools have been developed to derive insight from it. These will be applied to data collected from internal ERP, BPM, and task and process activities.

 AI machine learning will analyze the operations data and make recommendations about eliminating redundancies and what can be automated. AI automation will start to take over the busywork that has been increasing and driving down employee productivity for years. And AI and voice interfaces will provide intelligent agents that will serve most admin and secretarial functions for every employee, freeing them up even more to do the jobs they were hired to do.

Why it’s hot: We make tons and tons of marketing recommendations to our clients, but we also have to better understand the ways in which their operations function to aid them in deploying our work. The better we can understand this and help them operationalize our marketing strategies, the better outcome for them and us.

How Women Spend Their Time

The OECD runs time-use surveys, to identify the ways women and men spend their time. It’s no surprise women do way more unpaid work than men, but what is surprising is that countries considered progressive still have significant differences in time spent doing things like chores and taking care of children.

Source: Quartz

“When it comes to time spent on well-being, including eating and drinking, sleeping, and personal care, the gap between the sexes is much smaller. Not surprisingly, French and Italian women and men spend a lot of time on how they look (it shows—they usually look great). French women take top marks for the daily time spent on personal care, with a whopping 113 minutes, compared with 70 minutes for American women.”

Why It’s Hot: 

  • Gathering and analysing this data can help quantify gender inequality issues. Understanding how and where we spend our time can help us find ways to balance the scale.


AI takes over an online knitting community

The latest in a series of irreverent AI projects by humorist and technologist Janelle Shane is interactive and focused around the online knitting community Ravelry.

Shane trained a type of neural network on a series of over 500 sets of knitting instructions. Then, she generated new instructions, which members of the Ravelry community have actually attempted to knit.

While Shane admits that she cannot understand the output of the neural network, but the devoted users of Ravelry have the necessary knowledge to put the instructions to the test.

The human-machine collaboration created configurations of yarn that you probably wouldn’t give to your in-laws for Christmas, but they were interesting. The user citikas was the first to post a try at one of the earliest patterns, “reverss shawl.” It was strange, but it did have some charisma.

Reverss Shawl, by Ravelry user citikas

Why it’s hot

We already rely on neural networks to do various code-based tasks for us, but few instances of artificial intelligence have crossed the digital-physical barrier quite like this one. Knitting instructions are like code, and while the neural network doesn’t understand how each bit of code relates to a physical stitch, the human knitters were able to interpret the code and make decisions about how to handle inconsistencies.

One user, bevbh, described some of the errors as like “code that won’t compile.” For example, bevbh gave this scenario: “If you are knitting along and have 30 stitches in the row and the next row only gives you instructions for 25 stitches, you have to improvise what to do with your remaining five stitches.”

The creations of SkyKnit are fully cyborg artifacts, mixing human whimsy and intelligence with machine processing and ignorance. And the misapprehensions are, to a large extent, the point.

OK and here are the rest of the projects, which are hilarious.

The SkyKnit design “fishcock” as interpreted by the Ravelry user BellaG

An attempt to knit the pattern “tiny baby whale Soto” by the user GloriaHanlon

Read more at The Atlantic

stay perfectly hydrated with gatorade gx…

Gatorade introduced a prototype product it’s calling “Gatorade Gx”. It’s a combination of a patch you wear while working out, training, or whatever you call your physical/athletic activity, and a connected water bottle. It basically monitors how you’re sweating as you train, “capturing fluid, electrolyte, and sodium loss”.  Based on this, it lets you know when you should drink more, and if what you should drink is something specific based on your unique needs. That something specific being a “Pod” that has certain formula of electrolytes or nutrients you are losing as you sweat (your “electrolyte and carbohydrate needs”).

Why it’s hot:

As we see more uses of technologies like AI, biometrics, and connected sensors, products and services are becoming ultra personal. This is a personal hydration coach, filling a knowledge gap that otherwise only cues from your body might indicate you need. We should be keeping an eye on how brands are taking the old idea of “personalization” to its truest form, creating new ways to give them more than just a basic product or service.


Whole Foods Medical Wellness Center

As a company whose core value is to nourish people and the planet, Whole Foods sure does it right by starting with s keeping their employees healthy and looking after their wellness.

“At the WFM Medical and Wellness Centers, we strive to take you from sick to healthy, happy and thriving – and help keep you there for the rest of your life! We hope you will join us on our journey toward creating a healthier community and a new way of treating people through the highest quality, personalized health care available.” – John Mackey, Co-Founder & CEO Whole Foods Market

The company runs two medical centers in Glendale, CA and Austin, TX serving employees and their families.

“The Medical and Wellness Center provides primary care medical services, administered by physicians with a patient-centered approach. The Medical and Wellness Center not only helps patients with common illnesses and more significant medical conditions, but also provides personalized prevention and proactive care that helps people live their best and most healthy lives.”

Why it’s hot: staying true to its core value and acting on it.

Source: Harvard Business Review and

Mini-Fridge Satellite

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz announced they’re leading an $13.5m investment in Astranis, a startup focused on building commercial telecommunications satellites.

Satellite internet has prompted a “new space race” between companies competing to launch devices and establish networks capable of reaching areas where traditional broadband falls short.

There are still 4B people on Earth without internet access, the majority of which live in rural areas, where broadband service isn’t available. Satellite internet has been touted as a solution to this since the mid-’90s, but traditionally operate 22k miles above Earth, in what’s called geosynchronous orbit, which has been too slow in responding to requests. Satellites in low Earth orbit cover less territory and have to launch a lot more which is extremely expensive.

Astranis’s satellites are about the size of a mini-fridge and are a fraction of the cost of other models (only tens of millions of dollars). Astranis will launch its satellites into farther away from Earth and sell bandwidth to internet service providers, allowing it to reach users in more remote areas. Astranis manufactures its satellites in San Francisco and expects to launch its first commercial satellite in 2019.

Why it’s Hot: Although it won’t solve some of the long-standing latency issues, it could provide a cheaper solution for making internet more readily available in previously out-of-range regions. It could be immensely beneficial to emerging markets, which often suffer from poor connectivity issues.


British Airways expanding biometric gate screening in the US

British Airways is getting into the biometric game with its boarding gates in the US. Last year they began testing self-service boarding gates at LAX, and they are now rolling out the gates in some flights to/from Orlando, Miami, and JFK airports as well.

The new technology doesn’t replace security screenings; rather, it allows the airline to bypass scanning everyone’s boarding passes at the gate as they board the plane. Instead of having to produce their boarding pass, travelers just look into a camera, wait for their biometric data to scan and be confirmed against their passport/visa/immigration photos, and then proceed onto the plane. The main benefit? Speed. British Airways says that in LAX, these new gates allowed them to board 400 passengers in 22 minutes, less than half the time it usually takes.

Other airlines are getting in on the biometric tech too. JetBlue is trialing biometric boarding on flights from Boston to Aruba, and last year Delta started trying out facial recognition for checking luggage and fingerprints for boarding. Dubai International Airport is working on a tunnel equipped with both facial recognition cameras and iris scanners (!) that would cut the need for travel documents entirely.

Why It’s Hot: The impetus behind this tech development – faster, smoother boarding – is ostensibly a positive thing. But what databases are necessary for this kind of screening? Immigration and ID documents are incredibly sensitive, even more so in our current xenophobic political climate. Is cutting down boarding time worth the risk?

Learn More: Engadget | Forbes

Robots find new way to suck the fun out of living

A couple of dudes named Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo “have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.”

Story on Gizmodo

Below is the old record from 2016. Slackers.

Why It’s Hot

This has obvious implications for the future of work. Imagine how many iPhones this thing will be able to crank out in the future.

BuzzFeed is Your Non-judgmental Older Sister

In November, BuzzFeed unveiled its BuzzFeed media brands division which is made up of Tasty(food), Nifty (DIY), Bring Me (travel) and Goodful (wellness). This week they have added another millennial focused sub-brand to their roster, As/Is.

As/Is is a positioned to be a non-judgy beauty and style publisher, featuring “content that empowers women rather than tells them who they should be.” 

The timing around the launch couldn’t be any better amid the spotlight of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

“We want to change what the industry looks like and looks at,” says Augusta Falletta, supervising producer for As/Is. “We want people to see themselves in this content and accept themselves in a way that hasn’t been done in the past. If you are a woman who grew up reading antiquated magazines you probably have some thing you need to unpack.”


Why it’s too hot to hold, too much to handle:

BuzzFeed’s ultimate goal is to compete with Facebook and Google for ad dollars. Currently, their biggest revenue driver is the Tasty sub-brand which has attracted over 1.4 million unique visitors in January alone. Tasty has evolved from short videos to products now available at Walmart. BuzzFeed is hoping that in the future, As/Is will lead to a line of beauty products.

McDonald’s Crops the Golden Arches to Direct You to the Closest Restaurant

McDonald’s and Canadian marketing company Cossette have teamed up to create the “Follow the Arches” campaign in Canada. The campaign features billboards with only portions of McDonald’s iconic golden arches logo that serve to point drivers in the direction of the nearest restaurant.

McDonald’s marketing supervisor Andrew Mumford comments on the universal recognizability of the McDonald’s brand: “The campaign is a playful example of how the arches are recognizable, even when the consumer only sees a portion of the logo.”

So far, the campaign includes just four billboards (three static and one digital) in high-traffic areas across downtown Toronto and the greater Toronto area. But Peter Ignazi, chief creative officer at Cossette, said the concept could eventually solve the problem of hundreds of differently designed directional posters in Canada—and around the world.

Why it’s hot: When thinking about playful ways to drive restaurant traffic – this is as simple as it gets! It is leveraging their huge amount of brand equity and universal recognizability of their logo in a clever way.

Source: AdWeek