Volkswagen Humor – Yay or Neigh?

There’s only one way to properly advertise trailer assist and it’s obviously with the help of some stable friends. Volkswagen saddled up but almost missed out on the chance of mounting this gem. This German ad showcases the Volkswagen Tiguan doing its thing using Trailer Assist.

The ad was released on YouTube prior to being aired on television due to fear of it stirring a negative response. The ad quickly became viral making VW reconsider its potential and eventually being pushed on to TV.

Why It’s Hot
The emissions scandal was no joke. Cheating emissions tests for the sake of sales and reputation ended up backfiring, essentially leading to a massive decrease of brand trust. But is it time for the emissions scandal talks to hit the hay for the enjoyment of some innocent horsing around?

Reality Winner and dots

A security contractor named Reality Winner was arrested this week for leaking documents about the Russian election hack to The Intercept.

Her arrest set off a conversation about journalism and op-sec, or operational security.

Reality Winner made a number of mistakes, but in particular she was outed by the specific printer that she used to print and carry out the documents.

A security firm contacted by BoingBoing said:

The document leaked by the Intercept was from a printer with model number 54, serial number 29535218. The document was printed on May 9, 2017 at 6:20. The NSA almost certainly has a record of who used the printer at that time.

The situation is similar to how Vice outed the location of John McAfee, by publishing JPEG photographs of him with the EXIF GPS coordinates still hidden in the file. Or it’s how PDFs are often redacted by adding a black bar on top of image, leaving the underlying contents still in the file for people to read, such as in this NYTime accident with a Snowden document. Or how opening a Microsoft Office document, then accidentally saving it, leaves fingerprints identifying you behind, as repeatedly happened with the Wikileaks election leaks. These sorts of failures are common with leaks. To fix this yellow-dot problem, use a black-and-white printer, black-and-white scanner, or convert to black-and-white with an image editor.

I thought this was an interesting look at how far digital traces can be used to identify us, and if you’re leaking something, just remember to remove all the metadata.


Facebook is Connecting You To Your Local Representative

For anyone who knows me, this information truly hits the sweet spot in my wheelhouse. Now, not everyone is Facebook friends with their state rep like me, fortunately, there’s an app for that… Facebook!

Facebook is looking to dive deeper to connect communities locally.

“Our goal is to help people build the communities they want by making it easier for them to engage and have a voice in government – on a daily basis, not just Election Day”

New features include, constituent badges, so representatives can see that they are a constituent when they interact online, as well as a community tab, so you can see what news stories affect your community and hear about local legislation.

To find your reps online go to:

Turns out I need to update who I follow too!

Why it’s hot:

As Russian’s hack our newsfeeds and we all watch the Comey testimony, some of our most important legislation happens right in our backyards. It’s great that for all the global connections that we make, we are starting to see that social media can do a great job connecting communities. Isn’t that what it was originally built for?

Delta encouraging travel… and love? #DeltaDatingWall

Delta Airlines is partnering with Tinder to make dating app dreams come true with their #DeltaDatingWall.

Delta Air Lines, with help from Wieden + Kennedy New York, has put scenes from nine exotic destinations on a wall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so that NYC singles can take selfies for their dating profile—looking like attractive jet-setters.

The printed photos on the wall, surrounded by cute illustrations by Andrew Rae, feature Honolulu, Paris, Los Angeles, Pisa, London, Mexico City, Amsterdam, Moscow, and Zurich. And while the selfie-takers might not have the cash to actually fly there, the work does celebrate the fact that Delta flies to the most destinations of any airline from NYC.

The #DeltaDatingWall will be up throughout the summer. On June 17, Delta, in partnership with Tinder, will hold a singles-centric event where you can actually get a proper photo taken next to the wall by a professional photographer.

Why its hot?

  • i-n-n-o-v-a-t-i-o-n
  • Not a traditional partnership but it works for their target audience
  • Delta and Tinder and hosting a singles event where people can get their picture professionally taken with the wallll……

Delta Painted Exotic Locales on a Brooklyn Wall for Singles to Snap Selfies Like They’re World Travelers

Facebook Filed a Patent To Secretly Watch Users Through Their Webcam

In a Facebook patent published in 2015, it explains how the company would use technology to see how your facial expressions change when you come across different content, and it would use that information to keep you on the site for longer.


The patent explained that if you looked away from your screen when a video of a kitten played, Facebook would stop showing similar type of videos in your Feed. If you smiled as you looked at pictures of one of your friends, for instance, Facebook’s algorithm would take note of that and display more pictures of that friend in your News Feed.


This is a picture of Mark’s desk and computer last year, where he has the camera and microphone taped up. If Mark is concerned about privacy and internet security, we should be as well.


Do we really want, or think, that Facebook can make our lives better by keeping us on their site for longer, or tracking and leveraging our emotions as they happen in real time? When does Facebook stop becoming a tool that we feel like we have control over, and when does it become that manipulative sociopathic friend? If Facebook is one giant ad targeting machine, what will get us to stop using Facebook?


Sephora adds new component to tech app

The latest upgrade to the Sephora app-based digital makeover experience has arrived.

The well known beauty retailing has expanded the functionality of its Sephora Virtual Artist, an augmented reality-based feature on its mobile app that enables shoppers to digitally try on make-up. The app’s new Cheek Try On service allows users to virtually try on over 1,000 shades of cheek color, including blush, bronzer, contour, and highlighter shades available in single colors and palettes.

As users choose their favorite shades, a list of the top matching colors available from Sephora is quickly returned to the user. Matches can be immediately tried on in Virtual Artist then purchased in app.

The Sephora Virtual Artist also enables users to virtually try on an assortment of lip colors and false eye lash styles. The tool integrated the ability to try on thousands of shades of eyeshadows earlier this spring.


Why it’s hot:
As the beauty retail industry continues to sore and increased competition from main competitor, Ulta strengthens, the approach to converting your audience without even having them enter a store will only increase brand loyalty. I know from experience, that it is hard to visualize what you will look like with different makeup products on, and by adding this new feature to the Sephora app will help bring the already existing eye shadow and lip color functionality full circle. I may have to download this app!


Why Internet Giants are Fighting for Net Neutrality

Heads up for Monday June 12th, when major internet leaders (Amazon, Etsy, and Reddit among them) will join forces in the face of impending decisions by the FCC to potentially roll back Net Neutrality rules.
What is Net Neutrality and why should I care?

Net neutrality is the idea that internet traffic is treated equally and internet service providers can’t prioritize some traffic over others.

Net neutrality made it possible for Vimeo, along with countless other startups, to innovate and thrive. The FCC’s proposed rollback of the 2015 open internet rules threatens to impede that innovation and allow a handful of incumbent ISPs to determine winners and losers,” Vimeo said in a statement to CNet.

It will be interesting to see how the internet bands together to take action and how the FCC, and Congress, responds.

More Reading on Net Neutrality:

  • A very extensive Wiki page:
  • TechCrunch looks at the arguments against Net Neutrality:
  • Letter from Sam Altman of Y Combinator in WIRED making the case to other tech entrepreneurs to speak out Net Neutrality:

Apple and Google to Implement Ad Blocker in Web Browsers

On Monday, Apple at its developer conference that it will start blocking autoplay videos on its Safari web browser and will add a feature that stops ad tracking technology from using a user’s web behavior to target ads to them.

Google also reportedly will officially move ahead with its Chrome ad blocker sometime next year and will block any site which hosts ad units that don’t adhere to a set of third-party standards — basically, most sites on the Internet. The Financial Times also reported that Google is creating a feature that will allow publishers to charge users who use ad-blockers on a page-per-view basis.








Why It’s Hot:

Safari (10%) and Chrome (51%) make up most of the desktop search market in the U.S., according to comScore, and over 68% of mobile traffic in the U.S., which means that their efforts to curb ads that damage user experience will have a significant impact on the marketplace. These changes will force publishers to develop new advertising techniques.

Immediately following the announcement by Apple, ad retargeting firm Criteo’s stocks tumbled. Earlier this year, Terry Kawaja, Founder and CEO of media and technology firm LUMA Partners, said consolidation in the ad tech space (mostly driven by policy changes and user demands) will cause 90% of the companies to go out of business.

Electric Paint

Bare Conductive has created a viscous carbon-based black paint that conducts electricity. Forget sockets, cables or wiring, this paint can act as a light switch painted directly onto your wall. The paint acts as a form of liquid wiring which can be applied to all types of surfaces including paper, plastic, metal and fabric.

Although conductive paint has been used in other applications for years, Bare Conductive is bringing new ways to use the medium.

“We started this project in earnest in 2009,” says Matt Johnson. “We were originally interested in trying to apply electronics to the skin … so we arrived at this idea of applying them as a coating and eventually we got this idea of a conductive paint.” Today, Bare Paint users use it to create everything from interactive color wheels to homemade electric toys.

Why it’s hot: 

  1. Conductive paint opens up an enormous range of creative opportunities. As conductive paint becomes increasingly common, we can look forward to a future where billboards talk back, walls are interactive, and greeting cards come to life in our very hands.
  2. “Devices no longer have to look high tech to be high tech,” Johnson says. “Our goal is to put interactivity onto objects you don’t expect.”

Cultural Understanding Through Typography

Its easy to take for granted the relative ease not to mention the broad selection of character sets English writers have access to. But what happens when your languages typed characters are very close to a neighboring country with a completely different language? You get the The Balkan sprachbund or Balkan language area. This area that contains Serbia and Croatia share similar languages but different writing systems. To ease confusion between these languages.  Designers Nikola Djurek and Marija Juza used design to solve the problem. Enter Balkan Sans. This new font combine Cyrillic and Latin scripts into a single font set. This allows these neighboring countries to share content in a simplified manner. The designers state that the font system

 “… demystifies, depoliticizes, and reconciles them for the sake of education, tolerance, and, above all, communication”.

So whats this all mean? Say you were written an email in  Serbian  but you’re unable to  read Cyrillic? Just change the font to the Balkan Sans!

Why Its Hot

Just imagine the possibilities – education, entertainment…pen pals! This is just another example of how thoughtful design can have an immense impact on peoples lives.

Apple launches new reality show with uninspired title, like, 5 years too late

Apple has wrangled up some A-listers, plus Gary Vaynerchuck, for a Shark Tank-meets-The Voice reality show. It’s a chance for developers to give their best elevator pitch to a panel of 4 judges who will swipe left or right and give app developers an opportunity to be funded so that “they can take the next step to creating one of the great apps of all time.”

Story on The Verge

Is it Hot or Not?
Seems like the best apps might not make the cut if the pitch isn’t good enough. Do we really want to bring app development to the lowest common denominator?

Appocalypse Now

Remember life before apps? Sure, it was liveable. But it was also a time when we owned paper maps, knew phone numbers and recognized the dating potential of next-door neighbors.

What would happen if all the apps in our current app-run world suddenly just … blipped out?

That’s exactly what Apple imagines in “Appocalypse,” a video that kicked off Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this week.


Why It’s Hot

While the video made me laugh, it pointed out how utterly attached to my iPhone I am. These tools we have at our fingertips are time savers but what if they did go away? Could I even read a map at this point? Have we forgotten how to talk to people? In the end, it’s a good reminder not to forget about human connections. But I’ll still be clutching my iPhone closer today.

AI Education by Sesame Workshop and IBM Watson

Sesame Workshop and IBM announced last year that they would work together on a line of cognitive apps, games, and educational toys. The first in that line of apps just completed its first pilot trial, introducing the app to 150 students in Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools. The app incorporates a lot of the learnings on early child education at Sesame Workshop and is powered by IBM’s Watson, with it all dressed up with Sesame Street characters.

The app was tested in live classrooms on tablets, and educational videos and word games were used to enhance each student’s vocabulary. Teachers and parents could monitor each student’s development in real time and adjust lessons for each child based on need. The AI also personalized the app for each child using adaptive assessments.

The first large-scale test was a big success over its two-week run. Students acquired new vocabulary as a result of the app, which translated to real world – students called spiders “arachnid” and began recognizing “camouflaged” animals when in an out-of-app discussion.

Can these 5 Brain Hacking companies give us immortality?

Brain-hacking? Kind of a Frankenstein term.

The human brain has 100 billion neurons firing away all day and night. Can they be channeled, stimulated or directed in some way that benefits society? No surprise, here comes Elon Musk and Neuralink. His and four other companies are all approaching the idea that human-machine interface can change everything — especially for those suffering neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease, these could be life transforming.

Here is Elon’s mission statement (and this site is a one-pager!): Neuralink is developing ultra high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers. Initially, the Brain Computer Interface (BCIs) will be used for medical research, but the ultimate goal is to prevent humans from becoming obsolete, by enabling people to merge with artificial intelligence — perhaps even avoiding death.

Sounds amazing…but what does it really mean? Basically, why is this hot?

First, because they all seem to be heading towards an even more grandiose vision; avoiding death. No joke.

Second, the four companies means the competition is real:

FACEBOOK: a few weeks after Neuralink was launched, they announced an initiative to “let people type their thoughts”. Imagine a child with autism, someone with a mental disorder, so many sufferers, being able to “speak” this way. The news reports say it will take two years for a prototype medical implant and is being developed in their top secret Building 8 facility.

KERNEL: Kernel plans to build a flexible platform for recording and stimulating neurons, with the goal of treating diseases such as depression and Alzheimer’s. 

EMOTIV: (Their home page says it all):

EMOTIV Mental Commands and SDKs makes our technology an highly effective Brain-Computer-Interface and can put EMOTIV at the center of the Internet of Things and the ability to control the world around you.

DARPA: Ok, the government, but still, they are investing in several companies to develop a device that will record 1 million neurons and stimulate 100,000 in the brain. DARPA wants it the size of a nickel. Since they ‘invented’ the Internet, I’d say they have a good chance of pulling it off.

I encourage you all to visit their web sites and learn more. After all, can brain hacking help us live forever? Or is it hype?


Alamo Drafthouse’s Sense of Humor in the Face of “Controversy”

[Reposted from previous week]

Original story:

Alamo Drafthouse is a movie chain known for off-the-wall screenings: for a horror movie, they handed out gas masks and drove moviegoers into the woods on a school bus. It screened Pirates of the Carribean on a boat, etc. When they announced an all-female screening of the new Wonder Woman film, “it didn’t sound all that edgy,” reports NPR. But some took offense.

Why it’s hot: Alamo’s handling of what would have been a PR and social media crisis for so many other brands was fantastic. They took the complaints in stride, having the guts to respond to trolls and complaining patrons in a way that retained their values and reinforced their brand. They even scheduled a second women-only screening. That takes some balls. And they were rewarded for it, with tons of praise from their social media followers.

Warning! Your Car May Be A Decepticon

The fictional battle between the Autobots and Decepticons will be coming to the real-world freeways this summer through a partnership between out-of-home media company Lamar Advertising and Paramount Pictures, the company releasing the latest “Transformers” movie. Using technology created by Vehcio, billboards in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and four other markets will deliver personalized messages to passing drivers about which side of the intergalactic war their car is on. A driver of a Honda Civic, for instance, may see a message declaring “Attention! Your Honda Civic is an Autobot” The technology had previously been used for a campaign for Chevrolet. The campaign uses cameras mounted 1,000 feet ahead of the digital billboards, scanning vehicle grills to identify cars. Once a make and model are identified, the board switches from a generic “your car” message to one identifying the passing car. The technology takes into account traffic speed to calculate the precise moment and length of time to display the personalized message.

Why It’s Hot

Today, the technological capabilities of digital advertising takes out-of-home advertising to a new level. You would definitely get an element of surprise when seeing your car called out on the billboard. It’s a great way for the new Transformers 5 movie to create a one-to-one conversation with drivers. Now, if I saw my car announced on a billboard, I might drive off the road. But it would definitely get my attention and I would be sharing this with my friends.

Lighting Up Creativity With Play-Doh

“Tech Will Save Us”, a UK based company making kits that spark the creative imagination of young people using hands on technology. They recently started a Kickstarter for 3 sets of interactive toys that allow kids to bring Play-Doh to life with light, sound, and movement.There is an accompanying tablet app that features stories and projects kids can engage with.





Why It’s Hot: 

Other than the fact that it is awesome for kids to learn STEM principles at an early age, this technology incorporates hands-on play. It let’s kids be kids and experiment while providing cool features that opens possibilities for their creations.

The design of the kit is minimal and the user interface of both the toy and app seems simple and clear.

Walmart is turning its employees into delivery drivers to compete with Amazon

Walmart is investing in e-commerce to better compete with Amazon, is unveiling a new strategy: turning its army of 1.5 million US employees into delivery drivers. This is being tested at three stores in New Jersey and Arkansas, and designed to shave costs out of the “last mile” of distribution, the most expensive part of getting goods to customers.

Under the initiative, store employees will be given the option to deliver packages on their way home after work, in exchange for extra pay. They’ll be given an app that allows them to input their routes, and an algorithm will plot the most efficient path. In the pilot, most merchandise was delivered the day after the order was placed, beating Walmart’s pledge of second-day delivery.

The company has 4,700 US stores and 6,100 trucks, and it hopes to be able to use those assets to narrow the gap with Amazon. Walmart is also rolling out a grocery pick up service where online orders are delivered to customers’ cars, and is testing other ways of combining online shopping with its physical stores.

Why it’s hot:

  • This is enhancing the traditional brick-and-mortar structure and giving customers more on-demand goods, competing further with Amazon Prime.