The Architecture of Mars

While we’ve talked about the projects in the U.A.E. to study the effects of how humans could live on Mars, an article by Fast Company this week takes a deeper dive into the architects who are imagining the structure and design system. Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), a Copenhagen architecture firm, is beginning the design process for prototypes for Martian colonies. BIG is taking into account site specificity and designing a system that accommodates for climate and resources while also being able to scale and become self sustaining.

Here are some renderings of the interior domes:

BIG is known for their simple and communicative diagrams that explain the thought process of their designs. Here is a series that shows the the ways they are planning to accommodate for the restrictions of life on Mars. They also show how this design system is scalable over time.

Why It’s Hot: The science behind this Mars project is fascinating, but the design and architecture is as engaging. These architects are conceptualizing a new architectural paradigm. They are utilizing the principles of design thinking to take into account the business and user needs and pain points.

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A good flight’s sleep

Casper mattresses and American Airlines have teamed up to improve sleeping experience on the plane.

Starting December passengers in First, Business and Premium Economy classes will get the chance to try specially-designed mattress pads, pillows, lumber pillows, blankets, duvets, pyjamas and slippers.

The partnership gives passengers a chance to try Casper’s products and American Airlines a chance to offer better in-flight experiences.

Why it’s hot: a partnership that’s truly strategic and adds value to each brand.

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Snapchat introduces Context Cards

Snapchat is introducing Context Cards, a way for users to see reviews and maps of where their friends are checking in. From there you can make reservations or call the retail locations.

Why It’s Hot?

Snapchat kind of exists in a world of its own and anytime it integrates with other apps and plays nice, it’s a boon for marketers. This integration is pretty seamless and seems like a great way to bring in the larger internet snugly into the new “maps” piece of the Snapchat world. I hope Snapchat always sticks to their guns, and keeps their interface contained, as they continue to incorporate into the larger picture.

Machine learning as film critic

While identifying a Wes Anderson movie is probably something many moviegoers could do without complex AI, the creator of a new machine learning program called Machine Visions is hoping he can learn more about what makes an auteur’s works distinct.

[Yannick] Assogba uses four of Anderson’s films as source for his project — The Life AquaticThe Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom — from which he extracts a frame every 10 seconds, for a sample of 2,309 frames in total.

Assogba investigates color and recurring motifs in Anderson’s works, drawing out themes from the machine learning much faster than a human would be able to watch and process the images.

The Life Aquatic pixel grid

Each frame that the program analyzed from The Life Aquatic is displayed as a single pixel in this grid

Why It’s Hot

Machine visions not only provides an interesting way to look at film and cinematography through the lens of technology, it provides a detailed and accessible framework for starting to understand machine learning. By introducing people to machine learning through art and pop culture, Assogba gives both technical and non-technical people a reason to explore further.

“It can suggest similarities and juxtapositions for a human to look at, some are ones we would find ourselves while others might be surprising or poetic because of imperfections in the algorithms and models.”

Learn more  i-DMashable | Machine Visions

VR Replacement for your PC and 3D Facebook Posts

Oculus’ Connect 4 VR conference held place recently and Facebook announced some awesome stuff. I’ll be focusing on the two that stood out for me, but you can see some others on this article.

First one that caught my attention was the Oculus Dash, Facebook’s new user interface that let’s users customize their VR Home space with the goal of replacing traditional computer monitors in a very Minority Report-style way.

Users can easily open apps and move windows in the 3D space around them. Dash will let users open desktop apps like Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, Spotify, and Chrome.

 

The next that that caught my attention was Facebook’s new 3D posts in the newsfeed. It will allow users and brands to post interactive 3D models right in their newsfeed. These can be simple 3D objects that users can rotate around and zoom in on, or more interactive. For example, the demo below shows how users can open a 3D car door.

 

Why it’s hot:

  • Oculus Dash is helping VR become a replacement for PCs, with it’s dropped price point and new features we may see more users picking one up
  • Brands can now make interactive 3D posts on Facebook

More info:

Bookmark your tweets!

Twitter's Adding a New Bookmarks Feature to Help Keep Track of Tweets | Social Media Today

So much content, so little time. I see so much throughout the day that I cannot read it all, so I save links as much as possible. Facebook lets you save articles and videos, and even reminds you about unread saves, but Twitter has only just now added a save function.

Previously, most users would “like” a tweet to be able to come back to it, or email the link to themselves. “Liking” a tweet is a public action, and not all users want that event out in the world for all to see. Also, a “like” will influence Twitter’s algorithm and what ads and recommended accounts they show you. The ability to bookmark tweets makes it easier for users to save what they’re interested in and improves overall platform performance.

Why its hot

Bookmarking tweets seems like an obvious idea, even if it flies in the face of Twitter’s position as the “live news” platform. I like this change as someone who frequently sees content I’m interested in, but don’t have time to read it. I am also curious to see if “bookmarks” becomes a part of Twitter’s standard analytics offered to brands and publishers.

Mayor to review 1,000 Amazon products in bid for company’s new HQ

It’s been about a month since Amazon announced it was accepting bids from US cities to host its second major headquarters. A city that comes away with a new Amazon campus could potentially see a significant economy boost, so competition will certainly be fierce. And with the deadline for cities to submit their proposals exactly one week away, Kansas City, Missouri has emerged as perhaps the city with the most creative strategy. As noted by VentureBeatKansas City mayor Sly James purchased 1,000 products from Amazon for charity and is reviewing every single one — and the reviews very quickly pivot into why his city would be a great place for the company’s new HQ.

James explained his plan with a few videos on Twitter and also set up a URL that lets interested parties (like Amazon) see everything he’s reviewed. Products run the gamut from 22-inch wind chimes priced at only $14.99 (“I live in beautiful Kansas City where the average home price is just $122K, so I know luxe living doesn’t have to cost a ton”) to the classic kids story Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (“Alexander had a really bad day, but here in KC, we’re ranked as one of the 20 happiest cities to work in right now…”). You get the idea.

Video here

Site here

James just kicked the program off earlier this week, but he already has posted dozens of reviews — though a read through his entertaining Twitter feed makes it sound as if he’s not actually doing all the posting himself. But there’s little doubt this goofy but heartfelt venture is driving some positive buzz for Kansas City. Whether or not that’ll make a difference in the bidding process remains to be seen, but the city does meet enough of Amazon’s criteria that it should be in the running.

Source: Engadget

Why it’s Hot:

Going all out for your city’s economic growth means more than formal pitches, apparently. Taking to social to find humorous and creative ways to stand out is a solid idea — let’s see how it pans out for KC’s chances!

 

Google Express Just Upped Their Game

A few years ago, the idea that Target and Walmart would publicly chat about having the same strategy would have seemed odd—the retail titans are notoriously tight-lipped about their tactics, particularly when it comes to giving the other intel on what they’re doing.

But as Amazon’s dominance continues to grow, stealing shoppers away from brands’ ecommerce sites, an intriguing partnership today with Google offers a look at how retailers could be more willing to put their differences aside and work together to fend off Amazon’s encroaching competition. While Google said that it will keep the two partnerships separate from a data-sharing perspective, the deals show how major retailers are willing to back the same initiatives for the sake of shaking off Amazon.

“These partnerships aren’t about voice—they’re really more symbolic of the fact that major retailers are willing to partner with Google in the fight against Amazon,” said Cooper Smith, director of Amazon research at L2. “Brands and retailers need to scale their audiences in order to compete against Amazon online, and Google can offer them that. We’re in the beginning stages of what eventually could be a legitimate alternative to Amazon.”

Today Target announced that it’s making its inventory available on Google Express, the shopping service that also counts Costco, Kohl’s and Walgreens as clients. Consumers will also be able to ask Google Assistant, which is plugged into its Google Home devices, to order products.

By next year, shoppers that use Target’s credit card to purchase items will save 5 percent on orders from Google Express. The retailer also plans to build out a capability that allows consumers to link their Target.com accounts to Google to receive personalized product recommendations.

In August, Walmart announced a similar voice deal with Google that allows consumers to purchase “hundreds of thousands of items” by linking a website account to Google Assistant. Over time, Google’s technology can remember which products, sizes and flavors someone regularly buys to make check out a bit faster.

Now, Walmart and Target will somewhat compete on terms—or keywords—that consumers order from Google. For example, if someone asks Google Home to order detergent and they shop from Target more frequently than Walmart, Google will surface product recommendations from Target.

“This is clearly a chain reaction to the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods,” said Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM. “Google’s expertise founded around search gives them a profound understanding of consumer intent—they probably know more about what people are specifically searching for than any other company. Finding ways to bridge that with what Walmart or Target understands around satisfying demand seems like a potentially powerful partnership.”

Source: AdWeek

Why It’s Hot
I guess it truly is Amazon against the world… Who would have thought that two major competitors would ever join forces, let alone allow their products to be sold on the same platform. Target joins Walmart as one of the major retailers on Google’s e-Commerce store, Google Express, that allows shoppers to access a variety of products all in one place, ala-Amazon. Both retail giants will have their products on the website, where shoppers can shop right from their Google Home devices. This is sure to be an interesting battle going forward, as Google has more access to an unlimited amount of data surrounding keywords and how users shop than any other company.

Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes for VR Tour of Puerto Rico

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin—who leads the social network’s virtual reality work—livestreamed a 360-degree video from the top of a building on Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., campus to show the damage in Puerto Rico from the recent hurricanes.

The two called the video a “magical tour” and used the company’s five-month-old Facebook Spaces VR app that turns users into cartoon characters. As Zuckerberg and Franklin talked, footage of the devastated area captured by NPR ran in the background.

Immediate criticism on social media called Zuckerberg’s clip tone-deaf and accused him of “exploiting disaster” by promoting Facebook’s VR initiatives.

Zuckerberg later apologized, saying that his intentions for using VR were not clear initially.

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” he commented on the video. “My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.”

Why it’s not hot:

  • Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s use of VR to show the devestation in Puerto Rico came off as tone-deaf and self-serving.
  • Although they were announcing a partnership with Red Cross, using it to plug their new VR capabilities made the partnership seem less empathetic and authentic.
  • When natural disasters occur, brands need to be aware of the sensitivity of the situation and take into account the emotional reality those effected are facing.

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Tamagotchis are back!

[insert siren emoji here] Big news: Bandai just released a new line of Tamagotchis to celebrate the iconic toy’s 20th anniversary! These little buddies are very similar to their original predecessors, 256-pixel screen and all – the only real difference is that they’re about 20% smaller than the classic version. There are six shell designs to choose from, and the digital pets are just as needy and adorable as you remember them being. Have fun!

Why it’s hot: The trend of reviving 90s-era tech & toys continues! Nokia re-released its classic 3310 mobile phone earlier this year, and Nintendo released a NES Classic Edition last year. Is Game Boy next??!!

Read more: Gizmodo | Engadget

Spotify for Artists

Spotify For Artists is an app launching this week that gives musicians and their managers mobile access to super-detailed analytics about their music and the people listening to it.

The Spotify For Artists app takes some of the most useful insights about an artist’s music—which songs are most popular, how many streams they’re getting over all, where those listeners live, and which playlists are helping win over new fans—and boils them down into digestible graphical charts. It’s a bit like Google Analytics for rappers, electronic DJs, and pop stars.

This isn’t the first time Spotify has made this kind of data available. Spotify For Artists is a product that first launched on the web in April, after a private beta period. First, Spotify opened it up to all artists (the first big, on-demand streaming app of its kind to do so). Now it’s letting them access it on their phones.

The app also gives artists some control over their presence on Spotify, allowing them to do things like update their bios, post playlists, and select the “artist’s pick” track that Spotify lets them display on their profiles.

Spotify For Artists is part of a broader effort to build more artist-facing tools and ’empower’ them. The company also started a program called Fans First, which uses data to detect the most obsessive listeners of a given artist and target them with special offers like pre-sale concert tickets or exclusive merchandise. The company has also been working harder to strengthen its relationships within the music industry and among artists, in part by hiring former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter.

Why it’s hot: This is yet another way in which Spotify is leveraging their data in an interesting and unexpected way. It is great to see them making it readily available for artists who can benefit from knowing more about their core users. Additionally, making it available on a mobile app vs. just desktop (as they launched in April) makes this an even more accessible and useful tool to the music industry.

Source: FastCo

Upgrade Your Flight with VR

Flying isn’t what it used to be, so more people opt for budget airlines. They will (usually) get where you need to go, but you also know not to expect a pleasant experience. Will your luggage be small enough for the cabin, or will you have to pay an exorbitant rate to check it?

And forget food. If you get that, you got lucky.

With this in mind, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, part of the Air France-KLM family, launched the KLM Flight Upgrader, a virtual reality experience that (almost) enables you to escape your budget flight … without paying the brand-name airline cost.

Distributed at no cost to people waiting to board budget flights for JFK New York, the KLM Flight Upgrader makes a compelling promise: From your paper-thin seat, spend hours holding the app to your face and enjoying everything a KLM flight would have offered you—entertainment, newspapers and the enjoyment of watching a “caring crew” issue a proper meal you can only hope to taste. (Toss a peanut into your mouth. Salt is salt, right?)

“Just pop this thing on your head and you can use virtual reality to escape the real reality of your flight,” a narrator brightly tells us.

Passengers can spend as much time aboard the virtual flight as they wish, and can watch either the full episode of a show, or 10 minutes of a blockbuster movie. Better yet, peer down to scope the leg room. Don’t kick, though.

This last illustrates the masochism of the concept, which in some ways eclipses its cleverness. KLM never addresses why people take budget flights in the first place: Flights are expensive, even as the perks begin to vanish; a budget airline at least assures you get somewhere without having to skip a mortgage payment. On a recent trip, I took a budget international flight that cost around $500. KLM’s sister brand Air France proposed upwards of $3,000.

Faced with this dissonance, it’s too easy to pretend people opt to suffer through budget flights because they simply don’t know how much better an established brand experience will be. Distribution of the Flight Upgrader was relatively small, so user impact is probably the least relevant part of this story, but we’re not convinced it did much more than rub salt in the wound.

Not that that matters. KLM isn’t stupid; this is a promotional play, and it’s hedging bets in the budget arena. Air France recently shared news of its own budget offering: Joon, targeted to younger users and blessed with the improbable tagline, “Also an airline.”

In any event, users looking to escape some future airborne reality (or simply watch a free TV show) can download the KLM Flight Upgrader app from Google Play and the App Store, then use their own VR headset to make the magic happen. A limited quantity of KLM cardboard headsets—not so subtly labeled “Do not disturb—pretending to fly KLM”—are still available and can be requested free of charge on the website.

Why it’s hot:

  • VR continues to grow in popularity, but it still is not the norm for advertising especially in the transportation space. KLM does a great job at targeting their competitors and showing exactly how they are a better choice for travelers.