Kano, a company that makes kid-friendly coding products, is releasing a programmable Harry Potter wand in the fall.
Children (and I’m sure many adults) will be able to build code-able wands with their own spells. They will be able to customize puzzle bits of code. They customizations range from changing the color of the spell, length, or even what the spell does. You can even share your spell afterwards. Unfortunately, you can’t have your spells interact with real-life objects. Instead, you interact with an app on a tablet.
Why it’s hot:
People love Harry Potter, especially kids. They can get lost in the magical world while learning the foundational elements of coding.
One of the brilliant minds at Google recently shared the AR application above that lets users quickly and easily count money of any currency, in any currency.
Why It’s Hot:
These types of new uses for AR might seem novel and even a bit magical now, but it won’t stay that way for long. This is just another signal that our future will be in 4D, with a new digital layer that will add information and functionality to the physical world.
The next time you’re searching for a recipe on Allrecipes.com, you might see a cocktail pairing sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The two brands have teamed up on a mixologist chatbot, Barkeep, to recommend drinks and walk people through preparation.
Barkeep is powered by natural language processing and a mixology database to suggest cocktails based on seasonality, popularity, and users’ preferences. The chatbot will be accessible by Facebook Messenger, as well as integrated within the Allrecipes search database.
Beyond recipes, the chatbot also features a catalog of on-demand alcohol delivery powered by Drizly.
The partnership is a natural fit — Allrecipes users are 20% more likely than the average U.S. adult to be frequent entertainers, and are more likely to have prepared a mixed drink in the past week. They are also 21% more likely than the general U.S. population to have consumed Tito’s Handmade Vodka in the last six months, according to comScore Fusion.
Why It’s Hot
39 million people use Allrecipes.com every month. This is a natural way to introduce cocktail pairings and alcohol delivery to a large, engaged audience.
If you thought Americans were the only ones enjoying the heat the dark heart of summer brings, it’s also been particularly warm across the Atlantic in London. So, the London charity Water Aid created this Spotify playlist – “Four Minute Shower Hits” to help the water companies urge Londoners to conserve water during this time. It’s not just a clever name, and all songs are four minutes or slightly less, to help people do their part during the heat wave.
Why it’s hot:
To accomplish their goal, the UK water companies could have created a much more straightforward and forgettable PSA type ad. Instead, they made something useful, functional, and fun.
Beijing welcomed its first unmanned smart bakery, a collaboration between Alibaba and domestic baker brand Wedomé. The bakery uses technologies including AI image recognition, mobile payment and QR code to enable unmanned services.
Why it’s hot: Mobile payment is so prominent in China and sets the nation on its way to be (maybe) a cashless economy one day.
D.O.N.G. These are things you can do online now, guys. In the latest DONG on the DONG channel (ok I’ll stop saying dong now) you can learn about impossible objects, create your own metamorphosis, create your own line illusions, and just have fun with some cool things you can do online now, guys. Oh, and there are some great puns which really was the selling point of this video.
Why it’s hot:
I recently re-discovered this page and I forgot about all the things you can actually do on the internet that aren’t tied to lowering one’s self-esteem by scrolling endlessly on social media and being envious of what everyone else is doing. Long story short, have fun, play games on the internet, find more dong’s!
Book an appointment with your local divorce registration office with the click of one button. Chinese messaging platform WeChat launched a new service that allows couples to file for divorce straight from the app. Only available to users in the Guangdong province for now, the feature is planned for a nationwide roll out.
Why it’s hot:
Messaging apps have become end-to-end lifestyle ecosystems and with 1.8 Billion messenger app users demanding new products and services, they offer immense opportunities for brands.
Winning trend-driven innovators understand – and then stay laser-focused on – the needs and wants of their customers. And then use those needs and wants to guide to which platforms, devices and technologies to innovate around. – Trend Watching
The Wakino Ad Company is literally turning heads with it’s out of the box new product offering. It is now placing advertising in the armpits of young women. Armpit rentals start at about 10,000 yen (S$120) an hour. No word on what the ad wearer gets.
Wakino is owned by a Japanese brand that specializes in armpit beauty products and has already snagged its first client, a dermatology chain advertising painless underarm hair removal.
They are recruiting for aspiring models on their site, are open to male models as well, and even organizing an armpit beauty contest.
Why It’s Hot
Because it shows the importance of matching product to placement.
A new Think with Google article has been published: “Why people need to ‘know before they go‘: Today people can – and do – prepare for every aspect of any experience, big or small. Whether they’re taking a vacation across the globe or dining at a neighborhood café, people have a low tolerance for surprises.”
Here are some of the highlights I found particularly interesting and helpful…
“We analyzed search trends and spoke to consumers, identifying three motives that drive them to know before they go. Explore the data to understand how your brand can provide value in these moments.”
Many want a look at what their experience could entail. For example, we’ve seen over 55% growth in mobile searches for “menus” over the past two years.
Rising inquiries include…
People feel a need to prepare for every detail of their experience – from exploring maps to confirming business hours. Consider this: mobile searches for “wait times” have grown 120% over the past two years.
Rising inquiries include…
Making the most of a budget:
In the past two years, mobile searches for “do you tip in _” have grown over 70%
Rising inquiries include…
Why it’s hot / implications for marketers:
Understand intent signals: Whether it’s to get excited, build confidence, or manage their money, people are using search to shape and validate the decisions they make. We should understand this to adapt our messaging accordingly.
Build useful tools: People rely on the web to plan the best experience possible. We should provide assistance with tools that cater to these experiences.
Lumen is a pocket-sized device that analyses a user’s metabolism from a single breath, offering personalised advice to help manage an individual’s fitness and weight loss goals.
Lumen guides the user on how much breath to draw in and out through the device using a paired app. The device then calculates what different gasses are currently in the person’s blood and lungs. An RQ measurement usually takes an hour to process, although with Lumen the reading is determined in less than a minute.
The app will also suggest meal options based on whether your body needs carbs or fat. All of the meal suggestions are linked up to Amazon Fresh and can be purchased within the app.
Why it’s Hot
This partnership ensures that people spend a maximum amount of time with the app. By making the personal food recommendation immediately and conveniently accessible through the app, the user is also much more likely to purchase meals directly from Lumen, rather than a competitor.
Founded by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft, the Data Transfer Project, revealed its plans for an open source data portability platform any online service can join.
While many companies already let you download your information, that’s not very helpful if you can’t easily upload and use it elsewhere — whether you want to evacuate a social network you hate, back up your data somewhere different, or bring your digital identity along when you try a new app.
The DTP’s tool isn’t ready for use yet, but the group today laid out a white paper for how it will work.
Why it’s hot
DTP means users are free to choose whichever app best competes for their data and attention.
A Google search for “men’s dress shirts” yields a list of ads and results from the most expected brands. But if you install a new Chrome extension called DoneGood, you’ll also get a lesser-known suggestion: Tuckerman, a startup that makes organic cotton shirts in a union factory in Massachusetts.
DoneGood uses independent certifications, from B Corps to Rainforest Alliance, to screen companies, along with independent research.
The company also makes an app that lets customers search for companies more directly, by choosing a product and selecting values–like “women-owned” or “green.” DoneGood piloted an early version of the app in Boston while the startup was incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Both the extension and app were released nationally on November 28.
Why it’s hot
I think people always want to make ethical choices when shopping for things like good and clothing, but lack of knowledge and price point are the biggest hurdles. Extensions and apps like this, that can alleviate one of those issues, is very helpful for people looking to make a change.
Can’t tell the difference between a machine screw and a connector screw? Don’t worry, Amazon just added an AR feature to their app to identify one from the other.
Part Finder uses the AR capabilities of the iPhone to measure the depth and width of the part. You must line it up next to a penny and on white paper, so you can’t identify the part anywhere. Some people have reported that even when aligned on white paper, the technology takes a few tries to get the correct result.
Why it’s hot:
People are always building stuff. You have to build that Ikea couch but they forgot to include the right number of screws? You can take a picture of it and Amazon, with Prime shipping, will mail it you in two days.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs is using virtual reality as a fun and safe way to let potential customers play with power tools in their stores. Their latest installation involves a hedge trimmer–actual blades removed, of course.
The experience was built on HTC Vive VR, with accurate visual approximation and the real vibrating feel of trimming hedges. It’s also gamified, giving out gold stars for a job well done.
The pilot test across several cities has seen great success. People’s confidence with the product increased 127% after the experience.
Why It’s Hot
This is a smart way to help people test drive products that would normally be difficult to evaluate before purchasing. It also helps people get comfortable with tools that might otherwise intimidate them.
United Airlines started to face a challenge when they moved all of their flights from JFK to Newark – New Yorkers do not like to fly from Newark because they considered it too far away. To help with this problem, the airline created a data-centric campaign using digital displays on taxis to give live companions of travel times to JFK and Newark.
They worked with Verifone (tech company) to create the technology and Curb (taxi-hailing app) to provide real-time travel time estimates to each airport based on the cars location and traffic.
As a result, more than 810,000 new passengers chose to fly out of EWR during the period the campaign ran.
Why it’s hot: Price and convenience are key drivers that influence consumer decisions when it comes to purchasing flight tickets. United Airlines’ campaign cleverly used live data and met a key consumer pain point – convenience.
Girl Scouts is launching 30 new STEM-related badges including space exploration, cyber security, mechanical engineering & robotics.
The badge rollout announced Tuesday comes at a tense time for Girl Scouts: Boy Scouts of America started accepting girls into its programs last year in a shift toward inclusivity, which the Girl Scouts outwardly opposed.
The new programs, which include programs for multiple age groups, are designed to address a growing science and technology workforce and help girls fill a leadership gap, especially in STEM fields. For girls in 11th and 12th grades, some programs are designed to tackle the college admissions and financial aid application process.
Additionally, Leadership Journeys titled “Think Like a Programmer” and “Think Like an Engineer,” allow girls to pursue their own projects in their communities based on skills they’ve learned. One troop in Colorado developed an app, Daily Daisies, that sends positive messages to high school students’ phones each morning to encourage positive self-esteem during what can be a stressful time of life.
Girl Scouts are learning how to proactively address some of the foremost challenges of today while also building skills that will set them up for a lifetime of leadership.
Why it’s Hot: These new Girl Scout programming will build skills and encourage interest in STEM areas that young girls are not typically encouraged to explore outside Girl Scouting. Sparking interest in these areas from a young age can lead young girls to pursue STEM classes and careers and potentially reduce the gender gap in the most prominent, emerging fields.
“A NEW ROBOTIC grabber wants to be the very best, like no sampler ever was. To catch deep-sea creatures is its real test; to release them safely is its cause.” A real-life Poké Ball with a mission now exists. Scientists have created a gentle 12-sided robot that’s about the size of a bowling ball that will be unleashed to crawl the dark depths of the ocean… for science! This new bot can “safely catching swimming jellyfish and shape-shifting octopuses in water more than 2,000 feet deep”
The core purpose of this soft new bot is to rid the harmful outdated ways of capturing and studying the mysterious depths. Traditional methods included trawling nets that end up killing specimens and basically annihilating soft specimens. “Squishy Fingers” was first born in 2014 by Gruber and Wood with the purpose of collecting and handling the delicate organisms.
Why it’s hot?
It’s so deep. This bot is able to descend more than 2,000 feet into the abyss collect, scan, and release organisms safely without harming them and without completely disrupting their ecosystem. This is an incredible solution to further the studies of the deep dark blue and not kill all the creatures!
AT&T AUDIENCE Network created a VR escape advergame for their new show Mr. Mercedes. The game is all told from a first person perspective, putting the user in the shoes of the characters in the show to discover clues and find a way to escape.
The game incorporates footage directly from the set of Season 2 making it look awesome and is a great tease for watching the show. That along with it being a VR escape game, a genre that doesn’t have a flooded market, yet for gamers makes this advergame really stands out with the gamer audience.
“Escape before time runs out or be trapped in Brady’s lair forever! And, whatever you do, don’t let him inside your head.”
Why it’s Hot:
Great way to have gamers find out about the show that were unaware of it previously
Instead of stressing over impending death after searching online about a mild cough, a new self-diagnostic app called K Health wants to offer users relevant and accurate information based on data and health records of other people who suffered similar symptoms.
The Israel-based company uses machine learning to compare 1B+ medical charts, labs and doctors’ notes to show people how people like them dealt with the same symptoms. (Essentially, it’s a crowdsourced Web MD). “With K, we use real data from millions of people so [users] discover and understand the medical outcomes of people like [them] and have informed conversations with providers about treatment options,” said Allon Bloch, the co-founder and CEO of K Health.” It’s about time people had unfettered access to trustworthy health information backed by real doctors as opposed to the generic and confusing information found online.”
It can also help users book appointments with physicians who already have HIPPA compliant access to the platform’s K report through partnerships with local providers, now available in New York.
Why it’s hot: This is just another example of giving people real-time access to health information through easy chat functionalities, that is crowdsourced from credible information, and ultimately connects them with the professional care they need.
AccorHotels launched something it calls the Seeker Project, a program that uses your heartbeat and instinctual reactions to different scenery to show you places its algorithm thinks you may want to visit.
There’s a website version anyone can try, but the whole thing started when a number of influences were invited to Toronto and “asked to wear a headband to monitor their alpha and gamma brain waves and wrist cuffs that measured their heart rate and skin response. The experience then determined whether that person was an introvert or extrovert, sought tranquility or adventure, or preferred modern to rustic environments.
The biometric data was then processed through a custom algorithm and produced into a psychographic illustration and the visitors received recommendations for dream destinations based on their personal data.”
It provided results looking something like the ones I got below:
“You are craving a chance to reconnect with the world in a warm destination. You have a preference for classic and traditional surroundings and need to recharge in a spa getaway. You feel most at home in the serenity of the outdoors. A romantic getaway is what your heart wants.”
Why It’s Hot:
We can think we know what we want, and go after it, but how do we know there isn’t something else we really want? Using unconscious signals to make suggestions will allow them to help us uncover things we may never have known otherwise. Granted, it’s not revealing serious information like other biometric products we’ve seen recently. But, it’s interesting to see what’s possible now that we’re able to tap into biometric data in new ways.
Bumped is an app-based stock brokerage and loyalty program that turns shoppers into shareholders. In other words, when a user spends money on a brand associated with Bumped, they are rewarded with a fraction of shares in the brand. Some of the brands already participating include Chipotle, Target, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Netflix, Kroger, and Shake Shack
How it works:
Download the Bumped app and create an account linked to your debit or credit card
Select your preferred brands from a list of participating companies (only publicly traded companies)
Spend money on products from your preferred brands and build small stock positions in them
Users can then decide to either sell or hold their stock as it accumulates or depreciates in value
After a purchase, for example, a user receives a push notification with a message such as, ‘You just got Bumped 9 cents for buying coffee from Starbucks’
Currently, users receive an average of 1 to 5% of a single share per purchase. However, this depends on the brand because the brand decides its share reward percentage, while Bumped handles the logistics of buying the shares from capital markets.
Note: Bumped does not charge consumers any fees for its services and is a registered stock broker-dealer in the US. The service is still in beta testing so you must join a waitlist to get in (which I am currently on – https://bumped.com/)
Why it’s hot:
Not only is this app getting more of the population to take part in the stock market (especially us 20 somethings) but it is also building stronger relationships between the consumer and brands they love. By feeling they have partial ownership of the brand, they are more likely to advocate on behalf of the brand.
The Ministry of Technology and Communications in Colombia has partnered with MullenLowe Bogota to create My Line, a voice assistant tool powered by Google, that helps residents in remote areas gain access to internet information.
In Colombia, many people in remote regions can’t access the internet. The majority of communities also don’t have laptops or smartphones, although most do have a legacy phone or a landline.
For example: With My Line, Colombian residents can dial 6000913 and use their voice to search for simple queries. For example, what’s the weather going to be like today? Or, what ingredients does the Ajiaco soup have?
Why it’s hot
By investing in My Line, the ministry is showing the country that it is investing in the entire region and population, not just the businesses and people in the country’s cities.
At the annual I/O developers conference in May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that users now have six additional options for their Assistant’s voice, one voice of which is John Legend. Google Assistant has now rolled out their a creative UI that allows users to pick a voice by color. You tap on the color associated with a given voice which Google says they chose at random, and then you listen to a sample of the voice and select from there.
Why It’s Hot: Not only is Google Assistant offering a range of male and female voices, they’re using an intentionally vague selection mechanism (color) as opposed to more traditionally gendered names or even just the labels “male” and “female”. This is a big improvement in equalizing the traditionally VERY gendered area of tech assistant voices, where almost all assistants are given female-sounding voices and names (Siri, Alexa, etc). Google Assistant itself had only a female voice until late 2017, when the option for a male voice was rolled out.
The justification often used for this systemic sexism is that studies show that both men and women choose and trust female voices more. The WSJ recently cited two studies that both found men and women find female voices “welcoming and warm” – the only exception being when the voices are teaching them about computers, in which case male voices are preferred. Female voices are especially desired when giving love and relationship advice.
Using the results of these studies, which simply reflect the ingrained misogyny in our society, to justify having ONLY female voices is lazy at best. So by giving users a range of voices, plus a vague selection system to choose them from, is a great step from Google toward allowing users to choose their voice without as much overt gendered signaling.
Hinge, the dating app that sets up friends of friends, unveiled a new feature called “Most Compatible” that utilizes a Nobel Prize-winning algorithm.
The algorithm ranks Hinge members by their preferences, pairing each member off with the member they would theoretically prefer most. The ‘Most Compatible’ recommendations appear simultaneously for both parties and disappear after 24 hours. To make these pairings, the app learns a user’s preferences through their liking and passing activity and uses that to pair them with a match whose preferences best align.
The method utilizes the Gale-Shapley algorithm, which was developed 56 years ago to solve ‘the stable marriage problem.’ The algorithm traditionally has individuals rank potential partners by level of preference and cycle through proposals and rejections until each individual is with the partner they prefer most (who isn’t already engaged). In the Hinge app, the algorithm is used to avoid endless browsing and increase success. And it seems to work: the new feature is 8x more likely to result in dates and the company saw a 400% increase in user activity after eliminating the standard ‘swipe’ feature.
Why It’s Hot: Although some users are nervous that their discovery will be limited, this introduction of most compatible matches will only make the process more seamless for users and could possibly become the new standard for dating apps and replace the classic swipe method.
Nike unveiled its new concept store, Melrose by Nike, on Melrose Avenue in LA. Everything about it, including its location and the products it stocks, is determined by how people in the area interact with the brand.
The idea is to blend the physical and digital shopping experience. Everything about the store is designed to work with the Nike Plus app. As soon as you enter the geo-fenced area, you start getting special deals on the app. If they think you’d be interested in a product they have on hand, whether you’ve specified it or not, they’ll reserve it for you in your size. All you have to do is access one of the many lockers in the store. If you see apparel you like, you scan the code, and a salesperson will come to you with it in your size.
Why it’s hot:
Brick and mortar business has grown stale. By blurring the line between digital and physical shopping, the customer will have a more personalized experience.
Clear, the company that lets people skip the TSA pre-check lines at airports, has announced it is teaming up with Major League Baseball and Tickets.com to introduce biometric ticketing at participating ballparks in 2019. A pilot program will arrive at select venues later this season.
The partnership will make use of the API of MLB’s ticketing technology company, Tickets.com. Clear members can link their profiles with their MLB.com accounts, entering Comerica Park or Yankee Stadium or AT&T Park with just the tap of a finger. There is also potential for more advanced tech like facial recognition. Lines would certainly move faster if all you had to do was walk right in!
The company is also planning to pilot biometric concessions in the state of Washington, meaning instead of getting carded for beer, fans can simply show a finger to prove their age. Clear is already at 13 stadiums across the nation, and while it charges air passengers to make use of the service, it will be free for sports fans.
Why Its Hot
Anything that makes lines move faster is ok by me! Right now, tickets on your phone is about as advanced as it gets, so it will be interesting to see how quickly new forms of tech can catch on.
Uber has teamed up with PayPal-owned Venmo to let people pay for rides and food via UberEATS with the funds in their Venmo account. According to the companies, more than six million payments mentioned Uber in the last year. The integration will also enable people to easily split the cost of food orders and rides with friends within the Uber app.
“Adding Venmo as a way to pay within Uber and Uber Eats furthers our mission to provide a seamless way to pay for the services that matter most to our customers,” PayPal COO Bill Ready said in a statement.
For Uber, this partnership is a way to further differentiate itself from its U.S. rival Lyft. Though, this is not an exclusive partnership, so Venmo could also team up with Lyft for payments. For Venmo, this is a way for the service to become more ubiquitous as it faces competition from Zelle, a bank-backed mobile payments service that’s on track to outpace Venmo in number of users sometime this year.
Within the Uber app, once you select Venmo as a payment option, you get directed to the Venmo app.
The integration will officially go live in “the coming weeks.”
Xfinity (to promote its mobile carrier service) recently unleashed a suite of 6-second pre-roll ads to show customers of their competitors exactly how much money a YouTube video they watch costs them in data.
The company says it’s tailoring the ads based on users’ carrier (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon), and the type of video they’ve chosen to watch, making it hyper-relevant to each viewer.
Why It’s Hot:
It’s not just advertising, but utility. If anyone you know can tell you how much it costs them to use data for different applications or purposes, they’re much more clued in than the rest of us. But more importantly, it’s intended to be personalized to each user, further signaling that the future of advertising (and products) are truly individualized.
Target has a secret app called Studio Connect that allows for a select group of customers, personally invited by the retailer, to participate in the brand’s product development process. The platform’s interface is similar to Instagram. While brands such as Everlane have used the social media platform to host an invite-only community, Target takes this consumer-loyalty initiative in-house.
SVP of product design and development at Target Julie Guggemos explains, “Studio Connect enables our designers to interact with guests at any point while developing products, encouraging conversations and adding a level of flexibility to the formal feedback process.”
A recent study shows that consumers are more inclined to trust brands that encourage them to be a part of the R&D process, and 79% of consumers expect brands to show how much they value customer insights. Through its use of a familiar interface, Target is able to build a community with consumers outside of the purchase stage of the customer journey. For example, When Target was creating tee shirt designs for Mother’s Day, consumers were able to provide slogan ideas via the app within 24 hours of the retailer’s inquiry.
Why it’s hot: Although this isn’t a net-new tactic for a company to implement, it is a step in the right direction for Target to further understand their consumers and develop the products they want and need.