Pop-up teeter totter wall

Rael San Fratello, <em>Tettertotter Wall</em> (2014). Courtesy of Rael San Fratello.
Over the weekend, there was a rare moment of celebration at the US-Mexico border: children from both countries played together on pink seesaws straddling the steel border fence separating El Paso and Juárez, Mexico. The almost surreally joyous scene was a temporary art piece titled Teeter-Totter Wall, meant to foster a sense of unity between the two nations.

Why it’s hot
Turn a highly charged area into a simple emotion about the joy of children’s playground
How can we inspire such simple meaningful ideas for our clients and brands?

 

Don’t hold the phone

Soli Pixel 4 Sensors

For the past five years, our Advanced Technology and Projects team (ATAP) has been working on Soli, a motion-sensing radar. Radar, of course, is the same technology that has been used for decades to detect planes and other large objects. We’ve developed a miniature version located at the top of Pixel 4 that senses small motions around the phone, combining unique software algorithms with the advanced hardware sensor, so it can recognize gestures and detect when you’re nearby.

Pixel 4 will be the first device with Soli, powering our new Motion Sense features to allow you to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand. These capabilities are just the start, and just as Pixels get better over time, Motion Sense will evolve as well.

Why it’s hot?
The beginning of the end of touchy feely devices.
How can we bring the insights that inspire our teams to create ideas using project soli?

 

Rise of the digital neighborhood watch

Old-school video cameras have long watched over stores and gas stations. Now, a new wave of technology, once too expensive and complex to be used by anyone but the police, is making its way into mom-and-pop shops, front porches and residential streets.

  • Video cameras that flag unusual movements and recognize faces are being stuffed into popular “smart” doorbells that constantly send footage to the cloud.
  • AI-powered “video analytics” can identify specific actions like smoking, and search thousands of hours of archived footage for one person. It’s popping up in public schools, like in Broward County, Fla., which includes Parkland.
  • License-plate readers are now guarding the entrances of wealthy neighborhoods, tracking every vehicle that passes and automatically flagging blacklisted cars.

Forget doorbell cams — some Denver-area neighborhoods are now equipping their streets with cameras that will photograph your car and scan your license plate. Such license plate readers stand ever vigilant in 10 neighborhoods in Denver, Lone Tree, Sheridan and Aurora, according to Flock Safety, the company that sells them.

Images of the vehicle are then uploaded to the company’s Amazon Web Services cloud server and the data collected from the image becomes part of a searchable database. The HOA members with access can then search the database by time or vehicle description. They can also give police access to the footage if a crime is reported

Companies like Flock Safety charge about $2,000 a year for the installation, maintenance and data storage for each solar-powered camera. Most customers are homeowner associations or neighborhood groups that pay for the cameras collectively.

Why it’s hot:

Because peoples’ perceptions of crime often don’t align with reality, crime rates have dropped precipitously since the 1990s. Crime is often based more on media representations and anecdotal evidence than statistics. The growth of private security technology like license plate readers seems inevitable, showing that people are still willing to trade safety for privacy—for now.

Cheers to ‘Performance Beer’

For years beer and running have been closer exercise buddies than you might think—marathon bibs often come with tickets you can trade in for a beer after crossing the finish line, running clubs often end their treks at a bar, and local microbreweries hand out new IPAs at the end of a race

Sufferfest was created in San Francisco in 2016 by Caitlin Landesberg, a trail runner herself, who wanted to make beer that would work with runners after grueling workouts—often called “sufferfests”—and not set them back. The FKT (or “Fastest Known Time”), a pale ale, for instance, is low in gluten—like all of Sufferfest’s beers—and brewed with black currant and salt to supply the electrolytes and sugars that runners typically crave at the end of a race. Repeat, a kolsch brewed with bee pollen, is supposed to help with muscle recovery

Bill Shufelt quit his job in finance and in 2017 launched a company dedicated to creating nonalcoholic but still delicious and thoughtful beers under the name Athletic Brewing. In addition to opening a taproom in Connecticut last year, he has signed a deal to distribute Athletic along the East Coast, with plans to expand nationally. Shufelt also sells Athletic beers directly to consumers, which is much easier to do when there’s no alcohol involved.

“Wellness” has emerged in the past few years as both a buzzword and a $4.2 trillion industry. It encompasses everything from green juices to yoga, the Whole30 meal plan to natural skin-care products, SoulCycle to Goop crystals. Also: running. Since 2012, the number of running events has risen steadily in the U.S. Younger generations, as Amanda Mull recently reported in The Atlantic, are less interested in drinking alcohol. Hard kombucha and seltzer, meanwhile, are on the rise.

Athletic beers like Sufferfest and Athletic Brewing are cementing their position by sponsoring events like the annual Big Sur Marathon or the massively popular Spartan Race.

Why its hot

Not drinking alcohol is a big sacrifice for a lot of people into a “healthy lifestyle.” You miss the social aspect of grabbing a beer with your friends, and then there are holidays and time off. Not every active person is sober, but many make that choice to drink very little or none at all. Drinks like “performance beer” give people that feeling back without the guilt of alcohol. It’s a really simple problem that just needs a product to solve it and big breweries are smart to get in on it.

“Consumption-as-a-Platform”, in a connected world

 

Amazon is taking another step in their ambition to connect-the-data-dots between our digital and our physical lives, doubling-down on smart home technology, as a critical new frontier. Recognizing the importance of new home purchases as a primary trigger to consideration of an end-to-end tech upgrade, Amazon is partnering with the nation’s real estate brokerage company (Realogy), to connect prospective buyers with the right home and the right technology for them.

All parties seem to get something out of the deal, but by offering customers aggressive discounts on smart home tech, Amazon hopes to unlock massive new revenue opportunities, through what’s being referred to as New Retail. The underlying idea is that the ubiquity of connected tech will ultimately create “a perpetual state of consumerism, one in which the consumer is by definition the channel and can consume anything he or she wants anywhere, anytime. Consumption can occur within the home, at work, in a store, while driving, etc. — it does not matter. It can happen anywhere.”

(Oh, and just think of all that data!)

Why It’s Hot: 

Removing frictions between physical and digital experiences, as well as between consumer intent and consumption action, will offer marketers more efficient means of transacting – in real-time, and at speed and scale.

Pinterest adds stress relief to your feed

Compared to the increasingly polarizing internet, Pinterest is commonly known as a collection of personalized happiness filled with wedding inspiration, street fashion, expertly styled living rooms, and tips for taking care of your plants. 

The company noticed their users were searching “vegan lasagna” and “hair ideas,” but increasingly they were also searching for pins related to “anxiety” and “stress.” These searches resulted in a perfectly nice collection of platitudes, but Pinterest’s product team thought they could do better. 

Today, they’re introducing an entirely new experience designed around emotional wellbeing, called “Compassionate search.” This is Pinterest’s attempt to offer its users a dose of comfort without veering too far from its core product.

How it works: When you type in an anxiety-related query—something like “work anxiety,” or “dealing with stress”—Pinterest will now display a box above the stream of pins that says “If you’re feeling sad or stressed, here are some resources that may help improve your mood.” 

If you click in the box, you’ll find a dozen exercises created in collaboration with Brainstorm, a mental health innovation lab at Stanford’s School of Medicine, and two other mental health organizations. A grid shows options for exercises like “refocus your attention” and “recognize your strengths.” Some, like “relax,” are guided meditations with audio. 

While Pinterest doesn’t see itself as a player in the mental health space, it says that it’s trying to recognize and respond to its users’ needs. 

In the past, Pinterest has approached emotional well-being by focusing on mitigating risk. “For a number of years, we’ve worked with emotional health experts to address pinners in distress,” says Ta. If someone searches for terms related to suicide, the platform nudges them toward the appropriate resources, like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Those and other terms, like “self harm” and “cutting” or “bulimia” and “thinspiration,” won’t display pins at all. Pinterest blacklisted those queries several years ago and instead surfaces a message encouraging pinners to get help.

The new exercises are modeled after clinical research from Stanford, which focused on short sessions to improve someone’s mood or reduce stress levels. The “micro treatments” are designed to work in any context, whether you’re on the subway or at the office, and completely for free.

Why it’s hot: This simple solution addresses a problem identified directly from its users. And while there are thousands of mental health-focused apps out there, deciding to download one can be a barrier in getting help in and of itself. Pinterest has an opportunity to serve people who need a pick-me-up, but aren’t ready to pay $60 a year for a subscription to Calm. Meanwhile, the new feature brings Pinterest even closer to its ultimate goal: being the place on the internet you go to find happiness.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/pinterest-compassionate-search/?bxid=5bea014d24c17c6adf0fdcde&cndid=51832394&esrc=subscribe-page&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_072219&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=WIR_Daily

Netflix’s Kind Of But Not Really Ads

Even though Netflix doesn’t do ads on the platform, they seem to be testing out a new form of “ads” by integrating brands into their shows, but not as a copromotional deal, purely as part of the “storyline”. Stranger Things Season 3 integrated brands like Burger King and Coca-Cola supposedly without any prior copromotional deal and obviously ended up advertising on their own. Netflix came out with a statement (after being called out for “branded content”) that they didn’t receive any payment or placement from third parties and “[the products are] all part of the Duffer Brothers’ storytelling, which references 1980s consumer and popular culture,” so essentially they are saying they did it all on their own, no conversations about promo with Coke or BK.

A research firm (Concave Brand Tracking) estimated that there was $15 million worth of product placement in the new season. It is definitively a risk as the brands don’t have to advertise the show as a normal copromotional deal would require, but these product tie-ins could be the segue for Netflix to get into a new wave of branded content. (Read more here)

Why It’s Hot:

It’s interesting that Netflix is so adamant about not wanting to advertise and making sure that image stays in tact aka not being a “selling out” for branded content (even though there are so many rumors or predictions about ads coming to Netflix).

They are definitely leveraging their own “cultural clout” other companies’ desire to reach the “Gen Z” or “Millennial” audience (Coke with their podcast on leadership + sustainability initiatives and BK with plant-based burgers + push in the digital space) to take full advantage of the advertising and partnership opportunities without there being an official transaction. It will be interesting to see if more shows adopt this form of partnership with brands as essentially get free ad campaigns and they are a subscription based business.

Smart Diapers – it’s about more than just poop!

Pampers has announced a new product called Lumi by Pampers, a “connected care system” to monitor your baby. The package includes a special “smart” diaper, which tracks your baby’s pee and sleep patterns, a mobile app, and Logitech video monitor. The one thing it doesn’t track? Poop.

Introducing the world's first all-in-one Connected Care System

Pricing has yet to be announced, but as a disposable product, they’re likely to become expensive. The bigger question is why, especially since this tracker tracks everything except your child’s poop patterns. This is a bigger trend in the diaper and baby industry overall. Getting “smart” keeps companies and products relevant and as people are starting families later and having fewer babies, Pampers, and other big diaper brands (Huggies) are trying to maintain their bottom lines.

Why it’s hot:

In addition to the “smart” revolution in which we’re currently in the midst, these types of innovations and new utilities don’t always come naturally to every brand. It’s interesting to see how the diaper industry is trying to find its way. We’re also seeing this challenge on Enfamil, which is trying to partner with companies to show their commitment to both babies and moms — while not every baby needs this type of monitoring, it could be an interesting partnership opportunity for the brand.

Article source: Mashable
Additional product links: Pampers

Retail wants a Minority Report for returns

In what now seems inevitable, an online fashion retailer in India owned by an e-commerce startup that’s backed by Walmart is doing research with Deep Neural Networks to predict which items a buyer will return before they buy the item.

With this knowledge, they’ll be better able to predict their returns costs, but more interestingly, they’ll be able to incentivize shoppers to NOT return as much, using both loss and gain offers related to items in one’s cart.

The nuts and bolts of it is: the AI will assign a score to you based on what it determines your risk of returning a specific item to be.This data could be from your returns history, as well as less obvious data points, such as your search/shopping patterns elsewhere online, your credit score, and predictions about your size and fit based on aggregated data on other people.

Then it will treat you differently based on that assessment. If you’re put in a high risk category, you may pay more for shipping, or you may be offered a discount in order to accept a no-returns policy tailored just for you. It’s like car insurance for those under 25, but on hyper-drive. If you fit a certain demo, you may start paying more for everything.

Preliminary tests have shown promise in reducing return rates.

So many questions:

Is this a good idea from a brand perspective? If this becomes a trend, will retailers with cheap capital that can afford high-returns volume smear this practice as a way to gain market share?

Will this drive more people to better protect their data and “hide” themselves online? We might be OK with being fed targeted ads based on our data, but what happens when your data footprint and demo makes that jacket you wanted cost more?

Will this encourage more people to shop at brick and mortar stores to sidestep retail’s big brother? Or will brick and mortar stores find a way to follow suit?

How much might this information flow back up the supply chain, to product design, even?

Why it’s hot

Returns are expensive for retailers. They’re also bad for the environment, as many returns are just sent to the landfill, not to mention the carbon emissions from sending it back.

So, many retailers are scrambling to find the balance between reducing friction in the buying process by offering easy returns, on the one hand, and reducing the amount of actual returns, on the other.

There’s been talk of Amazon using predictive models to ship you stuff without you ever “buying” it. You return what you don’t want and it eventually learns what you want to the point where you just receive a box of stuff at intervals, and money is extracted from your bank account. This also might reduce fossil fuels.

How precise can these predictive models get? And how might people be able to thwart them? Is there a non-dystopian way to reduce returns?

Source: ZDNet

Burger King Sweden: Meat Roulette

Burger King Sweden recently released two plant-based burgers, the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King.

To introduce the burgers, and to show customers that plant-based burgers make convincing meat substitutes, the food retailer created 50/50 Menu. Customers who order a Whopper or Crispy Chicken Burger from the 50/50 Menu could instead receive the Rebel Whopper and Rebel Chicken King. Customers can then guess if they are eating a plant or meat-based burger, and they can find out if they have guessed correctly by scanning the box using the Burger King app. There is no reward for guessing correctly, but the 50/50 Menu is cheaper.

Since the campaign (which lasts three weeks) launched on Monday, July 7th, 60% of customers have guessed correctly and 40% have been unable to tell the difference.

Why it’s Hot: 

As the conversation around plant-based meat substitutes continues to grow, Burger King’s activation successfully answers one of skeptics’ main concerns: do they actually taste good? The activation’s challenge-style approach and simple tech integration make trying plant-based burgers fun, even for those who aren’t on the plant-based bandwagon.

Source

ConCreates: A Stigma Breaking Agency

Vincent Bragg served five years, one month, and 22 days in federal prison on drug charges. In that time, he studied corporate and real estate law and read more than 400 books.

He also started a creative ad agency.

Today, though, marks the official launch of ConCreates, a creative shop staffed entirely by men and women who have been, or are currently, incarcerated, with an overall goal to challenge the stigma society so often applies to people with criminal histories. The agency operates on a crowdsourcing model, tapping into a network of 436 men and women currently behind bars, and 319 former prisoners on the outside, for skills depending on the work needed.

“We built a creative network based on certain individual skill sets,” says Bragg. “Where most might see a bank robber, we see a strategist.”

“Our mission is to challenge the stigma of how society views people with a criminal history, as well as how people with a criminal history view themselves,” says Bragg, who cofounded ConCreates with Janeya Griffin. “If we’re able to show them they’re not just a bank robber, or not just a drug dealer, that they have creative potential, then we can show them an opportunity to take a new career path.”

The original idea for ConCreates came to Bragg while serving time. While in prison, ConCreates contributor Joe Nickson consulted with MeUndies cofounder Jonathan Shokrian on a few campaigns. “We were able to give that founder some ideas that took his company from doing $50,000 in sales a month to $934,000 with only two campaigns,” says Bragg. “That was the birth of ConCreates.”

When he was released from prison on March 1, 2016, Bragg enlisted in the entrepreneurship program at Defy Ventures, an organization that works to help steer currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth toward the creation of legal business ventures and careers. Through that program, he met Tim Jones, executive strategy director at 72andSunny New York, an agency that works with such brands as Smirnoff, Samsung, Facebook, Seventh Generation, and more.

What really impressed Jones was how ConCreates wasn’t just about helping former inmates successfully reintegrate with society but taking it a step further and actually using the skills that may have landed them in prison and aiming them at a different outcome. “That was the real light bulb for me,” says Jones. “That criminality is often just creativity without opportunity. We don’t think one mistake should define a human lifetime. We think there is this raw creative force that resides in prison today. How do we help that become a positive force for society and for those locked up?”

The best phone calls Bragg has are with prisoners who have seen an avenue for their talents beyond crime. “Some of them think this is all they can ever do, and it’s all they know,” says Bragg. “It’s really powerful to give these individuals the idea that their skills are useful.”

Why it’s hot:

According to a 2018 report from Prison Policy, the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is more than 27%. ConCreates is seeking to give former prisoners a second chance in life by using their talents in a positive way.

Electronic Taste Test

IBM pushes boundaries once more with it’s latest development from IBM Research, IBM corporation’s innovation engine. Hypertaste, an AI powered electronic taste test.

IBM has called Hypertaste an ‘AI-assisted e-tongue for fast and portable fingerprinting of complex liquids.’ The portable device can reportedly recognise individual elements in liquids extremely rapidly without the need for a high-end laboratory.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/tongue-in-drink

How it works:

  • Electrochemical sensors (made up of pairs of electrodes) respond to voltage signals that capture the checmical information of a liquid
  • The data is then sent to the cloud where AI crossreferences it with a database of known liquids
  • Results are relayed to the device within seconds

Hypertaste can be used in industries such as pharma, fragrance, or healthcare as a quality gauge. It could also be used to test liquids for human and animal consumption and environmental monitoring. Among the benefits are speed and reduced cost for specialized instruments and equipment. But it’s biggest value may come from filling a large gap in the chemical analytics market. Currently lacking a portable tool capable of rapid fingerprinting of complex liquids.

Why it’s hot:

Aside from creating efficiency and lowering costs, Hypertaste can help brands ensure that their products remain up to standard to meet consumer expectations and build trust.

Area51, Memes, and brands

AREA51 Memes:
The internet is a funny place – full of overlapping references that can be challenging for the casual fan to appreciate and brands to activate against (without ridicule).

Recently a joke event page was made pushing people to ‘storm area 51’ (This phenomenon dates back to at least 2016 Ex. Tool @ Home Depot) 

Brands, particularly ones focused on the ‘youths’ all took a shot at getting on the joke.
LINK: We regret to inform you that brands are storming Area 51 memes – Mashable

Why it’s hot: 
If you try to please everyone, you’re going to please no one – something mass-market brands are / will continue to struggle with against smaller niche brands.

It’s interesting to pay attention to where brands will go.  Take for example Slim Jim’s recent success hiring a man who ran account making fun of slim jims are their new social media manager.

Growing the Meat-Free Market with… Vampires?

Birds Eye is launching a line of meat-free burgers, meatballs, and sausages. To announce the new products in the UK, they’re taking the comedic angle of vampires enjoying the taste:

Birds Eye is already present in 75% of British households, but only 35% of households are currently buying frozen meat-free products. They hope that rather than a “preachy” message, they can convince families to give meat-free a try by entertaining them.

Why It’s Hot

The meat-free frozen market is seeing 15% yearly sales growth, but most companies are not attempting to appeal to a wide-range market in this way. Making meat-free fun and approachable can appeal to new consumers.

Source

Grubhub under scrutiny…Food delivery wars heat up

New York is gearing up for an epic food fight.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., singled out Grubhub over the weekend, calling for greater oversight after allegations of unfair trade practices. The senior New York senator was reacting to recent reports that the delivery app company had improperly charged restaurants fees even when an order had not taken place.

Councilman Mark Gjonaj, the New York City lawmaker spearheading the push to regulate Grubhub, said it goes beyond just bogus fees.

“These mom-and-pop shops have an unfair disadvantage,” Gjonaj told CNBC’s “Fast Money ” on Monday. “They’re competing against billion-dollar venture capital-invested companies. The fee structure is up to 33% of the total charges, and we know [their] profits are 6% to 12%. On every order, there is a net loss to these small businesses.”

LINK

Why it’s Hot!

Grubhub, DoorDash, UberEats, etc. have created a huge benefit for consumers to easily have food delivered easy peasy, but whenever someone wins, somebody else usually loses. In this case the consumer is winning with food delivery wars creating tons of competition and incentives for us to have food delivered for a small fee and ultra convenience.

Well this story shows how it impacts these local restaurants with crazy fees that result in net losses in a low margin business to begin with. This brings to light if these disruptive digital businesses are viable with their high fees and increasing costs (higher minimum wage), etc.

DoorDash recently passed up GrubHub in revenue and eyeing an IPO, but for that convenience are small and local businesses going to be able to afford those fees or will only the larger establishments with high volume and margins be able to survive?

A monkey has been able to control a computer with his brain


Neuralink graphic
N1 sensor.
The N1 array in action.

Neuralink, the Elon Musk-led startup that the multi-entrepreneur founded in 2017, is working on technology that’s based around “threads,” which it says can be implanted in human brains with much less potential impact to the surrounding brain tissue versus what’s currently used for today’s brain-computer interfaces. “Most people don’t realize, we can solve that with a chip,” Musk said to kick off Neuralink’s event, talking about some of the brain disorders and issues the company hopes to solve.

Musk also said that, long-term, Neuralink really is about figuring out a way to “achieve a sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” He went on to say, “This is not a mandatory thing. This is something you can choose to have if you want.”

For now, however, the aim is medical, and the plan is to use a robot that Neuralink has created that operates somewhat like a “sewing machine” to implant this threads, which are incredibly thin (like, between 4 and 6 μm, which means about one-third the diameter of the thinnest human hair), deep within a person’s brain tissue, where it will be capable of performing both read and write operations at very high data volume.

These probes are incredibly fine, and far too small to insert by human hand. Neuralink has developed a robot that can stitch the probes in through an incision. It’s initially cut to two millimeters, then dilated to eight millimeters, placed in and then glued shut. The surgery can take less than an hour.

No wires poking out of your head
It uses an iPhone app to interface with the neural link, using a simple interface to train people how to use the link. It basically bluetooths to your phone,” Musk said.

Is there going to be a brain app store ? Will we have ads in our brain?
“Conceivably there could be some kind of app store thing in the future,” Musk said. While ads on phones are mildly annoying, ads in the brain could be a disaster waiting to happen.

Why it’s hot?
A.I.: you won’t be able to beat it, so join it
Interfacing our brains with machines may save us from an artificial intelligence doomsday scenario. According to Elon Musk, if we want to avoid becoming the equivalent of primates in an AI-dominated world, connecting our minds to computing capabilities is a solution that needs to be explored.

“This is going to sound pretty weird, but [we want to] achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” Musk said. “This is not a mandatory thing! This is a thing that you can choose to have if you want. I think this is going to be something really important at a civilization-scale level. I’ve said a lot about A.I. over the years, but I think even in a benign A.I. scenario we will be left behind.”

Think about the kind of “straight from the brain data” we would have at our disposal and how will we use it?

 

 

dr. google fails its boards…

It’s a behavior as old as the internet itself. Or at least as old as WebMD. People Googling symptoms and self-diagnosing themselves. Turns out that unsurprisingly, this is a worldwide phenomenon, and in Romania, 73% of people were doing it. So, to show Romanians they needed to SEE A DOCTOR ALREADY(!!!!!!!!!!1111), the private healthcare provider Regina Maria put Doctor Google to the test, literally. They gave it the same residency exam wannabe Romanian doctors have to pass in order to become certified. In no surprise to anyone, a prominent Romanian journalist Googling answers to the questions got a dismal 36 out of 200 correct – an 18% score.

According to the brand, “Regina Maria also made the test public for the rest of the country to take for themselves online. Those who didn’t pass were presented with a certificate of failure that could be used as a voucher within Regina Maria’s clinics.

To promote the Internet Residency Exam, Regina Maria created Google ads based on the most common symptoms people searched online and encouraged people to ask a real doctor instead.”

Why it’s Hot:

Instead of simply telling people Google isn’t good at helping you fix yourself, it dimensionalized just how poorly it does the job. One might intuitively accept that self-diagnosing and treating based on a Google search isn’t the best approach, but it’s a whole other thing to see how the knowledge you can glean from it compares with the knowledge of a doctor. Showing, not telling, is the most powerful way to make a point and change behavior.

Is FaceApp an Giant Russian Conspiracy… or Just an App with a Really Severe Privacy Policy

FaceApp has had it’s time in the sun over the past two years. Don’t you remember famous hits like “what you look like as a woman/man” or the very un PC “what you look like as another race”?

This week our entire feeds are filled with FaceApp photos of our friends if they were old. As well as warnings about how the tech is Russian. In our friends defense, the tech is VERY eerie.

https://twitter.com/yashar/status/1151311662592532480

Yes, the FaceApp tech has a very scary privacy/end user agreement:

But the best hot take of all comes from VICE… 

It’s not that the App is Russian is bad, it’s us allowing apps to have this much data about us at all…

“Extracting data from unsuspecting users, selling and sharing that data god-knows-where, and justifying it by providing users unreadable privacy policies is a near-universal practice. It transcends Cold War phobias. It’s not Russian. It’s not American. It’s a fundamentally capitalist practice. Companies can only provide free apps and profit if they scrape and share data from the people that use it.”

WHY ITS HOT?

We allow apps like Facebook, Instagram and snapchat to access much deeper levels of our data than they need, but it takes a true Russian scare to call us to action about this issue.

The WeWork for therapists

Alma: 
With increasing dialogue and concern about mental health in America, Alma, the recent recipient of $8m in funding, is aiming to improve the experience for both therapists and patients.

Providers can apply for membership then book rooms, flexibly – at their own convenience.
Additionally, “Alma provides members with a suite of services, such as billing, scheduling, and tools for treating patients over video chat”.  It also gives providers a place to create community. 

On the patient side of things, “Alma has a “matchmaker” on staff who specializes in mental health counseling, and is devoted to pairing patients with professionals that suit their specific needs.”

Why it’s hot:
As the idea of seeing a therapist and discussing mental health becomes increasingly normalized in society – few entities are doing anything to simplify and bring some level of uniformity to the experience.

How Unpredictable Is Your Subway Commute?

Recently published in NYTimes, this article is a great example of useful data visualization and interactive content.

While the key point is about the factor of variability as an overlooked aspect of commuting data (NYC as particularly guilty of a lot more variability than other cities), I thought the best part was the way they used data to tell a customized story while reporting on the variability aspect.

Source: NYTimes

Why It’s Hot: 

Great use of data visualization and personalized content

Veloretti Bikes courting car owners in Paris

Paris is Europe’s most polluted capital city. To prevent people from dying of particulate pollution, 2.7 million high-emissions cars are restricted from entering the city on weekdays — with hefty fines for noncompliance. If you work in the city, but can’t afford a new low-emissions car, this is a huge problem. You need to get into Paris, and may in theory also want to curb your emissions, but that’s not your main concern — you need to get to work! So what can you do? You’ll ride the train even though it’s a serious downgrade from your car. You might consider a bike, but making the switch to commuting by bike would require more of a nudge because it entails a bigger change in your lifestyle.

Amsterdam-based Veloretti bikes saw this as an opportunity to give car owners the nudge they needed to make that lifestyle change. They rode the wave of interest in clean mobility and sustainable urban transport during European Mobility Week 2018 by offering personalized bike discounts to 5 million Parisian car owners based on their car’s emissions ratings. This positioned the brand as not only helping car-owners, but helping the city itself solve its pollution problems.

The brand plugged the public database of license plates into a Shopify script, converting plates into coupon codes, which users could enter on Veloretti’s site. This gave Veloretti emissions information on a prospective bike-buyer’s car, which was used to automatically calculate a personalized discount at the POS. The worse the emissions score of your car, the deeper discount you got for a new Veloretti bike.

Seeing your car’s negative environmental impact at a time when both pollution and awareness of the need for clean mobility is at its peak in your city was coupled with a commensurate discount on a more sustainable transportation option.

Why it’s hot:

1. License plate discount is only revealed after user has placed a bike into their online cart. Commitment to purchase is strengthened as user sees their emissions score and subsequent discount.

2. Positioning their brand as a solution to pressures from macro forces and social trends (climate change, pollution, fines for driving in Paris, Mobility Week) at the time when awareness of these pressures was at its peak.

3. Highlighting a pain point with a competing product and immediately flipping it into a tangible financial benefit for their product — at the POS.

Read more: Contagious I/O

Google project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests

Screen Shot 2019 07 11 at 2.06.56 PM

A new project from Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120, aims to help people find things to do and others who share your same interests. Through a new app called Shoelace, users can browse through a set of hand-picked activities, or add their own to a map. For example, someone who wanted to connect with fellow dog owners could start an activity for a doggie playdate at the park, then start a group chat to coordinate the details and make new friends.

The end result feels a bit like a mashup of Facebook Events with a WhatsApp group chat, perhaps. But it’s wrapped in a clean, modern design that appeals more to the millennial or Gen Z user.

Why it’s hot:

If Shoelace is successful at bringing like-minded and like-interested people together, the functionality could be used by clients, like Enfamil, that are trying to inspire real-world and real-life connections between moms, in an authentic and less brand-centric way.

 

Source: New Google Area 120 project Shoelace aims to connect people around shared interests | TechCrunch

From Virtual Trees to Living Forests

Ant Forest is an app-based game that is sweeping across China. The game rewards users with green energy points for choosing low-carbon activities like taking public transportation or using less plastic. Once players have earned enough green energy, they can plant a virtual tree in Ant Forest. For every tree planted in the virtual game, a real tree is planted in rural China. The game’s creator says one-hundred million live trees have been planted so far.

Link to video

Why it’s hot: An idea that works like real life gratification of social changes and purpose-driven initiatives that would work well with the new generations of consumers.

Source

An 8-Bit Idea in a Quantum World

Game, Set Match?

In a world relentlessly focused on innovation, every once in a while a low-tech solution comes around that just makes us smile. While most digital marketers looking to capitalize on the global attention of an event like Wimbledon might set out to engineer the most whiz-bang interactive experience imaginable, one of the most whiz-bang companies in the world imagined something a whole lot less…well, “whiz-bang”. Google’s pong re-skin offers people searching for “Wimbledon scores” a delightfully low-tech distraction, that’s sure to get their attention.

Why It’s Hot

A strong testament to the importance of creative approaches to the full experience, vs the pure creative horsepower of an individual interaction. Smart, fast, effective.

“The doctor will see you now…”

Are voice assistants about to pivot from minor annoyances to truly helpful utilities? 

In an era of fake news and dubious digital sources of information, Amazon is trying to make it easier for people to access real expertise, using their Alexa voice assistant. Through a partnership with the National Health Service, they’ll help people get quick, “official” answers to some of their nagging medical questions.

Great news, for people who don’t have time to get to a doctor, or even focus their attention on a screen. Perhaps less-than-great news for people with privacy concerns associated with connected devices. For the rest of us, an interesting dilemma.

Why It’s Hot

Marketers are going to be challenged to balance tremendous new opportunities against a never-before-seen level of risk, as they explore new ways of interacting with consumers, alongside new revenue opportunities. The “winners” will disrupt their categories, to great competitive advantage, while the losers potentially lose it all.

Robot umpires make their professional baseball debut

At the independent Atlantic League’s all-star baseball game on Wednesday, the “electronic strike zone” made its professional baseball—and American—debut. According to Yahoo Sports, the robotic umpire, called TrackMan, helped home-plate umpire Brian deBrauwere assess whether pitches were balls or strikes via an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket. The iPhone was loaded up with the TrackMan computer system, which uses a Doppler radar to track the pitches. deBrauwere, positioned right behind home plate, called the pitches as he received the information from the program.

MLB claims the technology is intended to help busy home-plate umpires and pinky swears that human umps are still needed and is working with the union to keep everyone happy.

One pitcher told the AP that TrackMan called high strike zone pitches that human umpires frequently miss. Of course, players will only agree with the umpire until they disagree with the call, but that’s just part of baseball.

Why its hot

As a baseball fan, I can tell you a lot of fans are divided on this issue. Some want to see calls made correctly if there is the technology to ensure that happens. This was the main driver of the introduction of replay a few years ago. Others believe that the game should not be changed, regardless of what technology might exist, and that the human element is just part of it. Personally, I don’t like a robot umpire that makes the ‘correct’ call every time because I do like that human element, but only around balls and strikes. When it comes to replay, which governs things like fair or foul, or safe or out, I do want replay because those things are more grounded in fact than balls and strikes, which are more subjective. It’s an interesting discussion of where we will allow some possibility for error when when the technology to solve it exists.

Havaianas Makes a Shoppable Boardwalk Mural

For their latest campaign, “Step into Summer,” Havaianas collaborated with renowned street artist, Buff Monster, to transform the Venice Beach Boardwalk into an immersive art installation and shoppable AI experience.

The activation began with a 15′ x 85′ mural at Venice Beach, which was crafted from rubber to correspond with Havianas’ rubber-soled sandals. The brand then encouraged people to step onto the mural and scan their favorite part of the artwork via a microsite on mobile. The microsite uses Google Vision AI technology to identify that section of the mural, then it matches consumers with corresponding sandal styles to purchase.

Influencer partnerships helped to promote and support the activation.

Why it’s hot: OOH isn’t just about billboards anymore – it’s an opportunity to have people interact with your brand in new ways. Pairing mobile with OOH also opens the door for follow-up interactions, helping brands drive consumers down the marketing funnel.

Another thought – this is also a great way to fast track toward personalization / customization for new customers.

Uber Launches “Quiet Mode”

Yesterday, Uber launched a new tier of rides called “Uber Comfort.” The new service offers nicer vehicles, more highly rated drivers, and temperature and conversation preferences in exchange for a 20% to 40% premium over standard UberX fares.

When calling their car, users can request “quiet preferred” or “happy to chat” in their conversation preference, as well as warmer or colder temperatures. This isn’t Uber’s first primary feature. In fact, Uber now has 7 tiers — Express Pool, Pool, X, X Diamond, Comfort, Select, and Black. These increase in tiers allows Uber to charge more for slightly better vehicles, highly rated drivers or drivers that are willing to talk less and crank the AC.

Reactions to the launch of “Quiet Rides” have been mixed. Some people argue that forcing Uber drivers to bite their tongues is another example of Uber imposing harsh working conditions on its drivers. Critics consider the quiet option an affront to the dignity of the drivers, making them act like robots (in a job that will soon be threatened by self-driving cars). But other riders appreciate the consistency and control they have over their travel, especially business travelers, who say that they are able to be more productive en route to the airport or meetings. Supporters also point out that the new Comfort Mode allows drivers to earn an extra 20% for rides of the same duration and distance, making the silent treatment well worth their while.

Why it’s hot: Enabling these rider preferences could help Uber differentiate itself from competitors like Lyft and squeeze more cash out of passengers by training them to use its upgraded tiers. But on a more human level, this feature feels like a Black Mirror-esque development in technology that prevents us learning and using basic social skills.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2019/07/09/uber-comfort-quiet-ride/

How much would you pay to have a phone-free family dinner?

Parents around the country, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

The Screen-Free Parenting Economy

“Screen Consultants” come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Some coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions.

https://thescreentimeconsultant.com/

The No-Phone Pledge

In a movement reminiscent of the “virginity pledge” — a vogue in the late ’90s in which young people promised to wait until marriage to have sex, groups of parents are banding together and making public promises to withhold smartphones from their children until eighth grade.

https://www.concordpromise.org/

https://www.waituntil8th.org/

https://www.turninglifeon.org/

Why it’s hot?

My favorite reason why this is hot is this: The gap between rich and poor is now measured by the lack of tech. The rich are banning screens from schools, while public schools even offer digital-only preschools.

What does a world where those who get ahead, are the “have nots” rather than the “haves”?

Hint: Inside A Tech-Free School Where Tech Executives Send Their Kids

Buy now, pay later

To win over cash strapped Gen Z and Millennial shopper, apparel brands are launching buy now, pay later programs taking a cue from electronics and furniture companies that have long offered similar programs.

Abercrombie & Fitch — which in addition to its namesake brand also owns Abercrombie Kids and Hollister Co. — announced on July 1 it would partner with payment solution provider Klarna to enable shoppers to pay for purchases in installments. As part of the program, US consumers can opt to make up to four interest-free payments over the course of two months. They are one of many brands that are experimenting with this. In June 2018, Urban Outfitters announced it would offer Afterpay – a Klarna competitor that also offers interest-free installment options — opening up the program for all of its brands including Anthropologie and Free People.

While services like Klarna and Afterpay may seem like an appealing alternative to shelling out for a pricey dress or handbag, they can ultimately lead to shoppers paying more. Since multiple payments make a hefty price tag seem more palatable, consumers are more likely to pay full-price rather than wait for sales or discounts. This is, of course, intentional — Afterpay CEO Nick Molnar has said previously that the program has been proven to increase conversion rates and incremental sales by up to 30%.

“Consumers expect choice,” Pierson said. “Today they have options to rent clothing from places like Rent the Runway and they have different ways to buy. They’ve grown up with a lot of flexbility, so seeing something like this in fashion and apparel doesn’t seem unusual to them.”

Why it’s Hot

Paying in installments isn’t only for big ticket products anymore. As we work with our clients, especially when partnering with our eComm friends at Optaros, it’s important that we consider the best payment strategies that will convert customers.