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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.