Theme Parks and Zoos Social Distance Hilarously

Some states are reopening, which poses a problem for businesses that have a big in person element. It’s hard to be confrontational, to ask people to stay apart. But some businesses are looking for ways to make something that might seem tactless, become hilarious.

Enter Gatorland’s “Skunk Ape”:

“People love Skunk Ape!” said Gatorland’s CEO. “People were doing selfies. From a safe distance, of course. He wouldn’t touch anyone.”

“A less crowded park might mean shorter lines for rides, especially if parks move toward “virtual queueing,” where visitors check in at a ride and receive a time to return later in the day. (Disney superfans noticed when the Disneyland app added a virtual queueing tab earlier this month.) But if your favorite park doesn’t employ this technology, your wait might be long—and very different. Queue areas will incorporate 6-foot social distancing through decals and signs applied directly to the pavement. The traditional “snake” line, weaving back and forth to pack a lot of people into a little space, will be replaced by longer straight lines stretching far from the ride.”

A roller coaster with only a few people on it with an arrow indicating the distance between the people.

In Japan, one Zoo is putting stuffed capybaras at seats to break up crowds

Why it’s hot?

This is a way to keep branding alive while still enforcing new social boundaries. There are new ways to enforce that are both digital and social/funny.  A combination will be needed to keep COVID spread down.

PAS – Pollination as a Service

BeeHero, an Israeli startup is buzzing as it works to upend the age-old practice of agricultural beekeeping.

Monoculture farms have decimated bee’s ability to pollinate naturally, this isn’t new, but the solutions we see out there are neither modern or precise. The typical process for farm pollination is that farmers call in beekeepers to pollinate their crops.

Hives must be deployed and checked manually and regularly, entailing a great deal of labor by the beekeepers — it’s not something just anyone can do. They can only cover so much land over a given period, meaning a hive may go weeks between inspections — during which time it could have succumbed to colony collapse, perhaps dooming the acres it was intended to pollinate to a poor yield. It’s costly, time-consuming, and decidedly last-century.

By using IoT in the hives, BeeHero can monitor temperature, humidity, and sound among others to gain insights. The combination of data from the hive and additional sources (eg. microclimate) is used to track the hive’s health, be it the queen’s level of stress, or the amount of pollen brought to the hive.The company has already seen success with increases in yields for soybeans, cashews, and apples that range from 30% – 100%.

With colony collapse killing bees at enormous rates, having early detection can help save at-risk hives.

That’s part of the company’s aim to provide value up and down the chain, not just a tool for beekeepers to check the temperatures of their hives.

Source: Techcrunch

Why it’s hot: other startups are tackling the problem, but at too small a scale to actually make a difference. Their holistic approach makes them a tech development to keep an eye on.

 

Netflix Willing to Lessen Revenue in Best Interest of Customers

Netflix to begin canceling inactive user accounts - glbnews.com

Netflix announced that it would begin reaching out to inactive users, who haven’t streamed anything on the platform in a year or more, this month. The pandemic’s impact on the economy inspired the company to ask these customers if they would still like to subscribe. If the users don’t respond, Netflix will automatically stop billing them for the subscription; as Netflix explained, “The last thing we want is people paying for something they’re not using… we hope this new approach saves people some hard-earned cash.”

Let’s be clear: With its latest ‘sacrifice’, Netflix isn’t exactly chopping off a limb here. In fact, these so-called zombie accounts make up less than half of 1% of Netflix’s total user base (which, by the way, has grown by over 15 million as a result of COVID).

Still, this proactive approach deserves applause. Especially when it seems like every industry (not just entertainment!) is trying to get in on the recurring revenue game; even brands like Panera (unlimited coffee for USD 9/month!) and Litterbox (that’s right, cat litter!) are launching subscription services. But consumers are fully aware, of course, that most brands will purposely make these services a hassle for customers to cancel. Netflix’s gesture stands out as a rare play in this sector, as the brand shows consumers — even those who choose not to pay them! — that it has their best interests at heart, and that they’ll make cancelling a zero-effort process. And as a result, the subscription services that don’t demonstrate equivalent levels of empathy will stand out.

Why it’s hot: While most companies want us to know what they’re doing so we feel good about continuing to subscribe to them/buy from them/consume content, Netflix seems to be stepping it up a bit by leveraging a re-engagement campaign in a new way. Instead of actively pursuing lapsed customers to continue their subscriptions, in these trying times, Netflix is making it easy to opt out of its service and if you’re so out of touch from them, they just won’t charge you. This could go a long way for good will in the future as people start to reestablish their fiscal comfort. But also, being honest, if you’ve been lapsed for over a year, they’ve already reaped enough extra cash from you. Hopefully this gesture will encourage other companies to do something similar.

Sources: Trend Watching, TechCrunch

Custom webcam system lets you take Zoom calls on your TV

Crestron, which offers services to help people customize their smart homes, has teamed up with Logitech and Zoom to make an at-home video conferencing setup using technology you’d typically find in an office conference room.

The setup could, for example, let you use your living room TV and a conference room-quality video camera to take Zoom meetings while reclining on your couch instead of being hunched over a laptop. That could be a much more comfortable way to take meetings or host group calls with family and friends while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The setup, called Crestron HomeTime, doesn’t require a specialized TV — it should work with any TV with an HDMI portHomeTime also takes advantage of the Zoom Rooms software, which is typically used in enterprises to help start and manage Zoom calls in conference rooms.

You’ll be able to start Zoom meetings using your HomeTime setup right from the remote or using the Zoom Rooms app – but it won’t be cheap. The standard cost for a single-room setup is $6,100, and tacking on additional rooms costs $3,100 each, according to the company. HomeTime will be available on Monday, June 1st.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much of life taking place over video conferencing, it makes sense that someone  came up with a solution that won’t involve everyone hunched over on a laptop. While this wildly expensive option won’t be for everyone, it feels likely that other companies will be scrambling to come up with similar, more wallet-friendly options.

Source

Watching TV Together From Afar

Hulu is releasing the test version of a new feature that let’s viewers connect while watching shows together online.

It is called Watch Party. It is the first release by a major streaming video provider of a technology that other companies are also working on in response to COVID19.

Why it’s Hot: 

Though its development was propelled by the pandemic, this is a technology that may continue to find an audience after COVID is over, subtly changing the landscape of our social interactions.

Burger King Adds More Onions to Support Social Distancing

Burger King Italia is retrofitting its signature burger to encourage people to remain vigilant in keeping their distance.

The “Social Distancing Whopper” features triple the amount of raw onions regularly put on the burger, in the hopes that your stank breath will create a barrier of its own.

Why its hot

Funny, lighthearted video at a time when most messages are serious. Now which brand is going to add extra beans? Looking at you, Chipotle.

Google releases Action Blocks for people with disabilities

Google released a new tool called Action Blocks for people with cognitive and motion disabilities. The system allows users and their caregivers to add Assistant commands to the home screen of Android phones and tablets. Each command is represented by a custom image and it can be controlled with just one tap. For instance, when a user taps an Action Block icon of a cab, the system might order a rideshare.

 

Also worth mentioning that Google has also improved its Maps apps to show if businesses or public venues have accessible entrance. When enabling this feature, you can see a wheelchair icon next to the location.

Why it’s hot: Embracing the diversity trend goes beyond race and gender. With something like 630 million people having some form of cognitive disability, this is not a niche group and it’s great that Google is providing services that ‘level the playing field’ for them.

Facebook launches Shops

Facebook is making a major new push into e-commerce. The company recently announced the launch of Shops, a way for businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. The shops, which will be powered by third-party services, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo, are designed to turn the social network into a top-tier shopping destination.

In a live stream, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said expanded e-commerce would be important to begin rebuilding the economy while the pandemic continues. “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

The launch of Shops comes as stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to record sales for e-commerce companies. The pandemic has also been devastating for small businesses, with a third of them reporting that they have stopped operating in a survey conducted by Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable. An additional 11 percent say they could fail within the next three months if the current situation continues.

But online sales have been a bright spot for small businesses. At Etsy, where solo entrepreneurs have leaned hard into knitting fabric face masks and baking pastries for sale, revenue has doubled from three years ago. Facebook is betting that bringing more local businesses online will help them to endure while also creating big new business opportunities for Facebook itself.

While Shops are free to create, they could create significant new business opportunities for Facebook in advertising, payments, and other services. Businesses will be able to buy ads for their Shops, and when people use Facebook’s checkout option, it charges them a fee.

Businesses can handle customer support issues through Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Eventually, the company plans to let you browse store catalogs and make purchases directly from the chat window. It also plans to enable shopping from live streams, allowing brands and creators to tag items from their Facebook catalogs so that they appear on the bottom of live videos.

Facebook is also working to integrate loyalty programs with shops. “You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” the company said in a blog post. “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

Shops will begin rolling out on Facebook today in the United States and are coming to Instagram sometime this summer. Instagram will showcase brands on its existing shop account, which already highlights items that are available for purchase. Later in the year, it plans to add a dedicated shopping tab to its navigation bar.

Why it’s Hot

This is a really smart move for Facebook. With small businesses across the country struggling to flex into e-commerce, Facebook stands to earn a lot of money (and even potentially good will) with this new feature. Plus, for small businesses – who often operate with very minimal staffing – having customer service, advertising, and sales all in one ecosystem will make the entire move to e-commerce a bit more manageable.

Source

A symbol to send a message about clean water

From The Stable:

Wash your hands is a Covid safety imperative. But there are millions of people without access to clean water. One in ten people in the world is denied access to clean water and one in four people out of ten don’t have a decent toilet of their own. Without these basic human rights, overcoming poverty is just a dream, as is good health and combating a deadly virus like Covid-19. International charity WaterAid has been working for a number of years to change this. Right now, that job is even more urgent and it has partnered with Don’t Panic on a new campaign, Bring Water.

The agency picked up the rainbow symbol, which has become part of the Covid community response, a sign of solidarity and belief that began in schools, and that now adorns streets, filling the windows of homes and the temporarily closed windows of restaurants and businesses across the planet. In the campaign film, You Can’t Have a Rainbow Without Water​, real rainbows are documented across the globe.

Why it’s Hot

It was smart to take a common symbol of hope (the rainbow) to make a clear statement that without clean water, there is no hope.

Source: The Stable

The Office. On Slack.

The office adapts to the way we work now! Welcome to The Office Slack, a slack reinterpretation of every episode of the office.

“The account comes from a creative collective known as MSCHF, “a group of 10 offbeat creatives based in a small office in Brooklyn.” They post on the Office Slack during traditional office hours, naturally (weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), in real-time, meaning some episodes take days or even weeks to fully play out.”

https://theofficeslack.com/#

Why it’s hot?

This is such an out of the box way to absorb content, can be used within your work tools while you’re working. You can check in or out at any time. True Office fans can pick up at any time…

Voices of Brussels

Like any metropolitan bus system, it’s something people in Brussels love to complain about. Buses are either too late or too full or often both. But it’s tough to complain about a message of love.

Since last week, Brussels’ public bus company STIB-MIVB has been calling on people to send in voice messages — and an address. Then, the special bus goes out in the early evening in a big loop to spread all the messages and leave a trail of happiness.

Yes, with smartphones and video calls, there is already a plethora of ways to communicate. But a love bus with the voices of children and dear ones?

“It gives me pleasure,” said Asuncion Mendez, 82, after hearing a message from her great-grandchildren. She said it broke the dreariness of another lockdown day indoors and momentarily eased her fear of the coronavirus.

“It was a beautiful surprise. It warms the heart and makes people come together despite the lockdown,” said her daughter Carmen Diaz, who watched and listened with her from a open window one floor above street level.

Lorena Sanchez, the daughter of Diaz and granddaughter of Mendez, says it’s a great idea. “It can really have an impact on a lot of people, especially the older ones who do not have access to technology,” said Sanchez. “It brings something very special.”

The bus company has been inundated with requests, about 750 messages from the blowing of kisses to a request by a child for someone to become her godmother, spokeswoman An Van hamme said.

Public buses are continuing to run in Brussels, with passengers required to board and exit by the back door and adhere to social distancing while inside.

The “Voice of Brussels” program is even leaving a smile on the face of bus drivers, so often the target of abuse.

Why it’s hot?
Talk about putting unused assets to work to fulfill a real human need during a pandemic

 

Source: Spectrum news 1

PepsiCo has launched two DTC websites this week – a first for the company

PepsiCo launched two new websites for consumers to directly purchase their portfolio of brands and products from the company itself as more Americans are shopping online due to the pandemic.

Website 1: Snacks.com 

Website 2: Pantryshop.com

Why it’s hot: The pandemic is forcing even more manufacturers to reach consumers directly, completely bypassing retailers at a time when people are are avoiding in-person shopping trips when they can.

Source

Google Lens is Bringing Analog to Digital

Looking for ways to be more productive at home? Google has evolved google lens to help you get things done while working from home.

With Google lens you can:

Copy text from paper to your laptop

You can already use Lens to quickly copy and paste text from paper notes and documents to your phone to save time. Now, when you select text with Lens, you can tap “copy to computer” to quickly paste it on another signed-in device with Chrome.

Learn new words and how to pronounce them

Google lens offered the possibility to translate words into more than 100 languages by pointing your camera at the text, but now it’s been enhanced to allow you to listen to the text be read out loud.

Quickly look up new concepts

Trying to understand a concept or a phrase? No problem. Google lens allows you to highlight and find search results.

Why it’s hot: There’s so much more we can do to connect the physical and digital world. Finding ways to evolve products and give them an added value that is fitting to consumer needs is a way to ensure adoption and customer loyalty.

if you don’t like “camera on”, maybe you’ll like “avatar on”…


You’ve likely seen a lot of talk about how the effects of our current pandemic quarantine may forever change how we work. You may even feel the change happening.

Currently, we’re all enjoying full days of video chats on Teams, Zoom, Slack, take your pick. Spatial is a similar collaboration tool that allows teammates to converse and interact in AR/VR.

It may or may not be a substitute for in-person interactions, but at least solves for some of the challenges of brainstorming and ideating when we’re not all in the same “space”.

Why It’s Hot:

While it’s unclear how quickly these types of virtual interactions will begin to become commonplace, a company like Spatial signifies it’s coming. Not just for workplace interactions, but also social ones.

[Source]

Billie Confronts Negative Self-Talk on Video Conferences

While working from home has allowed many of us to forego parts of our morning beauty routines, it can still be hard to shake the feeling that we’re not meeting those ever-elusive beauty standards, especially for women. That’s what direct-to-consumer shaving brand Billie aims to highlight—and debunk—in its new spot “Are We Doing Video?” released this week.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAFoqK1jSGw/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=embed_video_watch_again

The idea for the spot came after Billie co-founder Georgina Gooley noticed that every work from home Zoom meeting began with the same chorus of apologies. Part of that comes from being “face-to-face with your own face, so much more often than you would be if you were just working in a normal office,” she said. But it also speaks to a much bigger issue: that women find their failure to meet societal standards for beauty offensive enough to apologize for.

Gooley also pointed out the irony in people’s reticence to turn on their video during a chat. “The person on the other side really doesn’t care what you look like,” she said. “They’re just happy to see someone during this time.”

Doing all the campaign’s shoots over Zoom allowed for some unique opportunities. For example, the spot includes participants filming from their homes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain and Russia. To try to capture a more natural interaction between people, the director asked actors to recruit their friends to join the calls, so rather than having actors simulate a friend group or work team in a Zoom call, they were filming real family and friend groups chatting.

Calling out the unfairness and inconsistency of feminine beauty standards is something that’s been part of Billie’s DNA from the beginning. The brand launched in 2017 with the message that it wanted to offer a product that provided a way for women to get high-quality shaving products without the “pink tax,” which is a markup on women’s products just because they’re women’s products.

In 2018, one of the brand’s ads showing women with—gasp—actual body hair was flagged on Facebook as “adult material.” The groundbreaking goal of those ads was to frame shaving as something that women can choose to do or not, rather than something that’s a baseline requirement of femininity. “I think you’ll always see us really challenging the way women are sometimes pigeon-holed into having to look a certain way,” said Gooley.

Why it’s Hot:

As we see brands struggling to find their footing during the pandemic, it’s refreshing to see an ad that works and doesn’t begin with “in these unprecedented times.” Unlike many other companies who have tried to shift messaging during COVID to appear more relevant and sensitive, this spot doesn’t feel like a departure for Billie – it’s intrinsically linked to how they’ve always portrayed themselves, which is why it works.

As we continue to navigate advertising during COVID, it’s important for brands to remain grounded in what’s at the core of their brand.

Source

This AI makes neologisms by portmanteau-ing the English language

Yesterday a smart person named Thomas Dimson, who formerly wrote “the algorithm” at Instagram, launched a site that uses the Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithm: Transformers, and OpenAI‘s infamous GPT-2 AI-powered text generator, to generate and define new English words, and use them in a sentence.

It’s called This Word Does Not Exist, and it has so far created gems such as:

A disclaimer at the bottom of the site reads: Words are not reviewed and may reflect bias in the training set.

You can also write your own neologism and the AI will define it for you. It’s a fun diversion, but does it have any use? Probably not in this form. But it speaks to how AI may be used in the fun-and-games side of life, but also how it may ultimately shape the foundations of how we communicate.

Why it’s hot:

It’s fun to participate in the creation of something new (without having to work too hard), and language is the perfect playground for experimentation.

As AI becomes more influential in our daily lives, it’s interesting (and perhaps a little disturbing) to imagine the ways in which it may take part in creating the very words we use to communicate. What else might AI give us that we have heretofore considered to be the exclusive domain of humans?

Source: TheNextWeb

Spotify Wants You To Feel Less Alone

Spotify wants to help their listeners feel less alone by launching new site to show you who’s listening to what you are. Apparently, every second, more than 30,000 people across the world are pressing play on the same song.

The platform is launching a new site called “Listening Together” that shows where these simultaneous listeners are in real-time.

“By sharing how we are listening and making it easy for others to see the songs others are streaming at the same time,” says Alexandra Tanguay, VP of global brand at Spotify, “we’ll not only surface the content recommendations we are all looking for [but] we’ll also establish a sense of connection and the togetherness that we all need right now.”

The concept started as an experiment in 2014 when a media artist Kyle McDonald wanted to explore how to connect two listeners playing the same song.

On the Listening Together site, there is a map of the world that users can navigate by clicking and moving various points on the globe. As you move the map, locations with specific songs will pop up, then show exactly where and how far away from you that exact song is also being clicked.

“Nothing that we know is quite the same,” says Tanguay. “As a brand, we knew it would be tone-deaf to push forward without acknowledging this moment of crisis, recognizing how our listeners, creators, and the world are feeling, while bringing to the forefront what we can offer: content that can be either a welcomed distraction, a moment of self-care, or a valuable source of information.”

Why It’s Hot:

This program is interesting because Spotify is creating brand awareness while also acknowledging what’s going on, without being the typical “we’re here for you” messaging. It’s a really cool example of how they are using their data to bring people together.

Source

Catch up – Search Leads the Way

“75% of consumers said they would buy any brand available for the products they need.” (Forbes)

Loyalty as at an all-time low – and brands competing for consumers’ attention by turning to search. The latest comes from Heinz who combined search trends and consumer behaviors to reach people in-home and stay top of mind.

Promising to keep people entertained at home, the puzzle is mostly Heinz red and nods to the brand’s iconic packaging with the 570 pieces. Billing the puzzle as “ridiculously slow.” the brand gives a nod to their slow-moving bottles.


Search volume word puzzle

“Heinz  is known for its iconic slow-pouring ketchup. In a period when everyone has a little more time on their hands and puzzle popularity has skyrocketed, we wanted to help pass the time by connecting the two, ” said Kraft Heinz Canada Senior Brand Manager Brian Neumann in a statement.  “This puzzle is worth the patience, only this time, you can’t hold it at the perfect angle to solve it.

Why it’s hot: More than ever, we need to be attuned to what consumers want and how to safely get it to their homes. Finding areas where your brand can intersect with trending searches and in-home adaptations can help find brand disloyalty.

 

 

Weren’t greenhouse gas emissions supposed to drop dramatically this year as so much business activity went on pause?

Why CO2 Isn't Falling More during a Global Lockdown

Normally in a recession, you’d expect CO2 reductions to be associated with declines in manufacturing and shipping, said Houser of Rhodium. Almost the opposite has happened this year.

Shipping remains constant, and manufacturing has been slow to shut down. As Carbon Brief noted, Beijing even recorded a severe smog day during China’s lockdown. Many steel and coal plants continued to run throughout the shutdown, though often at reduced levels.

Instead, record declines in surface transportation are driving the world’s emission reductions. Rystad Energy, a Norwegian oil consultancy, estimates that traffic levels fell on every populated continent.

Traffic is down 54% in the United Kingdom, 36% in the United States and 19% in China.

Air travel, meanwhile, was down 40% in the 12 weeks since China reported its first 500 cases of COVID-19. In Europe, nine out of every 10 flights have been grounded.

The result has been a historic collapse in oil demand.

The global appetite for jet fuel will likely fall 65% in April and May compared with last year. In the U.S., gasoline demand for the four weeks ending April 17 fell 41% compared with the same time last year, according to Department of Energy statistics.

The International Energy Agency estimates that global gasoline demand will fall by 11 million barrels a day in April, the largest monthly decline on record, and another 10 million barrels a day in May.

Call it the crude disappearing act of 2020.

And yet the global economy is still consuming lots of oil.

Lost amid the hubbub around oil is this: IEA still expects the world to consume 76.1 million barrels a day in the second quarter of this year.

Who’s consuming all of that crude? For starters, gasoline and jet fuel demand is down dramatically but hasn’t disappeared. U.S. refiners sent an average of 5.5 million barrels of gasoline to the market over the last four weeks.

Diesel demand is down, but its losses have been limited thanks to the strength of freight and shipping. IEA expects diesel demand in 2020 to be down 7% compared with the previous year.

Then there are petrochemicals, which have been unevenly impacted by the crisis. Plastics used in auto manufacturing are down, but plastics used for food packaging are up.

Overall, IEA thinks demand for plastic feedstocks like ethane and naphtha will decline on the year, but not to the same degree as gasoline or diesel.

The numbers illustrate just how intertwined oil is with the global economy. Cars and planes can be parked en masse, and yet widespread oil consumption continues.

“The crisis shows how challenging decarbonizing the economy purely through behavioral adjustment would be,” Houser said, noting that individual decisions about not driving or flying deliver only limited emissions reductions.

“What we need are technological solutions that allow our economy to operate at 100% with 5%-8% annual reductions going forward,” he said.

Forecasters expect emissions to fall more than 5% in 2020, the greatest annual reduction on record. But it’s still short of the 7.6% decline that scientists say is needed every year over the next decade to stop global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.*

“If you assume a proportional decline in [gross domestic product] and emissions, what feels like an economical catastrophe is a fairly modest reduction in emissions compared to where we need to go,” said Trevor Houser, who leads climate and energy research at the Rhodium Group, a research firm.

Why it’s hot: The modern global economy is heavily intertwined with oil, so imagining a future without it is still far away.

Source: Scientific American 

Just Copy Paste from Real Life

Designer Cyril Diagne (AI/UX “artist” in residence at Google) has built a beta AR app that takes IRL objects and adds them to your photoshop work. It’s real world copy paste.

Here’s how it works: you point your phone at a book sitting on your desk, the software produces an image of just the book on your phone screen, you point the phone at your computer, and the book image gets pasted into the Photoshop document. It looks like straight-up magic (or at least like a scene from Minority Report or something):”

Check out Cyrils thread about how the sausage gets made:

Why it’s hot? Why it’s hot you ask?!

Well. The computers are taking our jobs. Just kidding. Their making our jobs easier. This is the kind of seamless transition that we wish our phones and work computers could have with each other. Our new digital first age (put on overdrive due to the coronavirus) is taking us to places we’ve only dreamed of — now we get to see our dreams as reality!