Apple has wrangled up some A-listers, plus Gary Vaynerchuck, for a Shark Tank-meets-The Voice reality show. It’s a chance for developers to give their best elevator pitch to a panel of 4 judges who will swipe left or right and give app developers an opportunity to be funded so that “they can take the next step to creating one of the great apps of all time.”
Air New Zealand has partnered with Microsoft to begin beta testing HoloLens augmented reality headsets on flights to help their crews better serve their passengers.
Flight attendants using headsets on their faces might look really strange and scare little children, but the practical applications are pretty cool. Being able to know, for example, which passengers have dietary restrictions or are in a certain mood can enhance the customer experience.
It’s hot because while this might not be a solution that gets mass adoption with every airline, it is nice to know that there is an airline out there that is trying to improve the travel experience (*cough* unlike United *cough*).
Japanese scientist Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed what could be a partial solution to bee colony collapse disorder: a tiny pollinating drone. Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, these pint-sized robots can collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another.
Miyako had previously experimented with using a specialized gel for electrochemical applications. When the gel performed poorly, he tucked the bottles away in a drawer and forgot about them — until he moved out of his lab two years ago. As soon as he rediscovered the gel, he thought about the pollination crisis and honeybee decline.
Conventional gels, Miyako explains, are mainly made of water and lose their stickiness over time. But his ionic liquid gel, by contrast, is a substance with a long-lasting “lift-and-stick-again” adhesive quality – ideal for moving pollen from one plant to the next.
“The continued adhesiveness and non-volatility of the ionic liquid gel was exciting,” says Miyako.
You’ll have to wait for this quality item, though, because it is not up on Indiegogo yet.
From Smalt’s About Us page:
Herb & Body is a California-based lifestyle company committed to using smart technology to enhance our lives….Our first innovation, “SMALT”, is the first of it’s kind to market and will transform an ordinary kitchen tools that people have been using for centuries into an experience for the senses.
A company called Imperial Motion has released a line of outerwear and bags that incorporates nano technology. The special material self-heals when torn by rubbing two fingers over the puncture back and forth for about 10 seconds.
Following the cyber breach of the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) in 2015 one of the issues that caused great consternation among lawmakers in the congress was that the OPM had failed to implement two-factor authentication for employees, particularly when using virtual private networks.
The OPM incident served as warning to all federal agencies: fix your information securities.
Agencies such as the Dept. of Defense rolled out PIV cards, which has a chip that allows for use of two-factor authentication.
The Senate chose to roll out ID cards that merely have a photo of a chip printed on them, rather than a real chip.
It boggles the mind that after data breaches and hacking at every level of our government that a branch of government that has so much influence over our lives could fail to take the most basic precautions against hacking.
Recently, CEO of Chinese electronics maker Huawei raised eyebrows when he publicly trashed smartwatches.
“I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones,” Eric Xu Zhijun said, adding that he would never ever wear one himself — despite the fact that his own company makes them.
This underscores something that tech enthusiasts have been dancing around for a while…that the smartwatch seems to be on life support if not fully dead.
Pebble, for example, was one of the original Kickstarter success stories. It was acquired late last year by FitBit and it’s future is uncertain.
Why It’s Hot
Whenever tech industry tries to anticipate trends instead of trying to understand what people actually want, it feels like the tail wagging the dog. For that reason, like the 3D TV, wearables may’ve been doomed from the start.
Amongst all of the uninspired April Fool’s ‘gags’ that we have come to expect from top brands, Google decided to give us something that was more Fun than Fools.
On Saturday, April 1st, Google turned the Maps app into a Ms. Pacman game, in essence turning the streets and highways into the famous maze of dots from yesteryear. The fun part was Mapping your childhood home, your current home, work, any place that’s interesting to you and turning it into a video game.
Note: the game works best on streets that have a grid pattern, such as Manhattan, but it’s also fun to see the ridiculousness of places like Boston or any other place that has a really confusing street layout. A writer for Forbes made a list of The 5 Best Google Maps Locations for Playing Ms. Pacman, which includes Lombard street in S.F.
Why it’s Hot
Google has had some of the best April Fools stunts in the past and this one is right up there in terms of creativity, execution…and fun!
A Chinese company has created the world’s first passenger drone, called the Ehang 184. First unveiled to the world at CES 2016, the passenger drone has been tested in Nevada and by this summer will make its debut as a drone taxi in Dubai. The drone will be able to transport a single passenger weighing no more than 220 pounds, for a distance as far as 25 to 30 miles, and for up to 30 minutes in the air at a time. Since there is no driver in the aerial vehicle, the rider sets their destination using a touchscreen. The drone’s progress will be monitored remotely from a nearby command center.
But, there’s no way for the passenger to steer the drone at all, even in an emergency.
Early data shows us that self-driving cars are safe because:
They don’t get drunk
They don’t text while driving
They don’t get road rage
Nevertheless, there are ethical implications around self-driving cars that have yet to be resolved. Consider this: if the car is programmed to kill the driver in circumstances where it is required to save many more lives, is the general public ready to entrust these decisions to programmer?
Why it’s Hot
While the technology has thus far garnered all of the focus of self-driving cars, there are serious ethical decisions that are not as easy to solve via code or engineering. Ultimately, the most important decisions still must be made by humans.
Tesla and SolarCity have created a new renewable energy project for the island of Kauai (pop. 67,000) which will hopefully enable the small island to reach its goal of using 70% renewable energy sources by the year 2030.
The Powepacks technology allows for solar energy to be stored during the day for use at night!
Hawaii doesn’t have the benefit of a massive grid like the mainland to pull electricity from sources hundreds of miles away. Instead each island has to take care of its own energy solutions.
The 45 acre project in Kapaia will reduce the use of fossil fuels by 1.6 million gallons a year.
Why It’s Hot
The project in Kauai can serve as a test case to see if the Powepacks technology can work in smaller mainland cities and suburbs. As Tesla learns how to scale the efficiency of the Powepacks, it could take a lot of fossil fuels offline in small and mid-sized cities. It’s a start.
Heal, an app for arranging medical house calls, is expanding nationwide. Currently only available in select markets of California, Heal is expanding and coming to New York among other markets. In the coming months, it’ll begin providing service to cities in New York, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
New Yorkers will now be able to use technology to do what our grandparents used to do when they got sick: request for a doctor to make a house call.
It’s hot because it shows how tech startups can fill needs that industries have abandoned due to cost or changes in trends. Heal hires doctors who actually want to make house calls and their clients are people who don’t have time to schedule an appointment weeks in advance or to go to urgent care due to busy schedules.
Twitter has quietly rolled out a new ‘timeout’ feature to temporarily punish abusive Tweeters (ahem) from being able to post for a 12-hour period. “Twitter is not simply putting people in timeout for using specific words. A company spokesperson said that its teams look at an account’s behavior as opposed to simply language to determine if it’s being abusive,” according to the story.
Why It’s Hot
Social media has to balance free speech and harassing behavior. Critics have argued that most of them (including Twitter) have not taken a stronger stand. We’ve learned a lot of post-election lessons about fake news, echo chambers and egomaniacal bullying. Offenders may threaten to leave the platform, but more than likely they’ll just begin to curb their behavior and made cyberspace a less depressing place to spend time.
Andrew Wong and James Thompson created an algorithm that seeks videos fitting specific criteria: uploaded within the past week, with generic file names (IMG1234 or WMV4321) as titles, and zero views. The result is a fascinating glimpse at the mundane, perplexing, and oftentimes ordinary events of everyday life. Try to not watch it for hours at a time.
The site only plays a few seconds of each video so it feels like flipping the pages of random books and reading a couple of lines before you’re off to the next one.
The concept goes against all good strategy best practices. Instead of surfacing the most-viewed, most valuable and well-categorized content, Astronaut.io shows us the polar opposite side of the spectrum. Nevertheless, the results are fascinating in a really odd, amateur and unpolished way.
German parody site Der Postillon has come up with an immigration solution almost as ridiculous as the original. They came up with an Ikea version of a border wall made of pressboard that is assembled with a hex key, similar to the furniture that is actually sold by the Swedish furniture giant. The wall comes with a 12,000 page manual and is undoubtedly missing one screw.
President Trump browsing the Wall section of Ikea’s catalog
Why It’s Hot
Companies such as Kellogg’s and Uber are finding out that taking a political stance comes with many costs, including bad press, boycotts and potential loss of business. Brands must navigate these treacherous political waters carefully. Though this parody did not come from Ikea itself, it shows how a brand can handle the messiness of politics with a bit of humor without alienating customers.
Part drone, part selfie stick, the new Hover Camera (beta) threatens to make traditional cameramen obsolete. The compact size, image stabilization and hi-rez video make the product feel like the inventors are actually listening to what people want.
Why It’s Hot:
As people increasingly become citizen reporters, the Hover Camera would be a huge help to video bloggers who want the freedom to shoot outdoors.
A company called OLO on Kickstarter has developed a 3D printing kit that works with mobile phones. The kit has several moving parts so this is not something that the average person would carry around with them, but the possibility of enabling 3D printing using a phone is really great.
Though still in the infant stages, portable 3D printing technology is moving at the speed of light. Only time will tell if portable 3D printing will support specific use cases or if it will be relegated to gimmick status.
A British company named OpenWorks Engineering has created a smart weapon that shoots down and captures those pesky drones flying around and invading everyone’s privacy.
The system relies on a “laser-powered ‘SmartScope,’ which allows the gun’s on-board computer to calculate exactly the right moment to fire the projectile” so that it doesn’t miss the drone and hit your neighbor’s window instead.
Drones present opportunities for delivery of things and exploration of places that had never been possible before. Unfortunately, there are risks to mis-use of drones which has created a market for a potential solution.
Ahead of last week’s Mobile World Congress, Coca Cola released this video on YouTube which shows users how to repurpose specially designed cardboard Coke boxes as VR headsets. The video allows Coke to tap into the hype around VR in a way that is both fun and thought provoking. Though Google Cardboard has existed for a few years, this type of packaging engages casual users who might not be aware that such a thing even exists.
The video brings up questions about what the average user will be willing to spend on technology that is not a ‘must have’. If VR can be experienced using a smartphone, some free apps and a free viewer, then why pay a lot of money for a bulky headset that will undoubtedly be outdated in a few months?
Part gimmick, part Coke marketing effort, this idea forces the VR headset market to think about the implications of the pricing of VR hardware. HTC announced their Vive headset recently at a $799 price point. Enthusiasts and early adopters will fork over a lot of money for the superior tech experience, but what about the average Joe? “Free” seems like a better price point for non-gamers and the casual user who is reluctant to buy more hardware.
Back before social media brought the entire earth together, there was a theory that people were connected by six degrees of separation. Well, according to some recent computing done by Facebook “there are, on average, only 3.57 degrees of separation between any two people on the social media site.” This, presumably, includes Kevin Bacon.
Why It’s Hot
Nobody knows how many degrees of separation really existed before the age of social media, but Facebook has show, at the very least, that it has reached a whole lot of people and that’s something that cannot be disputed.
Just as Uber has disrupted the antiquated Taxi model, there is a company called Plowz (and a sister app called Mowz) that will shovel your snow with an app-based product. This is great for small business owners, older or disabled homeowners and even large corporations with a lot of real estate. Somehow, Plowz seems to have missed the boat with winter storm Jonas but here’s hoping they get more press before the next storm.
For the first time ever, Netflix leads the Golden Globes with 9 nominations (8 for television) and surpasses HBO as the go-to place for quality original program (with 7 nominations of their own). It’s not TV, it’s just HBO. Amazon also captured 5 noms and Hulu grabbed 1.
By comparison, the big 4 networks only received 9 nominations total, including a whopping zero for NBC which is hosting the event on January 10th.
Netflix has certainly come a long way since their early days when their biggest competition was Blockbuster video.
Why It’s Hot
It’s hot because it further validates the cord cutting movement and also sends a clear message to traditional broadcast TV that quality matters above all else. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are increasingly more relevant than TV.
Uber launched an API last fall with partners such as TripAdvisor, but now Uber has opened up the ability to add a Ride Request button to other 3rd party apps.
This makes a lot of sense for apps focused on restaurants, bars, movie theaters, music and sports venues. And for apps, it improves the user experience with very little effort on the part of the developer.
IBM has a new Watson-based app that analyzes a mind-boggling amount of unstructured data (mostly from social media) to “help consumers predict which products are hot and likely to sell out at Christmas.”
IBM opened Watson up to researchers about a year ago. This app is really a use case for IBM in order to show companies and developers one of many ways that Watson can be leveraged.