About amyMRM

Senior Strategic Planner, travel and beer enthusiast

Food Computers Use AI To Make ‘Climate Recipes’ For The Best-Tasting Crops

It’s no surprise that climate change is inciting detrimental effects on our planet, but one of the most troubling is its effect on agriculture. The MIT Media Lab is hoping to remedy this by using special “food computers” to create the perfect climates for growing food, no matter the location or time of year. That means that not only could countries farm their local crops all year round, but they could also grow crops that are not native to their region of the world, meaning they could have fresh produce on-demand. Say goodbye to having to wait for shipments!

The Open Agriculture Initiative Personal Food Computer was first created in 2015, and can study and replicate the best growing conditions for specific plants with the use of sensors, actuators and machine vision. The Personal Food Computer can alter the light, nutrients and salinity of water. As the computer watches a plant, like basil, grow, it picks up data that can be used on the next set of crops. The research team is also trying to make the food itself tastier by maximizing the number of volatile molecules inside the crop, which is made possible by leaving the computer on constantly.

Babak Hodjat, CEO of Sentient says it’s all about engineering food in a totally different way: “Ultimately, this is non-GMO GMO. You’re not messing with the plant’s DNA. You’re just allowing it to exhibit the behavior it would in nature should that kind of environment exist.”

Source: PSFK

Why it’s Hot

Rolling with the punches, so to speak. In the case of environmental change, we can adapt. Looking at something like this at scale — could be an innovation that shifts how we approach agriculture and could also inspire additional environmental innovation.

Amazon is rolling out a Dash Wand with Alexa to make you buy everything

ake Amazon wants its Prime subscribers ordering from its online store all the time, so it just cooked up a new device to help them do exactly that — and it’s essentially giving it away for free.

The company just launched a new instant-ordering gadget, the Dash Wand, that lets you fill up your Amazon shopping cart by using voice commands or scanning barcodes on the packages you have sitting in your kitchen cupboards.

The Dash Wand is essentially an updated version of the OG Amazon Dash wand that debuted in 2015, but this newer version crucially adds Amazon’s artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa, to help out. The digital assistant can sync your shopping list across Amazon devices, convert units of measurement, and search for recipes.

This is a huge upgrade for Amazon’s instant-ordering devices. The original Dash was significantly bigger, cost more than twice as much as this new one, and only worked with AmazonFresh orders.

Amazon’s really pushing the Wand, offering a similar deal to previous promotions for its instant ordering Dash buttons. If you buy a Dash Wand for $20,  you’ll qualify immediately for $20 credit for your next purchase after registering the device. It literally pays for itself — and you can opt-in for a free 90-day AmazonFresh trial, which typically costs $15 per month. It’s actually a pretty great deal for anyone with a Prime subscription.

The Wand is also magnetic, so it can live on your fridge close to all of your most frequently ordered foods, and its Alexa access makes it more useful than the Dash buttons, which are restricted to one item instant ordering.

You don’t get the full Alexa experience here, though. The Wand can’t play music, and its press-button functionality means it won’t automatically respond to the genial “Hey, Alexa” wake command.

It might sound ridiculous that the company is essentially giving the Wands away with all the discounts and incentives, but it’s a savvy business move. Making the shopping experience easier and offering a new Alexa toy to play with will only drive up orders, as if Amazon needs any help to keep its business afloat.

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Connected AI experiences make the virtual assistant craze more useful. Amazon is pushing forward on many different ways to connect Alexa with other platforms, and this is a great example of a type of utility that in a few years we will wonder how we lived without.

 

Alexa, tell Seamless I’m hungry

You can now reorder Seamless with Alexa.

From Amazon.com: Reorder meals for delivery or takeout in seconds from all your favorite Seamless restaurants.

This is a hands-free time saver for Seamless customers — and getting started is easy! Just enable the skill, link your Seamless account, and say “Alexa, open Seamless,” or “Alexa, tell Seamless I’m hungry.”

If you’re a first-time user, Alexa will ask for your preferred delivery address and payment type. Just select your preferences to complete setup. You’ll be able to enjoy the convenience of re-ordering your favorite dishes and meals with Alexa anytime.

The skill’s easiest to use — and the most beneficial for you — if you’ve ordered more than three meals with your Seamless.com account and have one or more current credit/debit cards linked to your account. As long as you have an order history, you can use the skill. Of course, it may be more fun for you if you have many past orders.

Source: Seamless.com

Why It’s Hot

We’re on the lookout for real utility this smart home and voice assistant technology. This is pretty lazy — but pretty cool.

Bank Account Will Tell You If You’re Buying Ethically

United Airlines and Pepsi are recent entries to a long list of companies consumers would rather shy away from. Boycotting has become the normal response to companies that earn public scorn. Despite its popularity, voting with one’s wallet is still a cumbersome process. Financial services startup Aspiration is trying to automate the process. Every swipe of their debit card will trigger a background check on the company you’re buying from.

The Aspiration debit card ranks the merchants using hundreds of data points. A Fast Company report details that each establishment earn points in two main categories: People and Planet. The People score is affected by how company treats its employees and the community it belongs to. The Planet score gives a number to the environmental impact a brand or product has. The system is called the Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM).

In the mobile app, users will have an overview of their average scores which they can compare with other people. Through the use of qualitative data, ethical consumerism becomes more attainable.

Source: PSFK

Why it’s hot

Ethical buying is not new, but because of social media, now everyone is judging and watching our choices and brands’ choices. The principle of social proof is rampant. At the same time, people want things now – faster, easier and mobile. This innovation combines both to encourage behavior shifts.

MasterCard trials biometric bankcard with embedded fingerprint reader

MasterCard is trialling a Chip and PIN bankcard that includes an embedded fingerprint reader, introducing a biometric authentication layer for card payments — and taking a leaf out of the book of Apple Pay et al in the process. The thinking here being: why pay by entering a four-digit PIN when you can stick your thumb on it?

So far the biometric card has been trialled at two locations in South Africa, with additional trials planned over the next few months in Europe and Asia Pacific, according to a spokeswoman, and a full rollout expected later this year.

“We are targeting consumer rollout by end of 2017 through issuers that choose to offer biometric cards,” she told us.

MasterCard is touting convenience and security as the drivers for embedding a fingerprint sensor in plastic bankcards — after all, you can’t shoulder-surf a fingerprint as you can a PIN number. Although the use of contactless payment technology in bankcards (a tech that’s widespread in Europe) already offers a faster (and usually PIN-less) way to make card payments.

That said, there are some security risks with contactless payments, given there’s usually no authentication performed — so there could be an advantage to combining a contactless bankcard with a biometric one that also contains a fingerprint sensor in order to get speedy payments with at least a layer of security. (Although mobile fingerprint sensors have been shown to be spoofable. So the size of the sensor and the process for capturing a user’s print during enrollment are key considerations here.)

In this instance the MasterCard trial bankcard does not include contactless payment technology — but the spokeswoman told us that a future version will include contactless “adding to the simplicity, and convenience at checkout”.

For now, testers are required to insert the card into the POS terminal and then place their finger/thumb on the reader to authenticate the payment, as pictured above (vs entering a PIN into the keypad in the usual way).

The spokeswoman said the card is configured to expect the fingerprint for authenticating a purchase but does still have a PIN as a fall-back. “If the finger is too greasy or sweaty and the biometric doesn’t go through, the cardholder would experience a small delay and then asked to put in their PIN to complete the transaction,” she added. “The PIN also allows cardholders to use the card at ATMs globally.”

One relatively large drawback for the convenience of the biometric card is that the spokeswoman confirmed users are currently required to go to a bank branch in order to register and enroll their fingerprint. (Which is then converted into an encrypted digital template that is stored on the card.) Whereas bankcard users are normally mailed both their card and its PIN through the post so there’s no need to go to a branch to register before being able to use the card.

When asked about this the spokeswoman said MasterCard is “exploring ways to make remote registration possible”. Although again, while remote registration would be more convenient it could also open up the possibility for vulnerabilities with the implementation of the biometric technology — depending on how the fingerprint enrollment is performed.

One thing is clear, global payments giants are taking plenty of inspiration from mobile tech.

 

Source: TechCrunch

Why it’s Hot: 

Payment technology and security need to evolve hand in hand, or finger to finger so to speak. Using our bodies with technology is something we have talked about before, and I am intereted to see where this technology goes.

Kayak Made It Easier To Secretly Plan Vacations At Work

Tired of not so subtly switching tabs every time your boss walks by? Kayak feels your pain and wants to help you sneakily plan your vacation while at work with a desktop tool that makes their interface look like an excel spreadsheet.

This genius marketing idea is right on target with a big chunk of the Kayak demographic, and pokes fun at a universal experience: we all slack off from time to time, and planning a vacation in the office is all too familiar.

After researching their user habits, Kayak found out that 57 percent of Americans plan vacations during the workday with the biggest spike right smack in the middle, between 11 am and 12 pm.

Kayak at Work launched on Friday, March 31, but it’s still up and running—squishing early April Fool’s related suspicions.

“In support of workplace travel planning, we’ve come up with a new version of our desktop site to aid you in your search, whether you need to hide from your boss or just want to look productive,” says the company blog.


Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Love the consumer-insight-driven angle, even if it is a bit silly. This maaaaybe something I already do on my own but now a brand can help me get there.

 

Google Training Ad Placement Computers to Be Offended

After seeing ads from Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart appear next to racist, anti-Semitic or terrorist videos, its engineers realized their computer models had a blind spot: They did not understand context.

Now teaching computers to understand what humans can readily grasp may be the key to calming fears among big-spending advertisers that their ads have been appearing alongside videos from extremist groups and other offensive messages.

Google engineers, product managers and policy wonks are trying to train computers to grasp the nuances of what makes certain videos objectionable. Advertisers may tolerate use of a racial epithet in a hip-hop video, for example, but may be horrified to see it used in a video from a racist skinhead group.

That ads bought by well-known companies can occasionally appear next to offensive videos has long been considered a nuisance to YouTube’s business. But the issue has gained urgency in recent weeks, as The Times of London and other outlets have written about brands that inadvertently fund extremists through automated advertising — a byproduct of a system in which YouTube shares a portion of ad sales with the creators of the content those ads appear against.

This glitch in the company’s giant, automated process turned into a public-relations nightmare. Companies like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson said they would pull their ads from YouTube, as well as Google’s display advertising business, until they could get assurances that such placement would not happen again.

“We take this as seriously as we’ve ever taken a problem,” Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, said in an interview last week. “We’ve been in emergency mode.”

Over the last two weeks, Google has changed what types of videos can carry advertising, barring ads from appearing with hate speech or discriminatory content.

It is also putting in more stringent safety standards by default, so an advertiser must choose to place ads next to more provocative content. Google created an expedited way to alert it when ads appear next to offensive content.

Google’s efforts are being noticed. Johnson & Johnson, for example, said it had resumed YouTube advertising in a number of countries. Google said other companies were starting to return.

To train the computers, Google is applying machine-learning techniques — the underlying technology for many of its biggest breakthroughs, like the self-driving car. It has also brought in large human teams (it declined to say how big) to review the appropriateness of videos that computers flagged as questionable.

Essentially, they are training computers to recognize footage of a woman in a sports bra and leggings doing yoga poses in an exercise video safe for advertising and not sexually suggestive content. Similarly, they will mark video of a Hollywood action star waving a gun as acceptable to some advertisers, while flagging a similar image involving an Islamic State gunman as inappropriate.

Armed with human-verified examples of what is safe and what is not, Google’s computer systems break down the images of a YouTube video frame by frame, analyzing every image. They also digest what is being said, the video’s description from the creator and other signals to detect patterns and identify subtle cues for what makes a video inappropriate.

The idea is for machines to eventually make the tough calls. In the instances when brands feel that Google failed to flag an inappropriate video, that example is fed back into the system so it improves over time. Google said it had already flagged five times as many videos as inappropriate for advertising, although it declined to provide absolute numbers on how many videos that entailed.

Source: NYT

British Airways Is Using Facial Recognition To Make Boarding Faster

The U.K.’s largest airline, British Airways, is making the boarding process a little less tedious by using facial recognition technology at London’s Heathrow Airport.

A biometric device at the airport’s Terminal 5 scans passengers and boarding passes, then a second facial scan at the gate confirms their identity, without having to rustle around in search of any documents.

Three gates have incorporated the system, but the airline is soon planning to expand to 33 more according to Skift. So far it’s only being used in domestic flights.

This new development fits right in with most airports’ current trend of automation. Self-check-in kiosks are in many around the globe, including Heathrow, and new opportunities for technology to take a leading role in airport security are sure to keep on popping up.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot:

This just makes a ton of sense as a way to use technology to make people’s lives easier, and potentially safer.

China’s High-Tech Tool to Fight Toilet Paper Bandits

The toilet paper thieves of the Temple of Heaven Park were an elusive bunch.

They looked like most park visitors, practicing tai chi, dancing in the courtyards and stopping to take in the scent of ancient cypress and juniper trees. But hidden in their oversize shopping bags and backpacks was a secret: sheet upon sheet of crumpled toilet paper, plucked surreptitiously from public restrooms.

Now the authorities in Beijing are fighting back, going so far as to install high-tech toilet paper dispensers equipped with facial recognition software in several restrooms.

Before entering restrooms in the park, visitors must now stare into a computer mounted on the wall for three seconds before a machine dispenses a sheet of toilet paper, precisely two feet in length. If visitors require more, they are out of luck. The machine will not dispense a second roll to the same person for nine minutes.

At the Temple of Heaven Park, one of Beijing’s busiest tourist sites, many people said on Monday they were pleased by the new machines.

“The people who steal toilet paper are greedy,” said He Zhiqiang, 19, a customer service worker from the northwestern region of Ningxia. “Toilet paper is a public resource. We need to prevent waste.”

Qin Gang, 63, taking a stroll through the park with his wife, said China’s history of crippling poverty had left some people eager to exploit public goods.

“It’s a very bad habit,” Mr. Qin said. “Maybe we can use technology to change how people think.”

Not everyone was enthusiastic. Some people, frustrated by the new technology, banged their fists against the machines, which park employees said cost about $720 each.

Other visitors had more exacting critiques.

“The sheets are too short,” said Wang Jianquan, 63, a retired shopping mall manager.

Lei Zhenshan, marketing director for Shoulian Zhineng, the company in Tianjin that designed the device, said in an interview: “We brainstormed many options: fingerprints, infrared and facial recognition. We went with facial recognition, because it’s the most hygienic way.’’

Mr. Lei said an earlier version of the device was installed last year at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. An official at the Temple of Heaven, who would not give her name, said the facial recognition dispensers there were on trial, and if judged a success, would be placed in all the park’s toilet

Source: New York Times

Why It’s Hot

Somethings technology can go too far. I like the idea of getting creative and using technology to solve low-tech problems, but this seems to have gone too far for what it’s worth.

New Zealand brewery turns bottles into sand

“Two thirds of the world’s beaches are retreating as people across the world use non-renewable beach sand for construction, roading and other uses,” Simon Smith, brand PR and digital manager for DB Breweries, told Digital Trends. “We had some [conversations] over beers, and came up with an idea to crush glass bottles into a sand substitute that can be used in things such as construction, roading, even golf bunkers; meaning that we can keep our beautiful beach sand where it belongs: on our beaches.”
DB Breweries has built several machines able to take empty bottles and turn them into substitute sand. All a drinker needs to do is deposit his or her bottle in the machine, which then uses miniature steel hammers to crush it into 200 grams of sand in only five seconds — after extracting the plastic labels with a vacuum system.

The ultimate goal is to provide a way of prompting people to recycle by giving them an image of what exactly it means to do so, rather than leaving it as an abstraction. “Our ambition for the campaign is for people to have something tangible to think about, such as the love of our beautiful beaches, as a reminder to recycle”

Source: Digital Trends

Why it’s Hot

Back to beer coverage, hooray! Also, I posed recently about a grocery brand using its own waste to power its trucks, and I think this is another example of brand innovating to reduce their footprint.

Hulu Lets You Watch Shows In A Virtual Living Room With Friends

Hulu recently announced an update to its mobile VR app for the Gear VR and its desktop app for the Oculus Rift, both of which will enhance the experience of viewing Hulu-branded content in VR through layered social dimensions.

Slip on a headset and join your friends as avatars composed solely of a floating head and hands, where you can share an Oculus Room and watch movies together. You’ll further be able to play with objects like a TV remote around the virtual space thanks to the inclusion of the Oculus Touch, though lack of avatar customization and the limited use cases for hands help center the attention around Hulu’s media.

Though social in VR is a hot topic, establishing a sense of community within an experience is difficult for a number of reasons – for one thing, most Hulu viewers don’t own a headset. Among those that do, not all of them actually use the platform on their Gear VR or Oculus. Moreover, the physical act of donning a headset is quite isolating; Hulu will have to mold the experience around tech-savvy friend circles who are comfortable sharing experiences digitally despite being distant in the material world.

View here

Source: PSFK.

 

Why It’s Hot:

Social VR is a category to keep an eye on. Brands are trying to take the “coldness” and “oneness” out of VR and recreate experiences of time with friends and family.

 

Phone-Attached UV Camera Monitors Skin Health

Originally a niche brand for smartphone fingerprint recognition, Nurugo is branching out with a new product in the beauty market. They developed an app called SmartUV to help users be more aware of their skin type. To use the app a special UV camera sold by Nurugo has to be attached to the bottom of the smartphone.

By emitting UV light the camera is able to show skin problems that normally people don’t notice, or let users know of developing issues like sun spots or melanoma so they can treat them before it becomes life-threatening. It also allows users to see how effective their sunscreen is.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Another “our bodies” approach — connecting technology and intelligence about our state of being.

Supermarket Chain Uses Food Waste For Fuel In Delivery Trucks

British supermarket chain, Waitrose, already a leader in sustainability practices, is now using biomethane gas (provided by CNG Fuels) from food waste to power its delivery trucks. Similar to the efficiency efforts in food distribution of Norway supermarket delivery trucks, Waitrose trucks can travel up to 500 hundred miles on a batch of vegetables.

Consider this: in the United States, commercial trucks only get six miles to the gallon of gasoline, and we throw away 40 percent of our food waste per year. Quieter and more cost efficient, the Waitrose trucks pose a convincing model not only for other food purveyors (like fast food chains), but also industries that rely on trucks for distribution.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Sustainability is key for brands today — because more and more consumers are rallying around brands that care about causes, and care about the greater good. It becomes really interesting when a brand leans on technology to erase it’s own footprint. Imagine the impact if every brand and everyone was challenged to do the same?

Alexa can now unlock August Smart Locks

Over the summer, smart lock maker August announced its first integration with Amazon’s smart home assistant Alexa. It was pretty basic – letting users check whether unit was locked or not. Naturally, people wanted to know, for better or worse, when they’d actually be able to unlock their front door with the sound of their voice, for when you’re chopping onions like the lady in the above press photo.

That follow up functionality has arrived – though it brings a key caveat for safety’s sake. In order to actually utilize the feature, users will have to enter a four to 12 digit PIN code each time, in addition to telling the AI, “Alexa, ask August to unlock my door.”

Here’s CEO Jason Johnson on why the feature was added,

Before adding the unlock feature, we needed to be sure we could maintain our standard for security. Now users have the convenience of using Alexa to unlock their door using their voice and a secure voice PIN from anywhere in the home.

The company has added the extra step for obvious security reasons – you likely don’t want passersby unlocking your front door by simply asking nicely. It’s a necessary security addition, perhaps, but one that seems to mitigate the usefulness of the new feature.

Like the older Alexa skill, this one requires the lock be networked to either the August WiFi Bridge or the company’s doorbell camera.

Source: Tech Crunch

Why it’s hot

As a recent loser of my keys, I can appreciate the utility of something like this. What’s interesting is how the intersection of convenience and security will play out — will people be frustrated by extra steps or angry about anything that sacrifices their security? This also a good way to showcase how voice recognition technology will come into our lives in different ways and how the competition of partnerships between Alexa, Google Home, etc. will be fueled.

 

Mind control your Netflix

MindFlix is an experimental headband that lets wearers scroll through and select titles on the service with only their thoughts.

Wouldn’t it be great if Netflix could just read your mind and pick out the exact thing you were in the mood for? The technology’s not there yet, but if MindFlix is any indication, that future is not far off. During a 24-hour hack day, Netflix employees were tasked to come up with projects centered around the service. MindFlix is one such project, using a special brainwave-reading headband made by Muse, allows users to scroll through and select items the interface through simple head movements and thoughts. For example, once the wearer decides on what they want to watch, they simply think ‘play’ and the selection starts on screen. It does this by sensing back activity and linking it to pre-selected actions, making finding something to watch easier and faster than ever.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

We’ve been talking about Voice Recognition as a trend, but what about mind recognition? The execution here may be a little silly, but what about implications for health, emergency situations? Will there be a time where we have to recall that we used to have to touch things?

 

 

 

Puppies + VR = happiness

The first-ever Puppy Bowl Virtual Reality brings viewers nose-to-nose with the gridiron canines through the Discovery VR iOS and Android apps, Samsung Milk VR and on Animal Planet’s YouTube page. Using virtual-reality goggles such as Google Cardboard, fans can step inside Geico Stadium for a 360° experience as puppies scrimmage, scamper and sniff out field goals.

For this year’s Puppy Bowl XII, Animal Planet worked with 44 different animal shelters and rescue organizations in 25 states across the USA to fill the rosters of #TeamRuff and #TeamFluff with adoptable players.

Source: USA Today

Why it’s hot:

Immersive video is being used by brands — and now VR is almost mainstream. Puppy Bowl is high visibility and if all goes smoothly it could open the door for more immersive experiences in everyday viewing.

Better Brews Come Delivered By Data Analytics

havias-ibm-beer-analytics-psfk.com_

Using sophisticated data science, IBM and Havas helia created a beer that tastes of joy and optimism. How you may ask? They used a tool called Watson Personality Insights, which analyzes language to produce a personality profile. The technology uses linguistic analysis to find meaning words. In linguistics, semantic analysis is the process of taking syntactic structures and relating them to each other.

First, the team observed the sentiment and the emotions found in the social media shared on and around New Year’s eve by running a data set of New Year’s related messages and shares on social media and matched them with a wide range of emotional states. The partners leveraged this powerful tool to extract cognitive and social characteristics from input text such as email, SMS, tweets, forum posts, and more. Through their analysis, the team found that the top most shared emotions were love, joy, harmony, cheerfulness, optimism, resolution and excitement.

With this profile the team worked together to capture the mood of the nation during the New Year party season to create the world’s first beer crafted and based on human emotions.

It then takes that profile and can categorise each beer according to different human adjectives, such as “assertive,” “friendly” or “intelligent.” Then the IBM Watson team began to analyse 2,800 different beer recipes while giving the computer descriptions about the ingredients, recipes, tasting notes and beer reviews. This method helped to identify the perfect recipe.

The top 10 beers that matched the most shared New Year emotions found in the data were then identified and, through further analysis, all of these beer recipes were combined to find the most common ingredients.

Honey, the Nelson Sauvin hop variety and the Hallertauer hop emerged as the top three most common ingredients among the beers.

  • Honey denotes love and cheerfulness
  • Nelson Sauvin is for optimism, imagination and resolution
  • Hallertauer is for excitement and emotion

Each of these ingredients was used to create flagship data-powered New Year beer: 0101. For the complicated project—the team picked High Peak Brew Co, an independent microbrewery based in the UK’s Peak District, to head up the brewing project. They tapped this particular brewery because the company’s brews are unfined and unfiltered, like the content of the social activity they tested. They worked with them to get an exact taste that would match the data as closely as possible.

Helia works with data to uncover patterns in human behavior, mixing that with cultural understanding to inspire more creative ideas. Why does this matter? The service helps users to understand, connect to, and communicate with other people on a more personalized level. With this powerful tool we can derive consumers’ cognitive and social preferences just with the language they use. The service applies linguistic analytics and personality theory to infer attributes from a person’s unstructured text.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

It’s a data-driven world. But it’s an emotional, unpredictable word too. I appreciate the effort to bring the two together with this experiment. And of course, there’s the beer aspect.

Through tools like this we can gain insight into how and why people think, act, and feel the way they do. This means companies and coders can use data and technology to interpret something abstract such as positive feelings and emotions and turn them into an experience to build upon.

 

 

No More Self-Checkout Lines, Scan As You Shop Instead

shutterstock_308257808

In the future, you might be do your grocery shopping without fumbling over self-check registers or waiting at a long line. Diebold, a financial innovations firm, will present the concept for a mobile, scan-as-you-shop, self-checkout process at the National Retail Federation’s“BIG” show in New York City this week.

Here’s how it works: scan each item you want to add to your cart using a smartphone app. Tap out and pay at a self-checkout unit before you exit the store. Pay using cash at the terminal, or use other saved payment information from your mobile wallet or through a retailer app. Pick up your receipt, and maybe some cash back (the checkout terminal can also function as an ATM).

Voilà: no more long lines, or strained interactions with cashiers.

The smartphone-paired concept sounds like the logical next step to self-checkout counters. Customers will have an easier, quicker checkout process, and retailers can benefit from adding mobile marketing campaigns or customer rewards through dedicated apps.

For the concept to take off, it does require trust on both ends: retailers will have to trust that customers will abide by the rules and not forget to scan a pricey item, and customers will have to have some faith when they give payment data to retailer apps.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

This is an example of an innovation that just make sense — we’ll look back in 20 years and talk about how we used to wait in lines for a human to scan each thing in our cart! What?!

Powering Up Handbags for Battery-Drained Devices

everpurse-4-962x644

Everpurse is turning handbags into the perfect device carrier. By fitting them with built-in chargers, they extend not only a busy woman’s carrying capacity but also the battery lives of smartphones she carries.

An alternative approach to building wearable tech, Everpurse works with Kate Spade, a high-end bag label many women love.

The Everpurse bag has a special pocket where a smartphone slides into. The device charges up wirelessly, with no cords to fumble with. Just place it over the included charging mat to charge.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot:

Because I NEED this! Simple as that. But really, this is (1) an interesting extension of wearable technology to big fashion brands — a trend that was emphasized at last year’s SXSW and (2) a practical solution to an all-too-common pain point.

 

 

LEGO Robotics Kit Lets Kids Code Their Way to Mars

LEGO-robotics-psfk.com_.pngLEGO Education, a division of Denmark’s LEGO, unveiled a new system called WeDo 2.0 that helps teach children about engineering, technology and coding. The system contains hardware and software that give elementary school children more than 40 hours of projects to create.

The LEGO robotics that comes with WeDo 2.0 is a wireless and tablet-ready system that is designed for a younger crowd than LEGO Mindstorm products which are geared more toward middle and high school students. The lessons of the WeDo 2.0 correlate to educational standards in physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering. The lessons are geared towards students in second through fourth grade to solve real-world science problems.

The set comes with a number of LEGO bricks and includes a Bluetooth Low Energy-based hub that connects to a motor as well as motion and tilt sensors. The software in the package uses a drag-and-drop interface for writing basic applications that can connect to the hub and its sensors.

WeDo 2.0 allows children to explore, create and share their scientific discoveries along the way as they build and modify projects. In addition, teachers have the opportunity to receive support through training, curriculum and built-in assessments with eight guided projects and eight open ended projects the system offers.

Projects vary from the “Drop and Rescue” project, where students have to design a device to reduce the impacts of weather related-hazards for humans to projects that allow students to discover the surface of Mars with a model rover or explore the Amazon rainforest through frog metamorphosis.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot: Even play is evolving for the digital world. But instead of pure entertainment, this initiative is preparing kids for the real world.

Google’s 2015 Year in Search

Google revealed the top searches of 2015, which provide a window into our culture.

top searches

The questions we ask reveal who we are, according to Google’s 2015 year-end video. If that’s true, then it appears we’re a benevolent bunch of globally minded folks who want to know about the terrorist attacks in Paris and Cecil the lion’s death but still can’t figure out the color of “the dress” or fully master the Nae Nae.

The two-minute video, which joins a growing list of 2015 recaps coming from tech and media companies, curates highs and lows—the Black Lives Matter movement, the same-sex marriage law, David Letterman’s farewell, the pope’s U.S. visit—to a voiceover from Caitlyn Jenner’s acceptance speech at the ESPY Awards.

The short film comes from Los Angeles ad agency 72andSunny and Google’s head of brand creative Michael Tabtabai in their first collaboration.

Source: Google and Adweek

Why it’s Hot

Search is a window into our culture — into the things we care about, into the things we don’t know. It’s an honest time capsule that’s interesting to consume here and now.

IKEA Makes Itself Part of a Longer-Lasting Solution for Syrian Refugees

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IKEA, long known for its defining slogan “Swedish for common sense,” might be better defined as “Swedish for change.” The brand is often the first place Westerners turn to in times of change: moving out for the first time, the start of a new relationship, the ending of a relationship, moving to a new city, downsizing, etc. These life events usually come with a trip to IKEA. It makes complete sense then that a brand so intertwined with change would be part of the solution for Syrian refugees and others in finding shelter for hundreds of thousands of displaced persons around the world.

The Swedish-designed refugee shelter project is the brainchild of Johan Karlsson, and industrial designer based in Hallefors, Sweden. After doing some volunteer work with Sweden’s Refugee Services abroad in 2010, Karlsson noticed how poorly designed many refugee shelters were. In addition to being cramped, lightless, damp living environments, the shelters easily blew over, flooded and fell apart. Karlsson recognized the need for an economical, lightweight and simple design solution. He took an idea for a new concept of shelters to IKEA where he was granted funding from the IKEA Foundation, the humanitarian arm of the corporation. With the money, Karlsson founded Better Shelter and partnered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide quality temporary shelter for refugees.

Today, Better Shelters are in camps in Iraq, Lebanon, Chad, Ethiopia, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary.

 

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According to the UNHCR, the average stay in an UNHCR refugee camp is 17 years. Most tents that are available for refugees to live in last only a few months. The shelters that Karlsson designed last a minimum of three years. Karlsson’s shelters are self-standing, modular, white structures with peaked roofs high enough for an average adult male to stand up in and large enough to accommodate a family of five. Built with lightweight plastic and metal the shelters can be shipped easily around the world. Similar to IKEA’s principles of design Karlsson and his team paid close attention to the transport volume, weight, price, safety, health and comfort of the shelters.

The shelters can be assembled in just a few hours and require no special equipment to do so. The houses can be disassembled just as quickly and reused as needed. In addition, the structures feature windows, mosquito nets, ventilation, a solar-powered energy system affixed to the roof for lighting and a mobile phone charging outlet, and lockable doors to keep women and children safe from sexual violence, a common problem in many refugee camps.

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Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

This is a great example of a brand taking it’s strong suit and taking on relevant humanitarian efforts.

Swipe Right for the Next President of the United States

Spending so much time on Tinder that you haven’t had the chance to read up on the presidential hopefuls for the next elections? Addicted to swiping? Want a fun, easy, quick way to expand your political knowledge? Voter might be the app for you.

The iOS app uses Tinder’s familiar swiping mechanism to help you learn more about presidential candidates and parties that match your views. The app currently has various levels of questions. In Level 1, you’ll be swiping about your views on basic, core social, environmental and economic issues, like legalizing marijuana, same-sex marriage, abortions, the death penalty, and increasing or decreasing the minimum wage and military spending. Unsure about an issue? Click the picture for a quick cheatsheet on the facts behind the issues, and a few bullet points from supporters and opponents.

You can also select how important each question is to you (a la matching questions on dating website OkCupid).

Level 2 goes more in depth: you’ll swipe about a fence at the border, increasing spending on education, term limits for congress, taxing the wealthy, financial aid for other nations and more. Once you’ve swiped your opinions, you get matched with potential political parties and candidates.

You’ll be able to view your political matches sorted by percentage, with a neat breakdown of the issues you agree or disagree on, and the ability to contact the party or donate. For candidate matches, you’ll also get a few quotes and a short bio, as well as a breakdown of top campaign contributors by name and industry for the more established candidates.

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Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

It’s important for young people to understand their political environment, and we haven’t seen a lot of evidence that politics is adapting to Millennials. An app like this takes a key demographic and insights about their behavior and makes politics accessible and even entertaining.

 

 

This app is like Shazam for your beer

So many beers, so little time.

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With so many options between the hoppy, the fruity, the wheats, the stouts, the ales, the seasonal pumpkin brews and splices you’ve never dreamed of, your next mystery bottle could either be sinfully good or horribly awry. Don’t you wish someone had told you before you opened it?

It’s about time there’s an app for that.

Letsee Beer, created by Korean startup Letsee for iOS and Android, uses your smartphone camera to scan the labels and shapes of beer bottles and cans (no draught, though). It brings up the beer’s basic info, plus hashtagged descriptions ranging from #fruity to #damntasty and reviews that other users have left to help you determine whether the brew is worth a try.

The creators hope to do more than build a user-generated database to help beer fans know what they’re drinking before they open the bottle. They’re also utilizing augmented reality technology to bridge the virtual and physical worlds and to nurture a social media network that shows the app’s impact with real users.

“By using the more intuitive AR interface, the users will be able to focus on the user-created content itself instead of getting distracted by cumbersome app interfaces,” Ahn Sangchul, founder and CEO of Letsee, tells Tech in Asia. “People may enjoy sharing their drinking experiences with others using our service, and we hope to encourage them to love beer even more.”

 

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

There are many apps for many things, but the incoming element of VR is appealing. It can be used to help connect the physical to the online world — and there are definitely implications that go way beyond beer.

NY Times launches NYT VR in partnership with Google

On Thursday, The New York Times took a step into virtual reality.

NYT VR is a mobile app that can be used — along with your headphones and optionally a cardboard viewing device — to simulate richly immersive scenes from across the globe.

You can use the app on its own. But the experience is even better with a special virtual reality viewer. Thanks to a partnership with Google, NYT will be sending free Google Cardboard VR viewers to all domestic New York Times home delivery subscribers who receive the Sunday edition.

Times Insider subscribers who have chosen to receive marketing emails will also receive promotional codes via email that can be redeemed for free Cardboard viewers.

To start, The Times Magazine presents three portraits of children driven from their homes by war and persecution — an 11-year-old boy from eastern Ukraine named Oleg, a 12-year-old Syrian girl named Hana and a 9-year-old South Sudanese boy named Chuol.

The stories

War has driven 30 million children from their homes. These are the stories of three of them.

The Displaced: Introduction

Nearly 60 million people are currently displaced from their homes.

Lebanon: Hana’s Story

At 12, she has lived one-quarter of her life in a debilitating state of suspension.

South Sudan: Chuol’s Story

At 9, without his parents, he was forced to flee to the swamps.

Ukraine: Oleg’s Story

At 11, he is living in the ruins of his former life.

Source: NYTimes.com

Why It’s Hot

NY Times is staying relevant through technology, and I think this is an important step in making VR more mainstream.

“I think it’s kind of a seminal moment regardless of whether it’s journalism or not,” says Brian Blau, research director for innovative personal technologies at Gartner. “It’s Google and the Times, two well-known brands. They’re giving away more than a million of these. That, I think, is the biggest deal… Having this many Cardboards out there is great. I’ve never heard of another organization attempting to give away that many for a single purpose.”

We Could All Do With a Pint Glass That is Always Half Full

BUCK_Hoptimist_Virgin_Trains_02-962x644Virgin Trains will be serving its custom beers on a glass that will always be half full called the “Hoptimist.” Although a glass that’s never empty sounds like a cheap magic trick prop, the beer buddy they’ve created looks very sophisticated.

The hand-blown glass is a tall one but the base takes up a little less than half the entire thing. This is the “half full” part. The glass is always half full because half of it is actually glass. Get it? Although not the approach one might expect upon hearing “always half full,” design wise, it’s very beautiful. The beer receptacle on top follows a wine glass shape with a slight dip at the center.

Pour some beer into the Hoptimist and you have a nice, solid-feel cup. Even if you chug the beer down, the weight of the glass itself will never feel empty. Because the base is raised, the way it balances on the table will also feel like a half-full cup.

The ale that will pair up with the Hoptimist is also one-of-a-kind. Hop On Board, Virgin Train’s own brew, was created by Rudgate Brewery, a multi-awarded microbrewery in York. The glass and ale will be available for customers traveling on Virgin Trains routes between London King’s Cross, Leeds, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Virgin expects to sell 55,000 bottles of its pale ale this year. To celebrate the new addition to the train menus, they will be giving out a few Hoptimist pint glasses through social media in the next few days.

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Alison Watson, Director of Customer Experience at Virgin Trains, said:

‘We’re ‘hoptimistic’ here at Virgin Trains and passionate about our customer’s experience. ‘Hop on Board’ is an exciting step in revamping our on-board offering, embracing the craft beer revolution and delivering the best journey possible time and time again.

Working alongside the Rudgate Brewery, we have created an ale full of flavor and charisma that epitomizes the Virgin Trains’ spirit and the hoptimist’s outlook on life—with us the glass is always half full.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot: CX first. I love the angle of optimism — it’s refreshing. It’s also a great differentiator.

Airbnb Backs Down in Its Passive-Aggressive San Francisco Ad Campaign

It didn’t take long for Airbnb to take down its tax-hating ads around San Francisco after many people criticized the short-term housing rental startup for publicly complaining about fulfilling its civic duty. The digital-based company told SF Weekly late on Wednesday that it was taking the promos down because of the backlash.

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Ads started popping up on bus stops and billboards around the city, offering not-so-subtle hints that the company was unhappy having to pay $12 million in hotel taxes. Earlier this year, the company paid millions of dollars in back taxes to the city after failing to pay the 14 percent hotel tax.

The ads, created by Airbnb’s agency of record, TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A., came in the form of several letters with very little love. Here are samples of the copy:

“Dear SF Tax Collector,
You know the $12 million in hotel taxes?
Don’t spend it all in one place.
Love, Airbnb”

“Dear Public Works,
Please use the $12 million in hotel taxes to build more bike lanes, like this one.
Love, Airbnb”

“Dear Board of Education,
Please use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep art in schools.
Love, Airbnb”

“Dear Public Library System,
We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.
Love, Airbnb”

Source: Adweek

Why It’s Hot

Yow. First, this is hot because it shows how social media can impact campaigns and how advertising is basically a crowd-sourced business. Second, Airbnb is a brand that has been under the spotlight for a while, it’s surprising they would go to such a risky place.

Photographer captures the eerie reality of our smartphone addiction

While working in a coffee shop one morning in upstate New York, photographer Eric Pickersgill was struck by the image of a family sitting together, but engaging separately with their own devices.

“I didn’t make that picture, but it exists in my mind as an image — a very emotionally charged image,” he wrote in a statement to Mashable.

This moment would go on to inspire Pickersgill’s latest project titled “Removed,” a series that takes the tech out of photos of people engaging with smartphones and tablets.

What’s left are eerie images of couples, families, friends and strangers staring blankly at their empty hands.

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Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Well, this puts some things in perspective. Technology is so ingrained into our lives at this point — and we know it well, but we hardly ever take a step back. This is a great artistic expression of the need to separate ourselves from technology from time to time.

 

 

JetBlue Told New Yorkers to Steal Its Bus-Shelter Ads, and Rewarded Them for It

Steal this ad. No really, it’s fine. No one will yell, “Stop, thief!” And even if they do, you’re in the clear.

More than 100 New Yorkers recently took jetBlue up on its offer of free flights and other swag by ripping off 181 bus shelter ads across the five boroughs. They were right there in plain sight—all you had to do was deface public property to get them (though no glass-shattering was required).

Steal this ad. No really, it’s fine. No one will yell, “Stop, thief!” And even if they do, you’re in the clear.

More than 100 New Yorkers recently took jetBlue up on its offer of free flights and other swag by ripping off 181 bus shelter ads across the five boroughs. They were right there in plain sight—all you had to do was deface public property to get them (though no glass-shattering was required).

It’s tough to be discreet with a poster-sized coupon tucked under your arm, but the locals didn’t seem to care. And for their boldness, they received round-trip flight vouchers, tickets to New York Jets and Brooklyn Nets games, and free scoops from Blue Marble Ice Cream.

The brand plans to repeat the two-day stunt next week under the hashtag #NYCTakeoff. Some nattily dressed flight attendants might even pop up to congratulate winners before sending them off with a chipper “Buh-bye now!”

Source: AdWeek

Why It’s Hot

This is an example of a creative approach to media, that fits in with the branding of jetBlue. Though I have to imagine reach isn’t the goal with something like this, making it viral on social with video content is a win.

Full disclosure, in high school we stole the Sex and the City posters on the subway and hung them in our rooms. So, this is just about 15 years too late.

Target Troll Strikes Again, Posing as Doritos to Taunt Haters of Its LGBT Rainbow Chips

If you thought Target’s haters were bad following the retailer’s move to gender-neutral labeling, have a look at all the anti-gay critics swarming Doritos’ Facebook page this week after the rollout of its LGBT-pride rainbow chips.

Who better to take them down a notch than Mike Melgaard, the guy who hilariously posed as a Target customer-service rep last month—and has now done the same on the Doritos Facebook page—to make epic, sarcastic replies to critics.

Here are a few of his gems while posting as Doritos ForHelp:

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“I would say the Doritos critics on Facebook have definitely been far more offensive than the critics of Target,” he says, “I have seen people saying some pretty hateful things towards the LGBT community. What’s even worse is that these people are really offended for no reason whatsoever.

“Frito-Lay decided to allow anyone a way to voluntarily donate for a cause which aims to help prevent suicide in the LGBT youth. Some of the reactions make it seem as if an army of LGBT people have been unleashed into their private homes. But I mean, this is America and I shouldn’t be surprised that there is such a dramatic reaction over rainbow-colored chips.”

Source: Adweek

Why it’s hot:

We are so very careful about how we portray ourselves as brands on social media. But in a split second, someone can hack into that and change the game completely. On one hand, this particular personality is pushing for positive social change. On the other hand, its a messy social media world out there, and becoming more and more difficult for brands to be in control