zero training = zero problem, for AlphaGo Zero…


One of the major milestones in the relatively short history of AI is when Google’s AlphaGo beat the best human Go player in the world in three straight games early last year. In order to prepare AlphaGo for its match, Google trained it using games played by other Go players, so it could observe and learn which moves win and which don’t. It learned from essentially watching others.

This week, Google announced AlphaGo Zero, AI that completely taught itself to win at Go. All Google gave it was the rules, and by experimenting with moves on its own, it learned how to play, and beat its predecessor AlphaGo 100 games to zero after just over a month of training.

Why It’s Hot:

AI is becoming truly generative with what DeepMind calls “tabula rasa learning”. While a lot of AI we still see on a daily basis is extremely primitive in comparison, the future of AI is a machine’s ability to create things with basic information and a question. And ultimately, learning on its own can lead to better results. As researchers put it, “Even when reliable data sets are available, they may impose a ceiling on the performance of systems trained in this manner…By contrast, reinforcement learning systems are trained from their own experience, in principle allowing them to exceed human capabilities, and to operate in domains where human expertise is lacking.”

nike connected jersey…

Nike added a new layer of to clothing recently when it introduced connected NBA jerseys.

To coincide with its new status as official NBA gear provider, jersey owners can now tap their iPhone 7 with iOS11 on the jersey’s tag to activate “premium content” via NFC.

Per 9-to-5 mac:

“Essentially what happens is customers can purchase a jersey for their favorite player and unlock “premium content” about that player via the NikeConnect app. That premium content includes things such as “pregame arrival footage,” highlight reels, music playlists from players, and more. Just so everything comes full circle, the jerseys can unlock boosts for players in NBA 2K18.”

Why It’s Hot:

Everything is now a platform. With AR, NFC, and QR truly becoming mainstream, and mixed reality and AI presumably not long behind them, we’re interacting with things in a whole new way. This is a relatively light example – less utility, more entertainment – but it shows how technology is integrating into everything to provide a new layer of experience to even the clothes we wear.

buy your next couch online…

Campaign may be to furniture what Casper is to mattresses. Finally you can get the previously mythical combination of quality furniture that is shippable using normal delivery methods, and that requires minimal assembly. It’s also billed as being “built for life”, with prices on par with Crate and Barrel, or West Elm, and ships for “free”.

Why It’s Hot:
Great products are designed around removing pain points from the customer experience. The long transit times (and coordinating final delivery) that can come with freight shipping (+the cost), and the overly frustrating and laborious assembly required with other furniture purchased digitally are two major headaches when buying furniture online. Campaign solves for both. Meanwhile, IKEA is still trying to figure out how to make a flat-packable couch.

the foul stench of possible identity theft…

Smell of Data from Leanne Wijnsma on Vimeo.

Some obviously creative innovators have recently created the “Smell of Data” to alert you instantly when your personal information is at risk of being compromised while adventuring around the internet.

Per these geniuses –

“Smell of Data aims to give internet users moment-to-moment updates on whether their private information is at risk of being leaked…The Smell of Data is a new scent developed as an alert mechanism for a more instinctive data…Smell data? Beware of data leaks. They can lead to privacy violation, behavior control, and identity theft.”

“To utilize the Smell of Data, a scent dispenser is charged with the specially developed fragrance, and then connected to a smartphone, tablet, or computer via Wi-Fi. The device is able to detect when a paired system attempts to access an unprotected website on an unsecured network and will emit a pungent puff of the Smell of Data as a warning signal.”

Why It’s Pungent Hot:

It’s seemingly an interesting play on an old method of playing on peoples’ senses in order to condition behavior. While it’s obviously a bit silly, the point is – very often we’re not thinking how what we do digitally could lead to trouble later. Now there’s a Pavlovian way to get us to stop and think.

OK Google, Am I Depressed?


See gif of how it works here.

As reported by The Verge, yesterday Google rolled out a new mobile feature to help people who might think they’re depressed sort it out. Now, when someone searches “depression” on Google from a mobile device (as in the screenshot above), it suggests “check if you’re clinically depressed” – connecting users to a 9 question quiz to help them find out if they need professional help.

Why It’s Hot:

As usual, Google shows that utility is based on intent – instead of just connecting people to information, they’re connecting information to people. In this case, it could be particularly impactful since “People who have symptoms of depression — such as anxiety, insomnia, or fatigue — wait an average of six to eight years before getting treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.” 

disney creates a magical bench…

…you could interact with pretty much anything your mind can dream up.

Disney Research developed a somewhat lo-fi solution for mixed reality that requires no special glasses or singularity type of stuff. Its “Magic Bench” allows people to interact with things that aren’t there, watching the action in 3rd person view, on a screen broadcasting them. It even provides haptic feedback to make it feel like the imaginary character or object truly is on the bench with you.

Why It’s Hot:

1) It’s a great example of technology enabling a physical experience without getting in the way. Historically, augmented/mixed reality required some type of personal technology like glasses/headset, or a phone. This requires nothing from the user but their presence.

2) It shows how Disney is using technology to create experiences that extend its “magical” brand into the digital age.

 

student teacher…

An 11 year old Tennessee girl recently found a way to instantly detect lead in water, cutting the time it used to take to do so drastically. Previously, you had to take a water sample and send it off to a lab for analysis, now all you need is her contraption and a smartphone. She discovered her solution when she read about a new type of nanotechnology on MIT’s website, and imagined its new application in its new context.

Here’s how it works:
“Her test device, which she has dubbed “Tethys,” uses a disposable cartridge containing chemically treated carbon nanotube arrays. This connects with an Arduino technology-based signal processor with a Bluetooth attachment. The graphene within the nanotube is highly sensitive to changes in flow of current. By treating the tube with atoms that are sensitive to lead, Rao is able to measure whether potable water is contaminated with lead, beaming the results straight to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. When it detects levels higher than 15 parts per million, the device warns that the water is unsafe.”

Why it’s hot:

1) Never let “can we do this” stop you
2) Never let “how can we do this” stop you
3) Some of the best solutions come when you put two (or more) things together

This offers a good lesson in a few important ingredients for innovation – how much you care, how much you believe, and how creative you can be. When all are high, you can create amazing things. Know what’s possible, believe that anything is, and let nothing stop you. Let’s do it.

the ultimate convenience of the ultimate convenience store…

A company called Wheely’s has created Moby Mart, a 24/7, on demand, self-driving, drone and digital assistant serviced, all electric, environmentally friendly, grab and go, digital payment only convenience store, currently autonomously piloting the streets of Shanghai. Or, as they put it on their website – “It is the store that comes to you, instead of you coming to the store.”

Bonus non-product marketing demo video:

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting to think about what the world could look like when a number of often separate technologies come together. This may just be a primitive attempt at imagining it, but imagine the ultimate convenience provided by combining a number of technologies individually aimed at creating convenience for people. Anything could be delivered to you wherever you are, without direct human assistance.

first responder app cuts emergency response time in half…


The European Heart Rhythm Association have developed a “First Responder” app that claims to cut the time for someone in cardiac arrest to receive CPR by more than half. It essentially sends out a signal to all app users, who are people trained to provide CPR, and if one is close by, they can answer the call. The app even provides directions. In their tests, the EHRA saw the following results:

Why It’s Hot:

First, it’s almost shocking no one has already done this. The technology required has been available for years. But, for me, it’s the massive impact such a simple solution can have. Every minute they’re able to shave off the response time “increases a victim’s chance of survival by ten percent.” Considering heart attacks are the #1 cause of death in our own country, I wonder how long until we can adopt a similar model.

your face is your ticket…


Jet Blue is now piloting airport technology that would replace your boarding pass with a scan of your face.

Here’s how it works:

“The process is fairly simple: Passengers step up to a camera to have their picture taken. The picture is then compared with passport photos in the CBP database and to verify flight details. If successful, the passenger is notified that they are cleared to board by an on-screen message at the camera terminal.”

Why it’s hot:

I’m not sure how smooth the experience sounds at the moment, but the idea of never needing to have a boarding pass either physically or on your phone, and just being able to walk on to your flight sounds pretty no non-sense  (except you still have to remember what seat you’re in). It makes you think – there are probably many such things that “outerweb” technology could replace that we currently do with our phones. What happens to our phones when biometrics and other technologies can enable us to do what we’re now doing with our smartphones?

 

holograms, benjamin…

Some genius developer has boldly chosen to experiment with perhaps the world’s most forgotten voice assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and imagined what interacting with her could be like if you added another dimension to it.

In his words – “It’s basically what I imagined Microsoft’s version of Alexa or Google Home would be like if they were to use the holographic AI sidekick from the Halo franchise.”

As seen in the video above, in his prototype, it’s as if you’re speaking to an actual artificial person, making the experience feel more human.

Why it’s hot:
Amazon recently released the Echo Show, which allows skillmakers to add a “face” to their interactions, but this makes that look like a kids toy. This shows how what started not long ago as primitive voice technology on a phone, could quickly turn into actual virtual assistants that look and act like humans, powered by the underlying technology. Plus, apparently 145 million people may not ignore they have access to Cortana in the future.

googler creates AI that creates video using one image…

One of the brilliant minds at Google has developed an algorithm that can (and has) create video from a single image. The AI does this by predicting what each of the next frames would be based on the previous one, and in this instance did it 100,000 times to produce the 56 minute long video you see above. Per its creator:

“I used videos recorded from trains windows, with landscapes that moves from right to left and trained a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm with it. What you see at the beginning is what the algorithm produced after very little learnings. It learns more and more during the video, that’s why there are more and more realistic details. Learnings is updated every 20s. The results are low resolution, blurry, and not realistic most of the time. But it resonates with the feeling I have when I travel in a train. It means that the algorithm learned the patterns needed to create this feeling. Unlike classical computer generated content, these patterns are not chosen or written by a software engineer.

Why it’s hot:

Creativity and imagination have been among the most inimitable human qualities since forever. And anyone who’s ever created anything remotely artistic will tell you inspiration isn’t as easy as hitting ‘go’. While this demonstration looks more like something you’d see presented as an art school video project than a timeless social commentary regaled in a museum, it made me wonder – what if bots created art? Would artists compete with them? Would they give up their pursuit because bots can create at the touch of a button? Would this spawn a whole new area of human creativity out of the emotion of having your work held up next to programmatic art? Could artificial intelligence ever create something held up against real human creativity?

repeat after me…

A Canadian company called Lyrebird has created a way to replicate anyone’s voice using AI. After capturing 60 seconds of anyone talking, the machine can reproduce an individual’s way of speaking. They say they’ve already received thousands of ideas on how people could use this new capability:

Some companies, for example, are interested in letting their users choose to have audio books read in the voice of either famous people or family members. The same is true of medical companies, which could allow people with voice disabilities to train their synthetic voices to sound like themselves, if recorded samples of their speaking voices exist. Another interesting idea is for video game companies to offer the ability for in-game characters to speak with the voice of the human player.

 

But even bigger, they say their technology will allow people to create a unique voice of their own, with the ability to fully control even the emotion with which it speaks.

Why it’s hot

Besides the fact that it’s another example of life imitating art, we already live in a world where we have quite a bit of control over how we portray ourselves to the world. In the future, could we choose our own voice? Could we have different voices for every situation? How might we ever really be sure we know who we’re speaking to? Does the way someone has chosen to sound change the way we get to know them? And, what if the voices of our friends and family can now be preserved in perpetuity?

 

the internet of graphene…


[image and subject matter courtesy of digital trends]

Scientists/researchers from Trinity College of Dublin recently published a concept of printed, 2D transistors made of graphene that could instantly turn “dumb” physical objects into connected/”living” products.

According to them…

“You could imagine the possibility of one day having printed circuitry on food packaging, so that rather than having a barcode, you have a circuit that can communicate information to the user…That could mean a carton of milk that sends you a text message when your milk is about to go off. Another possible usage, Coleman said, is the concept of paper-thin displays, which could be embedded into newspapers or magazines, or slung up on the wall like a moving poster.

 

Why it’s hot:

I don’t profess to understand all the history and intricacies of circuits and transistors in the slightest, but I do see how the breakthrough idea of using a low-cost material that would make large scale implementation could have massive implications for the future of products. All of a sudden everything with a physical surface could become digitally-enabled, able to “come alive” in a sense and communicate, or even entertain us, opening up a whole new layer in the physical world.

 

better living partying through chemistry technology…


[about 2:05-2:45 should do it]

It’s not just a clever name, PartyBOT is your “Artificial Dance Assistant”, or ADA for short. Debuted at SxSW last month, ADA learns about party-goers musical tastes, drink preferences, and social savvy. Then, it uses facial and voice recognition to monitor the room, playing tunes tailored to the interests of those who aren’t partying hard enough as determined by their expressions and conversations. As described by its creators…

“The users’ relationship with the bot begins on a mobile application, where—through a facial recognition activity—the bot will learn to recognize the user and their emotions. Then, the bot will converse with the user about party staples—music, dancing, drinking and socializing—to learn about them and, most importantly, gauge their party potential. (Are they going to be a dance machine or a stick in the mud—the bot, as a bouncer of sorts, is here to find out.)

Upon arrival at the bar, the user will be recognized by PartyBOT, and throughout the party, the bot will work to ensure a personalized experience based on what it knows about them—their favorite music, beverages, and more. (For example, they might receive a notification when the DJ is playing one of their favorite songs.)”

Why it’s hot:

Obviously this was an intentionally lighthearted demonstration of using bot and other technology to improve an experience for people. Apart from knowing you like Bay Breezes, imagine the improved relationship brands could have with their customers by gathering initial preferences and using those to tailor experiences to each individual. Many times bots are thought of in very simplistic – question/answer/solution form – but this shows how combining AI with other emerging technologies can make for a much more personally exciting overall experience.

exploring the reality of mixed reality…

Strange Beasts from Magali Barbé on Vimeo.

I came across the short film Strange Beasts this week, which in a way slightly lighter than Black Mirror explores the peculiar realities of a mixed reality world. The full 5 minutes are well worth watching, it’s a quick story, but the pertinent parts are probably the first minute, and from about 2:40-4 minutes, when it implies its central philosophical question. I thought this would make for a good discussion.

Why It’s Hot:

Mixed reality is obviously a topic du jour among emergent technologies, a step beyond virtual reality – enabling us to see things ourselves that aren’t there in any tangible, physical sense (as we currently understand physical tangibility). The question is – what kind of place will the “real world” be when everyone can for all intents and purposes be experiencing their own “world”, cordoning themselves off into their own ecosystem of things, beasts, and even friends and family? Plus, we think we look ridiculous with a virtual reality headset on…

strategy = only the right stuff…


image credit: martin dyhouse

Strategy is about choices, but mindful choices.

Doing everything is doing nothing, as the story goes.

The brilliant and legendary creative Dave Trott recently wrote a blog post relaying an anecdote from World War II that illustrates this idea that strategy is about choosing what to strip away (or to avoid) to create something truly powerful.

Why It’s Hot: 

As we build things, we should keep in mind above all – what does this ad, product, site, app, experience need to do. If something doesn’t need to be part of the thing in order for it to do what it needs to do better than any other thing, we don’t need it. Conversely, if it’s going to strengthen the effect of the thing, that’s what we need to do.

how technology is helping us reflect on ourselves…

Most of the time when you read about robotics, it’s about the technological feats and capabilities being accomplished. But a robotic installation called Mimic, created recently for the Toronto Film Festival, took a different tack. A company called Design I/O took an industrial robot arm, built for “automation in industrial applications, from welding to palletizing to injection molding”, and gave it a human personality and human reactions. The robot was able to interact with people around it, exhibiting three human inclinations – trust, interest, and curiosity, “along with a taxonomy for body language that correspond to what the UR5 is feeling”. According to Design I/O’s Theo Watson, “We realized that these three feelings could define so much in how the robot responds to visitors…and in some ways these are some of the most primary metrics we lean on in our daily interactions, so much so that they aren’t immediately obvious.”

Why it’s hot

First, it shows how inevitably the interactions we have with “bots” could be more humanlike – how they could physically react based on our emotions and movements. But what’s interesting to me is how as we are doing this, it forces a natural reflection on what makes us interact the way we do as humans. Not that there isn’t probably large amounts of scientific research on the inner workings of our brains and bodies to explain, but on a more pedestrian level, it’s reminding us of “how we work” as human beings.

“Speak” 37 languages for $199…

The world finally has its first pair of earbuds that can translate 37 different languages into the one you can understand in near real time. It may not help you speak to someone who doesn’t have the same technological advantage, but according to the Mymanu, the company that developed them: “The Mymanu Clik…is a wireless Bluetooth headset that’s capable of recognizing and translating between nine language packs and 37 different languages in real time, including French, Spanish, and Japanese. When powered on and paired to a smartphone, the earbuds automatically detect the language being spoken and provide a spoken translation within a sentence or two.”

Plus, they don’t need a wi-fi or data connection to work, and the company claims to be in “partnership” conversations now with the likes of Google and Spotify, which could result in quick mass adoption.

They’re available through Kickstarter for $199 (shipping ~ May 2017), and apparently they’re also useful for listening to Taylor Swift or talking to your mother, although they can’t make either less painful like they can with understanding what’s being said.

Why it’s hot: 

I told myself I wouldn’t write about technology that can give us “superhuman” capabilities this week, but it was unavoidable. Beyond just being able to understand what’s being said next to you on the subway, communication can break down barriers as they say. Being able to understand a stranger who doesn’t speak your language can not only make you feel more comfortable in a new and unfamiliar place, it can also make you feel more comfortable with a new and unfamiliar type of person.

feel your unborn messi kick from anywhere…

A company called First Bond Wearables has created a FitBit-like “bracelet” that lets expectant fathers and non-carrying expectant mothers feel some semblance of the physical sensation of a baby kicking in its mother’s womb. According to First Bond: “The mama is wearing a kick monitor patch…which detects the baby’s actions…So when the baby kicks or moves, it sends a signal via GSM to an elegant smart bracelet that imitates the movements. The sharing happens instantly so the person wearing the wristband will feel the movement in real-time…The bracelet uses rotating beads in order mimic a baby’s womb movements, rather than vibrations that many wearable devices currently employ to deliver notifications.”

Why it’s hot

In the past, you could have argued that the more technology takes over, the less we feel. But with the rise in virtual reality, haptics, wearables, and the like, we’re seeing a swing back towards technology augmenting what we can physically feel as human beings. Whether it’s to be able to empathize, or just to be able to share an experience, it’s another example of technology filling in the gaps that exist in our humanity. Just another example of how technology is changing the way we physically experience the world.

Headphones Up, Calories Down…


(start at 0:23, you can get the basic idea by about 0:45)

I think we can all agree that sugar is evil. Particularly in this country, sugar consumption has become a major source of serious weight and health issues plaguing many. And as our esteemed colleagues Karan and Liz shared with me yesterday, apparently even when you try other sweeteners to avoid it, the alternative is cancer. So, how can we get our sweet fix without risking some massive health related life event?

Rest easy, because based on University of Oxford research, Xin Cafe in China has created “Sonic Sweetener”. According to science, listening to certain sounds makes our brain think what we’re consuming is sweeter than it actually is. So, Xin Cafe worked with sound designers to create a cup with a headphone jack that plays the right notes while you’re drinking your beverage to make it seem as though you’re imbibing something sweet when you’re actually not (try out the miracle soundtrack for yourself here).

Why it’s hot

First of all, I’m impressed at such a seemingly lo-fi “tech” solution to a very serious, widespread problem. Sometimes it doesn’t take a massive innovation to meaningfully change the way we experience things in life. And obviously it’s one of the latest examples in what will be many many years of technology (some more progressive, some less) filling in the gaps where our humanity can fail us. Self-control is a great quality, but not one that’s always easily applied. What other human shortcomings could sound (or any other) technology help us with?

I Bet You Guys Are Wondering Why I’m Writing About Dresses…


Hopefully that headline got you – my colleagues in the NYC office – to stop on my post even though I’m not there to present it.

Without leaving you in too much suspense, it’s because Google recently partnered with H&M’s “digital fashion house” Ivyrevel to create something called “Coded Couture”.

The fashion influencers currently (beta) experiencing this new phenomenon will end up with completely bespoke dresses, designed based on data gathered from their activities over the course of a week.

How it ostensibly works is – they will download an app (to be released more broadly later this year), which will monitor “who they are”, what they do, and where they go, and the data captured will inform a design meant to reflect their unique personalities.

In the words of one of Ivyrevel’s co-founders, “The Data Dress enables women around the world to order a dress made entirely for them, that reflects the way they live their lives.”

Why it’s hot so hot right now (pls read in Will Ferrel Mugatu voice)

The idea of creating physical things informed by digital data is yet another example of digital transforming the physical world. Most often previously, data has helped personalize digital experiences, this is obviously data informing a physical object. If this became commonplace (/when it does), instead of choosing from mass produced options, everything we wear and use could be completely tailored for our individual lives/lifestyles.

But most of all, I’m just really curious how I would look in a data dress.

What do you guys think?

Ready Player One?


A company called “Tesla Studios” has teased the idea since 2015, and last year teased us again with the “Teslasuit”, a full body haptic suit to provide an extra sensory touch/feel experience, enabled through digital means. The suit would allow those wearing it to physically feel the effects of any virtual interactions – which could be triggered through a phone, gaming console, or virtual reality experience, among other ways – as if they were happening in the so called real world. They’re not the only ones working on the idea, but they do seem to be the most prominent.

Why it’s hot:
It shows what could be the ultimate culmination of the trend toward digital invading our everyday physical world. Right now we’re interacting with each other and brands through websites, messaging, apps, chat bots,etc. A lot of the applications of this have been focused on gaming, but imagine if you could touch and feel the things you want to buy, get yourself physically examined by a doctor, or just rub a friend’s back virtually. While this may be further off, it shows the trajectory of digital’s invasion into our physical world – how the physical world is being transformed by digital means.

Quartz News App and the Rise of Messaging as a UI…

IMG_0197 IMG_0202

The exclusively digital news outlet Quartz just announced its new iOS app last week, which delivers the news as they literally say “in a whole new way”.

Opening the app brings you into a familiar environment that looks like the iMessage user interface, and Quartz starts throwing out news leads, giving you the option to either go to the full story, learn more in the app, or move on to the next news story. They also use emojis and gifs just to make the experience a little more fun and creative.

Why It’s Hot

Quartz is just the latest app I’ve seen that uses messaging as the way you get whatever it is delivering. You may know Go Butler, which promises “anything you want, on demand” via a text exchange. There’s also Hyper, an app “concierge” that helps you book travel. Facebook keeps talking about (yet not releasing) its planned “M” virtual assistant. And of course, people are using WeChat in China to buy basically anything. By using messaging, they are making what would otherwise be active experiences and making them much more passive – requiring significantly less work. Especially as more people start using smartwatches, I’m interested to see how broad this starts to extend. Will this be a niche way of delivering a user experience, or will this become the way we transact digitally?

Welcome to the Internet of YOUR Things…

realityeditor1
[image credit: RealityEditor.org]

In recent years, the connection between people and objects has become the “next frontier” of digital technology. The so-called “Internet of Things” has already produced connected devices like the Nest products, and we’ve seen Google’s Project Soli working on how to control wearable devices using gestures. But yesterday, I came across another way to accomplish the task of connecting and controlling all of your technology – MIT’s “Reality Editor” allows you to create connections between your own “things”, and control them using just an app on your phone. It basically creates a private network of things, the functions of which you can define and control, and between which you can create relationships. Some of the examples they provide are:

  • Instead of having to get out of bed to turn off a light using a switch next to your bedroom door, connect an object on your bedstand to the light so that when you turn it the light goes off
  • Connect your bed to your car’s heat/air conditioning so that in the winter,  you can turn on the heat when you get up so that your car is warm when you’re ready to drive to work

What’s still a little unclear is how the objects actually communicate, but it appears you need a digital “fingerprint” attached to each in order to actually manipulate and connect them, and that there needs to be an arduino or something else involved. They say you need to create “Hybrid Objects” to actually realize the benefit.

REALITY EDITOR from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

Why It’s Hot

What sets Reality Editor apart is the ability to control all of your things yourself, without needing multiple products ultimately controlled by the companies that produce them (to whom you’re also giving data and private information, even images). It seems to be a smarter way to achieve the same control over your stuff that the “Internet of Things” promises. And what’s really cool is it’s not just a concept – it’s actually in the app store now, so you can start doing it today.

Automate Your Digital Creeping…

charliescreen2

It’s not exactly brand new, but this past week an app called Charlie caught my eye. Charlie connects with both the calendar on your phone and your Google calendar, as well as your social networks and contacts, and combs social spaces and websites so that it can provide what essentially amounts to a briefing on every person you are meant to meet with.

charlie3

It’s clearly most useful for salespeople, but could also be useful if you’re interviewing someone new, or just want to know more about the people you work with every day that you had never uncovered before.

Why It’s Hot

Besides its obvious utility in aggregating all of the information about the people you’re meeting/working with, it’s also part of a bigger trend of virtual assistance. It may not be as intelligent as something like Google Now or Amazon Echo, but it’s basically the equivalent of having someone comb the digital world for peoples’ relevant details. One of digital’s ultimate promises is to help us do the things we want to do more efficiently, and effectively. Clearly this is a way to reveal details about people that saves time and effort, automatically generating intelligence for you that can help you understand people better and potentially make better connections.

Experience is Understanding…

googleconcussionapp

(image via University of Arizona Engineer)

We can try and understand what it’s like to physically experience certain things, but we really can’t understand what it’s like to do so until we have.

This week, researchers and engineers from the University of Arizona unveiled an app to be used with Google Cardboard that lets people experience the symptoms of a concussion. They specifically designed it for college athletes, who often will stay in a game despite experiencing those symptoms, at least sometimes because they may not really know what they feel like. Plus, they may not know how continuing to play despite a concussion can negatively impact other players and their team. This gives them a tangible and memorable experience, so that if they feel the same effects on the field, they’ll know it’s time to see the doctor. It also probably has at least some influence on how they handle those in-game decisions on whether to come off the field or not.

Why It’s Hot

We’ve seen virtual reality experiences enabled by Occulus and Google Cardboard before, but I thought it was an interesting thought that by allowing people to experience something they never have, we can enlighten them (in this case what it’s like to be afflicted with some injury). Some say technology is making us less human, less empathetic, but perhaps this type of virtual experience of putting ourselves into shoes we might otherwise never be in might actually give us more understanding of what different things are like for different people.

Professional Connections Just a Swipe Away…

switch

The Tinderization of everything has apparently begun, and it’s sweeping the digital world.

A new app called Switch now lets you post a resume card, browse job postings, and swipe right for anything that looks interesting.

switch2

If the job poster likes what he or she sees on your truncated resume, they can accept your interest, and you are both connected for a private conversation.

switch3

Why It’s Hot

Every few years, someone reinvents the job hunting process. First it was Monster, then it was LinkedIn, maybe now it’s time for (a) Switch. This would seem to make the whole process more efficient, mobile-friendly, and human. Although as with any website or app, it’s contingent upon building a critical mass of users, it seems like a way to match employers and potential employees that fits with the times.

Form Following Function in Wearables…

jacketpay

“One-touch/tap/swipe” payment systems obviously are far from new. The combination of Apple Pay with the Apple Watch has made it easy for those who own one to pay for things quickly and easily, as has Google Wallet. But while you might argue the style appeal of the fluorescent Apple Watch band, it’s really designed more to be functional than beautiful.

Now, the UK fashion brand Lyle & Scott has partnered with Barclaycard to bring more form to the function of “one-touch/tap/swip” payment. It has designed a jacket with a built-in “bPay” chip that makes it easy to pay for things with a swipe of the right sleeve (anything under £30 at the moment, that is). The Barclaycard-developed chip can also make “almost anything into a contactless way to pay.”

Why It’s Hot

The promise of digital is more functional, but ultimately, we don’t want function to always dictate form factor, especially when it’s something you have to wear. Technology like the Apple Watch, and even Google Glass is cool in what it does, but especially in the latter case, it may not exactly project any kind of sense of style. Now that the function is there, the form seems not far off into the future, even if this still feels a bit ahead of the times.

All Hail Your Robot Bartender Overlord…

foxtender
[image via PSFK]

Waiting to order a drink at the bar has been the price of entry on Friday and Saturday nights (among other nights) for God knows how long. But if Foxtender has anything to say about it, it won’t be in the future.

Foxtender is basically a drink dispensing machine that offers bar patrons a host of pre-determined popular drinks, all made in 16 seconds. It also lets you pay either using the Foxtender smartphone app, or by tapping a wristband on its payment screen, and it monitors how much you’ve had to drink, cutting you off after a certain specific amount (either within an hour, or over the course of a night). And, of course, it has an automated system for verifying you are 21 or older (or whatever age the legal limit is wherever you are). In short, it’s obviously the least human way to get a drink.

Why It’s Hot
Because it’s another example of the ultimate promise of technology – making things faster and easier. The most interesting aspects to me are not the fact that it even makes drinks, but that you can pay with a tap of your phone or wristband, eliminating the need to take that normal extra step of interacting with a busy human bartender, and that it monitors how much you’ve had to drink, ostensibly helping you be “smarter” about drinking. Of course, personally, I’m not sure I want a technological overlord deciding the exact amount of booze I get in a drink, and the cocktail limit in some sense restricts your freedom to make bad decisions, but I suppose these could be small prices to pay for having a more seamless drinking experience.