helsinki, now available for demo…

Helsinki, Finland has just relaunched as the world’s first “city as a service”.

Ok, not really, but it’s how the city is pitching itself in order to woo tech talent to move there.

Per TrendWatching – “Finnish capital Helsinki launched a lighthearted campaign called City as a Service in an attempt to attract new tech talent. A platform and video pitches the CaaS to viewers, explaining that Helsinki has ‘over 640,000 daily active users’ and boasts an ‘API’ that supports excellent healthcare and public transport. Meanwhile, the city’s Mayor – billed as the CEO – explains that the winter darkness and flat skyline are not technical bugs but ‘carefully considered features’. Visitors to the platform are encouraged to apply for a ‘free demo trip’; 15 people will be chosen for a free trip to Helsinki in November.”

Apply for your free demo here.

And if you’re interested in the Freemium model, it boasts features like:

> Surprisingly ok beaches
> Drink the famous Finnish tap water
> Dip in a hole in ice
> Santa Claus lives only a 14h drive away
> Highest density of heavy metal bands in the world

Why It’s Hot:

Unexpected delivery is one of the best ways to catch attention. Marry that with the ability to demonstrate an understanding of the language and world of your target, and you can make magic that creates compelling connections. Whether or not it works, it shows Helsinki cares about the people it’s talking to, and respects them enough to go beyond the rational RTBs (although it has those too) to drive an extremely emotional decision of where to live.

share a coke with who?


Coke’s once again using its product not only as a marketing tool, but a way to bring people together. In South Africa, where there are 11 different residual languages post-Apartheid, Coke created the “phonetic can”. Now, sharing one doesn’t just mean potentially connecting with someone new, but someone new with a name perhaps derived from another cultural enclave. As they put it, “getting a person’s name right is the first step towards getting along together.”

As part of the campaign, they created gifs for social that would help people learn different sounds required for correct pronunciation, renamed local radio stations to peoples’ hard-to-pronounce monikers, and created OOH billboards featuring names that were likely culturally unfamiliar to the residents of the neighborhoods where they ran. Beyond advertising, South African soap operas “worked the idea into plot lines”, and teachers even used the phonetic cans “as lesson tools in classrooms.”

Why it’s hot:

The ultimate marketing combination is connection and utility. Not only is this a great extension of its global marketing efforts, it’s one that has an intensely human side and altruistic goal. It’s not superficial purpose marketing, or a meaningless stunty gesture. Whether or not you actually share a Coke with someone whose name you couldn’t pronounce without help, you would still learn how to pronounce those names and at the very least be that much more culturally savvy as a result.

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chicken wars are over, yet another fast food war rages on…


Just as we were emerging from the US fast food Chicken Wars, another battle is now raging in the ongoing war between McDonald’s and Burger King. You probably remember the much-celebrated Whopper Detour of 2018. Well, Burger King Germany now brings you “Escape the Clown”. To coincide with the movie IT 2’s release, Burger King placed an ad in a movie magazine found in McDonald’s stores. People could scan the ad through the Burger King app to activate an AR experience leading to a coupon for a one-cent Whopper at a nearby BK. The coupon was only good for a finite amount of time, so customers would have to decide quickly.

Why it’s hot:

Sometimes you play nice, sometimes you can make a savage move. Placing an ad in a magazine at McDonald’s, and hijacking customers, when they’re literally at the point of sale, is about as savage as it gets in marketing. The fact they concealed it with AR is nice, but I’m not sure it was altogether necessary. And I’m not sure how anyone would know to look in the magazine and scan the ad before they would have already ordered a Big Mac. Either way, it’s certainly bold. Even if people don’t go to buy a Whopper, at least they could have had a brand experience that might affect their next fast-food dining decision. The kind of move that can leave an impression, and also land your app on someones phone (not to be lost here).

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the chicken wars still rage…

The chicken wars. If you thought they were over, think again. Refresher – Popeyes introduced a new chicken sandwich, it sold out nationwide in just two weeks, and left people craving its fried goodness. Realizing it clearly had grabbed a share of the attention economy, Popeyes didn’t just simply let things be. Instead, it is now urging people to “bring your own bun” and make a chicken sandwich out of three chicken tenders, if you can’t wait for it to reload its sandwich supply.

Why it’s hot:

When you have momentum, ride the wave. Popeyes itself even acknowledges this isn’t ideal, but at least it gives people an idea and a reason to still come into Popeyes, even if the item they wanted isn’t currently available.

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a billboard you can plant…

Working with the Royal Botanic Gardens (the UK “authority on plant science”), Herbal Essences recently created “billboards” featuring leaves you could pull off, that contained wildflower seeds you could plant at home. The idea was to grow more wildflowers to nurture London’s endangered butterfly community, since butterflies are “major pollinators”, like bees.

Why it’s hot:

It’s such a simple way to build meaningful relationships. Going beyond just being an ad, it gives something tangible to each person, with an end benefit that helps all Londoners (and really the world) at large. And it’s something anyone passing by can experience, giving it the kind of real-world effect few “ads” ever truly have.

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hinge bears a new kpi…

Dating app Hinge recently released its first brand campaign, based upon a simple premise that’s simply delightful. It’s pitching itself as “the dating app designed to be deleted”…since, you know, the whole point is to find someone you like enough to not spend any more time on dating apps.

Why It’s Hot:

While it’s somewhat shocking that no other dating app has ever taken this tack, it’s a smart move for a relatively new brand on the scene. Leveraging its novelty, breaking from category convention is no doubt one way to stand out.

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big g hacks alexa…


Voice shopping is increasingly becoming mainstream – by next year, it will eclipse $40 billion. And when shopping using Alexa, 85% of people go with its recommendation for products. So, Honey Nut Cheerios used Amazon Prime day to become the #1 cereal brand on Amazon, and the “cereal” default for millions of customers (80% of whom were new to the brand). They offered free Honey Nut Cheerios to anyone who spent over $40 on Amazon Pantry (as well as a $10 discount on their cart), automatically making Honey Nut Cheerios part of peoples’ order history, thus making them the default for those people who might say “order cereal” in the future.

Why it’s hot:

1) It’s hot: Honey Nut Cheerios is getting in on the ground floor. Before voice shopping truly becomes commonplace behavior, they’re powerfully establishing themselves as the default choice and #1 grocery item on Amazon Pantry.

2) It’s not: It feels a bit too aggressive. People choosing Honey Nut Cheerios when they were offered for free (with a $10 cart discount to boot) doesn’t mean they want them in the future. Should brands be placing themselves not just in the consideration set (as a recommendation), but solidifying themselves as the default for transacting?

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dr. google fails its boards…

It’s a behavior as old as the internet itself. Or at least as old as WebMD. People Googling symptoms and self-diagnosing themselves. Turns out that unsurprisingly, this is a worldwide phenomenon, and in Romania, 73% of people were doing it. So, to show Romanians they needed to SEE A DOCTOR ALREADY(!!!!!!!!!!1111), the private healthcare provider Regina Maria put Doctor Google to the test, literally. They gave it the same residency exam wannabe Romanian doctors have to pass in order to become certified. In no surprise to anyone, a prominent Romanian journalist Googling answers to the questions got a dismal 36 out of 200 correct – an 18% score.

According to the brand, “Regina Maria also made the test public for the rest of the country to take for themselves online. Those who didn’t pass were presented with a certificate of failure that could be used as a voucher within Regina Maria’s clinics.

To promote the Internet Residency Exam, Regina Maria created Google ads based on the most common symptoms people searched online and encouraged people to ask a real doctor instead.”

Why it’s Hot:

Instead of simply telling people Google isn’t good at helping you fix yourself, it dimensionalized just how poorly it does the job. One might intuitively accept that self-diagnosing and treating based on a Google search isn’t the best approach, but it’s a whole other thing to see how the knowledge you can glean from it compares with the knowledge of a doctor. Showing, not telling, is the most powerful way to make a point and change behavior.

crayons teach a lesson in humanity…

In Japan, 79% of people associate the word for skin tone (“hada-iro”) with just one color. Mixed race children can often feel alienated for looking different. So Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido did something to show Japan’s youth that everyone is different but equal. It created a special box of crayons by “scanning a group of schoolchildren’s skin in order to create their unique hada-iro profile…and creating crayons that matched the children’s individual skin tones.”

Why it’s hot:

Besides making a beautiful point, Shiseido did it without having to say a word. By simply seeing all the different shades of skin after their faces were scanned, kids would immediately see that there is no “one true color”, and in fact, they were all different. Proving once again that showing, not telling, is an even more powerful way to convey a message.

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coke’s “search of a lifetime”…

Being young is about searching – for who you are, what you want to do with your life, even simply what to do tomorrow. Hooking into this, Coca-Cola in Israel created “The Search of a Lifetime”. Using the top searches among young Israelis, they created targeted content to answer the life-defining questions they were asking around work, school, travel, etc. What’s more, they predicted and created content addressing what would likely be peoples’ next questions after answering the initial query. Ultimately, helping them find the answers, to make the decisions that would make them happy.

First, not enough brands use search to create meaningful connections with people. It’s a direct way to help them by answering the questions you know they’re asking. Second, more brands should be thinking beyond the initial interaction. Coke could have just answered the first question and moved on. Instead, they endeavored to understand how a young person would fully explore these topics, and made sure they completed the conversation.

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a new magic leap for the nba, or vice versa…


This week, notorious mixed reality company Magic Leap announced a new NBA “app” built on its platform.

Per Magic Leap, “Using Magic Leap’s Screens framework, fans can pull up multiple virtual screens to watch live games, full game replays, and highlights playing all at the same time. Only on Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform can these screens be independently scaled to any size and placed in any location. But the really cool stuff? The NBA App on Magic Leap introduces team -vs- team and player -vs- player season-long table top stats comparisons. And while live games are exclusively available for NBA League Pass and NBA Single-Game subscribers, a massive catalog of on-demand content is free for anyone using Magic Leap One.”

Why it’s hot:

Any new platform’s success ultimately depends on people using it. And in order to be useful, it must offer utility. It seems Magic Leap is starting to get into the first of what it believes to be many applications of adding mixed reality layers to our physical world. For several years, they had talked about the device which would enable this. Now, they’ve finally turned to the platform on which to develop experiences. Could this be what the app store was to smart phones? Only time will tell, but it will be exciting to see how Magic Leap and its brand partners develop new ways to experience content and the world with an added immersive layer.

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dorito’s solves its age old problem…

Who doesn’t love Dorito’s? Nacho, Cool Ranch, Flamin’ Hot, whatever you fancy, they’re a classic and delicious snack. But for as long as they have existed, eating them has come at a price – Dorito’s fingers, the unshakeable film of Dorito’s dust that ends up all over everything you touch unless you clean your hands after each chip. 

But your clothes, furniture, pets, and gaming controllers no longer have to live in fear, for the Dorito’s Towel Bag is here, giving Dorito’s lovers a way to clean their hands while eating their favorite snack.

Why it’s hot

It’s a beautiful example of a brand embracing its essence, while improving its experience. Dorito’s dust is part of what makes Dorito’s the chip they are. But instead of eliminating it and changing the product, they created a new one to embrace their product’s dark side.

get travel tips directly from (holograms of) locals…

When you’re waiting for a flight at the airport, you’ve usually got some time to kill. Some people watch Netflix on their phones, some have a drink at the bar, but KLM has come up with another constructive way to capitalize on these moments.

They’ve developed a “bar” currently at airports in Amsterdam, Oslo, and Rio de Janeiro where people can connect with others in the country they’re off to visit to gather tips on local customs, culture, and sights.

Dubbed “Take Off Tips”, here’s how it works:

“KLM is matching travelers up with people at the destination they’re flying to. For example, someone at Schiphol Airport who is about to fly to Norway will be connected with someone at Oslo’s Gardermoen airport who is waiting to board a plane to Amsterdam. To connect the people on opposite sites of the world, the bar is equipped with hologram technology so it can project a real-time virtual image of the traveler at the other airport.”

Why It’s Hot:

From a brand perspective, it’s a great new example of KLM “social airline” experience – connecting people to enhance their otherwise impersonal flying experience (see “Layover with a Local” and “Meet&Seat”.

From an experience perspective, it’s a brilliant solution to a common problem – our current main recourse to get the same tips would be Googling, dredging Trip Advisor, etc. – secondary resources to gain a first-person perspective. Plus, it removes quite a bit of work involved in that process.

From a cultural perspective, it’s getting us off our screens and in touch with each other. Increasingly, the promise of technology is not going to be “there’s an app for that”. As digital infiltrates the physical world, technology is facilitating more human-friendly interactions, such as sitting down at a booth and being projected holographically so that it’s just a face-to-face meeting, no devices needed.

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ny times has the [alexa] skills…

The inimitable New York Times has created not one, but five new Alexa skills.

Now, people can use their smart speaker to access:

> A daily flash briefing read by journalist Michael Barbaro
> Hear about the travels of Sebastian Modak with “52 places to go”
> Get a weekly music roundup from music editor Caryn Ganz
> Get book recommendations from Times book critics
> Play a weekly “New York Times Quiz” testing their knowledge of recent news

Why it’s hot:

It may not feel a massive innovation, but it’s a savvy move for the Times in a world where people are increasingly eschewing websites. No longer is it enough to build destinations, we have to think about how our brands can be present where people need them, when they need them.

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tour the dali museum, with your host…DALI!

When Salvador Dali once said, “If someday I may die…I hope the people…will say, ‘Dali has died, but not entirely”, I’m not sure he knew how right he was. Using AI, his namesake museum in St. Petersburg, Florida has now “resurrected” Dali to welcome visitors, and provide commentary on his works as you move throughout the institution.

According to the museum, they did it by “pulling content from millions of frames of interviews with the artist and overlaying it onto an actor’s face–a digital mask, of sorts, that allowed the actor to appear as Dali whatever expression he made.” It also “cast another actor from Barcelona to ensure that the voice matched the countenance.”

Why it’s hot:

There’s no better experience if you want to learn about an individual and his/her art than to hear about it directly from that person. Especially when they’re as dynamic and memorable as Salvador Dali. Unfortunately, most individuals famous enough to have their own museum likely aren’t on hand to do that in person. Having a virtual Dali guide you through his works seems a perfect way to experience his brilliance as both an artist, and a human being.

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live someone else’s story with unrd…

In a world that’s exploded with media channels, we have many ways to tell or experience a story in 2019. Even many immersive ways. But a new app called unrd has added a fresh one to the mix.

The app allows you to choose from a number of characters, and instead of just reading a story, or watching a video or film, your phone essentially becomes that characters phone, and you experience their story as if it was happening to you.

Per its website, unrd bills itself as “real-time fiction”, and claims it allows you to “live someone else’s life and receive messages, videos, photos and audio messages – and even watch them LIVE on video.”

Why it’s hot:

In a way, we’re all already “experiencing” each others lives through social media and other messages on our phones. But while our friends lives might or might not be interesting, it’s nothing like “becoming” one of them in a crazy situation, such as “You have the phone of a missing girl. Amy Morris disappears after a night out with friends.Over 7 days receive texts, photos and video messages and discover the truth behind her disappearance.” It’s interesting how unrd has not only built a new storytelling platform, but also one that seemingly builds off our proclivity for following other peoples “stories” on our phones.

 

barclay’s saves you from yourself…

Just a few weeks ago, Barclay’s became the first big bank to give its customers unexpected control over their spending. Via Barclay’s app, you can now “switch off” your debit card so that it can’t be used for five specific types of purchases – gambling, “premium-rate websites and phone lines”, restaurants/pubs/bars, gas, and groceries. Once a type of purchase is switched off, any transaction you try with your card at the relevant type of retailer or business will be automatically declined. The idea is to try and help people manage their spending impulses, and is aimed particularly at those with mental health issues or addictions. But, it can also be used to protect yourself from others trying to make fraudulent charges, if you’re worried about that. Barclay’s says it will do the same for credit cards in the near future.

Why It’s Hot: 

It’s a bold move for a bank to offer its customers a way to not spend their own money, but it’s clearly aimed at helping people. Unexpected, and a great example of putting people over profits and thinking about the customer experience beyond just transacting with the bank itself. It’s only a halfway house, given that the feature is completely within each person’s control. But even the cue of having your card declined and having to go into the app to turn whatever type of purchase back on would likely make someone who can’t help themselves think twice.

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bots against bias…

Research late last year revealed that sources quoted in Financial Times articles were ~80% men, and only ~20% women. To fix this, FT recently revealed a new bot aimed at balancing those numbers, calling it “She Said, He Said”.

According to its press release, “She Said, He Said” “uses pronouns and first names [in an article] to determine whether a source is male or a female”, then it will “integrate prompts into the CMS to highlight any gender imbalance prior to publication and remind editors to think about sourcing at the commissioning stage”.

This follows FT’s previously revealed “JanetBot”, which “tracks the number of women featured in images on the home page”, giving real-time feedback to editors as they change what’s featured over the course of each day. It’s all part of a greater strategy FT is using to try and balance its appeal among both genders.

Why It’s Hot

There’s obviously plenty of room for technology to surface bias in news reporting, and it’s great to see one of the world’s most prominent daily outlets using it to do just that. It’s another example of how technology can help us see things we otherwise might not, and allow us to correct it – effectively balancing our human capabilities.

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this year in search…

If you’ve never seen Google’s annual year in review, let that end now.

There isn’t much to say about this video that it doesn’t say for itself, but each year, Google analyzes what terms spiked that year vs. the previous year, and compiles all the moments/people/content/etc. related to those things into two minutes that help us reflect on the 12 months we just experienced.

This year, Google trends determined that people searched for “good” more than anything else.

Why It’s Hot:

From a human standpoint, it’s an important reminder that in a year with many downs, it was the ups we sought out most. But from a marketing standpoint, it’s a great example of transforming data into emotional storytelling. Data isn’t just numbers, it’s a story waiting to be told.

 

emotionally manipulate your children with technology this holiday…


Judging by this product created by Australian retailer Myer, Aussie parents’ behavior might not be under the same microscope that American parents’ behavior is.

Nevertheless, the store created a connected ornament that changes color based on how “naughty” or “nice” the children in the home are being leading up to Christmas.

According to Myer, “The bauble pairs up with an app, so parents can change the colour to coerce their kids into good behaviour, or be faced with a stocking full of coal.” 

The retailer is even taking a page from Spotify’s book, and using the “data” to power billboards around Australia showing how “naughty” or “nice” children in different areas are:

Why it’s hot: 

I’m not sure it is. Technologically, it’s an interesting idea to create a bluetooth powered product symbolizing what will hopefully be a happy holiday for each child. But, while it would be magical for an unknowing children to see “proof” they’re being “nice”, and therefore they’re headed for the rewards they want this holiday, the opposite seems like it could be a bit extreme.

i’ll brt, thanks to easyJet…

Anyone who’s on Instagram has undoubtedly come across a photo and wondered – “where is that, and how do I get there”? Probably on a daily basis. Thanks to easyJet’s new app feature, now you can find out, and book a flight there in a couple of taps.

According to the company – “Simply take a screenshot of a European destination you like the look of and upload it to Look&Book in our app. We’ll then tell you where it is and which flights will get you there.” 

Why it’s hot:

While it’s a great example of turning a ubiquitous behavior into a simple utility, more importantly, it’s another signal that image recognition technology is about to become commonplace.

domino’s strikes again…

Ordering in “zero taps”, ordering by tweet or text, ordering by voice assistant, now Domino’s has a new way to get your favorite order in a dangerously easy manner. “If this then Domino’s” is exactly what it sounds like. In collaboration with IFTTT, you can define moments when you might want Domino’s, and when those things happen, you can get a text asking to confirm if you want to order.

Why it’s hot:

Perhaps you’re not a fan of the food, but it’s interesting to see how Domino’s is using connected technology to prompt people to think of occasions when they might want a pizza. In an effort to expand the times when people order Domino’s, it’s just making it super easy and automated to have the option.

 

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burger king’s “ai” TV campaign…


Burger King revealed several new TV spots that say they were “created by artificial intelligence”.

Via AdAge – “The brand’s statement claims that BK “decided to use high-end computing resources and big data to train an artificial neural network with advanced pattern recognition capabilities by analyzing thousands of fast-food commercials and competitive reports from industry research.” Burger King goes so far as to say that more than 300 commercials were created and tested in focus groups and says the ads will be the first ones created by an A.I. to air on national TV.”

But in reality, Burger King says it’s actually work done by real creatives, mocking the excitement around technology like AI.

According to BK, “we need to avoid getting lost in the sea of technology innovation and buzzwords and forget what really matters. And that’s the idea,” Marcelo Pascoa, Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, tells Ad Age in an emailed statement complete with the word “idea” in all caps. “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person.”

Why it’s hot:

Is Burger King right here?

The spots they have created feel they could have been generated by even some primitive artificial intelligence. Japan’s “AI Creative Director” was more than a year ago, and its work was actually not far off from what you’d expect from a real creative. There seems to be a point missing here that AI is not meant to replace people, but to help people. Attempting to make a joke about the enthusiasm around technology, it seems Burger King might have actually shown us a glimpse at advertising’s future.

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get paid when you get delayed…


It seems solving the pain points of delayed air travelers has become one of 2018’s hottest challenges. The latest brand to take it on is insurance brand AXA, via “fizzy”, it’s smart travel insurance.

Here’s how it works – “AXA’s blockchain-powered insurance plan, called Fizzy, covers travelers for delays of up to two hours or more. When customers purchase insurance using Fizzy, all details and contract agreements are recorded publicly, on the Ethereum blockchain. The contracts, which are connected to global air traffic monitoring databases, automatically trigger compensation payouts when a delay of more than two hours is recorded.”

In otherwords, you get paid (automatically) when you get delayed.

Why it’s hot:

First, it’s one of the most simple and practical, yet smart uses of blockchain and smart contracts we’ve seen yet. There’s plenty of chatter about the potential of blockchain, but considerably fewer actual things consumers can currently do that are blockchain enabled.

But more importantly, it’s a beautiful example of human-driven innovation – and not just because it helps in a situation most of us are likely all too familiar with (delayed flights, more than 150k in the last 30 days just in the US).

One of the biggest headaches with insurance can be having to make claims and waiting to be compensated. fizzy automatically knows when you should be compensated and does so “by the time your flight lands”. So, a matter of hours instead of days.

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a glimpse at your food future via Nestle…

A kit for Nestle Japan’s nutritional drink. Photographer: Kentaro Takahashi/Bloomberg

Nestle is taking an innovative approach to product development, starting with the Japan market.

According to Quartz News – “Some 100,000 people are taking part in a company program there that gives consumers a kit to collect their DNA at home. The program also encourages them to use an app to post pictures of what they’re eating. Nestlé then recommends dietary changes and supplies specialized supplements that can be sprinkled on or mixed into a variety of food products, including teas.”

Ultimately, the goal for Nestle actually goes beyond this, to creating completely individualized products based on individuals’ DNA that could even be designed to prevent serious diseases like cancer. Quartz’s crude example is “Pizzas that can ward off Alzheimer’s disease, for instance”.

One nutritional scientist says, “This is going to be the manifestation of the future. The one-size-fits-all platform is a thing of the past.”

Why it’s hot:

First, as the largest food company in the world, Nestle could be leading the way into a new era of food production – one that’s almost completely the opposite of its heritage over the last few decades. But most importantly, it’s another example of the shift we’re finally seeing from mass production to ultra-personalized products. While using DNA as the mechanism is not without concerns, what better experience than having food and supplements created for you based on what your body needs to keep you at peak health.

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UN digitally transforms petitions…

For World Humanitarian Day last Friday, the UN reimagined how logging your objections to important social issues should really work in 2018.

The organization created a “living petition” protesting civilian suffering in conflict zones across the globe that people could “sign” using a 3D image of their faces (according to the UN, 3 out of 4 victims in conflict zones last year were civilians).

The “petition” is being displayed in an installation at the UN from now through next month’s General Assembly, which “has motion sensors that will allow the eyes of the petitioners to follow world leaders and delegates as they enter the UN hall, reminding them that the whole world is watching.”

Why It’s Hot:

There’s no disputing that a wall of faces with eyes that follow you has a much greater potential to impact the people who see it than a list full of signatures. With all the digital technology we’ve seen arrive in the last 20+ years, it’s high time someone used it to transform the “petition”.

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stanford AI generates sound with zero training…

According to computer scientists at Stanford, they have “developed the first system for automatically synthesizing sounds to accompany physics-based computer animations” that “simulates sound from first physical principles” and most impressively, unlike other AI “no training data is required”.

Why it’s hot:

While most AI to date requires overt training in order to be able to properly synthesize an output, this requires none. It’s not the first AI to require no human-assistance, but the future that might have seemed years off for AI is rapidly advancing. If AI can construct sound from visuals based on physical principles, you have to wonder how hard it might be to construct physical objects based on sound.

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defend your home with two guys talking about ketchup…

The “modern home insurance” brand Hippo recently created “Away Mode”, an Alexa skill that activates one of seven “awkward” conversations when enabled, ostensibly to trick would-be burglars ala Kevin McAllister.

But while it is a real skill, it’s actually designed as advertising to generate awareness for the three-year-old brand.

According to Hippo, “Hippo was looking for a way to engage a broad audience in a conversation about home security and home insurance. We figured it was easier to drive awareness and education through humour.

Why It’s Hot:

First, it’s another example of  “innovation” as advertising. And while stunts are nothing new in advertising, this is the first time a brand has used Alexa as the chosen platform on which to execute one.

But more importantly, it’s a beautiful way to emphasize its point of differentiation. Hippo bills itself generally as an insurance company with a different outlook, as a “tech company” that “leverages Smart Home technology to prevent disasters instead of simply responding to them”, and its insurance “protects smart home appliances and electronics”.

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count cash with AR…

One of the brilliant minds at Google recently shared the AR application above that lets users quickly and easily count money of any currency, in any currency.

Why It’s Hot:

These types of new uses for AR might seem novel and even a bit magical now, but it won’t stay that way for long. This is just another signal that our future will be in 4D, with a new digital layer that will add information and functionality to the physical world.

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london urges against hollywood showers…

If you thought Americans were the only ones enjoying the heat the dark heart of summer brings, it’s also been particularly warm across the Atlantic in London. So, the London charity Water Aid created this Spotify playlist – “Four Minute Shower Hits” to help the water companies urge Londoners to conserve water during this time. It’s not just a clever name, and all songs are four minutes or slightly less, to help people do their part during the heat wave.

Why it’s hot: 

To accomplish their goal, the UK water companies could have created a much more straightforward and forgettable PSA type ad. Instead, they made something useful, functional, and fun.

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