Excel is Dead, Long Live Excel

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article with the title, “Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staff.” Makes sense, seeing as there are newer applications (even from Microsoft Cloud Solutions) that are better and more accurate. However, hundreds of people went crazy.  A majority of financial excel users refuse to let go of their precious spreadsheets while a minority shared fantasies of pressing CTRL+X and deleting the program from their workflows forever.

Source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/finance-pros-say-youll-have-to-pry-excel-out-of-their-cold-dead-hands-1512060948


Why It’s Hot:

  • As technology evolves and we create better systems there will always be people unwilling/unwanting to change. So how can we communicate evolution to get new product advocates.

Topping the iPhone with AR

In hopes of topping themselves, Apple is working to create an augmented reality headset to be shipped in 2020.

“Unlike the current generation of virtual reality headsets that use a smartphone as the engine and screen, Apple’s device will have its own display and run on a new chip and operating system…”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-08/apple-is-said-to-ramp-up-work-on-augmented-reality-headset

Why it’s hot: 

  • VR and AR have been on the cusp of the mainstream for some time, but not have fully caught on. This may finally be the device that pushes AR.
  • VR is difficult because it is very isolating, maybe taking the route of really making AR mainstream will give us time to make VR more inclusive.

Emoji Discord

Unicode, responsible for standardizing the way computers around the world display characters and dropping new sets of emojis, is in discord around none other but the poop emoji.

Memos from Unicode contributors have surfaced regarding the addition of more poop emojis. Of note are memos from two typographers who feel that Unicode is losing sight of its mission and is becoming too lazy in its emoji approval process.

Source: https://gizmodo.com/some-people-at-the-emoji-group-have-had-enough-of-this-1820088258

The proposal in question posits that “the smiley poo is intended to convey irony, while “the FROWNING POO emoji would allow users to discuss unfortunate things that are indeed shitty or that they are unable to joke about yet.” Some examples of its usage in an emoji sequence include:

FROWNING POO emoji + DELIVERY TRUCK emoji = Shitload


CHURCH + FROWNING POO emoji = Holy Shit “

But Michael Everson and Andrew West say that the idea that, “…5 committees would sanction further cute graphic characters based on this should embarrass absolutely everyone who votes yes on such an excrescence…” Both men argue that this is the beginning of a slippery slope in which Unicode will have to provide ridiculous options such as, “CRYING PILE OF POO, PILE OF POO WITH LOOK OF TRIUMPH, PILE OF POO SCREAMING IN FEAR”.

Why it’s hot: 

  • Emojis are part of how we communicate and will continue to become more ubiquitous. So, do we go the route of allowing our new way of communication to become silly or do we focus on standardizing this new “alphabet” with seriousness?


Overcoming the Challenges of Wearable Tech

Project Jacquard, an experimental initiative from Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, has partnered with Levi’s to create the Commuter Trucker denim jacket.

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/40473911/google-and-levis-stitch-up-a-connected-jacket

“Aside from a couple of visual tells—subtle patches of raised stitches and a plastic button on its cuff—the Levi’s Commuter Trucker looks exactly like what you’d expect from the 144-year-old brand: a timeless jean jacket that keeps you warm while looking cool. But appearances deceive. The jacket is actually an interface between you and your phone. Brush, tap, or cover the right spot and you can answer or ignore calls, switch up your music, or get travel-time updates, all without looking at a screen.”

The Challenges

  1. Creating durable conductive thread. Tech is treated with gloves, textiles are meant to endure tough situations from being exposed to fire (to remove extra cotton fibers) to heated presses and pre-skewing (Levi’s process where toothed grips latch and torque the fabric).
  2. Figuring out how the wearer would interact with the interface, which is stitched onto the sleeve). “Levi’s and Google arrived at four main motions: brush in, brush out, tap, or cover the connected area. The actions are subtle enough so you can silence an incoming phone call during a conversation and it just looks like you’re brushing dust off your sleeve.”

Although relatively primitive, the gestures don’t do much more than what the remote control on earbuds, this is a starting point.

Why it’s hot:

  • Because although voice-based interactions are becoming more an more prevalent (Siri or Alexa), touch still has an important role to play in our future interactions with new technology meant to disrupt and replace our screens.

Spare Change for Cryptocurrencies

Dust, a new app, aims to change you save your spare change.

By connecting to your bank account, Dust can see your transactions and round up each of those to the nearest dollar. Like Acorn, it collects spare change. Once you have reached about $10 dollar worth, the amount is used to buy bitcoin, litecoin, or ethereum, in proportions set by the user. The cryptocurrencies are acquired through Coinbase, one of the biggest firms in the business. Additionally, the bank does not have access to the crypto funds.

Image result for cryptocurrency

Source: https://qz.com/1095292/dust-lets-you-buy-bitcoin-with-spare-change-with-monzo/

Why It’s Hot: 

  • The concept is powerful because it removes the need to think—or worry—about the right time to pull the trigger on an investment. It’s especially useful for volatile cryptocurrencies, where prices can swing 100% in a week.


RIP Cassini

This morning, at about 7:55 am, the Cassini spacecraft vaporized, on purpose, into Saturn’s atmosphere. For 4 decades Cassini had been orbiting Saturn and its moons gathering data. It was so good at its job, “it’s own discoveries were its demise”.

Watch this Video

And for some actual footage:

(Start at 0:35)

So, what did Cassini discover? While orbiting one of Saturn’s moons, it found that Enceladus has a warm subsurface ocean under its icy crust. Even more impressive, that ocean may contain almost all of the ingredients needed for life.

So, why was a functioning spacecraft that made such awesome discoveries ultimately destroyed? NASA abides by planetary protection rules set out to avoid contamination to planets with potential life.

According to the office of Planetary Protection at NASA, planetary protection is essential for several reasons:

  • to preserve our ability to study other worlds as they exist in their natural states
  • to avoid contamination that would obscure our ability to find life elsewhere — if it exists
  • to ensure that we take prudent precautions to protect Earth’s biosphere in case it does.

Up until its last moments, Cassini relayed invaluable data to scientists on earth.

Why it’s hot: 

  • The data Cassini gathered can help scientists understand how Saturn evolved, which can help come up with new theories and validate ideas from previous scientific exploration.

Sources: http://mashable.com/2017/09/15/cassini-mission-at-saturn-officially-over/?utm_campaign=Mash-Prod-RSS-Feedburner-All-Partial


New Dimension for An Classic Game

Expected to launch this holiday season is Settler of Catan VR. The game, which slowly rose to fame after it was invented in Germany in ’95, has fans worldwide.



A new version is being developed by game studio Experiment7 — which previously created a pair of VR takes on chess — with feedback from the original minds behind Catan. The VR game, which is coming to both Oculus Rift and Gear VR and called simply Catan VR, is described as “true to the classic, but optimized for virtual reality” with “a fresh, fully-immersive format.” Unfortunately, right now the creators aren’t showing off what the new VR title looks like, though it appears that it will feature both a single-player and online multiplayer component.


Why it’s hot:

Because VR and because Settler’s of Catan! But no, in all seriousness. It’s time we see VR become more mainstream. The board game is pretty pricey, so fans won’t be surprised or unwilling to pay for the experience.

To Post or Not To Post: The Content Dilemma

Hyatt was about to launch a month-long branded content partnership with the Atlantic that revolves around themes of inclusion, understanding and the importance of coming together. And then Charlottesville happened and they hesitated…

The video was conceived around the story of civil rights leader Xernona Clayton, who 50 years ago was searching for a place to host the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta with Martin Luther King Jr. Not a single venue wanted to accommodate the organization until it happened upon a Hyatt Regency. Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the conference.

Hyatt isn’t the only brand to hesitate when it comes to releasing work that could be judged as politically driven. In March, for instance, brands like YouTube, Microsoft, Chevrolet and CoverGirl began promoting Muslim inclusivity through ads without saying they were political. Hyatt was among these.

On one hand, brands have to find a way to tap into the zeitgeist to connect with consumers. On the other hand, they must be wary of getting called out for taking positions in the polarized environment.

Source: https://digiday.com/marketing/hyatt-deliberated-scrapping-new-branded-content-work-charlottesville-riots/

Would you have gone forth with the campaign? 

Why it’s hot: 

  • As marketers and advertisers, we walk a fine line with messaging. What the audience perceives of your messaging, especially in these politically volatile times can make or break a brand.


Smog Eating Bikes to Alleviate Beijing Smog

Beijing’s smog condition is out of control, but design firm Studio Roosegaarde is up for the challenge of reducing or eliminating it.

The anti-smog bicycles are expected to hit the Chinese city’s streets by the end of the year.

Here’s how the bikes work: A device installed near the handlebars of the bike sucks in smoggy air and filters out particulates like soot or dust, clearing the way for what will essentially be a bubble of clean air right in front of the rider.

The bikes are still in the planning stage, so their effectiveness has yet to be put to the test, but it’s possible that this air-filtration system could benefit more than just the cyclist who rides it. With Roosegaarde’s partner bike-sharing service Ofo providing access to over 6.5 million bikes in Asia and the U.K., a lot of air could end up running through those filters.


The design firm is known for creating other anti-smog tech. In 2016, they created a Smog Free tower, a 22 foot tall construction that can filter a million cubic feet an hour, with much of the particulate matter collected made into fashion accessories.

Why it’s Hot: 

  • Outside the box thinking of enabling everyday items to help reduce pollution and help the environment is another way of tackling our environmental concerns that is accessible and feasible.

Designer Babies

Researchers in Oregon report they have successfully genetically modified a human embryo (don’t worry, they were destroyed a couple of days later). They used a technique known as CRISPR where gene-editing chemicals are injected into a human egg at the moment of fertilization. In this case, scientists were correcting DNA errors present in the father’s sperm.

This is the first time this experiment is conducted in the US, researchers here have been watching in awe, envy and with alarm as the procedure was previously attempeted in China.

It is believed the US team has broken new ground due to the number of embryos experimented on as well as the ability to safely and efficiently correcting defective genes that cause inherited diseases. This is the first of many milestones to be reached in creating genetically modified humans.

Why it’s hot: 

  • The objective of human gene modification is to potentially erradicate or correct genes that cause hereditary diseases.

Why it’s not hot: 

  • Eliminating hereditary diseases is one thing, creating designer babys a whole other ethical debate.

100 Days – 1 Battery

Elon Musk has won a contract to build the world’s biggest lithium battery and how he has 100 days to build it. In a bold move, Musk has promised he will build the battery in under four months or the battery is free of charge.

Tesla will be partnering with French energy company Neoen to build the giant 129MWh battery to store renewable energy. “The system will be three times more powerful than any system on Earth,” Musk was quoted saying.

Why Australia? Australia is running short on natural gas, so much so that the lights may go out for most of the population within two years! Currently, South Australia is constantly plagued by power blackouts, making it a prime opportunity to prove the batteries efficacy.

Why It’s Hot: 

  • One of the biggest problems with renewable energy is actually storing it. The second problem is that the sun is not always shinning and the wind is not always blowing making it somewhat unreliable. Finding the solution for storing large amounts of renewable energy is not just a solution for Australia, but for the future of worldwide energy production.

Prank Videos Gone a Step Too Far

It was April 12, 2000. The words Do Not Try This At Home flashed on the screen, and television changed forever. MTV had released Jackass, a series of tasteless and painful stunts meant to horrify, shock and entertain. Fast forward 17 years later and in the headlines, “Woman Fatally Shoots Boyfriend in Youtube Stunt”.

Prank videos on youtube started off as good and fun has turned into an embarrassment for the internet. Innocent gags, such as surprising someone with an airhorn have escalated to unnecessary deaths and emotional abuse against children.

Check out this mashable article by Biran Koerber.  In it, he takes us from the innocent beginnings of friends and families pranking each other, to today, where a 19 year old is charged for manslaughter for a prank her boyfriend wanted to pull off online. It’s interesting to read about the rise of youtube pranker sensations like MagicoRahat and proliferation of prank videos on social media, turning into a tool for advertising (Devil Baby Attack).

And now a harmless prank video:

Why it’s Hot? 

  • I’m not saying this is advertising’s fault, but we need to be responsible about how we adopt popular trends.

Prepare to be a dog parent with Lola the AI mutt

AI isn’t just for setting reminders and asking general questions like with Alexa. We’re starting to see talking bots that specialize and focus on narrower tasks.

Not sure if you’re ready to have a dog? Get Lola on Google Home and see if you’re up for the task.

The whole point of Lola is to make people aware of what it’s really like to be a dog owner — random non-stop barking and all — before they take on the full responsibility. The bot will even throw in a joke every once in a while to keep you entertained.

The bot is not about selling stuff, it’s about training adults and kids before they adopt a dog. Lola will tell users it is going to run around in circles and chase a butterfly while they try to go for a run, and details other weird things dogs do on the regular.

Why It’s Hot: 
  • This bot shows us that bots can/will become more task-specific in the way apps have become more tailored to individual needs.

Bonus: Watch this video of a goldfish controlling a hammer.

OR this orchestra covering Daft Punk

Electric Paint

Bare Conductive has created a viscous carbon-based black paint that conducts electricity. Forget sockets, cables or wiring, this paint can act as a light switch painted directly onto your wall. The paint acts as a form of liquid wiring which can be applied to all types of surfaces including paper, plastic, metal and fabric.

Although conductive paint has been used in other applications for years, Bare Conductive is bringing new ways to use the medium.

“We started this project in earnest in 2009,” says Matt Johnson. “We were originally interested in trying to apply electronics to the skin … so we arrived at this idea of applying them as a coating and eventually we got this idea of a conductive paint.” Today, Bare Paint users use it to create everything from interactive color wheels to homemade electric toys.

Why it’s hot: 

  1. Conductive paint opens up an enormous range of creative opportunities. As conductive paint becomes increasingly common, we can look forward to a future where billboards talk back, walls are interactive, and greeting cards come to life in our very hands.
  2. “Devices no longer have to look high tech to be high tech,” Johnson says. “Our goal is to put interactivity onto objects you don’t expect.”

Turn the Radio Up for that Sweet Sound

Nasa has detected an artificial bubble around the Earth that forms when ground radio communications from the ground interact with high-energy radiation particles in space. This unintended benefit of technology protects us from potentially dangerous space weather, like solar flares.

Earth already has its own protective bubble, a magnetosphere stretched by powerful solar winds. The artificial bubble that NASA found is an accident, an unintended result of the interplay between human technology and nature. When humans want to communicate with submarines near the surface of the ocean, they use a type of radio communication known as very low frequency waves, or VLF, transmitted from stations on the ground. Some of the waves can stretch all the way out into Earth’s atmosphere and beyond, where they affect the movement of the radiation particles bouncing around in the region. Sometimes, the interaction between VLF and these particles creates a barrier that can be seen by spacecraft orbiting the planet.

Read more from NASA

Why it’s Hot:

  • Who knew? And, who knows what other unintended consequences technology is having, both good and bad.


Let Me Hear Your Tat

Warning: This is either really cool or just a glorified QR code.

We’ve seen tattoos that light up, others that monitor your health and even some that unlock your smartphone. Now we can hear tattoos!

The designs can be made up of any recorded sounds – whether noises, spoken words, music or a combination of these elements – which can they be tattooed onto your skin. They have already received thousands of messages, the majority of inquiries have been about preserving the memory of people who have passed on.

How it works:

  1. Person uploads or records audio (up to 1 min) they want linked to their tattoo onto the Soundwave app or website.
  2. Soundwave creates a unique soundwave template for your tune
  3. Person goes to (licensed) tattoo artist who knows the limitations of altering the design, gets the tat.
  4. A photo of the tattoo is uploaded to the platform
  5. The platform processes the audio and tattoo and adds it to the app.
  6. Any time the user opens the app and points the camera at the tattoo, it will recognize the shape and play back the audio.


Why it’s hot: 

  1. Incorporates augmented reality with the human body.
  2. Offers an additional level of personalization to tattoos.

Why it may not be hot: 

  1. No real ground-breaking technology involved, may be more of a gimmick.
  2. How does it deal with copyright?

AR Transforms Home Mobility

Thyssenkrupp, in partnership with Microsoft, has partnered to transform the manufacturing of home mobility.

A home mobility solution is a particularly personal product; it becomes a part of the customer’s home, and it’s a tool that preserves their ability to maintain independence and have full access to their space.The decision to invest in a mobility solution can be difficult – it goes beyond financial tradeoffs, encompassing as well the emotional impact of changing abilities.

Removing obstacles from the process helps turn a potentially uncomfortable customer experience into one that is quick and easy, thereby increasing the percentage of accounts that move forward.



  • The sales person can measure the staircase during the first visit
  • The measured data is automatically stored and shared without the risk of human error
  • Allows for customized solutions to be easily decided upon and approved

“The digitization of the sales and manufacturing processes has reduced delivery times as much as 4x.”


Why it’s Hot: 

  • HoloLens can be incorporated into different workflows for maximized efficiency, imagine the possibilities!
  • Understanding the consumer pain pain point was what spurred the implementation of this technology which additionally has great operations improvements.


In Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail We’ll be Growing Humans in Fluid Filled Bags

So we’re able to let Lambs develop outside the womb.

Physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia worked with 23 week-old lambs to in order test a synthetic device that imitates a woman’s uterus, hoping to limit mortality and disease in premature children that are born before 37 weeks.

Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborns. So it makes sense that we try to find a solution, albeit a creepy looking one. In this successful breakthrough, lambs were placed in transparent biobags just 105 days after they started development, which is equivalent to about 22 weeks of human development.

The lambs were kept in the biobags for four weeks. During this time, they grew hair; their lungs developed; and they reached the point where they could survive on their own.

Remarkably, the eight lambs in the trial developed normally in the artificial womb and each survived, proving that the biobag successfully mimicked the natural conditions found in the uterus—and paving the way for a new life-saving device for humans.

Although the fluid-filled plastic enclosure can’t develop a child for an entire nine-month term, it can allow us to incubate them remarkably soon after conception. The team of physicians is already in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and clinical trials are slated to begin in the next 3 to 5 years.

Image result for the matrix image coming out of the goo

Read more here.

Why it’s hot:

  1. ‘Cause this new device could allow premature babies to develop in natural conditions and maybe avoid a host of chronic health conditions.

Tarzan, Robot of the Jungle

Designed after a sloth, Tarzan the automated robot was built to monitor food production.


Tasked with finding a way to automate crop monitoring, a Georgia institute of technology team has engineered a robot that can do so with minimal human assistance. Tarzan, the robot, is built keeping in mind the difficulties robots have while navigating uneven terrain. Although drones seem like a good solution, stringing Tarzan across the top of fields allows it to be monitoring while not being in the air consistently.

Swinging in soon to destroy us: Robot apes

You hear something rustling in the trees above you. You keep running, unsure of how to escape, just trying to outrun whatever is coming for you. You look over your shoulder and you catch a glimpse of it swinging from branch to branch. You shouldn’t have looked back, it’s now all over. The beast swings down, descending on you, and humanity’s hopes fade as the life drains from your eyes.

When the robot uprising begins, we’ll now have to worry about ape-like bots that can swing through trees with the ease of a gibbon raining down upon us. Much like the robot cheetahs, bats, hornets, ostriches, and myriad other robot animals scientists are already working on, we may one day be doomed by our desire to mimic what occurs naturally in the world.

Why it’s Hot:

  • By analyzing the problem without the constraints of what is possible, you can find solutions that are not necessarily obvious.

Burger King Triggers Google Home

Capitalizing on our imperfect technology, Burger King has created a series of ads that triggers google home and android phones. In a clever play to garner attention, Burger King went as far as changing the wikipedia entry for Whopper Burger to ensure that triggered machines were delivering the message they wanted – Google Home reads the first line from wikipedia when answering questions.

Although clever, the stunt forced google to disable the device’s response to the ad. Banking on people not changing the wikipedia entry triggered by the command is risky business.There was quite a stir on Wikipedia as people changed the entry to hear their edits after playing the commercial.

Why it’s hot:

  1. short, sharp, viral commercial that generated a digital media storm, so even though the trigger was disabled, the campaign exploded.
  2. finding loopholes in technology can be a clever way of catching consumer’s attention with  surprise and delight



Getting People Comfortable with Technology

In collaboration with Oxbotica, the city of London is testing a self-driving shuttle that will ferry +/-100 people along a short route in an effort to show average people they can safely ride and share a space with autonomous cars.

The model being tested is designed to provide safe transportation in and environment which presents multiple obstacles (pedestrians crossing paths). Their goal is to find out how passengers react to the experience of being transported by a computer-run system. They also hope to gain insights on interior design and functionality.

Why it’s hot: 

  1. Not everyone has access ($$) to technology, but as it becomes more ubiquitous, everyone needs to be familiarized/comfortable in order for the technology to be widely accepted and implemented.
  2. As advertisers/marketers, we often face the challenge of getting consumers to adopt new technologies and have to find ways to familiarize people with changing tech (ike the cardboard VR glasses).


Everything is Relative

Ikea has found a creative way of tapping into consumer journey need states.

By reframing the cost of their furniture relative to everyday items, the furniture giant reinforces their affordability. Ikea Saudi Arabia changed its price tags and saw an 11.4% increase in sales in a year.

The concept is simple, one side of the price tag shows the monetary cost of an item, the other depicts the amount of everyday items (coffee, toothpaste) that the piece of furniture costs.

Why it’s hot?

– Rather than thinking of forking over hard cash, contextualizing the price of a long-life item to disposable no-brainer purchase can help convince the weary shopper.

The Man Who Fell on Earth Falls on Earth

UK’s Royal Mail has launched a set of special stamps into the sky featuring images of David Bowie’s best-loved albums in homage to the late singer.

52 sets of stamps were attached to helium balloons with cameras and set free. When the balloons burst, after reaching 34,100m at a speed of about 12mph, the stamps began descending at nearly 200mph.

To hype the launch of the new stamps, Royal Post is offering the public an opportunity to win some of the space-traveled stamps. They’ve set up a landing page where users can guess where the stamps ended up after their intergalactic travels and enter a drawing.

They are also activating users to interact with Facebook and Twitter by offering clues on the social media networks.

Why it’s Hot: 

  1. Makes stamps exciting again
  2. Bowie fans are obsessive and everything about the campaign has significance. A nod to Bowie’s role in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell on Earth, the stamps sent to space were postmarked with a special edition thunderbolt for the cover of Aladdin Dane, each stamp features a different album cover
  3. The well-executed marketing stunt launched (no pun intended) on Tuesday and was covered and featured all over the web (mashable, the guardian, gizmodo) the same day.

Ready to Choose Your Own Adventure?

Netflix is working on technology that will allow viewers to choose their own adventure. They are considering implementing a new interactive storytelling technology for their shows and will have actors film alternative plot segments so that viewers at home can decide the shows unfolding.

Image result for Journey Under the Sea

Much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of our youth, viewers will be able to decide how their show develops. Some storylines will have simple and linear choices while others will be more complex. All will be handled through your remote control.

Netflix will be running a trial with children’s shows later this year. If they are successful, they will use the model for adult programs.

Image result for alternate ending meme


Why it’s hot: 

  1. As attention spans get shorter and shorter, we’ll see a rise in interactive content in order to keep consumers engaged and on platform.
  2. Data, data, data… by allowing consumers to interact with the content, Netflix will be gaining valuable information from consumers which will help improve their customer experience.

Misty Water Colored Memories of the Way We Used to Call

The Mobile World Congress, running from February 27th until March 2nd is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. And this year, we’re seeing some Technology Nostalgia popping up. Take the Nokia 3310, a staple of the early naughts.

The brick, known for its durability and incredibly long battery life has made a comeback.  The Nokia 3310, which will be available for €49 ($52) in the second quarter of the year, is not meant to compete with modern smartphones. The handset is designed to appeal to people who can’t afford smartphones. It could also be an attractive first phone for kids, a second phone to use while traveling, or a temporaryburner” phone.

For those of you willing to go back in time, fret not, the new version comes with Snake!

Why it’s hot: 

  1. Not everyone has a smartphone, not everyone wants a smartphone this low-cost option is good for them. Nokia is banking on the model’s reputation for a comeback.
  2. Nokia’s timing for release is great, smartphones have not innovated as much in the last three years (the Galaxy S8 would have stolen it’s thunder) so this debut gained traction.

Using Tech to Get Away From Tech


Consumers are looking for the right balance when it comes to technology. Smart brands are tapping into people’s desires to disconnect.

Dolmio, a pasta sauce company created the ‘pepper hacker’ – a device that automatically disables surrounding Wi-Fi – to help families reclaim dinner time.


Why it’s hot….

  1. Using tech to get people away from tech
  2. Keeping consumers top of mind outside of the category

Visualizing Stuff In Space

Stuff In Space is a real-time 3D map of objects in Earth’s orbit. The website updates daily and uses satellite.js javascript library to calculate satellite positions.

There are tons of satellites, spacecraft parts, and debris out there, just circling the earth until someone does something about it. You can scroll to zoom in and out, and drag to rotate your view of earth and its surroundings. Mouseover to find the name of an object, and you might be able to look it up somewhere. The menu at the top left allows you to sort objects by type.

Why it’s Hot

  1. Interactive visualizations are great to illustrate otherwise unfathomable amounts of information
  2. The immersive experience, allowing users to explore and learn, keeps people engaged


Climatune – Find the Perfect Playlist for the Weather

AccuWeather has announced it has partnered with the music streaming service, Spotify, on a new site titled Climatune.

Climatune provides Spotify users with music playlists based on the weather in that user’s area, and the moods which fellow local music listeners experience during weather conditions, such as sun, clouds, rain, wind, and snow.

It gives music fans around the world insights into how the weather around them affects the music they listen to everyday, providing the perfect musical score for any weather.

Through a yearlong study comparing 85 billion anonymized streams on Spotify in over 900 cities nationwide, AccuWeather and Spotify analyzed the impact weather has on the music people listen to. Conclusions included:

  • Sunny days typically encourage listening to happier and higher-energy music.
  • Rainy days bring lower-energy, sadder-sounding music with more acoustic vs. electronic sounds.
  • Snowy days encourage more instrumental music.

Interestingly, weather/listening behaviors vary by location. Ex. New York City and Philadelphia listeners are the most affected by bad weather; with residents of these cities substantially changing their listening when it rains.

“There is a clear connection between what’s in the skies and what’s on users’ play queues,” said Spotify data researcher, Ian Anderson. “For almost all of the major cities around the world that we studied, sunny days translate to higher streams of happier-sounding music,” said Anderson. “Sunny weather has an even bigger impact in Europe.”

Why it’s Hot: 

  • Working with data in unexpected ways to surprise and delight
  • Seemingly unrelated industries can benefit from smart partnerships

Explainable AI

We teach machines to think like humans. We ask them to solve complex tasks that increase in difficulty and the machine iterates and learns to handle new obstacles thrown its way. But how can humans understand how machines come up with specific solutions? What can we learn from the machines and their rationale process?

Explainable AI, an emerging field in AI research will help answer those questions. Through explainable AI, we will be able to understand a machine’s rationale, characterize their strengths and weaknesses in the decision-making process and have a better understanding of how they will behave in the future.

“Consider the use of AI-powered machines to help Wall Street firms trade stocks and other financial instruments. What if automated trading systems start building a massive position in a stock, against everything that the market appears to be predicting? If you were the head of the equity trading team, you’d expect those machines to be able to explain how they came to that decision. Maybe they discovered a market inefficiency that nobody has noticed yet, or maybe they are getting better at anticipating the moves of other rival Wall Street firms. But when millions of dollars are potentially at stake, you want to make sure that a bunch of machines are trading your money wisely.”

Why it’s hot:

  • Understanding how a machine “thinks” helps research teams check and debug machines over time so that they can anticipate how it will act in the future
  • XAI (explainable AI) brings us one step closer to making machines accountable for their actions, just like humans are (self-driving cars)
  • XAI could potentially help humans identify inefficiencies or understand complexities that were once a mystery