Peach: The Shift to the Command Line

Peach, which launched a few weeks ago, has been heralded as a “the Internet’s Coolest New Social App“. What makes Peach notable is a surprisingly simple feature, “magic words.” These words are shortcuts to existing actions in the app that make sharing easier. For example, when you type “GIF” into the messaging window, the app reads it as a command line and provides a search to Giphy within the window and help you pick gifs from the available variety. You can also type in “Move” and immediately share how many miles you’ve walked that day.

Why It’s Hot: New York Magazine reflects on Peach as “the latest app to turn away from a pure GUI, a “graphical user interface” that relies on buttons and icons, and back toward a watered-down version of a CLI, the text-based “command line interface.” It’s an interesting thought that command line actually makes actions easier than visuals, especially on a texting app where the primary action is already typing. This is a differentiating way to think about apps. Instead of applying the usual norms and best practices, Peach makes messaging more contextual and immediate, while leveraging personal information you’d already want to share. It’s too early to tell how long its popularity will last, but it’s definitely an app worth close observation.

Ninebot Segway Offers Us a Glimpse of the Future

At CES, Segway/Ninebot/Intel revealed a new form of transportation available for sale in 2017 that’s ostensibly similar to hoverboards. However, there’s a more futuristic twist, as the gadget reveals itself to be a robot, equipped with voice recognition, real-time video streaming, visual tracking and live sensors. With Android open framework, owners would be able to program this gadget to act as their assistant, whether watching the children, taking their pictures, or carrying their supplies.

Why It’s Hot: With notable trends toward sustainability and urbanization – and the buzz around hoverboards currently – there is clearly an interest and thirst for new forms of transportation. Ninebot Segway distinguishes itself from other modes of transportation further by including an element of artificial intelligence. While it still looks rather rudimentary and is likely to be quite pricey, the robot fulfills more than a transportation need, which raises the stakes. The Android heart will help developers further refine this concept, making it an exciting product to watch.

Eulogy for Standalone Apps

A few days ago, TechCrunch wrote a eulogy for standalone apps from tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Some of the apps that “died” this year were Carousel, Slingshot, Songza and Mailbox.

Facebook made some waves this week as well when it announced it is closing Creative Labs, which was the production segment behind apps like Moments, Paper, Rooms and Riff.

Why It’s Hot: It’s difficult to predict which apps will become popular or not, but in these tech giants’ cases, we can see that many of these apps were often inorganic to the platform or copies of more popular apps, like Snapchat. Dropbox had acquired Mailbox when it was still in its development phase, which likely restricted its full formation. With Twitter’s #Music, which was closed last year, it was clearly a latecomer to an already competitive landscape, with Spotify and Apple Music joining in the mix. It’s interesting to observe which apps would be successful in an increasingly innovative and busy industry.

Placemeter Launches New Sensor to Detect Traffic

Placemeter is a TechStars alum that helps institutions measure exact foot traffic in or near their buildings by sensing movement. Paired with a sensor, live IP camera, or recorded video, Placemeter can track data in real-time and store to its cloud for immediate access in dashboard or downloadable files.

 

Placemeter Sensor Side and Back

Placemeter can measure volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, walking directions and store visits, and lists its primary usage for retail and municipal entities.

Why It’s Hot: There are so many interesting applications to this device for brands as it instantly connects physical movement to digital. With Placemeter, you can detect potential effectiveness of drive-to-retail campaigns more immediately, evaluate real estate potential, gauge the success of store displays, and generally have more tangible data that demonstrates results of marketing efforts.

Facebook Eases the Mess of Your Digital Break-up

Facebook announced they’d begin experimenting new features on mobile that helps you distance yourself from your former relationship. Once it sees your relationship status change, Facebook will prompt you to try a new set of features.

“Afterward, they’ll be shown the option to “see less” from that person, as well as limit what that person sees from you. You’ll also be able to make changes to past posts and photos.”

This will provide a bit of digital space before you decide to unfriend or block the person, which makes the separation more obvious.

Why It’s Hot: Facebook is developing product features that are more involved in personal social behaviors. The emotional aspect that it addresses feels different from previous product tests, and indicates a movement toward a bit more intuitive platform, something akin to artificial intelligence. In addition, Techcrunch noted, “these kind of tools that guide you through the process of making privacy changes to better reflect your real-world relationships would be welcome in other areas of our digital lives, as well. For example, by making sure grandparents didn’t see your wild parties, or that casual acquaintances couldn’t see so deeply into your life.”

Lastly, there is an interesting tension that’s a result of people being hyper-connected and therefore needing to hide certain parts of their lives from others. In this case, Facebook is the facilitator of both situations.

Facebook Launches “Music Posts”

Facebook is becoming a more connected, cross-channel platform with the launch of “Music Posts,” which allows users to share music clips from Spotify and Apple Music on their feed.

 

This new product allows users to curate and share their music selections more explicitly on the platform. It also becomes easier for users to purchase music they see on Facebook directly onto their phones, which increases discovery and sales opportunities for musicians.

Why It’s Hot: It’s an interesting, but organic move made by Facebook. Music sharing has long been a missed opportunity on the platform, and this new feature allows more immersive experience on Facebook itself instead of relying on other music sharing sites like last.fm. Facebook is becoming even more comprehensive in terms of lifestyle offerings.

Twitter Expands Custom Ad Emojis

Twitter introduced custom emojis during the VMAs this year, and they seem to be expanding the efforts with a new Share a Coke ad.

Share a Coke on Twitter

They also launched custom Star Wars emojis previously.

Users would need to use the ascribed hashtags in their tweets to generate the custom emojis.

Why It’s Hot: Twitter seems to have developed a paid product that provides a very clear value exchange for the consumers and brands. By customizing a product (something of a collectible) that’s attuned and relevant to present mobile behaviors, it’s likely that ad purchases and usage will increase on Twitter.

Samsung Social Hosts a Korean Restaurant For Singles

A Chinese restaurant in Seoul ostensibly took it upon themselves to play Cupid for the singles in May. In a longer version (untranslated) of this video, we see a man handing out flyers (Free Jja jang noodles for singles for Grand Opening!) to single-looking people in the neighborhood. Later, we see a few single people with flyers in their hands entering the restaurant and being led to a section of the restaurant where they enjoy their free noodles. The booth asks if the single if he or she would like to be enjoying the noodles with someone else, and when they click “Yes,” the front of the booth opens up and reveals a fellow single across table! The singles are then free to make awkward conversation or really hit it off to exchange numbers.

This mockumentary-style video was a viral hit in Korea, and it was actually an effort by the Samsung Group to promote their products and social channels. In the extended view of the video, we see an end note of a man wanting to enjoy his noodles alone, clicking “No” and a caption says, “If you’re also alone, become friends with Samsung Social Channels.”

Why It’s Hot: In Korea, the couple culture is highly valued. There are many set-up dates and products that cater specifically to couples like couple keychains and rings. It’s a great insight and innovative creative from Samsung to try to become part of that conversation (and help singles meet each other) without being overly promotional. You see the very subtle Samsung branding at the end of the video, and it doesn’t feel obtrusive or out of place. There is higher value in the content rather than the branding, which makes sense for the video.

Facebook Ads to Add GIFs

After years and years of limiting animated content on the newsfeed, Facebook has announced that it will now allow GIFs in business ads.

Wendy’s and Kuat, a Brazilian brand, are the first companies to test this.

Kuat

While GIFs are still in the testing phase, the logic is that since Facebook has acclimated users to video plays on the newsfeed now, they will more likely interact with them.

Why It’s Hot: GIFs allow so many more creative possibilities, like non-linear storytelling, and this new platform addition will help companies be more expressive online.

Apple.com Gets a Redesign

According to Techcrunch, Apple.com removed the separate Store tab and integrated the shopping button with product information. They’ve also integrated more editorial-like features like the Accessories page.

Why It’s Hot: The industry opinion seems to be that the redesign was motivated by mobile experiences. Aesthetically, the site went through a small change, but it feels relatively huge for the retailer, not just in design, but in narrative. The initial website spoke to a focus on the product, and the redesign speaks to a shopping experience. It’s interesting that a big retailer like Apple is finally evolving to a more obvious mobile-friendly design, but it also feels like the end of a product-obsessed Steve Jobs era.

Google Now Makes Real Time More Helpful

Google announced a new feature that helps people see the busiest times of the week of their favorite local stores.

Why It’s Hot: This nifty function touts the benefit of saving people time, but depending on how they gathered this data, there seems to be endless possibilities. If Google is basing this data off of total searches around the business during a specific period, there could be many more algorithms they could potentially gather to create relevant content.

Equinox’s Gold Card Challenge

Luxury fitness provider Equinox debuted a Gold Card challenge to promote its gyms. The Gold Card membership is exclusive to 5 of its members, and they will have to look through “tough-to-reach spots that people will have to demonstrate their athletic prowess to reach.” Those who find the card will receive a yearlong membership, 24 personal training sessions, 12 massages, $1,000 in Equinox swag, $500 in juice and more.

 

The first challenge is for contestants to dive through a pond in Montauk.

 

 

Equinox Gold Card

Why It’s Hot: As a fitness provider, Equinox has created a Willy Wonka-like set of challenges that are specifically skewed to the athletic, which fit their overall brand campaign. On browsers and mobile devices, you can see the approximate locations of the cards and pursue them. They’ve also enlisted their celebrity clients like Neil Patrick Harris to participate in the challenges as well to create further buzz.

What If Emotions Can Take Photographs?

This is the idea behind Nikon’s Heartography campaign in Asia. A Nikon camera strapped on Grizzler, “the world’s first canine photographer,” will take photos when the heart rate monitor on its strap detects that Grizzler’s heartbeats exceed its predefined baseline, which implies emotion.

heartography

Why It’s Hot: The “emotional” capture idea is fantastic. It really brings another level to personal experience, and a man’s best friend is a great conduit to demonstrate this idea. What if we had this kind of camera on ourselves? What would it capture through our heartbeats? This also shows a unique way wearables can be used beyond its initial role of just measuring and storing physical/movement data.

KitKat Bars Are YouTube Breaks

To celebrate KitKat’s 80th birthday and YouTube’s 10th birthday, Nestle decided to repackage 600,000 bars as “YouTube Breaks” in the UK.

This is part of KitKat’s ongoing partnership with Google, which made waves in 2013 when Google named its operating system Android KitKat. As an extension of this campaign, when users use their Android phones to search for YouTube break, the platform will generate top trending videos as part of the “break.”

Why It’s Hot: This is certainly a very unique partnership that aligns confectioneries with tech companies. It seems a bit far fetched, but creative. This campaign nicely aligns with the culturally relevant insight that YouTube breaks are the new office breaks, while developing a buzzworthy partnership with a top channel. The packaging changes for the anniversary also tie in very nicely for the occasion and make the brand seem refreshed.

Be In the Know with Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a Reddit-like platform that helps start-ups gauge the level of interest around their ideas or upcoming products. People vote up the ideas that sound interesting to them and can comment on the ideas themselves. Meerkat and SnapCash made their debut on the platform.

One of the more popular ideas from last year is Be My Eyes, which connects blind people with people with sight to help see their environment real-time through their phone’s camera:

Be My Eyes

Why It’s Hot: You can gather general industry trends, and it’s easier for investors to determine whether a product is viable to support. This will likely become a new Kickstarter-like platform.

Google Launches Wireless Service, Project Fi

Google announced its plans to offer a formal wireless service called Project Fi. Some key facts here:

  • It’s for Nexus 6 owners only, at first.
  • It’s invite only right now. You can sign up for an invite here.
  • It’s built on top of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks
  • No contracts
  • Subscribers pay $20 for unlimited talk/text, and then pay $10 per gig of data. So a 3GB plan would be $30 on top of that $20, coming out to a total of $50.
  • You only pay for what you use, but in sort of a strange way: if you pay for 3GB of data per month ($30) but only use 1.5GB, you’ll get $15 back at the end of the month.
  • It’s all tied into Google Hangouts, which will allow you to place calls from your number on any Hangouts-enabled tablet or laptop in addition to your phone.
  • WiFi Tethering is included.
  • This is what their US Coverage map currently looks like (Montana gets basically no love):

Why It’s Hot: As seen in the video, Google is taking the direction of a democratic approach to wireless service. The fact that the company will return money to users who do not use the full data they buy for the month feels very transformative in the industry. However, some of the promotional aspects are clear as well, leveraging Google Hangouts and Nexus phones as the chosen platforms. It will be interesting to see how the product evolves and impacts the industry.

Apple Watch Reviews Are In

The press finally tested the new Apple Watch and provided some extensive reviews. The hardware has generally received mixed-to-positive response.

The pros:
– Design
– Apple Pay
– Less reliance on phone

The cons:
– UX (takes a few days to learn the technology)
– Notifications (need to customize extensively)
– Lack of customization

Why It’s Hot: The jury’s still out on the product, but many enthusiasts believe that the Apple Watch will become the new iPod or iPhone, which will imply big industry changes. From hardware to software, there will be new business opportunities for its every element if the watch proves to be a success.

Amazon Introduces Dash

Amazon began to roll out new hardware called Dash, a button you can stick anywhere to refill on your favorite household items. Initial partners include L’Oreal, Gerber, Glad, Gatorade, Gillette, Larabar, Izze Soda, Tide, and a few more, but really, the possibilities are endless. The plan is to introduce and implement, but eventually do away with these buttons after familiarizing the customer to the mechanism to order from Amazon.

“Along with buttons, Amazon is launching what it calls the Dash Replenishment Service, which is ultimately designed to do away with the buttons entirely. Companies that make products can bake this technology into their own hardware: things like coffeemakers, washer/dryers, printers, and pet food dispensers. It’s not so great for household goods like paper towels, but Amazon is betting that eventually these sensors will get so small and cheap to make, that you could have them in individual products too.”

Why It’s Hot: This hardware helps to solidify Amazon’s relevance in everyday utility, and it’s spot on the idea of instant gratification. It will be interesting to see how brands’ marketing strategies will evolve from this new consumer mindset.

LinkedIn acquires Refresh.io

LinkedIn has announced its acquisition of Refresh, a startup that provides insights on people in your network. Refresh lets you “log in using Facebook or LinkedIn, and then provided you with relevant pieces of information about a contact such as your most recent interactions, recent and relevant news mentions and so on so that you could develop a more updated profile of someone you may not regularly follow all that closely.”

Why It’s Hot: It seems while Refresh’s integration to LinkedIn will help the latter become more of a competitor to sales-team-oriented platforms like Salesforce, there are potential greater usages to what TechCrunch calls “anticipatory computing.” It strengthens the networking channel overall by lending more specific insights into consumer behavior that can help to create a more robust advertising platform like that of Facebook.

Facebook Boosts Video Capabilities & Messenger

Facebook introduced this week various upcoming features to be added to the Messenger and Video products. Messenger will support GIFs, special effects, overlays, and be open to partnerships with media companies like ESPN and JJ Abrams’s Bad Robot to support a more interactive platform. The Facebook video product will be embeddable like YouTube and will allow 360 view enabled by Oculus.

Why It’s Hot: Facebook is attempting to be competitive with image-driven instant messengers like Snapchat and the real-time buzz of Twitter. Facebook lost out to Twitter last year during the World Cup in terms of real-time conversations, and this content partnership with ESPN seems to be a way for the company to amend that for the future with creative messaging. These changes will hopefully help people stay more in the Facebook environment, increase the user base, and remain relevant.

Giphy acquires Nutmeg, a GIF messenger app

Giphy, a top GIF database and search engine that was recently approached by Facebook, acquired Nutmeg, a popular GIF messaging app. Giphy has an open API and is currently compatible with apps like Kik, GroupMe, and also offers a translate feature, which allows users to translate their typed word into a GIF.

Nutmeg app

Why It’s Hot: Along with Buzzfeed articles and videos, GIFs have long been popular sharable content. The limitation of GIFs have been compatibility issues with Facebook and general social platforms, but Giphy’s recent increased evaluation and their new acquisition implies how the brand is skipping the line and trying to expand into daily usage. No doubt we’ll see GIFs more in our messenger apps moving forward.

 

Le Tote: Borrow, not Buy

Le Tote is a new clothing service that identifies itself as Netflix for fashion. For $50 a month, a subscriber can select 3 garments and two accessories online at a time, and return them anytime in exchange for another box. The subscriber effectively borrows these garments from Le Tote and can wear the clothing items without any obligation to buy. If the subscriber really loves the item, she can choose to purchase it at a discount on the site.

Why It’s Hot: While it takes a very similar approach to many subscription services out there, it tunes into the insight that women want to refresh their closets and provides a service at a relatively low cost. Subscribers can also hire a stylist at an additional cost, which demonstrates there is a potential to grow the business as well.

Paying It Forward in Philadelphia

In the poverty-ridden city of Philadelphia, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza has become a kind of haven for the hungry homeless with their Post-It notes system. Patrons of the restaurant can pre-purchase a dollar slice for the homeless, represented by a Post-It note pressed on the wall.

Why It’s Hot: There is increasing emphasis especially among Millenials for social good, and this shop represents a successful business case through an innovative new economy. The owner revealed that the pre-purchase system makes up for about 10% of his business.

The Patch, Sour Patch Kids’ Brooklyn Experiment

Along with Vans and Red Bull, Sour Patch Kids is reimagining the idea of influencer partnership with The Patch, a Clinton Hill apartment offered as a respite for touring indie bands.

The Patch

“Brands seem to be figuring out that a good way to avoid the potential pitfalls of artist partnerships is to not really form partnerships at all. A video Nacho shot for Vans doesn’t even mention shoes. Red Bull doesn’t ask for any ownership or control over the music artists record in its luxurious Chelsea studios. The Patch is another example of this coy courtship—there’s no obtrusive signage outside the house, which is in a quiet Brooklyn neighborhood rather than the globally commodified hipster meccas of Williamsburg or Bushwick. No money changes hands, and the hashtag #brooklynpatch is, notably, brand-name-free. The Patch is amusing enough—like O’Neil says, it’s funny—that being involved doesn’t feel evil. In fact, the touch is so light that one must wonder: What does Sour Patch Kids actually get out of it? That artists are willing to link up with the brand probably says more about the changing sensibilities of “indie” than about the candy’s ability to penetrate the culture.”

Why It’s Hot: This subtle approach to partnerships seems to be working well to create some brand affinity (at least among the bands) for Sour Patch Kids. It follows the best practice of letting content creators do what they do best, without overwhelming them with brand guidelines. While it’s unclear how it will affect their overall buzz, it’s an interesting idea that should be examined for influencer approaches we take.

Psychology of Notifications

TechCrunch recently revealed some best practices of implementing notifications:

1. Good Triggers are Well-Timed

2. Good Triggers are Actionable

3. Good Triggers Spark Intrigue

4. Building for the Ping

Why It’s Hot: It’s a great overview of how we should build apps for clients with cases from apps/services like Google Now and WhatsApp.

The Other Side of Crowdsourcing

New York Magazine wrote a great feature on Waze and how it’s an example of our growing dependence on technology. The journalist tells a story of how he once ignored his own logic and made a detour from an open freeway following Waze’s instructions, only to be back on the highway again. He also talks about how certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles are being influenced by Waze’s discovery of its roads.

Waze

Waze

Why It’s Hot: Waze is a very popular and successful version of crowdsourcing apps, which the author believes can waver between chaos and control. It’s interesting to think about the influence of one app to neighborhoods of millions, public servants, and more, which likely didn’t register in its nascence. It makes you think of how it will affect the legal system in the future as well.

Jamstik, “The World’s First Smart Guitar”

I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank lately, and I’ve noticed a growth in self-educational products, especially in music. Jamstik helps you learn and practice guitar easily with a very portable hardware that you can connect to your smartphone.

Why It’s Hot: This is another cool product for DIY education, and it’ll be interesting to see how it partners up with brands. With increased usage of platforms like Kahn Academy, wider accessibility is becoming more realistic everyday.

Mother: The Overbearing Home Automation Kit

Even my own mother wouldn’t care about my daily activities as much as Sen.se’s Mother. From the amount of your coffee intake to the number of times you brush your teeth (actually, my mom would care about that), you can track almost any activity in your home and out with this monitoring system. The “creepy” looking matroschka (“Mother”) comes with four Motion Cookies you can attach to walls, doors, toothbrushes, keys, what have you, and you can monitor your activities through a central app.

Why It’s Hot: Amid the rise of monitoring devices like Nest and Fitbit, Mother takes a more comprehensive approach. There is potential for each of those specialized companies to evolve into an all-encompassing system, but Mother is the one that offers a glimpse into the Home of the Future. I like the idea of endless possibilities with a simple “cookie,” which could, in my imagination, eventually turn into less cumbersome little dots. It’s also fun to think about the potential integration with existing apps (e.g. Duolingo) and applications of this data. With an evolved system, there could be more straightforward insights that can encourage you to be healthier and more responsible.