$1,500 to turn your bedroom into a fitness studio

A startup called Mirror wants to reclaim your living spaces and bring those sought-after boutique classes, from yoga to strength training and Pilates, to your home all via–you guessed it–a single full-length mirror hung on your wall.

The responsive connected device has an LCD panel, stereo speakers, camera, and mic and offers a range of fitness classes and one-on-one training. And when you’re done, it  returns to a simple mirror. The entire system is controlled by a companion app, keeping the mirror fingerprint-free.

A mirror on the wall is definitely a space-saver for people in tiny, cramped apartments.

Mirror launched yesterday with more than 50 new streaming workouts each week, produced in part with instructors across categories. This includes cardio, yoga, strength training, barre, boxing, Pilates, and stretching classes, with levels ranging from beginner to expert. Live classes are available every hour, and members are free to access the digital archives.

Of course, such luxury doesn’t come cheap. The Mirror equipment costs $1,495, while the monthly content subscription is $39.

 Each program can be personalized depending on stamina, weight loss goals, and personal metrics. It can even monitor heart rate via bluetooth or Apple Watch. In the live environment, instructors are able to see your movements, monitor your progress, and even offer real-time instruction. A dashboard provides them with all your info, should you want a more personalized touch.
Why its hot
Customizable, at-home workouts already exist via a variety of apps and equipment like Peloton. But many of those require more space in your home, or even a gym membership, to utilize. A $1,500 price point, plus $39 monthly subscription, is very steep for the average shopper. It doesn’t seem like Mirror offers any other services. Perhaps if it also included other useful skills, like cooking recipes or DIY, it could expand in value.

Roaming Animal Crackers

Since 1902, packages of Animal Crackers have featured various animals in cages, but not any more.

Now Nabisco–makers of Barnum’s Animal Crackers–has teamed up with PETA to release a new design of its cracker box, and it will make your heart feel as warm and fuzzy as when you’re watching Planet Earth. On the new box, the animals roam free–nay–the zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe, and gorilla are strutting free along the Serengeti with serious attitude and a golden-hour hue.

PETA actually flagged the box to Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco. Rather than shooing PETA away, the company entered a discussion with the animal rights group. PETA even submitted a new box design for consideration–taking a proactive stance on developing new branding that could work for the company. It was spiritually similar to what Mondelez ultimately went with, showing Africa’s animals midstride in the wild.

PETA’s mockup:

“The new box for Barnum’s Animals perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates caging and chaining exotic animals for circus shows,” writes the organization. “PETA is celebrating this redesign just as we’ve celebrated the closure of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and an end to the use of wild animals in many other circuses.”

Final design:

Why its hot

Addressing cruelty in products will almost always result in goodwill from consumers, but it’s interesting that a brand that hasn’t changed their packaging in since 1902 didn’t think of it sooner. “Animal crackers” is a ubiquitous term nowadays, and people forget it’s an actual brand. This story will likely give Nabisco a nice little sales boost and some positive press coverage, but maybe not as much as a larger rebranding might.

Super Smart A-Eye

Researchers at Moorfields Eye Hospital have teamed with UCL, a subsidiary of Google’s DeepMind, to show off an AI system capable of identifying more than 50 eye diseases with incredible accuracy and then refer patients to a specialist.

The system uses deep learning to create algorithm-driven software that can identify common patterns in data culled from dozens of common eye diseases from 3D scans. The AI can even explain why a diagnosis was made.

A study published in Nature Medicine says the AI system made the right referral recommendation in more than 94 percent of cases based on a review of historic patient scans. It performed as good, or better than, top eye specialists who examined the same scan.

“Doctors and patients don’t want just a black box answer, they want to know why,” Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at MIT, told Stat. “There is a standard of care, and if the AI technique doesn’t follow that standard of care, people are going to be uncomfortable with it.”

Why its hot

Would people be as comfortable going to an AI for medical diagnosis as they are with human doctors? Many people don’t see doctors because they’re uncomfortable, but perhaps they’d be more willing to get a diagnosis from an AI that they can then take as a referral to a specialist. Systems like this that give people more access to personal health information can only help increase access to healthcare, especially in countries where a lack of specialists is an issue.

 

Do you even lift?

“Across the board, across all industries, you see about $96 billion in worker compensation costs,” says Benjamin Kanner, CEO and founder of Worklete. “About 64% of those are related to musculoskeletal injuries–your back injuries, your shoulder injuries, your knee injuries.

“If we can teach these folks basic rules for human movement, and say, ‘Yes, there is a better and a worse way to move,’ that’s really how we win. That’s how we help blue-collar, underserved populations stay injury-free so they can work hard all day long and then go home and enjoy their lives outside of work, too.”

Worklete trains workforces to move in better, smarter, and safer ways, whether that’s teaching the proper driving posture when operating a forklift or the best technique for lifting a five-gallon water jug. Today, 20,000 frontline workers use the smartphone app, which runs each employee through 10 two-week training modules. The first week of each module is centered around movement “basics,” with photo- and video-based lessons followed by short quizzes. The total time commitment is about five minutes per week.

The second part of each module involves in-person practice sessions with partners or teams. These trainings are led by “champions,” unofficial leaders on the ground. Champions, typically shift managers, are selected during new client onboarding. For Worklete subscribers, an admin dashboard allows managers to monitor employee progress on training modules on an individual basis, evaluate performance at the city or regional level, and review team rosters, including new hires (marked with red), who might benefit from extra attention.

Why its hot

This is great on multiple levels. Not only does it solve a problem (workforce injuries from heavy lifting/general stress), but it also creates brand evangelists within the companies themselves, keeping employees engaged and using the service. Throw in the cost savings from keeping your employees healthy and it’s a no brainer for any company with a lot of physical labor. I would love to see companies with even less physical stress, where people mainly sit all day, use something like Worklete as well.

When You Shop Online, This Chrome Extension Suggests Ethical Alternatives

A Google search for “men’s dress shirts” yields a list of ads and results from the most expected brands. But if you install a new Chrome extension called DoneGood, you’ll also get a lesser-known suggestion: Tuckerman, a startup that makes organic cotton shirts in a union factory in Massachusetts.

DoneGood uses independent certifications, from B Corps to Rainforest Alliance, to screen companies, along with independent research.

The company also makes an app that lets customers search for companies more directly, by choosing a product and selecting values–like “women-owned” or “green.” DoneGood piloted an early version of the app in Boston while the startup was incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab. Both the extension and app were released nationally on November 28.

Why it’s hot

I think people always want to make ethical choices when shopping for things like good and clothing, but lack of knowledge and price point are the biggest hurdles. Extensions and apps like this, that can alleviate one of those issues, is very helpful for people looking to make a change.

Major League Baseball tickets are going biometric in 2019

Clear, the company that lets people skip the TSA pre-check lines at airports, has announced it is teaming up with Major League Baseball and Tickets.com to introduce biometric ticketing at participating ballparks in 2019. A pilot program will arrive at select venues later this season.

The partnership will make use of the API of MLB’s ticketing technology company, Tickets.com. Clear members can link their profiles with their MLB.com accounts, entering Comerica Park or Yankee Stadium or AT&T Park with just the tap of a finger. There is also potential for more advanced tech like facial recognition. Lines would certainly move faster if all you had to do was walk right in!

The company is also planning to pilot biometric concessions in the state of Washington, meaning instead of getting carded for beer, fans can simply show a finger to prove their age. Clear is already at 13 stadiums across the nation, and while it charges air passengers to make use of the service, it will be free for sports fans.

Why Its Hot

Anything that makes lines move faster is ok by me! Right now, tickets on your phone is about as advanced as it gets, so it will be interesting to see how quickly new forms of tech can catch on.

Theater with an AR Twist

This week, his Israeli startup, ARShow, announced the launch of a new AR platform and operating system aimed specifically at theaters. The system allows theater producers to incorporate fantastical AR elements and characters into live shows, creating visually stimulating group experiences that are part stage play, part 3D movie.

“This is the ideal tool we’ve been waiting for,” theater artist, Sasha Kreindlin says. “It’s not a 2D projection behind the actor, but it’s 3D objects in the virtual space. The entire venue is my platform.”

Theaters have been experimenting with AR for a while now, but the technology usually requires audience members to peer through their smartphones to see the AR elements. ARShow goes a step further, equipping each audience member with an AR headset and integrating the operating system into the theater’s sound system, lighting, and projector. The live actors on stage use monitors to help them seamlessly interact with the show’s AR components.

Kreindlin says he’d like to debut the system on a mid-size stage off-Broadway, and would ultimately like to move to a larger Broadway venue. That might prove to be tougher than it sounds. Broadway producers are notoriously risk-averse, and most shows already don’t earn a profit, even without the added production expense of retrofitting a theater with unfamiliar technology.

Why its hot

Technology like this might be enough to get non-theater goes to try out a show, but it’ll probably be too off putting to the theater junkies in cities like New York. If it actually hit the big time, like a serious Broadway production, it would go a long way toward proving its value.

Twitter Is Definitely Making an Edit Button Now

So Twitter is definitely going to make an edit button because Kim Kardashian corned Jack Dorsey at some party and made a case for one.

So that means it’s definitely happening. Probably

This is actually the second time Kim K has brought this up to Twitter’s CEO. The last time was in 2015.

So what’s different now? Well, probably not much. But Twitter would certainly love a quick win given how often they’ve been hammered in the press for how they handle banning abusive users, cleaning out phony bot accounts, and handing out verification check marks.

Maybe an edit button will be some easy positive press.

There’s also the power of Kim K. If she doesn’t get the edit button she wants, maybe she just tweets something negative about Twitter, delete her account, and tank their stock. Kim’s sister Kendall Jenner did it to Snapchat already!

Why it’s hot

Personally, I don’t want an edit button, but I think I am in the minority and people would rather have it than not. Threading tweets makes it possible to add context to amend previous tweets, but to be able to go back and change things you’ve tweeted could cause a lot of problems trying to hold powerful people responsible for their posts (ahem, Donald Trump). Perhaps the edit ability expires after 5 minutes or something like that. Could be a good compromise.

Drones Doing Good in the Rainforest

The Peruvian Amazon has already lost over 1 million hectares of forest in the last 15 years, and indigenous communities are seeing their water grow more polluted by the day and their lands dry up.

Last year, residents of the indigenous northern Peruvian communities that populate the Amazonian rainforest between Yurimaguas and Lagunas noticed the beginnings of a new highway running through their lands. New roads through the Amazon often mean that logging and mining companies are preparing to move into the region.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), an indigenous rights organization, recently partnered with Oxfam to deploy a drone to indigenous communities facing land rights infringements. The drone enables community members to track changes to their land and provide precise location data for where these changes are occurring.

The drone program, says Oxfam program manager Neal McCarthy, is still very much in the pilot stage. AIDESEP holds the drone at its main office in Lima, and deploys it out for use when one of the 109 indigenous communities it coordinates with detects an invasive development to document. (AIDESEP has operated another independently funded drone since 2015, but its capabilities and scope were more limited.) With around $25,000 in funding from Oxfam, AIDESEP sourced the drone and hosted trainings through the Amazonian rainforest to instruct community leaders in how to use it.

Why its hot

Drones can deliver packages and drop tear gas on protesters, but what good can they do. It’s good to see noble uses of drones and given that they are a relatively cheap technology, they should be more accessible to under-served communities.

The Saddest Metaphor for Online Dating

No one likes online dating.

A recent social media post presented the best possible metaphor and it turned into a funny moment for Bumble. Writer Hannah Murphy posted the below tweet:

Never wanting to miss an opportunity to commiserate, Twitter users were quick to pile on:

Bumble eventually responded, trying to do a little damage control, but apparently people are so jaded they actually liked it.

Bumble often hosts pop-up spaces with yellow themed activities, which is probably where the sad, desolate machine came from. Most recently, a three-month event known as the “Bumble Hive” took place in Los Angeles, inviting active Bumble users to stop by for drinks, networking opportunities, and chance to win a prize from Bumble’s claw machine.

Bumble hasn’t responded to requests for comment yet — hopefully the company has a more positive outlook on their dating app than this claw machine shows.

Why its hot

Not every brand fail has to be an embarrassing social media moment. And if you can’t look at online dating, even as the company trying to profit from it, with a sense of humor, why bother?

The (Physical) Book Was Better

Despite all of the advances of on-screen entertainment, from Netflix to Kindle, there are a lot of people who prefer to buy physical books. But Ambient Literature wants to change that and get people turning to their screens to read books.

The project, a collaboration between the U.K. universities UWE Bristol, Bath Spa University, and the University of Birmingham, Ambient Lit uses GPS and weather data to adapt to the user’s environment. The goal is to create an immersive experience that books just can’t match (apparently).

“We’re living in a phase where visual media is so readily available to us and visual media is so seductive for us,” says Kate Pullinger, an author who worked on a mobile-first ghost story called Breathefor Ambient Lit. “Part of what I’m interested in is what does it mean to read on screen in this world we live in that’s dominated by visual media. What kind of reading experience might be native to the smartphone in a way that just sticking an e-book on your phone isn’t?”

Open up the link to Breathe–which recommends you use a smartphone to read it–and the page will ask for your permission to use information like your location and your camera. When you agree, it uses three different data sets to personalize the story to your setting every time you read it: location, weather, and season. When you read the story on a rainy Monday in New York City, that’s referenced in the story.

Ambient Literature commissioned two other stories besides Pullinger’s, both of which take the form of apps. One, It Must Have Been Dark by Then by Duncan Speakman, combines a physical book with audio–which people listen to via an app–and incorporates the reader’s geographical surroundings into the story. The other, The Cartographer’s Confession by James Atlee, can only be experienced in London, and combines audio with historical photos. Both utilize location data to create different kinds of stories that adapt to the reader–a stark contrast to traditional novels that ask readers to engage in their fictional world.

Other features of the smartphone besides location data can find their way into the story, too: Another thriller Pullinger wrote (outside the Ambient Lit project), called Jellybone, pulls out all the stops, utilizing vibrations, video, audio, and even pinging notifications.

Why its hot

This is certainly a cool use of technology to make reading more interactive and engaging for the reader, creating unique experiences. It might be more interesting to younger readers and I’d love to see how they could adapt the technology to pre-existing books to make them more engaging. But I’ll stick with my old person physical books, small NYC apartment be damned!

Facebook Is Blocking Foreign Ads in Ireland During Abortion Vote

Facebook might have finally recognized that letting foreign countries advertise during important political moments is a bad idea.

Facebook announced Tuesday that it would not be accepting ads related to the upcoming Irish referendum on abortion laws from sources outside Ireland. The country is set to vote on May 25 on whether to ease abortion restrictions, currently considered some of the strictest in the world.

“Today, as part of our efforts to help protect the integrity of elections and referendums from undue influence, we will begin rejecting ads related to the referendum if they are being run by advertisers based outside of Ireland,” Facebook’s Dublin office wrote in a blog post.

Facebook’s move to block outside advertisers comes as the platform continues to implement new rules about political advertising. The company has been criticized for allowing foreign entities to buy ads targeting voters in other countries without disclosing the source of those ads.

In the U.S., Facebook is launching a “view ads” tool, which lets users see all the ads a particular source is running, as well as a verification process to make sure advertisers are from the country where an election is taking place.

Why its hot

This is the first time Facebook is proactively taking steps to block foreign advertisers from trying to influence and election. I think this is a good step for Facebook to take in order to try and preserve some sense of safety around their platform.

What the heck is GDPR?

The European Union is about to roll out sweeping regulations governing how companies collect, use, and share people’s data. And it doesn’t matter where your business is based–if you deal with E.U. residents online, you’re going to be affected too.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25, is designed to give users more control of their information. In total, there are 99 articles in the new GDPR laws. The law will require companies to obtain consent from users before collecting any data. GDPR also requires companies to notify regulators and affected individuals of any breaches of security within 72 hours. Companies that don’t comply with the new rules can be fined as much as 4 percent of their global annual revenue.

To date, the GDPR is one of the broadest and most comprehensive laws devised by a Western country to regulate the Internet and personal data privacy, according to Trevor Hughes, president of the New Hampshire-based International Association of Privacy Professionals. (The United States has only sector-specific laws to protect personal data.)

While the crux of GDPR is about putting the power of data back in the hands of consumers, giving users a better understanding of where our data is and what it’s being used for, for large companies it has resulted in a big bill. British firms have spent over $1 billion dollars getting ready, and for American companies that bill is over $8 billion. And for many, that money is being spent on legal fees trying to navigate the vague regulations.

But what about smaller companies? As of January, only about 40 percent of businesses had heard of GDPR, and of those that had, only a quarter were prepared for it, according to a survey conducted by the University of Portsmouth and a U.K. market research firm.

Why its hot

GDPR is a big, complicated mess. Large companies like Google and Facebook, who make most of their money outside Europe, won’t have much to worry about. But smaller companies are already starting to shut European countries out rather than comply. It’s just easier. Looking specifically at Facebook, their year-over-year revenue growth is more than Europe’s percentage of Facebook revenue. Companies can either dump all their data or stop doing business in Europe.

One thing GDPR may do is kill the targeted ads business in Europe. That’s a big deal to smaller firms who cannot handle the drop in CPM. Facebook won’t have that issue. If anything GDPR may only further entrench giants like Google and Facebook in our every day lives.

The Golden State Killer and Your DNA

In an astonishing bit of work, police were able to track down the man they suspect of being the Golden State Killer after matching his DNA with the DNA of distant relatives thanks to a commercial genetics testing company. As StatNews reports:

Investigators took DNA collected years ago from one of the crime scenes and submitted it in some form to one or more websites that have built up a vast database of consumer genetic information.

 

The results led law enforcement to the suspected killer’s distant relatives, who were presumably among the millions of consumers who have paid up and mailed in a spit kit to track down long-lost family members, learn more about their ancestry, or gauge their risk for medical conditions. That created a pool of potential suspects under the same family tree that investigators eventually narrowed down to 72-year-old former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, the Sacramento Bee and other news outlets reported.

Genetic testing companies 23andMe, MyHeritage, and Ancestry have all denied they were the company involved in the investigation.

The case of the Golden State Killer has been in the news a lot lately. Written by the late Michelle McNamara, the book was finished after her death and her husband, Patton Oswalt, has spent months promoting its release.

Privacy advocates have long been concerned that consumers are unaware that by submitting their DNA to these companies they are agreeing to let the companies share their DNA with law enforcement. There is also concern that the imperfect tests could put innocent people at risk. All the major commercial genetic testing companies’ policies state they will turn over your DNA to law enforcement when required to with a subpoena or warrant.

Why its hot

For all the discussions around privacy on social media, that’s still just a bunch of “likes” and “shares;” some companies actually own what makes you…YOU. Obviously solving cold cases is extremely important, and DNA evidence regularly helps do just that. But mistakes can be made and companies like Ancestry are not trained law enforcement professionals. In this case, the investigators took DNA from a crime scene and basically asked a company if it matched anyone on record, and it did. From there, law enforcement could probably obtain a warrant. But is it unethical for a company to store your DNA results after your business with them is concluded, and then give your DNA away to some other entity? And if so, is there a line to be drawn somewhere?

Facebook Live Makes the Met Museum More Accessible

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is now using Facebook Live to make its museum even more inclusive. The Met started putting tours on Facebook Live a few months ago with an art historian and lecturer taking viewers on a tour of the Rodin exhibit in ASL. It was a success, with more than 52,000 views proving demand for such a program is huge. The ASL tour of Diamond Mountains: Travel and Nostalgia in Korean Art was viewed by 18,000 people, many of whom were stumped by the lack of audio on the tour. (It’s in ASL, which doesn’t require audio.) Meanwhile, the live-streamed ASL program on Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space” reached 17,000 views in just 24 hours.

In addition to programs for visitors who are deaf, many museums, the Met included, offer programs to make their art accessible to visitors who are blind or partially sighted. For example, in addition to braille guides, the Museum of Modern Art offers tours where specially trained guides give detailed visual descriptions of the works and touch tours where visitors can feel the art.

Why Its Hot

See, Facebook can be used for good too! Increasing access to otherwise inaccessible locations is one of the best uses of social media. So often we see videos on Facebook without captions, so using the popular format and in such an inclusive way is great to see.

Facebook’s Implementing Disclosure on “Issues Ads”

The changes keep coming at Facebook.

You’re Going to ‘Dig’ This App

I recently took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico and along the way I read “The Great Quake” by Henry Fountain. The book details the 1964 Good Friday earthquake that struck southern Alaska and how its subsequent study helped confirm the long-debated theory of plate tectonics.

The book made me think a lot about geology and while flying over New Mexico, I found myself looking down at the geography of the land and wishing I knew more about it.

Well, like all things, there’s an app for that.

Flyover Country was developed by geologist Shane Loeffler and it provides information about the ground below as you fly over it. Following the information in the app’s UI, you can learn about everything from extinct volcanoes, fault trails, and even where dinosaur bones have been discovered. It even works in airplane mode!

Flyover Country is part of an initiative called EarthCube. Created by the National Science Foundation in 2011, it’s a loosely defined coalition to fund “community-created cyberinfrastructure” that makes huge stores of data about the natural world more accessible to everyone–through technology like Flyover Country. “Creating content for the entire world of potential flight paths would be impossible, but right now is an amazing time for open access to geoscience data thanks to initiatives like NSF’s EarthCube,” Loeffler says.

Loeffler hopes to add AR to the app so you can simply hold up your phone to look at the data overlaid on the world below.

Why Its Hot

I love apps that seamlessly integrate with the world around us to teach us things. Night sky apps are another example. This could also be great for kids in search of things to entertain themselves on flights…or adults who hate flying and need a distraction.

Warby Parker and Arby’s Team Up for April Fool’s

Eyewear purveyor Warby Parker is teaming up with the meat lovers at Arby’s for an April Fool’s launch–WArby’s

“Arby’s has an eye for meat. Warby Parker has meat for eyes. The result? A new partnership sandwiched somewhere between vision and at least eight different kinds of meat,” the companies say in a joint statement.

Beginning Friday, WArby’s will be piloting several locations in New York City—at Warby Parker’s 121 Greene Street store, and at the Arby’s at 32 E. 23rd Street. Those locations will offer the WArby’s Onion Ring Monocle, which is described as “a crispy yet corrective product that’s positioned at the intersection of food and fashion, encompassing the ideals of WArby’s in a single offering.”

There is also a set of limited-edition WArby’s-branded apparel (of course there is), featuring shirts, hats, sandwich-inspired lens cloths, tote bags and even a pair of “beef-hued glasses.” As part of the project, Warby Parker will make a donation to VisionSpring, whose mission is to ensure affordable eyeglasses are available to every individual to live a productive life. Arby’s will donate to No Kid Hungry, a national campaign aimed at ending child hunger.

Facebook Opened Its Instant Games Platform to All Developers

Developers can now create games for Facebook’s Instant Games product, which launched to all Messenger users in May 2017. As part of the change, Facebook’s Ad’s API is also now available to all developers, meaning we can integrate interstitial and rewarded video ads, powered by Audience Network, into games.

In a Facebook Newsroom post, product manager Michael Weingert said, “Monetization Manager will help Instant Games developers maximize revenue with advanced optimization tools, simplify management of ad placements across apps and provide enhanced analytics functionality and deeper reporting. We also added Instant Games-specific reporting into Facebook Analytics to help developers understand and optimize the unique social contexts of the platform.”

Weingert also said Facebook will soon roll out the ability for developers to create user-acquisition ad campaigns that will take players directly into games after they click ads on Facebook.

Why its hot

Instant Games is quickly building its roster of games. There are currently nearly 200 games available, up from 70 last December. By leveraging Facebook’s huge user base, game developers are able to get their games in front of a lot of people right away. And these new ad features opens another channel as well. These games, and ads, are another way Facebook is trying to keep people on the site.

What even is social media anymore?

For the past 24 hours, Wendy’s and Little Debbie have been hosting a “talk show” on Twitter.

Denny’s was invited, but apparently was too busy, so Pop-Tarts stepped in. Moonpie also stopped by to talk about teens and their new interest, tweens.

Why its hot

Twitter is free, by the way! So much of the news around social media today is about Russian bots, toxicity, and fake news. But then, over here, brands are just throwing out the playbook and having fun. Strategy-scmategy. Just hop on Twitter, tweet some stuff, tag another brand, they respond with some more stuff, and so on. They’re not promoting a product, it’s not part of a campaign. Or maybe it is a strategy and the strategy is no strategy. Such is social media today.

Good Riddance Facebook Explore

RIP Facebook Explore feed.

Facebook has decided to end a test of their controversial “Explore Feed,” which separated publisher content from page content. The alternative feed was tested only internationally, in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia, as a response to user feedback saying they wanted to see more from friends and family.

But, unsurprisingly, users were less satisfied with the posts they were seeing in Explore and having two separate feeds made it harder for users to access important information. Publishers saw a decrease in traffic from Facebook during the test, and that decrease was especially large for smaller publications more reliant on Facebook for traffic.

Why Its Hot

For better or worse, people are turning to social media for their news, and anything that takes the news out is going to be a problem. Between live shows, news and information, buying and selling things, and soon job listings, Facebook is becoming less and less the site to go when you want to see pics of your friends.

“Snap” Up Those Jordans

Maybe “I need to snap those sneakers” will become a new thing people say. Young people anyway.

Snapchat launched its first brand collaboration, enabling users to purchase the latest paid of Jordan brand sneakers without leaving the app. The collaboration with Shopify and Jordan Brand launched during the NBA All-Star game. With Shopify facilitating the in-app check out process, the shoes sold out in 23 minutes. To take part, users scanned in a Snapcode, which linked them to the purchase process.

Of course, Snapchat is not the first to do this—Facebook Messenger and Instagram have similar partnerships with Shopify.

Why its hot

While this may have been a self-contained event during a prime moment for the intended audience (Jordans at the NBA All-Star Game!), this could be the way Snapchat grabs back some attention from Instagram Stories, giving brands a way in to that elusive millennial demographic. We could start seeing limited edition QR codes out in the world to discover through Snapchat.

Cuisine that can communicate

Graphene is the world’s only man-made 2D material. It is much stronger than steel and 100 times more conductive than copper, but so far there has been no breakout application for graphene.

But maybe we can just eat it!

Researchers at Rice University have created a commercial laser that can transform the carbon on the surface of foods into graphene. This can create an edible circuit, including fuel cells to store power, radio hardware to transmit data, all sorts of censors, etc.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” said the lab’s lead James Tour in a press release. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin, and the path it took to get to your table.” via Fast Co Design.

Why its hot

The possibilities could be endless. An actual apple with 1,000 songs on it? Any bit of clothing is potentially a wearable.

Who Needs an Ad Budget When You Have a Rocketship?

On Tuesday, Elon Musk made history…twice.

Not only did his private space-flight company, Space-X, pull off one of the greatest feats of engineering in history when they launched and successfully landed the Falcon Heavy rocket, but they managed to turn it into an ad opportunity for Tesla.

Tesla famously has a $0 ad budget, but who needs money when you have your own rockets? Right now, you can go onto YouTube to watch a cherry red Tesla, complete with passenger, nicknamed Starman, floating appropriately through space. The original plan was to go nearly 250 million miles from Earth and approach Mars, according to Space.com. However, a rocket carrying the car overshot, meaning it’ll pass Mars’ orbit and enter the asteroid belt.

Watch Starman here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBr2kKAHN6M 

Why its hot

No need for a green screen or Photoshop when you can literally launch your product into space!

 

 

It’s a nAPPkin! Get it!?

That wild idea for an app you sketched out on a napkin could become real easier than you think!

An experimental Windows app called Ink to Code lets you sketch out your app design then export a machine-readable layout file to Microsoft’s Visual Studio. You can then add code for either a prototype or fully fledged Widows and Android apps.

“We have all these app ideas sketched out on paper,” says George Matthews, who managed Ink to Code. “Every time one of our teams will build out a feature, the first thing we do is we draw it by hand, before we even touch a computer. For me it’s natural, it feels more natural. [But] we thought we could do something better.”

While drawing your app, the program reads images for their intent. A box with many lines in it is for text. A box with a circle is a button. A box with a circle is an image. And so on. But while it helps you generate an annotated layout for your app, you still have to connect all those placeholder buttons and images with real code inside another editor.

Why its hot

While Ink to Code isn’t yet the easy-to-use app for first time builders, it could be a great step toward a turnkey program that makes app creation as simple as sketching.,

Spotify gets in on pet adoption

I love this!

According to a recent study by the University of Glasgow, dogs each have their own unique taste in music—and that’s music to Spotify’s ears. Spotify partnered with agency Serviceplan and an animal shelter in Germany to create Adoptify, which matches people with adoptable pets based on their taste in music. Did I mention I love this!?

The website features dogs available for adoption and shows what kind of music each dog prefers. Users can also watch videos about the dogs and find their musical match! I love it!

You can watch some of the videos here.

Why its hot

Spotify loves to leverage all that user data and this is a great campaign for a great cause!

Facebook wants newsfeed to be more ‘meaningful’

Facebook really, really wants your experience to be “meaningful.” In a recent blog post, Facebook researchers announced changes to the algorithm that controls its newsfeed that will put greater emphasis on content from friends and family, and give more weight to posts that encourage users to interact and comment.

This change is so “meaningful” that the word “meaningful” appears seven times in the blog post!

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

Facebook wants your experience to be less about how long you spend on the site, and more about what you do while you’re there. Comments are more important than likes, and posts with longer comments will get more weight than those with shorter ones. Shares of videos will also matter more than a video’s overall popularity.

Why its hot

These changes are going to have a big impact on how news surfaces in your newsfeed. If users aren’t sharing and engaging with a news story, it’s less likely to spread organically. But opinion pieces that usually generate more debate in the comments section will have a better chance of being seen. And Facebook has always put the emphasis on engagement with posts to determine how content surfaces.

Facebook is constantly making changes to its algorithm to “improve” the experience you have on the site, but in the end Facebook’s business depends on turning your attention into dollars. Sure, organic reach is going way down, and publishers are always trying to keep up with changes to Facebook’s performance, but money will always cut through all the changes.

Explore the largest early map of the world

Drawn by hand in 1587 by Italian cartographer Urbano Monte, the above map is the largest known early map on the world, now digitized for the first time at the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at Stanford University.

This is the first time anyone can see the map as a single unit, as Monte intended 430 years ago. It is available for viewing using AR Globe, an iOS augmented reality app, or via download in Google Earth.

Rumsey told Fast Co. Design, “the 60-plus sheets “were digitally assembled by Brandon Rumsey using Photoshop” totally by hand, without having to use distortion or custom programming, just “alignment of layers and edges” tools.”

The map uses azimuthal equidistant projection, a circular projection of Earth from the North Pole, which Monte believed shows the world more accurately by showing a three-dimensional sphere as a two-dimensional surface.

Why its hot

My favorite thing about technology isn’t the new things it can create, but the old things it can preserve. This incredible piece of history is now available to just about anyone, anywhere in the world, right on their mobile phone. Technology has increased access to history, which I think gives us lessons that will inform our future.

Your Ad on the Moon

 

 

 

A Japanese spaceflight company called Ispace plans to fund future missions to the moon by selling ad space to brands looking to literally leave their mark in space.

Ispace hopes to finance a manned mission to the moon by 2020 and it will be branded like crazy, according to Bloomberg. The company was started through Google’s Lunar Xprize, a competition that will award $20 million to whoever can land and drive a spacecraft on the moon’s surface. It’s worth noting that the target date for the program’s first mission was 2012.

Why its hot

Which brands could you see being first to jump at a chance to put their name on the moon?

Private space flight has become the big thing in tech thanks to companies like SpaceX. Funding will be crucial to keeping missions going, so perhaps there is a “space” for brands to get in on the fun.

Stock Photos of Dads Evolve Along With Fatherhood

As dads, statistically, become more involved with raising kids at home, stock image leader, Getty, is evolving the photos usually used to depict fatherhood.

The two most-downloaded photos from Getty in 2016 and 2017, respectively, depict a dad wearing a feather boa and a tiara while painting his daughter’s nails and a dad holding a rolling pin, helping his kid bake something. Ten years ago, the top-selling stock photos were the typical ideas of fatherhood—dads roughhousing, playing football, etc.

By 2013, images were showing fathers taking care of babies. In 2015, they showed dads reading to their daughters and helping with chores.

Via Mashable:

The evolution of fatherhood in stock photos didn’t occur in a vacuum. In 2013, the same year dads nurturing babies took the spotlight, Getty noticed photos of women adjusting, too. Women began to transcend the dominant “sexy look” of years past. And this year, the “gritty woman,” a Getty photo trend that features women getting sweaty, unconcerned with how they look, came to the foreground. By 2015, a new advertising trend nicknamed “dadvertising” was in full force, with several Super Bowl commercials focused on fathers and their kids. The clueless, aloof father figure of the past was transforming into an emotionally available guide and supportive partner.

Getty’s made big strides, but there’s still more work to do to accurately reflect fathers, and families, of today. Families are multiracial, and it’s not just mom-and-dad any more. Getty searches for “gay dads” and “single dad” are up 53 percent and 60 percent respectively over the past year. But when one searches “gay dads” in Getty’s public-facing collection, roughly 1,700 results pop up. Comparatively, there are about 325,000 results for “mom and dad.”

Why its hot

Stock images are interesting because they present the way we see ourselves and the world. They are the idealized versions of the world around us. And as those ideas evolve, and our priorities change, so much stock images.