AMC jumps into a really really *really* crowded swimming pool

AMC announced this week, all together now, a new streaming app. The app, called AMC Theaters On Demand (*yawn*), “will offer about 2,000 films for sale or rent after their theatrical runs, just as iTunes, Amazon and other video-on-demand retailers do.”

Films will cost between $3 to $5.99 to rent and $9.99 to $19.99 to buy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story on Gizmodo
And NY Times

The thing is, this news comes on the same week that Netflix reports that they missed their subscriber growth target…again. Every major studio and content provider seems to be offering a new streaming service every time we turn around. Try not to get whiplash.

Story on Fast Company

Why It’s Hot
It’s super hot for competition (maybe prices will come down???) but it will also create consumer fatigue. Who wants to check yet another app to see which service has the rights to a specific title?

Put a hole in it? Or put a sock in it?

Philadelphia Cream Cheese came out with an ad for a machine called Bagel That! (which is supposed to be available on Amazon, but isn’t) which will turn any food into a bagel by cutting a hole in it. (Cue the strained laughter).

Why It’s Hot:

The idea is hot because it’s unexpected and a playful way to promote the product. Ultimately, it’s undermined by the obvious “humor.”

Polaroid goes super hi-tech. Just kidding.

Over the years the Polaroid company has gone bankrupt, been resurrected and is now being brought kicking and screaming into the digital age. Enter the Polaroid Lab: “a $129 tower that uses the light from your phone’s screen, bounced off a series of mirrors, to make a proper Polaroid from the photos you’ve already taken.”

It doesn’t just spit out single pics, either. There’s a collage setting which can be fun for boomers and Z’s alike.

Why It’s Hot

Polaroid has a chance to be in rare brand: an analogue holdout that can say they survived in the digital age. But only if they make smart moves and they haven’t shown that they can do that in the past 20 years.

Apple re-positions itself as a down-to-earth brand. Just kidding.

Apple rolled out the much-anticipated Apple Card this week. Though most will use the version that integrates with Apple Pay, users will also get a physical card made from titanium.

This card is not like the other cheap pieces of plastic (pffft) in your wallet. Apple Card will require some serious maintenance. So Apple posted this on their support pages to help you out.

Story on Gizmodo

The product video doesn’t help to dispel the “misconception” of elitism.

Why it’s Hot

Very few tech giants can get away with seeming this elite. Good for them (?)

Make getting drunk great again

British data science company DataSparQ has developed facial recognition-based AI technology to prevent entitled bros from cutting the line at bars. This “technology puts customers in an ‘intelligently virtual’ queue, letting bar staff know who really was next” and who’s cutting the line.

“The system works by displaying a live video of everyone queuing on a screen above the bar. A number appears above each customer’s head — which represents their place in the queue — and gives them an estimated wait time until they get served. Bar staff will know exactly who’s next, helping bars and pubs to maximise their ordering efficiency and to keep the drinks flowing.”

Story on Endgadet

Why it’s Hot

Using AI to help solve these types of trifling irritations is better than having to tolerate other people’s sense of entitlement, though it also highlights the need to police rude behavior through something other than raising your kids well.

Volkswagen confronts its terrible past

Volkswagen has debuted the first tv ad of a new campaign called “Rebirth” to introduce its new electric Microbus, a modern update to the 60’s hippie classic. The ad confronts the emissions cheating scandals from a few years ago head on, then comes Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Sounds of Silence.”

Story on Fast Company

The ad is bold in that brands generally avoid reminding people about the terrible thing they did. That terrible, terrible thing. It’s a gamble: will people feel empathy or punish the brand for wallowing in self-pity?

Why it’s Hot

Maybe the old brand rules don’t apply anymore. Maybe it’s ok to spend a ton of money to apologize through a tv commercial. Maybe the electric Microbus looks really cool and the ad could’ve avoided bringing up bad feelings. Consumers will decide.

DeepMind? Pffft! More like “dumb as a bag of rocks.”

Google’s DeepMind AI project, self-described as “the world leader in artificial intelligence research” was recently tested against the type of math test that 16 year olds take in the UK. The result? It only scored a 14 out of 40 correct. Womp womp!

“The researchers tested several types of AI and found that algorithms struggle to translate a question as it appears on a test, full of words and symbols and functions, into the actual operations needed to solve it.” (Medium)

Image result for home d'oh

Why It’s Hot

There is no shortage of angst by humans worried about losing their jobs to AI. Instead of feeling a reprieve, humans should take this as a sign that AI might just be best designed to complement human judgements and not to replace them.

When the rest of the world zigs, Burger King zags

On April 1st, 2019, Burger King introduced a meatless burger to the menu: the Impossible Whopper. They duped several BK customers and filmed their reactions to eating a fake Whopper.

April Fools, right? Wrong.

Burger King really is beta testing the plant-based Impossible Whopper at several locations around St. Louis.

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot because BK picked a day when they knew everyone would be on the lookout for April Fool’s stunts. They knew they were going to get attention on April 1st and took advantage of it to introduce a new product.

Are you ready for some robots?

MLB announced a partnership with the independent Atlantic League to test out “the use of technology to call balls and strikes,” which already exists on television broadcasts of baseball games on networks such as ESPN and FOX.

The experiment lets MLB use an independent league as a testing ground to see what happens over a full season of baseball. If results are good, it could become a future recommendation to enhance the MLB game to improve accuracy of balls and strikes calls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is NOT what the new robo umpires will look like.

Story at the Sporting News

Why it’s Hot

Baseball is the most traditional, time-honoured and stodgy of all American sports. In addition to instant replay instituted a few years ago, tech has a lot to add to a deeply flawed and outdated rule book.

The future of digital will be…digit-based

Google is working on a new type of sensor using radar technology that “can track sub- millimeter motions at high speed and accuracy. It fits onto a chip, can be produced at scale and built into small devices and everyday objects.”

Project Soli, as they call it, has the potential to be a profound sea change in how we interact with digital. Imagine scrolling, clicking, swiping…without putting your hands on a digital interface or yelling at Alexa to take an action.

Hopefully this won’t turn the volume on the tv all the way up if you swat at a fly, but I’m sure they’ll work out the kinks.

Why it’s Hot

The potential to integrate this into every digital device and process is immense.

Pictionary ups its game

The makers of Pictionary have updated their classic game by adding a digital element. “Pictionary Air … takes your competitive sketching off the paper and puts it onto your phone, tablet or TV screen instead.”

“Instead of a regular pen or pencil, players use a jumbo-sized light up pen to doodle their word in thin air, and their drawing is simultaneously cast to a mobile or TV screen using Chromecast or AirPlay ”

It’ll hit the Target shelves first, in June, and only set you back $20.

Why It’s Hot

Not only has it been made relevant again to a young generation, it actually sounds like they nailed the experience and sounds like it could be more fun than the original.

Chatting about your tighty whities? There’s an emoji for that.

“More than 50 new emojis will become standard in 2019, based on the final list approved by the Unicode Consortium.”

“Many of the new icons are tied together by the theme of inclusivity, introducing emojis for deaf people, blind people, people in wheelchairs, and those with prosthetic limbs. This year’s update will allow users to choose the race and gender of both people when choosing an emoji that features a couple.”

Full story on Business Insider.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one might become the most useful for Twitter users.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not sure what to say about this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why it’s Hot
Good to see the continuing trend of inclusiveness in emojis.

It can cut your grass, but can it yell “get off my lawn!” at passersby?

iRobot, the makers of the Roomba robot indoor vacuum have invented its outdoor counterpart: the Terra robotic lawn mower.

“Terra will automatically return to its base to recharge when the battery runs low, and then it will resume cutting where it left off.”

Currently, this robo grass cutter is in beta testing and probably won’t be available in the U.S. until next year.

Story on MakeUseOf

Why it’s Hot

Tedious chores being done by robots means more time to do things that matter more, like playing on your phone.

 

Cute Amazon robots set to take over U.S. streets

Amazon announced on Wednesday (1/23) that it will begin a pilot program near its HQ in Washington state to use its own delivery robots called Amazon Scout for last mile deliveries. The pilot in Snohomish County, WA, will use 6 Scouts and only on weekdays during daylight hours. They will be accompanied by Amazon employees to make sure all goes well.

The familiar-looking 6-wheeler looks similar to other delivery robots though it was developed in-house by Amazon.

Story on TechCrunch

Why it’s Hot

Delivery ‘bots are nothing new (see: Kroger, Eat24, DoorDash, Dominos), but it has a much bigger implication when Amazon is involved. It seems that the Amazon drones that the company promised a few years ago have been pushed aside for now.

Robot future not as scary, or efficient, as once imagined

Last year, Hotsauce reported on a hotel in Japan called Henn-na which was staffed and run primarily by robots. While hospitality workers worldwide decided it was time to tear through a Learning Annex booklet, some were skeptical that a hotel experience based solely on human/robot interaction could work.

Alas, the skeptics have been proven correct!

The Wall Street Journal reports that the robots were so bad at their jobs (and annoying the guests) that they are getting rid of half of them.

As Futurism put it…

“Some of the problems stem from creative ideas that didn’t pan out, like a robot velociraptor that staffed the check-in desk. […] Churi, the personal assistant robot found in each room, could handle basic tasks but pales in comparison to the personal assistant that comes standard with any new smartphone.

In case after case, these robots proved too annoying or broke down too often to be worth the trouble, according to the WSJ. The velociraptor couldn’t handle foreign guests, for instance; human employees had to come over to photocopy their passports.

Churi could change a room’s temperature and respond to basic small talk, but couldn’t answer any questions about the area or other attractions. Meawhile, Henn-na Hotel’s management was so confident in the robots’ abilities that they didn’t equip rooms with phones. Later on, management made up for Churi’s limitations with the cutting-edge solution of placing a human employee at the front desk to answer questions.

Meanwhile, Churi would reportedly wake up guests again and again after mistaking their snoring for a question that the robot couldn’t quite understand.”

The keyboard robot couldn’t actually play anything.

Story on the WSJ

Why it’s Hot

It’s always great to imaging a new future but it should be tempered with reality. Perhaps using robots in more than just a support capacity is premature at this time.

Jordanian Airlines ups the sarcasm, succeeds bigly

Royal Jordanian Airlines came up with a campaign ahead of the 2016 election encouraging their Muslim travelers to “Travel to the U.S. While You’re Still Allowed To,” in response to Trump’s proposed travel ban on Muslims. It was just supposed to be a clever ad, but it turned out to be prophetic.

Why It’s Hot

The tag line obviously resonated with a cynical population that probably believed that he would win more than the average American voter. It is truth well told.

Drink beer while you pee in a hotel shower

A Scottish brewery named Brewdog has opened a hotel on their premises. The hotel is called The Doghouse and a location just opened in Columbus, OH.

Check it out on their website here.

Why It’s Hot

If you spend a few days a week morning drinking then it’s probably your dream come true. For most of us it’s an interesting experiment hospitality marketing.

China pumps AI-produced propaganda via humanoid virtual anchors

“Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, has unveiled new “AI anchors” — digital composites created from footage of human hosts that read the news using synthesized voices.”

AI anchors have several advantages over human counterparts: they don’t need to sleep, eat, poop or take a salary.

Story on The Verge

Why It’s Hot

It’s a wholly frightening idea that the 24/7 news cycle will be reduced to this one day. As we struggle to define the line between real news and fake news, we will also have to grapple with fake news anchors.

Deposit your candy corn and Necco wafers here

Mashable, Forbes and others have been keeping lists of the most loved and most hated Halloween candy for several years running. It seems that tons of free, artificially colored clumps of sugar are just not good enough for many Americans.

Reese’s saw an opportunity and created this machine that works kind of like a bottle recycling machine: put your crappy candy in and get some Reese’s candy in return.

Why it’s Hot

Trust me, it’s hot.

Lex lets you park it anywhere

A company named Astride Bionix has Kickstarted a “wearable chair” they call Lex that lets you drag around a bulky thing around the city for those few minutes of the day when you’d rather be sitting. The Lex will retail north of the $300 rate on Kickstarter.

“The lightweight, 2.2-pound exoskeleton legs retract when they’re not in use, giving you the ability to move around easily and without any restrictions.” (Digital Trends)

https://www.facebook.com/insiderpresents/videos/699287137097216/

Story on ZDNet

Why It’s Hot

No more fighting strangers on the subway for a seat. Just plop one of these down anywhere you want.

LEGO builds a drivable Bugatti

“Made from more than a million pieces, it’s the first fully functional, self-propelled life-size LEGO Technic car ever built.”

The real Bugatti Chiron “has 1,500hp (1119kW) and a top speed in excess of 261mph (420km/h); the LEGO Technic Bugatti makes just 5.3hp (3.9kW) and tops out at 12.4mph (20km/h).”

Can’t wait to see someone in Connecticut driving one of these in the fast lane on the I-95.

Story on Ars Technica

Why it’s Hot

While the car is totally undriveable, the stunt is a good way to promote both brands simultaneously.

Sony tries to render real pets obsolete

As announced earlier this year Sony has brought back it’s robotic dog, Aibo. First released in 1999 but discontinued in 2006, it took Sony 12 years to update the Aibo and make it extra super cute.

One of these very good boys will set you back $2799.

 

 

For comparison’s sake, below is the original model (ERS-110) from 1999…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and the final model (ERS-7) before being discontinued

Why It’s Hot

Not sure anybody will buy these but with the toy robot space getting crowded, it’s interesting to see Sony trying to win the war by ratcheting up the cuteness factor, not by designing new features.

Samsung claims unbreakable phone screen. Challenge accepted.

Samsung has developed a U.S. military-grade unbreakable phone screen….(about 10 years too late).

The days of having to strain your eyes looking through your jacked-up Galaxy screen seem to be over.

 

Here’s the proof:

Why it’s Hot

While other phone makers have been spending R&D dollars to make stronger and harder screen glass, Samsung zags and develops something flexible. Well played, Samsung.

Swing, or a miss?

Hate those terrible, ugly earbuds that came with your iPhone? Wish there was a better way to carry those things around without getting the wires tangled in your pants pocket? Well now there’s Swings Bluetooth earring headphones. You’re welcome, society.

Product listing on Kickstarter

Why It’s Hot

Not mentioned in the pitch is that those wireless earbuds are really easy to lose. The Swings can help with that. Plus, there’s an opportunity to promote brands such as baseball teams or shoe brands with a logo on the face of the dangling part.

For people without pierced ears, there could also be a clip-on version.

Lithium batteries in shoes…what could go wrong?

At long last someone has designed a digital smartshoe. Cue the obligatory eye roll. And a pair of these can be yours for the whopping cost of $599.

Digitsole Smartshoe integrates street style with wearable technology, featuring auto tightening, accurate tracking, and individual coaching based on your movements.”

The shoe has a lot of features, including smart heating, activity tracker, cushion monitor, stair counter, pedometer, speedometer, calorie counter, auto tightening and an app that analyzes your stride.

Why It’s Hot
Well, I never said it was hot. I guess the shoelace tightener is kind of cool.

To be fair, the company has also developed a product that fits into any shoe as an implant, which is a much better idea.

Why It’s Not so Hot
Where to begin? Shoe styles are highly subjective and the cost is very prohibitive for an item that most people have more than one of. Seems like over-engineering. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.

Who doesn’t want to play amateur Maury Povich?

The 23 & Me craze has spilled into the animal kingdom for pet owners who want more info on their pet’s breed and medical predispositions. Companies such as Embark and AnimalBiome will gladly take your money to test your dog or cat’s dna. Is it worth it? Probably more for dog owners curious about their breed, but don’t spend too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see video.

Why It’s Hot

While there’s nothing wrong with digging into your pet’s dna, it does feel like someone is taking advantage of a larger trend.

Ziggy invades the subways

Spotify and the MTA have joined forces by creating a David Bowie subway takeover at the Broadway/Lafayette station in NYC as a way to promote the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum.

 

In addition to the various visual elements, the MTA came through with 5 different David Bowie metrocards sold at the station; 250,000 of them, to be exact.

 

My wife managed to snag 2 different designs after waiting in line for over 1.5 hrs on Saturday (!!!):

 

Why It’s Hot:

Books like The End of Advertising remind us that traditional advertising methods are not only played out, they can be intrusive and irritating. When brands think of alternate ways to advertise their brand, it can be a lot of fun.

 

Source of chronic pain for millions of Americans soon to ease

A YouTube channel called The Brick Wall, which is a “place of Lego Technic changes and modifications” has created a “Roomba” for Legos. The machine itself is made out of Legos.

With tongue firmly in cheek, this machine is absolutely not hitting store shelves anytime soon.

Story on Sploid

Why it’s Hot:

It’s an idea whose time has come. Just ask any parent of toddlers.