Or, hear me out, we can just go back to having cubicles…

A Ukranian design company called Hochu Rayu has created a noise-cancelling helmet designed to block out sound for persons who work in noisy open space offices. According to CNet, “The design company came up with the Helmfon while trying to work out ways employees can Skype at their desks without bothering their co-workers.”

Giant helmet can cancel noise

Would you wear this?! (via In The Know)

Posted by Yahoo News on Saturday, November 25, 2017

Story on CNet

Who wore it better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why It’s Hot

This can be really useful for people who seek to improve their productivity when they’re surrounded by a wall of constant noise (*cough* 4th Floor *cough*), though, obviously, the design needs some work.

New device allows Americans to remain blissfully monolingual

A startup called WT2 has created a wearable that can translate languages in real-time.

Real time translator breaks down language barriers

Real time translation makes travel abroad easy as A-B-C.

Posted by Futurism on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Story on Futurism

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot in cases where you need to understand someone quickly in another language, especially for people who work in service-oriented fields. It’s not so hot if the main use case is to replace the learning of new languages.

Google improves the quality of Street View images

Now the delivery truck parked in front of the address you Google Mapped will look as clear as can be.

In addition to using new and better camera technology in its Street View cars, Google is also improving the software that ‘stitches’ the panoramic images together.

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Most of us have gotten used to the busted up images and less-than-perfect experience of apps like Google Maps, because the utility is what’s important. But it is nice to see that the company is minding the little details.

Ford has a robotic butt

Ford has found a way to simulate how well their seats hold up over a ten-year period by creating a robotic butt that ‘sits’ in the seat over 25,000 times in a 3-week period. Valuable data is gathered along the way to ensure that the design holds up well.

They call it the Robutt [insert laughter].

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot because it’s one job a robot can steal without much protest from humans.

Saudi Arabia gives a fake person real citizenship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A robot built by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics named Sophia has been granted citizenship by the government of Saudi Arabia. Nobody is saying exactly what that means but, according to Futurism, “The move seems symbolic, at best, designed to attract investors for future technologies like AI and robotics.” Saudi Arabia has been trying to up its credibility as a tech player to compete with neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates.

Sophia was “designed to look like Audrey Hepburn” according to the robot maker. I see.

Sophia’s announcement is below:

Story on Popular Mechanics

The stunt was not viewed positively to all as some have made valid points about foreign workers’ inability to gain similar citizenship status despite their own contributions to Saudi society.

Here is the full video of Sophia’s (awkward) address to the Future Investment Initiative conference, held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Why It’s Hot

This announcement adds fuel to the debate about what rights, if any, robots will have in our society. It also calls into question if countries such as Saudi Arabia have a moral responsibility to treat their female citizens and foreign workers equally to- or better than robots.

Honda’s road stunt is tone deaf and off key

Honda wanted to put grooves in a California road that would play “The William Tell Overture” as drivers rode across them because….um, nobody really knows, but they screwed it up, TWICE.

The original grooved road had to be moved due to a noise complaint, so they had a chance to fix the surface to sound the way it was supposed to, but they didn’t.

Why It’s Hot

It’s a lesson for marketers and brands who want to do something really cool to garner attention. When it doesn’t work it could be really embarrassing.

Caspar making new comfy sleep stuff, just not for you

Caspar has teamed with American Airlines to design and supply the massive airline with a slew of new sleep products. The 8 new products include “a mattress pad that fits over your seat, a regular pillow and a lumbar pillow, a pillowcase, a duvet, a blanket, pajamas and slippers.”

No, this is not a dream. It’s also not available for coach travelers. The products are solely for business class and first class travelers. You know, the people who need it the most.

You, however, will still be unable to sleep on the red eye on account of the demon toddler kicking your seat from behind during the entire duration of the flight. Happy trails!

Story on TechCrunch

Why it’s Hot

It’s hot for Caspar because it gives them bigger name recognition in the very competitive next-gen mattress space.

Target makes its brick-n-mortars less painful to navigate

Target is putting beacons in their stores that will allow users to find the locations of specific items on shelves and even indicate if the item is on sale.

Target’s redesigned app “shows your location on the app’s map as you move throughout the store. The technology…will be live in about half of Target’s stores in time for the holidays.”

Why It’s Hot

Solving customer frustration at retail locations via digital is an idea that was overdue.

Moona makes pillows great again

A French startup named Moona is raising money on Kickstarter to produce a temperature controlled pillow that stays cool to help improve sleep. It also has (all together, now) an app that helps you analyze your sleep patterns.

Take that, the My Pillow guy.

Story on The Verge and Endgadget

Skeptics refer to the product as “essentially a water bottle combined with a memory foam pad that you strap to the top of your existing pillow…it’s weirdly clunky and just plain odd-looking.”


Moona’s RTB’s

Why it’s Hot:

Is it hot? Is it supposed to be?!? It’s hot because it stays cool…which makes it hot (assuming it works).

China’s (robots) got talent

Chinese company WL Intelligent Technology’s Dobi robots have broken a Guinness World Record  for the “most robots dancing simultaneously,” 1,069 of them to be exact.

They beat the previous record of 1,007 dancing robots (?!?) set just last year by Chinese robotics firm Ever Win Company’s QRC-2 Robots.

Lest you think that this was an easy feat, some of the robots fell over while dancing and were not counted in the final tally.

Story on The Verge

Why It’s Hot:

China is certainly leading the way in both dancing robot technology as well as fun ways to promote a product.

 

Roomba finds a cool way to ramp up the paranoia level for tin-foil hat wearers

For the last couple of years, the newer models of Roomba have been quietly mapping homes to maximize efficiency. Now, the device’s makers plan to sell that data to smart home device manufacturers and possibly to companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple (Roomba is already compatible with Alexa, for example).

“If a company like Amazon, for example, wanted to improve its Echo smart speaker, the Roomba’s mapping info could certainly help out. Spatial mapping could improve audio performance by taking advantage of the room’s acoustics. Do you have a large room that’s practically empty? Targeted furniture ads might be quite effective. The laser and camera sensors would paint a nice portrait for lighting needs that would factor into smart lights that adjust in real time. Smart AC units could better control airflow. And additional sensors added in the future would gather even more data from this live-in double agent.”

One way to avoid giving your data would be to turn off the cloud service and go analog, rendering the IoT aspect of the product useless.

Story on Gizmodo

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot as hell for marketers because this will unlock hyper-targeted ads to people on a micro level, but maybe not as hot for consumers who feel that they have to make a big compromise with their privacy just to vacuum their floors.

Google takes its Street View cars up to space

Google Street View has finally found an address that won’t be blocked by a giant UPS truck: outer space.


Story on TechCrunch

Click on a blue hot spot and get an explanation of what the item is.

Why it’s Hot
This project can serve as motivation for kids curious about STEM careers, similar to the Lockheed Martin “Field Trip to Mars” project from 2016. Also, it’s a fun way to spend 15 minutes at work.

Get weed, booze and ammo from a vending machine. Sure, why not?

A company called American Green has created a vending machine that relies on biometrics to dispense things such as alcohol, marijuana and ammunition. Customers sign up and verify their age, prescriptions, gun permits, etc., with actual persons to keep the merch out of the hands of minors or the wrong people….because there’s no such thing as hacking, right?

 

Story on BBC News

Why It’s Hot

Biometrics aren’t just for boring things like logging into your iPhone or boarding planes anymore. This is, perhaps, a more interesting use case.

The future of shared public space will be super annoying

A developer named Abhishek Singh recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros. as an augmented reality game on Microsoft HoloLens, giving himself a first-person perspective into a unique 3D look inside the classic setting.

This demo was done in NYC’s own Central Park.

Why It’s Hot
Seeing the game as Mario sees it is totally hot. Watching a guy in Central Park acting like he’s slowly losing his mind: not so hot.

Amazon, not content to ship a mere 1.6m packages per day, announces new service

Amazon has introduced a new service called Prime Wardrobe. Users can get between 3-15 clothing items shipped for free, pay for the stuff they keep and ship the rest back (also for free).

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Not only will this be a huge win for the USPS, but we will now be able to use the phrase “Warby Parkerization” at client presentations….or not.

Apple launches new reality show with uninspired title, like, 5 years too late

Apple has wrangled up some A-listers, plus Gary Vaynerchuck, for a Shark Tank-meets-The Voice reality show. It’s a chance for developers to give their best elevator pitch to a panel of 4 judges who will swipe left or right and give app developers an opportunity to be funded so that “they can take the next step to creating one of the great apps of all time.”

Story on The Verge

Is it Hot or Not?
Seems like the best apps might not make the cut if the pitch isn’t good enough. Do we really want to bring app development to the lowest common denominator?

A better way to fly?

Air New Zealand has partnered with Microsoft to begin beta testing HoloLens augmented reality headsets on flights to help their crews better serve their passengers.

Flight attendants using headsets on their faces might look really strange and scare little children, but the practical applications are pretty cool. Being able to know, for example, which passengers have dietary restrictions or are in a certain mood can enhance the customer experience.

Story on The Verge

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot because while this might not be a solution that gets mass adoption with every airline, it is nice to know that there is an airline out there that is trying to improve the travel experience (*cough* unlike United *cough*).

 

The RoboBees are here!

Japanese scientist Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed what could be a partial solution to bee colony collapse disorder: a tiny pollinating drone. Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, these pint-sized robots can collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another.

Miyako had previously experimented with using a specialized gel for electrochemical applications. When the gel performed poorly, he tucked the bottles away in a drawer and forgot about them — until he moved out of his lab two years ago. As soon as he rediscovered the gel, he thought about the pollination crisis and honeybee decline.


Artist’s rendering.

Conventional gels, Miyako explains, are mainly made of water and lose their stickiness over time. But his ionic liquid gel, by contrast, is a substance with a long-lasting “lift-and-stick-again” adhesive quality – ideal for moving pollen from one plant to the next.

“The continued adhesiveness and non-volatility of the ionic liquid gel was exciting,” says Miyako.

Story on Popular Mechanics

Why It’s Hot:

This is super hot because it could ensure the survival of the human race…until we can eradicate the root cause of the bee colony collapse (*cough* Monsanto *cough*).

The Juicero of salt is here. Hooray?

Some mis-guided soul has created a bluetooth-enabled “smart salt shaker” that does a whole bunch of things:

  • It can play music
  • It has a color-changing mood light (!)
  • It can dispensed salt via Alexa (though you still presumably have to hold the thing over your food with your hand; no getting around that one)

Story on Lifehacker

You’ll have to wait for this quality item, though, because it is not up on Indiegogo yet.

From Smalt’s About Us page:

Herb & Body is a California-based lifestyle company committed to using smart technology to enhance our lives….Our first innovation, “SMALT”, is the first of it’s kind to market and will transform an ordinary kitchen tools that people have been using for centuries into an experience for the senses.

Why It’s Hot

Well, just look at it.

Never fear splitting your pants wide open ever again

A company called Imperial Motion has released a line of outerwear and bags that incorporates nano technology. The special material self-heals when torn by rubbing two fingers over the puncture back and forth for about 10 seconds.

Link to Imperial Motion’s Nano Cure line

Why It’s Hot

This is a great practical application of a once-excessively hyped technology. In addition to being a great idea, it seems to be very reasonably priced.

Senate staffers’ ID cards have a photo of a smart chip instead of an actual chip, which is not nearly as effective

This is why we can’t have nice things, America.

Following the cyber breach of the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) in 2015 one of the issues that caused great consternation among lawmakers in the congress was that the OPM had failed to implement two-factor authentication for employees, particularly when using virtual private networks.

The OPM incident served as warning to all federal agencies: fix your information securities.

Agencies such as the Dept. of Defense rolled out PIV cards, which has a chip that allows for use of two-factor authentication.

The Senate chose to roll out ID cards that merely have a photo of a chip printed on them, rather than a real chip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story on Ars Technica

Why It’s Hot

It boggles the mind that after data breaches and hacking at every level of our government that a branch of government that has so much influence over our lives could fail to take the most basic precautions against hacking.

Juicero? More like a giant lemon!

A company called Juicero is in hot water for selling an expensive device with no known discernible value.

Full story at The Verge

This reminds me of the Father Guido Sarducci skit on SNL about Mr. Tea (a companion to Mr. Coffee). You supply your own tea bag and your own hot water. LOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why it’s Hot

This is as cold as a kale-flavored icee.

 

 

 

 

Smartwatches suck, according to one of the largest makers

Recently, CEO of Chinese electronics maker Huawei raised eyebrows when he publicly trashed smartwatches.

“I am always confused as to what smartwatches are for when we have smartphones,” Eric Xu Zhijun said, adding that he would never ever wear one himself — despite the fact that his own company makes them.

This underscores something that tech enthusiasts have been dancing around for a while…that the smartwatch seems to be on life support if not fully dead.

Pebble, for example, was one of the original Kickstarter success stories. It was acquired late last year by FitBit and it’s future is uncertain.

 

Why It’s Hot

Whenever tech industry tries to anticipate trends instead of trying to understand what people actually want, it feels like the tail wagging the dog. For that reason, like the 3D TV, wearables may’ve been doomed from the start.

Latest Google Maps update includes ghosts and power pellets

Amongst all of the uninspired April Fool’s ‘gags’ that we have come to expect from top brands, Google decided to give us something that was more Fun than Fools.

On Saturday, April 1st, Google turned the Maps app into a Ms. Pacman game, in essence turning the streets and highways into the famous maze of dots from yesteryear. The fun part was Mapping your childhood home, your current home, work, any place that’s interesting to you and turning it into a video game.

Note: the game works best on streets that have a grid pattern, such as Manhattan, but it’s also fun to see the ridiculousness of places like Boston or any other place that has a really confusing street layout. A writer for Forbes made a list of The 5 Best Google Maps Locations for Playing Ms. Pacman, which includes Lombard street in S.F.

Why it’s Hot
Google has had some of the best April Fools stunts in the past and this one is right up there in terms of creativity, execution…and fun!

It takes a forest

What does it take to create the wooden floor for the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four? Turns out, a lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some facts about the Final Four floor:

  • Made from 500 sugar maple trees
  • The whole process takes 5 months
  • Takes 125 workers 144 days of work
  • Uses 13 gallons of stain and 80 gallons of finish
  • The wood travels 2,300 miles from forest to stadium (MI to AZ with a stop in ID)

http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/18985386/from-tree-tipoff

Why It’s Hot

The storytelling, production values of the video, page design and content strategy are really good quality. They make a marginally interesting story come to life pretty well.

 

 

 

 

Ready to put your life in the hands of a driverless drone? Yeah, me neither.

A Chinese company has created the world’s first passenger drone, called the Ehang 184. First unveiled to the world at CES 2016, the passenger drone has been tested in Nevada and by this summer will make its debut as a drone taxi in Dubai. The drone will be able to transport a single passenger weighing no more than 220 pounds, for a distance as far as 25 to 30 miles, and for up to 30 minutes in the air at a time. Since there is no driver in the aerial vehicle, the rider sets their destination using a touchscreen. The drone’s progress will be monitored remotely from a nearby command center.

But, there’s no way for the passenger to steer the drone at all, even in an emergency.

Story at Curbed

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot because it seems like a great way to beat congestion when you absolutely have to get to the airport. Realistically, though, this is not something I want to see flying above my house.

Self-driving cars: Programmed to kill?

Early data shows us that self-driving cars are safe because:

  • They don’t get drunk
  • They don’t text while driving
  • They don’t get road rage

Nevertheless, there are ethical implications around self-driving cars that have yet to be resolved. Consider this: if the car is programmed to kill the driver in circumstances where it is required to save many more lives, is the general public ready to entrust these decisions to programmer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why it’s Hot
While the technology has thus far garnered all of the focus of self-driving cars, there are serious ethical decisions that are not as easy to solve via code or engineering. Ultimately, the most important decisions still must be made by humans.

Tesla aims to save the Earth once more

Tesla and SolarCity have created a new renewable energy project for the island of Kauai (pop. 67,000) which will hopefully enable the small island to reach its goal of using 70% renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

The Powepacks technology allows for solar energy to be stored during the day for use at night!

Hawaii doesn’t have the benefit of a massive grid like the mainland to pull electricity from sources hundreds of miles away. Instead each island has to take care of its own energy solutions.

The 45 acre project in Kapaia will reduce the use of fossil fuels by 1.6 million gallons a year.

Why It’s Hot

The project in Kauai can serve as a test case to see if the Powepacks technology can work in smaller mainland cities and suburbs. As Tesla learns how to scale the efficiency of the Powepacks, it could take a lot of fossil fuels offline in small and mid-sized cities. It’s a start.