Slack and Cole Haan Team Up

Slack has partnered with footwear brand Cole Haan to launch a unisex sneaker in the four colors of the Slack logo. This is the first time Slack—or really any major tech company, to our knowledge—has collaborated with a fashion brand.

Will people want to drop $120 on Slack-branded sneakers?

The partnership first came about in the lead-up to Slack’s IPO last summer. Cole Haan decided to create custom shoes for Stewart Butterfield and Cal Henderson, the company’s cofounders, as a surprise. That day at the Stock Exchange, Slack had little booths featuring products that companies had created entirely through the platform, including ice cream flavors and these sneakers. (Slack and Cole Haan created a Slack channel together to discuss all the details of the shoe and provide updates.) As Slack fans gathered to show their support, many wanted to know where they could buy the sneakers. In the months that followed, Cole Haan decided that a full-on collaboration made sense.

Over the past few years, Cole Haan has tried to stand out in the footwear market by investing in technology. Associating itself with Slack allows it to deepen its identity as a tech-forward brand.

Why it’s hot: This is an unexpected partnership that is mutually beneficial to both brand’s missions — a fun way to display the capabilities of Slack, and differentiating Cole Haan in the fashion landscape. Although it does seem like a miss that the shoes don’t have any unique capabilities beyond just slack-themed colorways.

Source: FastCo 


Why American Eagle is the last mall brand standing

When COVID-19 arrived in the United States, the fashion industry took a major hit. In April, clothing sales fell by 79%, the largest drop on record. By the end of the year, revenues are expected to drop by a third, equal to $640 billion in losses.

At a time when many retailers are hemorrhaging money and closing stores, Aerie saw a 32% rise in revenue and is on track to open 70 new stores this year. The company also launched two new brands during the pandemic, Offline and Unsubscribed.

How did AEO become one of the last successful mall brands in America? The answer seems to be the company’s single-minded commitment to its target customer: Gen Z, the oldest of whom are now in their midtwenties. AEO has invested heavily in focus groups, consumer research, and even an in-house council made up of teens and twentysomethings who help with the corporate decision-making. All of this has given the company a clear sense of this generation’s values, aesthetics, and shopping preferences. “We’re gathering feedback from customers at every step,” Schottenstein says. “We’re reading comments on social, we’re getting feedback in stores.”


So what does Gen Z want from a fashion brand? The answer is important, not just for AEO, but for the rest of the industry, as its spending power is set to increase by 70% by 2025, making its members key to the global economic recovery. Jennifer Foyle, AEO’s chief creative officer and Aerie’s global brand president, says: Today’s young people want comfort, and she means that in every sense of the word. “They want their clothes to be soft and comfortable, but they also want marketing campaigns to make them feel comfortable in their own skin,” she says. “This is now at the forefront of everything we do.”

This clothing assortment turned out to be ideal for the pandemic, when people around the world began sheltering in place and their wardrobes shifted. In April, the sale of sweatpants in the U.S. went up by 80%, and AEO was ready to meet this demand. AEO was already selling a lot of sweats, hoodies, and leggings, but in February, as COVID-19 loomed, Foyle says the company began ordering more of these items. “We got early reads on the crisis because we have factory partners in Asia,” she says. “We moved fast. We did not wait.”

And in July, the company released Offline, a new brand focused on activewear that had been in the works for nine months.

Foyle says AEO also works hard to create branding and marketing that makes customers feel comfortable in an emotional sense. She believes that for Gen Z, physical comfort is connected to a deeper sense of well-being and ease. “Our customer wants to feel like herself when she’s wearing our clothes,” Foyle says. This aligns with research from McKinsey showing that Gen Z tends to see consumption as a manifestation of individual identity and is drawn to brands that celebrate diversity and authenticity. To that end, back in 2014 Foyle spearheaded a campaign called Aerie Real, which focused on body positivity and inclusivity. The brand began using a wide array of real women as models, going beyond race and body size to include trans women and differently abled women. And it banned photoshopping.


While AEO’s products were a good fit for pandemic life, the company still had to think creatively about how to reach customers. For one thing, it has 1,095 stores across the country, all of which had to shut down early in the pandemic. Foyle says that AEO had been investing more in e-commerce and social media, but when the crisis hit, these channels became crucial.

The company poured marketing dollars into online spaces like TikTok, in what Foyle calls a “come to you” strategy. For instance, Aerie partnered with Charli D’Amelio, TikTok’s most popular user with more than 80 million followers, to launch a “positivity challenge” in which she invited users to share things they were grateful for in quarantine. “We knew our customers were on their phone more and engaging in social more,” Foyle says. “We decided that we’re going to be where our customer is at, serving them with products they want to wear.”

All of these efforts drove customers to shop online. In the second quarter, AEO saw a 74% increase in revenue through digital channels across all brands. Foyle knows some segment of customers may increasingly shop online even after the pandemic, which might mean closing less-profitable stores. American Eagle already has plans to close 45 stores.

But at the same time, she believes strongly that brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead, it’s just evolving. While many suburban malls have been dying for some time, she sees opportunities to expand into shopping streets in smaller towns and into outdoor lifestyle centers, which are increasingly popular. “We just need to be very smart about our real estate strategy,” she says. “It’s about being in the best locations and the best new markets. It’s about innovating the in-store experience.”


Unsubscribed, AEO’s newest brand, is an experiment that will allow the company to explore creative in-store experiences. It launched with a single boutique in East Hampton, New York, and doesn’t even have an e-commerce presence for the time being. Its clothes are more expensive than AEO’s other brands, with outfits ranging from $40 to $550. And while American Eagle and Aerie focus on delivering affordable, trendy styles to customers quickly, Unsubscribed is focused on creating smaller collections of classic, durable garments, designed to be worn season after season. The brand is designed to appeal to an older, slightly wealthier clientele. “It’s an entirely different business model,” Foyle says. “It’s teaching us a lot.”

In many ways, Unsubscribed is a way of thinking about what Gen Z consumers may want in the next decade, when they have more disposable income. AEO is betting that big-box mall stores won’t be as compelling as intimate neighborhood boutiques and that they’ll care about sustainability and buying fewer, better clothes. “It’s a conceptual project,” Foyle says. “We’re asking ourselves: What is our customer going to be thinking about down the road?”

Source: FastCo

Drive Through… Fine Dining?

The restaurant industry has been pummeled by the pandemic, prompting a wave of creative new dining ideas across the country, from bars offering carry-0ut cocktail mixes to pizzerias transforming into produce stands. Now, 10 well-known Los Angeles chefs are joining forces in an ambitious new experiment.

On October 15 and 16, restaurant tech platform Resy is hosting a 10-course drive-through dinner at the Hollywood Palladium catered by these chefs that could be a model for bringing high-end restaurants back to life.

The event, called the Resy Drive Thru, is sponsored by American Express. Diners will stay in their cars and move through a track made up of 10 stations, where they’ll be served one course prepared by each of the 10 restaurants.

Guests will be served food in single-use containers and given a tray to eat on, which is theirs to keep. Each car will have its own designated waiter who will guide them through the process. (All event personnel will wear gloves, masks, and face shields; they’ll also be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive at the event, and will have their temperature taken at the door.) The entire experience costs $95 per person, and can be purchased in groups of up to four in a single vehicle. There is room for 600 guests over two nights.


The rise of “dark stores”

Whole Foods “opened” a new “store” that you can’t walk into or shop at.

Located in Brooklyn and slightly smaller than a typical Whole Foods, the store is dedicated solely to fulfilling online orders. It’s the company’s first purpose-built online-only store. With longer aisles, no salad bar, and missing those checkout candy displays, the store will be used to pack up online orders, which have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, says its grocery sales tripled, year over year, for the second quarter of 2020.

But this is not just a pandemic-related reaction. Though six of its stores were temporarily converted to handle only online orders, this new dedicated online-only store had been in the works for more than a year, according to company officials. And it’s not alone. More retailers are accommodating the shift of shopping from in-store to online by turning their physical locations into so-called “dark stores”—miniature warehouse-like spaces where online orders can be packed for pickup or delivery. Retail experts say this is just the start of a major trend.

“Every chain in the world will be doing this in the future. And the future is now, because COVID-19 has pushed the timeline up for a number of these kinds of initiatives,” says Ken Morris, managing partner at Cambridge Retail Advisors.

Unlike the new Whole Foods store, not all of these facilities need to be purpose-built. Grocery chains such as Stop & Shop and Hy-Vee, based in Iowa, are already experimenting with turning stores dark. Other retailers are converting stores into micro fulfillment centers, Morris says. Walmart has one in New Hampshire. Bed, Bath & Beyond plans to convert a quarter of its locations into dark stores. Some shopping malls are also being converted into fulfillment centers.

Though nongrocery retailers are turning stores dark as more shopping happens online, Morris expects grocery stores and their perishable products will still draw at least some of the in-person market. He says grocery chains will eventually move to a “semidark” or hybrid approach, in which shoppers can submit most of their order online for pickup but still roam the aisles to select items such as produce or deli meats.

Key to this change is robotics, Morris says. Even without the social distancing rules of the pandemic, the typical grocery store can handle only so many customers. Warehouse technology startups such as Fabric and Alert Innovation are already beginning to work with retailers and grocers on integrating robotics and adding more product into smaller, robot-only spaces. “These things are very quick. They can pick 15,000 orders a day, and they do it in a small footprint,” Morris says.

There’s even the potential of making the robots part of the theater of the shopping experience, Morris says. “Some grocery chains and drug stores are considering putting these things center, glassed-in, in the middle of the building so people can actually see it happening,” he says.

For now, the transition will be more gradual. Morris says the drop-off in physical shopping during the pandemic led many chain retailers to temporarily turn stores dark. But as the pandemic drags on and online grocery shopping becomes more common, he expects other grocery chains will begin to analyze their online orders and the population density near their stores and decide that some locations may be better used as dark stores.

“Every metro area will have some of these,” he says. “In the next five years, this will explode.”

Source: FastCo

Why it’s hot: This seems like a natural progression for retail stores, especially during this pandemic. I expect many other stores to follow Whole Foods’ lead.

Columbia University researchers know why you chose that playlist

A new study out of Columbia Business School and Bar-Ilan University in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that you prefer the music of artists with personalities similar to your own. In other words, you like yourself.

Researchers studied the public personas of the most famous 50 musicians in the Western world, including Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Whitney Houston, The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Taylor Swift, and Ozzy Osbourne. In two studies of over 80,000 participants, they found that the personalities of the musicians correlate with those of their fans. A third study of 4,995 participants showed that fans’ personalities predict their musical preferences as much as other strong predictors like gender, age, and features of the music.

Music shapes cultural interactions between individuals and groups, as well as influence listeners’ thoughts and feelings, so researchers sought out to understand the mechanisms of these interactions.

“The findings can pave the way for new approaches for record companies or music management to target and build audiences,” noted coauthor Sandra Matz, an associate professor of business at Columbia Business School.

Why it’s hot: As marketers, the findings of this study might not come as a surprise to us but is potentially a large driving insight when seeking to understand certain audiences mindsets, cultural influences, and motivators.

Source: FastCo

Wes Anderson’s characters always practice social distancing

A new video from UK movie magazine Little White Lies reveals how Anderson’s characters have been practicing social distancing from the beginning. The two-and-a-half minute clip draws from the director’s entire filmography to show how his characters are often kept apart, even when they’re together. Sometimes, it’s a depth-of-field trick, with one character close to the camera and another one further back and thus relatively tiny. Other times, it’s a tracking shot of characters moving along on the same path, each at his or her own pace. While it would be a reach to suggest Anderson actually anticipated that it would one day become standard hygienic praxis to maintain six-feet of distance at all times, the director’s visual depiction of isolation sure looks prescient at the moment.

Why it’s hot: Making light of the grim situation at the moment, we are given a new perspective at beloved favorites such as Wes Anderson movies.

Source: FastCo

This tool reveals if your local hospitals will have enough beds to treat coronavirus patients

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of “flattening the curve.” In that term, the “curve” refers to the number of people who will be infected at any given time. The higher any point on the curve, the more people infected at that point in time. A curve with a dramatic peak—that is, a steep rise and then fall in the number of cases over a short time—is something public health experts want to avoid.

The reason for this comes down to the ability of healthcare systems to cope. If everyone gets sick all at once, hospitals aren’t going to have the number of beds needed (and other tools) to care for them all. But if everyone takes their turn, so to speak, getting sick over a longer period of time, hospitals don’t need as many beds because the patients aren’t coming in all at once.

If a hospital has 1,000 beds and 5,000 coronavirus patients needing those beds, 4,000 of those patients aren’t going to get beds if everyone is sick during the same time period. But if those same 5,000 coronavirus patents get sick over a longer time frame, say interspaced over six months instead of two weeks, the hospital’s 1,000 beds could be enough for all 5,000 patients. This last example is what happens when you “flatten the curve.”

ProPublica built a tool to use data released by the Harvard Global Health Institute that shows whether local healthcare systems (made up of multiple hospitals) will have the needed beds should 20%, 40%, or 60% of the population become infected over time periods of 6, 12, or 18 months.

To use the tool, just enter your location in the search box and it will spit out a wealth of data revealing how many beds the local healthcare system has, as well as whether more beds are needed depending on how much the curve can be flattened. For example, by entering New York City as your local healthcare region, ProPublica’s tool says this:

In a moderate scenario where 40% of the population is infected over a 12-month period, hospitals in Manhattan, NY would receive an estimated 345,000 coronavirus patients. The influx of patients would require 11,500 beds over 12 months, which is 3.8 times times the number of available beds in that time period.

Why it’s hot: This leverages data to highlight how important social distancing is so we can flatten the curve as much as possible.

Source: FastCo





Apple is teaming up with Johnson & Johnson to see if the Apple Watch can reduce stroke risk

Apple and Johnson & Johnson have announced they are teaming up for a new groundbreaking study to see if the digital health tools included on the Apple Watch could help reduce the risk of stroke by detecting anomalies with the heart earlier than a person would become aware of them.

The study, called Heartline, uses a proprietary app along with the ECG sensor on the latest Apple Watches to monitor a wearer for atrial fibrillation (AFib)–one of the leading causes of stroke. Apple Watch Series 4 models and later have an electrical heart sensor built in, which allows the watch to conduct electrocardiograms (ECGs) on wearers. Those ECGs have been regularly praised for saving lives due to their ability to detect AFib.

Now Apple and Johnson & Johnson want to see if the Apple Watch’s electrocardiogram could help identify stroke risk before a stroke happens and thus allow at-risk users to seek medical attention before a critical attack. As noted by Dr. C. Michael Gibson, cochair of the Heartline Executive Committee and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School:

Heartline is a study that has the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of how digital health tools, like the ECG app and irregular rhythm notification feature on Apple Watch, could lead to earlier detection of AFib, helping patients understand and directly engage in their heart health, prompting potentially life-saving conversations with their doctors, and improving health outcomes.

If you’d like to take part in the study, Apple and Johnson & Johnson is seeking volunteers. To qualify you must be 65 years of age or older, be covered under Original (Traditional) Medicare, and own an iPhone 6s or later.

Why it’s hot: Another example of wearables used for (potentially lifesaving) prevention.

Source: FastCo

A simple design change could help doctors prevent opioid addiction

In the latest issue of JAMA, a research team at UC San Francisco has demonstrated how changing EMRs might impact the opioid epidemic: By reducing the default number of pain pills suggested for a prescription on screen (such as 12 instead of 15), the user interface of medical records can coax doctors to prescribe fewer pills. In fact, researchers found that in some ranges, for every one extra pill the default settings suggested, doctors prescribed 0.2 more on average. “It [can] nudge people a little bit, where at a population level, these small differences might add up.” For a prescription of 10 pills, to reduce the count to nine would represent an overall reduction of pills in circulation by 10%.

EMRs can feature dozens of mentally exhausting fields for doctors to fill out and check off; whether consciously or not, doctors are manipulated by the records’ defaults. “The vast majority of doctors’ offices use EMR to prescribe. There’s already a default setting built in,” says Montoy. “Whether we like it or not, we’re being influenced by that quantity. [Our research] suggests that we should be thinking about that number and asking, ‘What is the default we need there?’

Montoy and his team tried to nudge doctors to prescribe fewer—with success. They did so by taking control of the EMRs at UCSF’s emergency department and Highland Hospital in Oakland. The researchers randomly assigned new defaults to the opioid prescriptions written by over 100 doctors and healthcare professionals in the department—without telling the doctors an experiment was taking place. Over 20 weeks, the researchers tested new pill defaults for opioids like Percocet and Oxycodone. Whereas former defaults had been 12- and 20-pill prescriptions, the researchers tested 5-, 10-, and 15-pill alternatives.

In most cases, reducing pill defaults did reduce pill prescriptions, even by small margins. In many cases the final prescriptions went unchanged; doctors didn’t seem to be swayed by defaults at all. One important finding was that at the lowest end, the default of five, doctors actually prescribed more pills than they would have otherwise—as if the doctors read the number and thought, “Oh, that’s way too low!” then signed an overly generous prescription to make up for it. “[Defaulting to] less is probably better than more,” concludes Montoy about the pill counts. “But if you put it too low, you’ll have an unintended consequences and people might overcompensate.”

Why it’s hot: It is interesting to see behavioral design to influence healthcare and potentially combat (or make a difference in) the such a large epidemic in the U.S.

Source: FastCo


5 urban design projects that made cities more fun, clean, and accessible in 2019

Here’s a look at some of the most fun and interesting urban innovations of 2019.

Copenhagen opened the world’s first combination ski slope-power plant

As part of the Danish city’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2025, Copenhagen opened CopenHill, a multipurpose power plant that also serves as a public destination and has been years in the making. The 44,132-square-foot waste-to-energy plant can not only provide 150,000 homes with electricity and heating but also offers residents a roof park with hiking trails and ski slopes and a 279-foot climbing wall on its exterior.

Amsterdam created a floating neighborhood with self-sufficient homes

Designed by architecture firm Space&Matter, the neighborhood is located on a canal and features homes outfitted with solar panels on their roofs, batteries in their basement, and a network that connects each home to its neighbors so residents can trade energy. The buildings also have green roofs where owners can grow plants, and their wastewater goes to a biorefinery to become even more energy.

Trondheim constructed a super-energy-efficient building

Trondheim, Norway, is a city of extremes—in the winter it gets five hours of daylight, but in the summer, a full 20—and this year, it debuted an extremely energy-efficient building. Built by the global architecture firm Snøhetta, Powerhouse Brattørkaia generates twice as much energy as it needs from the sun, providing excess energy to neighboring buildings and electric transit. Its solar panels can harvest all that energy over the summer and store it for the dark winter.

Miami started rewarding residents for getting around without their own cars

To try to curb the use of cars it launched Velocia, an app that works as a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade transit and services such as Bolt e-scooters and SwiftSeat carpooling For every commute a resident takes on one of these transit options, they’ll earn points toward their next travel, which might be a free half-hour on a Citi Bike or a MetroRail pass. Though we may be designing entirely car-free communities in the future, this was a step by one city plagued with traffic problems to reduce its single-car use without drastically changing its infrastructure.

Oslo made its city center car-free

Going a step further in the effort to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists over cars, this year the Norwegian capital removed more than 700 parking spots from its downtown area and replaced them with bike lanes, plants, tiny parks, and benches. Oslo is one of a few cities hopping on the car-free trend, and it’s been working toward this goal for a few years, but 2019 marked the start of a car-free downtown. The effort doesn’t only help people get around without traffic, either; it improves air quality, helps fight climate change, and enhances the quality of life.

Why it’s hot: It’s great to see the unique and innovative ways that cities are finding efficiencies.

Source: FastCo

Booze Brands React to Dry January

Abstaining from alcohol for the first month of the year has become a global phenomenon, an unofficial cultural event. One in five Americans goes dry for the month, and with numbers like that, it’s also become the newest major marketing opportunity for booze companies. As the “sober curious” trend picks up steam—66% of millennials are making efforts to reduce their alcohol consumption—Dry January is a gateway for brands to convince you to keep drinking their low- and non-alcoholic booze all year round.

We’re only a couple weeks in but already Heineken has won the Dry January sweepstakes with its boozeless advent calendar. The brand, which launched its 0.0 beer a year ago and backed it with a $50 million marketing budget in 2019, began giving away its January Dry Pack in late December for free from a custom website and quickly ran out. Meanwhile, it’s still working hard to remind us all that its 0.0 brew is the best way to make it through the month.

MillerCoors used the prospect of Dry January to give those dry-curious another option, getting Succession‘s Nicholas Braun to go full Gregg the Egg with some very “We Hear For You” vibes.

In August 2019, Diageo acquired non-alcoholic spirits company Seedlip and quite purposely chose Dry January as the jump-off point to launch its first-ever brand campaign, which kicked off this week. “Dry January is a big thing for Seedlip,” says Diageo North America CMO Ed Pilkington, whose company has also invested in Ritual non-alcoholic spirits and has been ramping up marketing in recent years behind overall moderation with brands like Ketel One and Crown Royal. He says the brand is using the month to elbow in on the growing popularity of mocktail menus. “Our first big U.S. campaign is saying, ‘Hey it’s Dry January and you can drink Seedlip any time and anywhere’,” says Pilkington.

AB InBev has declared its goal to make 20% of its beer sales from low to non-alcoholic beer by 2025. It owns grocery store staple O’Douls, but has in recent years also launched Budweiser Prohibition brew in Canada and Budweiser 0.0 in other markets. “We view [Dry January] as an opportunity,” says Adam Warrington, AB InBev’s VP of corporate social responsibility. “What you can do with your marketing is drive up the awareness of the category, drive consideration, and this is a perfect time to be part of those conversations.”

Non-alcoholic beer startup Athletic Brewing has been going gangbusters since it opened its taps in 2018, and so far this month e-commerce sales (which typically make up between 30% and 50% of its overall business) are up 40% from December. The company also ramps up its in-store promotions and displays to remind dry folks that they do have other options. For founder Bill Shufelt, Dry January isn’t just about a one month sales spike. “It’s much easier to introduce ourselves to customers in January,” he says, “and we find a lot of those customers stick with us throughout the rest of the year.”

Why it’s hot: It’s a given that alcohol brands react to this strong cultural trend (especially among millennials) — some are winning this month of opportunity better than others.

Source: FastCo

Brands React to $120,000 Banana

Last Friday, Aviation Gin and its celebrity owner Ryan Reynolds got the ad world excited after hiring the actor from the much-maligned Peloton ad to star in a fun sequel spot. The booze brand and Reynolds were deservedly celebrated across social and major media for both the quality of the spot and the speed and agility with which it was executed, soon enough to ride the wave of Peloton-bashing and land an incredibly good comeback. “If you’re going to do something like this,” Reynolds told The New York Times, “you have to jump on the zeitgeist-y moment as it happens.”

Around this same time, at Art Basel in Miami artist Maurizio Cattelan was attracting headlines when his piece called “Comedian”—a banana duct-taped to the wall—sold for $120,000. The subsequent outrage and amusement of course quickly caught the eye of the world’s social-media marketers, sparking a rush of brands scrambling to make their own witty version.



French supermarket, Caffefour

Royal Canadian Mint

Even Aviation…

Between Peloton and “Comedian,” last week presented two moments seemingly perfect for the kind of participation that brands crave on social media, and yet each also illustrates the level of difficulty in actually pulling off something that is a) actually any good, and b) able to grab people’s attention.

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting to see which brands jump on this meme-culture train and makes me wonder if it’s overdone.

Source: FastCo

The Wall Street Journal Wants You to ‘Read Yourself Better’

WSJ dropped its first widespread brand campaign on Nov. 4 in an effort to attract new subscribers by encouraging them to “read yourself better.” As part of that effort, WSJ’s paywall will be lifted, and readers can view an unlimited number of articles on the site for three days, from Nov. 9-11.

WSJ focused on encouraging readers to turn to quality and trustworthy news for their information. A narrator encourages you to read past the hashtags, misinformation, angry comments, “troll armies” and overall noise in the 90-second spot. “Because no one ever did anything big by reading small. Read yourself better,” the narrator says.

Out-of-home ads will also appear throughout the country in L.A., Denver, Philadelphia and New York encouraging readers to “Read yourself past the hashtags,” “Read yourself to your own opinion,” and “Read yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Why it’s hot: This campaign plays very well into the cultural zeitgeist and challenges viewers to spend their time doing more quality reading and less mindless scrolling.

Source: AdWeek

Bose makes its way into healthcare

About a year and a half ago, Bose started a health division with an ambitious goal: to help people with aural medical issues.

There is certainly a business case for creating devices for the 37.5 million American adults who suffer some form of hearing loss. The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders estimates that 28.8 million U.S. adults are in need of a hearing aid, which is already a $7.7 billion business in the United States. Bose Health will target these millions of people, not to mention the one in four Americans who periodically can’t sleep. Sleep aids, meanwhile, generate $70 billion in sales.

In 2014, the company acquired a startup called Ear Machine, which at the time was working with the National Institute of Health to test technology that allowed users to control the settings on their hearing aids through a mobile app (rather than having an audiologist set them). The study tested Ear Machine’s technology on 75 people with hearing loss and showed that it was an effective way for patients to adjust their own hearing aids without needing a doctor. Bose incorporated that technology into its Hearphones, a $499 consumer-level conversation-enhancing hearing amplifier, which it revealed in 2016. Bose’s hearing aid has not yet launched commercially, but it has already garnered important federal approval.

At the same time Bose applied for the FDA application, it lobbied for the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act, a bipartisan effort that paves the way for the existence of regulated over-the-counter hearing aids and enables people to purchase them without seeing an audiologist.

Amid its big hearing aid push, Bose also started making headway into sleep tech by acquiring a few other startups. In 2017, it bought Hush, a company that embeds white noise inside of ear buds. It incorporated the Hush technology into its $250 Sleepbuds, which play white noise to drown out nagging sounds.

Bose initially had big ambitions to address more than just sleep and hearing, Roselli said. “Then we realized it was too much, too big to bite off, because healthcare is very difficult to navigate as I’m finding out”

Why it’s hot: It’s no surprise to see another technology company try to make its way into healthcare – but it’s reassuring to see them making strides (lobbying for Hearing Aid Act) beyond just product development.

Source: FastCo

Ancestry Branches Out Into Genetic Health Screening

AncestryHealth offers a test for hereditary conditions such as breast cancer or heart disease, building on the company’s tools for tracking family history.

AncestryHealth has two new offerings. The first is a one-time test for nine hereditary conditions, including breast and colon cancer, heart disease, and blood disorders. It’s based on the same DNA chip the company uses to estimate where in the world your ancestors lived, and it will be immediately available to anyone for $149 ($49 for existing AncestryDNA customers). A subscription service based on more advanced sequencing technology, which provides quarterly updates on a wider set of health concerns, will roll out next year at a cost of $199 plus $49 for every six months of updates. Bpth services will also include a tool for tracking family health history to make it easier to share with physicians.

Unlike its biggest competitor, 23andMe, Ancestry has not had these new tests approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for sale directly to customers. Instead, the company is partnering with a network of physicians who will order the tests on behalf of customers—a model used by other health-centric DNA-testing startups, including Helix, Veritas Genetics, and Color Genomics.

23andMe has had to get a bit more creative in order to continue to pull revenue. 23andMe has begun using its 10-million-strong customer database to build a clinical trial recruitment business. Earlier this month it also launched a new VIP service: For $499, customers get two health and ancestry kits, overnight shipping, and priority lab processing, as well as a 30-minute review of their ancestry results with a 23andMe specialist.

Why it’s hot: This feels like a natural extension of their product line, however, will consumers trust Ancestry to give them accurate health screenings?

Source: Wired

Lululemon is helping the UN’s humanitarian aid workers take care of themselves

The United Nations Foundation along with the athleisure-wear brand Lululemon created Peace on Purpose, a program that provides UN development and humanitarian workers with yoga and mindfulness training to help counteract stress, strengthen leadership, and build resiliency. According to Calvin McDonald, Lululemon’s CEO, the program was created specifically with the needs of humanitarian workers in mind.

“They face unique pressures and challenging situations, and the program provides insights into mindfulness for a variety of situations,” McDonald told Fast Company in an email, explaining that they tailored yoga, meditation, and mindfulness training programs to UN staff and local leaders.

Lululemon has built a social impact program into its corporate culture, including one element, dubbed Here to Be, that helps communities access yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. It’s supported more than 300 nonprofit organizations since 2016 and knew the program can help in even the most stressful environments.

“With expert help, we have created a robust training program that has equipped more than 650 UN staff across eight countries with tools to support their mental health and well-being,” says Calvin. “Our research suggests that the program helps reduce risks like anxiety and depression.”

Lululemon says it has committed a further $1 million to grow the program over the next three years to provide self-care to over 30,000 UN employees.

Why it’s hot: This is a great effort from Lululemon that helps their brand affinity expand beyond product to stand for something more meaningful.

Source: FastCo

Whoop and Sober October

Whoop is trying to appeal to the everyday athlete (and person) by promoting “Sober October” via Joe Rogan’s podcast. Sober October, a tradition that reportedly got started about a decade ago in Australia, has gained popularity as the new Dry January. Ahmed says it ties directly into the brand’s mission, because so much of our body’s strength is derived from how well we sleep. “Alcohol has a huge effect on your quality of sleep,” he says. “You get way less slow-wave and REM sleep than you normally would. REM sleep is when your mind is repairing, and slow-wave sleep is when your body produces 95% of its human growth hormone. So this idea that you get stronger in the gym is false. You get get stronger when your body’s repairing your muscles.”

Rogan opened the podcast by telling listeners about Whoop, and how it’s not just for pro athletes but “even losers like us” to improve their recovery, training, sleep, and make better lifestyle choices. “This month, I’ll be wearing my Whoop 24/7 to understand the impact of sobriety has on my body. LOL,” said Rogan. “I’m a big fan of this company. I’m a big fan of the kind of analytics that this Whoop strap provides you.”

All told, it was a two-minute ad on one of the world’s most popular podcasts, plus Whoop was worked into the conversation throughout the almost three-hour episode. Whoop CEO Will Ahmed says partnering with Rogan is a perfect fit for his brand. “We’ve been a big fan of Joe Rogan’s for a while now. I think he speaks to biohacking and human performance in a lot of different contexts, and our mission at Whoop is to unlock human performance,” he says. He hopes that aligning Whoop with some of the most popular comics in the country is a perfect way to do that. “Joe Rogan and his friends have mass-market appeal, and a really wide listener base,” says Ahmed. [Rogan has one of the most popular podcasts and YouTube shows of any stripe, while Kreischer’s Bertcast, Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank, and Segura’s Your Mom’s House are also chart-topping comedy podcasts.] “For Whoop, we’ve been generally focused on certain markets that are maybe a bit more health and fitness focused. We see this as an opportunity to expand our reach and have more people aware of the brand. Ultimately, we’ve built technology that can really help anyone motivated to improve.”

Source: FastCo


Ikea Place App: Version 2

In 2017, Ikea launched Ikea Place: an augmented reality app that lets you preview shelving and chairs right in your living room. The next iteration of the app will use artificial intelligence to render entire coordinated collections of furnishings—which might include a chair, couch, coffee table, and lamp—right in your living space.


The updated app was developed by Ikea’s experimental Space10 lab, as part of larger efforts of digital transformation. Users will actually be training the Ikea AI to make better stylistic suggestions over time as they use it. “We’re starting out with a lineup of about 1,000 products that go together very well”, which hints that Ikea may be less analyzing interior design on the fly than dropping stock collections into your space.

THE CATCH: The app will show you a living room’s worth of furniture, but it still won’t actually link you to purchase any of these products. Ikea is choosing to keep this dynamic shopping software apart from your actual shopping cart.

The reason why is up for debate. First, the app is still experimental. And second, it may come down to the fact that Ikea isn’t structured like a typical company. Ikea Place is developed by the Interikea Group—which doesn’t actually own and operate Ikea stores. It franchises them out to different companies around the world. If Interikea were to sell furniture digitally, it would be a competitor to its own customers, the franchisees.

Why it’s hot/warm: While this is a great start at helping customers style their living spaces and positioning Ikea as more than a furniture brand – they are key missing link in users not being able to purchase pieces from the app.

Source: FastCo

Grit Boxing tries to stand out with… Bitcoin and a Bar

Grit Bxing is attempting to build a lifestyle brand around their fitness classes  — with bitcoin and booze.

Grit cycles members through an instructor-led circuit of boxing, cardio, and strength training—with a $1 million lighting and sound system creating an almost club-like ambiance. Grit is also cashing in on the bitcoin craze, being the first gym to accept the currency. On the employee side, the company is offering its trainers up to $1,000 per hour. There is also a full liquor bar in the studio.

“SoulCycle, it’s kind of hard to meet someone on the bike because you’re pedaling. Then, even if you’re in the men’s room, it’s kind of weird—you have a towel around you. There’s no real place after you had the joint experience to hang,” says Zanker, who’s also the founder of adult education company The Learning Annex. “That’s what we wanted to to do is build a community. Right after class, you can hang out, meet somebody, talk to somebody, have a drink with them, and just hang.”

According to the International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association, the health club market is worth $87.2 billion globally and has grown every year since 2008. Within the universe of big-box gyms, boutique studios account for 42% of the U.S. club market, and IHRSA data indicates that boutique memberships expanded 74% between 2012 and 2015. However, 81% of studios close or fail in the first year.

Why it’s … hot?: It seems as though this gym (in an attempt to be different) is trying to be a master of too many things and might end up being a master of none.

Source: FastCo

Doctors are now prescribing houseplants to help treat anxiety and depression

The Cornbrook Medical Practice in Manchester, England, is one of the first to prescribe patients greenery to help treat anxiety and depression.

It’s based on the idea that being around nature—even something as simple as a single plant—can have health benefits. The office, which grows herbs like lemon balm and catmint on-site, also invites patients to later come back to garden with others. “There’s evidence that people who are socially isolated have worse health outcomes,” says Jon Ross, director of Sow the City, a local nonprofit that works with doctors and hospitals to add horticultural therapy. “We provide a kind of community project within the [doctor’s office] so that people can get together and do the food growing and the gardening together with other patients.”

While the idea of prescribing a plant is new, the nonprofit has been working with healthcare providers on gardening for a couple of years. At a hospital treating long-term patients with mental illness, for example, it helped establish a program called “Hospital Beds” that adds raised vegetable beds for patients on the hospital grounds so the patients have the benefit of spending time outside and socializing.

When setting up a new program at clinics, the nonprofit works with doctors and patients to decide what type of garden makes sense—a vegetable garden or just a place to relax—and then runs sessions to train patients on gardening. The herbs that doctor’s offices are prescribing are easy to care for. “We try and make it as easy as possible, and we set it up so that the plants are healthy to start with, and we train them on how to look after them,” he says.

Why it’s hot: It’s interesting (and inspiring) to see healthcare professionals continue to think beyond medication to treat mental health conditions.

Source: FastCo

FitBit Premium wants you to take control of your body and mind

The newly launched Fitbit Premium is a paid subscription service that builds on the existing app by offering more holistic, personalized guidance and coaching. The AI-enabled program analyzes a number of different activities to provide more action-oriented recommendations, like exercise, meditation, even better eating.

“You all know Fitbit primarily as tracking what you do,” said Liz Abbett, Fitbit director of product marketing, during a press event Tuesday. “Fitbit Premium tells you what to do next.” If you’ve been too sedentary, for example, Fitbit might suggest a walk. Essentially, it wants to paint a fuller picture of one’s health by taking into account all fitness, nutrition, and sleep. The goal is to understand how they all connect.

Fitbit now has 27 million users worldwide. In the company’s quest to become more of a health and wellness company, it’s moving more toward recurring services and programming versus episodic device sales. The app includes thousands of audio workouts, spanning biking, running, stretching, rowing, and more.

At launch, Premium will offer nine new guided health and fitness programs. These range from restful sleep tips to how to kick one’s sugar habit, as well as structured workout programs and even recipe suggestions. In addition, audio relaxation tools target higher quality sleep, while Fitbit’s popular challenges can be adapted to individual levels and goals.

Fitbit even wants to get in on your next doctor’s visit: Premium will provide routine “wellness reports” meant to be shared with one’s general practitioner, nutritionist or personal trainer. The company’s vision will evolve to help people prevent and manage more serious chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and sleep disorders.

A member’s Fitbit data is now reportedly better positioned for cross-correlated insights. For example, a sample notification might read: “When you walk more than your average 8,502 steps, you get 7 more minutes of deep sleep, helping you feel more rested. Keep stepping to improve your chances of better sleep tonight.”

Why it’s hot: FitBit is harnessing the immense amount of data to better nudge their audience to healthy decisions, and further integrate into their lives.

Source: FastCo



New Netflix feature finds ways to keep viewers engaged

Hoping to keep viewers engaged with its content, Netflix today announced the launch of a new section called “Latest” in its TV app, designed to highlight the streaming service’s recent and upcoming releases. The addition isn’t just another row or two within the main Netflix homepage. Instead, the “Latest” section gets its own dedicated area in the Netflix TV app, which is accessible from the left-hand sidebar navigation.

It’s found beneath the “Home” button and above the links to the dedicated “Movies” and “TV Shows” pages. The section will be personalized to the end user, based on their viewing history. Users can also click on these future releases and set alerts to remind them when the TV show or movie they’re interested in watching has arrived. Netflix director of product innovation Cameron Johnson told the outlet the experience was similar, in a way, to movie trailers, as it’s also designed to get people interested in upcoming releases.

The launch comes at a time when people will soon be considering the value they receive from their Netflix subscription. The company recently posted a disappointing quarter where it announced it lost U.S. subscribers for the first time since 2011 and broadly missed estimates of 5 million subscriber additions, by adding just 2.7 million new subscribers globally.

Now Netflix is facing competition from Disney+, which will undercut Netflix’s pricing at $6.99 per month and be offered in a $12.99 per month bundle that also includes Hulu and ESPN+. That’s the same price as Netflix’s standard U.S. plan.

Why it’s hot: Now more than ever, Netflix needs to improve engagement and demonstrate value-add for their consumers. This is a good effort at keeping viewers engaged by reminding them of the new movies and shows in the pipeline.

Source: TechCrunch

Tattoos as Health Trackers

Tattoos could be a way for people with serious health issues, such as diabetes or kidney disease, to track their conditions in real time.

A team of scientists at the Technical University of Munich in Germany developed a way to tattoo the skin with a fluid that changes color as certain properties in the blood spike or decline.

This fluid is made up of different dyes that react with elements of a person’s metabolic system. The Technical University team tested three of those elements: pH levels, glucose, and albumin, which is a type of protein found in the blood. They injected the different dyes into patches of pig skin and chemically adjusted concentrations of the three biomarkers. The tattoos changed colors as the concentrations of pH, glucose, and albumin shifted. To evaluate these changes, the researchers developed an app that detected the color of the tattoo and gave a reading of what possible heath concerns it might indicate.

According to the study, published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the Technical University researchers believe that applying these color-shifting tattoos to patients whose health conditions must be monitored by measuring levels of these elements could be a low-cost way to offer them a consistent way to track their health.

Each of the elements measured tracks with specific health concerns. Changes in a person’s pH levels could indicate a range of issues, particularly with the lungs and kidneys, which help regulate blood acidity. As pH levels rose from five to nine (normal human pH levels are around 7.4), the tattoo ink shifted from yellow to blue. If a person tattooed with this ink, for instance, noticed their dermal artwork was turning yellow, they’d know their blood acidity was too low, and on the flip side, if it appeared dark blue, they’d know it was too high.

The glucose-detecting ink shifted from light green to dark green as concentrations of glucose increased. High blood glucose levels could indicate diabetes, which inhibits the body’s ability to metabolize sugars, so a person with diabetes could be clued in to if they’re experiencing a dangerous spike by the color of their tattoo.

To detect levels of albumin, the research team applied a dye that shifts from yellow (indicating low albumin) to green (indicating higher levels). Low albumin levels could signal liver or kidney failure or conditions like Crohn’s or celiac disease, which limit the body’s ability to absorb protein.

The changes in the tattoo ink are not diagnoses in and of themselves, but rather a potential way for a patient with longstanding health concerns to keep an eye on their condition in a relatively low-maintenance way. The idea is still new and preliminary, but the Technical University team will continue to study the feasibility of this dermal monitoring system.

Why it’s hot: Though this is not the first experiment of tattoos serving as a utility, this could be a cost-effective option for those with long term conditions to monitor fluctuations.

Source: FastCo

Airbnb launches ‘Adventures’ – a step towards “extreme tourism”

Today, Airbnb is introducing Adventures, a collection of three- to seven-day trips that allow travelers to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations around the world. The all-inclusive trips include guides, meals, on-the-ground transport, and accommodations, along with any necessary gear.

To list their trips on the platform, operators need to apply, much like they did for Experiences. Airbnb company has said in the past that it turns away more than 80% of applicants for Experiences. For Adventures, Airbnb says it ensures that all the operators it lists on its platform have the necessary certifications and licenses to run their tours.

Over the past three years, Airbnb has been expanding into new kinds of travel experiences, part of its larger effort to position itself as an all-in-one travel company. First came Experiences, its version of day tours, then it bought Canada-based Luxury Retreats to expand into full-service accommodations. It even it integrated Resy’s reservation booking tool into its platform. Airbnb has since extended into Airbnb Plus, a collection of verified, high-quality house rentals. Their newest extension of Adventures signals Airbnb’s first real attempt at offering end-to-end travel.

Adventure and activity-based travel is a growing business, a 2018 survey of tour operators conducted by the Adventure Travel and Trade Association (ATTA) and Travel Leaders Group, found that 86% percent of respondents had experienced growth in their adventure travel sales over the past three years. According to the ATTA, the worldwide adventure travel market has grown from $98 billion in 2009 to $683 billion in 2017.

Airbnb thinks it can set itself apart from the typical adventure fare by coming up with unique trip and thoroughly vetting operators. Most of the operators on the platform are regional and not widely known, and many are offering trips that are exclusive to Airbnb. Adventures will range from $79 to $5,000, depending on the length of the trip and the complexity of the journey. On average, Airbnb says these trips will cost $750 for seven days, or $110 a day, which is on the more affordable end.

Why it’s hot: Airbnb continues to push their offerings of their platform to expand beyond expected tourist experiences, and offering more ‘adventures’ that help push travelers out of their comfort zones. Since they are such a reputable brand and service, it will be interesting to see which adventures they choose to offer on their platform – and in turn, the local businesses they choose to support. As marketers, this is a perfect example of how we can push our clients to integrate more offerings/services to meet the interests and needs of their audience vs. evolving just messaging

Source: FastCo

“Post-breakup concierge” service handles all your moving-out needs

Onward, the newly launched “post-breakup concierge service” that handles all your packing, housing, and self-care needs. A one-stop shop for moving out and moving on.

Not everyone has a nearby network of family or friends to assist on short notice. In fact, the company’s early research found that many people stay in relationships longer than necessary because they’re intimidated by the undertaking.

Company founders, childhood friends the since fourth grade, founded Onward after both suffered breakups within a six-month span. They struggled to pack up their belongings, quickly find a new apartment, and then furnish the space. “We realized that if we were going through this, that means other people are going through this, and there was no service that helps people deal with this nightmare amidst major emotional turmoil.”

Clients can easily book the remote services via the company website, and if they prefer, request a representative to meet them onsite for emotional support. Onward’s customized packages start at $99 for 10-day assistance, which includes housing placement, moving/packing, storage, as well as “strategies and discounts for self-care.” The latter constitutes matching clients with therapists, counselors, or mediators. Onward discovered that the newly single view finding and scheduling a therapist–one who takes their insurance–to be equally as daunting.

Pricier packages involve weekly scheduled check-ins and personalized neighborhood guides with recommendations on restaurants, bars, gyms, health studios, even meet-ups. As for housing, the service brokered strategic partnerships with various residence options, including a number of coliving spaces and furnished short-term rentals–and all the utilities and paperwork are taken care of. “You simply show up, like you would an Airbnb,” says Meck. “It’s an option for someone who needs something fast and furious.”

The company’s name reinforces the idea that a breakup can actually serve as an amazing opportunity to “really assert a new phase of your life,” Meck says, adding that many people start companies after a breakup. “It really can be a huge moment for professional and personal development.”

The company launched on Valentine’s Day with a social media campaign. To get the word out, Onward partnered with female organizations, yoga and meditation studios, as well women-focused spaces such as The Wing. The company already received “a lot” of referrals by people who recommend it to friends who need extra support. (Onward helps both men and women, but so far, marketing materials seem to skew more female.)

Why it’s hot: While it might sound silly at first, this new business is filling an unmet need – (an admirable one) – amongst NYC singles.

Source: FastCo


Fitness Brands that Leverage Data to Deliver Personalized Experiences

Health and fitness brands are enabling customized experiences and tailored lifestyle plans using customer information like DNA or gym habits to help them reach their personal goals. Here are examples of 4 brands taking a unique approach to the fitness space:

U.K. genetic testing service FitnessGenes analyzes customers’ DNA and provides a genetically tailored workout and nutrition plan, with the optimal number of calories and macronutrient content for their unique genetic makeup. Consumers have easy access to their DNA results as well as workout and nutrition plans through the Member’s Area in the company’s website or app.

Danish startup AthGene helps people improve their lifestyles and optimize their diets and fitness routines based on their DNA test results. Users collect their DNA with a mouth swab, and then receive easy-to-understand, actionable insights about their unique genetic makeup, such as their muscle fiber composition and sensitivity to carbohydrates, allowing them to tailor their nutrition and workout plans to their body’s needs.


Equinox trialed a bot embedded into its mobile app that learns from a user’s activities, goals and preferences to recommend personalized workouts. The “Digital Coach” uses data from in-gym beacons to detect where gym-goers prefer to spend their time and subsequently nudge them towards specific activities. The service has successfully motivated members to check in 40% more than non-users during a six-month pilot program.


Health startup Thorne sells at-home health tests that let users analyze various aspects of their health, such as cortisol levels, thyroid function and heavy metal levels, to help them address specific concerns, such as fatigue or fertility. Users provide a saliva or blood sample and receive a personalized health plan along with their test results.

Why it’s hot: These are hyper-targeted consumer experiences that are almost expected across many industries now – especially health and wellness.


Young designers make a living building tiny houses on The Sims

A young Australian graphic design student got into Sims while studying abroad and getting a stomach bug. Today, “Deligracy“, has 810,000 subscribers and even sells merchandise, like sweatshirts, mugs, and phone cases.Deligracy’s  channel has become so popular that she quit her job as a junior graphic designer because she was making more money from YouTube. Some of her most popular videos, which get tens of thousands of views, aren’t of the most elaborate houses Deligracy can dream up: Instead, her audience is obsessed with tiny homes.

For James Turner, another Australian who runs a popular channel called The Sim Supply, with 1.1 million subscribers, building tiny homes is an ideal challenge. “I love making them, it’s like trying to put a puzzle together, I know what I want it to look like, and what tiny space it has to fit within, but it’s a matter of getting the game to actually work the way I want to and have everything be functional for game play.” One of Turner’s early tiny house videos, in which he designs a fully functional Sims house with kitchen, bathroom, bed, and dresser that can fit within a four-by-four square (a square is the standard building unit in the game), has 4.7 million views. Players can also download the house to play with themselves.

Why it’s hot: Knowing that there is a large millennial audience highly engaged with home design, and knowing that millennial home ownership is down — can this be leveraged to spike millennial home ownership?

Source: FastCo

L’Oreal Skincare Device Analyzes Wearer’s Sweat To Recommend Products

My Skin Track is a soft wearable that can analyze a person’s epidural pH via perspiration and suggest subsidiary La Roche-Posay’s products to prevent further skin irritation.

Made in collaboration with Epicore Biosystems, the My Skin Track pH is a patch that analyzes a person’s sweat to measure their pH. Using microfluidic technology, the wearable can deliver an accurate reading in 15 minutes, and through the integrated app, can read the results through a camera sensor. From there, the app will recommend a La Roche-Posay (L’Oréal’s skincare brand) product to help correct any imbalance that could lead to skin responses like dryness, eczema and atopic dermatitis.

The wearable will be available at select La Roche-Posay dermatologists in the United States as it continues to test and research the project further before releasing a consumer version.

Why it’s hot: This is a kickass way to utilize a wearable that directly correlates with solving a skincare problem (and selling products).

Source: PSFK


Postmates Evolves their Delivery Robot Design

San Francisco partially banned delivery robots because they obstructed pedestrians, so Postmates built one with eyes, turn signals and a mandate to yield. Serve is Postmates’ new cooler-meet-autonomous-stroller that it hopes can cut costs and speed up deliveries. The semi-autonomous rover uses cameras and Lidar to navigate sidewalks, but always has a human pilot remotely monitoring a fleet of Serves who can take control if there’s a problem. There’s even a “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display customers or passers-by can use to summon assistance.

Serve will be rolling out in various cities over the next year, starting in Los Angeles. It does deliveries to customers that unlock its cargo hatch with their phone or a passcode, but it also can grab food from restaurants in congested areas and bring them to a Postmates dispatch hub from which delivery people can take packages the last mile. Serve can carry 50 pounds of goods for 25 miles on a single charge — enough to make around a dozen deliveries per day.

“We took time to figure out what is the language for the rover and pedestrians to interact with each other. If a robot is at a sidewalk and wants to be able to cross the street, it needs to show its intent to cross,” Kashani tells me. Thanks to a light ring around the top with turn signals and eyes that can indicate where it’s trying to go.

Why it’s hot: Watch out Uber Eats and Seamless! If executed properly, this could streamline delivery efficiencies and cut down on labor costs for Postmates.

Source: TechCrunch

Google is teaming up with public libraries

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Man, I love libraries (and the Juno filter)

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Google is teaming up with public libraries expand its Grow with Google network. Google and the American Library Association are launching the Libraries Ready to Code website, an online resource for libraries to teach coding and computational thinking to kids. The collaboration kicked off last June with pilot programs in 30 libraries across the United States. Now their “by libraries, for libraries” hub is open to all 120,000 libraries across the country, where library staff can choose the programs that are most relevant to their communities.

Google is also getting more involved with libraries. Starting in January, its Grow with Google workshops will be available in libraries in all 50 states, helping more people launch careers in IT by spending more time in more libraries. The workshops will teach digital skills that can help jobseekers and small businesses get involved with Grow with Google’s IT development tools and earn IT certificates. It will also offer library staff an IT and web dev curriculum they can use for free.

Finally, Google announced a $1 million sponsorship to the American Library Association, to create a pool of micro-funds that local libraries can access to bring digital skills training to their community, starting with an initial group of 250 libraries that will receive funding to support coding activities during Computer Science Education Week, which runs from December 3 -9.

Why it’s hot: Go Google!

Source: FastCo