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.

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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:

FitnessGenes
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.

AthGene
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

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.

Thorne

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.

Source 

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 

New Study finds generous makes you happy, and makes your kids generous

Study finds that parents who give money to charity could see a lifelong benefit for their own kids. Children in families with strong philanthropic traditions are more likely to grow up acting generously–and be seemingly happier for it.

In a small study from Fidelity Charitable, a public charity that manages the largest donor-advised fund program in the country, the organization questioned 3,000 people who donate to charity and itemize deductions on their tax returns. People who grew up with strong family traditions around giving ended up more likely than those who didn’t (45% to 36%) to donate $5,000 or more of their own money annually to charity.

Other positive correlations: Family-inspired givers volunteer more time (89% to 73%), consider themselves closer to their immediate family (81% to 71%), and rate themselves as “very happy” far more often (48% to 33%) than those who grew up without such influence. Fidelity sees these correlations as proof that there’s something positive happening, and just in time for the holiday season. “We’ve always known that strategic philanthropy benefits the charities donors support, but this study proves that the impact goes beyond that,” says its president, Pamela Norley, in a press release. “Giving makes people happier and is a significant contributor to a happier and healthy family too.”

Fidelity’s findings line up with similar academic research. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Nature Communications, there’s a virtuous cycle around altruism: “Generous behavior is known to increase happiness, which could thereby motivate generosity,” note researchers at the University of Zurich. To show that, the group asked 50 people to rank their mood, and then gave them a small sum (about $25 in francs) to spend each week for a month. The group divided into people that were told to spend the money on themselves, and those who gave it away to others.

The more generous givers reported improved moods and showed more activity in the reward center of their brain during subsequent fMRI scans. That sort of test has been replicated many times with different amounts and far larger sample sizes, and in some instances may even be related to reduced blood pressure. The key isn’t necessarily the amount–benefits in some experiments have been charted at just $5. Although if you have at least $5,000 to donate, that’s good for Fidelity: It happens to be the minimum requirement to open a giving account.

Why it’s hot: This is an awesome insight into generosity and human happiness and could make us as marketers think differently about inspiring behavior change.

Source: FastCo

IHG Used Consumer Insight To Engineer An Efficient, Budget-Friendly Hotel Brand

Hospitality group IHG, owner of sub-brands including Intercontinental, Kimpton and Holiday Inn Hotels, recently expanded its offerings with a new chain, Avid Hotels. Using an elaborate customer segmentation and testing process, IHG identified its target guest, the “Principled Everyday Traveler,” and that traveler’s specific needs. With a no-frills design, Avid Hotels are meant to deliver a seamless customer experience and great night’s sleep without the bells and whistles of a luxury hotel.

VP of Avid Hotels and Mainstream Growth at IHG, expands upon the the hospitality group’s strategy for creating an affordable and reliable hotel experience.

“What we discovered when we did the segmentation study was that there were about 14 million under‑served travelers in the particular segment, and they represent about $20 billion in annual industry revenues. These are travelers that today just don’t have the great travel options. They were telling us that they don’t trust a single brand because there’s so much inconsistency, and so while they find some great hotels out there, they need to do a lot of research to find those hotels. … They’re looking for a brand that they can trust and that’s where Avid can play a large role. To do that, we knew we needed to be disruptive and we really needed to think about the offer in this space to make it work for guests but also to make it work for owners. We’re taking a really different approach to travel in this segment.” This led them to their positioning of “the basic done exceptionally well”.

They will offer their guests an “incredible fitness center”, a “premium coffee experience of bean‑to‑cup coffee that’s available 24 hours a day”, healthful breakfast options, etc. Additionally, their loyalty program will ladder up to IHG’s master brand of Holiday Inn and Kimpton.

Why it’s hot: Many brands are trying to make differentiated hotels for the milenniall “no frills” traveler, so it will be interesting to see if this one sticks!

Source: PSFK

 

 

Waze Lets Commuters Earn Money By Offering Carpooling Service

Democratizing rideshare services even further, navigation app Waze is testing out a carpool feature that will let regular people pick up passengers along their commute to work or school and earn commission.

With the popularity of services like Uber and Lyft, those looking to supplement their income are increasingly considering ways to capitalize on the booming rideshare industry. Navigation app Waze is currently looking to help commuters earn a little more by letting them pick up passengers to and from work with its recently launched Carpool feature.

There are a few rules in order to keep people from abusing the system: Participants can only partake in two carpools a day, and Waze will verify people’s workplaces through their email. Drivers will be able to choose riders based on their profiles, star ratings, gender, mutual friends status, or whether they are a coworker. Throughout October, the carpool will cost users $2, though afterwards the price will increase to $0.54 per mile.

The app is already in place for several schools and workplaces, including Amazon. The app hopes to take advantage of the democratization of rideshare services as well as appeal to consumer interest in helping reduce pollution and congestion by carpooling.

Why it’s… hot?: This is interesting how a navigation app is getting involved in ride sharing. This makes (slight) sense since this app is already interactive/feeds user data, however it is surprising that they are getting into potential legality issues with this initiative.

Source: PSFK

Birchbox and Walgreens Partner to Transform 11 Retail Locations

Today, the two companies announce that they’re joining forces. Birchbox will be taking over a big chunk of the floor space at 11 Walgreens locations over the next few months. In December, the first six stores will open in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis, and then in early 2019, five more stores will open in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami.

These new retail spaces–which range from 400 to 1,000 square feet–will look like mini Birchbox stores. Birchbox will curate full-sized skincare, makeup, and hair products from more than 40 brands. These are brands that Birchbox has incorporated into its subscription boxes in the past and has identified as customer favorites. The Birchbox-branded parts of the store will be beautifully designed with warm lighting, pops of color thanks to interesting wall paper, framed Birchboxes as artwork, and powder-room-inspired makeup stations.

Since 2016, the drugstore company has been investing more heavily in beauty, by bringing in new brands like NYX and No7, introducing a beauty loyalty program, and introducing 3500 beauty consultants into select stores. “We’ve been working on elevating and differentiating our beauty experience,” Lauren Brindley, group vice president of beauty and personal care at Walgreens. “We’re trying to give our customers a reason to shop beauty more often.”

While Birchbox is continuing to focus on its subscription box business, it will also be translating its core premise–making beauty discovery fun–into a physical store experience with this Walgreens partnership. There will be Birchbox-trained beauty consultants on hand to help guide the customer through the space and introduce them to new products. And there will even be a Birchbox-specific cash register, so the entire experience will feel separate from just going for a drugstore run.

“I think a big part of our realization at Birchbox–and this really resonated with the Walgreens team–was that there is a huge opportunity to serve the masses by allowing them to stay passive, but give them the same kind of pleasurable experience of someone who is beauty-obsessed,” Beauchamp says.

In keeping with Birchbox’s expertise in sampling, customers will also be able to build their own Birchboxes by selecting from jars of product samples. There will be feature tables where customers can check out new brands and products.”We continue to find over and over again that the little beauty sample is just really delightful,” she says. “The price point is so acceptable to everybody, and the samples kind of look like candy when they’re all sitting next to each other.”

Why it’s hot: This is a great example of a strategic partnership that benefits both brands — expanding Birchbox into new clientele and retail locations, and elevating Walgreens beauty offerings.

Source: FastCo

Patients Can Snap A Mouth Selfie To Receive Dental Diagnoses

The Toothpic app connects patients with local dentists, helping more people access dental care by diagnosing issues virtually and potentially saving an unnecessary office visit.

For some, a trip to the dentist is part of their yearly routine. For others, it can be an anxiety-ridden visit that they’d rather avoid. Dental health platform Toothpic is providing a convenient alternative, allowing patients to have local dentists check out their teeth via an app.

Since they look at so many different mouths, dentists can fairly easily detect problems from a photo. Mark Moore, CEO of Toothpic says that newer mobile devices make this possible, as “The quality of image which can be taken with modern smartphones is comparable to the images captured in dental offices. This has been borne out in a number of previous studies.”

The app aims to serve both patients and dentists: While clients save time and do not need to make an office visit unless there is a problem, doctors can reserve in-office appointments for those who need medical treatment. Toothpic has partnered with a network of dentists and can now be downloaded on multiple platforms.

Why it’s hot: This is a breakthrough way to get consumers with anxiety about the dentist to care about their dental health. However, this should not replace dentist visits — but instead, serve as a preventive/educational tool for users to take better care of their teeth.

Source: PSFK

A new use for Google Maps: calculating a city’s carbon footprint

Looking at a city’s Google Maps data, in combination with other data, a new tool from Google can estimate the carbon footprint of all of its buildings–and the carbon footprint of all the car trips, bus and subway rides, and other transportation used by the people living there.

The Environmental Insights Explorer, an online tool that launched in beta on September 10, is designed to help cities take the first step to reduce emissions: knowing what their current carbon footprint is. More than 9,000 cities have already committed to cut emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, but more than a third of those cities haven’t yet built an inventory of emissions. The process can take months or even years, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it particularly challenging for smaller cities.

The new tool, which Google created along with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, can help cities calculate a large chunk of those emissions at no cost. “This is looking at the thousands of cities that are out there today that don’t typically have the resources to spend on digging up the data or analyzing the data,” says Nicole Lombardo, who leads partnerships for Google’s environmental insights team, which is creating the tool. “This tool helps to do some of that and reduce some of the complexities and the cost in that process, so you have more people spending less time data gathering and data crunching and more on the action planning.”

Using Google Maps data, the tool can infer whether buildings are homes or businesses, and then can use the estimated size of each building and data about the regional grid to estimate both how much energy the buildings use and the emissions of that energy use. Using location data from Google Maps, the tool can infer traffic and modes of travel, and then estimate the emissions from that transportation.

Cities can go deeper into the tool to adjust the data to estimate how the footprint would change if the amount of housing grew, for example, or if the city added a new subway line. The tool also pulls in Google’s Project Sunroof, which uses AI to analyze satellite images to determine which roofs are well suited for solar power, so cities can consider solar power as they begin to plan how to cut emissions.

Why it’s hot: This technology is saving cities major costs and letting them focus on the real issue at hand: cutting emissions.

Source: FastCo

A Customized Skincare Regimen From… AI Cleansing Device?

A skincare brand created a cleansing device that doubles as a beauty advisor, using artificial intelligence to assess customers’ skin and create a tailored skin regimen.

Swedish beauty-tech brand FOREO recently released the world’s smallest artificially intelligent beauty coach. Known as the LUNA fofo, the AI-powered facial cleansing device assists customers of all skin types with their daily routine thanks to an algorithm that progressively learns the user’s skin type and needs after several uses.

The LUNA fofo combines advanced skin sensor technology with a silicone cleansing brush and T-Sonic pulsations for deep cleaning. “Simultaneously, the LUNA fofo can gather 700 years worth of intelligence within a two-month period of use.” The device pairs the information it gleans with data from a skincare quiz users can take on the FOREO For You app, which takes all of the information to then design a cleansing routine tailored for the individual user’s skin type and needs.

The product’s beta version launched in July through a partnership with the FabFitFun beauty subscription service. Future features for the product include air quality detection, which will then adjust the treatment needed for the user’s skin.

Why it’s hot: While the article didn’t expand into how this actually comes to life, personalized skin care and self-care (for example CareOf Vitamins) are becoming increasingly popular as younger generations continue to prioritize their health. I am curious how these cleansers work, and how advanced they are to learn about your skin type.

Source: PSFK

Google Fit Adds Incentive To Exercisers’ Workouts With Points Accumulation

The health platform is debuting two new features designed to motivate users into taking small steps to be more active, providing them with support during their activity

Staying motivated and following a fitness regime can be tough, but Google is looking to help by creating a new system meant to spark people’s interest by assigning points to various actions throughout the day.

Google Fit‘s new “Move Minutes” and “Heart Points” are designed to better track and record different exercises, big and small. Move Minutes track how often users are moving, even for exercises like yoga where they are not taking steps. Heart Points measure heart rate and encourage users to get their hearts pumping, even if they are just going out for a walk. Google developed these tools with the help of the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization

While this idea may seem fun for naturally competitive people, the points are intended only to give users a sense of pride and a better understanding of how impactful their workout was. Google Fit hopes to extend its brand’s reach and provide guidance throughout users’ daily routines.

Why it’s hot: This seems to be a very late-to-the-game addition for Google to be jumping in on when there are already other very prominent players in this space (Fitbit, Apple Watch/Apple Health, etc.) — there are no clear differentiators or value-add aside from their prominent partnerships with the AHA and WHO. This will be interesting to track the adoption of this platform.

Source: PSFK

How Headspace rebranded meditation

Head of design Anna Charity worked to wring “all the mysticism and cliched imagery” from meditation–and instead position it as a tool for solving everyday problems. In an interview with Doreen Lorenzo (for ‘Designing women’), Anna shared some of her strategies on doing so. Here are some of the most interesting excerpts from the interview:

DL: What were some of the challenges you encountered from a design perspective?

AC: Meditation is a skill, and it’s also a hard thing to explain. Moreover, it has a lot of clichés attached to it. We wanted to offer more of a raw, honest look at meditation as something that feels more accessible, rather than the mystical faraway imagery that a lot of people don’t necessarily relate to. Headspace is about using meditation to deal with the challenges we face in life. It’s not about zoning out or escaping our problems. The fact that we have access to all these incredible stories through Andy (the cofounder and voice of Headspace) means we can talk about meditation in a compelling way. And these narratives have become an integral part of the experience.

DL: Does it differ from culture to culture as you design this? This is an international program.

AC: One of the main things that we considered when we created the brand was that meditation should feel like it’s for everybody, and it should feel accessible and inclusive. More importantly, we try to show meditation in a really everyday way–we show it in contexts that people can easily imagine. And one thing that all of us have in common is, is that we have a mind. Ever since Headspace’s inception, we have always used characters and storytelling to explain meditation. As we all know, our minds are a complex place. They are full of different thoughts and emotions, and it isn’t always an easy place to inhabit. (That’s the reason meditation is so valuable.) From this, we knew we had to develop a style that communicated these ideas in an approachable and relatable way. And more importantly, we found that characters are a great vehicle to represent the weirdness inside your head because they feel playful and memorable.

Why it’s hot: Great design solving real-life problems for everyday people.

Source: FastCo

 

ClassPass wants a piece of the wellness tourism boom with “Getaways”

ClassPass announced today that members can soon book mini-vacations and “experiential events” on its wildly popular platform. Called “Getaways,” the new feature relies on ClassPass credits to book day-long wellness experiences that will range from workouts to self-care services, in collaboration with boutique gyms and well-known spas.

Wellness travel, defined as vacationing while enhancing or maintaining one’s physical, mental, or spiritual well-being, is now a $563 billion global industry. The Global Wellness Institute reports that while overall tourism is growing at 6.9%, the wellness tourism sector grew 14% in the last two years and is now one of the fastest-growing tourism markets.

“There is no end to work. You’re constantly stressed,” Beth McGroarty, research director at the Global Wellness Institute, previously told Fast Company. “It’s pushing people to want vacations that are restorative and actually make them feel better. They desperately need it.”

While female travelers increasingly use their time off to reignite their health pursuits, many millennials seem to prefer the fitness retreat model. In a survey of nearly 5,000 Well+Good readers: 40% of respondents reported they’d rather go on a fitness retreat with their favorite instructor than attend a five-star resort like the esteemed Miraval in Arizona. (The findings were on par with a recent study conducted by SpaFinder).

The first ClassPass Getaway location will be revealed on August 29, with members able to book the vacation seven days prior to the event. The latest feature comes just weeks after the company announced it raised $85 million in series D financing, totaling $255 million raised.

“At ClassPass we aim to provide stepping stones toward an active and inspired lifestyle, and ClassPass Getaways will do just that,” said ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia in a statement. “We’re thrilled to give members the opportunity to take a mini-escape from their day-to-day to try new things and explore unfamiliar places. It’s our hope that attendees will leave feeling energized and empowered to continue living life to their absolute fullest.”

Why it’s hot: This is a step in the right direction for Classpass, but I wonder if this is the right approach for the typical Classpass user/demographic vs. the Soul Cycle and Rumble Boxing crowd — will they be willing to splurge on retreats vs. saving on spin classes? Time will tell!

Source: Fast Company

New CVS smartphone app offers medical attention 24/7

MinuteClinic, the company’s retail medical clinic, will now allow patients to use telehealth for minor illnesses (such as coughs or colds), injuries, skin conditions, and “other wellness needs,” reads a press release. The service is a collaboration between CVS and Teladoc, which specializes in virtual care technology.

The service will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via the CVS mobile app. Patients ages two years and up are eligible to dial in and be matched with a board-certified Teladoc health care provider licensed in their state. Each video session costs $59 and requires a patient to fill out a health questionnaire that includes their medical history.

MinuteClinic Video Visit is currently available in nine states–Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Virginia–and in Washington, D.C., with nationwide expansion expected by the end of the year. It is not currently covered by insurance, but CVS says it will be added in the coming months. During initial testing of MinuteClinic, CVS found that 95 percent of telehealth patients were highly satisfied with their quality of care, with most appreciating the convenience of checking in from the comfort of their homes.

Physicians and nurses are steadily adopting telehealth, which has been popularized by younger consumers looking for efficient, cost-effective solutions. For patients in remote areas or for people suffering from chronic ailments or issues that prevent them from moving easily–such as arthritis–telehealth can be a crucial option.

Why it’s hot: This is a smart move for CVS to get somewhat ahead of the trend and planning to adopt nationwide. “According to a recent medical survey by Kantar Media2 out of 5 physicians participate in telemedicine or plan to within the next year. For those who don’t, 80% feel that a percentage of their patients could be successfully diagnosed or treated via telemedicine.”

Source: FastCo

Why people need to know before they go

A new Think with Google article has been published: “Why people need to ‘know before they go‘: Today people can – and do – prepare for every aspect of any experience, big or small. Whether they’re taking a vacation across the globe or dining at a neighborhood café, people have a low tolerance for surprises.”

Here are some of the highlights I found particularly interesting and helpful…

We analyzed search trends and spoke to consumers, identifying three motives that drive them to know before they go. Explore the data to understand how your brand can provide value in these moments.”

Sparking Excitement:

  • Many want a look at what their experience could entail. For example, we’ve seen over 55% growth in mobile searches for “menus” over the past two years.
  • Rising inquiries include…

Building Confidence:

  • People feel a need to prepare for every detail of their experience – from exploring maps to confirming business hours. Consider this: mobile searches for “wait times” have grown 120% over the past two years.
  • Rising inquiries include…

Making the most of a budget:

  • In the past two years, mobile searches for “do you tip in _” have grown over 70%
  • Rising inquiries include…

Why it’s hot / implications for marketers: 

  • Understand intent signals: Whether it’s to get excited, build confidence, or manage their money, people are using search to shape and validate the decisions they make. We should understand this to adapt our messaging accordingly.

  • Build useful tools: People rely on the web to plan the best experience possible. We should provide assistance with tools that cater to these experiences.

Source: Think with Google

Self-Diagnostic Platform Uses AI To Provide Users With Reliable Medical Information

Instead of stressing over impending death after searching online about a mild cough, a new self-diagnostic app called K Health wants to offer users relevant and accurate information based on data and health records of other people who suffered similar symptoms.

The Israel-based company uses machine learning to compare 1B+ medical charts, labs and doctors’ notes to show people how people like them dealt with the same symptoms. (Essentially, it’s a crowdsourced Web MD). “With K, we use real data from millions of people so [users] discover and understand the medical outcomes of people like [them] and have informed conversations with providers about treatment options,” said Allon Bloch, the co-founder and CEO of K Health.” It’s about time people had unfettered access to trustworthy health information backed by real doctors as opposed to the generic and confusing information found online.”

It can also help users book appointments with physicians who already have HIPPA compliant access to the platform’s K report through partnerships with local providers, now available in New York.

Why it’s hot: This is just another example of giving people real-time access to health information through easy chat functionalities, that is crowdsourced from credible information, and ultimately connects them with the professional care they need.

Source: PSFK

Target Invites Consumers To Co-Create Products Using A Secret App

Target has a secret app called Studio Connect that allows for a select group of customers, personally invited by the retailer, to participate in the brand’s product development process. The platform’s interface is similar to Instagram. While brands such as Everlane have used the social media platform to host an invite-only community, Target takes this consumer-loyalty initiative in-house.

SVP of product design and development at Target Julie Guggemos explains, “Studio Connect enables our designers to interact with guests at any point while developing products, encouraging conversations and adding a level of flexibility to the formal feedback process.”

A recent study shows that consumers are more inclined to trust brands that encourage them to be a part of the R&D process, and 79% of consumers expect brands to show how much they value customer insights. Through its use of a familiar interface, Target is able to build a community with consumers outside of the purchase stage of the customer journey. For example, When Target was creating tee shirt designs for Mother’s Day, consumers were able to provide slogan ideas via the app within 24 hours of the retailer’s inquiry.

Why it’s hot: Although this isn’t a net-new tactic for a company to implement, it is a step in the right direction for Target to further understand their consumers and develop the products they want and need.

Source: PSFK