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

“Westworld” Makes AI Game

The Maze, a new choose-your-own-adventure game for Amazon’s Alexa, lets you play the role of a Westworld host, taking you through up to 60 storylines with 400 unique game choices, and up to 2 hours of storylines and narrative choices.

The Game features two of the show’s main actors–Jeffrey Wright, playing Bernard, and Angela Sarafyan, reprising her role as Clementine. Following on a simple chatbot, an AR and VR project, and a life-size replica of the show’s main town, Sweetwater, complete with actors fully in character, built for South by Southwest, the Alexa project, first conceived of in March and completed in just three months, is timed to the highly anticipated finale of season two (this past Sunday).

Those who have an Alexa-enabled device and download The Maze skill will start their adventure by saying, “Alexa, open Westworld” before venturing into the show’s world as a Westworld host–as the humanoid AIs in the show are called. They’ll be tasked with answering questions about the show, and trying to advance through three levels of increasing difficulty.

“Among the storylines users will explore are an encounter with a posse of bandits riding through Sweetwater; a ravenous family of homesteaders in Python Pass; a devious barback at Las Mudas, a run-in with a Confederado in Pariah, and more. Keeping in mind tips like showing the blackjack dealer at the saloon some respect and not pestering a traveler outside The Ranch about her experience at La Cantina in Las Mudas will help users do better.”

Why it’s hot: This is an engaging and shareable game that is right in line with the Westworld cult fanbase. I would be interested to see completion rates, as well as the % of Alexa owners who use it for games. However, regardless – this is a great way to engage this fan base!

Source: Fast Company

Anti-seizure smartwatch might help us manage stress

The Embrace sensor-laden wearable was designed to help epileptics monitor seizures. Modeled like a smartwatch, the FDA-approved device analyzes physiological signals to detect seizures. The CDC estimates that 1.2% of the population suffer from epilepsy. Empatica attempts to make living with the condition more manageable, while at the same time, using the study of epilepsy as a stepping stone toward an even bigger, more widespread issue: stress and how to deal with it.

Stress elicits responses in the sympathetic nervous system that can activate sweat glands, often turning your palms clammy. But even if you are not noticeably sweating, the current that runs through activated sweat still changes the surface of the skin, called skin conductance. “And that’s one of the signals we measure that changes with stress,” says Picard (co-founder and chief scientist of Empatica Inc.)

The Embrace by Empatica also monitors other physiological data—pulse, blood physical activity, sleep, and temperature. The device, which pairs via Bluetooth to a smartphone, alerts epileptics (or caregivers) when an attack occurs—or is on the horizon. Additionally, Picard began to use Empatica’s early sensor technology to better understand kids with autism, who, she says, are often misunderstood. “People with autism are often very stressed, and people surrounding them don’t notice it. By reading the skin conductance signal, people could see if the person was inwardly very agitated or inwardly very calm–even if outwardly they looked the same

Finally, one of the Embrace’s top selling points is customization. Empatica relies on machine learning to accumulate data on users’ habits and cycles, thereby improving its forecasting ability. The more data you have from each patient, the better the algorithm gets over time.

“A lot of these disorders are related to managing [daily] complexities in life,” Picard explains, adding, “so what we want to do with the monitoring technology is help people navigate better choices for their behavior . . . The idea is that you can sort of intervene and learn and change things over time.” Solutions can be achieved with sleep and breathing changes, counseling, or by adjusting diet, workload, physical activity, or “some complex mix of some or all these”.

Ultimately, the goal of Empatica is to further data analytics, specifically predictive analytics. The idea is that with enough information, the devices can suggest what people should do next to prevent panic attacks and other stress reactions. The company has launched another smartwatch sensor, called E4, just for scientific research (and not for sale).

Why it’s hot: Monitoring stress and its effect on mental health will only become more important int he future and I think this wearable tech is taking a step in the right direction at helping consumers understand their own mental states and help them be more mindful.

Source: FastCo

Lyft partners with 25 cities to integrate public transit options

Lyft has partnered with 25 cities to integrate public transit options into its app. This is part of a larger app update that takes effect this month. The new app will give users the ability to walk to set destinations along a route for pickup to make shared rides faster. Lyft Line is also taking on a new name: Shared Rides. In early testing among employees, the company says that shared rides have increased 5% with the new app design.

This update is intended to have a Lyft drop off a passenger at (for example), a train station, and then pick them up once they reach their destination to take them on the next leg of their journey. In effect, a Lyft could roll up to meet you just as you’re stepping off the bus. If it makes sense for the rider to take public transit as part of their journey, Lyft will suggest a route and include the price of public transit in its total fare.

Why it’s hot: I think this is a step in the right direction for Lyft – they already have had superior ride-share options than Uber (cheaper, direct pick up and drop off), and I think this is the logical next step for them. Additionally, it’s not surprising that this new app design has increase rides by 5% already!

Source: FastCo

 

Home Telemedicine Kit for Children

Startup Tyto Care created an at-home kit that lets parents take readings from a sick child and send them to their doctor for analysis and non-urgent care. Their tech sends at-home results taken by the parent to a doctor for analysis.

The $299 kit comes with a modular device with a stethoscope, thermometer, otoscope and special camera, so parents can monitor the heart, lungs, ears and take high resolution pictures of the eyes, skin, and throat. From there, the pediatrician (who needs to already be subscribed to Tyto Care in order to access the data) looks at the readings and gives a diagnosis. The system is not designed to replace taking a child to a doctor if they have a very high fever or are showing signs of distress.

This new technology takes into account not only the healthcare needs of children but also the struggles of the parents to give them the right non-urgent care.

Why it’s hot: This is some awesome tech that can ease the minds of parents (especially first-timer) if their child is sick. Additionally, the data implications are (somewhat scary) but could potentially predict illnesses in the future and cut urgent-care costs. The downsides are that some parents might become over-reliant, they might not trust this startup with their child’s personal data, and the HCP must be “subscribed” to this.

 

Source: PSFK

Try on your kicks before pressing “place order” online

When it comes to clothing and footwear purchases, customers still sometimes have no choice but to purchase products online blindly without being able to try them on, hoping that it looks good when it shows up. AR company Vyking is offering a new feature that hopes to solve this problem by letting customers try on a pair of sneakers virtually before they make a purchase.

While AR facial recognition is already being used by retailers for things like letting shoppers virtually try on beauty products, this could be a first for ‘foot recognition’ technology. The app uses AR and computer learning to sense where the wearer’s foot is and projects a model of the sneaker onto their foot.

Why it’s hot: This not only helps customers find styles that match their preferences but also cuts costs for retailers with returns.

Source: PSFK

IKEA is dropping furniture like NIKE drops sneakers

IKEA seems to be taking a Nike approach to its sales and marketing by dropping limited editions into the market to see how a new generation of buyers reacts and the product sells. All items on display were also labeled ‘prototype’ and they were debuted through a livestream from a gallery in NYC and promoted via influencers.

IKEA followed up on the recently announced skateboard-lifestyle inspired line by Chris Stamp with a furniture collection by fashion designer Virgil Abloh. This is aimed Gen Z and Millennial adults moving into their first homes. To appeal to this audience, Abloh took classic pieces and gave them “subtle ironic twists.” As part of the collection, the designer created a glass cabinet with a wooden frame which stores goods but also acts as a showcase of those products.

Why it’s hot: From a brand that usually shows how their furniture items look in your home (from the layout of their store, to their AR app that you can literally see how they look in your home…) – it is an interesting approach to see them separate new items from in-situ and position them like limited-edition art pieces. It seems more like a stunt than a new Gen Z strategy, however I would be interested to see results from this tactic!

Source: PSFK

 

Robot Delivery Drivers take Silicon Valley

Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery startup created in 2014 by two Skype co-founders, has been in public testing mode in 20 countries around the world since 2015. Now the company says it is ready for its first “major commercial rollout”.

Employees of company ‘Intuit’ in Mountain View, California, will be able to order breakfast, lunch and coffee from their staff cafeteria and have it delivered to any point in the company’s Silicon Valley campus by one of Starship’s six-wheeled autonomous robots.

“You place your order, it’s one click, then you drop a pin where you want the robot to meet you,” says Starship co-founder Janus Friis. “We’ve seen huge demand for breakfast. For some reason people just don’t want to wait – they want to go straight to work and avoid the queue in the early hours of the day.”

Starship is now on the lookout for other campuses across western Europe and the US where it can deploy the robots.

Why it’s hot: This is just another step towards the autonomous driving cars and Amazon drone-delivered packages – talk about a seamless customer experience!

Source: PSFK

Target Announces ‘Drive Up’ Service

Target announced that it will introduce drive-up service to hundreds of its stores in an attempt to make brick-and-mortar experience as convenient as online shopping. Customers place their order using the Target app and wait in a designated parking space outside of the store. Employees will then hand-deliver the purchases, which are available about two hours after the order is placed.

Stores near the company’s headquarters of Minneapolis adopted the service this past fall. They are not the only brick-and-mortar to try this  — about a year ago, Amazon opened two grocery stores with ‘curbside pickup’ in Seattle, and Walmart began testing an automated kiosk that allowed customers to place their order pull up to retrieve it. Even Walmart implementing their system for employees to drive you your groceries, or Amazon implementing their store with no check out line can fall under this category. By the end of the year, Target “hopes to implement the service in a thousand more stores across the country.”

Why it’s hot: While this isn’t necessarily new and hot, it is yet another example of brick and mortar trying to offer their customers seamless experiences.

Source: PSFK

AR Meets Greeting Card

For just under $6, you can give someone an augmented reality experience. Kineticards is building AR-enabled greeting cards that animate off of the page. The user must download the Kineticards app. Then they simply point the camera to the card, and the graphics start moving. The app maps the greeting card’s illustration and then replaces the static images with an animation. The AR dimension can also add interesting layers of information to the card. Gender reveal cards, for example, only show the word “boy” or “girl” once viewed through the app.

Why it’s hot: Although this is not anything new or completely unique, it is a simple and straightforward way to revamp greeting cards, and make them more interactive and personalized.

SourcePSFK

Shop for Leggings… While Hiking?

During SXSW, Outdoor Voices rolled out a new AR app, which encouraged festival-goers to break away from the craziness of the convention center and explore the hiking trails around Austin… and, use their app. The app is directed users to a park where they could then scan the ground and be rewarded with location-specific deals on apparel; the items were viewable in AR and users could see them in nature, explore them in detail, and even order using Apple Pay.

Why it’s hot: While some brands have started experimenting with AR games and scavenger hunts, Outdoor Voices takes an in interesting attempt to combine with commerce. Why it kind of defeats the purpose of ‘getting outdoors’ and ‘unplugging’, what better way to buy outdoor hiking clothes – while you’re doing that exact thing?

Source: PSFK

Bringing Stolen Art Pieces Back to Their Frames

Cuseum, a company focussed on implementing augmented reality to improve museum experiences, is working with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In March 1990, thieves broke into the museum and stole 13 pieces of art worth an estimated $500 million. Today, the works have still not been recovered.

This year, on the 28th anniversary of the heist, Cuseum decided to use augmented reality powered by Apple’s ARKit to digitally put the stolen paintings back into their frames. Visitors are now able to see the pieces exactly where they originally were in the museum.

The museum is also offering a $10 million reward for any information that aids in the return of the stolen works.

Why it’s hot: This is a simple way to combine digtial and traditional ways to experience a museum, and leveraging AR to (somewhat) bring these paintings “home”.

Source: PSFK

Spotify is testing a new voice search feature

Spotify is testing a voice search feature that lets users more quickly access their favorite artists, tracks, albums, and playlists. The feature, which appears based on a 2017 experiment involving a “driving mode,” has begun appearing inside the iOS app for a small number of users.

To access the new voice search feature, you tap the magnifying glass icon at the center of the bottom row of tabs. If you have it, you’ll see a microphone icon inside a white bubble in the lower-right hand corner of the screen.

So far, voice control appears limited to finding music inside inside Spotify’s vast catalog. Ask it “Who are the Beatles?” and it will start playing a Beatles playlist without telling you anything about the band.

Why it’s hot: This is a great step forward for navigation in app that has sometimes requires too much tapping and typing to get where you’re going.

Source: The Verge

McDonald’s Crops the Golden Arches to Direct You to the Closest Restaurant

McDonald’s and Canadian marketing company Cossette have teamed up to create the “Follow the Arches” campaign in Canada. The campaign features billboards with only portions of McDonald’s iconic golden arches logo that serve to point drivers in the direction of the nearest restaurant.

McDonald’s marketing supervisor Andrew Mumford comments on the universal recognizability of the McDonald’s brand: “The campaign is a playful example of how the arches are recognizable, even when the consumer only sees a portion of the logo.”

So far, the campaign includes just four billboards (three static and one digital) in high-traffic areas across downtown Toronto and the greater Toronto area. But Peter Ignazi, chief creative officer at Cossette, said the concept could eventually solve the problem of hundreds of differently designed directional posters in Canada—and around the world.

Why it’s hot: When thinking about playful ways to drive restaurant traffic – this is as simple as it gets! It is leveraging their huge amount of brand equity and universal recognizability of their logo in a clever way.

Source: AdWeek

Facebook rolls out job postings

On Wednesday, Facebook rolled out job posts to 40 more countries.

Businesses will be able to post job openings to a Jobs tab on their Page, Jobs dashboard, Facebook Marketplace, and the News Feed that they can promote with ads. Meanwhile, job seekers can discover openings, auto-fill applications with their Facebook profile information, edit and submit their application, and communicate via Messenger to schedule interviews.

“One in four people in the US have searched for or found a job using Facebook” writes Facebook’s VP of Local Alex Himel. “But 40% of US small businesses report that filling jobs was more difficult than they expected. We think Facebook can play a part in closing this gap.”

“The Job posts rollout could help Facebook steal some of the $1.1 billion in revenue LinkedIn earned for Microsoft in Q4 2017. But the bigger opportunity is developing a similar business where companies pay to promote their job openings and land hires, but for lower-skilled local companies in industries like retail and food service.”

Troy, the owner of Striper Sniper Tackle in North Carolina had trouble finding people with the specific skills he needed until he posted the job on his Facebook Page. He received 27 applications immediately, and hired 10 people” Facebook writes. 

Why it’s hot/warm:

Hot: Serving as a LinkedIn for blue collar jobs – benefiting both employers and those looking for jobs.

Warm: Users will likely be slower to adopt this since they might be reluctant to share their social profiles with employers.

Source: TechCrunch

Google Thinks The Future Of The Web Is Email + A Ghost Story

Google is taking the frustration out of ‘clicking out’ to a web page on accident through a new initiative called AMP for Email.

https://images.fastcompany.net/image/upload/w_596,c_limit,q_auto:best,f_webm,fl_lossy/wp-cms/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1g-to-google-the-future-of-the-web-is-email.gif

“Instead of an email from Pinterest just kicking you to some in-app browser or an external app as soon as you tap one of its links, a new AMP-infused Pinterest email is the web. So you can pin to your heart’s content, right inside the email window. With AMP for Email, you never need to leave the message itself to browse web content.” Google is making this possible by letting email developers incorporate its Accelerated Mobile Pages standard, and for now, and Gmail is currently the only email client supporting this.

https://images.fastcompany.net/image/upload/w_596,c_limit,q_auto:best,f_webm,fl_lossy/wp-cms/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/2g-to-google-the-future-of-the-web-is-email.gif

“Instead of shuttling the user from an email to the web and back, email is simply becoming the web–a deep, browsable entity”

Why it’s hot: While it might seem minor, this has some strong implications for email CRM form both the user and the brand perspective. For the user, it is a more seamless experience with a branded email. For the brand, it encourages further brand engagement and less fear of ‘linking out’.

Source: Co.Design

BONUS:

PLUS……………….. I highly recommend reading this modern ghost story via twitter….. Is it real? I’ll let you decide. P.S It’s real.

“Also, being a Ghost Influencer is now a thing.” – Amanda Z.

Can This Silicon Valley Startup Bioengineer A Less Addictive Opioid?

In 2015, a synthetic biologist named Christina Smolke and her team of researchers at Stanford made a huge discovery. They proved that a genetically engineered yeast could produce opioid molecules, the core ingredients of some of the world’s most widely prescribed pain medicines.

Suddenly it seemed possible to mass-produce opioids in a whole new way–in bioreactors, with yeast. It raised the possibility of disrupting a drug industry that still relies mainly on materials from the poppy plant to make vital pain medicines.

Soon after this discovery, Smolke and her colleagues started a company named Antheia Inc.

They want to improve upon the ‘recipe’ for opioids to make them not just easier to produce, but less addictive and safer to use. While Antheia is: training the yeast to make opioid molecules more efficiently, it’s also developing the technology platform that manages the data needed to bioengineer the yeast.”

They believe that the same data tools and approaches they developed while creating opioid-making yeast can be used to engineer yeast that produces cancer drugs, or drugs for arthritis or Alzheimer’s. “[We’ll] develop the base platform, and get the base platform in place to a point where it’s ready to be commercialized,” Smolke says. “Then, that’s when we’d leverage that platform to go after these newer medicines.”

Not only is it more economically sound to make pain killers with yeast vs. poppy, but the most important implication is the possibility of “engineering the yeast to produce opioids with fewer side effects, including, potentially, addictiveness”. Down the road, it may be possible to “design” and mass-produce medicines with all the pain relieving qualities of today’s drugs but without the addictive properties that are killing so many people.

Why it’s hot: Although this is in the early stages, the implications that this discovery could bring to opioid addiction, as well as the genetic API market, could be promising.

Source: FastCo

Will Tweet for Pizza

Comedy Central is trying to alleviate you from corporate boredom by sending you free pizza. Also, to promote their new show: Corporate.

Last Wednesday, I received a group message hot tip from my buddy to tweet #CorporateLunch with the pizza emoji after 2 pm if I wanted free pizza. Being the carbohydrate enthusiast that I am, I didn’t ask any questions and promptly tweeted per the instructions.

I received a reply from Comedy Central immediately, giving me a link to input my email and work address. I followed instructions, and I was told my free pizza was on the way. Along with this fake company newsletter from the new ‘Corporate’ show that was airing that night. A character from the show assured me that this pizza was free from them, but that I would never escape my meaningless desk job. Oh yes, and not to forget to tune into their new show tonight at 10 pm.

A short 30 minutes later, I received not only a pizza, but an order of garlic knots! Later that night at around 9:45, I received a reminder email to tune into the show starting in 15 minutes. I have to say, I really enjoyed the pizza, and the show. Hats off, Comedy Central.

Why it’s hot: What a great way to increase word of mouth, social buzz, and awareness of a new show, while extending the brand voice far beyond words on a screen. This was a really smart tactic (nationwide!) to launch this new show. Plus, the pizza was straight up DELICIOUS.

Yeehaw! You can now draw objects for 3D printing

The Yeehaw Wand simplifies the design process for 3D printable objects by allowing anyone to create an object with a smartphone or tablet. The kit comes with a wand to draw with and plate that displays the object with a 360-degree view. The plate connects to the owner’s device where the virtual object appears.

The device shows objects on the user’s view of the real world, where they can be manipulated—for example, you can have a person model for a 3D printed necklace. The software was intended to feel open-ended for anyone to pick up the wand and sketch whatever comes to mind.

A finished design can transfer over to any 3D printer. If someone purchases the Yeehaw Wand without access to one, they can send their design to the kits’s developers who print and ship the finished product.

The Yeehaw Wand is raising funds in a Kickstarter campaign that concludes on January 14.

Why it’s hot: While the ‘pen’ or ‘wand’ does not look very intuitive or easy to use, this is an example of 3D printing and augmented reality becoming that much more accessible.

Source: PSFK