Meet AGNES: A suit that helps you feel old.

AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System)

AGNES is a suit worn by students, product developers, designers, engineers, marketing, planners, architects, packaging engineers, and others to better understand the physical challenges associated with aging. Developed by AgeLab researchers and students, AGNES has been calibrated to approximate the motor, visual, flexibility, dexterity and strength of a person in their mid-70s. AGNES has been used in retail, public transportation, home, community, automobile, workplace and other environments.

The MIT AgeLab has homed in on one such paradox in particular: the profound mismatch between products built for older people and the products they actually want.

Only 20% of people who could benefit from hearing aids seek them out. Just 2% of those over 65 seek out personal emergency response technologies—the sorts of wearable devices that can call 911 with the push of a button—and many (perhaps even most) of those who do have them refuse to press the call button even after suffering a serious fall.

In every example, product designers thought they understood the demands of the older market, but underestimated how older consumers would flee any product giving off a whiff of “oldness.” After all, there can be no doubt that personal emergency response pendants are for “old people,” and as Pew has reported, only 35% of people 75 or older consider themselves “old.”

Why it’s hot: Tools like AGNES help us truly think differently about the needs of different people.

Ranch dressing… the condiment of choice for Millennials & Gen Z?

“Ranch is a rising iconic flavor in food and culture today,” Jacquie Klein, director of the brand studio that oversees Hidden Valley marketing.

“It’s found on more than half of restaurant menus and in 75 percent of homes in the U.S. It’s really embedded in our culture. We have more than 5 million Twitter conversations a year. We always love to see Hidden Valley Ranch fountains at weddings and mini-kegs at backyard barbecues.”

Hidden Valley has come out with some kind of oddball holiday collection the past two years, generating 3 billion social and other media impressions in total, Klein says. The brand also got some traction on Twitter after the Instagram site Pop Tart A Day posted an image of a ranch-flavored Pop-Tart, USA Today reported.

Why it’s hot?

Who knew a brand like Hidden Valley can keep its ear to the ground and pay attention to under-the-radar cultural shifts among young consumers? It’d be interesting to see how far Hidden Valley can play this out in the coming years.

Via now drives your kids home.

Via, a leading provider and developer of on-demand public mobility, was selected by the New York City Department of Education to provide a school bus management system for the nation’s largest school district.

As the largest school district in the nation, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) transports approximately 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes each and every day to get students safely to and from school across the City.

“Via for Schools” will be the first integrated, automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform in the world.

Via for Schools will utilize a flexible algorithm, which allows for both stop-to-school and home-to-school pickups, accommodating students regardless of their learning style, mobility constraints, or where they live.



Parents and students will have the ability to track, in real-time, their bus’ whereabouts and receive frequent and reliable communications in the event of service changes, improving safety and bringing important peace of mind to all users of the system. By utilizing Via’s best-in-class algorithms to optimize school bus routing, the Department of Education will be able to achieve operational efficiencies and reduce transportation costs.


Why it’s hot:

NYC has been a testing ground for partnering with brands to improve life in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. This partnership is a slight variation on the same model, but rather than leasing out Via cars to the city, they’re giving away the technology behind Via.

Source: Fast Company


Volvo backfilling a moat?

Volvo has built its brand around “being the safest cars on the road”.

For years, the company developed research and processes that lead to numerous vehicle safety innovations that established their credibility.

At Volvo, the Accident Research Team has compiled real-world data since the 1970s to better understand what happens during a collision.

Two truths:

  1. At the industry-level, women tend to be underrepresented in data (male crash test dummies are the standard). But not Volvo (they’ve incorporated men, women and children in their data over 40 years of research)
  2. More importantly, new car manufacturers are stepping up to the “Safey” arena (specifically Tesla) and looking to take on Volvo.


So what do you do? Do you protect your moat with yet-another-ad saying how Volvo is a “different kind of safety”?

Well, yes and… (if you’re Vovlo) you build a library with all of your safety knowledge and make it publicly available.


Why it’s hot:

Looking beyond the obvious advertising play, what this Campaign (Big C) is helping solve for is the core brand challenge: trying to go from being simply the provider of cars to something that offers mobility on a broader scale.

The execution of it is flawlessly told with a gripping narrative, and maintains Volvo’s thought leadership in “Safety”.


Rise of the digital neighborhood watch

Old-school video cameras have long watched over stores and gas stations. Now, a new wave of technology, once too expensive and complex to be used by anyone but the police, is making its way into mom-and-pop shops, front porches and residential streets.

  • Video cameras that flag unusual movements and recognize faces are being stuffed into popular “smart” doorbells that constantly send footage to the cloud.
  • AI-powered “video analytics” can identify specific actions like smoking, and search thousands of hours of archived footage for one person. It’s popping up in public schools, like in Broward County, Fla., which includes Parkland.
  • License-plate readers are now guarding the entrances of wealthy neighborhoods, tracking every vehicle that passes and automatically flagging blacklisted cars.

Forget doorbell cams — some Denver-area neighborhoods are now equipping their streets with cameras that will photograph your car and scan your license plate. Such license plate readers stand ever vigilant in 10 neighborhoods in Denver, Lone Tree, Sheridan and Aurora, according to Flock Safety, the company that sells them.

Images of the vehicle are then uploaded to the company’s Amazon Web Services cloud server and the data collected from the image becomes part of a searchable database. The HOA members with access can then search the database by time or vehicle description. They can also give police access to the footage if a crime is reported

Companies like Flock Safety charge about $2,000 a year for the installation, maintenance and data storage for each solar-powered camera. Most customers are homeowner associations or neighborhood groups that pay for the cameras collectively.

Why it’s hot:

Because peoples’ perceptions of crime often don’t align with reality, crime rates have dropped precipitously since the 1990s. Crime is often based more on media representations and anecdotal evidence than statistics. The growth of private security technology like license plate readers seems inevitable, showing that people are still willing to trade safety for privacy—for now.

How much would you pay to have a phone-free family dinner?

Parents around the country, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

The Screen-Free Parenting Economy

“Screen Consultants” come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Some coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions.

The No-Phone Pledge

In a movement reminiscent of the “virginity pledge” — a vogue in the late ’90s in which young people promised to wait until marriage to have sex, groups of parents are banding together and making public promises to withhold smartphones from their children until eighth grade.

Why it’s hot?

My favorite reason why this is hot is this: The gap between rich and poor is now measured by the lack of tech. The rich are banning screens from schools, while public schools even offer digital-only preschools.

What does a world where those who get ahead, are the “have nots” rather than the “haves”?

Hint: Inside A Tech-Free School Where Tech Executives Send Their Kids