Zillow plans to build AI into its search engine with the goal to transform the site from a real estate search engine to an assistant that understands what people want and are looking for. The idea is to learn and understand the types of criteria people are looking for and recommend homes based on that.
For example, the AI will be able to understand your taste in decor. It’ll be able to take into account the interior photos of homes people are looking at, understand what they might like and make recommendations based on that.
Why it’s hot (or not): There’s a chance that a home buyer might miss a house that has a lot of potential but does not meet the right criteria according to AI.
Ford created a device that lets blind and visually impaired people feel the view from a car passenger seat by transforming car windows into a haptic display.
“The Feel The View appliance takes a picture of the view from the window and converts the image into greyscale. Every shade of grey is then translated into a vibration on the car window, which allows visually impaired passengers to experience contours of the landscape by feeling the window.”
It also comes with a voice assistant connected to the car audio system that explains the view to the passenger.
Why it’s hot: It’s machine vision’s (algorithms that can analyse and understand images and videos) time to shine.
Samsung launched a new phone, Galaxy J2 Pro, a phone that lets people call make phone calls and send text messages but cannot connect to the internet.
It targets high schools students who need to focus on studying for their college entrance exam in Korea. The goal is to help them stay on task without the distraction of social media, games, or browsing the web.
Other features include an offline electronic dictionary app, a calendar app, an FM radio and a calculator.
There perk is, students who have completed the exam can trade in their Galaxy J2 Pro for a Galaxy S, Note, or A Series phone.
Why it’s hot: Sometimes it’s good and helpful going back to the basics.
In China and India combined, men outnumber women by 70 million, mainly due to a couple reasons: cultural preference, government policy and modern medical technology.
And the consequences are severe, including:
Epidemic of loneliness, mental health
Imbalanced labor market
Increased savings rates
Artificial inflation (housing)
Increased crime rate (trafficking, prostitution)
In China alone, there are about 34 million more men than women, that’s almost the entire population of California or Poland. It is common for men to pay “bride price” to prospective parents-in-law to gain approval of engagement and marriage. Due to the gender imbalance, the price has gone from a few hundred dollars a decade a go to nearly $30K in some parts of China.
Some others start to “import” brides from near by Asian countries, paying up to $8K for marriage tours to travel abroad and find wives.
Why it’s hot: Potentially, these 70 million men might never get married or have a family, and might need to live and take care of themselves. Brands (CPG, Healthcare) should think about the implications and impacts it has on them.
With the chip-card technology being rolled out in retail stores nationwide and reducing fraud in physical stores, online fraud has risen. A third of the 50 largest retailers in the U.S. has then seen a 30% increase in online fraud.
As a result, retailers as big as Macys and as small as Audeze rely on third party data-mining firms to combat fraud, such as people making purchases with stolen credit cards or falsely claiming a purchase as fraudulent.
These firms use big data to evaluate whether a shopper is making a fraudulent transaction based on that person’s online browsing behaviors, transaction data and geolocation information. The firms will then decide whether to approve or deny the transaction at the time of purchase.
Online behaviors such as paying for the latest shipping method or making a purchase without checking the return policy are sometimes considered as signs of fraud. And oftentimes, falsely declined customers would not even know why they were declined for a transaction.
Why it’s (not) hot: Should big data dictate what we buy and how we buy things?
China opened its first “unmanned” bank in Shanghai this week that claims to be able to handle over 90% of a traditional bank’s services, whether it’s cash or cashless. Customers will be greeted by a robot as they enter the lobby who’s supposed to communicate with them and help with their needs.
The bank also claims to offer services including:
Video teller machines
Currency exchange machines
Why it’s hot: Deferring low-value work to machines is inevitable to increase efficiency and profit margin. Brainpower should be reserved for cognitive work.
Apple rolled out transit card integration in China today. The latest update to iPhone and Apple Watch offers users tap-to-ride public transportation access in Beijing and Shanghai. People can refill their transportation cards using the Wallet app on iPhone. Balance of an existing physical card can be transferred to Apple Pay through the recharge mechanism in Wallet.
Why it’s hot: Mobile payment and transaction just became more advanced and is making people’s daily life more convenient.
According to WSJ, an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. And a Cornell University study says that we make more than 200 decisions alone on food each day. And it isn’t always a good thing to have many options available. In fact too much choice could cause choice paralysis in which too much choice prevents purchases.
According to psychologist Herbert A. Simon, there are two basic choice-making styles: Maximisers and Satisficers. Maximisers evaluate every option, looking for the best one, and potentially exhaust themselves in the process. Satisficers look for the option that is good enough; it might not be perfect but it fits the minimum criteria.
Brands can help these two types of consumers narrow choices down in different ways.
To target Maximisers, the solution is to make the choice easier through providing guidance. One good example is Tesco’s Online Beauty Sessions where consumers can have a private consulting session with a beauty expert to talk about their needs and preferences. After the session the expert will recommend a selection of products to the consumer.
To target Satisficers, the solution is to create convenience and make the produce easy to buy. One good example is Australia’s fast food brand Hungry Jack’s Brekk-e-tag. Similar to how road-toll e-tag works, a driver can instantly order a pre-programmed breakfast order as he pulls into the drive thru and head directly to the pickup window.
Why it’s hot: crafting solutions based on human behaviors.
As a company whose core value is to nourish people and the planet, Whole Foods sure does it right by starting with s keeping their employees healthy and looking after their wellness.
“At the WFM Medical and Wellness Centers, we strive to take you from sick to healthy, happy and thriving – and help keep you there for the rest of your life! We hope you will join us on our journey toward creating a healthier community and a new way of treating people through the highest quality, personalized health care available.” – John Mackey, Co-Founder & CEO Whole Foods Market
The company runs two medical centers in Glendale, CA and Austin, TX serving employees and their families.
“The Medical and Wellness Center provides primary care medical services, administered by physicians with a patient-centered approach. The Medical and Wellness Center not only helps patients with common illnesses and more significant medical conditions, but also provides personalized prevention and proactive care that helps people live their best and most healthy lives.”
Why it’s hot: staying true to its core value and acting on it.
Source: Harvard Business Review and https://www.wfmmedical.com/about-us
The New York Times app started to incorporate AR into its digital content that makes flat images three-dimensional.
In an article reporting on the Winter Olympics, NYT uses the technology to allow readers to engage with the content, the athletes. Readers can look closer on some parts of the content, look at it from a different angle and walk around it. This functionality extends the time a reader spends on the article by letting them engage with the content.
Why it’s hot: using technology to add value to content and improve customer experience.
China is piloting a new surveillance system – using smart glasses to identify potential suspects. Police in Zhengzhou can snap pictures of people in public and match them with China’s state database of criminals. They will then be provided with that person’s name and address.
Why it’s hot: Giving new technology everyday, functional implications
Many people might not understand or care about the consequences of the repeal of net neutrality. To help people understand this issue, Burger King created Whopper Neutrality, an real-life experiment with actual guests in the store, making them experience the consequence in terms of a whopper.
Why it’s hot: Influential brands taking a stance to increase awareness to a social issue – treat all data on the internet as equal as we’d like to be treated equally as whopper buyers.
Kellogg’s cereal cafe recently re-opened at Union Square in a space five times larger than its original location in Times Square. This is Kellogg’s attempt to stem sales decline by making millennials eat cereal as all-day snacks.
The cafe is operated by two famous restauranteurs, Sandra Di Capua from Eleven Madison Park and Anthony Rudolf from Per Se.
Why it’s hot: Leveraging food’s social status to make everyday mundane cool.
In some Asian countries including Japan and China, there’s a culture that encourages employees to work overtime. Sadly, overtime has led to deaths.
A Japanese company named Taisei wants to solve this problem in an unconventional way. They designed a drone that surveils around the office with camera and blasts Auld Lang Syne to nag people into going home. In Japan this song is usually used to indicate closing time. Their plan is to make it hard for people to concentrate and continue to work.
Why it’s hot: a very functional and useful application of cutting-edge technologies.
For years, hotels have been focused on selling their services to people coming from outside of town instead of those who live and work around it. One of them thinks differently. Hotel group Accor Hotels has launched an app to connect travelers with local businesses. The app also provides non-guests the chance to use its hotel services and use it as a drop off and pick up point for services provided by local businesses. e.g. dry cleaning drop off/pick up.
Why it’s hot: helping local small businesses while finding incremental audiences in a competitive market.
European startup Natural Cycles developed an fertility tracking app that uses an algorithm to predict the days a woman is fertile. It’s a subscription product that currently has more than 500K users across 160 countries. The user needs to measure her body temperature each morning with a body basal thermometer and record it in the app. The algorithm will analyze the data and predict the user’s hormone levels and her fertility.
The app uses a calendar view. Days colored red signifies the user shouldn’t have unprotected sex, days colored in green signifies the user can have unprotected sex without risking pregnancy.
Why it’s hot: innovative healthcare solution that doesn’t require drugs and chemicals.
Healthcare is one area where marketing plays an important role in driving conversion. Especially when it comes to enrollment. Healthy people often need to be reminded to buy health insurance and many wait till the last second to do so.
This enrollment season, the Trump Administration cut Obamacare’s marketing budget by 90%, from $100MM to $10MM. Some researchers looked into the effect of this budget cut and predicted that it would cause more than 450,000 fewer page views, 20,000 fewer visits, and 20,000 fewer unique visitors per week during open enrollment without a TV campaign.
Why it’s hot: this is one case where pro bono work would make a difference.
KFC pulled a successful social media stunt by following 11 people on its Twitter account that hinted at the company’s secret recipe of 11 spices and herbs. Accounts that KFC follows are all of the Spice Girls and 6 people named Herb.
Why it’s hot: Great publicity at minimal cost.
Why it’s not hot: KFC doesn’t seem to have immediate next steps to amplify the effect.
Casper mattresses and American Airlines have teamed up to improve sleeping experience on the plane.
Starting December passengers in First, Business and Premium Economy classes will get the chance to try specially-designed mattress pads, pillows, lumber pillows, blankets, duvets, pyjamas and slippers.
The partnership gives passengers a chance to try Casper’s products and American Airlines a chance to offer better in-flight experiences.
Why it’s hot: a partnership that’s truly strategic and adds value to each brand.
Robots are making their way into schools and education to help children lower their stress and boost their creativity. Among those who have diseases such as diabetes and autism, robots can even help restore their self-confidence.
One research shows that autism children engage better with robots than humans because they are simple and predictable.
Another research that works with children with diabetes makes their robots “imperfect” and have them make mistakes so they don’t intimidate the children. Children learn that they don’t have to be perfect all the time.
Why it’s hot (or not): are robots the right companions for children? What impact would it have on human interactions if children are exposed to AI at such a young age?
Teaming up with August, a smart lock that offers keyless access and monitoring via a phone app, Walmart started to test a service to deliver packages to people’s homes instead of dropping them on the doorstep in Silicon Valley.
Owner can grant a one-time access to delivery staff from Walmart’s own delivery service called Deliv. The staff can even put the package in the fridge if needed.
Why it’s hot:
I’m excited to see that competition between Amazon and Walmart is getting more fierce.
Walmart identified a true consumer need/pain point and developed a service to meet it.
Google News will start to display hyperlocal events and localized community updates from bloggers to help people stay in the loop of what’s happening in their backyard.
To help people get information about their own communities, Google uses machine learning techniques to source information from hyperlocal bloggers and high school newspapers.
Why it’s hot: Google Community Updates could be a useful communications medium for products/services that need to be targeted on a hyperlocal level, e.g. telecom services, Small Businesses and their desire to be deeply rooted in their communities because the health of their businesses depend on it.
IKEA responded to GOT costume designer’s reveal of using IKEA rugs on the show with their do-it-yourself instructions in the company’s typical style showing people how to prepare for winter as summer is coming to an end.
IKEA named the mock product Vinter, the Swedish word for winter.
Why it’s hot: being playful and entertaining on social media can go a long way. IKEA wisely leveraged and amplified earned media.
An assistant professor at the University of British Columbia with a specialty in consumer behavior found that people shop differently on touchscreen devices than they do on their desktop PCs.
On phones, people are more likely to spend money on indulgent, hedonistic things, like movie tickets and dining out. And on PCs, people prioritize more practical, utilitarian things, like furniture and haircuts.
“The touchscreen has an easy-to-use interface that puts you into an experiential thinking style. When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, you crave excitement, a different experience,” says the professor. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.”
Why it’s hot: Should brands or retailers place products differently according to the screen?
Remote Year is a work and travel program that takes people who’re looking for personal and professional growth on a year-long journey to work, travel, and live in 12 different cities throughout the world.
Participants are called “Remotes.” They will live and work in a different city around the globe each month. The program costs $27,000 with a $5,000 down payment followed by a monthly payment of $2,000 for the first 11 months. The costs include co-working spaces, accommodation, transportation, planned events and activities.
Why it’s hot: To millennials, every experience is a self investment. They are willing to invest their money and time into experiences that help them grow.
Two Columbia University architecture students designed a light weight solar lantern to assist post-earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, bringing light to dangerous conditions at night in the tent cities. Because the product is rooted in human needs, it is now also used by hikers, backpackers and emergency workers.
Why it’s hot: they built a product and business based on a simple, basic human need that’s often forgotten by many – light.
Google Glass is back, and this time it’s not the ultimate example of overhyped wearable technology. Rather, its revival demonstrates how Silicon Valley’s innovations can have applications that their creators might never have envisioned.
Google Glass’ second chance? The factory floor. It turned out that industrial companies were using the innovation to boost the productivity of workers performing complex manual tasks: It could show step-by step instructions, help choose the right tools, photograph and report quality problems. In some cases, companies actually hired third-party software developers to adapt it for their purposes. Responding to demand from these initially unwanted customers, Google has created the Enterprise Edition, a much-improved version that can be fixed to specially made frames (so safety glasses can be fitted with it, too), has better connectivity and longer battery life.
Below video shows a GE Renewables technician compares first time use of smart glasses powered with Skylight software platform by Upskill against current process for completing wiring insertions for a wind turbine. The technician sees an immediate 34.5% productivity improvement.
Why it’s hot: start narrow and go to the mass market when customers start thinking of household uses.