Better, connected

 

The Ministry of Technology and Communications in Colombia has partnered with MullenLowe Bogota to create My Line, a voice assistant tool powered by Google, that helps residents in remote areas gain access to internet information.

In Colombia, many people in remote regions can’t access the internet. The majority of communities also don’t have laptops or smartphones, although most do have a legacy phone or a landline.

For example: With My Line, Colombian residents can dial 6000913 and use their voice to search for simple queries. For example, what’s the weather going to be like today? Or, what ingredients does the Ajiaco soup have?

Why it’s hot

By investing in My Line, the ministry is showing the country that it is investing in the entire region and population, not just the businesses and people in the country’s cities.

You Can Pick Your Google Assistant Voice By… Color?

At the annual I/O developers conference in May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that users now have six additional options for their Assistant’s voice, one voice of which is John Legend. Google Assistant has now rolled out their a creative UI that allows users to pick a voice by color. You tap on the color associated with a given voice which Google says they chose at random, and then you listen to a sample of the voice and select from there.

Why It’s Hot: Not only is Google Assistant offering a range of male and female voices, they’re using an intentionally vague selection mechanism (color) as opposed to more traditionally gendered names or even just the labels “male” and “female”. This is a big improvement in equalizing the traditionally VERY gendered area of tech assistant voices, where almost all assistants are given female-sounding voices and names (Siri, Alexa, etc). Google Assistant itself had only a female voice until late 2017, when the option for a male voice was rolled out.

The justification often used for this systemic sexism is that studies show that both men and women choose and trust female voices more. The WSJ recently cited two studies that both found men and women find female voices “welcoming and warm” – the only exception being when the voices are teaching them about computers, in which case male voices are preferred. Female voices are especially desired when giving love and relationship advice.

Using the results of these studies, which simply reflect the ingrained misogyny in our society, to justify having ONLY female voices is lazy at best. So by giving users a range of voices, plus a vague selection system to choose them from, is a great step from Google toward allowing users to choose their voice without as much overt gendered signaling.

Learn More: Engadget

Hinge employs Nobel prize winning algorithm to find your perfect match

Hinge, the dating app that sets up friends of friends, unveiled a new feature called “Most Compatible” that utilizes a Nobel Prize-winning algorithm.

The algorithm ranks Hinge members by their preferences, pairing each member off with the member they would theoretically prefer most. The ‘Most Compatible’ recommendations appear simultaneously for both parties and disappear after 24 hours. To make these pairings, the app learns a user’s preferences through their liking and passing activity and uses that to pair them with a match whose preferences best align.

The method utilizes the Gale-Shapley algorithm, which was developed 56 years ago to solve ‘the stable marriage problem.’ The algorithm traditionally has individuals rank potential partners by level of preference and cycle through proposals and rejections until each individual is with the partner they prefer most (who isn’t already engaged). In the Hinge app, the algorithm is used to avoid endless browsing and increase success. And it seems to work: the new feature is 8x more likely to result in dates and the company saw a 400% increase in user activity after eliminating the standard ‘swipe’ feature.

Why It’s Hot: Although some users are nervous that their discovery will be limited, this introduction of most compatible matches will only make the process more seamless for users and could possibly become the new standard for dating apps and replace the classic swipe method.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/11/hinge-employs-new-algorithm-to-find-your-most-compatible-match-for-you/

Nike is heading to a famed LA shopping area to reinvent itself as a data-driven, direct-to-consumer brand

Nike unveiled its new concept store, Melrose by Nike, on Melrose Avenue in LA. Everything about it, including its location and the products it stocks, is determined by how people in the area interact with the brand.

The idea is to blend the physical and digital shopping experience. Everything about the store is designed to work with the Nike Plus app.  As soon as you enter the geo-fenced area, you start getting special deals on the app. If they think you’d be interested in a product they have on hand, whether you’ve specified it or not, they’ll reserve it for you in your size. All you have to do is access one of the many lockers in the store. If you see apparel you like, you scan the code, and a salesperson will come to you with it in your size.

Why it’s hot:

Brick and mortar business has grown stale. By blurring the line between digital and physical shopping, the customer will have a more personalized experience.

Major League Baseball tickets are going biometric in 2019

Clear, the company that lets people skip the TSA pre-check lines at airports, has announced it is teaming up with Major League Baseball and Tickets.com to introduce biometric ticketing at participating ballparks in 2019. A pilot program will arrive at select venues later this season.

The partnership will make use of the API of MLB’s ticketing technology company, Tickets.com. Clear members can link their profiles with their MLB.com accounts, entering Comerica Park or Yankee Stadium or AT&T Park with just the tap of a finger. There is also potential for more advanced tech like facial recognition. Lines would certainly move faster if all you had to do was walk right in!

The company is also planning to pilot biometric concessions in the state of Washington, meaning instead of getting carded for beer, fans can simply show a finger to prove their age. Clear is already at 13 stadiums across the nation, and while it charges air passengers to make use of the service, it will be free for sports fans.

Why Its Hot

Anything that makes lines move faster is ok by me! Right now, tickets on your phone is about as advanced as it gets, so it will be interesting to see how quickly new forms of tech can catch on.

xfinity’s pre-roll cost calculator…


Xfinity (to promote its mobile carrier service) recently unleashed a suite of 6-second pre-roll ads to show customers of their competitors exactly how much money a YouTube video they watch costs them in data.

The company says it’s tailoring the ads based on users’ carrier (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon), and the type of video they’ve chosen to watch, making it hyper-relevant to each viewer.

Why It’s Hot:

It’s not just advertising, but utility. If anyone you know can tell you how much it costs them to use data for different applications or purposes, they’re much more clued in than the rest of us. But more importantly, it’s intended to be personalized to each user, further signaling that the future of advertising (and products) are truly individualized.

[Source]

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

Lego, Making The List

When it comes to making Christmas wish lists, children tend to favor the must-have toys such as my little pony, toys based on their favorite shows or technologically advanced gadgets. To identify what precisely these in-demand toys of the Christmas season would be, CHE Proximity in Australia monitored search data, retailer purchase data and toy sales predictions. The next step was to use this insight to remind parents (or anyone else buying a gift for children) that Lego is a versatile toy that encourages children to use their imagination. The way they did this: every time someone searched online for one of the in-demand toys they would be presented with an ad showing the toy in question built from Lego bricks. As the gift giver went from site to site, advertisements of the bricks being constructed into different items continued.

By targeting the adults who are buying the Legos, rather than the children, Making The List campaign appealed to the educational and long-lasting qualities that parents love about Legos. And clearly, it was successful as this campaign quadrupled the sales of the Lego between October and December 2017.

Why it’s hot:
While this is not entirely a new idea, considering Maserati used data-based targeting to offer Germans a test drive to a rival dealership in 2015, it is a successful tactic. Lego’s campaign both reminded parents that their product is a versatile alternative to fad-toys and successfully redirected their attention.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/a-list-opportunity

Play Your (Student) Debt Away

Indebted students come on down! 

Paid Off a new comedy game show will try to do its part in reducing the $1.5T of student loan debt currently affecting more than 44 million borrowers.

How The Game Show Works

Each episode features three contestants, each of whom has student loans.

The premise of the game show is simple: Torpey gives these lucky contestants the chance to answer trivia questions during three rounds of play in a fun, fast-paced trivia game show.

 

The three rounds of play include:

  1. academic questions
  2. poll questions
  3. general knowledge / college major questions

One contestant will be eliminated each round.

The grand prize? One lucky winner can win a cash prize or the chance to wipe out their student loan debt.

 

During the final round, the final contestant has an opportunity to answer as many questions as possible. The more questions that the contestant answers correctly, the larger their winnings.

 

The lucky contestants who answer enough questions potentially can wipe out their student loan debt.

Source: Forbes

This game show will not only let you root for strangers looking to reduce their debt, it will let you learn the stories behind each contestant, like whether they were the first in their family to go to college.

Yes, you can wipe out your student loans with the show. And yes, you have to pay taxes on your winnings, but when all is said and done, the show plans to give away about 500K to over 60 people.

Series premier July 10th on TruTV

Why it’s hot:

Because student loans are a real problem! It’s good to see a show where the goal is not consumerism, but fiscal responsibility.

Why it’s not: 

Because students shouldn’t be forced to indebt themselves for an education, especially with how ridiculously expensive it has become.

 

Smart TVs track more than you think

There is growing concern over online data and user privacy, but people’s data is also being collected from their living rooms via their televisions.

Samba TV is a company that tracks viewer information to make personalized show recommendations. Samba TV’s software has been implemented by a dozen TV brands, including Sony, Sharp, TCL and Philips. When people set up their Smart TVs, a screen urges them to enable a service called Samba Interaction TV, saying it recommends shows and provides special offers. It doesn’t, however, tell the consumer how much of their data they’re collecting.

Samba TV can track everything that appears on TV on a second-by-second basis. It offers advertisers the ability to base their targeting on whether people watch conservative or liberal media outlets or which party’s presidential debate they watched. The big draw is that Samba TV can identify other devices in the household that share the TV’s internet connection. In turn, advertisers can pay the company to direct ads to other gadgets in a home after their TV commercials play.

Why it’s hot:

Most people think their data is only at risk while surfing the web. But that can’t be farther from the truth. By agreeing to Samba TV’s terms, most people are deceived into thinking they’re only agreeing to a minor recommendation feature, but they’re actually giving the company access to all their devices.

Source

Lyft Purchases CitiBike Parent Company Motivate

Lyft has officially moved beyond cars. They announced this week the acquisition of Motivate, the parent company behind CitiBike, Chicago’s Divvy, and many other popular ride-sharing programs around the country. The programs will be renamed Lyft Bike, and Motivate will continue to help with some maintenance.

Lyft says this acquisition supports and enhances their larger strategy of 1) improving transportation access, 2) building community through shared rides and public transit integration, and 3) having fewer cars on the road and reducing congestion. And, of course, it certainly doesn’t help that the bikesharing market is booming, too.

This isn’t the first foray into bikes for a ridesharing company. Uber acquired Jump, a San Francisco dockless bike-sharing startup, earlier this year. Uber was also reportedly interested in buying Motivate, though Lyft won out. And last winter Lyft teamed up with Baltimore’s bike sharing service to use their bike docks as Lyft pickup/dropoff points.

Why It’s Hot: Motivate is a major national bikesharing company, and this acquisition signals a huge expansion for Lyft. How might they further integrate bikesharing and ridesharing, now that the two will be under one roof in many major US cities? They say they want to improve transportation access and build community, what might this look like from a bikesharing POV?

Learn More: Engadget | Verge

itty bitty sites

A neat new web tool called itty bitty sites from Nicholas Jitkoff, VP of Design at Dropbox, lets you create self-contained microsites that exist solely as URLs. You can create your own by following this URL: itty.bitty.site. From there, you can fill the equivalent of about one printed 8.5 x 11-inch page with any combination of plain text, ASCII characters, or emojis. (To launch the project on the 4th of July, Jitkoff created this page: independence.bitty.site) The actual byte limit depends on where you’d like to share it; Twitter and Slack allow for around 4,000 bytes, while the Mac version of Chrome can accommodate up to 10,000 bytes. For reference, a longer piece, like the US Declaration of Independence is 5200 bytes. This won’t work on Twitter, but can still be used in a domain redirect (which is how this and many of the other examples are stored).

The interesting part is that the site isn’t actually hosted anywhere — the entirety of the webpage exists as a URL compressed using what’s known as the Lempel–Ziv–Markov chain algorithm.

How itty.bitty works

TL;DR:
✏️ ▸ ▸ ▸ #️⃣ ▸ ▸

itty.bitty takes html (or other data), compresses it into a URL fragment, and provides a link that can be shared. When it is opened, it inflates that data on the receiver’s side.

Source Code: https://github.com/alcor/itty-bitty

itty bitty sites exists as an open source project on Github. While Jitkoff doesn’t know what people will do with this tool yet, “he does suggest using it for standalone poetry, bypassing Twitter’s character limit, and using it as a clever alternative for domain redirecting, so you can host larger-than-normal portions of text as standalone URLs.”

WHY IT’S HOT: 

This is a clever and creative way to make creating and sharing work online more accessible and usable for more of the population, freeing those from the heavy lift of hosting a full site, but expanding the confines of what’s available on social media platforms. It really feels like the early internet.

SOURCE: https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/5/17538474/itty-bitty-site-self-contained-websites-urls-open-web

Think you’re safe from Facebook’s political ad disclosure requirement?

…think again, because P&G and Walmart both had ads cancelled by the platform recently because they included vaguely political messages. (Walmart’s ad, for the record, was allowed to run after review. But P&G’s LGBT+ ad was held to the disclosure policy requirements, meaning the brand has to share a “paid for by” message. http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-hits-walmart-p-g-political-ads-warning/314083/

From Ad Age: “The political ad policy has raised concerns among publishers and media companies that pay to promote their headlines on Facebook. They argue that the required labeling and archiving will make Facebook users confuse their journalism with advocacy.

But it was just a matter of time before consumer goods, retail and auto brands got caught in Facebook’s political net, too.

“Brands can easily get snagged in the political content filter,” says a publishing executive, speaking on condition of anonymity to express opposition to Facebook’s new rules. “Almost everything is controversial.”

Here’s are some more resources to help in better understanding Facebook’s rules and how to mitigate risk:

Why it’s hot: It’s likely that this is just an initial posturing tactic from the platform to let brands and political campaign advertisers know they’re serious about enforcing the new rules, but we need to be aware of the risks and how to prevent crossing Facebook’s thin “political” line  in the meantime..

 

Shop the World’s Best Markets From Your Couch

PayPal wanted to reinvent themselves for a millennial audience, and their solution was genius. With the help of CP+B, LA, they realized that researching and purchasing an item were equally exciting and that during this process, many millennials turned to social media personalities. As a result, PayPal leveraged their network of merchant patterns to create Local Selects – a live stream shopping experience allowing web users to explore and buy products from the world’s most popular markets. By partnering with Leandra Medine, founder of Man Repeller Blog, and comedian Matt Okine, shoppers were able to livestream and experience famous flea markets in Los Angeles, New York, and Sydney as well as independent designers and their products through Medine’s and Okine’s entertaining eyes. This experience was livestreamed through Facebook Live and a dedicated campaign microsite.

The purchasing aspect came into play when Medine or Okine picked up a product because the item was then instantly displayed on the campaign microsite, giving people the option to buy it in real time. According the agency, the livestream was most popular with 25-34 year-old-consumers – the group PayPal wanted to reach – and one business owner said that they saw a 31% increase in PayPal transaction compared with a usual day. PayPal plans to continue this initiative in the future, making London’s Camden Market their next stop.

Why it’s hot:

Local Selects is an entirely new way of shopping that will not only increase the number of people using PayPal but will also give independent designers the ability to reach a broader market that they had no way of accessing before. And of course, the consumer benefits by gaining access to new and trendy designers that they would most likely not have been able to shop at before. Even more so, it’s a new channel for social media personalities to shine and attract new fans.

Source: https://www.contagious.io/articles/social-check-out

Microsoft Edge for iOS and Android Now Comes with a Built-In Ad Blocker

Microsoft is building Adblock Plus directly into its Edge browser for iOS and Android.

The adblocker can be enabled in the Microsoft Edge settings, and doesn’t require a separate add-in to download and install.

Microsoft’s step is significant, as the company has partnered with Adblock Plus to build this functionality straight into the browser. Google previously unveiled its own ad blocking in Chrome for Android, but it’s not as aggressive as Adblock Plus and most ads aren’t blocked on the majority of sites.

Why it’s Hot

Adblock Plus makes money by charging large companies such as Google to get their ads whitelisted through its “acceptable ads initiative”; it argues that it’s trying to improve the web.

Facebook Fails at Keeping Your Data Safe

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal we would have thought Facebook would have been more diligent about data protection.

Per their own new bug bounty solution, Facebook found an opening that let many malicious actors (their words) request information from their system. But this new bug didn’t get closed up for over a month.

The hacker who found the leak, Inti De Ceukelaire says he began his search by “noting down what third party apps his Facebook friends were using — finding quizzes were one of the most popular apps.” He inferred quizzes rep for being an easy and shady sourve of data. “So he took his first ever Facebook quiz, from a brand called NameTests.com, and quickly realized the company was exposing Facebook users’ data to “any third-party that requested it”.”

It’s JavaScript was leaking data and gave users a pin to access any data on an individual they wanted in the future. “Depending on what quizzes you took, the javascript could leak your facebook ID, first name, last name, language, gender, date of birth, profile picture, cover photo, currency, devices you use, when your information was last updated, your posts and statuses, your photos and your friends,” wrote De Ceukelaire.

Why it’s hot?

As Facebooks marketing tries to preach more transparency, are they really practicing?

VoiceSearch: Taking the Ad World By Storm

Voice Technology, something we are all familiar with like Siri and Amazon’s Alexa is taking the advertising world by storm one voice at a time. Voice technology allows individuals and brand to have interpersonal relationships with technology and for consumers purchasing experiences to be enhanced. Heads of global marketing like Luis Gómez for Adidas feels many brands are having trouble creating meaningful interactions between brands and consumer. He additionally provides commentary to how global conglomerates Apple and Amazon are facing trouble adapting voice technology to purchasing behavior of their users. Many websites face challenging because their search engines do not support voice technology, according to Vincent Coyle from Zoopla. An important factor of voice technology is the “voice”, Coyle additionally states. The voice needs to be at the right tone as it is crucial to how technology will decode their message.

Why its Hot

Voice technology is a hot topic in the advertising world because it is changing the relationships between brands and users. Voice will soon become the middleman between brand and client experiences. It is important for brands to be aware how to use voice technology to their advantage, and to stay ahead of their competitors. The era of the internet is changing, and the power of your voice is becoming more and more powerful everyday.

 

Another Brilliant Ikea

Ikea has developed an app that helps kids and parents repurpose old cardboard into fun things. The AR app scans the flat surface of the cardboard and provides the user with a multitude of potential crafts that can be created by the size of the cardboard and provides instructions as well. The piece was done by Wunderman with Kantar Consulting and Mini Mad Things.  “The trio of agencies reportedly analysed 50 million rows of dialogue from 17 years of online conversations between parents.”

An incremental insight that the research uncovered was that “50% of parents struggle for ideas that encourage creative play among children.” Ikea, wunderful everyday.

Why It’s Hot:

It allows parents and kids to become more creative and spend quality time together promoting problem solving skills and building cool things. Also, it’s Ikea. It’s always cool when it’s Ikea.

Tech workers take action

Workers in technology and innovation are standing up for what’s right and putting companies like Microsoft and Google in a position to make choices between profit and progress.

Just last week, Microsoft employees brought into sharp focus the overlap between Silicon Valley’s leading lights and the Trump administration’s cruelest abuses, when they released an open letter calling on their company to cease work as a contractor for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the workers, Microsoft had a $19.4 million contract to help ICE develop its surveillance operations with data-processing and artificial-intelligence technology.

[…] the rebelling workers objected to any link to the agency that is ripping apart immigrant families and imprisoning refugees: “As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit. We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.”

Other companies including “Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Motorola Solutions and Palantir all have active contracts with ICE, according to a public records search conducted by NBC News.”

 executives got a similar disruption earlier this year when employees learned of its partnership with the Pentagon on “Project Maven,” an effort to weaponize artificial intelligence. Google’s contract for the project, which involved “using machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects in drone footage,” according to Gizmodo, was folded into a broader set of corporate-federal “partnerships” aimed at enhancing agencies’ cloud-computing systems.

Why it’s hot

Lots of people are feeling powerless as we watch horrible acts of violence and bigotry tear families and communities apart. These workers taking action and calling out their own companies speaks to a sense of communal responsibility to stand up for what is right over what is profitable.

 

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/technology/tech-companies-immigration-border.html, https://www.thenation.com/article/tech-workers-fighting-back-collusion-ice-department-defense/

Mixed Reality Flashlight Projector

“He set about making this story a reality by talking to interaction design experts about which interactions the make-believe family had that were most compelling, and then figuring out a way to build them. Sanjeev created a rough prototype by duct-taping together a Raspberry Pi computer, a projector, and a battery pack. Now, he wants to build out a storytelling dashboard, where designers can use an online portal to create interactive experiences within physical space—programming Lumen to react in certain ways to particular objects in an environment.”

Why It’s Hot: Lumen uses emerging technologies to augment the physical world and functions a spacial device. There could be some interesting applications of this approach in narrative formats. There could be interesting applications if something like this were implemented into our smartphones.

Source

Amazon to Buy Online Pharmacy PillPack, Jumping Into the Drug Business

Amazon announced Thursday that it would acquire PillPack, an online pharmacy with a nationwide reach, in a deal that could quickly make the online giant a major player in the drug business.

The deal is precisely the kind of news that the health care industry has been fearing for months, as Amazon hinted that it was interested in expanding its reach to include prescription drugs, a $560 billion business.

One barrier to entry for Amazon had been the bureaucratic hassle of securing pharmacy licenses in each state. But in acquiring PillPack, it is essentially leaping over that hurdle because the company is licensed to ship prescriptions in 50 states.

Anxiety over what Amazon might do in health care has unsettled the industry and has been seen as one factor in a wave of recently proposed mergers, including CVS’s acquisition of Aetna and a union between the health insurer Cigna and Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit manager. Last fall, perhaps in a move to get ahead of Amazon, CVS announced it would offer next-day delivery of prescription drugs and same-day service in some big cities.

The entry of Amazon into the pharmacy business could make it easier for the big pharmacy benefit mangers to persuade the Justice Department that their contemplated mergers with insurance companies will not harm consumers by hindering competition.

PillPack, which started in 2013, is an online pharmacy that distributes its pills in easy-to-use packages designed for consumers with chronic conditions and multiple prescriptions. The company sorts prescriptions by the dose and includes a label with a picture of each pill and notes on how it should be taken. It has long been seen as a potential target for larger businesses looking to expand their reach in online drug sales, including Amazon and Walmart.

While innovative, it is not necessarily a major player in the pharmacy world, bringing in about $100 million in revenue in 2017, according to the company.

“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

One Less Visit to the Vet

Fuzzy Pet Health mobile app, a subscription vet care service providing in-home vet visits to subscribers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, is now offering Fuzzy Pet Health Connect, a telemedicine vet care plan for $10 a month. This new feature provides access to veterinarians directly from your phone, any time you need immediate medical advice, expert recommendations or behavioral tips. All you need to do is send a text, picture or video with your questions and concerns, which allows your to skip an unnecessary visit. However, if the problem requires an in-person visit, the vet will recommend it. Though, 80% of the time when people think there’s an emergency issue, it’s not actually critical.

‘Unfortunately, laws in most states won’t allow for diagnosis and medications to be subscribed over telehealth services when it comes to pets — a bit unusual, given that people now have access to a variety of video chat doctors-on-demand offerings.’ Right now only Washington D.C., Alaska, Connecticut, and Canada allow vets to diagnose and prescribe digitally. However, laws are starting to change.

Why It’s Hot: 

Nobody likes being stressed or worried about whether they are making the right choices when it comes to someone else’s health and in most cases when a concern arises, the owner will either be brought down by worry or take an unnecessary trip to the vet. This is why the ability to quickly ask a professional and rely on their advice is such a great solution – especially if it stays at such a low cost. The average pet parent goes to the vet only 1.6 times a year, while the members of Fuzzy Pet Health Connect get in touch with the vets roughly once a month, which shows that owners have constant questions. Fuzzy Pet Health Center not only puts the owner at ease but saves times and maybe even lives.

Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/fuzzy-pet-health-launches-a-2410-per-month-telemedicine-vet-care-plan/ar-AAzfnnY#image=

Theater with an AR Twist

This week, his Israeli startup, ARShow, announced the launch of a new AR platform and operating system aimed specifically at theaters. The system allows theater producers to incorporate fantastical AR elements and characters into live shows, creating visually stimulating group experiences that are part stage play, part 3D movie.

“This is the ideal tool we’ve been waiting for,” theater artist, Sasha Kreindlin says. “It’s not a 2D projection behind the actor, but it’s 3D objects in the virtual space. The entire venue is my platform.”

Theaters have been experimenting with AR for a while now, but the technology usually requires audience members to peer through their smartphones to see the AR elements. ARShow goes a step further, equipping each audience member with an AR headset and integrating the operating system into the theater’s sound system, lighting, and projector. The live actors on stage use monitors to help them seamlessly interact with the show’s AR components.

Kreindlin says he’d like to debut the system on a mid-size stage off-Broadway, and would ultimately like to move to a larger Broadway venue. That might prove to be tougher than it sounds. Broadway producers are notoriously risk-averse, and most shows already don’t earn a profit, even without the added production expense of retrofitting a theater with unfamiliar technology.

Why its hot

Technology like this might be enough to get non-theater goes to try out a show, but it’ll probably be too off putting to the theater junkies in cities like New York. If it actually hit the big time, like a serious Broadway production, it would go a long way toward proving its value.

Huge and Amazon Hosted a Hackathon at Cannes Focused on International Issues

Several teams from agencies spent Tuesday and Wednesday participating in a “change for good” hackathon. The competition—organized by Huge, Amazon and the international advocacy group Global Citizen—aimed to raise awareness for international issues while also creating a platform for teams to develop ideas on the ground to become real products and services benefiting people around the world.

While ideas submitted included a way to assist Alzheimer’s patients in remembering daily routines, a “smart buoy” to test water quality and an interactive podcast, the winning submission focused on helping women arrive home safely at night. The concept, titled “Walk With Me,” uses Amazon Alexa to create the “first female AI bodyguard.” (The team cites the root word for Alexa, Alexandros, which means “defender of man.”)

Why It’s Hot

This is a platform that can be used to end poverty and hunger, improve health, promote gender equality and gain access to clean water.

Instagram Makes New Moves

Instagram announced Wednesday its plans to increase the time limit for video posts in an effort to pull users from its competitor, YouTube.

Currently, Instagram’s time limit for video posts is one minute, but the plans are to bump that up to 10 minutes. For accounts that get a larger following, like Kim Kardashian, videos will be able to go for a full hour. These could be viewed either through Instagram or the IGTV app.

YouTube is currently the top video app. According to Pew Research Center, 72% of US teens age 13-17 use Instagram vs the 85% that use YouTube.

Why it’s hot:

  • Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, will have more opportunity to sell ADVERTISING!
  • Facebook is lacking on the younger age demographic and this might help them out.
  • Celebrity promoters have more of an opportunity.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jun/20/instagram-long-form-video-launch-youtube-rival

Co Founder and CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom announces new app in San Francisco

Facebook groups may soon be able to charge monthly subscription fees for access

Facebook announced they are piloting a program to allow group administrators to start charging $4.99 to $29.99 a month for exclusive membership to their groups. The types of groups that will be involved in the initial testing are parenting, cooking, and home cleaning groups. Facebook will select a few of them to take part in the program.

Group admins have been looking for a way to earn money to deepen engagement with their members. Last year, Facebook helped set up a program to support video creators on their platform, and they believe supporting group administrators will lead to higher quality content overall. Participating consumers will enjoy the exclusivity of membership, but it may drive existing members away. At the moment, Facebook will not receive a cut of the subscription revenue, but that may change as the program advances.

Why it’s Hot:

Facebook will try to replicate the success of platforms like YouTube and Twitch who pay their creators to create good content. But it will be interesting to see if existing members will welcome a fee if their administrators decide to go forward with it.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/20/17484876/facebook-groups-monthly-subscription-service-fees-access

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

Google’s AI Can Predict When A Patient Will Die

Article here via Futurism…

“A new paper published in Nature suggests that feeding electronic health record data to a deep learning model could substantially improve the accuracy of projected outcomes. In trials using data from two U.S. hospitals, researchers were able to show that these algorithms could predict a patient’s length of stay and time of discharge, but also the time of death.

The neural network described in the study uses an immense amount of data, such as a patient’s vitals and medical history, to make its predictions. A new algorithm lines up previous events of each patient’s records into a timeline, which allowed the deep learning model to pinpoint future outcomes, including time of death. The neural network even includes handwritten notes, comments, and scribbles on old charts to make its predictions. And all of these calculations in record time, of course.”

Why It’s Hot

What if we could use this technology to help drive patient identification (a key goal across GSK respiratory)? By syncing with EHR’s, HCPs would be able to identify the frequent exacerbators, pinpoint when their next exerbation may be and take preventative steps to avoid potentially deadly COPD or Severe Asthma exacerbations.