Spicing up Zoom with Farm Animals

Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary in California is putting their animals to work, but not how you’d imagine. For less than $100 one of their many goats, llamas, and other farm animals can join your Zoom meeting.

goat 2 meeting farm animals zoomFeatured guest, bottom row, middle. Source: Business Insider

The project, called Goat 2 Meeting which launched last week is aimed at making up for lost revenue due to Covid-19 lockdown orders. Since launching last month, the farm has fielded more than 300 requests for animal appearances and virtual field trips for corporate meetings and work happy hours.

People can pay anywhere from $65 to $250 for various interactions with the animals, which include goats, sheep, pigs, cows, turkeys, and llamas — by far the most popular choice. For $65, you get a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants. For a bigger meeting, you can pay $100 for a 10-minute animal cameo or $250 for a 25-minute virtual tour.

Aside from paid cameos, Sweet Farm also offers virtual field trips for nonprofits and schools for free.

Why It’s Hot: As lockdown orders extend, businesses are having to find innovative projects and offerings to supplement lost revenue.

Shopify pairs up with Careletton University to offer a 4-year-degree with paid 4,500 hours of Shopify experience. Splitting time between 3 courses that all together are 25 hour a week, and time at work.

Students in this program aren’t guaranteed a job at Shopify and aren’t required to accept a job with them.

First graduates of this program will be during the Covid pandemic.

“According to a recent study, 74% of K-12 parents said they would prefer their child found work directly out of high school with an employer that offered a college degree while on the job. Other studies also suggest that American employers have a strong preference for graduates with hands-on experience.”

Why its hot:

School is teaching+time. We have more time, with online sources and schools shutting down and moving online, what makes their material better than what you’d find on places like Pluralsight, and codecamps like this one?  Will the pandemic further diminish the importance of traditional schooling?

Then will this trickle into a more fluid economy. Millenials already switch jobs every 2 years or so, what about switching careers every 2 years or so?

Will schools partner up with brands to create the perfect candidate for their positions?

Source

Help NASA map coral reefs from home

Coral reefs are shrinking. That’s bad news for wildlife. Millions of species call coral reefs their homes, and coral itself is a cluster of tiny aquatic animals. And it’s bad news for humans, too — scientists’ analyses of organisms in and around coral have contributed to breakthroughs in a variety of medical treatments. NASA has taken some of its technology originally meant to photograph stars and adapted it for studying the ocean — but it needs the public’s help in sorting through the data. The agency created a game in which players analyze 3D images to spot and categorize coral reefs, and those actions train NASA’s supercomputer to eventually do the same.

The game, NeMO-Net, uses photos from NASA’s imaging equipment, which it has deployed on drones and aircraft. These “fluid-lensing” cameras compensate for the optical distortions created by the ripples and waves of water over coral reefs, creating a clearer image. Players learn about different kinds of coral and then point out where they see the reefs in the 3D renderings. As more people play, the more the supercomputer’s neural network learns. Eventually, it should be able to sort through the photos itself, with no need for human assistance.

As threatened ecosystems, it’s important that scientists gain a more thorough understanding of coral reefs. By creating a map of the reefs, scientists will hopefully be able to find a way to preserve them, despite the damage done by rising ocean temperatures, pollution and other detriments. Kids and adults alike can help out by playing NeMO-Net, which is currently available on iOS and Mac, and will be coming to Android in the future.

Why it’s hot:

It’s not just exciting that we can train AI to help us save coral reefs – with most of the country effectively in lock down, this is a perfect time to put that cooped up energy to productive use.

Source

“Revenge Pollution?” or COVID-19 Resurgence?

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2020/03/all-the-ways-coronavirus-is-stopping-climate-change-in-its-tracks.html

The article highlights the ways in which lock-downs have positively impacted the climate.  Additionally, the article highlights that sustainability of these positive impacts is not likely, and that there may even be a burst of “revenge pollution” in the back half of the year as countries resume activities and attempt to revive the economy.

According to WHO:  “ambient (outdoor air pollution) is a major cause of death and disease globally…in children and adults, both short- and long-term exposure to ambient air pollution can lead to reduced lung function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma.”

Post COVID-19 recovery scenarios that do not also mandate reductions in ambient air pollution may inadvertently cause a “revenge pollution” scenario that could lead to a rapid rise in respiratory symptoms and illnesses that are associated with both ambient air pollution and active COVID-19 illness, but may be caused by a sudden rise in ambient air pollution.

This could lead to multiple undesirable social impacts, including: a 2nd round of panic, finger pointing, confusion, continued xenophobia, unnecessary lock-downs or requests to isolate, fear-of-COVID-19 stigma toward anyone with any respiratory symptoms, distrust that COVID-19 is retreating, a run on respiratory or therapeutic products that treat related respiratory illnesses, and a rise in requests for COVID-19 testing to rule the virus in or out.

And they said video games wouldn’t prepare you for real life

With sports suspended around the world, including all major sports in the U.S., fans have no live games to watch. At least none involving actual humans.

On Tuesday, the New York Mets, a semi-professional baseball team, had their play-by-play announcers calling a game – a video game.

https://twitter.com/SNYtv/status/1247675727866200069?s=19

If you shut your eyes, or drank enough, it was as great as any real game. The trio, Ron Darling, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Cohen, called the game between the Houston Astros and New York Mets on the recently released MLB The Show 20.

For sports fans, the biggest challenge to staying inside is a lack of anything NEW to watch. Sports channels are rebroadcasting old and classic games, but there isn’t anything people haven’t seen before.

I haven’t noticed other teams doing the same thing as the Mets have, but eSports and streaming platforms like Twitch are having a major moment, as viewers starved for competition and something to root for, have flocked to the platform.

A Finnish Hockey League, together with esports platform Telia, is launching video game hockey playoffs with a full TV broadcast.

Why its hot

Staying inside? Avoiding people? Playing video games. I’ve been training for this my whole life.

It will be interesting to see if there are any lasting effects for the popularity of streaming video games and esports once life returns to normal. How will these platforms keep people once there are actual humans playing sports again? Will they even try or will enough fans stay around, having found an interest in it.

 

 

He built an A.I. Clone to Attend Zoom Meetings for Him

Click on the picture above or here to see video

 


The phrase Zoom meeting has been uttered countlessly over the past few weeks, as businesses around the world have turned to the video conferencing app to connect for meetings. Indeed, a number of folks we’ve queried in our #WFH Diaries series have reported being on Zoom essentially all day long.

Throw in some Zoom happy hours, and Zoom wine nights, and Zoom card games, and it can be a bit much. Matt Reed, a creative technologist at Redpepper in Nashville, was certainly feeling the strain, anyway.

“My number of Zoom meetings has gone through the mesosphere and is currently on Mars,” Reed writes on his agency’s blog. “There’s barely even time for bio-breaks, Reddit, or actually getting work done. It’s as if Zoom has turned into the Oasis from Ready Player One, where everyone spends every waking hour of their day inside.”

So, Reed flexed his creative tech chops and came up with an amusing solution. He built a digital A.I.-powered twin of himself, named Zoombot, and had the clone show up for the Zoom meetings in his place.

Zoombot uses advanced A.I. speech recognition and text-to-speech tools to actually respond to other people in the meetings. Also, Reed didn’t warn his colleagues he was doing this—and their reactions in the video are priceless.

Why it’s hot?
Way to break the break the endless monotony of video calls using your digital twin. And the best part is that Reed is spending all the free time “making that coffee whip stuff everybody is making,” he reveals. “Stuff is delicious.”

 

Source: musebycl.io

 

 

Quarantine can’t keep Thao & The Get Down Stay Down down

From The Verge (emphasis mine):

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Oakland-based band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down had a problem. Their plan to shoot a music video for their single “Phenom” was abruptly canceled as shelter-in-place orders rolled in. The band, crew, and dancers could no longer meet up in person, and they were faced with a decision: put everything on hold or figure out a way to make the music video remotely. “At first we didn’t know if we would even release the song because it’s about people unifying,” Thao tells The Verge. “So it was never an option for me to shoot the video solo.” But then her manager had an idea. What if they shot the music video entirely within Zoom?

Featuring Thao alongside eight dancers, the “Phenom” video went from concept to completion within a week. There was one pre-production meeting, one five-hour rehearsal, and one shoot day, all of which took place on Zoom. “If we were going to do such a thing and commit to it,” says Thao, “we had to do it really quickly because it is so of the moment.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s cool to see creative people using the medium of the moment (video conferencing) to create art in a short amount of time. It goes to show that what’s most important is not having the highest production value, but connecting with your audience.

Using Zoom as a medium places the viewer in emotional proximity to the band, making them relatable, but the creative approach to choreography within the Zoom frames heightens the medium from mere communication to the level of art.

Source: The Verge

Stay at Home – But Make It Art

With people having to stay home and non-essential business being closed down, popular IRL experiences, museums, etc. aren’t in business. One museum, in particular, the Getty Museum, is engaging with their audience through a challenge they created on Twitter.

The Getty Museum challenged people to recreate a work of art using only people and/or objects found around their homes – and a lot of people accepted.

Why It’s Hot:

This is a great way to engage the community and create a “brand experience” from home. The Getty Museum is definitely considered high end and this is a great way to engage and give everyone the opportunity to be a part of something.

Source

A new voice injects some action into the democratic party persona

Apparently this ad came out in September, but I was just served it on Instagram a couple of days ago, and it’s just plain fun.

Most political ads are easy to ignore, but not this one. It plays like a trailer for an action movie, and only at the end do we discover that Valerie Plame is a democrat running for Congress. It piques the viewers interest first, eschewing the common tendencies of both tuning out political ads and of ignoring messages from outside one’s political cohort.

Why it’s hot:

1. Democrats have a huge messaging problem. They’ve long been criticized for being kind of lame and generally unable to inspire voter turnout, which is the main thing they need to do in order to win elections. Valerie Plame is bringing a new edginess to the party.

2. Congressional races have entered the national stage. As Democrats are looking to turn Congress more blue to combat a nearly inevitable Trump win, democratic candidates are hoping to appeal not just to their future constituents, but to the country as a whole, to fund their campaigns. To do so, this ad focuses on key national political issues (“national security, health care, and women’s rights”) and takes direct aim at Trump.

Brands Gonna Brand: Social Distancing Edition

There haven’t been too many epic brand fails during Coronavirus so far, but we do some some competition.

With social distancing on everyone’s mind these days, someone had to ask: How can my brand weigh in on the topic? If you are a healthcare company, like Cigna, or you’re in high demand, like Lysol, maybe you do have a reason to weigh in.

But if you sell cars or sandwiches, maybe sit this one out. But no…brands gotta brand!

Gotta stay top of mind even if no one wants to buy your products!

American/multinational companies are re-organizing their operations to fight Covid-19

Why it’s hot: Not only are many companies donating money to governments and non-profits, but they are using their existing manufacturing infrastructure to manufacture essential supplies that healthcare workers and hospitals need and are in short supply.

Non-healthcare manufacturers (auto companies) are manufacturing ventilators and apparel and fashion companies (clothing/footwear) are manufacturing masks and hospital gowns.

These are great examples of large companies re-orienting their business to support people at large in times of a global crisis.

Animal Crossing: Trouble in Paradise

It has been said that the release of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing game, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”, was perfectly timed.

With the world outside uncertain and scary, the soothing music and free game play of Animal Crossing–a franchise where players design and build their own digital islands and then invite friends to visit–is said to be the perfect soothing and social antidote.

Sales appear to back this up, with millions of units sold in its first days of release, putting it on track to sell more than any other game in the popular franchise. Further, there have been heartwarming stories of people putting real life events into the game, like the couple that had their wedding ceremony on the platform. (See pic below)

There is one problem. Unless customers are willing to buy separate Nintendo systems or games, they must share the virtual world–and its limited resources for building their islands–with other players. This has led to family fights, and relationship management, like one couple who decided to separate their island with a river in order to insure that each has control of their own portion.

Why it’s hot: 

Increase in at-home entertainment like video games is to be expected as the world hunkers down to face the coronavirus pandemic. What is less expected are the new problems these changing behaviors create.

 

Covid-19 is no joke on April Fool’s Day

This is the date on which most of us log onto cyberspace searching for roundups of the best April Fool’s Day gags from our favorite brands. It’s usually hit-and-miss but there’s always a handful that capture our imaginations and make us laugh a little.

Not surprisingly, the global Covid-19 pandemic has forced brands to cancel their pranks in 2020 out of respect for the seriousness of the situation.  What *is* surprisingly is the reaction from the very content creators that are usually tasked with coming up with great April Fools ideas: apparently they hate this day. And, they came out of the woodwork to tell us so:


Story on Poynter

Story on AdAge

Story on Slate

Why It’s Hot

It’s interesting to see how much loathing marketers have for the pranks that have become such a brand necessity. Is this the end of April Fool’s Day brand content forever? Or just another way to say “2020 sucks”?

Bot Buddies to Boost Your Mood

Social distancing got you down? Get your dopamine fix with Botnet.The social media network made up of millions of bots programmed to shower you with flattery and positive, supportive messages.


Botnet

Not only does Botnet serve as an ego booster, it also doubles as a journal of sorts. The app gives users access to a searchable library of their posts.

It has only been online since late last year, and with only 30 reviews in the app store it’s not really a blip on anyone’s radar. But, with Covid-19 social distancing seeming like it’s not going away any time soon, it may just be the type of emotional support people are searching for.

Ignoring the need for connection at this time is not an option. Research suggests that the majority of individuals today lack sufficient social connection. This connection deficit may exacerbate the negative effects of stress and diminish physical and emotional resilience that people will need to fight the COVID-19 virus.
Source: https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/03/covid-19-coinciding-loneliness-epidemic/164153/

 

Disclaimer: As with all things online, not to be used as a substitute for IRL relationships.

Why it’s hot: As social distancing measures become the new normal and the long term effects of loneliness start to take their toll, people will be looking for new tools and systems to help them emotionally cope.

Your phone uses as much energy as a refrigerator annually.

That’s if you add up the wireless connection, data usage, and battery charging.

Which is the interesting fact I learned while looking into Back Market’s new tool CO2NSCIOUS. Backmarket is an online marketplace selling refurbished and electronic devices like smartphones and created something that would allow you to harness a few energy hacking tools.

First, there are a few types of energy that goes into anything you plug in.

Coal, Gas, Wind and Hydraulic.

A combination of them goes into charging at any given time. With CO2NSCIOUS, they are able to show you real time which ones you would be using to juice up, by analyzing global energy sets. Then they’re able to recommend times that would be most CO2 friendly.

 

Source

Why It’s Hot:

An interesting way to bring 2 ideas together. People who are buying refurbished are maybe more environmentally friendly.

I also think it might have an added benefit of being more conscious of how much you are using your phone. And inserting BackMarket into your awareness.

There goes the Internet…

What does this remind you of?

As a wave of stay-at-home orders rolled out across the United States, the average time it took to download videos, emails and documents increased as broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent from the previous week, according to Ookla, a broadband speed testing service. Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose, Calif., and 24 percent in New York, according to Broadband Now, a consumer broadband research site.

Quarantines around the world have made people more reliant on the internet to communicate, work, learn and stay entertained. But as the use of YouTube, Netflix, Zoom videoconferencing, Facebook calls and videogaming has surged to new highs, the stress on internet infrastructure is starting to show in Europe and the United States — and the traffic is probably far from its peak.

  • In the United States, regulators have given wireless carriers access to more spectrum to bolster the capacity of their networks.
  • YouTube said this week that it would reduce the quality of its videos from high to standard definition across the globe.
  • Disney delayed the start of its Disney Plus streaming service in France by two weeks.
  • Microsoft’s Xbox asked gaming companies to introduce online updates and new releases only at certain times to prevent network congestion.

“We really don’t know how long we’re going to be in this mode for”
Dave Temkin, Netflix’s vice president of network and systems infrastructure

 

“In just two days we grew all the traffic we had planned for 2020”

Enrique Blanco, the chief technology officer at Telefónica

 


Why it’s hot:

Necessity is the mother of invention. As the situation evolves, I wonder what kind of “light” services could be born out of the need of reduced internet latency? How will this change our approach to cloud infrastructure—a Home Edge Infrastructure of sorts?

The pros and cons of population density in general and in times of disaster

Image result for dense city street new york

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York was blunt about the rationale behind this time of quarantine.

“There is a density level in NYC that is destructive,” he tweeted Sunday, after similar comments at one of his daily press briefings. He’d seen New Yorkers out in parks together, behaving as if this were a normal sunny spring weekend, and he was dismayed. Togetherness itself could now be deadly.

“It has to stop and it has to stop now,” he tweeted. “NYC must develop an immediate plan to reduce density.”

This has been an especially painful realization in major cities: The very thing that makes cities remarkable — the proximity of so many people to one another — is now making them susceptible in a pandemic. Density, suddenly, is bad for our health. And we are trying everything we can think of to dismantle it.

Special grocery store hours for older people — those are about reducing density. Closed schools and dispersed children — the same.

 

Telework is the least dense version of office life; takeout the least dense way to eat someone else’s cooking. Governor Cuomo has even suggested opening roads normally reserved for cars to pedestrian traffic. An empty street is the least dense way to walk somewhere, even in a seemingly empty city.

What feels so disconcerting about this is not just that density normally brings urban perks — diverse restaurants, rich cultural institutions, new business ideas — that we can’t enjoy right now. Even more than that, density, in the right conditions, is good for us. It even protects against other kinds of calamities.

Density makes mass transit possible. It allows for more affordable housing. It creates environments where people can walk and where children can find playgrounds. It enables us to pool risks. It supports big public hospitals and stronger safety nets. It allows us to curb climate emissions, which present a public health problem of an entirely different kind.

Crucially, it enables the kind of redundancies that make communities more resilient during disasters.

How, then, do we reconcile the benefits of density for a healthy society with the threat of density in a pandemic? And what happens if we lose sight of those benefits — including the ways they are operating even now — while we are preoccupied by the harm?

Since the 1990s, researchers and planners have increasingly come to argue that dense urban environments, derided historically as diseased, can actually foster health. They don’t mean overcrowded tenements, but places where people live close enough to one another to walk where they need to go and to support one another. Such environments offer an alternative to sedentary, car-dependent sprawl, an antidote to growing health problems like obesity.

“This does feel like something that’s going to set all of that back a little bit,” said Sara Jensen Carr, a professor of architecture, urbanism and landscape at Northeastern University. She is working on a book, due out this fall, looking at how urban landscapes have been designed in response to epidemics, from cholera to obesity.

Cholera outbreaks helped lead to the design of modern sanitation systems. Respiratory diseases in the early 20th century encouraged city dwellers to prize light and air, and something that looked more like country living. Now Ms. Carr worries that the coronavirus may teach people to further fear density, even in the form of new housing proposed nearby.

But if the earlier history of American cities is full of public-health horror stories about substandard housing, factory pollution and poor sanitation, more recent history tells of the health and resiliency density can provide.

In practical ways, density makes possible many of the things we need when something goes wrong. That is certainly true of hospital infrastructure — emergency response times are faster, and hospitals are better staffed in denser places. When one store is closed or out of toilet paper, there are more places to look. When people can’t leave home for essentials, there are alternative ways to get them, like grocery delivery services or bike couriers. When people can’t visit public spaces, there are still ways to create public life, from balconies, porches and windows.

When New York’s subways were inundated during Hurricane Sandy, the city could lean on its bus system (made possible by density). And now that the buses seem off-limits, the city’s bike-share system offers backup (that also exists thanks to density). When all else fails or floods or shuts down, walking is still possible in New York and Washington, San Francisco and Seattle. And many of the things people need are close enough to walk to.

Atlanta illustrated the opposite lesson in 2014, when two inches of snow brought the entire region to a standstill, trapping tens of thousands of people in highway gridlock, some for 12 hours or more. The region, critics pointed out, had for decades failed to invest in a transit system that could have offered an alternative to those highways — and in the density that could make transit viable and highways less essential.

Hurricane Katrina survivors displaced to more walkable communities around the country later showed signs of health benefits. Older Chicago residents in the 1995 heat wave were more likely to survive in neighborhoods dense with neighbors, stores, public spaces and street life.

“Dense social networks in communities save people,” said Jacob Remes, a historian at N.Y.U. who has studied urban disasters. “That’s what makes communities resilient, and it’s what then helps communities recover.”

But it’s unclear how we’re supposed to leverage all those dense connections this time.

“What does that look like when the thing we have to do is stay apart from each other, when what we need to do is further isolate ourselves?” Mr. Remes said. “I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is.”

One hopeful note is that Singapore, Hong Kong and parts of Taiwan, places as dense or denser than New York, were able to pursue early testing and extensive tracing of coronavirus cases rather than widespread isolation.

Mr. Remes, Ms. Carr and others are also sure of this: It will be a shame if we come away from this moment skeptical of density itself, or if some of the benefits of density, like mass transit and bustling commercial corridors, suffer lasting damage. Whether or not we fully appreciate them right now, we may need them in the next disaster.

Why it’s hot: Will there be a move away from walk-able neighborhoods and dense cities for businesses and young people in the post Covid-19 world? Will there be greater migration into suburbs for both businesses and people? Will this affect housing, building, and transportation patterns in the years to come?

Source: New York Times

Furloughed Sports Commentator Makes the Mundane Competitive

Nick Heath, a rugby announcer from London has recently been put out of a job. Yes, the novel coronavirus has put a temporary end to sports and an end to the career of an announcer. But an announcers job is never done..

Nick’s twitter has obtained viral fame as he narrates the doldrums of London.

Here’s Nick’s origin story.

https://twitter.com/nickheathsport/status/1240629937117298688

Why It’s Hot?

People are looking for a moment of levity and everyone wants to feel useful! Which ways are laid off jobs a perfect fit for a current cultural need.

 

Tech-forward restaurant designs open-source take-out “airlock” to protect workers

The San Fransisco tech-forward restaurant Creator has made their new airlock system (for providing take-out orders during the coronavirus crisis) open source for any other businesses that need to protect their workers from the many possibly infected people coming to their locations.

Makezine:

The chamber is pressurized by a Sanyo Denki 24-volt 65CFM blower regulated by simple LM317 voltage regulator circuit. The conveyor belt feeds itself through a 5 gallon bucket of quaternary sanitizing solution. Customers can order through an intercom, and their takeaway bags are heat-sealed and labeled with a tamperproof sticker just to be extra super sanitary.

Fast Company:

“Retail workers are on the front lines, exposed to hundreds of strangers every day in enclosed spaces,” says Creator founder Alex Vardakostas. “If retail workers fall ill, they are in turn at risk of infecting delivery workers and customers. We can’t restart the economy until retail and restaurant workers are protected. They’re some of the most important people to keep virus-free.”

This falls directly in Creator’s wheelhouse, as they are known for being the first to automate the making of a fully prepared burger with the beautiful machine above. Fast-moving innovations like the airlock promote the restaurant brand as a function of doing good for their workers, which is of such concern with service workers right now, and gives customers more piece of mind as they look for safe places to procure food and have a sense of normalcy in these difficult times.

Fast Company:

The restaurant’s team has unusual engineering skills—when Creator opened in 2018, it became the first in the world to make fully prepared burgers with a robot that handles everything from slicing the bun and cooking the patty to chopping up onions and tomatoes. For customers in the current pandemic, there’s some added comfort in the fact that the process minimizes human contact; the machine even packages each burger itself. But the storefront still needs staff to get the food to customers waiting to pick it up, and last week, engineers and fabricators set to work on the new airlock-like window.

Why it’s hot:

1. The world needs fast-moving innovation right now, and there’s nothing like giving your innovation away for free to garner media recognition and positive public sentiment. The earned media from their design and their gesture will pique the interest of many, who will discover even cooler offerings coming out of the brand’s innovative approach — like a $6 gourmet burger in San Fransisco.

2. Making this design open-source may help other restaurants move quickly to implement solutions that work for them — but it mostly promotes the brand as being next-level, and getting it hyped in publications like Fast Company.

What IP do brands have that could function in a similar way, helping the public in a way that shows off their unique offerings or abilities (instead of donating money), while garnering positive sentiment and media attention?

Source: Fast Company, Makezine

Wes Anderson’s characters always practice social distancing

A new video from UK movie magazine Little White Lies reveals how Anderson’s characters have been practicing social distancing from the beginning. The two-and-a-half minute clip draws from the director’s entire filmography to show how his characters are often kept apart, even when they’re together. Sometimes, it’s a depth-of-field trick, with one character close to the camera and another one further back and thus relatively tiny. Other times, it’s a tracking shot of characters moving along on the same path, each at his or her own pace. While it would be a reach to suggest Anderson actually anticipated that it would one day become standard hygienic praxis to maintain six-feet of distance at all times, the director’s visual depiction of isolation sure looks prescient at the moment.

Why it’s hot: Making light of the grim situation at the moment, we are given a new perspective at beloved favorites such as Wes Anderson movies.

Source: FastCo

Laid off airline staff fast tracked into healthcare system

Image result for scandinavian airline sas

Last week, it was announced that staff who have been temporarily laid off from Scandinavian airline SAS will be offered fast-track training as healthcare workers. SAS has laid off more than 10,000 staff due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation will fund fast-track healthcare training for those staff, so that they can support the Swedish healthcare system.

The course will be free for attendees, who will be trained in providing information to patients and their families, sterilising equipment, and basic administrative duties.

Why it’s Hot: In the current situation, we are seeing vast sectors of the economy lose their jobs or their income- while other areas are seeing a severe shortage of workers (healthcare, grocery, etc). In the healthcare industry, workers are now understaffed and overworked. So much so, many healthcare workers who have retired are being requested to join the fight against this pandemic. This is a great example of retraining a workforce to serve the current need while making sure they are not affected economically because of the loss of their jobs.

Allbirds donates to healthcare workers

On Friday, Allbirds posted a message ton its Instagram saying the brand would gift its signature Wool Runners to medical professionals working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and inviting them to get in touch.

On Monday, founders Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger shared a second update, in the form of a letter to its audience. “We’ve been completely blown away by the response to our U.S. healthcare donation last week,” they wrote. “Our team has been working overtime to get back to all of the requests, and we’ve distributed $500,000 in shoes since Friday.”

Allbirds has since introduced a “buy-one-give-one” option to U.S.-based shoppers: Purchase its shoes online, and the brand will split the cost of donating a pair of Wool Runners to a healthcare professional who could use them; you can also choose to donate a pair at checkout.

Why it’s hot: 

From their sustainable products to open sourcing their sustainable formulas, Allbirds has built a name for themselves as a philanthropic company looking to better the world. This effort is a natural extension of that mission and is something that will increase brand affinity for the future.

Source

 

Gamers Join the Fight Against Corona

NVIDIA, inventor of the GPU, which creates interactive graphics is calling for gamers to lend pare computing power from their graphic processing units (GPUs) to support scientific research on Corona Virus.

By downloading the folding@home app,participating users can decide when to share or turn off sharing of their GPU’s. Able to carry out massive computing tasks, such as those required during research as complicated as drug and virus simulations, idle GPUs could come in handy in the battle against Covid-19.

The more data that is generated around the virus (think genome analysis) the more analysis becomes the bottleneck in both time and cost perspectives. Having the extra processing power will come in handy.

Source: ForbesNVIDIA

Why it’s hot: Businesses of all sorts and sizes are being forced to pivot, this is a good example of how businesses can leverage unused resources to fight the corona virus.  

On Facebook, usage is way up but ad spend is down

According to Facebook, over the last few weeks, it’s seen:

  • Total messaging increases of more than 50%, across both WhatsApp and Messenger
  • An increase of 70% in Messenger group video calls, and more than double the regular demand for video calls in WhatsApp
  • Overall U.S. traffic from Facebook to other websites has increased by more than 50% week-on-week

But while engagement is up, ad spending is down as brands cancel campaigns, put temporary holds on media spending, or pivot to other channels, according to Social Media Today.

Why it’s hot: Coronavirus news has dominated the headlines and many social feeds, but conversation and engagement on social platforms goes well beyond sharing news. Entertainers, parents and others have found ways to use social media features to their advantage, hosting live comedy events, performing music, and reading books to kids stuck at home during the lockdown. Brands should take note of all the creativity happening out there, and use this opportunity to try out new forms of authentic communication that may adapt to support a paid social strategy made for the post-pandemic landscape.

Unlocking the secret to perfect wok-tossed fried rice

Wok tossing has long been suspected of causing the high shoulder injury rate among Chinese chefs.

Fried rice is a classic dish in pretty much every Chinese restaurant, and the strenuous process of tossing the rice in a wok over high heat is key to producing the perfect final product. There’s always chemistry involved in cooking, but there’s also a fair amount of physics. Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have devised a model for the kinematics of wok-tossing to explain how it produces fried rice that is nicely browned but not burnt. They described their work in a recent paper published in the Journal of the Royal Society: Interface.

This work hails from David Hu’s lab at Georgia Tech, known for investigating such diverse phenomena as the collective behavior of fire ants, water striders, snakes, various climbing insects, mosquitos, the unique properties of cat tongues, and animal bodily functions like urination and defecation—including a 2019 Ig Nobel Prize-winning study on why wombats produce cubed poo. Hu and his graduate student, Hungtang Ko—also a co-author on a 2019 paper on the physics of how fire ants band together to build rafts—discovered they shared a common interest in the physics of cooking, particularly Chinese stir-fry.

Hu and Ko chose to focus their investigation on fried rice (or “scattered golden rice”), a classic dish dating back some 1,500 years. According to the authors, tossing the ingredients in the wok while stir-frying ensures that the dish is browned but not burned. Something about this cooking process creates the so-called “Maillard reaction”: the chemical interaction of amino acids and carbohydrates subjected to high heat that is responsible for the browning of meats, for instance.

But woks are heavy, and the constant tossing can take its toll on Chinese chefs, some 64 percent of whom report chronic shoulder pain, among other ailments. Hu and Ko thought that a better understanding of the underlying kinematics of the process might one day lead to fewer wok-related injuries for chefs.

In the summers of 2018 and 2019, Ko and Hu filmed five chefs from stir-fry restaurants in Taiwan and China cooking fried rice and then extracted frequency data from that footage. (They had to explain to patrons that the recording was for science and that they were not making a television show.) It typically takes about two minutes to prepare the dish, including sporadic wok-tossing—some 276 tossing cycles in all, each lasting about one-third of a second.

Ko and Hu presented preliminary results of their experiments at a 2018 meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, publishing the complete analysis in this latest paper. They were able to model the wok’s motion with just two variables, akin to a two-link pendulum, since chefs typically don’t lift the wok off the stove, maintaining “a single sliding point of contact,” they wrote. Their model predicted the trajectory of the rice based on projectile motion, using three metrics: the proportion of the rice being tossed, how high it was tossed, and its angular displacement.

The authors found two distinct stages of wok-tossing: pushing the wok forward and rotating it clockwise to catch rice as it falls; and pulling the wok back while rotating it counter-clockwise to toss the rice. Essentially, the wok executes two independent motions: side to side, and a see-sawing motion where the left end moves in a clockwise circle and the right moves counterclockwise. “The key is using the stove rim as the fulcrum of the seesaw motion,” the authors wrote. Also key: the two motions share the same frequency but are slightly out of phase.

Hu compared the effect to “flipping pancakes or juggling with rice.” The trick is to ensure that the rice constantly leaves the wok, allowing it to cool a little, since the wok temperature can reach up to 1,200 degrees Celsius. That produces fried rice that is perfectly browned but not burned.

Based on their analysis, Hu and Ko recommend that chefs increase both the frequency of motion when tossing fried rice in a wok and the “phase lag” between the two distinct motions. This “may enable rice to jump further, and promote cooling and mixing.”

The mathematical model Hu and Ko developed isn’t just a fun curiosity; it should also prove useful for industrial robotic designs. One goal for the authors is to develop a wearable exoskeleton or similar device to reduce the rate of shoulder injury among Chinese chefs. But there has been interest in automating cooking since the 1950s to perform such basic functions as cutting, boiling, frying, and pancake flipping—the latter task usually relying on reinforcement learning algorithms.

There have also been attempts to automate stir-frying fried rice in large batches, with limited success. Prior robotic designs have included a rotating drum to mix ingredients, and a see-sawing wok to flip ingredients, augmented with an automated spatula. These could mix ingredients via rotation or shaking but could not toss the rice and, thus, could not produce the ideal carbonated grains. “If there was an automated way of doing this, it could be very useful [for chefs],” said Hu.

What it’s hot:

 

 

How to stop facemask hoarding


Image result for taiwan flag face masks
Image result for taiwan flag face masks
Taiwan came up with a unique alternative to fend off Chinese buyers from purchasing the face masks produced in its country for protecting themselves against the deadly coronavirus.

It printed its national flag on the facemask to ensure so that no Chinese national buys it or even steals it in case of dire need, reports said.

As the number of infections and confirmed positive cases soar in China, the Chinese purchase of the face masks rapidly began to deplete the global supply.

Why its hot?
A clever (but also cruel) way to not just stop hoarding but also test the loyalty of mainland China.

Water ATM’s in Rural India

How Piramal Sarvajal is using IoT to tackle safe drinking water issue for rural India

“Water is wealth; water is life. Without water, life would not endure, and access to freshwater and sanitation is a basic fundamental right of humans.”

Having said that, the availability of freshwater is still a significant challenge in India, especially in rural areas. According to reports, 25 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, and rural Indian women waste 700 hours annually collecting water. It is also estimated that by the year 2025, almost more than half of the urban population of India will live in water-stressed areas as this precious commodity is becoming scarce rapidly.

In this context, Piramal Sarvajal is committed to leveraging innovative technology to create easy access to safe drinking water in rural areas. Seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, Sarvajal has been working in the water space to provide clean drinking water in the far-flung rural regions of India.

Even today, three-quarters of India still drink unfiltered water, which, in turn, leads to diarrheal deaths and permanent fluorosis. To change this, Sarvajal founder Anand Shah created a program to achieve low-cost scalable solutions serving “safe water for all.”

Why it’s Hot: (In case you’re not sure if you want to read the loooong case study.) This is a really innovative convergence of technology, data and business model – aligned to solve a pervasive public health challenge, which negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Interesting perspective, as we collectively consider ways in which clients might respond to the current global public health challenge.

A Mission To Provide ‘Water For All’

Water scarcity has been a global issue; however, Piramal Sarvajal believed that the problem is multidimensional, and therefore the solutions had to be locally suited. Additionally, the voluminous nature of water, coupled with its vulnerability to contamination demanded a localised and efficient purification-cum-distribution system. While many well-intentioned NGOs have tried to implement charity-based water delivery solutions, these ventures have not proven financially sustainable over time. And therefore, the need of the hour was to apply business thinking to solve public service delivery problems.

In recent years, decentralised solutions for community-level drinking water installations have achieved significant success in creating safe water access, even in remote rural areas. Serving large enough numbers at affordable prices leads to financial sustainability while creating a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. A market-based, pay-per-use model aims to democratise drinking water access and achieve operational break-even by selling drinking water to the community at affordable prices. Piramal Sarvajal has been at the forefront of developing technologies and business practices in the safe drinking water sector that are designed to ensure sustainable solutions in both rural and urban deployment conditions. Sarvajal created a business model that operates at community levels to provide decentralised drinking water solutions to underserved communities.

Challenges

During its inception, Piramal Sarvajal had their first version of its purification unit, which had no governance-based technology involved, and all the operations were done manually. Since the initiative was bound to be a multi-location affair, distributed operations posed a severe challenge to efficiently and cost-effectively managing the project. Besides, generating sufficient demand meant breaking existing taboos around buying water by educating consumers about water-health linkages was also a challenge. Sarvajal’s team, therefore, innovated a solution that could be customised for the water contamination profile of any location with pioneering remote monitoring technology. It also invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.

The company used to charge to the franchisee, based on the volume of water purified by our unit. Although there was a mechanical flow meter installed in the unit that used to measure the volume of water purified by our unit, every month, a person had to go to the field to note down the reading from each unit. This process, therefore, used to take about two weeks to complete the round and collect the data. This manual reading process created a delay in the billing cycle. Additionally, they noticed some tampering with water meters at various locations, which indeed is a separate challenge altogether. To resolve these, Piramal Sarvajal explored applying cloud-based technology in order to create a smooth process by using sensors for the measurement of vital parameters like quantity, quality, pressure etc.

Water ATMs: Automated Water Dispensing Units

The company started its technological journey using the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with sensors and Human Machine Interface (HMI), which were attached with the PLC. “PLC-based automation has helped us in automating the unit’s operation and in remotely managing and monitoring the purification unit from our centralised location,” said Anuj Sharma, the CEO of Piramal Sarvaja. “Due to the fast-paced changes in PLC technology, we needed to update our software frequently. This triggered the design of our own, micro-controller based, control unit.”

Being the first organisation in India to develop the Water ATM, Piramal Sarvajal, operated the project in collaboration with a local entrepreneur or the local panchayat and community-based organisations to create sustainable livelihood opportunities within the chosen community. These cloud-connected and solar-powered WaterATM dispenses purified water 24×7. Villagers were issued RFID cards for collecting water, and these cards have a pre-paid balance, which can be recharged periodically as per consumption pattern. The RFID card gave the consumer the convenience of taking water anytime, anywhere across connected ATMs in a given location of flexible litres.

The IoT enabled technology installed at the purification level, ensuring the quality of every drop dispensed and supported oversight management on a real-time basis, while remotely managing locations for better governance. “The dispensing solution via Water ATM not only helps us manage and monitor user-level data but also supports targeted subsidies and variable pricing to support equitable and sustainable solutions at the last mile,” said Sharma.

The adoption of IoT technology for remote monitoring of the units helped the company in bringing transparency in operations across every transaction and ensured governance of widespread locations for both the service provider and the donor. This technology also assisted in managing the pay per use model, which, in turn, helped the consumers to pay an affordable price for clean drinking water — paying only for the service.

Operating Models

The technology that the company deployed was the Internet of Things (IoT), which required GSM/GPRS network as it acts as a backbone for communication between device and server. And, Sarvajal’s devices communicate with their centralised server over GSM/GPRS (2G) network. And ensuring that every installed unit has the availability of proper signal strength at the desired location. “Sometimes, we have noticed that even though there is a proper signal strength available at the place, still there is a delay in data exchange, which was due to the network latency,” said Sharma. And, hence, the company considered other network options like NB-IoT, which works on LTE (4G); considering its availability in most of India. The company also considered other alternate non-standard options, where telecom network is still not available, but it is under feasibility study.

Piramal Sarvajal also has enabled a technology device called Soochak, which is a remote monitoring device designed to be mounted on a commercial-scale water purification plant, to capture minute-by-minute machine status. This process works on Piramal’s technology backend, which allows the company to bring affordable, safe drinking water to underserved communities sustainably. At the same time, the touch screen of the machine easily guides the local operators on the daily functioning of the plant in the local language.

The company aimed to deploy technology at every stage — for specific parameter measurement Piramal Sarvajal have used state of the art sensors. As part of their regular preventive maintenance, these sensors are calibrated periodically so that they provide accurate data. With the help of IoT, the company gets its data from all units installed in the field, and these data are stored in their server’s database system. Also, considering the received data is large in volume; it practically wasn’t possible to do analysis manually, hence, decided to apply data analytics that provided them with meaningful information from the available data. “This helped us to know how many units are working in normal condition and how many units require attention from our maintenance team,” said Sharma. “Our devices are intelligent enough to provide real-time alerts to our operations team for any attention needed by them. Our operations team immediately acts on alerts and attends the situation.”

Application & Benefits

Sarvajal’s proprietary technology played a vital role in providing a comprehensive solution for delivering low-cost drinking water at the last mile. The various components of the technology include — water purification plants, monitoring device, the water ATM, and Sarvajal’s enterprise management system.

Sarvajal’s purification model was agnostic of the method of filtration and was utilising purification technology as per the source water. The water was getting purified through a site-designed five-step filtration process including media filtration, micron filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) filtration and UV purification. The employed proprietary technology of Sarvajal helped them in monitoring and controlling the machine operations, the source water quality, product water quality, litres produced (both rate and total), the overall health of the machine, and the amount of effluent created in the process. This real-time online monitoring enabled the company to assure a greater uptime in machine usage.

Sarvajal’s Enterprise Management System is the information processing hub of the entire company’s network of distributed installations. The SEMs receives all data sent over the cellular network for the Soochaks and Water ATMs and serves as the conduit for all operational activities within the business, such as inventory management, maintenance tracking, accounting, and asset tracking.

Additionally, the water ATM devices were solar-powered, cloud-connected, and operated automatically, which was designed to dispense water at the swipe of an RFID card. The ATMs tracked every transaction that took place, which enabled a sophisticated market forecasting and proactive multi-unit management. It also enhanced the scale of impact and optimised net investment per installation. Consequently, the ATMs established water-price transparent markets and assured 24×7 access to safe drinking water. Sarvaj’s initiative also presented an option to provide direct-targeted subsidies through government-run programs. Currently, the company is serving more than 7.30 lakhs of people daily, directly from our 1765+ touchpoints in 20 states.

While there are many players in the water space, Sharma believes, “What sets us apart is our effort of conducting community engagement activities to improve impact to increase the off-take.” Also, “Soochak throws data about machine health, so all maintenance activities are planned. Service tickets are even generated to track and also study the data generated. Our database shares information on all machines functionality at any given point in time.”

Sharma further added, “Being a technology expert in the water sector, we also aim to help the government by demonstrating the use of technology, so that the government can monitor the water supply schemes very effectively.” Sarvajal has extended the application of this model for a water pipe model too. The company partnered with the central government-run Jal Shakti mission to create a pilot model of monitoring the IoT-based water tracking mechanism at villages of Gujarat, Assam and Bihar.