“When you take a digital photo, you’re not actually shooting a photo anymore.
‘Most photos you take these days are not a photo where you click the photo and get one shot,’ said Ren Ng, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘These days it takes a burst of images and computes all of that data into a final photograph.’
Computational photography has been around for years. One of the earliest forms was HDR, for high dynamic range, which involved taking a burst of photos at different exposures and blending the best parts of them into one optimal image.
Over the last few years, more sophisticated computational photography has rapidly improved the photos taken on our phones.”
This technology is evident in Google’s Night Sight, which is capable of capturing low-light photos without a flash.
Why it’s hot:
In a world where the veracity of photographs and videos is coming into question because of digital manipulation, it’s interesting that alteration is now baked in.
Tencent Shows The Future Of Ads; Will Add Ads In Existing Movies, TV Shows
One of China’s largest online video platforms is setting out to use technology to integrate branded content into movies and TV shows from any place or era.
(Yes, a Starbucks on Tatooine…or Nike branded footwear for the first moonwalk.)
Why It’s Hot:
Potentially exponential expansion of available ad inventory
Increased targetability by interest, plus top-spin of borrowed interest
Additional revenue streams for content makers
New questions of the sanctity of creative vision, narrative intent and historical truth
Advertising is an integral part of any business and with increasing competition, it’s more important than ever to be visible. Mirriad, a computer-vision and AI-powered platform company, recently announced its partnership with Tencent which is about the change the advertising game. If you didn’t know, Tencent is one of the largest online video platforms in China. So how does it change the advertising game, you ask?
Mirriad’s technology enables advertisers to reach their target audience by integrating branded content (or ads) directly into movies and TV series. So, for instance, if an actor is holding just a regular cup of joe in a movie, this new API will enable Tencent to change that cup of coffee into a branded cup of coffee. Matthew Brennan, a speaker and a writer who specialises in analysing Tencent & WeChat shared a glimpse of how this tech works.
While we’re not sure if these ads will be clickable, it’ll still have a significant subconscious impact, if not direct. Marketers have long talked of mood marketing that builds a personal connection between the brand and the targeted user. So, with the ability to insert ads in crucial scenes and moments, advertisers will now be able to engage with their target users in a way that wasn’t possible before.
Mirriad currently has a 2-year contract with Tencent where they’ll trial exclusively on the latter’s video platform. But if trials are successful in that they don’t offer a jarring viewing experience, we can soon expect this tech to go mainstream.
Buying tickets for a Broadway show can involve a lot of unwelcome drama, so it’s not surprising that some of the theater industry’s biggest players are looking for ways to make ticket buying more secure. One possible solution to ticket fraud is blockchain technology, which has a ledger system that allows new transactions to be recorded but not erased. And now the Shubert Organization, the biggest theater operator on Broadway, is giving it a try.
The organization, through its Telecharge and Shubert Ticketing division, has teamed up with a Boston-based startup called True Tickets, which offers a mobile ticketing solution that runs on IBM’s blockchain platform. The startup was one of two companies selected to take part in this summer’s inaugural Broadway Tech Accelerator—the results of which included pilot programs aimed at refining the ideas.
True Tickets’ pilot with Shubert will begin next year and will integrate the startup’s digital ticketing service into “targeted components” of Shubert’s ticket-selling businesses, including Telecharge.com and Broadway Inbound (its group discounts service), among others. The details are a little vague, but the companies say they hope the pilot will help reduce the risk of fraud and that buyers who have tickets sent to their phones through the service can be “guaranteed” that they’re real.
Why it’s Hot:
For years we’ve been hearing about how blockchain would change the future – is the future finally here? This technology could have a huge impact on all ticketed events, providing transparency and helping to eliminate illegal reselling.
As the official sponsor of the Rugby World Cup, Mastercard set up a environment where fans experienced a “contactless tackle”. Rugby fans are brought closer to the game by experiencing the sensation of a professional tackle. This is possible with a special suit made by Teslasuit. You see a rugby player storming towards you and you have to choose between dodging or taking the hit. If you’re too late, you feel the impact via pressure made within the suit. The goal of the experience is to bring the fans closer to the action, and to encourage and inspire people to get involved with rugby ahead of the world cup in Japan.
The experience leverages VR and haptic suit by Teslasuit.
Why it’s hot
If you have ever wondered what it feels like to be tackled by a professional rugby player, this is as real as its going to get!. Plus it’s a nice way to own the conversation around contactless payment.
Ask questions and interact live with your favorite celebrity chef, such as Guy Fieri or Martha Stewart, right in your kitchen. Linked to your Amazon Prime account. Need a peeler and some limes for this recipe? Amazon will send them over.
From The Verge: “Food Network says it’s specifically modeling its classes after Peloton’s live-streaming model. Food Network is banking on the power of its personalities, and the $7 streaming fee starts to make sense when it’s viewed as an exclusive membership, giving fans the chance to interact with their favorite stars.
Netflix may get Seinfeld in 2021, and Apple TV Plus may have all of, like, 10 shows — but only Food Network Kitchen will give its users the chance to interact with Guy Fieri and ask him cooking questions live. I’m imagining it to be the equivalent of your favorite Food Network personality doing an Instagram Live, but with way better streaming quality (have you ever sat through an Instagram Live you didn’t immediately want to exit?). And maybe that alone is worth paying for.”
Why it’s hot:
Since it’s on Amazon, it’s integrated with Amazon Fresh, so you can choose a recipe you want to learn and have the ingredients delivered to your door before the class begins. Agoraphobics rejoice!
It’s live streaming, but with food celebrities. But it could be any celebrities you otherwise wouldn’t have such intimate access to, doing anything. In a world where most content is given for free, it reinforces one notion of celebrity, in that you have to pay to have access them.
CVS Health wants to help millions of American workers improve their sleep. So for the first time, the big pharmacy benefits manager is offering a purely digital therapy as a possible employee benefit.
The company is encouraging employers to cover the costs for their workers to use Sleepio, an insomnia app featuring a cartoon therapist that delivers behavior modification lessons.
CVS Health’s push could help mainstream the nascent business of digital therapeutics, which markets apps to help treat conditions like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The company recently introduced, along with Sleepio, a way for employers to cover downloads as easily as they do prescription drugs. The company said it had already evaluated about a dozen apps.
Some industry executives and researchers say the digital services should make therapy more accessible and affordable than in-person sessions with mental health professionals.
So far, the use of treatment apps has been limited. But with the backing of CVS Health, which administers prescription drug plans for nearly one-third of Americans, those therapies could quickly reach tens of millions of people. A few employers have started offering Sleepio, and more are expected to sign on this fall, CVS Health said. Like in-person therapy, the insomnia app does not require a prescription.
“We are at this pivotal moment,” said Lee Ritterband, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who has developed online health interventions for more than a decade. “For years, these have been bubbling under the surface.”
Other experts argue that online therapies may not be ready for mass adoption. In a recent study in Nature, researchers warned that most digital treatments lacked evidence of health benefits. Although first-of-their-kind medical apps that claim to treat diseases must obtain clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, health apps that make vaguer wellness claims — like better sleep — generally do not need to demonstrate effectiveness to federal regulators.
Sleepio unfolds more like a low-key, single-player video game, where the user is on a quest for better sleep, than a clinical health program. The app features an animated sleep expert with a Scottish accent, called “the Prof.” An affable but firm therapist, the bot offers people who have insomnia symptoms a series of six weekly online sessions.
“At times, you may feel like quitting or even give up, but don’t despair. This is totally normal,” the animated therapist says in the first session. “What I can tell you for sure is, if we work closely together on this, we have an excellent chance of defeating your poor sleep.”
Big Health has raised $15 million from investors including Kaiser Permanente, the California-based health system. In 2015, the start-up began selling Sleepio directly to employers, sending them aggregated data on their employees’ progress. Companies pay a fee for each employee who uses the insomnia app, but Big Health declined to disclose its pricing.
Delta Air Lines and Boston Medical Center, two of the companies that work directly with Big Health, said employees who used Sleepio reported improved sleep.
CVS Health’s rollout of Sleepio is part of its larger effort to popularize online health treatments as employee benefits. Dr. Brennan said the company planned to move forward with the apps it deemed to have solid evidence of efficacy.
“We’re doing it because we think patients are going to benefit from it,” Dr. Brennan said. “That’s an important step for physicians. That’s an important step for patients.”
We’ve seen “digital therapeutics” as an emerging trend — from health monitoring comes apps like Calm and text messaging with psychologists. But the mainstreaming of it and association with employer health plans (what data will be shared?) is interesting.
Price Kaki is an app that crowdsources and compiles the prices of daily goods sold across multiple physical retail stores in Singapore. The app enables price comparison of groceries, household items and hawker food, across outlets, thus helping shoppers make informed decisions and get value for their money. Users are invited to contribute real-time updates on prices and promotions, with the most active rewarded with e-vouchers. Developed by Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the app is inspired by e-commerce price aggregators, and aims to bring the same level of transparency and consumer empowerment to offline shopping.
Fun fact: ‘kaki’ is local Singaporean lingo for ‘buddies’ .
Why it’s hot: E-commerce is outgrowing physical retail, yet offline still dominates. As a result, businesses pursuing further growth are focusing on revolutionizing brick-and-mortar, by integrating the best aspects (like price transparency) of online retail.
For the first 10 years, Uber was more or less useless to those without a phone. But that’s finally starting to change.
Earlier this month, the ride-hailing giant rolled out a kiosk at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport that allows passengers to book a ride without a smartphone. The company says it’s designed to create greater access for travelers who might have a difficult time using the app because of language or tech issues.
Why it’s hot: book rides with no data plan or cell phone reception.
EasyJet is launching an English-language voice search in its mobile app, letting travelers find flights by saying their destination, travel dates and airports they want to fly from. The soon-to-launch “Speak Now” feature — reportedly the first among airlines — aims to cut the time and hassle of searching for flights, which typically takes 12 taps on a smartphone.
EasyJet worked with Travelport, a developer of software for the travel industry, to create the tool with Google Cloud’s natural language understanding tool known as Dialogflow.
Why It’s Hot
Shopping for and comparing flights on mobile can be a frustrating experience, but voice search can make it significantly more intuitive.
What was once a source of embarrassment can perhaps now be a form of style points. D2C startup Starface is offering a new way to think about mild acne: Instead of hiding in shame, embrace your “uniqueness” by “owning” your acne, while helping it heal.
With star-shaped medicated stickers that users place over pimples, Starface helps acne heal while making a bold fashion and beauty statement. With the power of social media to shape perceptions of “cool” and “beautiful”, this reframe of acne could turn an embarrassment into empowerment.
Starface’s branding is very … Gen Z, post-postmodern, self-conscious retro-loving remix culture with all of human history as your source material. (Their “About Me” section parodies the opening text from Star Wars). And rightly so. This isn’t your older sister’s acne care. This is a new world.
Why it’s hot:
Another example of the ongoing and unprecedented revolution in social values, fueled by social media. The meaning of luxury, wealth, success, attractiveness, etc. is being scrutinized, tweaked, torn down, and reconstructed. Brands that have relied on the old standbys would be wise to re-calibrate their message and offerings to attract consumers in this new reality.
Indian food ordering and delivery platform Swiggy challenged people to use Instagram voice notes to create waveforms in the shape of different food items.
They promised a year’s worth of food vouchers to Instagram users who could best replicate various foods from kebab skewers to pancakes in their voice notes. All in all, Swiggy set five daily challenges and handed out 50 food vouchers to competition entrants each day.
To help users with the Voice of Hunger challenge, the brand handed out hints about which sounds created which shapes with all Swiggy food deliveries.
In addition to direct messaging their competition entry on Instagram, Swiggy also encouraged people to upload videos of themselves recreating a food shape and tag Swiggy.
Why its hot? (aside from the clever use of voice notes) Millions of people are on the Internet wasting their time creating random content. Swiggy’s simply channeled this behavior to create viral content.
Singapore-based startup Limestone Network is piloting a blockchain-based smart city in Cambodia. Scheduled for completion by 2022, the initial trial will involve 10,000 business tenants and 190,000 citizens. Every resident will be issued with a Limestone Card, which will grant them access to buildings and enable them to make cashless payments within the smart city. Every activity will be recorded on the blockchain, though residents will retain a degree of control over the data they share. The aggregated data will be used to plan future city developments, solve issues such as crowding, congestion and pollution, and act as each individual’s credit rating.
Why it’s hot: A smart city that’s more secure and efficient.
Crowdsourcing strikes again. Incentivized by the lure of social-capital, users can submit answers to questions posed to Alexa to receive points and status within the network of answer-ers. The public, using the up-and-down vote system will presumably let the best answer float to the top.
Though, “In some cases, human editors as well as algorithms will be involved in quality-control measures,” says Fast Company.
From Fast Company: “Starting today, Amazon is publicly launching a program called Alexa Answers, which lets anyone field questions asked by users for which Alexa doesn’t already have a response—ones such as:
What states surround Illinois?
What’s the proper amount of sleep?
How many instruments does Stevie Wonder play?
How much is in a handle of alcohol?
From then on, when people ask a question, Alexa will speak an answer generated through Alexa Answers, noting that the information is ‘according to an Amazon customer.'”
Why it’s hot:
Will value-based questions be answerable? If so, owning the answer to ‘what’s the best burger in Brooklyn?’ would be very lucrative.
Can brands leverage this tech to their advantage? Either by somehow “hacking” this system in playful way, or by replicating such an answer system with their own user base, to plug into an Alexa skill?
On a broader level:
How much do we trust the crowd? Recent history has left many questioning the validity of “the wisdom of the people”.
Civil society runs on a foundation of shared understandings about the world. If we trust answers about our reality to come from the crowd, how will bad actors use such a system to undermine our shared understanding or subtly sway public knowledge to support their agenda? Alexa, does life start at conception?
Facebook’s is updating how users can opt in and out of facial recognition. This has been a hot topic online for a few years and Facebook facing a multi million dollar lawsuit about its facial recognition practices is the reason for the change.
Mashable notes “The lawsuit dates back to 2015, but has been slowly progressing — and so far not in Facebook’s favor. The company recently lost an appeal in which it attempted to have the suit dismissed.”
Consumers were allowed to opt in and out of “tagging suggestions” in 2017 but were not told that that came with facial recognition. Facial recognition is being used to target protesters in Hong Kong (and protesters have been attacking facial recognition cameras).
Hong Kong protestors are on another level. Here they’re using lasers to avoid facial recognition cameras. A cyber war against Chinese artificial intelligence. pic.twitter.com/t1hIczr5Go
So what do you do in a world where facial recognition is no longer opt-in?
THESE SUPER COOL SHADES
The “phantom” shades reflect light back from infrared cameras but not normal visible light. Fom Mashable: “The frames are specifically designed to defeat 3D dot matrix face-mapping systems, which is basically what makes Apple’s Face ID work. They bounce infrared light back at its source, with the goal of preventing IR video cameras from getting a good image of your face — or potentially even registering your face as a face at all.”
Why It’s Hot?
We are living in a facial recognition world and you are automatically opted into being a facial recognition girl… We’re seeing how facial recognition can be used maliciously in other countries and we are, as a matter of course of being online and on the streets, opted into a system that we did not agree to. The glasses tech is cool but does not speak to the greater issue of what is going on around us and how AI technology might affect us in the coming years.
On Sept 5, Google announced a new feature in search: personalized TV and movie recommendations.
This feature will appear for general queries (e.g. “good shows to watch”) as opposed to specific ones (e.g. “Avengers”) and the results will be customizable depending on current subscriptions (i.e. Google will list top choices for the streaming services users have access to). To build their profile, users will be asked to Tinder swipe left and right on a series of movies and shows (see image below).
Why it’s hot:
By utilizing its superior search and AI capabilities, Google threatens to become a powerful gatekeeper to streaming services. It is also poised to finally solve that perennial mystery: what should I watch?
UK-based apparel brand Vollebak launched a Plant & Algae t-shirt, which will decompose once the wearer is finished with it. The shirt’s material is made from a combination of sustainably-certified wood pulp, while the 3D-printed ink is made from algae. The algae oxidizes as the shirt is worn, meaning the print on the front of the t-shirt naturally decolors over time. Customers can compost or bury the garment outside when they no longer want to wear it; if buried, the t-shirt will decompose in 12 weeks.
Why it’s hot: Textile waste makes up 7.6% of all landfill waste in the U.S., or over 10 million tons. Fashion shouldn’t be enjoyed at the expense of the environment.
It’s a testament to the staying power of the Pepsi Challenge —first introduced in 1975—that random pedestrians aren’t freaked out by bubbly strangers asking them to eat unlabeled food. Instead, the offer evokes a giddiness at being selected for such an important task.
So the people chosen for a recent “Coke Challenge” were understandably intrigued, even excited at the prospect of learning a bit more about their own tastes. Instead, they got a brush with death.
The “coke” in this case was, of course, cocaine—one baggie filled with pure powder, and the other containing cocaine laced with enough fentanyl to kill anyone who snorted it. Cocaine is increasingly being cut with the synthetic opioid to increase its effects, but that is driving overdose deaths. In 2017, the CDC attributed more than 7,500 deaths to cocaine laced with fentanyl or other synthetic opioids.
Fentanyl tampering can’t be detected by sight, smell, or taste, so recreational drug users take a risk every time. They’re also in more danger than regular drug users, because they typically have no tolerance to opioids.
Like the real Pepsi Challenge, though, the head-to-head comparison was a marketing tactic, created by DanceSafe, a U.S.-based non-profit that sells fentanyl test strips they say can detect the presence of the drug. The organization’s focus is on safety and education in the electronic dance community and is known for bringing adulterant screeners to raves that can check for unexpected tampering. DanceSafe is neither for or against drug use, so there’s no judgment in the campaign, just a bit of humor, evident in the tagline, “Know before you blow.”
Rather than taking a staunch anti-drug approach, the campaign focuses on reducing potential harm to people who choose to use recreational drugs. The video of the challenge was released in time for International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.
Why it’s Hot:
Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – you just need to re-frame it (re-spoke it? re-mount it? cars, Idk). Part of what makes this execution so relevant is it takes something everybody knows (the Pepsi Challenge) and turns it on its head. Grounding something foreign (fentanyl) in a cultural known (taste testing) lends credibility and lightheartedness to a topic that can seem daunting.
Culturally, this product also fits into a new attitude surrounding drugs. With the opioid epidemic continuing to grow and fatalities rising, gone are the days of “just say no” and “this is your brain on drugs” (cue cracking eggs) – the priority with products like DanceSafe and Naloxone is trying to reduce overdoses when people use drugs. Question: Will this new mindset surrounding drugs have any halo effect on the medical field as a whole?
We’re spoiled in the US. We get to drink premium coffee from the best farms in the world, and at a reasonable price. But many of the farm-workers involved in actually making that cortado a reality generally aren’t compensated equitably.
Some people would be willing to pay more for coffee if they knew that increase was going to support the workers who need and deserve it, but making that change through the traditional economy of producers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers is extremely difficult. Even direct-trade coffee partnerships are subject to the demands of the global coffee industry, which must feed a voracious worldwide caffeine habit.
Propina is trying to side-step the traditional model of farm-worker compensation by allowing people to support farm-workers by making a direct contribution to a farm-worker’s pension fund when they’re at the till of their favorite coffee shop. In-shop videos like the one above drive awareness while patrons wait in line to make their order. Additionally, similar to the Patreon model, patrons can become recurring contributors and get updates from the farm.
Why it’s hot
1. Using technology to bridge the gap from producer to consumer empowers money-havers to give to a cause they believe in.
2. Technology shrinking the world, making something global feel like more of a local connection.
3. We may see more of these “capitalism hacks” that attempt to use technology to circumvent systemic inequalities that otherwise seem insurmountable.
Why it’s not hot
1. Like the US server-tipping model, this idea could potentially drive down guaranteed wages for farm workers if employers see them gaining any amount of significant external compensation. In a sense, this idea only works well if it remains an insignificant portion of a farm workers livelihood.
2. This model relies on the generosity of the globally wealthy to “support” poor farm workers, instead of creating systems of equitable exchange that account for the needs of all stakeholders. Admittedly, the latter is a much more difficult challenge.
As a follow up to an often mentioned topic on Hot Sauce, YouTube is trying desperately to court brands that are finding the networks AI to be unsafe and promoting fringe ideas or are dangerous to children.
YouTube’s original answer to it’s child algorithm problem was an app whitelisting sources so that parents could put children in front of YouTube without fear of what they might find (not a great parenting technique but that’s neither here nor there… ). Originally YouTube incentivized views at all costs, and content makers turned to AI to auto-generate films that were hurting children’s cognition.
They’ve hired a whole team to support this initiative, and they finally have actual humans watching the video. YouTube was losing a lot of revenue because of brand safety.
Why it’s hot?
AI can be dangerous. Keeping humans involved and not letting AI run wild is key to success even if it means slower revenue. If you don’t make brand safety and human safety a concern you might lose out on LOTS of revenue down the line. Is money the only way to keep big tech and AI accountable?
More and more software applications like Salesforce, Pipedrive, Trello, Airtable, and others have built platforms based on no-code principals. Some of these apps focus on specific functions like sales teams. Others deliver more general collaboration. Whatever the application, no-code software strategies include four areas of focus:
Provide drag and drop “widgets” or other elements that can be visually organized to build apps or configure business processes
Create simple “filters” and data queries to empower instant customization
Use APIs to easily integrate data from various web services or other applications
Broaden appeal to non-technical users versus targeting traditional developers
Why It’s Hot:
Low code or no code is becoming the trend more and more as the dominant channel is a small screen smartphone and performance and familiarity outweighs being unique for mass market audiences.
Products like Squarespace, Wix, Mailchimp, etc used to be considered great for the small business that can choose a canned template, but using them in the enterprise could democratize digital experience development outside of IT and speed up that time to market exponentially.
Look for more products that could scale to the enterprise where the big $$$ are and potentially a competitive advantage to get a landing page, emails, etc. designed and produced all within the same platform.
Optimus Ride, a leading self-driving vehicle technology company, announced the launch of New York state’s first self-driving vehicle program, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard (Yard), a 300-acre industrial park with more than 400 manufacturing businesses and 10,000 employees onsite. Beginning tomorrow, six autonomous vehicles will transport passengers between the NYC Ferry stop at Dock 72 and the Yards’ Cumberland Gate at Flushing Avenue, a vital connection point in a truly multi-modal commute for thousands of passengers and a first-of-its-kind commercial autonomous driving system.
Beginning August, a total of six Optimus Ride autonomous vehicles will transport an expected 500 passengers per day and more than 16,000 passengers per month. Initially, there will be a safety driver and software operator in the vehicle while in operation. The system will run on a continuous loop between 7:00 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on weekdays between the dock and the Cumberland Gate. On weekends the system will run between the dock and Building 77 during those same time periods.
Why it’s hot: To test drive and validate self-driving vehicle technology, Optimus Ride found a way that seamlessly fits into people’s everyday life and adds value to it.
Via, a leading provider and developer of on-demand public mobility, was selected by the New York City Department of Education to provide a school bus management system for the nation’s largest school district.
As the largest school district in the nation, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) transports approximately 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes each and every day to get students safely to and from school across the City.
“Via for Schools” will be the first integrated, automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform in the world.
Via for Schools will utilize a flexible algorithm, which allows for both stop-to-school and home-to-school pickups, accommodating students regardless of their learning style, mobility constraints, or where they live.
Parents and students will have the ability to track, in real-time, their bus’ whereabouts and receive frequent and reliable communications in the event of service changes, improving safety and bringing important peace of mind to all users of the system. By utilizing Via’s best-in-class algorithms to optimize school bus routing, the Department of Education will be able to achieve operational efficiencies and reduce transportation costs.
Why it’s hot:
NYC has been a testing ground for partnering with brands to improve life in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. This partnership is a slight variation on the same model, but rather than leasing out Via cars to the city, they’re giving away the technology behind Via.
Rising suicide rates in the US are disproportionately affecting 10-24 year-olds, with suicide as the second leading cause of death after unintentional injuries. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic, and one that leaves those whose lives are impacted wondering what they could have done differently, to recognize the signs and intervene.
Researchers are fast at work figuring out whether a machine learning algorithm might be able to use data from an individual’s mobile device to assess risk and predict an imminent suicide attempt – before there may even be any outward signs. This work is part of the Mobile Assessment for the Prediction of Suicide (MAPS) study, involving 50 teenagers in New York and Pennsylvania. If successful, the effort could lead to a viable solution to an increasingly troubling societal problem.
Why It’s Hot
We’re just scratching the surface of the treasure trove of insights that might be buried in the mountains of data we’re all generating every day. Our ability to understand people more deeply, without relying on “new” sources of data, will have implications for the experiences brands and marketers deliver.
Keeping an eye on subtle changes in common health risks is not an easy task for the average person. Yet, by the time real symptoms are obvious, it’s often too late to take the kind of action that would prevent a problem from snow-balling.
Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed an app that appears capable of turning a 30-second selfie into a diagnostic tool for quantifying a range of health risks.
“Anura promises an impressively thorough physical examination for just half a minute of your time. Simply based on a person’s facial features, captured through the latest deep learning technology, it can assess heart rate, breathing, stress, skin age, vascular age, body mass index (yes, from your face!), Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke risk, cardiac workload, vascular capacity, blood pressure, and more.”
It’s easy to be skeptical about the accuracy of results possible from simply looking at a face for 30 seconds, but the researchers have demonstrated accuracy of measuring blood pressure up to 96% – and when the objective is to give people a way of realizing when it might be time to take action, that level of accuracy may actually be more than enough.
Why It’s Hot
For marketers looking to better identify the times, places and people for whom their products and services are likely to be most relevant, the convergence of biometrics with advanced algorithms and AI – all in a device most people carry around with them every day – could be a game-changer.
(This also brings up perennial issues of privacy & personal information, and trade-offs we need to make for the benefits emerging tech provides.)
Last summer, Australia began testing drones at their beaches to help spot distressed swimmers – acting as overhead lifeguards. Now the same company that created that technology, Ripper Group, is creating an algorithm for their drones to spot crocodiles.
While not frequent, crocodile attacks have gone up in recent years. And crocodiles are not easily identified when they spend up to 45 minutes under murky water. So the Ripper Group is using machine learning to train drones to distinguish crocodiles from 16 other marine animals, boats, and humans through a large database of images.
The drones also include warning sirens and flotation devices for up to four people, to assist in emergency rescue when danger is spotted.
Why It’s Hot
Lifeguards are limited in what they can see and how quickly they can act. With the assistance of drones, beach goers can stay carefree.
NYTimes is analyzing the music used by candidates at their rallies. Music is a powerful emotional signal, transmitting a message deep into the emotional brain where we feel connection. So, it is helpful to know how candidates are using this psychological messaging tool to reach voters.
Extrapolating meaning from data sets, such as song tracks used in political campaigns, can bring to light information that would otherwise not emerge. The growing trend of using big data to help us understand and manipulate the world may be coming more into the hands of the public.
Why it’s hot: Knowledge is power. Whoever has the data and the processing power, has the knowledge and can learn things about the world that no one would have discovered otherwise. Primarily this power has been with brands and governments. But what if more of that power came into the hands of the people? This article points to a possible future where open-source data mining could help us learn things about governments and companies that could level the playing field in the war over territory in our collective consciousness.
If big data was in the hands of the people, what would we do with it? How would it effect our relationship with brands and products.
Launched in July 2019, the Sidekick platform lets tourists visiting South Korea chat with locals and receive help and recommendations in real-time. It works with a user’s live chat platform of choice (LINE, WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat) and provides access to local ‘sidekicks’, who provide tips on restaurants, shopping, etiquette and culture. Tourists are connected with either Korean, English or Japanese speakers who are available from 7 am to 5 pm. The service can be purchased as a one-day, three-day or five-day pass and prices start at USD 20.
Why it’s hot:
This points to the future of travel moving away from typical “touristy” things to more bespoke and personalized experiences.
It’s a media or channel evolution: From travel guides to channels to blogs to Youtube videos (10 best things to do in X city) to social media travel influencers – to a real time chat service that let’s you live like a local.
It also lets you navigate and move around confidently in a country where you aren’t familiar with the language and/or culture.
Flipkart, India’s biggest ecommerce retailer, created a voice-based experience enabling customers to haggle for a better deal.
Flipkart gave its online shopping experience a more traditional touch with Hagglebot, which used Google Assistant’s voice technology. When Flipkart shoppers used Google Assistant it encouraged them haggle down the prices of products using their voice.
Flipkart launched several limited-edition products available exclusively via the Hagglebot during its sales promotion. Each day, it released two new products during the sale and crowned the shopper who drove the hardest bargain the ‘Boss’. Whatever deal the ‘Boss’ secured then became the official Flipkart price of that product.
The Hagglebot was created with Google Zoo, the creative think-tank for agencies and brands. Before building the experience the team travelled to thirty bazaars across three cities to identify different bargaining strategies that were commonly used and then simulated them on Hagglebot. The Hagglebot worked with all devices that support Google Assistant, including Android and iOS phones, as well as the Google Home speaker.
Flipkart’s total sales revenue through products offered on Hagglebot reached $12.23m. The experience also had an average engagement time of 6 min 5 seconds, 200 times the average Google Assistant engagement rate, making it Google Assistant’s most engaging experience to date.
Why it’s hot? A great way to enable adoption of voice technology by merging it with a deep rooted cultural behaviour In India, the Hagglebot builds on existing cultural behaviour. Bargaining is a deep-rooted part of Indian culture. The Hagglebot humanised transactions to make its Indian consumers feel more at home when purchasing online and, in doing so, bridged the divide between old traditions and new digital experiences.
Voice command devices, like Alexa and Siri, enable humans to engage, operate, and interact with technology thanks to the power of voice, but these technologies fail to account for the voiceless among us. Many people— including those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, paralysis, or traumatic brain injuries— are unable to take advantage of such voice-user interface (VUI) devices. That’s where Facebook Reality Labs (FBR) comes in.
FBR has partnered with neuroscience professionals at UCSF to give a voice back to the voiceless by attempting to create the first non-invasive, wearable brain-computer interface (BCI) device for speech. This device would marry “the hands-free convenience and speed of voice with the discreteness of typing.” Although BCI technology is not new, the creation of BCI technology capable of converting imagined speech into text, without requiring implanted electrodes, would be.
In a recently successful—albeit limited—study, UCSF researchers demonstrated that brain activity (recorded while people speak) could be used to decode what people were saying into text on a computer screen in real-time. However, at this time, the algorithm can only decode a small set of words.
Although promising, such results are preliminary, and researchers have a long way to go until the power of this silent speech interface technology can be harnessed non-invasively and in wearable form. What is more, researchers believe this BCI technology “could one day be a powerful input for all-day wearable [augmented reality (AR)] glasses.”
Why it’s hot
Such a radical innovation would not only help those who can’t speak, it could alter how all people interact with today’s digital devices.