zero training = zero problem, for AlphaGo Zero…


One of the major milestones in the relatively short history of AI is when Google’s AlphaGo beat the best human Go player in the world in three straight games early last year. In order to prepare AlphaGo for its match, Google trained it using games played by other Go players, so it could observe and learn which moves win and which don’t. It learned from essentially watching others.

This week, Google announced AlphaGo Zero, AI that completely taught itself to win at Go. All Google gave it was the rules, and by experimenting with moves on its own, it learned how to play, and beat its predecessor AlphaGo 100 games to zero after just over a month of training.

Why It’s Hot:

AI is becoming truly generative with what DeepMind calls “tabula rasa learning”. While a lot of AI we still see on a daily basis is extremely primitive in comparison, the future of AI is a machine’s ability to create things with basic information and a question. And ultimately, learning on its own can lead to better results. As researchers put it, “Even when reliable data sets are available, they may impose a ceiling on the performance of systems trained in this manner…By contrast, reinforcement learning systems are trained from their own experience, in principle allowing them to exceed human capabilities, and to operate in domains where human expertise is lacking.”

Bumble Launches Bizz, a Safe Career Networking App for Women


It’s a simple premise, but for the multitudes of women who report being routinely harassed by men on popular job-hunting sites like LinkedIn, it’s one that holds a lot of promise—something that Bumble’s latest app, Bumble Bizz, hopes to fulfill. In an effort to create a secure space for women to discuss their careers—and to curb the sexism and discrimination often found on professional networking sites—Bizz is putting emphasis on its “women first” experience, where, after swiping right on a prospective professional male connection, women have to be the first to send a direct message. “We’ve stayed focused on creating a community with a foundation built upon positivity, respect, confidence and encouraging women to make the first move,” explained the founder and CEO of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd.

To use Bumble Bizz, users create a LinkedIn-style digital resume. You can upload education and professional experience details, write a professional bio, and note what kind of opportunities you’re looking for. There’s also a skills section to list talents and awards, and the option to include examples from your portfolio. Bumble Bizz will include a photo verification tool designed to help ensure people are who they say they are. It is also geo-targeted to make it easier to find someone who matches your job criteria and in your neighborhood and ready to connect. Age is also less important on Bumble Bizz – profiles don’t contain a user’s age – making it easier for potential business partners to focus on each other’s ability and skillset.

Bumble has more than 21 million users around the world and has facilitated more than 350 million women-led first moves. With the launch of Bumble Bizz, the company says it wants to “empower women to have the confidence to make the first move within a professional environment.” Bumble Bizz launched in the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany on the App Store now and is coming to Android on October 18th.

Why It’s Hot
Despite the obvious comparisons to LinkedIn, Bumble seems set on distancing itself away from the platform, insisting that the app is designed for “networking and mentoring, not job searching or recruiting.” Women have recently encountered harassment on professional platforms, enduring uncomfortable and unwanted conversations. Bizz is designed to eliminate abuse and inappropriate behavior. Women have to make the first move!Currently in our social environment, this app is just what women need to feel empowered and in charge of their lives.

Netflix Show Narcos Allows You To Build An Empire Within Facebook Messenger

To promote the new season of Narcos, Netfrecentlynlty launched Narcos: Cartel Simulator, a game created to be played fully within the Facebook Messenger app.

The game takes place in 1994, and the aesthetic was drawn from games designed for graphing calculators and other LCD screens in the ’90s.

In the new Messenger game, you play a small-time drug dealer who owes money to the Cali Cartel. It’s essentially a game of supply and demand, as you travel drug marketplaces around the world, trying to buy low and sell high.

Why It’s Hot:

Facebook Messenger is popular among mobile users and quite easy to build within making it a great platform to promote things like new television shows on. The Messenger interface is perfect for a game like this, with most options, served to users as text-only multiple choice. Despite the minimalism, there’s enough to keep you engaged and, in the opening gameplay, quite stressed about your fate if you fail to give the cartel its due.

 

Increased Use of Point of Care Tactics Offer Opportunity For Better In-office Experience

MM&M announced this week that “up to 20% of pharma brands are moving digital media spend to point-of-care tactics” which was grounded in a study fielded by ZS Associates. To a certain extent, this is unsurprising as many forms of digital media such as social and display continue to face increasing scrutiny around the topic of ad fraud.

This will have an impact on two key audiences in healthcare marketing – patients and providers – which if well thought through, should be overwhelmingly positive.

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform

Patients

Platforms such as Phreesia offer patients the opportunity to engage with content as part of the intake process. The biggest challenge here will be placements that are relevant to the specific patient as there is a potential to spend effort on poor placements. Case in point; when I took my son to the pediatrician for his flu shot this year, I was offered the opportunity to “Learn More” about a branded product. The only thing I can recall about the brand is that is had nothing to do with why I was there and wouldn’t be appropriate for my son. Contextual relevance will be critical to success in these moments.

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth

Providers

HCPs, particularly PCPs, are the target of massive amounts of marketing. Overwhelming is an understatement here. When you consider the necessity of staying abreast of current trends and new therapies, to a certain extent, they need to be exposed to these messages. However, when it’s all said and done, the moment that matters is when the Rx decision is made. The opportunity to be a relevant part of that moment as part of the HCPs workflow in the EHR/EMR offers pharma companies an incredible opportunity. When you consider the number of drugs that don’t have the budget for mass DTC advertising, the HCP really is the decision maker in the therapy of choice.

Why It’s Hot

While contextual relevance for audiences is improving and offers plenty of potential, the real win will be when a brand can own the conversation across the moments in an office visit.

Consider a diabetes patient checking in for a check-up who is offered a message around potential therapy they may be eligible with a DTC ad based upon key factors pulled through from their EHR.

Then, at the end of the appointment, the HCP if offered a targeted message in the EHR with a savings offer the patient can print and take with them.

With brands doubling down on these POC channels, we have the opportunity to take the in-office experience to new levels.

Overcoming the Challenges of Wearable Tech

Project Jacquard, an experimental initiative from Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, has partnered with Levi’s to create the Commuter Trucker denim jacket.


Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/40473911/google-and-levis-stitch-up-a-connected-jacket

“Aside from a couple of visual tells—subtle patches of raised stitches and a plastic button on its cuff—the Levi’s Commuter Trucker looks exactly like what you’d expect from the 144-year-old brand: a timeless jean jacket that keeps you warm while looking cool. But appearances deceive. The jacket is actually an interface between you and your phone. Brush, tap, or cover the right spot and you can answer or ignore calls, switch up your music, or get travel-time updates, all without looking at a screen.”

The Challenges

  1. Creating durable conductive thread. Tech is treated with gloves, textiles are meant to endure tough situations from being exposed to fire (to remove extra cotton fibers) to heated presses and pre-skewing (Levi’s process where toothed grips latch and torque the fabric).
  2. Figuring out how the wearer would interact with the interface, which is stitched onto the sleeve). “Levi’s and Google arrived at four main motions: brush in, brush out, tap, or cover the connected area. The actions are subtle enough so you can silence an incoming phone call during a conversation and it just looks like you’re brushing dust off your sleeve.”

Although relatively primitive, the gestures don’t do much more than what the remote control on earbuds, this is a starting point.

Why it’s hot:

  • Because although voice-based interactions are becoming more an more prevalent (Siri or Alexa), touch still has an important role to play in our future interactions with new technology meant to disrupt and replace our screens.

90 terabytes of facial recognition

China facial recognition

China is building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds. The government states the system is being developed for security and official uses such as tracking wanted suspects and public administration and that commercial application using information sourced from the database will not be allowed under current regulations.

“[But] a policy can change due to the development of the economy and increasing demand from society,” said Chen Jiansheng, an associate professor at the department of electrical engineering at Tsinghua University and a member of the ministry’s Committee of Standardisation overseeing technical developments in police forces.

Chinese companies are already taking the commercial application of facial recognition technology to new heights. Students can now enter their university halls, travellers can board planes without using a boarding pass and diners can pay for a meal at KFC. Some other restaurants have even offered discounts to customers based on a machine that ranks their looks according to an algorithm. Customers with “beautiful” characteristics – such as symmetrical features – get better scores than those with noses that are “too big” or “too small” and those that get better scores will get cheaper meals.

More at South China Morning Post and ABS-CBN.

Why It’s Hot
Another weekly installment of balancing convenience and claims of safety with privacy and ethics. China is pushing us faster than most other countries to address this question sooner rather than later.

LAPD Gets Green Light For a Drone Pilot Program

The LAPD got the go-ahead this week from a civilian oversight panel to roll out a year-long drone pilot program. The panel voted 3-1 on this contentious issue, and the city is set to start using two drones within the next 30 days. The LAPD is the nation’s largest police force, so the implications for this development are huge.

Advocates for the drone program say it will protect officers and civilians by using drones instead of humans to gather crucial information in dangerous situations (active shooters, hostage situations, search & rescue missions, etc). The pilot program comes with strict rules on when the drones may be used – only with SWAT team members in the aforementioned dangerous situations – and every flight must be approved, documented, and reviewed. There’s a ban on facial recognition software and drone-operated weapons, and the Police Commission with publish quarterly reports on all drone activity.

Even with these restrictions in place, the program is facing heavy criticism from the public, as well as civil liberty and privacy organizations (the ACLU of Southern California and the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition sent letters to the LAPD urging them to kill the pilot program). The outcry all comes down to one thing: Trust. The LAPD has a contentious history with regard to technology implementation, most prominently in its rollout of body cameras without a policy in place to release the footage to the public. Jim Lafferty, the executive director emeritus of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles, says:

“Mission creep is of course the concern. . . . The history of this department is of starting off with supposedly good intentions about the new toys that it gets . . . only to then get too tempted by what they can do with those toys.”

Los Angeles isn’t the first city to attempt to use drones as a part of their police forces – and this isn’t even the first time the LAPD has tried to use drones. Seattle tried to start up a police drone program in 2013, but after heavy criticism from the public, the city killed the program and sent their drones to Los Angeles. The public outcry followed the drones to LA, and the LAPD also grounded and ultimately destroyed the drones without ever using them.

So why, a few years later, are they reviving and pushing forward with this program? Charlie Beck, the LAPD police chief, said at the panel vote meeting that more agencies are using drones, and there’s a “much more robust feedback mechanism” in place now. Time will tell whether these factors have any influence on keeping the drone program within their stated bounds.

Why it’s hot (and/or terrifying, depending on your view): The LAPD is the nation’s largest police force, and the outcomes of this pilot program will have a significant impact on future developments in unmanned civilian surveillance by our own government.

LA Times | Engadget

Marriott + Slack = Thumbs Up

 

Marriott has introduced a new Slack extension that lets teams browse and book hotel rooms directly in their chats. There is even an emoji feature.

The user provides a city and dates, and the extension will serve up a handful of options. Everyone in the chat can then vote using Slack’s emoji reactions on which option they want. When the votes are in, you can book the winning hotel right within the slack chat.

The extension is limited to hotels affiliated with Marriott’s Rewards program, but the company promises the Slack tie-in will aways turn up the lowest possible rate.

“Marriott also has the distinction of being the first hotel chain to have a dedicated Slack experience, though the hotel chain has previously dabbled in messaging, with a bot for Facebook Messenger and an iMessage app.

The extension was was built by a company called Snaps, which also makes emoji apps for businesses (and Kim Kardashian, as it turns out), so it’s not surprising they’d bring an emoji component to Slack as well.”

Why it’s hot: This takes some of the pain out of booking hotels (especially for business travel through concur) and allows multiple parties to weigh into booking decisions. Additionally, this further positions Marriott as a leading hotel chain leveraging technology to make their guests lives easier (recently launched an AI chat bot for in-hotel experience).

Source: Mashable

Headless Pet

Want a pet but are too lazy, allergic, or maybe even a little weird? Japanese company, Yukai Engineering produced a solution: Qoobo! It’s basically a headless, motion-detecting cat pillow. For just $100, it’s expected to be in your lap by June 2018.

Why is this hot?

All jokes aside; this product can be greatly therapeutic and eliminates responsibility. It also gives us insight as to where technology is today. If pets are absolutely not an option, this is an easy Plan B. (Comes in Husky Gray & French Brown!)

Here’s the source: click!

Machine learning as film critic

While identifying a Wes Anderson movie is probably something many moviegoers could do without complex AI, the creator of a new machine learning program called Machine Visions is hoping he can learn more about what makes an auteur’s works distinct.

[Yannick] Assogba uses four of Anderson’s films as source for his project — The Life AquaticThe Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom — from which he extracts a frame every 10 seconds, for a sample of 2,309 frames in total.

Assogba investigates color and recurring motifs in Anderson’s works, drawing out themes from the machine learning much faster than a human would be able to watch and process the images.

The Life Aquatic pixel grid

Each frame that the program analyzed from The Life Aquatic is displayed as a single pixel in this grid

Why It’s Hot

Machine visions not only provides an interesting way to look at film and cinematography through the lens of technology, it provides a detailed and accessible framework for starting to understand machine learning. By introducing people to machine learning through art and pop culture, Assogba gives both technical and non-technical people a reason to explore further.

“It can suggest similarities and juxtapositions for a human to look at, some are ones we would find ourselves while others might be surprising or poetic because of imperfections in the algorithms and models.”

Learn more  i-DMashable | Machine Visions

Spotify for Artists

Spotify For Artists is an app launching this week that gives musicians and their managers mobile access to super-detailed analytics about their music and the people listening to it.

The Spotify For Artists app takes some of the most useful insights about an artist’s music—which songs are most popular, how many streams they’re getting over all, where those listeners live, and which playlists are helping win over new fans—and boils them down into digestible graphical charts. It’s a bit like Google Analytics for rappers, electronic DJs, and pop stars.

This isn’t the first time Spotify has made this kind of data available. Spotify For Artists is a product that first launched on the web in April, after a private beta period. First, Spotify opened it up to all artists (the first big, on-demand streaming app of its kind to do so). Now it’s letting them access it on their phones.

The app also gives artists some control over their presence on Spotify, allowing them to do things like update their bios, post playlists, and select the “artist’s pick” track that Spotify lets them display on their profiles.

Spotify For Artists is part of a broader effort to build more artist-facing tools and ’empower’ them. The company also started a program called Fans First, which uses data to detect the most obsessive listeners of a given artist and target them with special offers like pre-sale concert tickets or exclusive merchandise. The company has also been working harder to strengthen its relationships within the music industry and among artists, in part by hiring former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter.

Why it’s hot: This is yet another way in which Spotify is leveraging their data in an interesting and unexpected way. It is great to see them making it readily available for artists who can benefit from knowing more about their core users. Additionally, making it available on a mobile app vs. just desktop (as they launched in April) makes this an even more accessible and useful tool to the music industry.

Source: FastCo

Ticket please. But I’m the ticket

Swedish train operator SJ Railways is equipping passengers with chips as an alternative to paper tickets. The system comprises a NFC (near-field communication) microchip and a smartphone app.

Each passenger is given a membership number, which is stored in his or her chip and monitored via the app. Once implanted, conductors can simply use their device to scan people’s hands and validate their journey.

The company started by trialling the tech with 100 of its loyalty programme members and reports that 3,000 travellers are now using the microchip system.

The innovation follows the news that Swedish co-working space company Epicenter gives members the option to use a chip implant rather than a plastic card to access its premises. ‘Some of SJ’s business passengers at Epicenter contacted us and asked about the possibility of using the microchip for the train journey.

Why its hot?
From screen to skin. So, let the bio-hacking begin:
According to World Economic Forum, implantable mobile phones will on the market by 2023. These devices will potentially be able to accurately track a person’s health, while also allowing them to communicate thoughts through signals. While this might seem far-fetched, SJ Railways’ chip system is an example of how brands could tap into the emerging human augmentation market in a way that is more acceptable to the public.

Source: Contagious

Headphones that translate 40 languages

Designed to work with the Google Pixel 2 smartphones, the Pixel Buds wireless earphones can work as a universal translator and have conversations across 40 languages.

Speak one language into the earphones, the smartphone will translate it and speak the other language out loud on the phone using Google Translate app.

 

Source

Why it’s hot: language might no longer be a barrier to moving around the world. When will technology help us transcribe different languages? Maybe also animal languages?

Related image

Data Driven Chicken Sandwiches

How do you compete in a world of extreme competition, demanding consumers and a shrinking availability of commercial real estate? Well if you’re Chick-fil-a you mix billions of data records, topped with predictive analytics and a side automation to get targeted locations that meet both the needs of consumers and the organization.

In only a few years Chik-fil-a has completely digitized their site selection and the results have been amazing. Site selection, especially for a restaurant that sees a lot of vehicular traffic is imperative to success. Chik-fil-a historically would take pieces of available data like traffic patterns, potential new development, and physical drive-bys to determine new sites.

Using new technologies, Chik-fil-a is able to import massive data sets into their system to analyze and simplify decisionmaking. Chan Lee, enterprise GIS manager for Chick-fil-A’s strategy and analytics team stated:

We’re looking at transactional levels of data.  You’re thinking about billions and billions of records. And that’s great and all, but really what we’re trying to do is trying to figure out, find the signals from the noise

Lee’s team developed a system to import all the available data sets into one centralized system. Taking into account traffic patterns, mapping data, development plans and even cell phone traffic, the GIS team can overlay relevant information on top of a map to get an informed picture of a potential new site. And so far the results speak for themselves. Chik-fil-a plans on opening 90-100 new locations this year.

 

Why It’s Hot

Data-driven decision making is a proven way of getting the complete picture, but the challenge today is less about finding and obtaining data – but turning those massive recordsets into something useful. Predictive analytic techniques use historical patterns and real-time information to deliver actionable insights. Combined with AI technologies these data lakes can now be sorted, ranked and used to make informed business decisions

 

Pop music’s new producer? Streaming platforms…

Hit-making songwriters and producers are tailoring tracks to fit a musical landscape dominated by streaming.“In sessions, people have genuinely been saying, ‘Oh, we need to make something that sounds like Spotify,’” says Emily Warren, a singer-songwriter behind hits including Charli XCX’s “Boys” and the Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down.” According to the artists, songwriters, producers, and executives interviewed for this piece, no aspect of a song, from production to vocal performance, is unaffected by the regime change.

Streaming

Throughout the history of recorded music, formats have helped shape what we hear. For examplesur ideas about how long a single should be date back to what could fit on a 45 RPM 7″ vinyl record. But the unprecedented wealth of data that streaming services use to curate their increasingly influential playlists gives the industry real-time feedback on what’s working, leading to rigidly defined and formulaic music.

For example, in order for a stream to count toward chart tallies and, reportedly, for royalty payouts, a given song must be played for at least 30 seconds. That’s why, while how a song starts has always been important in pop, with streaming it’s more crucial than ever. Another element tying the streaming era’s music together is the way we listen to it: The phones and laptop speakers we often use can have a direct impact on the music that sounds best through them.

Read more here: Uncovering How Streaming Is Changing the Sound of Pop

Why It’s Hot
How technology advancements are shaping behaviors and expectations is always fascinating. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction!

Biotech startup Taxa debuts genetically engineered fragrant moss

Taxa, a biotech startup in Silicon Valley, has debuted a new product: Orbella, a line of three fragrant mosses genetically engineered to give off aromas of patchouli, linalool (floral, clean, and fresh), and geraniol (rose-like). The project is a textbook example of synthetic biology, or synbio, which is the application of engineering techniques to the building blocks of life. (Basically, creating new life forms.)

Orbella was produced through a collaboration between Taxa and Dr. Henrik Simonsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen whose work focuses on using photosynthesis (as opposed to conventional chemical synthesis) to biosynthesize small molecules.

The scented mosses were created by taking genes associated with a certain scent and splicing them into the moss genes. The actual process sounds like a near-future sci fi plot point: the scientists design the spliced gene online, use a gene gun (real name) to insert the genes into the moss cells, and then grow the GMO moss in liquid form.

If you’ve heard of Taxa before, it’s probably because of their intensely controversial Glowing Plant Kickstarter project. Back in 2013, Taxa successfully funded the Glowing Plant project with the promise of delivering a genetically modified plant that’d glow in the dark. Problem is, the biotech required to actually produce the glowing plant proved to be beyond Taxa’s reach, and their actual product hardly emitted any light.

Regardless of the success (or not) of the Glowing Plant itself, the Kickstarter project faced heavy blowback amid concerns of GMO products hitting consumer markets without any regulatory oversight. Prompted by the Glowing Plant controversy, Kickstarter banned GMO projects shortly thereafter. Taxa then pivoted to fragrant moss, which is much easier to engineer due to its simpler genome and shorter life-cycle, which allows scientists to run experiments more quickly.

Why It’s Hot: Orbella is a step forward in the consumer-facing biotech sphere. Taxa’s hope is that the product helps to positively change people’s perception of GMOs and demonstrate the varied uses of the emerging technology. Taxa is also funded primarily through crowd funding, and they’re an independent biotech company – their work is proving that GMO products don’t have to be the sole purview of massive conglomerates.

More significantly, though, the synbio field is truly the future of biotech, and represents mind-bogglingly vast possibilities for humanity – along with equally vast moral and ethical quandaries. How much modification is too much? Where’s the line between a fun, harmless GMO like scented moss and something more troubling? And who should be allowed to produce, and sell, and purchase GMO products in the first place?

Orbella Moss: Gizmodo | Business InsiderOrbella Moss
The Glowing Plant project: Kickstarter | Mother Jones | The Verge

Disney’s Real-Time Rotten Tomatoes

Disney is using new deep learning software to analyze movie-goers’ facial expressions and gauge how much they’re enjoying a film.

The innovation within the new system is an algorithm that Disney and Caltech call factorised variational autoencoders (FVAEs), which use deep learning technology to automatically turn facial expressions into numerical data, and is able to incorporate metadata.

Combining the FVAE algorithm with infrared cameras, Disney can analyse the facial expressions of moviegoers in a cinema as they react to what they’re being shown on screen. With enough information, the new technology can even predict how an audience member will react to upcoming scenes after just 10 minutes of observation.

Why It’s Hot

  • Technology could be used to tailor a film to an audience in real time, bringing in a new aspect of personalization to cinema
  • Data gathered and analyzed can be funneled into other developing AI systems where picking up cues from their body language to be able to better assist (e.g. robot babysitters)
  • Raises the question of how this will impact the movies we end up being exposed to with this AI now acting as the gatekeeper between us and the next Sharknado

Source

 

I’m gonna go watch some Jersey now…

Nike is celebrating the beginning of its partnership with the NBA by revealing that its new fan jerseys will include an interactive element, designed to bring the sport’s followers closer to its biggest stars. Billed as ‘the future of fan apparel’, each of the connected basketball jerseys features a unique NFC chip — the same technology used in metro cards, or for apple pay — built into its jock tag. using NIKEconnect, fans will then be able to access real-time, personalized experiences through their smartphone.

Why It’s Hot:

-Yet another example of how physical and digital worlds continue colliding at breakneck

-Successfully merged two of the most relevant communication tactics, tech and content, to deliver unique experiences

– Somehow, it turned clothing into a proprietary media channel () which huge cross-selling opportunities

Source

Dubai is building a mock Martian city


United Arab Emirates has announced that it’s building a 1.9 million square feet simulated Mars settlement. It will be called Mars Science City and will serve as home to interconnected domes housing various laboratories simulating the planet’s terrain. The team building the structure plans to use advanced 3D printing techniques and heat and radiation insulation to mimic the harsh environment of our neighbor.

Why it’s hot?
New start-up movement: The city will have labs to develop technologies that can provide future Martian colonies with food, water and energy.

Source: Engadget

nike connected jersey…

Nike added a new layer of to clothing recently when it introduced connected NBA jerseys.

To coincide with its new status as official NBA gear provider, jersey owners can now tap their iPhone 7 with iOS11 on the jersey’s tag to activate “premium content” via NFC.

Per 9-to-5 mac:

“Essentially what happens is customers can purchase a jersey for their favorite player and unlock “premium content” about that player via the NikeConnect app. That premium content includes things such as “pregame arrival footage,” highlight reels, music playlists from players, and more. Just so everything comes full circle, the jerseys can unlock boosts for players in NBA 2K18.”

Why It’s Hot:

Everything is now a platform. With AR, NFC, and QR truly becoming mainstream, and mixed reality and AI presumably not long behind them, we’re interacting with things in a whole new way. This is a relatively light example – less utility, more entertainment – but it shows how technology is integrating into everything to provide a new layer of experience to even the clothes we wear.

Checking Out With VR

MasterCard and Swarovski claim they are the first to make virtual commerce a reality.

Retailers like Lowes and Ikea have created virtual showrooms where consumers can browse goods while wearing VR headsets, but shoppers can’t buy products while in the VR experience. Instead, items are added to a shopping cart to be purchased later on a different device.

Swarovski borrows much from Lowes and Ikea, as its VR shoppers walk around a high-end home and interact with various crystals from the retailer’s Atelier collection (see video below). Engaging with a product also provides details about it, such as price and the option to check out right then and there with Mastercard’s MasterPass.

“The average time users spend on visits is nine minutes,” said Abi Mandelbaum, CEO and co-founder of YouVisit, which powered the option to check out in VR for Mastercard. “If you can get someone to engage with you for nine minutes, why do you want them to go somewhere else to complete the purchase?”

Source

Why It’s (Maybe) Hot

Marketers are still trying to find applications for VR so purchasing within an app is an interesting idea. But would this work for products outside of the luxury vertical? And will it actually drive sales?

Robot, a kid’s best friend?

Robots are making their way into schools and education to help children lower their stress and boost their creativity. Among those who have diseases such as diabetes and autism, robots can even help restore their self-confidence.

One research shows that autism children engage better with robots than humans because they are simple and predictable.

Another research that works with children with diabetes makes their robots “imperfect” and have them make mistakes so they don’t intimidate the children. Children learn that they don’t have to be perfect all the time.

Why it’s hot (or not): are robots the right companions for children? What impact would it have on human interactions if children are exposed to AI at such a young age?

 

 

Quartz News Is Using The iOS 11 To Bring AR To News Stories

Quartz News, the digital-focused arm of  Atlantic Media, has launched a nifty AR feature in their news stories thanks to the new updates to iOS11. Now in a select number of the daily stories featured in the Quartz News mobile app you will find augmented reality to help illustrate objects featured in a particular story. For instance, its coverage of the demise of the Cassini spacecraft is joined by a 3D model of the ship that users can examine as if it was physically in the same room with them.

Why It’s Hot: 

Of all the emerging technologies that companies have their eyes on, augmented reality seems to be the easiest to scale by way of mobile phones with no need for extras like headsets or glasses. Apple CEO, Tim Cook believes that many people will “have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you,” Cook predicted at a tech conference last year.

Quartz News sees this as an opportunity to bring news stories to life in ways that users have never experienced before. “In the same way we can use images and emoji and gifs to bring alive the stories we’re sharing, we think we can use AR to help people understand objects in the news,” John Keefe, head of Quartz’s Bot Studio, adding that the tech could also be used to illustrate stories with 3D landscapes, models of landmarks and historic structures, or even data visualizations.

Predicting Malaria outbreaks from outer space

While only 10% of all malaria-related deaths happen in the Amazon region, that equals around 100,000 lost lives each year. So, as the rainy seasons begin, and temperatures rise, forest fall, and a thousand other factors occur, no one has really been able to get ahead of predicting where an outbreak may occur or even when it may occur — until now.

Bring in N.A.S.A.!

From Engadget: The tropical disease can bring on severe fever, headaches and chills and is particularly severe for children and the elderly and can cause complications for pregnant women. In rainforest-covered Peru the number of malaria cases has spiked such that, in the past five years, it has had on average the second highest rate in the South American continent. In 2014 and 2015 there were 65,000 reported cases in the country.

Why is this hot?

  • Good for the world: using U.S./NASA Landsat satellite systems for the greater good of the world’s poorer, more needy populations and their horrifying diseases is using existing technology in new ways.
  • Good for living: just think, if they can detect the outbreak, the government can disseminate NGO’s and supplies and perhaps minimize the death toll and the debilitating nature malaria has on the economy of struggling nations.
  • Good for reputation: this is a model for what a good-hearted world leader does.

Slack AI says maybe you need a mid-afternoon snack…

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield recently spoke to MIT Technology Review about the ways the company plans to use AI to keep people from feeling overwhelmed with data. Some interesting tidbits from the interview…

Slack

When asked about goals for Slack’s AI research group, Butterfield pointed to search. “You could imagine an always-on virtual chief of staff who reads every single message in Slack and then synthesizes all that information based on your preferences, which it has learned about over time. And with implicit and explicit feedback from you, it would recommend a small number of things that seem most important at the time.”

When asked what else the AI group was researching, Butterfield answered Organizational Insights. “I would—and I think everyone would—like to have a private version of a report that looks at things like: Do you talk to men differently than you talk to women? Do you talk to superiors differently than you talk to subordinates? Do you use different types of language in public vs. private? In what conversations are you more aggressive, and in what conversations are you more kind? If it turns out you tend to be accommodating, kind, and energetic in the mornings, and short-tempered and impatient in the afternoon, then maybe you need to have a midafternoon snack.”

Read more at MIT Technology Review.

Why It’s Hot
The idea of analyzing organizational conversation to learn about and solve collaboration and productivity issues is incredibly intriguing – and as always with these things, something to keep an eye on to ensure the power is used for good.

Assassin’s Creed Origins Releasing Zero-Combat Mode

Ubisoft announced the development of a zero-combat mode for Assassin’s Creed Origins, the soon-to-be-published tenth installment of the wildly popular Assassin’s Creed series of video games. While Assassin’s Creed games typically involve a hefty dose of violence along with their sprawling, historically accurate worldbuilding, the zero-combat mode will turn Ubisoft’s massive re-creation of Ancient Egypt into an interactive, living historical world.

The educational mode will feature dozens of guided tours that focus on subjects like the Great Pyramids, mummification, and the life of Cleopatra, among others. Players can also simply roam through the entire world without having to keep looking over their (virtual) shoulders, taking time to wander and explore the vast landscape that includes Alexandria, the Sand Sea, the Giza Plateau, and more.

The content is painstakingly vetted to ensure historical and cultural accuracy, thanks to the team of historians and Egyptologists who helped create the educational world. According to Jean Guesdon, the creative director for Assassin’s Creed Origins, “We spent years recreating Ancient Egypt, documenting ourselves, validating the content with historians, with consultants, and we feel that many more people than just the players can benefit from that.”

The update doesn’t land until 2018, but when it’s ready, it’ll be a free upgrade for everyone who’s already purchased the game.

Why it’s hot: The zero-combat mode is a significant play for Ubisoft, who may be trying to get into the education space with this release. Guesdon says, “I hope that teachers will seize this opportunity to present that to their students, so they can learn with this interactive medium.” Regardless of their broader intention, it represents an exciting (and fun!) new application of the Assassin’s Creed series’ worldbuilding technology and expertise.

Ubisoft blog | Engadget | Ars Technica

Google and Levi’s Make a Connected Jean Jacket

The jacket is Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket with Jacquard by Google—is the result of a partnership between Levi’s and Google to integrate a conductive, connected yarn into a garment. It’s still early days, but the jacket offers a glimpse into connected clothing.

The jacket looks like most jean jackets, except for a small device on the left cuff. The black tag contains a wireless radio, a battery, and a processor, but the most important tech in the Jacquard Jacket remains invisible. A section of the left cuff is woven with the special yarn that turns the bottom of your arm into a touchscreen. You pair your phone through a dedicated app, and after setup it asks you to define a few gestures (What happens when you tap twice on the conductive yarn? What if you brush away from yourself, or toward yourself? What should it mean when the light on the tag illuminates?)

Someone who tested out the jacket while riding her bike home explains how her experience worked:

A double-tap on my left arm now sends a ping to Google Maps and delivers the next turn on my navigation, either through the speaker on my phone or whatever headphones I’m wearing. (All the Jacquard Jacket’s connectivity comes through your phone.) If I swipe away, it reads out my ETA. The small motor in my jacket sleeve buzzes and the light comes on when I get a text or phone call. You can change tracks in your music with a swipe, or to count things like the miles you ride or the birds you see on your way home. The jacket was designed with bike commuters in mind, and the functionality follows suit

Right now, the designers say they’re looking for more feedback. They want to know what people do with the jacket, and what they wish it could do. It goes on sale for $350 in a couple of high-end clothing stores on September 27, before hitting Levi’s stores and website on October 2.

Why it’s hot:

Although this is not yet a revolutionary item, it gives us a peek into the capabilities and use cases for connected clothing – whether that be commuting bikers or city-dwellers looking for directions, or someone wanting to change their music without taking out their phone. This could also have implications for the vision-impaired trying to navigate their way through a metro area, etc.

Source: Wired

Where Walmart’s Marc Lore Is Trying to One-Up Amazon

Tapping brick-and-mortar network for an edge

The head of ecommerce for Walmart, Marc Lore, acknowledges that the company has work to do to catch up with Amazon in some respects, but that doesn’t mean Amazon has the advantage in every digital matchup.

Lore said Walmart’s more than 1.2 million employees in the US, as well as its more than 4,600 stores located within 10 miles of 90% of the US population, are among its “unique assets.” They give Walmart advantages, he said, such as the ability to offer online ordering for grocery pickup, currently available in 1,000 stores.

The comments came only days after the company announced its partnership with smart-lock startup August Home to test delivering fresh produce straight to customers’ refrigerators.

As Amazon continues to expand into various areas of consumers’ lives and reshapes how people shop via its successful Alexa-powered voice assistants like the Echo devices, Walmart is partnering with Google to offer a feature where consumers can shop for Walmart items via Google Assistant voice shopping. The partnership also involves Walmart integrating its “Easy Reorder” feature to Google Express so Google can recommend a personalized weekly shopping list based on consumers’ prior purchase history.

How this deal came about also highlights the importance of the partnership for Google. In fact, Google was the one that approached Walmart first about the partnership.

“It’s been a perfect partnership,” Lore said. “We are a retailer. We don’t claim to be a tech company. … Google has more tech prowess. We are looking through the lens of how we can be the best merchant in the world. … The two of us are stronger than anyone alone.”

Why it’s hot:

  • Fascinating to see how the power of voice is continuing to be at the forefront of brands’ priorities when it comes to understanding and responding to consumers’ needs
  • The boundaries of cool vs. creepy keep getting pushed (would you be ok with a brand delivering food and restocking your fridge for you when you aren’t home?)

Monetize Web Traffic By Using It To Mine BitCoins

The Pirate Bay, a torrent website, experimented with getting site visitors to mine the cryptocurrency Monero with their browser over the weekend, without their knowledge.

The experiment was implemented to see if web traffic along with some code could in fact mine for bitcoins and to ultimately replace Pirate’s Bay banner ads. Upon discovering the surreptitious mining, people were understandably upset: Cryptocurrency mining can slow down your computer.

The service in question is Coin Hive and it allows users to embed JavaScript miners in their website as a side source of revenue, so the service in itself is not bad or evil. The problem with The Pirate Bay is that they have introduced the JavaScript code of the miner without letting any of the visitors know, so people started noticing that when they open the website their CPU load skyrockets and were obviously concerned.

Why It’s Hot:

As more and more ad-blockers are downloaded sites will continue to look for technology that can help them monetize with very little ask from the consumer. If more sites are more transparent with users about lending their CPU energy to mine bitcoins, then users might be willing to make the trade. The user will receive no ads and the publisher will receive revenue. A positive trade-off for both parties.

Play music on your Oreos

Oreo is a popular snack around the world, but is apparently not so popular with Chinese teenagers. A media and creative arts team at Dimension Plus (agency based in Taipei and Hong Kong), combined Oreo cookies with something most teens love: music.

The result was ‘Oreo Vinyl’, tiny cookies embossed with miniature grooves that play music just like a vinyl record. These cookies are housed inside a cardboard pack, with each cookie playing the “Oreo Anthem” in a different musical style. The project actively involved teens by getting participants at the Strawberry Music Festival, a popular youth event held in Shanghai, to compose each of the different songs.

The grooves on the cookies were made with laser cutting and engraving machines. The cookies can then be played with the Oreo Vinyl Record Player contained in each pack.

Why it’s hot:

Oreo found a way to directly connect with their target audience both in the creation of this concept and in its deployment. This is an innovation that is both unexpected and functional that is sure to increase audience engagement with the brand.