stanford AI generates sound with zero training…

According to computer scientists at Stanford, they have “developed the first system for automatically synthesizing sounds to accompany physics-based computer animations” that “simulates sound from first physical principles” and most impressively, unlike other AI “no training data is required”.

Why it’s hot:

While most AI to date requires overt training in order to be able to properly synthesize an output, this requires none. It’s not the first AI to require no human-assistance, but the future that might have seemed years off for AI is rapidly advancing. If AI can construct sound from visuals based on physical principles, you have to wonder how hard it might be to construct physical objects based on sound.

[Source]

Soundtrack of Your Life

Royal Caribbean is partnering with Berklee College of music to set your vacation photos to music using AI.

 Source: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/royal-caribbean-now-sets-your-vacation-photos-to-music-using-ai/amp/

Launching this week, Royal Caribbean is launching an online tool that turns user images into mini-videos with original music assembled by AI and inspired by the images themselves.

A picture from a botanical garden, of red flowers and green leaves, generates two bars of smooth jazz. An elaborate piece of graffiti on a brick wall renders into a crunching hip-hop beat.

The machine-learning process entailed more than 600 hours in which Royal Caribbean and a team of musicians and technologists reviewed hundreds of music tracks along with 10,000 photos, matching each of the 2.5 million combinations to one of 11 moods.

The A.I. in SoundSeeker uses Google Cloud Vision to identify objects, facial expressions and colors in a user’s photo by referencing the roadmap developed by the leaders in music theory at Berklee.

Why it’s hot

Tourism industry is always at the forefront of individualization beyond personalization by making something so personal and making it truly unique.

Magic Leap One launch a mixed bag after years of promises

Magic Leap calls itself a “spatial computing” company, but it produces what most people call augmented or mixed reality experiences: hologram-like objects projected into three-dimensional space. Modern smartphones offer a primitive version of mixed reality, and headsets like Microsoft HoloLens offer a more advanced version for industrial and professional use.

CEO Rony Abovitz claimed that Magic Leap’s hardware will “transcend what can be contained in a physical product.” He announced the company with a 2012 TedX talk in which he donned a full space suit and spoke for 30 seconds. Today, he won’t even confirm it was him in the suit.

The Magic Leap One Creator Edition is aimed at artists and developers, but Abovitz stresses that it’s a “full-blown, working consumer-grade product,” not a prototype. AT&T will even offer demos to customers in some of its stores later this year. “We think it’s at the border of being practical for everybody,” says Abovitz. “Our whole thing with Magic Leap One is, we want people to realize this is what computing should look like — not [laptops], not TVs, not phones.”

The Magic Leap One is a three-piece system that includes a headset called Lightwear, a small wearable computer called the Lightpack, and a handheld controller.

Like every mixed reality company, Magic Leap eventually wants to make a normal-looking pair of glasses that can be worn everywhere. For now, the headset is only guaranteed to work indoors, and it includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi antennas, but no mobile data options. AT&T has already committed to selling a future version with wireless data plans, though, and Abovitz says you can use the current version “at your own risk” outside.

Still, Magic Leap is one of the best (if not the best) pieces of mixed reality hardware on the market today. But after all of Magic Leap’s descriptions of its unique hyper-advanced light field technology, it didn’t feel categorically different from something like HoloLens — which was released two years ago, and has a second generation on the horizon. I’m not convinced Magic Leap’s photonics chip is practically that different from other mixed reality waveguides, or that Magic Leap is doing something other companies couldn’t replicate.

But instead of showcasing the strength of its possibilities, my Magic Leap One app demos kept highlighting the weaknesses of its technology. I could imagine replacing my television with a virtual screen, but not one that clips in half when I’m not staring straight at it. I kept forgetting where I’d placed small virtual objects in a room. Full-room experiences, like the beautiful underwater seascape of Tonandi, always felt clearly artificial. The issue wasn’t just technical limits, it was apps that didn’t seem designed to work well within those limits.

So unless Magic Leap is deliberately holding any big projects for a consumer release, I’m not sure what its internal studios and partners have been doing with several years and virtually unlimited funding, and why it wouldn’t showcase more of their work during the Magic Leap One’s big debut.

Why it’s hot

With nearly every big tech company making a play for mixed reality, it’s an area ready for disruption. Early adopters are ready for a big step forward, but at over $2.2k, it’s not clear that Magic Leap One will really meet that need for everyone. With the failure of Google Glass, what will it take for a mixed reality hardware to be widely adopted?

Read more at The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/8/17662040/magic-leap-one-creator-edition-preview-mixed-reality-glasses-launch

Do you even lift?

“Across the board, across all industries, you see about $96 billion in worker compensation costs,” says Benjamin Kanner, CEO and founder of Worklete. “About 64% of those are related to musculoskeletal injuries–your back injuries, your shoulder injuries, your knee injuries.

“If we can teach these folks basic rules for human movement, and say, ‘Yes, there is a better and a worse way to move,’ that’s really how we win. That’s how we help blue-collar, underserved populations stay injury-free so they can work hard all day long and then go home and enjoy their lives outside of work, too.”

Worklete trains workforces to move in better, smarter, and safer ways, whether that’s teaching the proper driving posture when operating a forklift or the best technique for lifting a five-gallon water jug. Today, 20,000 frontline workers use the smartphone app, which runs each employee through 10 two-week training modules. The first week of each module is centered around movement “basics,” with photo- and video-based lessons followed by short quizzes. The total time commitment is about five minutes per week.

The second part of each module involves in-person practice sessions with partners or teams. These trainings are led by “champions,” unofficial leaders on the ground. Champions, typically shift managers, are selected during new client onboarding. For Worklete subscribers, an admin dashboard allows managers to monitor employee progress on training modules on an individual basis, evaluate performance at the city or regional level, and review team rosters, including new hires (marked with red), who might benefit from extra attention.

Why its hot

This is great on multiple levels. Not only does it solve a problem (workforce injuries from heavy lifting/general stress), but it also creates brand evangelists within the companies themselves, keeping employees engaged and using the service. Throw in the cost savings from keeping your employees healthy and it’s a no brainer for any company with a lot of physical labor. I would love to see companies with even less physical stress, where people mainly sit all day, use something like Worklete as well.

Chase ATMs go cardless

Chase recently expanded its cardless access to 16,000 ATMs nationwide. Customers will no longer need to carry their debit cards and use them to retrieve cash at ATMs. They can now simply tap their smartphone on the ATM to get cash.

Step 1 Access your mobile wallet on your phone and select your virtual Chase Debit Card.

Step 2 Look for the Cardless symbol on the ATM, and tap it with your phone.

Step 3 Enter your PIN as usual.

Why it’s hot: Cardless no longer means cashless.

Source 

Facial recognition cash withdrawal

Residents in Tibet can now use the facial recognition technology to withdraw cash at ATMs from the Agricultural Bank of China, no debit cards needed.

Also powered by the facial recognition technology, the Agricultural Bank of China is testing card-less and device-less payments at a pilot supermarket in Chongqing, China. Shoppers can pay for items by looking into the camera in the supermarket after putting the item in shopping basket. Transactions will automatically be conducted for registered Agricultural Bank of China customers.

Why it’s hot: There might be a day that our face truly becomes our identify and is all we need to conduct transactions and other businesses in the future.

Source

count cash with AR…

One of the brilliant minds at Google recently shared the AR application above that lets users quickly and easily count money of any currency, in any currency.

Why It’s Hot:

These types of new uses for AR might seem novel and even a bit magical now, but it won’t stay that way for long. This is just another signal that our future will be in 4D, with a new digital layer that will add information and functionality to the physical world.

[Source]

Barkeep, the Mixologist Chatbot

The next time you’re searching for a recipe on Allrecipes.com, you might see a cocktail pairing sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The two brands have teamed up on a mixologist chatbot, Barkeep, to recommend drinks and walk people through preparation.Tito Allrecipes bot

Barkeep is powered by natural language processing and a mixology database to suggest cocktails based on seasonality, popularity, and users’ preferences. The chatbot will be accessible by Facebook Messenger, as well as integrated within the Allrecipes search database.

Beyond recipes, the chatbot also features a catalog of on-demand alcohol delivery powered by Drizly.

The partnership is a natural fit — Allrecipes users are 20% more likely than the average U.S. adult to be frequent entertainers, and are more likely to have prepared a mixed drink in the past week. They are also 21% more likely than the general U.S. population to have consumed Tito’s Handmade Vodka in the last six months, according to comScore Fusion.

Why It’s Hot

39 million people use Allrecipes.com every month. This is a natural way to introduce cocktail pairings and alcohol delivery to a large, engaged audience.

Source: PR Newswire

Beijing’s smart bakery

Beijing welcomed its first unmanned smart bakery, a collaboration between Alibaba and domestic baker brand Wedomé. The bakery uses technologies including AI image recognition, mobile payment and QR code to enable unmanned services.

 

Why it’s hot: Mobile payment is so prominent in China and sets the nation on its way to be (maybe) a cashless economy one day.

Source

Lowe’s Brings VR to Power Tools

Lowe’s Innovation Labs is using virtual reality as a fun and safe way to let potential customers play with power tools in their stores. Their latest installation involves a hedge trimmer–actual blades removed, of course.

The experience was built on HTC Vive VR, with accurate visual approximation and the real vibrating feel of trimming hedges. It’s also gamified, giving out gold stars for a job well done.

The pilot test across several cities has seen great success. People’s confidence with the product increased 127% after the experience.

 

Why It’s Hot

This is a smart way to help people test drive products that would normally be difficult to evaluate before purchasing. It also helps people get comfortable with tools that might otherwise intimidate them.

Source: Fast Company

AT&T Announces a VR Escape AdverGame

AT&T AUDIENCE Network created a VR escape advergame for their new show Mr. Mercedes. The game is all told from a first person perspective, putting the user in the shoes of the characters in the show to discover clues and find a way to escape.

The game incorporates footage directly from the set of Season 2 making it look awesome and is a great tease for watching the show. That along with it being a VR escape game, a genre that doesn’t have a flooded market, yet for gamers makes this advergame really stands out with the gamer audience.

“Escape before time runs out or be trapped in Brady’s lair forever! And, whatever you do, don’t let him inside your head.”

 

 

Why it’s Hot:

  • Unique advergame
  • Great way to have gamers find out about the show that were unaware of it previously
  • Innovative way to advertise in VR

discover places you never knew you wanted to stay…


AccorHotels launched something it calls the Seeker Project, a program that uses your heartbeat and instinctual reactions to different scenery to show you places its algorithm thinks you may want to visit.

There’s a website version anyone can try, but the whole thing started when a number of influences were invited to Toronto and “asked to wear a headband to monitor their alpha and gamma brain waves and wrist cuffs that measured their heart rate and skin response. The experience then determined whether that person was an introvert or extrovert, sought tranquility or adventure, or preferred modern to rustic environments.

The biometric data was then processed through a custom algorithm and produced into a psychographic illustration and the visitors received recommendations for dream destinations based on their personal data.”

It provided results looking something like the ones I got below:

“You are craving a chance to reconnect with the world in a warm destination. You have a preference for classic and traditional surroundings and need to recharge in a spa getaway. You feel most at home in the serenity of the outdoors. A romantic getaway is what your heart wants.”

Why It’s Hot: 

We can think we know what we want, and go after it, but how do we know there isn’t something else we really want? Using unconscious signals to make suggestions will allow them to help us uncover things we may never have known otherwise. Granted, it’s not revealing serious information like other biometric products we’ve seen recently. But, it’s interesting to see what’s possible now that we’re able to tap into biometric data in new ways.

[Source]

 

Swing, or a miss?

Hate those terrible, ugly earbuds that came with your iPhone? Wish there was a better way to carry those things around without getting the wires tangled in your pants pocket? Well now there’s Swings Bluetooth earring headphones. You’re welcome, society.

Product listing on Kickstarter

Why It’s Hot

Not mentioned in the pitch is that those wireless earbuds are really easy to lose. The Swings can help with that. Plus, there’s an opportunity to promote brands such as baseball teams or shoe brands with a logo on the face of the dangling part.

For people without pierced ears, there could also be a clip-on version.

JPMorgan built an online bank for millennials, and it should have apps like Acorns and Stash worried

Legacy organizations have been looking for ways to compete with nimble startups disrupting their respective categories. However, the secret sauce for these legacy giants might be in modernizing their product offering by blending traditional services with disruptive feature enhancements. JPMorgan is looking to disrupt the banking industry by building a mobile-first bank aimed at millennials dubbed Finn.

 Finn which is an end-to-end mobile bank, recently rolled out nationwide. In addition to offering bread-and-butter checking and savings account functionality, it also offers services many firms in the personal finance startup space have built their businesses around.

With Finn, users can create specific rules that determine when money will be transferred from checking to savings. One rule, “Work Hard, Save Smarter,” puts aside a set amount of money on pay day. There’s also “the Limit Does Not Exist” which saves a predetermined amount of cash whenever a user spends over a certain amount on a purchase.

That raises the question: what do fintechs do when big banks decide to step on their turf?

Why it’s hot?

It’s not all about the new kid on the block. Industry giants can compete with startups and even pose greater threats to them by transforming their product offering to meet and exceed their targets’ needs.

image_from_ios 1

The Aviva Dash Cam Will Save Drivers Time and Money

Insurance company Aviva added a new Dash Cam functionality to their app. The app begins filming as soon as it senses the vehicle move.

It films the journey in short, unsaved loops unless the motion reading from the smartphone detects a potential collision. In that case, the video footage is saved as video evidence that can be submitted with an insurance claim.

While the free app is available to all drivers, there are major benefits for those who are insured by Aviva, including safe driver car insurance discounts and easy ways to complete a claim via the app.

Why It’s Hot: 

  • This functionality makes it easier for drivers to quickly file insurance claims directly from their phones.
  • Video footage can help drivers clearly indicate who is at fault in an accident

The future of surveillance will be automated

New machine learning techniques are giving surveillance cameras the ability to capture suspicious behavior without the help of human supervision

A Japanese telecom company NTT East built AI Guardman, a new AI security cam with startup Earth Eyes Corp. They combined open source technology developed by Carnegie Mellon to scan video streams with their own algorithm that matches the data from these streams to ‘suspicious’ behavior. From early testing, NTT East claims AI Guardman reduced shoplifting in stores by roughly 40 percent.

But there are potential problems with this security camera. First, it sometimes misidentifies indecisive customers (who might pick up an item, put it back, and then pick it up again) and salesclerks who are restocking shelves as potential shoplifters. Second, it is possible that the data may be biased towards certain groups.

Why it’s Hot:

Currently, store owners may only know if they were shoplifted when it comes to their attention, which could be several hours after the fact. Once this technology is made available, they can be alerted of suspicious behavior in real time.

Driverless Grocery Delivery

America’s largest grocery store, Kroger, has announced plans to launch a driverless home delivery service. A pilot program will kick off in the fall in partnership with Nuro, the self-driving car company started by former Google engineers.

Leading up to the launch, Nuro is using a fleet of six self-driving cars to map ideal routes around Kroger locations. The vehicles are designed to operate on public streets, and will continue to be tested in heavy traffic and a range of weather conditions.

When the service becomes available in the first, yet to be announced test market, Kroger customers will be able to request a delivery via the Kroger delivery portal or Nuro app.  The vehicles which have two temperature-controlled compartments will be loaded up with up to 12 grocery bags. When they arrive at their destination, customers will have to come to the curb or their driveway and enter a PIN code or otherwise verify their identity to retrieve their groceries.

While for many this will be a welcome improvement in grocery delivery, it may not be as liked by those customers who currently use Kroger’s same day delivery service and enjoy having a person to carry the groceries right to their door.

Why It’s Hot

Consumers have increasingly high expectations when it comes to on-demand delivery. As Nuro and other self-driving car companies perfect their technology and optimize their routes, there is likely to be a major overhaul in how groceries, laundry, and other items are delivered.

Source: The Verge

Microsoft improves facial recognition across genders and skin tones

Tech is racist and sexist, and one of the many glaring manifestations of that is in the accuracy of facial recognition technology. Commercially available facial recognition as a whole works better on light skin than on dark skin, and also recognizes male faces better than female faces. So overall, the technology is catered toward white male faces and performs worst on female faces with dark skin.

In an effort to reduce this bias, Microsoft just announced an update to their facial recognition technology, available to consumers as the Face API via Azure Cognitive Services. They claim this update has reduced error rates for all people of color by 20 percent, and for female faces by 9 percent.

The reason why these systems are so biased is confusingly simple. AI tech like facial recognition is only as strong as the data used to train them. So, if a facial recognition system is going to recognize all kinds of faces equally, its training dataset needs to (wait for it) include all kinds of faces.

In order to improve their facial recognition tech, Microsoft made three key changes:

  1. Expanded and revised training and benchmark datasets
  2. Launched new data collection efforts focusing on skin tone, gender, and age
  3. Improved classifier to produce more precise results

Why It’s Hot: It’s great that Microsoft has invested a lot of time and money into improving their facial recognition to be more inclusive. But the question remains, why wasn’t it important to the company (and to every tech company) to include women and people of color to begin with? The fact that these systems need to be “updated” is symptomatic of the rampant sexism and racism that still permeates the industry. This update is a step toward fixing a problem that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Further, is this solution truly enhancing facial recognition for all people? Do they have trans and nonbinary people in their datasets? What about people with distinct facial markings or characteristics? Or does this solution update the software to a less blatant, but still questionable, level of bias?

Learn More: Engadget | Microsoft

 

A new purpose for brick and mortar

Startup company B8ta is taking the retail store experience concept one step further. B8ta sells no merchandise itself, instead charging “subscriptions” that brands pay to use their spaces and their Built by b8ta platform, for short or longer terms.

Built by b8ta, a store-as-a-service platform, includes checkout, inventory, point of sale, inventory management, staff scheduling services and other capabilities.

Lowe’s partnered with b8ta in 2016 to roll out a series of SmartSpot shops inside the home improvement retailer’s stores and earlier this month, Macy’s announced a plan to scale its new pop-up concept, The Market @ Macy’s, testing format spaces powered by b8ta’s technology.

Read more at Retail Dive.

Why It’s Hot
As ecommerce continues to rapidly grow and brands try to figure out the interplay of on and offline, we have a front-row seat to retail evolution.

weather channel’s mixed reality broadcast…

Batten down the hatches, because “immersive storytelling” has hit your television screen like a tornado.

Literally.

This week, The Weather Channel debuted a “mixed reality” broadcast, covering a theoretical tornado, using the additional layer of reality to show what can happen during one, in order to offer tips on how to react if you find yourself in the middle of one.

Why It’s Hot

While it would certainly be more magical if the mixed reality effects were happening in your actual living room, it’s indicative of the changing face of video, including TV. As technology is allowing for it, the way we experience video content is poised to transform, adding a new layer to things we’ve never seen before. Indeed, Weather Channel alone claims it will “use this method in 80% of all its programs by 2020”.

[Source]

Digital Beauty: A new way to do makeup

L’Oreal, as a beauty/makeup conglomerate will launch a new digital makeup experience. With live streaming and augmented reality, makeup lovers will be able to communicate with makeup gurus in help with their final look. Viewers will see with augmented reality what beauty products are right for their skin. From your home, you will be able to test new beauty products and form digital relationships with L’Oreal representatives.

With a partnership with “YourCam Makeup”, makeup lovers nearby will be able to test out new products such as various shades of colored lipstick and mascara on their skin. Instead of going to the physical L’Oreal store, individuals will be able to have a digitized experience from their own home. Individuals with augmented reality will additionally be able to learn about the benefits of L’Oreal products and shop through the online store. L’Oreal hopes to achieve a “seamless” makeup experience” for individuals globally. With augmented reality and the advancement of digital technology, makeup lovers will have an innovative and fun digital makeup experience.

Why its Hot

The digital experience with augmented reality remains to be a hot topic in both the cosmetic and the technology industry. More and more beauty/cosmetic companies are choosing a digital route to give their customers a fun and easy to use experience. Augmented reality is increasingly becoming a hotter tool for use, and is beginning to be utilized across many industries, like L’Oreal to give users a easy and simpler experience.

Uber Wants to Use AI to Tell if You’re Drunk

Uber has applied for a patent to use AI to determine a passenger’s “user state” before they’re picked up by their driver. While this may trigger alarm for those who rely on Uber to get them home safely after a night of drinking, it seems as though the company has the passenger’s safety top of mind.

If implemented, the technology would scan for patterns in behaviors like interaction speed, typing, device angle and even walking speed to understand when a customer seems to be acting out of the ordinary. It will also measure how far from normal the behavior appears.

The company hasn’t clarified exactly what this will mean for users, but the patent application mentions that passengers may be paired with drivers “with experience or training with users having an unusual state.” It may also encourage drivers to use pickup and drop off locations that are well-lit and easy to find.

Why It’s Hot:

This unique application of AI can potentially make for a smoother ride for both Uber drivers and passengers. It may also inspire other apps to push the boundaries of how to improve customer experience based on user behavior data.

Snap launches developer kit

Snap Kit lets developers like you integrate some of Snapchat’s best features across your platform — and lets your community share their favorite moments from your app with their friends, and Snapchatters across the world!

 

Why it’s hot

Snap understands that other apps are copying its core functionality. Rather than sprawling out and trying to make its own product even bigger, the company is attempting to keep itself in the center by disseminating the functionality and making it something anyone can add to their product.

The Harry Potter chess board is now a real thing.

You’re a chess enthusiast, but let’s face it: your chess board is probably collecting dust in your closet. Since no one in your household wants to play, you’re forced to play a game online or, even worse, not at all. Don’t worry—InfiVention Technologies will solve your issue with artificial intelligence.

InfiVention Technologies is redefining board games with the help of AI. Their product Square Off lets you play a game of chess on a real board with real chess pieces against opponents online or the artificial intelligence of the board. You will see your opponent’s every move in real-time, right in front of your eyes. The board uses magnets to move the pieces, while careful to not dislodge the adjacent pieces from their positions.

 

Training Mode

Why it’s Hot:

No one expected AI to take over board games—it’s often associated with computers. Since board games are rarely single player, many games have transitioned online to allow you to play at your own convenience. This brings back the charm in playing chess.

Source:  This Robotic Chessboard Is Like Something Out of Harry Potter

The emerging era of eCommerce

Snapchat and Instagram, two popular social media platforms are entering the world of e-commerce. Both platforms point users in a shopping direction. Each of the apps increase their competition amongst each other as they battle to gain the most following. In today’s digital era, eCommerce is transforming the way we absorb information and online shop.

For Snapchat, eCommerce is utilized as Snapchat presents the “Shoppable Snap Ads”. In this specific ad, Snapchat promotes Spectacles camera sunglasses. Meanwhile, Instagram utilizes shopping in its feature of “Instagram Stories”. With this feature, retail stores can promote their merchandise one user at a time. Brands are slowly beginning to take over each Instagram user’s feed and what they see. Snapchat like its competitor, has a feature in which users can stay in the know about their favorite brands and see how they can take action.

Snapchat additionally utilizes eCommerce to promote Dunkin’ Donuts. As America runs on Dunkin (no pun intended), it allows for users to interact with the brand by playing a virtual reality game, designed as an ad. Snapchat additionally includes “carousel-style” shopping ads, where users can interact with different filters for their favorite brands and send to their friends.

Why it’s hot

eCommerce remains to be a hot topic in today’s ad world. eCommerce is a major influence to how agencies and brands engage with their clients and users. The social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat use eCommerce to their advantage. With fun and eye-catching ads, eCommerce helps increase brand awareness and grow meaningful relationships with clients. As a global customer relationship agency, MRM//McCann works to use eCommerce as a specific tool in which clients can successfully and effectively interact with their users.

Snapchat Expands It’s Ecommerce Offerings with Shoppable Snap Ads

Snapchat, everyone’s favorite love it or hate it app.

To keep up with other social platform’s Ecommerce capabilities, like Facebook, Snap also wants to attract advertisers by convincing them that users do want to shop when seeing an ad on Snapchat.

Snap is currently testing Shoppable Snap and Story ads that can run on both the “Discover” page of the app and between stories. The new Shoppable ads lets consumers shop a product catalog within the app. The new Shoppable Snap ad is simple, and familiar to those who browse through brands on social media. You see a video ad with a product catalog at the bottom. The consumer taps on an item, and they’ll be directed to the brand’s website to complete the purchase. Companies on the advertiser’s side have to enable features like auto-fill or Apple Pay on the mobile website. Something Snap is not responsible for.

The added benefit for retailers and advertisers running these Shoppable Snap ads is using the Snap Pixel to see the total number and value of purchases of an advertiser’s Snapchat campaign.

The Shoppable Snap ads will have to prove it’s worthiness of having low Cost Per Purchase for advertisers, meaning with little spend, receiving a ton of purchase conversions – more bang for your buck for advertisers.

Why it’s hot: Many people in the industry are seeing the future of social commerce. As the next major storefront may very well be a social platform.

Source: https://www.adweek.com/digital/snapchat-introduces-shoppable-snap-ads-amping-up-its-ecommerce-offerings/

Tech gossip roundup

After Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, the two teams seemed to have difficulty merging culturally, with the founders of WhatsApp expressing concerns over the potential commercial applications of their platform versus the maintenance of user privacy. Even more telling in the wake of the founders’ public split with Facebook is that the campus itself became a place of tensions between the two teams. According to WSJ,

Some Facebook staffers considered the WhatsApp unit a mystery and sometimes poked fun at it. After WhatsApp employees hung up posters over the walls instructing hallway passersby to “please keep noise to a minimum,” some Facebook employees mocked them with chants of “Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!”

A sign in WhatsApp’s offices at Facebook headquarters. Some Facebook employees mocked WhatsApp with chants of ‘Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!’

Why it’s hot

Charged contributor Owen Williams has the tl;dr on this situation

Both WhatsApp founders have now left the company, and Facebook is getting what it’s always wanted: a way to monetize the product with its 400 million active ‘Status’ users…

Read the story about WhatsApp, and how it attempts to paint the founders as exasperated by losing a billion over resigning early, then consider the naiveté of selling your company to a advertising giant and being surprised when it wants you to monetize it with ads.

A surprise came early this week for the tech world and even employees of GitHub, with the news that the code repository had been sold to Microsoft. Few people even seemed to know that the company was up for sale, but it seems that the company that brought us both stable software for decades, as well as ironic icons like Clippy, narrowly beat out Google, Atlassian, Amazon, and Tencent for the chance to print their own Octocat stickers.

Williams notes in this week’s Charged:

it was almost a fire-sale price, in which no cash directly changed hands. The company was losing a lot of money, and it appears it decided pursuing acquisition actively was a better idea than trying to IPO.

While most people are excited about Microsoft’s track record for supporting software for decades, a few couldn’t resist the temptation to joke about the behemoth’s occasionally less-than-stellar product design track record.

Why it’s hot

Much of the code that powers what we know as the internet lives in GitHub, so the future of the platform is a hot topic for many developers, designers, and product teams. It seems that Microsoft has every intention of maintaining the service, but the future is relatively unknown at this point.

 

Emirates moves toward windowless planes, starts with first-class seats

Emirates president Tim Clark has been talking about virtual windows in an interview with the BBC.

And no, this isn’t just some wacky concept outlined in a recently granted patent. The first virtual windows are already here, in the first-class cabin of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Clark said external fiber-optic cameras stream images to the virtual windows, apparently offering high-quality images that are actually superior to what you see when looking through a regular aircraft window.

The Emirates president said there was “absolutely no reason” why we can’t have passenger planes fully kitted out with virtual windows in the near future. Windowless cabins would give the aircraft more structural integrity while making it lighter, allowing for faster flights and improved fuel efficiency, Clark said.

But as the BBC points out, the design could prompt safety concerns. For example, in an emergency situation like a fire, cabin crew need to be able to see outside the aircraft to assess the situation before initiating evacuation procedures. If the plane’s power systems fail, that could result in the displays shutting down, leaving crew and passengers stuck inside a truly windowless, and possibly dark, aircraft.

When asked about this apparent obstacle, the European Aviation Safety Agency said it didn’t see “any specific challenge that could not be overcome” with the use of virtual windows inside passenger planes.

While some first-class Emirates passengers already have the chance to try out the virtual windows, it’s likely to be a while before an entirely windowless aircraft — one looking a lot like a cargo plane from the outside — takes off with hundreds of passengers inside.

The technology brings to mind an idea put forward by Airbus several years ago for windowless cockpits. The aircraft manufacturer suggested in a patent — one which you may or may not wish to describe as “wacky” — that it would be beneficial to move the cockpit to the back of the plane. It said that having it at the front reduces the aircraft’s aerodynamic qualities because of the complex shape and structure required to house it. The heaviness of the reinforced windows also adds to the aircraft’s overall weight, reducing its fuel efficiency.

As with Emirates’ design, on-board cameras would feed real-time video and pre-stored data to displays in the cockpit, providing pilots with all the visual information they need.

Source: Digital Trends

Why It’s Hot

While possibly more pleasant for travelers AND efficient for air travel, could this also be an additional engagement opportunity for brands? Or an educational opportunity for travels?

Birthual Reality

The irony of being called “expectant parents” is that many actually have little idea what to expect from childbirth.

While they certainly understand the general process and medical procedures involved, one can’t really understand the full experience of birth until you’ve witnessed it first-hand. Given that childbirth is a relatively private moment—at least in terms of the number of people on hand—most people don’t have that experience until it’s time to meet their own newborns.

The uncertainty about the birth experience can create anxiety for expectant moms and dad alike, so one insurer came up with a compelling way to help.

Sweden’s Gjensidige Insurance worked with a hospital to film a childbirth in 360-degree video, creating a VR experience that anyone can watch. In fact, you can watch it right now as a 360 video on YouTube.

Luckily, it’s a rather uneventful pregnancy in the sense that the process goes smoothly. (And the birth itself is shot at a respectful angle that makes you feel you’re standing alongside the mother rather than in the place of the doctor.) But it still conveys the physical and emotional struggle of childbirth, along with the singular joy.

Why its hot?
-Preparing people for something that has been almost impossible to prepare for
-Great strategy to be top of mind child insurance provider (without selling insurance)
-A very real, authentic human gesture from an insurance company

Source: Adweek and https://www.gjensidige.se/birthualreality

Lithium batteries in shoes…what could go wrong?

At long last someone has designed a digital smartshoe. Cue the obligatory eye roll. And a pair of these can be yours for the whopping cost of $599.

Digitsole Smartshoe integrates street style with wearable technology, featuring auto tightening, accurate tracking, and individual coaching based on your movements.”

The shoe has a lot of features, including smart heating, activity tracker, cushion monitor, stair counter, pedometer, speedometer, calorie counter, auto tightening and an app that analyzes your stride.

Why It’s Hot
Well, I never said it was hot. I guess the shoelace tightener is kind of cool.

To be fair, the company has also developed a product that fits into any shoe as an implant, which is a much better idea.

Why It’s Not so Hot
Where to begin? Shoe styles are highly subjective and the cost is very prohibitive for an item that most people have more than one of. Seems like over-engineering. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.