A start up called What3Words has mapped and renamed every location on Earth. Using an algorithm to scan GPS co-ordinates, they created 57 trillion 3 meter by 3 meter squares that each have unique three word address. For example, ‘Tools.sand.stone’ refers to a spot in Central Park in New York and ‘Sportscar.citronella.photocopiers’ is a square of the Antarctic Ocean.
They created this map in order to increase accuracy in navigation for businesses and individuals in a simple yet global way. 75% of countries don’t have their own organized addressing system, according to the UN, so the possibilities that this system opens up are far-reaching.
Consumers can download the free app in 25 languages to get directions. But the real value comes when What3Words partners with brands and government agencies. Pizza Hut and Dominoes are using these addresses in places like Mongolia and the Caribbean to deliver pizzas to remote locations. And several models of Mercedes are using What3Words for their built-in navigation systems.
Why It’s Hot
The applications for more precise, universal locations are a win-win for businesses and consumers. UPS estimates saving each of its drivers one mile per day would result in a $50 million in overall savings. For consumers, the benefits range from increased accuracy for driving directions to life-saving emergency vehicles arriving on the scene more quickly.
Coffee not only powers people, it now also powers home. Dunkin’ Donuts created a transportable home that runs on bio-fuel created by used coffee grounds. And every 170 pounds of spent coffee grounds can yield about one gallon of fuel.
How it works:
Step 1: Extract excess oils in the spent coffee grounds. There can be natural oils left in spent coffee grounds, all depending on the coffee bean type and original processing methods.
Step 2: Mix and react. These oils are then mixed with an alcohol to undergo a chemical reaction known as transesterification. This produces bio-diesel and glycerin as a byproduct.
Step 3: Refine. The bio-diesel is washed and refined to create the final product.
What it’s hot: Finding practical ways to reuse resources and generate energy.
A company named Astride Bionix has Kickstarted a “wearable chair” they call Lex that lets you drag around a bulky thing around the city for those few minutes of the day when you’d rather be sitting. The Lex will retail north of the $300 rate on Kickstarter.
“The lightweight, 2.2-pound exoskeleton legs retract when they’re not in use, giving you the ability to move around easily and without any restrictions.” (Digital Trends)
Around 170,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong spend their days queuing, completing paperwork and paying substantial remittance fees to wire money home to families.
Chinese tech giant Tencent created a service to transfer money across borders using mobile payment technology.
Named WeRemit, the service exists as a function on Tencent’s WeChat, mainland China’s largest social media, messaging service and mobile payment app. Filipino users can transfer money to the Philippines in under 10 minutes, free of charge.
Filipino workers in Hong Kong, many of whom work as domestic helpers, can also use WeRemit for instant cash pick-up from 7-Eleven stores, bank deposits and mobile wallet transactions.
Why it’s Hot
The global remittance business moves more than $600bn around the world every year. The industry has become a strategic battleground for Asian tech giants seeking to disrupt a business that’s traditionally depended on a network of banks, convenience stores and pawnshops.
The Southeast Asian countries are an important market, with a growing population of 600m people, many of whom don’t have bank accounts. The Philippines is among the world’s most common destinations for money transfers, receiving $32.8bn in remittances in 2017, according to the World Bank.
For the 170,000 and more Filipinos working in Hong Kong as domestic maids, WeChat developed an international money transfer function for them to instantly remit money back to their families in the Philippines. So instead of waiting in line to wire transfer money on Sunday, their only day off in the week, they can now complete the task with a few clicks on their phone.
It’s a brilliant move by WeChat as they have been struggling with expanding to other parts of Asia and to increase the usage of the app beyond its 600 million active users in Mainland China.
Additionally, as a destination that received $32.8 billion in remittances in 2017, Filipinos working overseas become a no-brainer target audience.
Why it’s hot: The benefit for WeChat is threefold: market expansion, increase in cash flow and boost in brand image for adding value to people’s lives.
BioSay, a Boston startup has created a biometric measurement app that monitors stress levels through inbuilt sensors on a smartphone. The app monitors the how different places and environments affect a user’s emotional state.
Users have to place their finger over their smartphone camera which can detect their heart rate; the reading is called a “bioji”. The app also analyzes facial expressions and voice (through the camera and mic) to aggregate data about their mood. By using location services, the app can gather data about the user’s environment and users are encouraged to add their own data by adding notes or tagging friends they are with.
“Biojis” can be shared or kept private, although the apps founders would like for the data to be shared on a larger scale so that other users and healthcare providers can see how different places are impacting people.
‘The war on stress, depression and disease will not be won by survival of the fittest where data is locked away and we can’t learn from one another, it will be won by collaboration,’ explained Donalds during her TED Talk, featured above. ‘As we endeavour to fight the war on stress, depression and disease our data must not be divided but united.’
The impact that different businesses have on people’s emotional states can be mapped by BioSay, too. This is good news for brands if people leave their stores smiling, but not so great if the experiences they offer cause stress. Smart companies will use the data to gain insights into how they can improve and enhance their customers’ wellbeing.
Why it’s hot:
Because users can start to understand the lifestyle choices they may not be aware of that are negatively influencing their health.
What’s this going to do for brands with physical locations?
It seems solving the pain points of delayed air travelers has become one of 2018’s hottest challenges. The latest brand to take it on is insurance brand AXA, via “fizzy”, it’s smart travel insurance.
Here’s how it works – “AXA’s blockchain-powered insurance plan, called Fizzy, covers travelers for delays of up to two hours or more. When customers purchase insurance using Fizzy, all details and contract agreements are recorded publicly, on the Ethereum blockchain. The contracts, which are connected to global air traffic monitoring databases, automatically trigger compensation payouts when a delay of more than two hours is recorded.”
In otherwords, you get paid (automatically) when you get delayed.
Why it’s hot:
First, it’s one of the most simple and practical, yet smart uses of blockchain and smart contracts we’ve seen yet. There’s plenty of chatter about the potential of blockchain, but considerably fewer actual things consumers can currently do that are blockchain enabled.
One of the biggest headaches with insurance can be having to make claims and waiting to be compensated. fizzy automatically knows when you should be compensated and does so “by the time your flight lands”. So, a matter of hours instead of days.
Companies like EZPass on the East Coast, FasTrak in California and TxTag in Texas have been helping people get through tolls faster with electronic tag devices for years. But soon, they’ll be in competition with cars that have electronic toll technology built in.
Starting with their new electronic vehicle e-tron, Audi is launching what they’re calling “Integrated Toll Module.” The technology leverages a toll transponder within the car’s rear-view mirror. Drivers will be able to pair their cars with wireless toll payment accounts, eliminating the need for a physical electronic tag.
The system places a toll transponder into the car’s rear-view mirror. From there, drivers will be able to pair their vehicle with their wireless toll accounts So there’s no more need to mount and deal with physical electronic tag devices on the upper portion of the windshield, or on the front license plate.
Audi says its Integrated Toll Modules are already compatible with existing toll agencies, meaning it will be easy to register new accounts and to drive cross-country between different toll authorities.
Why It’s Hot
Paying for tolls is a major hassle and source of traffic. Having technology built into cars to alleviate this problem can make many drivers’ daily commutes and longer trips significantly more pleasant.
AV1, a cute-looking, internet-connected robot made by Oslo-based start-uo No Isolation helps children who have chronic diseases unable to attend school participate in classes remotely and keep in touch with teachers and friends.
Instead of studying on their own at home, these children can study along their friends at school via the robot. The robot can sit in the classroom and live stream video and audio back to a tablet or smartphone. Children at home can speak through the robot and participate in the class. They can also control where the robot is looking.
The robot’s head will blink to alert the teacher if the student wants to ask a question. It’ll also turn blue to signal the teacher that the student becomes too sick or tired to participate.
Why it’s hot: Being present for an occasion is easier than ever. For people with chronic diseases internet-connected robots make them feel comfortable for being present without displaying their illness.
Russia’s (in)famous Kalashnikov manufacturing company has revealed it’s first electric car. The prototype, shown for the first time at an event near Moscow is a throwback to a Soviet hatchback created in the 1970s. But it’s looks are the only thing retro about it. It’s makers have said it is a revolutionary cutting-edge “supercar” that can compete with the likes of Tesla.
There are still some kinks to iron out, but they’re hoping they’ll be able to offer would be able to travel 220 miles (350 km) on a single charge and with a higher top speed than other e-cars on the market.
“Kalashnikov has been looking to take its brand in different directions and recently launched a clothing line and a catalogue of personal items ranging from umbrellas to smartphone covers.”
Reactions to this latest venture have been mixed, from ridicule to praise of its cool look.
Why it’s hot:
It’s a bold and interesting design choice and it will be interesting to see whether this sparks a trend in a greater variety of e-car designs.
A good example of the growing trend of companies diversifying their brand offerings.
For World Humanitarian Day last Friday, the UN reimagined how logging your objections to important social issues should really work in 2018.
The organization created a “living petition” protesting civilian suffering in conflict zones across the globe that people could “sign” using a 3D image of their faces (according to the UN, 3 out of 4 victims in conflict zones last year were civilians).
The “petition” is being displayed in an installation at the UN from now through next month’s General Assembly, which “has motion sensors that will allow the eyes of the petitioners to follow world leaders and delegates as they enter the UN hall, reminding them that the whole world is watching.”
Why It’s Hot:
There’s no disputing that a wall of faces with eyes that follow you has a much greater potential to impact the people who see it than a list full of signatures. With all the digital technology we’ve seen arrive in the last 20+ years, it’s high time someone used it to transform the “petition”.
Christie’s will become the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm. Between October 23 and 25, Christie’s plans to hold a special sale for the AI-generated artwork: Portrait of Edmond Belamy, created by Obvious – an art collective based in Paris.
The way it works
The AI model is called GAN (generative adversarial network) and it consists of two parts: one that creates (the Generator) and one that critiques (the Discriminator).
“We fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th. The Generator makes a new image based on the set, then the Discriminator tries to spot the difference between a human-made image and one created by the Generator, said Hugo Caselles-Dupré, co-founder of the art collective.
Why it’s hot
This isn’t the first example of creative AI, but the auction of an AI-generated portrait at Christie’s could make AI-created art seem, you know, legit.
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.
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 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
“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 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.
Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a French video game maker, has created an educational add-on to the latest installment of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise.
It is called Assassin’s Creed: Origins Discovery Tour and it allows users to freely explore the reproduction of ancient Egypt without actually taking part in standard gameplay. Purely educational, this add-on acts as a virtual museum and features 75 guided tours of historical sites voiced by real historians and Egyptologists on subjects such as mummification, the writing of hieroglyphs, the daily life of Egyptians and the ancient city of Alexandria.
This add-on is aimed for the educational market and was even used as a learning tool for high school students.
Why it’s hot
Apparently, there was 44% improvement of the high school student’s knowledge of the historical topic. Reading, talking and watching video presentations is incredibly enriching when a student can tour and interact with the world they’re learning about.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Great way to have gamers find out about the show that were unaware of it previously
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.