Zara’s AR

Zara mannequins are coming to life. The fast fashion destination is giving its display windows an AR makeover, enabling passersby to simply point their smartphones at empty display windows to make virtual models appear, move, and converse on their screens. If they like what they see, they can shop items directly from their mobile phones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upWC8v-SQc

Why It’s Hot

-First retailer to implement AR at a mass scale

-Really smart and effective way to dress up retail…one that has fast turn arounds and less man power

-Bridges the purchase gap from brick and mortar to .com

Sleepiest ad in the world

Ikea has created a sensuous print ad to help give people a great night’s sleep. The Sömnig (meaning ‘sleepy’) ad with Ikea as part of the brand’s 2018 bedroom campaign after discovering that nine out of 10 people in the UAE don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. To aid people’s sleep, the agency created a soporific print ad that was designed to be placed on a nightstand.

The ad is printed with ink made from lavender (which is associated with relaxation), has a portal which gives off more lavender scent, and it also has speaker that plays white noise (a sound that cancels distracting noises and induces sleep).

The advert was placed in Good magazine (the April 2018 issue). It could be torn out of the magazine and it had adjustable tabs to help it stand upright. The ad was also fitted with a USB port, to charge the battery when it ran out.

Why its hot?

Turned a print ad into a problem solving object that people want to keep and use in their home.

The rise of compassionate technology

The UK technology sector is booming – and one of the biggest growth areas was is compassionate tech.

Compassionate tech is things like apps and online services aimed at helping society’s most vulnerable. Examples include Beam, a pledge site that lets people contribute to training for someone that is homeless. Another is ‘GP at Hand’, which allows you to book an appointment with an NHS doctor on your smartphone within two hours. A third is Komp, a high-resolution easily controlled screen that is helping the elderly communicate with others more easily to combat isolation and loneliness.

Komp

The UK has more investments in compassionate technology companies than the rest of Europe put together. Why the U.K.? Well, it already ranks as the 8th most charitable country in the world.

Read more: BBC

Why It’s Hot
Leveraging tech to help people who most often don’t have a seat at the industry table is a great reminder of the positive potential of innovation.

New Technology Analyzes Gender Equity in Scripts

At this point we are all familiar with the disparity between men and women’s roles and screen time in film, TV and even ads. Year after year, women appear less often, say fewer words, and general do less on screen than their male counterparts.

A new screenplay software can automatically tell whether a script is equitable for men and women. It only took a few weeks for Christina Hodson, a screenwriter who is involved with Time’s Up, to take her idea from theory to reality, working with the developer of screenwriting software Highland, John August, to create Highland 2. She wondered if screenwriters could tackle the problem before casting directors and producers even stepped in.

Above: an analysis of La La Land.

WHY IT’S HOT:

The next issue will be one of buy-in. While Hodson has already inspired others in the film community to come up with tests and tools of their own, will gender representation become the new benchmark of getting a film, show, or even script for TVC green-lit? And how might this tool or others tackle other issues of underrepresentation in Hollywood, and beyond? The Times writes, “Ms. Hodson and the software makers say they expect their tools will be expanded to address other issues of representation, like race and ethnicity, although that is more complicated, because those details are not always mentioned in scripts.”

When I Tried To find a Locksmith

I was recently having trouble with my front door, neither here nor there, I wasn’t locked out, but I couldn’t lock my door in the morning.

It turns out finding a locksmith is the hardest thing to do in New York City. “Why don’t you just Google it?” you might ask. Because Googling locksmiths is rife with fraud.

“The goal of lead gens is to wrest as much money as possible from every customer, according to lawsuits. The typical approach is for a phone representative to offer an estimate in the range of $35 to $90. On site, the subcontractor demands three or four times that sum, often claiming that the work was more complicated than expected. Most consumers simply blanch and pay up, in part because they are eager to get into their homes or cars.”

Scammers would go as far as adding fake “offices” into google maps so you can’t even use mapping to research. I wound up getting a referral, but I thought about going to a nearby locksmith in person to triple check they were real.

This is not new, the first reports of this problem are from 2011. Maybe you already know about it. So my question is, if this problem is an old problem why are you posting about it. Well, because it’s 2018 and its only just being fixed. In fact google was sued about it just last month.

Google has been sued time and time again.. and the good news is, they’re finally fixing the problem. Enter Google Guaranteed (October of this year).

Image result for google locksmith guarantee

Ok, Lisa this is all old news! But it isn’t old news for my locksmith, Nick, who has  the arduous task of applying to be google guaranteed. Apparently this is a months long process that has some expenses involved. This can be hard for someone trying to start a small business, like Nick.

Why Its Hot?

What happens to businesses if you’re not Googles priority?

“Defendants knowingly and deliberately flood organic search results displayed in response to queries such as “locksmith” (and related terms) with scam locksmith listings they know: 1) do not exist at all, or at least not at the locations indicated, 2) operate for the purpose of defrauding the consumer public, 3) are not licensed in jurisdictions mandating locksmith licensing, 4) are unregistered to do business in jurisdictions (such as DC) requiring business registration.

Defendants flood the market with fictitious listings to dilute Plaintiffs’ and other legitimate locksmiths’ listing in the organic and map results to the point of obscurity, thereby compelling legitimate locksmiths to pay Defendants for paid advertised results merely to be seen by the same prospective customers.”

Google made money off of locksmiths “problem” by creating artificial demand for their ads.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the real life heros spotting locksmith bots check out this article from the NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/business/fake-online-locksmiths-may-be-out-to-pick-your-pocket-too.html

‘er’, ‘mmm-hmm’ – it’s a robot

Duplex, Google’s robot assistant, now makes eerily lifelike phone calls for you.

The unsettling feature, which will be available to the public later this year, is enabled by a technology called Google Duplex, which can carry out “real world” tasks on the phone, without the other person realising they are talking to a machine. The assistant refers to the person’s calendar to find a suitable time slot and then notifies the user when an appointment is scheduled.

During demonstrations, the virtual assistant did not identify itself and instead appeared to deceive the human at the end of the line. However, in the blogpost, the company indicated that might change.

“It’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service, and transparency is a key part of that. We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”

Why It’s, Ummmm, Hot
Another entry in our ‘is it good, is it bad’ AI collection. Helpful if used ethically? Maybe. Scary if abused? Absolutely.

Half Dome – Facebook’s prototype VR headset that’s tackling VR’s biggest visual issues

Facebook just released the new Occulus Go, but already has a prototype for a new VR headset that focuses on advancing the hardware to increase the visual quality.

A wider field of view, built-in eye tracking, and moving screens inside the device all work together to create a greater sense of depth in virtual 3D objects, both far and near. This helps users read things and avoid tunnel vision in VR.

Personal images that users take are transformed into “point cloud record structures.” This allows the device to create new 3D panorama images with detailed geometry that users can explore in VR.

Check out the video: https://www.cnet.com/news/facebooks-vr-technology-half-dome-may-be-heading-somewhere-scary-good/

Why it’s Hot:

  • Innovative new ways to have hardware fix common visual VR issues and create 3D spaces from 2D images

Don’t stir. Spin

400 million stir sticks are used every day in America alone.
Stirring sticks come in all shapes and sizes, with the wooden ones being much easier to recycle than the plastic alternatives. But even so, we typically use these sticks exactly once before throwing them away and adding to the growing pile of waste us humans create every year. Scott Amron decided stirring sticks needed replacing, and so he developed Stircle.

Stircle is a device meant to be embedded into a table like those found at all major coffee chains, although you could just as easily have one at home if you have an aversion to spoons. Once it is hooked up to a power source the Stircle can stir any drink for you. Simply place your cup on the circular plate and watch it spin. Stircle spins in both directions, forcing the liquid inside to change direction with enough force for the contents to mix thoroughly. As the video above demonstrates, it really does stir drinks well.

At $345, the Stircle certainly isn’t cheap, but well within reach for an independent coffee shop or chain. Running costs are estimated at $0.10 per 50,000 cups stirred, so that’s negligible. Offering consumers a way to stir their freshly-made beverage without creating any waste could/should more than make up for the initial cost in the long run.

Why its hot?
Apart from the obvious good for environment and financial benefits, it gives coffee shops a new way to market themselves

Source: New Atlas and TechCrunch

Remaking the internet

This intriguing TED talk from Jaron Lanier paints an optimistic and entirely plausible vision for a “new internet” in the wake of the Facebook debacle and other concerns about privacy, regulation and data.

Lanier reflects on a “globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake” companies like Google and Facebook made at the foundation of digital culture — and how we can undo it. “We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them,” he says.

 

Why it’s hot: About 10 minutes into the talk, Lanier gets into the concept of subscription-based social media platforms, which many have dismissed – because they say “I’d never pay for Facebook”. But Lanier’s analogy is apt – he likens paying for social media and journalism to the golden era of TV we’re all currently enjoying. Pay for Netflix, get great content. The answer won’t exactly be “pay for Facebook”, but the thinking paves the way for an optimistic view of the future of personal data, privacy and subscription-based services that also benefit advertisers.

Bonus: Inside the Jordan refugee camp that runs on blockchain

 

Balls

Adidas Soccer revealed the Telstar 18, a reimagining of the original Telstar ball used at the tournament back in 1970 to be featured in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

It will be the most tech-savvy ball in history with an NFC microchip embedded inside. The chip will allow consumers to interact directly with the ball using their smartphones. Each ball generates a unique identifier, unlocking exclusive content and information for the user about the details of each ball and providing access to challenges that users can enter before the World Cup.

In short, passionate soccer fans can tap their phone on the ball to unlock a consumer experience – technically this could be anything from player exclusive content, to games, to Adidas’s discounts, to brand co-partnership

Why It’s Hot:

  1. Harnesses a red-hot passion point (aka soccer) at a global scale
  2. Enables increased product sales (the balls)
  3. Delivers on a unique and exclusive consumer experience
  4. Sky is the limit when it comes to content

Speak and thou shalt receive


Google has issued its first voice-activated coupon, a $15 offer for Target orders placed via Google Assistant.

Using a Google Home, a phone with Google Assistant built in, or the Google Assistant app (on either Android or iOS), simply say or type, ‘Spring into Target.’ If everything goes as planned, you’ll get a small paragraph informing you about the credit you’ve just received,”

The paragraph reads: “Three cheers for Spring! You’ve unlocked the Spring promo. Save up to $15 on your next order from Target on Google Express. You can order essentials like paper towels, laundry detergent, and trash bags. To try it out, ask me to order something you need from Target.”

Of course, it would be weird if this happened without any hitch. ‘Android Police’ reported potential confusion between “in to” and “into,” requiring a manual edit of the voice entry in some cases.

Why its hot?
Voice enabled things starting to hit adolescence. This coming of age means they are ready to go beyond basic stuff like weather to playing music to finally enabling hardcore retail sales. The possibilities are endless.

Source: MarketingWeek

Microsoft AI Knows When to Interrupt You

In an interesting social/behavioral development, Microsoft’s latest Xiaolce chatbot AI upgrade includes learnings for when to interrupt human conversation.

The functionality is called “full duplex voice sense” and what it does, on a basic level, is that it allows the chatbot to talk and listen simultaneously. (The old, walkie-talkie way of AI conversation is called “half duplex”.) It can predict what you’re likely to say next, and knows when to interrupt you with relevant information.

There are two goals for this functionality:

  1. Provide a more natural flow to your conversation
  2. Users don’t need to use a wake word every time they respond during conversations

Microsoft plans on spreading this technology to Microsoft’s chatbots in the US and Japan, though it could quickly catch on in other conversational AI tools as well.

Why It’s Hot: What makes a computer feel more human? I’d venture to say that human speech patterns have a lot to do with it. How will having a more human-like AI assistant change how we speak to our computers, how we interact with them, and on a bigger level, how we start to view them within the context of our lives? Will this change how we feel about our computers, how we rely on them in our daily lives? Will our brains begin to process AI like how we process other humans? (Basically, will we all be like Joaquin?)

Learn More: Engadget | Microsoft

Blurring the line between CGI and reality

“She’s a digital personality created using a new real-time motion-capture technology.”

“Epic Games has been obsessed with real-time motion capture for years, but the company is now trying to take its experiments with the technology one step further. Enter “Siren,” a digital personality that it created alongside a few prominent firms in the gaming industry: Vicon, Cubic Motion, 3Lateral and Tencent (which just became a major investor in Ubisoft). The crazy thing about Siren is that she comes to life using live mocap tech, powered by software from Vicon, that can make her body and finger movements be captured and live-streamed into an Unreal Engine project.”

Watch the video here: https://www.engadget.com/2018/03/22/siren-epic-games-unreal-engine-vicon/

Why it’s hot:

  • Breakthrough mocap tech
  • Going to save gaming company’s a ton of time on animations
  • Could easily be used to create some fake news
  • Robots taking some more jobs

Open Bionics’ Hero Arm is very cool

Open Bionics recently announced the upcoming launch of Hero Arm in 2018. The company has been working since 2014 to bring a new generation of bionic assistive devices that are affordable, comfortable, powerful, and stylish. Hero Arm is the result of that work; the world’s first medically certified, 3D printed bionic hand that will be available for upper limb amputees over the age of eight. The technology is fully open source, and they even have a robotic hand available for researchers to purchase and use for R&D.

Hero Arm responds to the muscle movements of the wearer’s upper arm, articulating individual fingers to perform the desired action. It features removable and customizable covers, meaning that wearers can create covers with colors and styles that suit their personality.

This technology is launching this Spring in the UK, and is slated to arrive internationally later this year.

Why it’s hot

Technological advancements are often intended for the already-elite, so companies developing solutions for disadvantaged users is always refreshing and good. Hero Arm does a great job at destigmatizing prosthetics by turning them into super powers. They’ve even partnered with Disney to create Marvel, Star Wars, and Frozen themed covers, bringing bionics fully into the mainstream.

I’m so ready for the next extreme weather event

These days, innovation means taking a traditional product and making it “smart” by connecting it to the internet or collecting tons of data on the user. Sometimes you just want a better version of the product that doesn’t fall apart after 2 uses.

A New Zealand company called Blunt makes an apparently indestructible umbrella that even Mary Poppins would be impressed with. The umbrellas “can withstand winds of up to 72 mph” according to the manufacturer, though reviews on Amazon are mixed (4 out of 5 stars, but some complaints about the cheapness of the plastic parts). It retails for around $60; you’ll pay $80 if you want it in green camo.

Why It’s Hot

Sometimes improving an old design is better than re-imagining it.

Lets talk about Cambridge Analytica

Last week the U.K.’s Channel 4 News exposed data mining company Cambridge Analytica in a series of hidden camera videos. The videos show Cambridge Analytica employees admitting to stealing Facebook data as well as offering to send prostitutes to the opposition to obtain blackmail material.

Cambridge Analytica obtained the Facebook data by getting it from an academic claiming to be producing a study. 250k users were paid to take a personality quiz and allow access to their data, however the company scraped data from all of their friends, leaving 50M exposed to the breach.
This firm is funded by Trump ally, hedge fund billionaire, Robert Mercer, and was the brain child of Steve Bannon. That the Trump Campaign was possibly using illegally obtained data is now a big topic of discussion.
Turns out Facebook new about this breach since 2015. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were notably quiet in the first few days of this news cycle and Facebook’s stock lost $59 billion in value in the first few days. Zuckerberg came forward with an apology. 

I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we've already taken and our next…

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

 

Why it’s hot?
We continue to talk about how our unregulated internet is booth a boon and a detriment to humanity. Facebook seems in this case to be asking itself to be regulated (literally “I’m not sure we shouldn’t be regulated”). We should be thinking about how we should put some limits on what can be done by these social behemoths.

AI Births The First White Collar Criminal

The Brazilian edition of business magazine Forbes has created a provocative strategy to spotlight the issue of corruption, which is flourishing while the nation continues to struggle economically.

Working with Ogilvy Brazil, Forbes has personified the issue by creating a fictional character to represent the estimated $61bn that corruption costs the nation annually. The result is Ric Brasil, an AI-generated avatar whose aggregated ‘earnings’ from white collar crime would place him at number 8 in the upcoming Forbes 2018 billionaire list.

The features and persona of Ric Brasil have been developed by technology companies Nexo and Notan drawing on existing data and images held on convicted corporate criminals. Over the last eight months this material has been analysed along with information sourced from media reports, witness statements, interviews and books covering two of Brazil’s most infamous corruption cases.

According to the magazine’s CEO, Antonio Camarotti, ‘Forbes wants to take a stand against corruption. We thought of this campaign as a way not only to raise public awareness to the extent of the issue, but also to value honest business people—those who comply with their duties, pay taxes, and shun taxpayer’s money as a way to make a fortune. Someone who won’t let himself be lured into corruption practices.’

Members of the press will be able to interview Ric Brasil in the run up to the launch of the billionaires list on April 16.

Source: Contagious

Why It’s Hot:

Part of the problem with corporate crime is that while it has a cost, it’s often hard to find a way to channel public anger against what can feel like a victimless crime. By literally putting a face on an intangible, distributed crime – vividly ‘bringing the problem to life’ – Forbes has a better chance of getting people to connect with the issue.

gesture control comes to amazon drones…

Amazon has been testing drones for 30 minute or less deliveries for a couple of years now. We’ve seen their patents for other drone-related ideas, but the latest is one describing drones that would respond to both gestures and commands. In effect, they’re trying to make the drones more than sentient technological vessels, and more human-friendly, so if the drone is headed toward the wrong spot you could wave your hands to indicate its error, or tell it where to set your item down for final delivery. As described in the source article:

Depending on a person’s gestures — a welcoming thumbs-up, shouting or frantic arm waving — the drone can adjust its behavior, according to the patent. As described in the patent, the machine could release the package it’s carrying, change its flight path to avoid crashing, ask humans a question or abort the delivery.

Among several illustrations in the design, a person is shown outside a home, flapping his arms in what Amazon describes as an “unwelcoming manner,” to showcase an example of someone shooing away a drone flying overhead. A voice bubble comes out of the man’s mouth, depicting possible voice commands to the incoming machine.

“The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location,” Amazon’s patent states.”

Why it’s hot:

This adds a new layer to the basic idea of small aerial robots dropping items you order out of the air. The more they can humanize the robots, the more they mimic actually deliverymen. And given the feedback we have seen on social about Amazon’s own human delivery service, this could be a major improvement.

[Source]

A Drone That Understands You

Amazon is filing for new patents. Not for a therapy drone, but a delivery drone that responds when you call or wave at it. The concept drone is designed to recognize human gestures, and then respond accordingly. Gestures the drone would recognize include, for example, waving arms, pointing, the flashing of lights, and speech.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/22/17150868/amazon-drone-patent-delivery-wave-speech-recognition

“The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location,” the patent states. The patent gives an example of a “shooing” motion, which the drone would recognize and stop moving closer. The drone would also then adjust its speed and the direction it’s moving in. If a person waves their arms in a welcoming manner, the drone can interpret the gesture as an instruction to deliver the package.

There’s no word on when or even whether the gesture-recognition system might debut. Amazon declined to comment.

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s the evolution of drone delivery. Human-machine interaction is changing as devices need to cater to individual needs.

AI is helping hospitals in China cope with a doctor shortage

AI is quickly becoming a promising technology for healthcare around the world, but China is gearing up to become THE global leader in AI in healthcare in the coming decades.

Why China, and why now? Three reasons:

  1. China has a low doctor-to-patient ratio – 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people in China, compared with 2.5 for every thousand in the US, so the need is pronounced
  2. The Chinese government announced last summer that they are pursuing global dominance in AI by 2030 through heavy investments in the industry
  3. The restrictions on AI tools and data in healthcare are fairly relaxed, allowing for quick approval and implementation

This market is also being targeted by China’s big tech companies. Both Alibaba and Tencent have research units for developing AI diagnostic tools, and a Beijing-based consultancy reported 131 companies currently working on applying AI to China’s healthcare industry. Per IDC, the AI healthcare market in China will reach nearly a billion dollars (USD) by 2022.

Though there are many different types of AI tools being developed, image processing is the biggest category now. The tools, which rely on image classification, play to the strength of the latest deep-learning algorithms. And, it’s one of the things doctors need the most help with from a volume POV. For example, next month, a hospital in Beijing that treats a jaw-dropping 10,000 outpatients every day will start running all its lung scans through an algorithm that expedites the screening process. The algorithm, developed by a Beijing-based startup called PereDoc, can quickly spot nodules and other early signs of lung diseases. It allows doctors who are overwhelmed by patient volume process these scans in an accurate and expedited way.

Why It’s Hot: The general consensus around AI, in the US at least, is that it’s COMING FOR OUR JOBS! But this is a wonderful example of how emerging technologies can actually fill urgent gaps in critical industries, allowing for faster and more effective treatment and a better patient experience.

Learn More: Engadget | Technology Review

sell my old clothes, i’m off to the cloud…

In the latest episode of life imitating art is a Y Combinator startup whose proposition is essentially uploading your brain to the cloud. Per the source: “Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.”

Why It’s Hot:

What’s not hot is you have to die in order to do it, but what’s interesting is the idea of exploring our consciousness as almost iPhone storage. That reincarnation by technology could be possible.

[Source]

Bring me to life (wake me up inside)

Now to those who believe in prophecies this may seem like the end of the world. To be frank, a lot of people think that this may be a step too far … but it’s for science! Apparently someone at Swedish funeral agency, thought it would be brilliant if they can create an AI “replicate” of deceased loved ones so that families can have them back in their lives. They’re asking for donations (yes they’re asking for all the corpses) so that they can try to create a synthetic replica of the deceased’s voice.

Why it’s not hot:
Basically The world is going to end and we’re just going to be replaced by the AI replicas of the dead. Fun.

source: https://www.outerplaces.com/science/item/17942-dead-loved-ones-black-mirror-style-ai-copies

Robots find new way to suck the fun out of living

A couple of dudes named Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo “have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.”

Story on Gizmodo

Below is the old record from 2016. Slackers.

Why It’s Hot

This has obvious implications for the future of work. Imagine how many iPhones this thing will be able to crank out in the future.

3D Scale Is The Future Of Your Body Complex

The ShapeScale, a 3D body scanner that can provide enough information for even the thirstiest data fanatic. The ShapeScale, which cost $499 pre-order, uses body scanning to create a 360-degree, 3D digital avatar of you, complete with measurements and body composition stats.

The round scale looks like any other, but there’s an arm extending from it that has a camera. This arm circles around you about four times, taking extremely detailed photos of your body. Using the combination of these images and your actual weight, ShapeScale creates the avatar. The entire process is supposed to take about 30 seconds.

Then, on an app, you see the data. It shows your weight, of course, alongside measurements — hips, waist, thighs, arms, and so on. It also gives you body composition and even provides body fat percentage by body part, so you can know if your torso is 20 percent fat. You’re supposed to do it wearing form-fitting clothing, which I was not, so I didn’t receive my measurements. But I did see my avatar, and it looked extremely accurate.

The co-founders say that ShapeScale’s technology could work well with e-commerce; they’re among those collaborating with some clothing companies to explore the idea of letting people virtually try on products.

Why It’s Hot

  • One of the big reasons why people fall of the exercise wagon is because they can’t see results. This could be a strong motivator to stay onboard.
  • One more example of brands/services that are providing uber individualized services, which is a trend we have been seeing.
  • This has interesting retail implications, especially with the rise of e-commerce and the growing amount of returns

 

Source: The Verge

 

Microsoft launches app that helps the visually impaired navigate cities

Microsoft launched Soundscape, a new app that aims to help people who are visually impaired navigate better by giving them 3D cues.

They don’t want to replace guide dogs or canes but enrich people’s perception of their surroundings. A guide dog can’t tell you that there’s a Nike Store just around the corner. Using GPS and the built-in compass on the phone, the app can give people audio cues.

“Obstacle avoidance is not the problem, we have a dog, a cane and our blindness skills for that,” said Erin Lauridsen, Access Technology Director, LightHouse for the Blind.“The gap is knowing where things are and being able to decide what’s of interest.”

The app offers three possible actions: ‘locate’ tells you where you are, ‘around me’ calls out four points of interest around you and ‘ahead of me’ provides the names of five landmarks in front of you.

Why it’s hot:
It might not be a groundbreaking innovation and in terms of technology, it might not be the most advanced thing. But there’s nothing better than seeing technology been used to improve the quality of life of people.

Source: TechCrunch

Voice AORs are here

“We want to get organized around having voice as a core part of our marketing efforts and marketing campaigns,” says JPMorgan ChaseChief Marketing Officer Kristin Lemkau. “Voice is not only coming; it’s here, and in a multitasking world, it’s really significant,” she adds.

JPMorgan Chase has brought on VaynerMedia as their Voice agency of record. They’ve seen how other brands have invested heavily into Facebook and Snap, but they see Voice as a whitespace where they can be one of the first brands to really be ahead of the curve.

So what will the work look like (or sound like)?

An example could be someone asking JPMorgan a quick question via Alexa, like “What’s my balance?” A skill could be someone asking: “If I keep saving the way I am now, how long would it take for me to buy this house?” or “What can I spend on vacation next week?”

When it comes to the more personalized questions, like checking an account balance, JPMorgan’s internal team will work to figure out all of the data security and cyber protection issues, with counsel from VaynerMedia, says Lemkau. The company is looking at all voice platforms right now – not just Alexa – and is looking to release its first voice activations later this year.

Why it’s hot: This legitimizes Voice as a real channel that brands (outside of the parent companies like Amazon for Alexa) can leverage to connect with their customers. I expect this to be the first of many brands putting a much larger focus on Voice.

Read more: http://adage.com/article/agency-news/jpmorgan-chase-brings-vaynermedia-voice-aor/312150/

Improved AI-powered photo stylization

A team of students and researchers has developed an improved algorithm for stylizing the content of one photo using another photo as a style reference. According to the research paper, “experimental results show that the stylized photos generated by our algorithm are twice more preferred by human subjects in average. Moreover, our method runs 60 times faster than the state-of-the-art approach.”

Previous methods at automated photo stylization have focused on matching color statistics and while they “[show] impressive performance for artistic style transfer (converting images to paintings), [they] often [introduce] structural artifacts and distortions (e.g., extremely bright colors) when applied to the photorealistic image style transfer task.” The new method, diagrammed in the image below, involves two discrete steps, stylizing and smoothing. The styling step (F1) maps the content photograph (Ic) to an intermediate image (middle) with the style of the style photograph (Is). The second smoothing step (F2) then removes artifacts and anomalies introduced by the first step, producing a more photorealistic result (right).

Why it’s hot

While there are certainly some Black Mirror-ish implications that come along with the ability to manipulate images to create fake photorealistic photos, this development is also an exciting move in our understanding of neural networks and accommodating for their limitations. It’s exciting to think of the creative possibilities of bringing new life to old photographs and possibly, eventually, movies?

Read the full report and see more amazing examples

IndieCade East Recap

This past weekend there was a festival for indie games at the Museum of Moving Images in Queens. There were a ton of amazing talks and indie games doing all sorts of interesting and unique things, but here are a few I saw that stood out to me:

Blinks:

During the festival there was a 10 hour game jam going on where game designers had to create a new alt-ware game using an unreleased platform, Blinks, inspired by the work of the indie game designers, Jason Rohrer.

Blinks is a new alt-ware gaming platform where there are multiple hexagon tiles that can “talk” to each other. Games can be programmed on one tile and then transfer data about the game to others.The designers of the platform needed more games for the platform so they made it extremely easy to code new games on it and sponsored this game jam. A few teams were able to finish making games in a couple of hours so they decided to make more. Here’s a video and instructions for a game on the platform:

  1. The players take turns.
  2. On your turn, you break the array of tiles into two chunks and put them back together in another formation. 
  3. When a tile has at least two neighbors but none match its color, it blinks with happiness.
  4. The first player whose tiles are all happy at once wins.

Getting Over It:

The creator of the popular frustrating game QWOP and GIRP is back with a new ridiculously challenging game called Getting Over It.  The user plays as a man stuck in a pot trying to get over a trash mountain using a giant hammer. Just like Foddy’s other games, this one involves very unintuitive controls making the interaction of controlling the avatar the challenge of the game. The best part about seeing it at the expo is that the creator was there giving encouraging commentary to users as they failed miserably at playing his game. It was hilarious.

You can buy it on Steam here for Windows and MacOS.

You can buy it on the iOS App Store here.

 

Beyond the screen:

Oh man, this talk was so good! Here’s the description from the schedule:

Ubiquitous computing, Internet of Things, Immersive Theater, Physical Computing, Augmented Reality – the stunning growth of technological and artistic possibility for interaction design is driving games, play, and interaction out of our flat screens and into the truly interactable space of the real world. IndieCade co-founder Celia Pearce explores this brand new world of play in a talk for designer and players alike.

One of the cofounders of indieCade, Celia Pearce, went through a presentation that highlighted dozens of the great games that broke away from using a screen as the interface. I’ll try to hunt down the full deck and see if she’s maybe able to come in to demo a few of them to us if that’s something we think is useful, but here’s the one I thought was most unique.

Fear Sphere is a horror game played in a pitch black inflatable sphere. One person crawls inside an inflatable dome with a projector with a gyroscope inside of it, to help them find their way out of a virtual maze. Other players stay outside with a map to guide them. The projector is used like a flashlight to give a sense of being in a pitch black world.

 

Thoughts and Prayers the Game:

This game wasn’t at the expo but I was told about it while there. It’s a great example of how games can include political opinions and have messages within them. The idea of the game is that you send thoughts and prayers after mass shootings and your score is how many lives you’ve saved. Spoiler: it’s always zero.

http://www.thoughtsandprayersthegame.com/

 

More info about IndieCade here

You can’t buy me love…but you can buy loyalty

Spending on loyalty programs is through the roof – experiencing an annual compounded growth rate of nearly 21 percent. And no wonder – returning customers spend up to 67 percent more than first-time customers.

But most loyalty programs don’t generate loyalty. One recent study found that customers of retailers that offer a loyalty program were not more loyal than customers of those that don’t. Another recent study found that only 42 percent of loyalty program members are active or engaged. While it pays to have loyal customers, you can’t simply pay customers to be loyal.

Loyalty

What if instead of paying customers to be loyal, those same customers actually paid the companies they want to be loyal to?

It’s a concept Amazon understands well. In the latest quarter, Prime membership grew by 47 percent. Prime members spend 250 percent more a year than non-members. And while standard loyalty programs tend to bleed engagement over time, Prime members actually become more engaged.

What companies like Amazon, GameStop, Sephora and Restoration Hardware understand is that there’s a difference between loyalty and love. Loyalty simply means you’ve managed to put a card in the customer’s wallet. Paid membership means you’ve secured a place in the customer’s heart. At the same time, charging a membership fee creates an onus on the part of the company to deliver value against the heightened expectations the fee creates.

Read more: Business of Fashion

Why It’s Hot
Expanded notions of loyalty in CRM can benefit both the company and consumer – a mutual value exchange that can breed longer-lasting brand love.

The Next-Gen Clothing Brand: Everlane

Since launching the company in 2011 as a direct-to-consumer clothing brand committed to “radical transparency,” Preysman and his team have been strategically expanding its scope. Defying the reign of fast-fashion heavyweights like Zara and H&M, Everlane has used its website and social media handles to offer customers a glimpse into its factories around the world, give voice to the workers making its garments, and share a price breakdown of each product it sells. Shoppers can see that Everlane’s original $15 American-made tee costs $6.50 to produce—and that the company’s markup is significantly less than the $45 that traditional designer brands tack on.

Everlane’s forthright messaging, coupled with its spare, fashion-forward aesthetic, has turned customers into emissaries—and inspired a slew of upstart fashion brands, such as shoemaker M.Gemi and technical clothier Aday. “Everlane provided a model for how to communicate that our quality is what we say it is,” says Scott Gabrielson, founder of accessories startup Oliver Cabell. Preysman is also pioneering new approaches to retailing, making use of steady product launches, waiting lists, and limited inventory to both predict and drive demand. “Everlane created a sense of urgency and exclusivity [around its products],” says Marshal Cohen, an analyst with market research firm NPD.

Everlane uses its waiting lists, along with real-time data and customer feedback, to make inventory decisions. When in doubt, it stocks less. And when items sell out—which happens a lot—Everlane can restock quickly, thanks to its close relationships with its more than two dozen factories worldwide. All of this generates the specter of scarcity, which Preysman leverages: Customers sign up for early access to new clothes and to be notified when popular ones are back. Last year, when Everlane’s new ballet-inspired heels sold out within three days, 28,000 people added their names to the waiting list. This steady communication with customers is so important to Preysman that, until a few weeks ago, he was involved in drafting every single email.

To avoid the appearance of discounting, Preysman developed a Choose What You Pay model for overstocked items, where customers can pick up, say, a dress shirt for one of three different prices. The website explains that the lowest one lets Everlane recoup its costs, while paying more allows it to invest in future product development. Twelve percent of shoppers opt to pay more.

Why it’s hot?

(1) Transparency, transparency, transparency!

Everlane is the definition of championing transparency – and it pays off! They clearly articulate their brand values of ethics, price and design that differentiate them from other competitors. They market their brand values first, products second.

(2) Agile inventory management  

Everlane is also smart about how to leverage inventory data. They strategically stock less and use wait lists, early access data and customer feedback to determine if/when they should stock more resulting in a strong pricing model and reduction of wasted inventory.

Sources:

  • https://www.fastcompany.com/40525607/how-everlane-is-building-the-next-gen-clothing-brand
  • https://www.everlane.com/