Custom webcam system lets you take Zoom calls on your TV

Crestron, which offers services to help people customize their smart homes, has teamed up with Logitech and Zoom to make an at-home video conferencing setup using technology you’d typically find in an office conference room.

The setup could, for example, let you use your living room TV and a conference room-quality video camera to take Zoom meetings while reclining on your couch instead of being hunched over a laptop. That could be a much more comfortable way to take meetings or host group calls with family and friends while at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The setup, called Crestron HomeTime, doesn’t require a specialized TV — it should work with any TV with an HDMI portHomeTime also takes advantage of the Zoom Rooms software, which is typically used in enterprises to help start and manage Zoom calls in conference rooms.

You’ll be able to start Zoom meetings using your HomeTime setup right from the remote or using the Zoom Rooms app – but it won’t be cheap. The standard cost for a single-room setup is $6,100, and tacking on additional rooms costs $3,100 each, according to the company. HomeTime will be available on Monday, June 1st.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much of life taking place over video conferencing, it makes sense that someone  came up with a solution that won’t involve everyone hunched over on a laptop. While this wildly expensive option won’t be for everyone, it feels likely that other companies will be scrambling to come up with similar, more wallet-friendly options.

Source

Google releases Action Blocks for people with disabilities

Google released a new tool called Action Blocks for people with cognitive and motion disabilities. The system allows users and their caregivers to add Assistant commands to the home screen of Android phones and tablets. Each command is represented by a custom image and it can be controlled with just one tap. For instance, when a user taps an Action Block icon of a cab, the system might order a rideshare.

 

Also worth mentioning that Google has also improved its Maps apps to show if businesses or public venues have accessible entrance. When enabling this feature, you can see a wheelchair icon next to the location.

Why it’s hot: Embracing the diversity trend goes beyond race and gender. With something like 630 million people having some form of cognitive disability, this is not a niche group and it’s great that Google is providing services that ‘level the playing field’ for them.

Facebook launches Shops

Facebook is making a major new push into e-commerce. The company recently announced the launch of Shops, a way for businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram. The shops, which will be powered by third-party services, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo, are designed to turn the social network into a top-tier shopping destination.

In a live stream, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said expanded e-commerce would be important to begin rebuilding the economy while the pandemic continues. “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

The launch of Shops comes as stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to record sales for e-commerce companies. The pandemic has also been devastating for small businesses, with a third of them reporting that they have stopped operating in a survey conducted by Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable. An additional 11 percent say they could fail within the next three months if the current situation continues.

But online sales have been a bright spot for small businesses. At Etsy, where solo entrepreneurs have leaned hard into knitting fabric face masks and baking pastries for sale, revenue has doubled from three years ago. Facebook is betting that bringing more local businesses online will help them to endure while also creating big new business opportunities for Facebook itself.

While Shops are free to create, they could create significant new business opportunities for Facebook in advertising, payments, and other services. Businesses will be able to buy ads for their Shops, and when people use Facebook’s checkout option, it charges them a fee.

Businesses can handle customer support issues through Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Eventually, the company plans to let you browse store catalogs and make purchases directly from the chat window. It also plans to enable shopping from live streams, allowing brands and creators to tag items from their Facebook catalogs so that they appear on the bottom of live videos.

Facebook is also working to integrate loyalty programs with shops. “You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” the company said in a blog post. “And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

Shops will begin rolling out on Facebook today in the United States and are coming to Instagram sometime this summer. Instagram will showcase brands on its existing shop account, which already highlights items that are available for purchase. Later in the year, it plans to add a dedicated shopping tab to its navigation bar.

Why it’s Hot

This is a really smart move for Facebook. With small businesses across the country struggling to flex into e-commerce, Facebook stands to earn a lot of money (and even potentially good will) with this new feature. Plus, for small businesses – who often operate with very minimal staffing – having customer service, advertising, and sales all in one ecosystem will make the entire move to e-commerce a bit more manageable.

Source

Voices of Brussels

Like any metropolitan bus system, it’s something people in Brussels love to complain about. Buses are either too late or too full or often both. But it’s tough to complain about a message of love.

Since last week, Brussels’ public bus company STIB-MIVB has been calling on people to send in voice messages — and an address. Then, the special bus goes out in the early evening in a big loop to spread all the messages and leave a trail of happiness.

Yes, with smartphones and video calls, there is already a plethora of ways to communicate. But a love bus with the voices of children and dear ones?

“It gives me pleasure,” said Asuncion Mendez, 82, after hearing a message from her great-grandchildren. She said it broke the dreariness of another lockdown day indoors and momentarily eased her fear of the coronavirus.

“It was a beautiful surprise. It warms the heart and makes people come together despite the lockdown,” said her daughter Carmen Diaz, who watched and listened with her from a open window one floor above street level.

Lorena Sanchez, the daughter of Diaz and granddaughter of Mendez, says it’s a great idea. “It can really have an impact on a lot of people, especially the older ones who do not have access to technology,” said Sanchez. “It brings something very special.”

The bus company has been inundated with requests, about 750 messages from the blowing of kisses to a request by a child for someone to become her godmother, spokeswoman An Van hamme said.

Public buses are continuing to run in Brussels, with passengers required to board and exit by the back door and adhere to social distancing while inside.

The “Voice of Brussels” program is even leaving a smile on the face of bus drivers, so often the target of abuse.

Why it’s hot?
Talk about putting unused assets to work to fulfill a real human need during a pandemic

 

Source: Spectrum news 1

if you don’t like “camera on”, maybe you’ll like “avatar on”…


You’ve likely seen a lot of talk about how the effects of our current pandemic quarantine may forever change how we work. You may even feel the change happening.

Currently, we’re all enjoying full days of video chats on Teams, Zoom, Slack, take your pick. Spatial is a similar collaboration tool that allows teammates to converse and interact in AR/VR.

It may or may not be a substitute for in-person interactions, but at least solves for some of the challenges of brainstorming and ideating when we’re not all in the same “space”.

Why It’s Hot:

While it’s unclear how quickly these types of virtual interactions will begin to become commonplace, a company like Spatial signifies it’s coming. Not just for workplace interactions, but also social ones.

[Source]

Just Copy Paste from Real Life

Designer Cyril Diagne (AI/UX “artist” in residence at Google) has built a beta AR app that takes IRL objects and adds them to your photoshop work. It’s real world copy paste.

Here’s how it works: you point your phone at a book sitting on your desk, the software produces an image of just the book on your phone screen, you point the phone at your computer, and the book image gets pasted into the Photoshop document. It looks like straight-up magic (or at least like a scene from Minority Report or something):”

Check out Cyrils thread about how the sausage gets made:

Why it’s hot? Why it’s hot you ask?!

Well. The computers are taking our jobs. Just kidding. Their making our jobs easier. This is the kind of seamless transition that we wish our phones and work computers could have with each other. Our new digital first age (put on overdrive due to the coronavirus) is taking us to places we’ve only dreamed of — now we get to see our dreams as reality!

Self care as a video game

What if there were something that could help snap you out of your rut, be it a temporary funk or actual, clinical depression? And what if this something were designed to make doing good things for yourself as addictive as a video game? That’s the premise of The Guardians: Unite the Realms, a new app developed by the Affective Computing group at MIT Media Lab.

Out now for iOS and Android, it’s a free game, modeled after character collection games like Pokémon and Skylanders (though without any fighting). Instead of urging you to spend money on microtransactions as most of these games do, The Guardians urges you to spend effort on yourself. If you want to progress in the game, you have to invest in your own well-being.

The data shows that people who are depressed don’t want to use self-improvement apps (only about 3% will complete a regimen in these apps). At the same time, people with severe depression still play games as much as people who aren’t experiencing depression, making gaming a promising avenue for introducing mental health interventions.

Over years of both formal study and informal play-testing in the lab, lead platforms engineer at the Affective Computing group and game director for the Guardians Project Craig Ferguson morphed the app into what it is today – a fantasy land filled with magical animals that attempt to take their world back from an evil villain. Last September, he got tired of the research and started thinking about releasing something—even something still unproven—to help people battling depression. Then with COVID-19 trapping so many of us at home, he made the choice to publicize what was done.

That release, while a fraction of what the game will be in the future, he says, can still take months to complete, and it’s presented with as much glitzy animation and character design as you’d find in any high-end mobile app.

When you load the game, a big button glows and bounces in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, reading “new adventure available.” This is essentially a good-for-you button, because each adventure is focused around the phenomenon of “behavioral activation.” Behavioral activation is a proven therapy that can be used casually or clinically for depression. It gets people to partake in positive experiences rather than spending time doing the things that reinforce their own damaging behaviors. And there are dozens of options to choose from.

Some suggested adventures are practical, such as knocking things off your to-do list that might otherwise cause anxiety: Manage finances. Vacuum. Do Laundry. Others help you grow: Watch an online class. Write a poem. Read a classic. And others help you stay active: Spend time in nature. Learn a new dance. Or, my personal favorite, Jazzercise for 20 minutes. You are also completely free to make up your own adventure, and repeat it whenever you’d like.

Why it’s Hot:

With so much content promoting self care and wellness during shelter-in-place, wellness can begin to feel like a chore. This is especially true for people who struggle with depression, where even small tasks can feel unmanageable. This app helps to make those small tasks fun and purposeful (albeit in an imaginary game). With a mental health crisis looming on top of our current physical health crisis, it’s interesting to see an app that tackles this very serious situation in a seemingly light-hearted way.

Source

Trendspotting: Making “Live Events” Work In the Pandemic (part 2)

Last week I posted about how live shows were moving online but what about typically “live” in person events that become fully digitized. Tonight the world gets excited for Travis Scott’s fortnight concert.

This viral tweet last week had the internet in a tizzy.

And tonight is the night:

https://twitter.com/FortniteGame/status/1253398297047425025

But he’s not the first to try it. DJ, Marshmello gives us a taste of what fortnight concerts will look like.

The ways that artists are going to be manipulating technologies to fit their needs is fascinating. Young people’s digital behavior is changing. Tik Tok is more viral than ever. Houseparty is taking off. Animal Crossing is making the world super conscious about radishes….

https://twitter.com/directedbyrian/status/1253365992849276934

(this one was just fun)

Why It’s Hot?

This is a great opportunity for MRM to help our clients navigate the brave new digital world. It’s really exciting and positive and allows us new ways to interact and share with each other. The pandemic has sped up the way that humans (so nimble!) make their social lives work and shift use cases of different tech to keep their connections alive.

 

COVID creates the perfect opportunity for cereal company Magic Spoon

When it comes to shopping in a pandemic, it turns out people crave two things: comfort and convenience. It’s why, a year after launching its direct-to-consumer, guilt-free “kids” cereal for grown-ups, Magic Spoon’s business is booming.

“We’ve seen a meaningful uptick in demand from new customers just discovering us or finally giving us a try,” says cofounder Gabi Lewis. “It’s also existing customers, who maybe ate a bowl in the morning before work but now that they’re at home, are eating another bowl in the afternoon for a snack, so consumption has gone up.”

Last April, Lewis and his cofounder Greg Sewitz first launched Magic Spoon to tap into millennials’ nostalgia for the kiddie cereals of their youth while staying true to their commitment to eat healthy as adults. They took flavors that mimicked such classics as Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes—and delivered it in a high-protein, low-carb, and no-sugar cereal. Combined with a packaging and product design that was highly Instagrammable, Magic Spoon’s popularity took off immediately, and it hasn’t slowed down.

In terms of the cereal market overall, he thinks Magic Spoon isn’t taking market share away from traditional cereal, but rather adding to it by bringing new customers back to the category. “Many of our customers weren’t eating cereal before we came along,” he says. “Maybe they did years ago, then stopped and instead started eating Greek yogurt or smoothies or oatmeal, or any number of healthy breakfast alternatives. So I think a lot of our growth has come from other categories, bringing them back to cereal, and I think it’s helping to build the cereal category as a whole.”

Just as many of us have become more accustomed to videoconferencing than we ever imagined, Lewis sees a similar shift in consumer behavior around buying groceries online. “Obviously there’s been this uptick because of people stuck at home and stocking up, and we’re under no illusion of that lasting forever,” he says. “But there are people buying food online right now who just didn’t before all this. I don’t think all that is just going to go away, and a good portion of those people will continue to do it once this is all over.”

Why it’s Hot:

As people seek alternatives to grocery store visits and grocery delivery becomes increasingly scarce, DTC food brands are well positioned for the current pandemic (especially food brands that bring people a sense of comfort and nostalgia). DTC brands have already become more popular in the past few years – it will be interesting to see if the pandemic accelerated this trend.

Source 

Survival of the Fastest

Innovation in the Age of COVID-19

Innovative businesses whose fundamental models have been negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic are acting fast to turn disaster into opportunity. See what a few of them are doing here.

One that caught my eye is Cheeky Food Events. For a company focused on running large-scale team-building events focused on cooking, Social Distancing could easily be seen as a complete deal-breaker. Instead of throwing in the…err…apron, Cheeky Foods instead pivoted their business into “delivery-based” catering, in which ingredients are delivered to the homes of each team member, and cooking instructions are delivered via live webstreams.

Maybe less effective as team-building, and not a long-term business model – but an agile way to maintain a revenue stream, while also providing customers with a valuable and enjoyable experience while they’re locked in and looking for new ways of remaining connected and entertained. This is so cool it’s hot.

Why It’s Hot: (Did you not read that last paragraph…?)

From econsultancy.com:

Here are six examples of businesses and brands that are innovating and transforming their product offering during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cheeky Food Events

Events, oriented as they are around large gatherings of people in a space, were one of the earliest casualties of the coronavirus pandemic, with major conferences being cancelled and entertainment venues closing their doors even before full lockdowns were implemented in most countries.

For companies whose business is corporate events, the impact was particularly dire, because workplaces also quickly shifted to remote working to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Cheeky Food Events, an Australian company that offers corporate team-building activities oriented around cooking, found itself needing to rethink its business model for a newly-distributed world of work.

The company has since shifted to offering delivery-based catering to remote workforces: ingredients for a two-course gourmet meal and dessert, delivered safely to an employee’s home, that they can cook with the aid of a live webstream of a chef showing how to prepare and cook the meal. This enables organisations to still carry out team bonding and building activities in a distributed work environment, while Cheeky Food Events can still bring in revenue and put the skills of its expert chefs to good use.

Budweiser, Rémy Martin, Carlsberg & Pernod Ricard

When the coronavirus pandemic first began to seriously impact day-to-day life, beginning with China in January, alcohol brands knew that they had a problem: no-one was going out to bars and clubs to buy alcohol any more. Many of them saw sales take a nosedive as a result of the disappearance of late-night leisure activities.

Four alcohol brands decided to adapt by partnering with ecommerce giant JD.com to take clubbing online. Beer brands Budweiser and Carlsberg, cognac brand Rémy Martin, and drinks brand Pernod Ricard joined forces with JD.com and Chinese music label Taihe Music Group to create an online clubbing experience, streamed directly to people’s living rooms and complete with liquor that they could buy from the stream and have delivered to their door.

Each week, JD.com is hosting a three-hour performance by one of the DJs signed to Taihe Music Group, with alcoholic beverages promoted throughout that viewers can buy. JD.com has already reported that one partner brand saw a 70% increase in sales of imported liquor during one livestream, with sales of its whiskey products increasing eightfold compared to the same period the day before. During another show, sales of beer increased by 40% compared to the day before.

Although the lockdown has now begun to lift in China, JD.com has said that it will “continue to leverage live broadcasts of music performance in clubs, live houses and even music festivals for products [sic] marketing, making it a long-term program to enrich customers’ shopping experience.” It has also stated that it will open the experience up to other product categories besides liquor.

While livestreaming, and in particular shoppable livestreaming, was already a major trend in China prior to the lockdown, this nevertheless shows that innovations and trends that develop in response to the coronavirus pandemic may well become part of our everyday lives.

Goat2Meeting

While a slightly more off-the-wall response to the remote working trend, this thoroughly deserves a mention. California-based animal sanctuary Sweet Farm used to bring in part of its funding from in-person visits, which dried up when the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying shelter-in-place orders hit the United States. To recoup some of that funding, its founders started Goat2Meeting: a service where companies can pay to have a goat, llama or other farm animal make an appearance in their zoom call to liven the monotony.

Goat2Meeting typically charges between $65 and $250 for various virtual interactions with the animals, ranging from a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants to a 10-minute animal cameo or a bigger virtual tour. Due to “incredible demand”, the farm has even added a bonus ‘VIP tour’ option for a $750 donation.

According to Business Insiderthe service has already had more than 300 requests from businesses, and its animals have made appearances in calls for Fortune 500 companies and tech start-ups. In one virtual happy hour for a law firm, lawyers brought their children along to the video call to meet the animals, in a unique remote working take on “bring your child to work day”.

Remote working got your goat? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. (Image: solomonphotos / Shutterstock.com)

Frame

London fitness studio Frame was forced to close its doors as coronavirus lockdown restrictions tightened, but the business has found ways to get creative with online content instead. It quickly launched Frame Online, an online fitness hub with a £10.99 per month subscription fee that allowed people who were stuck at home to get moving and keep fit with virtual classes.

Frame has also been using social media in creative ways to promote fitness, making six-minute clips of its workout classes available on IGTV and posting funny and relatable workout-related or inspirational content to Instagram. Frame’s Instagram posts promote a slightly more realistic image of working out at home than some fitness influencers (featuring a woman, for example, holding a glass of wine while doing stretches) and push back against so-called “quarantine productivity shaming” by encouraging people to book classes that suit their mood rather than feeling pressured into high-intensity fitness sessions.

How the fitness industry is responding to coronavirus with digital push

Kings Place

Kings Place, London is a cultural hub of live music, art and food that offers a variety of performances from live podcast recordings to classical music, illustrated lectures and jazz. As the COVID-19 pandemic escalated, however, the venue was forced to close its doors.

It has since found ways to bring its performances to audiences who are confined indoors and searching for entertainment, launching an online content hub called KPLAYER. The platform features excerpts from past performances and full-length shows streamed live every Wednesday; Kings Place is also using the opportunity to drum up interest for its late 2020 and 2021 programme by featuring past performances from these artists on KPLAYER.

Whole Foods

Demand for online grocery retail is higher than it has ever been as people search for ways to get essentials without leaving the house and putting themselves at unnecessary risk. While many grocery retailers already sell online, they are being forced to get creative in order to keep up with demand.

Organic and health food supermarket chain Whole Foods is reported to have turned some of its physical store locations into ‘dark stores’, a location that only employees can enter to pick up goods and fulfil orders. It’s not alone in doing so: parent company Amazon has also transformed one of its Southern California locations into a dark store, and supermarket Kroger converted one of its Cincinatti-area stores into a collection-only location to meet customer demand for alternative shopping services like click-and-collect.

NBA and ESPN bring lofi games of HORSE to the fans via Zoom

The NBA has given basketball fans something to hold on to while the season has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Using Zoom, ESPN and the NBA put on a HORSE tournament with players shooting hoops from their own back yards or at local courts.

The viewership is not as high as games, but it’s still around half a million for many of the matches and the 1 – 1 nature of the game could provide a wealth of content to keep fans engaged until the next season begins.

From Fast Company:

For the NBA, which suspended its 2019-2020 season on March 11, the challenge has been to keep fans interested and engaged.

Since then, the league has launched a number of new content initiatives, all under the umbrella of “NBA Together.” Those include Instagram Live sessions with star players, a new interview stream with broadcaster Ernie Johnson on the league’s Twitter feed, posting practice drills for young players stuck at home, new programming on NBA TV that has players commenting on classic games, and more.

But last Sunday, the league took its experimentation a step further, teaming with ESPN to take the big leagues to the playground with a televised pandemic version of H-O-R-S-E. The tournament started with eight players that span current stars from the NBA and WNBA, as well as a few retired legends, and was whittled down to four semifinalists playing for the crown on Thursday. Aside from bragging rights among the players, as part of the game league sponsor State Farm is donating more than $200,000 to COVID-19 response efforts.

Paul Benedict, the NBA’s associate VP of broadcasting content management, said, “I think it’s forcing everyone, not just in sports and entertainment, to approach things differently given the limitations, and to approach things more efficiently,” says Benedict. “The countless number of Zoom calls we’ve been on, you just have a different mindset when you approach collaborative efforts like these. H-O-R-S-E was a scaled-down production in some ways, but a massive effort in others that required quick thinking, split-second decision-making, and a lot of cooperation across the board. I think we’re going to come out as a league better from this, stronger, and more collaborative. It’s a great building block.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting that the Zoom format gives a more intimate experience with the players than what you’d get with a typical ESPN broadcast. How will this change what fans expect of players and of ESPN content in the long run?

This format gives players the opportunity (or obligation) to connect on a different level with their fans, one where personality is perhaps taking on a bigger role.

Source: Fast Company

Need a haircut? This virtual barbershop and salon can help.

Hiring a professional to cut your hair during quarantine isn’t an option, but a virtual barbershop is offering the next best thing: video conferences and guidance from a professional.

The website You Probably Need a Haircut lets people book a video call with a professional barber starting at $18. It’s a win-win for everyone, according to founder Greg Isenberg.

The site currently works with barbers and hairdressers whom clients can choose when they book an appointment. While people will need to have the tools at home, the expertise from a professional will hopefully help turn a potential haircut failure into a success.

“A barbershop is a warm and inviting place, and we aim to re-create that in your home. People can expect friendly banter from their new barber and hand-holding throughout the cutting process,” Isenberg said. “When you book an appointment, you get a Zoom link so the hand-holding is done via video chat.”

You Probably Need a Haircut gives most of the fee to barbers and hairdressers, but takes a $3.60 cut to help pay for the fees of running the website. There’s also an option to leave a $5 tip.

Why it’s Hot:

While simple, this is a really smart concept for the millions of people struggling with self grooming under lock down. There’s also the added benefit of being able to support hairdressers and barbers who can’t work in their normal capacity.

Source

 

Spicing up Zoom with Farm Animals

Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary in California is putting their animals to work, but not how you’d imagine. For less than $100 one of their many goats, llamas, and other farm animals can join your Zoom meeting.

goat 2 meeting farm animals zoomFeatured guest, bottom row, middle. Source: Business Insider

The project, called Goat 2 Meeting which launched last week is aimed at making up for lost revenue due to Covid-19 lockdown orders. Since launching last month, the farm has fielded more than 300 requests for animal appearances and virtual field trips for corporate meetings and work happy hours.

People can pay anywhere from $65 to $250 for various interactions with the animals, which include goats, sheep, pigs, cows, turkeys, and llamas — by far the most popular choice. For $65, you get a 20-minute virtual tour of the farm for up to six call participants. For a bigger meeting, you can pay $100 for a 10-minute animal cameo or $250 for a 25-minute virtual tour.

Aside from paid cameos, Sweet Farm also offers virtual field trips for nonprofits and schools for free.

Why It’s Hot: As lockdown orders extend, businesses are having to find innovative projects and offerings to supplement lost revenue.

He built an A.I. Clone to Attend Zoom Meetings for Him

Click on the picture above or here to see video

 


The phrase Zoom meeting has been uttered countlessly over the past few weeks, as businesses around the world have turned to the video conferencing app to connect for meetings. Indeed, a number of folks we’ve queried in our #WFH Diaries series have reported being on Zoom essentially all day long.

Throw in some Zoom happy hours, and Zoom wine nights, and Zoom card games, and it can be a bit much. Matt Reed, a creative technologist at Redpepper in Nashville, was certainly feeling the strain, anyway.

“My number of Zoom meetings has gone through the mesosphere and is currently on Mars,” Reed writes on his agency’s blog. “There’s barely even time for bio-breaks, Reddit, or actually getting work done. It’s as if Zoom has turned into the Oasis from Ready Player One, where everyone spends every waking hour of their day inside.”

So, Reed flexed his creative tech chops and came up with an amusing solution. He built a digital A.I.-powered twin of himself, named Zoombot, and had the clone show up for the Zoom meetings in his place.

Zoombot uses advanced A.I. speech recognition and text-to-speech tools to actually respond to other people in the meetings. Also, Reed didn’t warn his colleagues he was doing this—and their reactions in the video are priceless.

Why it’s hot?
Way to break the break the endless monotony of video calls using your digital twin. And the best part is that Reed is spending all the free time “making that coffee whip stuff everybody is making,” he reveals. “Stuff is delicious.”

 

Source: musebycl.io

 

 

Quarantine can’t keep Thao & The Get Down Stay Down down

From The Verge (emphasis mine):

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Oakland-based band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down had a problem. Their plan to shoot a music video for their single “Phenom” was abruptly canceled as shelter-in-place orders rolled in. The band, crew, and dancers could no longer meet up in person, and they were faced with a decision: put everything on hold or figure out a way to make the music video remotely. “At first we didn’t know if we would even release the song because it’s about people unifying,” Thao tells The Verge. “So it was never an option for me to shoot the video solo.” But then her manager had an idea. What if they shot the music video entirely within Zoom?

Featuring Thao alongside eight dancers, the “Phenom” video went from concept to completion within a week. There was one pre-production meeting, one five-hour rehearsal, and one shoot day, all of which took place on Zoom. “If we were going to do such a thing and commit to it,” says Thao, “we had to do it really quickly because it is so of the moment.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s cool to see creative people using the medium of the moment (video conferencing) to create art in a short amount of time. It goes to show that what’s most important is not having the highest production value, but connecting with your audience.

Using Zoom as a medium places the viewer in emotional proximity to the band, making them relatable, but the creative approach to choreography within the Zoom frames heightens the medium from mere communication to the level of art.

Source: The Verge

Google’s DeepMind AI can now beat humans at 57 Atari games

Google subsidiary DeepMind has unveiled an AI called Agent57 that can beat the average human at 57 classic Atari games.

The system achieved this feat using deep reinforcement learning, a machine learning technique that helps an AI improve its decisions by trying out different approaches and learning from its mistakes.

In their blog post announcing the release, DeepMind trumpets Agent57 as the most general Atari57 agent since the benchmark’s inception, the one that finally obtains above human-level performance not only on easy games, but also across the most demanding games.

Why it’s hot:

By machines learning how to play these complex games, they will attain the capability of thinking and acting strategically.DeepMind’s general-purpose learning algorithms allow the machine to learn through gamification to try and acquire human-like intelligence and behavior.

Hands-free@Home

COVID-19 pandemic pushing sales of voice control devices

Sales of voice control devices are expected to experience a boom in growth, thanks to people being locked down and working from home. This is also expected to fuel growth in the broader ecosystem of smart home devices – as instructions to minimize contact with objects that haven’t been disinfected, make things like connected light switches, thermostats and door locks more appealing than ever.

Why It’s Hot:  A critical mass of device penetration and usage will undoubtedly make this a more meaningful platform for brands and marketers to connect and engage with consumers.

With so many millions of people working from home, the value of voice control during the pandemic will ensure that this year, voice control device shipments will grow globally by close to 30% over 2019–despite the key China market being impacted during the first quarter of 2020, according to global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

Woman Preparing Meal At Home Asking Digital Assistant Question

Last year, 141 million voice control smart home devices shipped worldwide, the firm said. Heeding the advice to minimize COVID-19 transmission from shared surfaces, even within a home, will help cement the benefits of smart home voice control for millions of consumers, ABI Research said.

“A smarter home can be a safer home,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI research director, in a statement. “Key among the recommendations regarding COVID-19 protection in the home is to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas,” such as tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks.

Voice has already made significant inroads into the smart home space, Collins said. Using voice control means people can avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home from smartphones, to TV remotes, light switches, thermostats, door handles, and more. Voice can also be leveraged for online shopping and information gathering, he said.

When used in conjunction with other smart home devices, voice brings greater benefits, Collins said.

“Voice can be leveraged to control and monitor smart locks to enable deliveries to be placed in the home or another secure location directly or monitored securely on the doorstep until the resident can bring them in,” he said.

Similarly, smart doorbells/video cameras can also ensure deliveries are received securely without the need for face-to-face interaction or exposure, he added. “Such delivery capabilities are especially valuable for those already in home quarantine or for those receiving home testing kits,” Collins said.

He believes that over the long term, “voice control will continue to be the Trojan horse of smart home adoption.” Right now, the pandemic is part of the additional motivation and incentive for voice control in the home to help drive awareness and adoption for a range of additional smart home devices and applications, Collins said.

“Greater emphasis and understanding, and above all, a change of habit and experience in moving away from physical actuation toward using voice in the home will support greater smart home expansion throughout individual homes,” he said. “A greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to ensure those deliveries are securely delivered.”

The legacy of COVID-19 will be that the precautions being taken now will continue for millions of people who are bringing new routines into their daily lives in and around their homes and will for a long time to come, Collins said.

“Smart home vendors and system providers can certainly emphasize the role of voice and other smart home implementations to improve the day-to-day routines within a home and the ability to minimize contact with shared surfaces, as well as securing and automating home deliveries.”

Additionally, he said there is value in integrating smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with a range of features, such as collecting personal health data points like temperature, activity, and heart rate, alongside environmental data such as air quality and occupancy. This can “help in the wider response and engagement for smart city health management,” Collins said.

Source: TechRepublic

Tech-forward restaurant designs open-source take-out “airlock” to protect workers

The San Fransisco tech-forward restaurant Creator has made their new airlock system (for providing take-out orders during the coronavirus crisis) open source for any other businesses that need to protect their workers from the many possibly infected people coming to their locations.

Makezine:

The chamber is pressurized by a Sanyo Denki 24-volt 65CFM blower regulated by simple LM317 voltage regulator circuit. The conveyor belt feeds itself through a 5 gallon bucket of quaternary sanitizing solution. Customers can order through an intercom, and their takeaway bags are heat-sealed and labeled with a tamperproof sticker just to be extra super sanitary.

Fast Company:

“Retail workers are on the front lines, exposed to hundreds of strangers every day in enclosed spaces,” says Creator founder Alex Vardakostas. “If retail workers fall ill, they are in turn at risk of infecting delivery workers and customers. We can’t restart the economy until retail and restaurant workers are protected. They’re some of the most important people to keep virus-free.”

This falls directly in Creator’s wheelhouse, as they are known for being the first to automate the making of a fully prepared burger with the beautiful machine above. Fast-moving innovations like the airlock promote the restaurant brand as a function of doing good for their workers, which is of such concern with service workers right now, and gives customers more piece of mind as they look for safe places to procure food and have a sense of normalcy in these difficult times.

Fast Company:

The restaurant’s team has unusual engineering skills—when Creator opened in 2018, it became the first in the world to make fully prepared burgers with a robot that handles everything from slicing the bun and cooking the patty to chopping up onions and tomatoes. For customers in the current pandemic, there’s some added comfort in the fact that the process minimizes human contact; the machine even packages each burger itself. But the storefront still needs staff to get the food to customers waiting to pick it up, and last week, engineers and fabricators set to work on the new airlock-like window.

Why it’s hot:

1. The world needs fast-moving innovation right now, and there’s nothing like giving your innovation away for free to garner media recognition and positive public sentiment. The earned media from their design and their gesture will pique the interest of many, who will discover even cooler offerings coming out of the brand’s innovative approach — like a $6 gourmet burger in San Fransisco.

2. Making this design open-source may help other restaurants move quickly to implement solutions that work for them — but it mostly promotes the brand as being next-level, and getting it hyped in publications like Fast Company.

What IP do brands have that could function in a similar way, helping the public in a way that shows off their unique offerings or abilities (instead of donating money), while garnering positive sentiment and media attention?

Source: Fast Company, Makezine

Water ATM’s in Rural India

How Piramal Sarvajal is using IoT to tackle safe drinking water issue for rural India

“Water is wealth; water is life. Without water, life would not endure, and access to freshwater and sanitation is a basic fundamental right of humans.”

Having said that, the availability of freshwater is still a significant challenge in India, especially in rural areas. According to reports, 25 million people in India lack access to safe drinking water, and rural Indian women waste 700 hours annually collecting water. It is also estimated that by the year 2025, almost more than half of the urban population of India will live in water-stressed areas as this precious commodity is becoming scarce rapidly.

In this context, Piramal Sarvajal is committed to leveraging innovative technology to create easy access to safe drinking water in rural areas. Seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, Sarvajal has been working in the water space to provide clean drinking water in the far-flung rural regions of India.

Even today, three-quarters of India still drink unfiltered water, which, in turn, leads to diarrheal deaths and permanent fluorosis. To change this, Sarvajal founder Anand Shah created a program to achieve low-cost scalable solutions serving “safe water for all.”

Why it’s Hot: (In case you’re not sure if you want to read the loooong case study.) This is a really innovative convergence of technology, data and business model – aligned to solve a pervasive public health challenge, which negatively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Interesting perspective, as we collectively consider ways in which clients might respond to the current global public health challenge.

A Mission To Provide ‘Water For All’

Water scarcity has been a global issue; however, Piramal Sarvajal believed that the problem is multidimensional, and therefore the solutions had to be locally suited. Additionally, the voluminous nature of water, coupled with its vulnerability to contamination demanded a localised and efficient purification-cum-distribution system. While many well-intentioned NGOs have tried to implement charity-based water delivery solutions, these ventures have not proven financially sustainable over time. And therefore, the need of the hour was to apply business thinking to solve public service delivery problems.

In recent years, decentralised solutions for community-level drinking water installations have achieved significant success in creating safe water access, even in remote rural areas. Serving large enough numbers at affordable prices leads to financial sustainability while creating a local entrepreneurial ecosystem. A market-based, pay-per-use model aims to democratise drinking water access and achieve operational break-even by selling drinking water to the community at affordable prices. Piramal Sarvajal has been at the forefront of developing technologies and business practices in the safe drinking water sector that are designed to ensure sustainable solutions in both rural and urban deployment conditions. Sarvajal created a business model that operates at community levels to provide decentralised drinking water solutions to underserved communities.

Challenges

During its inception, Piramal Sarvajal had their first version of its purification unit, which had no governance-based technology involved, and all the operations were done manually. Since the initiative was bound to be a multi-location affair, distributed operations posed a severe challenge to efficiently and cost-effectively managing the project. Besides, generating sufficient demand meant breaking existing taboos around buying water by educating consumers about water-health linkages was also a challenge. Sarvajal’s team, therefore, innovated a solution that could be customised for the water contamination profile of any location with pioneering remote monitoring technology. It also invested in community awareness activities while tapping into local entrepreneurial drive and resources by adopting a franchise model.

The company used to charge to the franchisee, based on the volume of water purified by our unit. Although there was a mechanical flow meter installed in the unit that used to measure the volume of water purified by our unit, every month, a person had to go to the field to note down the reading from each unit. This process, therefore, used to take about two weeks to complete the round and collect the data. This manual reading process created a delay in the billing cycle. Additionally, they noticed some tampering with water meters at various locations, which indeed is a separate challenge altogether. To resolve these, Piramal Sarvajal explored applying cloud-based technology in order to create a smooth process by using sensors for the measurement of vital parameters like quantity, quality, pressure etc.

Water ATMs: Automated Water Dispensing Units

The company started its technological journey using the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) with sensors and Human Machine Interface (HMI), which were attached with the PLC. “PLC-based automation has helped us in automating the unit’s operation and in remotely managing and monitoring the purification unit from our centralised location,” said Anuj Sharma, the CEO of Piramal Sarvaja. “Due to the fast-paced changes in PLC technology, we needed to update our software frequently. This triggered the design of our own, micro-controller based, control unit.”

Being the first organisation in India to develop the Water ATM, Piramal Sarvajal, operated the project in collaboration with a local entrepreneur or the local panchayat and community-based organisations to create sustainable livelihood opportunities within the chosen community. These cloud-connected and solar-powered WaterATM dispenses purified water 24×7. Villagers were issued RFID cards for collecting water, and these cards have a pre-paid balance, which can be recharged periodically as per consumption pattern. The RFID card gave the consumer the convenience of taking water anytime, anywhere across connected ATMs in a given location of flexible litres.

The IoT enabled technology installed at the purification level, ensuring the quality of every drop dispensed and supported oversight management on a real-time basis, while remotely managing locations for better governance. “The dispensing solution via Water ATM not only helps us manage and monitor user-level data but also supports targeted subsidies and variable pricing to support equitable and sustainable solutions at the last mile,” said Sharma.

The adoption of IoT technology for remote monitoring of the units helped the company in bringing transparency in operations across every transaction and ensured governance of widespread locations for both the service provider and the donor. This technology also assisted in managing the pay per use model, which, in turn, helped the consumers to pay an affordable price for clean drinking water — paying only for the service.

Operating Models

The technology that the company deployed was the Internet of Things (IoT), which required GSM/GPRS network as it acts as a backbone for communication between device and server. And, Sarvajal’s devices communicate with their centralised server over GSM/GPRS (2G) network. And ensuring that every installed unit has the availability of proper signal strength at the desired location. “Sometimes, we have noticed that even though there is a proper signal strength available at the place, still there is a delay in data exchange, which was due to the network latency,” said Sharma. And, hence, the company considered other network options like NB-IoT, which works on LTE (4G); considering its availability in most of India. The company also considered other alternate non-standard options, where telecom network is still not available, but it is under feasibility study.

Piramal Sarvajal also has enabled a technology device called Soochak, which is a remote monitoring device designed to be mounted on a commercial-scale water purification plant, to capture minute-by-minute machine status. This process works on Piramal’s technology backend, which allows the company to bring affordable, safe drinking water to underserved communities sustainably. At the same time, the touch screen of the machine easily guides the local operators on the daily functioning of the plant in the local language.

The company aimed to deploy technology at every stage — for specific parameter measurement Piramal Sarvajal have used state of the art sensors. As part of their regular preventive maintenance, these sensors are calibrated periodically so that they provide accurate data. With the help of IoT, the company gets its data from all units installed in the field, and these data are stored in their server’s database system. Also, considering the received data is large in volume; it practically wasn’t possible to do analysis manually, hence, decided to apply data analytics that provided them with meaningful information from the available data. “This helped us to know how many units are working in normal condition and how many units require attention from our maintenance team,” said Sharma. “Our devices are intelligent enough to provide real-time alerts to our operations team for any attention needed by them. Our operations team immediately acts on alerts and attends the situation.”

Application & Benefits

Sarvajal’s proprietary technology played a vital role in providing a comprehensive solution for delivering low-cost drinking water at the last mile. The various components of the technology include — water purification plants, monitoring device, the water ATM, and Sarvajal’s enterprise management system.

Sarvajal’s purification model was agnostic of the method of filtration and was utilising purification technology as per the source water. The water was getting purified through a site-designed five-step filtration process including media filtration, micron filtration, reverse osmosis (RO) filtration and UV purification. The employed proprietary technology of Sarvajal helped them in monitoring and controlling the machine operations, the source water quality, product water quality, litres produced (both rate and total), the overall health of the machine, and the amount of effluent created in the process. This real-time online monitoring enabled the company to assure a greater uptime in machine usage.

Sarvajal’s Enterprise Management System is the information processing hub of the entire company’s network of distributed installations. The SEMs receives all data sent over the cellular network for the Soochaks and Water ATMs and serves as the conduit for all operational activities within the business, such as inventory management, maintenance tracking, accounting, and asset tracking.

Additionally, the water ATM devices were solar-powered, cloud-connected, and operated automatically, which was designed to dispense water at the swipe of an RFID card. The ATMs tracked every transaction that took place, which enabled a sophisticated market forecasting and proactive multi-unit management. It also enhanced the scale of impact and optimised net investment per installation. Consequently, the ATMs established water-price transparent markets and assured 24×7 access to safe drinking water. Sarvaj’s initiative also presented an option to provide direct-targeted subsidies through government-run programs. Currently, the company is serving more than 7.30 lakhs of people daily, directly from our 1765+ touchpoints in 20 states.

While there are many players in the water space, Sharma believes, “What sets us apart is our effort of conducting community engagement activities to improve impact to increase the off-take.” Also, “Soochak throws data about machine health, so all maintenance activities are planned. Service tickets are even generated to track and also study the data generated. Our database shares information on all machines functionality at any given point in time.”

Sharma further added, “Being a technology expert in the water sector, we also aim to help the government by demonstrating the use of technology, so that the government can monitor the water supply schemes very effectively.” Sarvajal has extended the application of this model for a water pipe model too. The company partnered with the central government-run Jal Shakti mission to create a pilot model of monitoring the IoT-based water tracking mechanism at villages of Gujarat, Assam and Bihar.

Social Platforms are Banning Covid Misinformation

Social platforms are taking a stand against Covid misinformation. Both individually and as a group of brands. Twitter statements below:

Some of misinformation that Twitter has removed:

  • “Coronavirus is not heat-resistant—walking outside is enough to disinfect you.”
  • “Use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19.”
  • “Drinking bleach and ingesting colloidal silver will cure COVID-19.”
  • “COVID-19 does not infect children because we haven’t seen any cases of children being sick.”
  • “Coronavirus is a fraud and not real—go out and patronize your local bar!!”
  • “The news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands.”
  • “Ignore news about COVID-19, it’s just an attempt to destroy capitalism by crashing the stock market.”
  • “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for 2 months—run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything!”
  • “If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have coronavirus.”
  • “If you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus—but a dry cough is.”
  • “You’ll feel like you’re drowning in snot if you have coronavirus—it’s not a normal runny nose.”
  • “People with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production.”
  • “Reading the Quran will make an individual immune to COVID-19.”
  • “Avoid businesses owned by Chinese people as they are more likely to have COVID-19.”

Here is a joint statement from the social platforms jointly:

Why it’s hot?

We’re living in an era of misinformation at the time where being able to rely on is mission critical. Facebook’s past mistakes with leaving up misinformation (as well as during the current election season) has reduced their credibility. Personal hypothesis: More are flocking to Twitter and Reddit to get information, giving these other platforms a boost right when everyone is spending a lot more time online.

This Brand Turned Carbon-Negative Vodka into Hand Sanitizer

Air Co., a startup vodka brand, is one of the distilleries shifting their production from alcohol and to hand sanitizer – but what stands out is that Air Co.’s product is carbon-negative. Their mission is to make goods that do good, so they’ve created a carbon-negative vodka using captured CO2 instead of yeast to make alcohol is now using that captured CO2 to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer.

“As of last week, we temporarily shifted our entire vodka production efforts to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer,” the company wrote in a statement today. “Sanitizer is 70% ethanol, our technology’s main output, and we will produce as many bottles as we can during this crisis.” The company is donating the bottles it produces to the people that need it most.

This carbon-negative hand sanitizer is made from captured CO2

Other distilleries across the country are doing the same – the Old Fourth Distillery in Atlanta started producing hand sanitizer when local stores ran out, and it offered free bottles to the community, as did the Shine Distillery and Grill in Portland.

But what makes Air Co. stand out, is that it’s environmentally friendly. The company uses CO2 from nearby factories and runs it through a process that combines it with water to make alcohol, distilling the final product in equipment running on solar power.

Why It’s Hot:

A great example of how a brand totally quickly shifting its priorities to address pandemic especially a brand that isn’t in the cleaning or sanitizing market initially and in a way that is true to their brand values.

Source

get in the game digitally, by getting in the game physically…


Addidas just announced “GMR” – a digital insole that connects to FIFA Mobile. So, when people play football in real life, it scores them points in the game.

Why It’s Hot:

Clearly at least part of the appeal of games like FIFA is to feel like you’re truly making moves and scoring. What’s even better is to be able to be the one making those moves and scoring, but getting digital points for it. It’s an interesting example of the digital transformation of physical things around us, especially with all the talk about e-Sports being a big part of sporting future.

[link]

Hefty makes a brawny claim about reducing waste

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to recycling and reducing waste is in educating people on what it is, why it matters, and how to do it, all while not boring people to death about it, or coming off as preachy. Hefty takes on that messaging hurdle with a little humor and smartly keeps the details vague.

Another issue with marketing a brand’s waste reduction is in equating it to something people can understand. How do you wrap your head around the fact that globally we produced 275 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2010! You can’t. People need a frame of reference to understand these abstract numbers, and this campaign does that with the help of a somewhat goofy strongman pulling a passenger jet, which represents the weight of the plastics that Hefty has managed to reclaim.

Once interest is piqued, people are taken to a micro-site that explains in more detail Hefty’s sustainability efforts: Hefty Sustainability.com

And what they’re doing is actually pretty cool and innovative. They have created a special bag in which to put hard-to-recycle plastics (those that are not accepted by most residential recycling programs) such as plastic food packaging, straws, candy wrappers, etc., which would otherwise most certainly end up in a landfill, in a tree, or choking the windpipe of a seabird.

Why it’s hot:

1. It doesn’t require you to identify as “green” in order to get it: A lot of “sustainable” brands lean into the lifestyle of the eco-conscious in their messaging, but that can turn off a lot of people who don’t identify that way. For a nationwide brand like Hefty, it makes more sense to stay away from identity and focus on their product and accomplishments.

2. It’s not much of an accomplishment actually, but it’s a start, and it’s backed up by action: Given the fact that more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, a well-informed consumer might scoff at Hefty’s accomplishment of converting one measly airliner’s worth of hard-to-recycle plastic into new materials. But they have a model that helps collect plastics that you can’t normally recycle, and uses their product in a way people are already using it to do so.

3. Mining trash is actually a way to generate revenue: This is a mostly untapped market for raw materials, which is essentially TerraCycle’s business model, of gathering material others can’t (or won’t) and reselling it, which had it earning $20+ million in revenue in 2018.

Source: Marketing Dive

The First Toy To Integrate with Amazon Alexa

Soon, toddlers can ask Alexa for help cooking in their very own toy kitchen. The Alexa 2-in-1 Kitchen and Market, from toymaker KidKraft, weaves in the Amazon voice assistant into an interactive pretend kitchen and grocery store.

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Making its debut at this weekend’s New York Toy Fair, the $300 deluxe wooden play set is expected to go on sale at Amazon.com later this year, and includes 100 play pieces that prompt various reactions from Alexa. Not included: Alexa itself, which would come from their parents’ Echo smart speaker, designed to sit at the center of the play set.

KidKraft created a program that works in the Amazon Alexa world that helps kids learn about cooking meals and shopping as they play, without having to say “Alexa” to get the assistant to react. Once the parent or child asks Alexa to start the KidKraft program, the smart speaker reacts to everyday words and phrases kids may say during play. So, if Alexa picks up on a kid saying “spaghetti,” “market” or “let’s play,” Alexa will chime in with prompts for a recipe, a shopping list of ingredients, or start up a game.

But Alexa is not just responding to kids’ voices — it can also tell which items kids are playing with and react accordingly. The accessories in the play set, which include fake food and cookware, are fitted with RFID chips, and sensors can tell which items are at the register or on the stovetop. The play set then relays that info to the smart speaker via Bluetooth. That means when a child places the pot on the stove, Alexa may say, “Now that the water is boiling, can you open up the fridge and grab some vegetables?”

The play set is also programmed with several games Alexa can play. For example, the “Secret Ingredient Game” challenges kids to guess which food Alexa is thinking of based on clues. Then kids have to scan the right item at the check-out counter.

To address any concerns over kids interacting with voice assistants, Amazon requires Alexa programs for kids — including this one made by KidKraft — to follow stricter content guidelines. Programs for kids can’t include any advertising, sell anything, collect any personal information or include content that is not suitable for all ages.

Why It’s Hot

As toy companies determine the balance of technology and analog, tactile ways to play, this kitchen set seems like a great first step into how to upgrade a classic toy without the use of screens or interfering with imaginative free play.

Source

Google AI no longer sees gender

Google has decided it wants to avoid potential gender bias in its AI system for identifying images, so it’s choosing to simply use the designator “person” instead.

From The Verge:

The company emailed developers today about the change to its widely used Cloud Vision API tool, which uses AI to analyze images and identify faces, landmarks, explicit content, and other recognizable features. Instead of using “man” or “woman” to identify images, Google will tag such images with labels like “person,” as part of its larger effort to avoid instilling AI algorithms with human bias.

“In the email to developers announcing the change, Google cited its own AI guidelines, Business Insider reports. “Given that a person’s gender cannot be inferred by appearance, we have decided to remove these labels in order to align with the Artificial Intelligence Principles at Google, specifically Principle #2: Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias.”

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting to see AI companies grapple with the reality of human social life, and navigate the shifting waters of public mores.

Avoiding bias is a major issue in society, and it’s very important that the companies building AI don’t build their human bias into it. But with any new technology, there can be unintended and unpredictable consequences down the line, from even seemingly innocuous or universally accepted ideas.

Source: The Verge

Skincare + AI: Making Mass Personalization Easy

A skincare startup is tackling the complexity consumers face when navigating the category to select the best products for their skincare needs. Rather than adding to the clutter of products, ingredients and “proprietary formulas”, or attempting to educate consumers through exposure to research + science, Proven Skincare simply prescribes personalized solutions for each individual.

After collecting customer input based around 40 key factors, Proven Skincare’s AI combs through a comprehensive database of research, testimonials and dermatology expertise, to identify the best mix of ingredients for each person’s situation.

Ming Zhao, Proven’s CEO, co-founded the company while struggling with her own skincare issues.

“The paradox of choice, the confusion that causes this frustrating cycle of trial and error, is too much for most people to bear,” says Zhao on the latest edition of Ad Age’s Marketer’s Brief podcast. “There’s a lot of cycles of buying expensive product, only for it to then sit on somebody’s vanity shelf for months to come.”

As the human body’s largest organ, skin should be properly cared for—using products and ingredients that have been proven to work for specific individuals. That’s the core mission behind Proven Skincare, a new beauty company that has tapped technology to research the best skincare regimen for consumers.

Why It’s Hot: In a world where the benefits of things like AI and big data are not often apparent to the “average” person, this is an example of technology that solves a real human problem, while remaining invisible (i.e. it’s not about the tech).

Apps Streamed in stead of Downloaded, think of all the Storage!!

I have been having the same phone problem for about a year now. I don’t have much storage on my phone so I’ll resort to picking and choosing which app stays and which app goes. Its like a heartbreaking rose ceremony for my apps every week. So when I saw this, I was ON BOARD.

AppStreamer, which is middle ware that sits between apps and operating system, would cut storage needs down to 85% on Android phones. It predicts when to fetch data from the cloud server. AT&T Lab Research lent its data to from cellular networks to help this paper. Unsure if its for all phone types. But mostly tested or intended for gaming apps, this new software will allow smartphones to stream the applications on your phone only the time that you are using them. Much like a Netflix show or movie.

This helps apps because it doesn’t have to worry about large visuals and heavy code slowing down the gaming application running on your system or taking up a lot of space on a users phone leading to deletion (like me) or using a ton of their cellular network data. Helps 5G run better because instead of having to connect to many different applications it just connects to AppStreamer, lessening the load on 5G.

I’m saying gaming, because that’s what its intended to solve. But it can work on virtually any app.

In fact, researchers on AppStreamer use edge computing, (oooo). Which is just using the edge of servers when in-taking information and sending information, located in cellphone towers which are closer than the cloud. But less reliable! (ahhh) Bagchi’s lab is interested and working towards ways to make edge computing more reliable.  Because of the proximity, researchers think it can be more for just your silly phone, it could be used in self-driving cars communicating in milliseconds to servers that are close, which in-turn makes it more safe.

Welcome to the wonderful world of streaming, you don’t have to own it OR download it to use it, have it, or be charged for it.

Also, I can only imagine the wealth of information something like this could have or lack there of.

Researchers presented their findings on the 18th to the International Conference on Embedded Wireless Systems and Networks in Lyon, France.

UNTIL IT COMES OUT, i’ll be having a rose ceremony tomorrow night and out goes VSCO, i’m sure of it. And all the Instagram models will cry, and cry.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200206184329.htm

Delta’s turned Minority Report technology into a reality

Delta Airline is adopting new screen technology to add another layer of personalization to customer journeys.

Delta has struck up a partnership with technology company Misapplied Sciences to launch the Parallel Reality beta experience for flyers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Parallel Reality displays are an opt-in technology which, according to Misapplied Sciences, allow ‘a hundred or more’ consumers to view personalized content tailored to their unique journey needs via a single screen.

For Delta, adopting this technology means providing new way-finding opportunities: from displaying only relevant flight information to the viewer and translating that information into a language of the consumer’s choice.

For the beta launch in Detroit, almost 100 customers will be able to view content personalized to their needs. The partnership was announced at CES 2020, which makes Delta the first airline to keynote and exhibit at the event.

Why it’s hot: Delta is taking an existing technology and transforming it into a tool to improve customer experience. It’s taking the idea of one-to-one communication and personalization to the next level. Not to mention the company’s commitment to digital transformation unveiling several other consumer innovations alongside Parallel Reality at CES 2020. The announcements included an expanded partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft to help streamline journeys, a new AI-driven machine learning platform that analyses millions of data points, and even a wearable robotic exoskeleton for its employees.

Source: Contagious.io

Apple Watch Users Can Now Get Rewards for Going to the Gym

For years Apple Watch customers have been walking and running to meet step counts just for the satisfaction of meeting their goals. Now Apple is upping the ante with a new rewards program called Apple Watch Connected.

Apple GymKit

Apple Watch Connected will allow any fitness entity to integrate with the Apple Watch so members can track their health and earn rewards such as gift cards and discounts.To participate in the program, gyms must have equipment enabled with GymKit, a platform that lets users sync their Watch to cardio machines and collect their workout data. GymKit first launched two years ago, and since then Apple has worked with manufacturers like Technogym, Life Fitness, and Octane Fitness to incorporate hardware and GymFit code into their treadmills, stair climbers, and other equipment. It works like this: Users can scan their watch against an NFC reader on a piece of equipment anytime during their workout to capture their progress and send it to their Watch. It’s particularly useful for garnering metrics the Watch might have a hard time calculating on its own, like how many steps were taken on a stair climber, for example, where a person stays static in space.

The Apple Watch Connected platform pulls in the data from GymKit and pipes it into the fitness brand’s Watch and iPhone app, where members can then view and plan their workout schedule.  Through the Apple Watch Connected integration, fitness studios will also be able to offer prizes based on member activity. Since Apple Watch can give studios insight into how active its members are wherever they are, the programs launching today will give out points to members whether they go for a run outside or do yoga in the studio (as long as they get their heart rate up).
Each reward program is designed by the fitness brand. At Crunch Fitness, for example, goals are set each week and members can earn credits toward their membership—as much as $15 a month. The new program will start at 17 locations with plans to encompass all 350 locations nationwide by the end of the year. Going forward, Crunch Fitness will only purchase new cardio equipment that has GymKit as part of its offering, so that eventually all of its cardio equipment has that feature.

Gyms do not have to pay to join Apple Watch Connected. Apple says it is primarily interested in helping its users be active. But there may be another incentive for the company–fitness centers that hook into Apple Watch Connected must accept Apple Pay at their studios to participate. Having Apple Pay accepted at more fitness studios gives Apple more opportunity to cash in on transaction fees, a growing source of revenue for the company.

Why It’s Hot

Apple Watch Connected will help motivate gyms to integrate GymKit, making Apple Watch significantly more useful and accurate for gym goers.

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This Pop-Up Will Let You Trade In CBD Products from Other Brands

With so many CBD-infused products on the market, first-time CBD users or curious onlookers might need a little help in choosing which brand to try. Even post-purchase, users might not feel totally comfortable that what they’ve bought is working, or even safe. Charlotte’s Web, a leader in the CBD space that sells hemp-based products, wants to help by inviting consumers to trade in their own unwanted or questionable bottles from other brands, while learning more about CBD and their products are made.

The Colorado-based company opened the CBD Swap pop-up in Miami. The swap program, which runs now through Feb. 1, is the first of its kind for a CBD company. Consumers who trade in their bottles will receive a free bottle of the brand’s original oil tincture.

According to a report from Brightfield Group, a consumer insights and market research group for the CBD and cannabis industries, there are more than 3,500 different CBD brands operating in the space—so it makes sense that consumers might be confused or overwhelmed.

 

Because of strict regulations, most traditional marketing channels like social media aren’t yet available to CBD companies–another reason for exploring the pop-up model. The space will also host events, with special activations around the Super Bowl.

In its first five days, the pop-up garnered more than 20 million earned media impressions in local press outlets, according to the brand.

 

 

Why It’s Hot

This pop-up model is a great way to pull in skeptical or misinformed consumers and be able to dispel some of the myths around CBD in an engaging manner.

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