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

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

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

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

Why It’s Hot:

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

 

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

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

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

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform

Patients

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

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth

Providers

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

Why It’s Hot

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

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

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

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

Adobe’s VR Sound Design Project – #SonicScape

One of Adobe’s newest project involves giving users a 360 interface to edit 3D sounds. Instead of needing to figure out the exact panning, echoing, delays, etc to fake a 3D sounds, this project lets sound designers see and move their audio files in 3D space. This is pretty similar to what I’m used to doing already in 3D games with Unity, but it’s great to see it available for 360 sound design in general.

Why it’s Hot:

  • Innovative way to deal with an interface issue
  • Allows sound designers an easy way to create 360 sounds

It’s just a prototype for now, but may be making into into an Adobe product in the future.

Marriott + Slack = Thumbs Up

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mashable

Adaptable Crosswalks

Umbrellium, a London-based design firm, created a prototype of a new, digital cross walk that embeds LED lights in strong high-impact plastic that can withstand the weight and impact of cars.

Here is how the designers thought about prioritizing the pedestrian and adaptive environments:

“Typically, when we hear about road technology, it’s almost always about cars, autonomous vehicles, traffic light control systems, but what we wanted to do is create a pedestrian crossing technology that puts people first, responding to their needs,” he says. In this case, “technology enables a more interactive, fluid, and adaptive relationship between pedestrians and the street–you might almost think of it as a ‘conversational interface’ with the road.”

Here are some examples of how the crosswalk adapts:

  • When raining or if a child runs into the road, the crosswalk creates a larger buffer zone.
  • Near a school, the crossing could create a larger buffer zone when a polluting vehicle is waiting.
  • Early in the morning, when few pedestrians are out, the crossing won’t appear until someone approaches.
  • The crosswalk will adapt over time to the natural path and shortcuts that pedestrians take.

Why It’s Hot: This prototype is still in the beginning stages, but the design firm seems to be on the mark about how to use research and machine learning to create an adaptive system that reflects the variety of needs of a crosswalk and prioritizes the pedestrian. As they continue to develop this prototype they are planning to expand its capabilities, such as providing audible signals for the visually impaired.

Source

Ikea acquires TaskRabbit

Both Ikea and TaskRabbit have confirmed that the Swedish retailer has acquired the gig-economy startup in a deal on Thursday. According to recode:

TaskRabbit had already struck a pilot partnership with Ikea around furniture assembly in the United Kingdom and also had marketed its workers’ ability to put together Ikea items in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The heads of TaskRabbit and Ikea Group: Stacy Brown-Philpot (left) and Jesper Brodin

The heads of TaskRabbit and Ikea Group: Stacy Brown-Philpot (left) and Jesper Brodin

Why it’s hot

Ikea has already shown that it wants to get serious about digital innovation with the launch of it’s Ikea Place AR app. TaskRabbit’s firm ties to Silicon Valley – with its CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot, a former Google exec and a board member at HP Inc. – will mark a larger step into tech space for Ikea.

Learn more: https://www.recode.net/2017/9/28/16377528/ikea-acquisition-taskrabbit-shopping-home-contract-labor

Google and Levi’s Make a Connected Jean Jacket

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

Source: Wired

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

Tapping brick-and-mortar network for an edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

buy your next couch online…

Campaign may be to furniture what Casper is to mattresses. Finally you can get the previously mythical combination of quality furniture that is shippable using normal delivery methods, and that requires minimal assembly. It’s also billed as being “built for life”, with prices on par with Crate and Barrel, or West Elm, and ships for “free”.

Why It’s Hot:
Great products are designed around removing pain points from the customer experience. The long transit times (and coordinating final delivery) that can come with freight shipping (+the cost), and the overly frustrating and laborious assembly required with other furniture purchased digitally are two major headaches when buying furniture online. Campaign solves for both. Meanwhile, IKEA is still trying to figure out how to make a flat-packable couch.

Play with your food before you eat it

Kabaq is an augmented reality menu that will let you preview a 3D version of each dish before you commit to it. Users who want to see their order before they are served can the menu item and interact with a 360-degree simulation. This helps visualize ingredients, portion sizes, and side dishes. The app is meant to inspire cautious eaters to try new dishes.

Currently, 15 restaurants have signed on to test out Kabaq, with around 150 food items onboard. The AR service costs between $150-$200 each month. Aside from menu previews, the 3D models can also be used on websites, social media, and marketing materials, as well as accessible in the Kabaq AR app. The startup is working on an API to make the 3D food library accessible for food delivery, cookbooks, catering and menu prep services in the future.

Source: PSFK

Why it’s hot/not:

This might help some restaurants from a ‘wow’ factor perspective, however I do think this is not a great thing for a few reasons.

  • This has the risk of increasing the time patrons spend at restaurant tables, increasing the turnaround time for new customers – which might threaten overall restaurant revenue and user experience (longer wait times)
  • Unless the restaurants have some great, photo worthy food, this might deter some users from ordering what they might have previously.

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

Google and Walmart are testing the notion that an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com.

But working together does not ensure that they will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options.

The two companies said the partnership was less about how online shopping is done today, but where it is going in the future. They said that they foresaw Walmart customers reordering items they purchased in the past by speaking to Google Home, the company’s voice-controlled speaker and an answer to Amazon’s Echo. The eventual plan is for Walmart customers to also shop using the Google Assistant, the artificially intelligent software assistant found in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google, allowing the technology giant to learn their past shopping behavior to better predict what they want in the future. Google said that because more than 20 percent of searches conducted on smartphones these days are done by voice, it expects voice-based shopping to be not far behind.

“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined,” said Marc Lore, who is leading Walmart’s efforts to bolster its e-commerce business.

Google is a laggard in e-commerce. Since starting a shopping service in 2013, it has struggled to gather significant momentum. Initially, it offered free same-day delivery before scrapping it. It also tried delivery of groceries before abandoning that, too.

If Amazon is a department store with just about everything inside, then Google Express is a shopping mall populated by different retailers. There are more than 50 retailers on Google Express, including Target and Costco. Inside Google Express, a search for “toothpaste” will bring back options from about a dozen different retailers.

Google said it planned to offer free delivery — as long as shoppers met store purchase minimums — on products purchased on Google Express. Google had charged customers a $95 a year membership for free delivery. Amazon runs a similar program called Amazon Prime, offering free delivery for members who pay $99 a year.

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

Amazon has been considerably powering forward of late — when it comes to partnerships, integrations, and expansions — and one was left wondering where the competition would net out. The future implications about data and voice integration are more interesting than the retail implications today, since Google is king at data integration.

The UX of Parkinson’s disease

In InVision’s latest design article, the writer takes a dive into what started as an unlikely dance-venture for people with Parkinson’s disease, that is now becoming an AR revolution with Google Glass. Dance for PD started as a therapeutic dance class (yes, dance) for people with Parkinson’s. The class focused on moving through simple dance moves as a way to ease out of the freezing episodes that Parkinson’s brings on. When the group won an award from Google to bring the dance instruction to AR, some really unique design challenges cropped up. Some were technological – Google Glass could only play video for a few minutes before overheating and shutting down. Most notably, the dance instruction AR prototype was far better received by patients than normal PD exercise instruction in the same format. The users ultimately felt more engaged performing dance than engaging in exercises seen as more clinical.

 

ASMR: Sounds and Videos That Feel Good

ASMR was once a YouTube niche trend, but now it’s appearing in museums and ads, and funding creative empires. KFC was one of the first brands to capitalize on this phenomenon, but others will likely follow suit.

But what is ASMR?

ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a sensation triggered by soft sounds like whispering, hair brushing, or page turning. Not everyone feels ASMR, but those who do describe a tingling sensation in the base of their skull or the back of their neck. The trend emerged on YouTube in 2008 and shows now sign of slowing down. According to Co. Design,

As of [August 2017], there are over 9 million ASMR videos on YouTube. According to Google’s internal data, ASMR grew over 200% in 2015 and continues to grow consistently. […]

 

The term ASMR is pseudo-scientific; there hasn’t been any major academic research yet on this subject. Early adopters of ASMR would compile clips of “tingling triggers”—the rustle of trees in nature documentaries, for example, or the sound of typing in a commercial. Bob Ross, the famously ‘fro’ed host of 1990s instructional painting videos, turned out to be a popular source of ASMR found footage. As the community grew online, people began making their own videos. Since ASMR triggers can be different person to person, DIY videos offer up a spectrum of different scenes and scenarios. Some are made of tightly cropped shots of hands popping bubble wrap, crinkling paper, or scratching rough surfaces. Others feature ASMRtists—mainly women—speaking directly into the camera, usually at a whisper (for some, intimate attention triggers ASMR). Still others feature role play and fantastical settings, giving narrative context to the sounds that provoke ASMR feelings. […]

 

[B]y and large, most people in the ASMR community consider it to be more about relaxation and self-care. Many watch the videos to ease anxiety, insomnia, or depression. Even people who don’t feel the tingling sensation can find the videos therapeutic.

Why it’s hot

ASMR’s is not simply growing in the fringes of the internet. The power that this experience gives artists and others to connect with audiences in a physical and visceral way is bringing it fully into the mainstream. IKEA is one of the brands quick to capitalize on the trend, releasing an ASMR audio version of their traditional catalog.

Read more at Fast Co.

Smartphones make you spend more frivolously

https://management.ok.ubc.ca/faculty/yingzhu.html

An assistant professor at the University of British Columbia with a specialty in consumer behavior found that people shop differently on touchscreen devices than they do on their desktop PCs.

On phones, people are more likely to spend money on indulgent, hedonistic things, like movie tickets and dining out. And on PCs, people prioritize more practical, utilitarian things, like furniture and haircuts.

“The touchscreen has an easy-to-use interface that puts you into an experiential thinking style. When you’re in an experiential thinking mode, you crave excitement, a different experience,” says the professor. “When you’re on the desktop, with all the work emails, that interface puts you into a rational thinking style. While you’re in a rational thinking style, when you assess a product, you’ll look for something with functionality and specific uses.”

Why it’s hot: Should brands or retailers place products differently according to the screen?

Swipe Up for a Burger at Your Doorstep

Ever wish you could have that beautiful burger you see on Instagram… brought to you immediately? An agency out based out of Brazil (named Africa) is deploying a new social campaign for Heinz: ‘Irresistible Posts’ where they seek to make this possible.

In Sao Paulo, Instagram users who are searching the Stories section in the early afternoon receive a targeted video of a delicious burger prepared by a local restaurant chef. At the end of the video, the chef appears onscreen and tells the user to swipe up to have this exact meal sent to them. Once the user fills out their location details, the burger is brought to their doorstep. Where does Heinz come in? It is delivered in a personalized box created by Heinz – which conveniently includes several of their condiment products.

Heinz has not announced if they plan to expand the campaign outside of Sao Paulo.

See video!

Why it’s sizzln’ hot: Not only does this activation play upon the extremely relevant #foodporn Instagram trend, but this is a strategic play for Heinz. By being the behind-the-scenes partner that helps users fulfill their cravings (and add to them with their condiments), they are becoming a more relevant and reliable brand that provide more than just the add-ons. Additionally, next time these users think back to the best burger they’ve had – they will associate Heinz with that positive, memorable, and tasty experience.

Source: PSFK

Oscar and the design of healthcare apps

The design team behind Oscar started and ended their process fixated on the user experience. Many healthcare providers still send new customers stacks of paperwork for onboarding, and Oscar jumped wholly into online questionnaires, tutorials, and app. Over the iterative lifecycle, here are a few key learnings they found:

  • Like enterprise app design, healthcare apps should be seen as a consumer product (people don’t shed their skin and become mindless patients).
  • 87.8% of people who avoid early care do so because of bureaucracy, insurance issues, and price. Telemedicine is a glimmer of hope – connecting doctors directly with patients.
  • With healthcare apps, less is truly more. People tend to use healthcare apps rarely and often forget about them in between uses. The app needs to be more intuitive than innovative. Make it SIMPLE.
  • Test early and often using prototypes to course correct along the way.
  • The team was successful in limiting navigation buttons to give users a more guiding approach (forcing function).
  • They added CTAs for calling their doctor throughout the app at key touchpoints. This way, users understood WHEN they should be seeking help.
  • Getting users to spend LESS time on the app (meaning, they got what they needed and got off) became the goal. They needed to define success differently than other kinds of apps.

 

Money Can’t Buy (All) The Happiness

People who say “money can’t buy happiness” have obviously never lived under a bridge. Money can buy happiness, certainly in the form of one’s safety, shelter, and food. So logically you could think

“…if a little money buys some happiness…a lot of money buys a lot of happiness…I need more money to be happy!

But unfortunately,  we as humans aren’t wired that way.  Research has shown that people have a base level of happiness built into their lives. As good things happen, and bad things happen we tend to slide back to that base level.

I’m sure we have all gone through the phase of having to have the latest “thing”. We see it, we desire it, we literally crave it….then we finally obtain it. It feels great; then…we forget why we wanted it in the first place. Welcome to the Hedonic Treadmill

Studies show that the difference in happiness from earning $5,000 a year to $50,000 a year is dramatic. This type of change allows one to purchase shelter, food, and security. But the level of happiness from $50,000 a year to $50,000,000 is nearly identical.

 

Why It’s Hot

So if it’s not stuff that makes us happy, what will? Experience. The time we spend with friends and family, the adventures we take, the people we help – these are the keys to moving your overall base level of happiness. Experience acts as a differentiator not only in life but also in the market. Brands and products who go beyond the physical good and offer experience will achieve more customer loyalty and find brand fans quicker.

 

 

Tesla 3: Look ma – no dashboard!

The Tesla Model 3 has been billed as a groundbreaking car. And in one respect, it is: It doesn’t have an instrument cluster.

Tesla

Although it is unusual to have the most important displays and controls on the left side of the screen instead of the center or right, keep in mind the screen’s location in the center of the car, to the driver’s right. A large speedometer is located at the top left of the screen, which turns red if you are speeding. Below that is a graphic of the car. When parked you can open the hood, trunk, and charging door. The navigation and music selection screens work much the same way you would expect in any other infotainment system, tablet, or smartphone.

One fan has put together a prototype that those in the know say is pretty true-to-form.

Voice controls are basic for now – e.g. “navigate to…” – but are rumored to be a big part of the next software upgrade.

Business Insider: The Tesla Model 3’s interior is a study in automotive minimalism

Why It’s Hot
It’s one of the more significant updates to car dashboard U.I. in a long time – it will be interesting to hear the usability feedback now that the cars are being delivered. It also marks a more aggressive step towards autonomous cars.

Humanscale’s Design Tool for Ergonomic Data

Humanscale is an analog tool used by industrial designers in the 70’s and 80’s as a reference tool to quick human focused data points. It was originally created by Henry Dreyfuss & Associates (HDA), the creators of iconic designs such as the Honeywell thermostat and Bell’s tabletop telephone. Henry Dreyfuss was an advocate for ergonomics and compiled Humanscale because there was no central place for ergonomic data. For example, if you wanted to know the dimensions of the average North American man’s leg, you could reference military records. Another example is that they learned that the average height of a fedora was 2 inches, which would be important when considering door measurements.

MIT stopped producing them in the mid 1980’s and they became a collectors item. Now, IA Collaborative, a global design consultancy created a Kickstarter to reprint Humanscale. Their long-term plans are to also create an interactive interface for this data.

Overview of the 9 selectors:

You can slide the selector to adjust data points for different demographics:

So these selectors can be used to design for a multitude of products.

Why it’s hot: The ability to reference key ergonomic data points is crucial to the design of industrial and digital products. These can be useful tools to many types of designers. In addition, the graphic design of the selectors are really cool! The slider seems very intuitive and fun to interact with. It optimizes how the information is displayed.

Figma adds collaboration to the product design process

While some digital product designers are still using Illustrator or Photoshop to design interfaces for screens, a battle has begun to design the next generation of product design tools. Sketch has captured a large portion of the market as a tool that is easy to adopt and master, but other vendors have their sights set on bigger and brighter futures.

Figma is an interface design tool that combines product design functionality with feedback, collaboration, and prototyping. It is built especially for digital product designers, taking into consideration device constraints, accessibility, and even production needs.

Why it’s hot…

Rather than switching file types and relying on email, Slack, or annotations, imagine being able to work side-by-side with other members of your team – designers and non-designers alike – in one file to get a project production-ready. Additionally, Figma works across devices and operating systems, meaning that everyone can use the device they want and still have access to the same files. Think Office 365 or Google Docs, but for product design.

Showing code from designed screens [via figma.com]

Adobe and other large vendors are trying to implement similar collaborative capabilities in XD and other programs, but Figma has the added benefit of starting from scratch, without legacy product dependencies. It will be exciting to see how they use this momentum to carry them forward.

Learn more at https://www.figma.com

It’s Late and You’ve Got the Munchies. Lyft and Taco Bell Have an Idea.

Taco Bell has, quite literally, found a new marketing vehicle, and its name is Lyft.

The fast-food chain is beginning a venture with the ride-sharing company this week that will allow Lyft passengers to request rides that incorporate a stop at a Taco Bell drive-through between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

The companies will test the option, which will appear as “Taco Mode” in the Lyft app, during the next two weeks around a Newport Beach, Calif., location, with plans to expand the program nationally next year.

It’s an attempt to tap into the trend of young people increasingly car-pooling through apps like Lyft and its larger rival Uber, particularly on nights out with friends. While Taco Bell offers delivery to customers and advertises the locations of its restaurants through the navigation app Waze, partnering with a ride-sharing company represents a new type of “experience innovation,” said Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer.

“I kind of think of this like inverse delivery — like we’re delivering you to Taco Bell,” she said in an interview. “You’re being delivered to the food as opposed to having to get in your own car and drive.”

As it stands, Lyft and Uber do not have stated policies about how drivers should handle passenger requests to swing by fast-food drive-throughs, though the question regularly pops up in online discussion forums for drivers.

“Several times I said no to food and they ask why and I explained what the last idiot did of making a mess and each time the present idiot would promise to not make a mess, spill, waste, etc. then they do it anyway!” one Uber driver wrote in an online forum.

Ms. Thalberg said her company had seen “a bunch of funny tweets” and other social media posts from hungry passengers on the topic, which got them thinking about a potential partnership with Lyft.

Taco Bell is not paying Lyft for the deal, which has been in the works for almost a year, Ms. Waters said. The companies are looking at the venture as “cocreating an experience together,” which cannot be evaluated the way one might look at traditional marketing efforts like television commercials and billboards, she said.

“Marketing today is so much about customer experience, not branding and advertising,” she said. “We’re really evaluating it from a surprise and delight for our consumer bases with a program like this and both meeting in the middle and developing it on both sides.”

Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot

  • Uber used to be the partnership king, but perhaps their recent debacles have had brands thinking twice about their ride partnerships
  • Audience understanding  — experiences, not products — is the way to go.
  • It’s interesting to see how ride share, ride hire industry expands through partnerships and innovations to “own more of the user.”

Adobe’s Hybrid Color Mixer

Adobe Research and the University of Toronto have created a design and research study to create a new UI element for how digital artists can use color palettes. This new method, called the Playful Palette, provides a digital approach for mixing colors as an artist would with paint. A digital artist would move “blobs” around and be able to mix and change colors with similar principles as with paint. There is also an easy function to adjust colors globally in a document for easy adjustments. This research was A/B tested with the traditional Adobe color picker and the Playful Palette was found to work more seamlessly into artist’s creative flow. Here is the study from this project.

Why It’s Hot: While this element may or may not be integrated into the Adobe suite, this study shows the research and brainstorming that is going into furthering improve digital artist and illustrators’ user flows. Again, like with the introduction of many interfaces, we see that a skeuomorphic interpretation holds value to the ways in which users are used to working with digital interfaces.

Apple Takes a Bite out of the AR Pie

Apple released ARKit, a mobile AR platform that uses Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to accurately track the world around it. VIO fuses camera sensor data with CoreMotion data, allowing the device to sense how it moves within a room with a high degree of accuracy, and without any additional calibration. It’s open to all developers who want to come create and play…and it’s also probably luring them away from FB/Snapchat/Googs.

By having the experience live in an app on millions of iOS devices, it’s giving creators (developers) a much wider audience (and incentive) to test and socialize.

Already, ARKit’s sharing platform is seeing some really awesome crowdsourced examples of the tech in action.

See more examples of what developers have already been toying with, go here.

Why It’s Hot:

Apple Is….

  • Democratizing AR to both users and developers (HoloLens who?)
  • Positioning it’s self the Go-To AR platform
  • Low-Overhead cutting edge technology for brands to explore and own

Merck And Alexa challenge to solve diabetes care crisis

Diabetes is a scourge. And Merck through the gauntlet down. (Though only for $25K).

Reviewing the snippet of the infographic in the hero photo only teases the immensity of the diabetes  problem. It is without a doubt THE health issue in our country, and sadly, for most of the world. The complexity of the condition is endless — it touches nearly every organ — eyes, feet, heart, kidney — and part of our body’s system in a negative way.

One truth is well known: patients need help with this complex condition. Frankly, many diabetics “game” the system with their medications so they can maintain at least a portion of the unhealthy lifestyle that got them. For others, despite good effort, many patients do a terrible job staying on their medication, or following their exercise and diet regimen, and thus, the codition progresses where the costs to their body and society are overwhelming. But while some of these issues are ingrained, there are many people who would welcome a helping hand — however it is packaged.

So, Merck, makers of several effective diabetes medications, decided to differentiate itself by thinking like a consumer company:

The Alexa Challenge. The Challenge calls on innovators to create Alexa voice-enabled solutions to improve the lives of those with type 2 diabetes

They just announced their finalists.

Why is this hot?

  • Each finalist cover a wide range of potential applications and technology platforms.
  • While several of the large pharma companies have done something similar, the maturation of Merck’s approach teamed the leap of ease and sophistication of technology has Merck doing it the right way.
  • This needs to be watched; from a marketing perspective, diabetes drug manufacturers have often been quite innovative. But they often did so internally and with their PR group. This smells of a change in direction towards the ascendance of consumer technology and consumer thinking.

Brandless is the new brand

This past week the internet was abuzz with news of CPG startup Brandless. Headed by serial entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler, Brandless is selling consumer staples like food and healthcare direct to consumers all priced at $3.

“It felt like modern consumption was really broken,” says cofounder and CEO Tina Sharkey. Millennial consumers don’t want to buy their parents’ brands, she argues, and all brands are too expensive, marked up to cover the costs of distribution, warehousing and retail space. By eliminating what she refers to as this “brand tax,” she figured that Brandless could slash the costs of basic packaged consumer goods that people buy regularly, and potentially become a significant player in a $2 trillion market dominated by the likes of P&G and General Mills.

But the biggest difference between Brandless and all the major CPG players is its business model: Rather than sell through traditional retail stores, the company is only offering its goods online. By doing so, the company will have what few of the CPG giants have – a direct relationship with the consumers of its products. It plans to exploit this relationship through a heavy investment in data and by building a sense of community through memberships and philanthropy (with every purchase, the company will donate to Feeding America).

https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/11/brandless/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyfeldman/2017/07/11/brandless-hopes-to-shake-up-consumer-products-with-direct-to-consumer-basics-for-3/#694a312e3906

Why It’s Hot

Move over Warby Parker, Casper and the rest. You’re not the only ones willing to take on the big boys.

And rather than relying on product brands, there’s just one brand in this game to promote – and it’s Brandless.

Smart luggage tag to get around in Amsterdam

KLM’s latest creative way to provide something extra for its passengers is a smart luggage tag that helps visitors to Amsterdam to get around the city. The airline’s agency, DDB & Tribal Worldwide Amsterdam, has developed a limited edition audio luggage “Care Tag” consisting of an offline GPS module and a speaker.

KLM aims to share not just the standard tourist tips, but helpful information like pointing out busy intersections with a lot of cyclists, where and how to lock your bike and when you have to watch out for pickpockets. There are also more lighthearted tips such as where to taste local food for free, where to see great street art or where to rent a bike or boat. The Care Tag comes with a USB charger so you can easily recharge it, and the audio works at two different volumes and was tested at many busy and noisy locations.

Why it’s hot
Whether you’re walking or cycling through the city, it offers the right tip at the right location at the right time.

Nightlight to notify retweets and emails

Aumi Mini is a new project on Kickstarter. It’s a USB-powered nightlight that connects to your Wi-Fi, and includes IFTTT support for getting into all sorts of automated shenanigans.

The exact sort internet events you’d like a nightlight to inform you of is, of course, entirely up to you. A few examples offered by Aumi include weather alerts, Wi-Fi-is-down notifications, and and smart home integration.

Why it’s hot?

 

The future of shared public space will be super annoying

A developer named Abhishek Singh recreated the first level of Super Mario Bros. as an augmented reality game on Microsoft HoloLens, giving himself a first-person perspective into a unique 3D look inside the classic setting.

This demo was done in NYC’s own Central Park.

Why It’s Hot
Seeing the game as Mario sees it is totally hot. Watching a guy in Central Park acting like he’s slowly losing his mind: not so hot.

Google Has Developed an Ad for VR

In a new post from the company’s Area 120 creative lab, Google shared plans for how it might design ads that live directly in your field of view. What is Google’s solution for ads that are obtrusive, not but too obtrusive, but definitely still obtrusive?

 

 

From Google: “Developers and users have told us they want to avoid disruptive, hard-to-implement ad experiences in VR. So our first idea for a potential format presents a cube to users, with the option to engage with it and then see a video ad. By tapping on the cube or gazing at it for a few seconds, the cube opens a video player where the user can watch, and then easily close, the video.”

WHY ITS HOT:

Google makes $26 billion a quarter off of the advertisements on products like Search, so it makes sense that it–and its competitors–want to experiment with ways to extend that business into the virtual world.

WHY ITS NOT HOT:

From Fast Company: HOLY MOTHER, WHERE DID THIS GIANT SCREEN COME FROM?? MY EYES, MY EYYYEEEESSS!! I KNOW IT’S A GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 3TEASER, BUT RESIST. CLOSE ALL OF THE TAAAABBBBBSSSSS. ALLLGUHHBCLISHLgffbbbbkkpft…

We’re going to see a whole lot more of this sort of thing in VR, and probably never, ever less.

 

Also, La Var Burton Reads just launched : )

Augmented Reality Sells Sneakers For Nike

Nike built an augmented reality application called SNKRS for users to gain access to limited-edition sneakers available for purchase. The first sneaker to debut through the app was the Nike SB Dunk High Pro Momofuku, a collaboration with David Chang, creator and owner of the Momofuku restaurant group.

For a user to gain access to the shoe, they have to open the app and point their camera at the menu at Fuki East Village Momofuku in New York. People can still gain access to the shoes elsewhere, as an online menu works as well. Users need to look for a special ‘SNKRS’ label for the app to work properly. Once scanned, the shoes are unlocked and users have an opportunity to purchase a pair, as long as they’re in stock.

Right now, the SNRKS application only works on iOS phones, but Nike plans to release a version for Android soon.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

How do brands use augmented reality in a way that engages their core audience? What’s interesting about this is (1) the audience understanding — sneaker freaks DO care about insider, unique, unlocking-type tasks and (2) the localization factor + partnership factor. However, I have to wonder what the reach is on something like this — is it a lot of effort for a little engagement?