Strangers looking at the moon is beautiful and pure

Filmmaker and space enthusiast Wylie Overstreet took his telescope onto the streets of Los Angeles to show strangers the moon, and recorded their reactions with his creative partner Alex Gorosh. They created a lovely short film about the process.

Why it’s hot

There are a couple of things that this film brought to mind. The first is how we engage people in experiences. Overstreet’s simple invitation of “Would you like to look at the moon?” is simple and enticing. He does not go into details about his telescope or astronomy, but allows people to see for themselves, untainted by anyone else’s expectations.

The second lesson is about demystifying science and technology and bringing it to people within the context of their everyday lives. The unexpected view of the moon, which is easily Googleable, elicited awe from the people in the film because it gave them a direct connection between the moon in the sky and the moon they were seeing. How can we aim to bring that feeling to people through digital experiences?

Ikea has put on a twist on customer research

In November 2017, IKEA created an innovative survey about co-living spaces. This study explores what the future of co-living will look like in 2030 when there are 1.2 billion more people on the planet with 70% living in urban areas with limited spaces and resources. IKEA’s future living research lab Space10 launched One Shared House 2030 developed by interaction designer Irene Pereya of Anton & Irene. This is an interactive take on customer research.

  • It’s an experiment: there’s an intentional pioneering spirit in the survey
  • Empathetic for its subjects: the research was inspired by a documentary Pereyra did about her own co-living experience from when she was a child; giving authenticity to the survey and creating a deep sense of empathy
  • Beauty: the research is visually beautiful with bold geometric shapes and intense colors; it’s inviting and makes you want to participate
  • Playful: the research is positioned as playful research that is designed more like an app vs. survey with music and pop-up windows
  • Setting it in the future: the survey doesn’t act you to imagine the future – it sets the whole survey in the future; it tells you it’s 2030 and the world is more crowded – allowing people to get into the right mindset

Now, the results are in! More than 7,000 people from 147 countries answered the survey. People of all ages, and are in any life situation from all countries on average:

  • Would prefer couples, single women and single men in their community
  • Are happier with access to multiple homes they could easily move between
  • Prefer members to share equal ownership of the house
  • Only want the common areas to come furnished and furnish their own space themselves
  • Want house members from different walks of life
  • Think the two biggest pros of living with others is having more ways to socialize and splitting costs and getting more bang for your buck
  • Most are interested in living in shared houses between 4 and 10 people

Why it’s hot?

The Survey: is engineered as a digital experience. Everything from the empathetic positioning to the sonic // visual design pulls you in. IKEA demonstrates that CX is something that should trickle across all aspects of your business – even market research.

The Results: show that no co-living company has really figured out the right balance between an economically feasible scale and a scale that favors human connections. It shows that there is still ripe opportunity to re-think the co-living space.


  • co-living-spaces-get-wrong

Chrome Music Lab makes music education fun and accessible

Google recently released Song Maker, the latest web-based music tool from Chrome Music Lab. All of the previous tools in Music Lab have been intended to demonstrate and visualize concepts like chords and oscillators. In “Song Maker,” users can create music with drums and melody and have the power to change instruments, adjust the tempo, and set the key. Even with little to no music training, it’s easy to make fun little songs in no time at all. It’s also compatible with MIDI keyboards.

My favorite one to play with is Kandinsky, inspired by artist Wassily Kandinsky, where each shape you draw becomes a sound in your masterpiece.

Kandinsky inspired masterpiece

Why it’s hot

These are great examples of interactive demos that aren’t too open ended to be fun. I could (but definitely did NOT) waste a ton of time making little tunes, giving Google my time and attention and probably training a neural network or two for them.

Read more about Song Maker on Pitchfork, and play around with the full suite of tools on Chrome Music Lab

IndieCade East Recap

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


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

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

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

Getting Over It:

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

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

You can buy it on the iOS App Store here.


Beyond the screen:

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

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

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

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


Thoughts and Prayers the Game:

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


More info about IndieCade here

The Future of Access

Latch, a competitor in the smart-lock space, revealed today that they will be the lock maker of choice for Airbnb’s newest housing experiment Niido. Latch is a patent lock system that would allow e-commerce orders to be delivered directly into a home – while offering access credentials to any service.

Latch is only sold to managers running apartments and condos, for the simple fact that those managers buy in bulk and also face more complex problems related to building access. Users can use a key pad, phone or key card to get in to a building. The app allows for residents and managers to send out access codes to whoever they like that expire however long they designate. The delivery of hardware and service is the appeal for Niido – building managers can centrally manage all the Airbnb guest and create an accurate activity log. Every tenant using the service is charged $5 – as the lock itself is only an aspect of Latch’s business model.

What is Niido?

Niido is a new residential design concept specifically for home sharing. Tenants will sign annual leases and will be permitted to home share individual rooms or their entire units through Airbnb for up to 180 nights per year. Tenants who choose to share their homes will be part of Airbnb’s Friendly Buildings Program, in which hosts and landlords share revenues generated from home sharing.

Why It’s Hot

In a sea of smart locks, Latch stood out by targeting real estate developers rather than the average consumer – helping property managers navigate the operational burden with ease. Latch is demonstrating their value as more than a hardware or software company, and instead positioning the brand as a service that offers security, seamless access and simple management to consumers and customers alike. We’re moving towards a future where your user profile replaces your key.



Bing Brings Sentiment Analysis, Multiple Perspectives To Search Queries

In one of the most important steps that will give marketers greater understanding of intent in search queries, Microsoft Bing integrated technology often referred to as sentiment analysis, will provide the ability to understand the context of the content, either positive or negative. The engine also has begun to serve up multiple perspectives on the positive or negative topics, which will allow the person querying the information to consider all options.
Is coffee good for you? How many times must I work out weekly to lose weight? So many answers to questions have variables. So, Bing may serve two answers from two different perspectives, allowing the person to decide which is the correct one for them, since there is not one definitive or correct answer to most questions that are asked in searches on the web.
Bing offers clues about what signals they are looking for in sites they rank for intelligent snippets. Here are some of the attributes of the sites they rank:
1. Authoritative and high quality
2. Relevant to the topic
3. Content is easy to crawl and index
4. Good user experience on the web page

The way it works when you type a question:
1. Their Web Search and Question Answering engine selects candidates from web pages.
2. They organize the candidates in clusters to determine similarity and sentiment
3. Bing ranks the most relevant passages from the web pages from each sentiment based cluster

For example, when searching the term “is coffee good for you” on Bing, the search engine will serve up passages as search results that offer two different perspectives on this topic, instead of just one.

Why It’s Hot
The fact that Bing has confirmed they are using sentiment analysis is big news. Google has also announced their intention to add sentiment analysis to their Featured snippets. Sometimes queries can provide incorrect information. Microsoft hopes this multi-perspective approach will improve the experience on Bing. In January, Google said it would use a multi-perspective approach to rid results of bias and a skewed point of view.
Diverse perspectives certainly help to bring a more balanced view of information plucked from the internet and help information seekers obtain a more rounded and well-informed view.

Thumbs Down-ish

People can now downvote inappropriate comments to hide them on Facebook. But what Facebook does with signals about problematic comments could raise new questions about censorship, and its role as a news editor and media company.

The motivation for the button is to create a lightweight way for people to provide a signal to Facebook that a comment is inappropriate, uncivil, or misleading.

When tapped, the downvote button hides a comment, and gives users additional reporting options like “Offensive”, “Misleading”, and “Off Topic”. Those could help Facebook figure out if the comment is objectionable, a form of “fake news”, or just irrelevant. Facebook already has a “Hide” button for comments, but it’s usually hidden behind the drop-down arrow on comments rather than immediately clickable.

Though not a dislike button, its sure acts a lot like it. This has been the most requested Facebook feature, but Facebook has officially never given it. Instead, Facebook built the Reactions options that let you respond to posts and comments with love, wow, haha, sad or angry emoji.

The downvote button ties in with Facebook’s recent push to enhance its users’ well-being by prioritizing News Feed content that drives meaningful interactions instead of passive, zombie browsing. That led Facebook to show fewer viral videos, which in turn contributed to a 700,000 user decrease in U.S. and Canada daily active users — its first decline ever anywhere — and Facebook’s slowest DAU growth rate it’s ever reported.

But one way Facebook could generate more meaningful interaction could be by ensuring the most interesting comments are at the top of posts. Facebook already ranks comments by relevancy based on Likes and replies. But the downvote button could ensure that if objectionable comments rise up and stall discussion, Facebook will know.

Why It’s Hot:

  • Though not a dislike button it sure acts like a dislike button with teeth
  • It’s framed as part of their efforts to address fake news, but the truth is that they have recently experienced their first loss of users and this could be an effort to ensure the most interesting topics to each user rise to the top, and those that are objectionable don’t interrupt the experience
  • It’s going to be very interesting to see results, especially given the options of “misleading” and “off topic” as these are highly subjective…also if these will apply to advertisers


Source: TechCrunch

If You’re At A Secret Military Base, Turn Your Dumb Fitness App Off

Strava, the exercise tracking application, released an update to their global heatmap. The global heat map now contains:

  • 1 billion activities
  • 3 trillion latitude/longitude points
  • 13 trillion pixels rasterized
  • 10 terabytes of raw input data
  • A total distance of 27 billion km (17 billion miles)
  • A total recorded activity duration of 200 thousand years
  • 5% of all land on Earth covered by tiles

A smart 20 year old college student in Australia noticed this, and wondered what he could find, and lo and behold:

This kicked off a whole bunch of Twitter users looking through the data.

And this guy found Burning Man:

Of course, this is very, very bad. It’s very bad that you can identify secret installations, and understand common routes taken by staff.

However, it seems that it goes deeper than that.

The good thing is that the data does not allow people to view this information in real time, and only goes up to September 2017.

Now, of course, lawmakers are angry!

Congressional Democrats on Wednesday called on Strava, the maker of a popular fitness app, to explain why it published a global “heat map” online that inadvertently highlighted the locations of sensitive government facilities throughout the world by revealing the movements of millions of users.

Why it’s hot

  1. What are our responsibilities when it comes to creating products? Strava forced users to opt out, instead of opt in. Strava also didnt consider the implications of this technology on a fairly small subset of users.
  2. What does the increasing number of personal wearables and other pieces of technology mean for the military? How do you restrict access, while also keeping troops happy who may be on deployments away from their families?

FDA seeks to curb abuse of OTC anti-diarrhea meds via packaging

As a part of its efforts to curb the current opioid crisis in America, the FDA has requested that OTC anti-diarrhea medications modify its packaging to make overdosing more difficult.

These drugs, specifically Immodium A-D and various store brands and generics, are tied to the opioid crisis because in massive doses, the active ingredient, loperamide, works in the body the same way as heroin, morphine, and oxycodone. Some people suffering from addiction are buying the anti-diarrhea meds and consuming huge amounts of them – between 50 and 300 pills per day – in order to maintain their high or to self-treat their opioid withdrawal symptoms. Since the pills are relatively affordable, selling at big box stores at $10 for 400 pills, the drug is an appealing quick fix.

The FDA already added a warning to the product label in spring 2017 to warn against ingesting high doses of loperamide, including from abuse and misuse, but of course that warning label uh… didn’t help. (Shocker.) So they’re taking a design-based step and asking manufacturers to alter their physical packaging in order to change user behavior. For example, a retail package could contain eight 2-mg capsules, enough for two days of medication for its intended purposes. Think of how Sudafed, NyQuil, etc are packaged in individual and frustratingly difficult-to-open blister packs – it would take a lot of physical effort to gather and dose a huge quantity of those medications.

Why It’s Hot: Changing the physical packaging of medication to alter user behavior is a fascinating UX/product design strategy. It involves cost and effort on the manufacturer’s behalf to redesign and repackage the medication, but if it works, it’s a blunt and effective approach. What else could we physically alter in order to change users’ negative or self-harming behaviors?

Read More: CBS News | FDA

Will Tweet for Pizza

Comedy Central is trying to alleviate you from corporate boredom by sending you free pizza. Also, to promote their new show: Corporate.

Last Wednesday, I received a group message hot tip from my buddy to tweet #CorporateLunch with the pizza emoji after 2 pm if I wanted free pizza. Being the carbohydrate enthusiast that I am, I didn’t ask any questions and promptly tweeted per the instructions.

I received a reply from Comedy Central immediately, giving me a link to input my email and work address. I followed instructions, and I was told my free pizza was on the way. Along with this fake company newsletter from the new ‘Corporate’ show that was airing that night. A character from the show assured me that this pizza was free from them, but that I would never escape my meaningless desk job. Oh yes, and not to forget to tune into their new show tonight at 10 pm.

A short 30 minutes later, I received not only a pizza, but an order of garlic knots! Later that night at around 9:45, I received a reminder email to tune into the show starting in 15 minutes. I have to say, I really enjoyed the pizza, and the show. Hats off, Comedy Central.

Why it’s hot: What a great way to increase word of mouth, social buzz, and awareness of a new show, while extending the brand voice far beyond words on a screen. This was a really smart tactic (nationwide!) to launch this new show. Plus, the pizza was straight up DELICIOUS.

Holy contextual bandits batman!

Netflix is at it again – schooling us all on what personal really means.

For a long time, Netflix has been perfecting personal recommendations on what to watch. Now it’s delivering a new feature to enhance how it makes those recommendations – personalized artwork.


So OK, that’s cool enough thinking about the thousands of titles, millions of users and all the potential key art variations needed to meaningfully personalize content. But what’s equally cool is their approach to measuring the performance of recommendations. It’s basically impossible to control for all the variables behind personalized artwork to understand what works best. So Netflix employed a methodology called Contextual Bandits.


You’re going to have to read the blog post to really understand it (and then explain it to me!) but here goes: contextual bandits are a class of online learning algorithms that trade off the cost of gathering training data required for learning an unbiased model on an ongoing basis with the benefits of applying the learned model to each member context. In other words, rather than waiting to collect a full batch of data, waiting to learn a model, and then waiting for an A/B test to conclude, contextual bandits rapidly figure out the optimal personalized artwork selection for a title for each member and context.

Anyway, it’s all pretty fascinating. And you can read more about it on the Netflix tech blog.

Why It’s Hot
Netflix takes the idea of dynamic creative to a whole new level, continuing to set the bar for 1-to-1 marketing.

Timeline Plugin for Sketch

There are a lot of great Sketch plugins but this is the first one I’ve seen that let’s you animate right in Sketch. Currently, to make animated prototypes you’d have to make wireframes in Sketch and then import them into Principle or a similar program to animate them.

It’s only available for pre-order at the moment but should be releasing in about 11 days.

Why it’s hot:

  • Awesome plugin to streamline the wireframing to prototype workflow
  • Invision Studios is also releasing later this month too, it’ll be a good month for new prototyping software!

More info here:

The world of Assassin’s Creed Origins included an archeological discovery before it was discovered…

Catch up on the exploratory mode in Assassin’s Creed Origins in this post from Betsy

In early October of this year, a new discovery was announced in the Pyramid of Giza. “Scientists had discovered a previously undetected open space in Egypt’s 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza.” [Kotaku]

The discovery was made possible through the unlikely intersection of archaeology and particle physics. By making meticulous measurements of muons—elementary particles that rain down on Earth from deep space and are capable of traveling through solid objects—researchers were able to characterize the densities within the pyramid, revealing the presence of an empty space that measures at least 100 feet (30 meters) in length. [Gizmodo]

The void in the Pyramid of Giza as featured in Assassin's Creed Origins

The void in the Pyramid of Giza as featured in Assassin’s Creed Origins

But before November, this space–which researchers specifically avoid referring to as a “chamber” or other architectural-sounding term, preferring instead to call it a “void”–was merely a “disputed theory by French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin about how the entire pyramid was built.” [Kotaku]

So how did it get into a video game that released the same month? Assassin’s Creed developers worked closely with historian Maxime Durand to create the latest iteration of the popular franchise. According to Durand:

“We have long believed that Jean-Pierre Houdin’s theories about the inner ramps and royal circuit with two antechambers inside the Great Pyramid are probably the most credible, which is why we decided to use them in the game, […] We were betting on the fact that these secret locations inside of the Great Pyramid would probably be discovered in the near future, so we wanted to allow players the chance to visit them in advance.”

Origins’ depiction of a room that would have been used for turning the heavy blocks as they were dragged up long straight internal ramps and stacked to continue building the pyramid from the inside out.

“Origins’ depiction of a room that would have been used for turning the heavy blocks as they were dragged up long straight internal ramps and stacked to continue building the pyramid from the inside out.” – Kotaku

Why it’s hot

Including the void in the game experience allows users to explore speculative history. While the entering the pyramid is optional, the developers put an tempting side challenge inside, encouraging players to explore and learn more about what the interior might have looked like. Most importantly, perhaps, this fortunate inclusion has given the news of the discovery a second audience in players eager to explore the latest discovery in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

Learn more about the feature in Assassin’s Creed Origins at, and read more about the discovery of the void at

Mastercard Demystified Millennials

Millennials seem to be the toughest demographic to crack, as they’re viewed as narcissistic, entitled, superficial, and several more descriptive adjectives. So Mastercard Australia made it their mission to understand what millennials really wanted from their new debit rewards program. The “Millennials Demystified” experiment was conducted by researchers at the University of South Wales and the purpose was simple, to find out what millennials really desire. Participants of the study were given 2 choices in which they had to choose which one they desired the most, the catch was that their neurological impulses let the researchers know exactly what they truly desired out of the two choices. The results? Simple. Millennials are human after all and they want to do more good than harm the world, contrary to what seems to be common belief.

Why it’s hot:
Turns out millennials aren’t soulless zombies that want to watch the world burn.

Mastercard AU

Why Design Systems Fail

More and more brands are looking to design systems to unify their products. Designers love them because they make prototyping fast and easy, and devs love them because they make starting a new project a synch. But without the proper support, design systems can fall apart. Some considerations for keeping a design system going:

  • Successful design systems need investment of resources. Neglect the system and it quickly becomes out of date (and who wants to use dated code?). Small incremental updates over time keep the system working.
  • A team should own the system, and be responsible for supporting, developing, evangelizing, and managing the whole thing. This makes it more likely that the system stays relevant.
  • Continuous communication with designers and developers is crucial. Both should feel heard, although a final decision must be made about what to include and exclude.
  • People need to want to use the design system. Make it the path of least resistance and show value by recording wins and evangelizing.
  • Good design systems should scale, so plan the architecture in advance.
  • Most importantly, if it’s harder for people to use than their current system, people just won’t use it. Just because it might be an internal tool, don’t treat it as an afterthought – simplify until it’s easier than the ad-hoc systems designers and devs are using.

Parker the stuffed bear

Say Hi to Parker, your augmented reality bear. He’s filled with nothing but love and stuffing but he’s so much more than that. When you purchase Parker for $60 you can get the whole Parker kit that’s compatible with your iOS devices! It comes with Parker, a wooden stethoscope, wooden thermometer and a few other miscellaneous items. The idea is to promote STEAM from a young age.

It’s a great way to integrate AR with a classic toy for kids. The greatest part is that you can also purchase the $40 extension bedtime kit for more fun! Purchases aside, at least the app itself is free.

Why it’s hot:

STEAM integration is becoming more and more important and it’s an amazing way to let kids explore from the get go. But is Parker worth $100?


Spotify’s Wrapped feature is awesome

Spotify’s annual Wrapped feature is now up to give users insights into what they streamed over the past twelve months. Wrapped, which replaced Spotify’s personalized Year in Music feature last year, tells you the amount of time you spent streaming music in 2016 and how many songs and artists you listened to. Then it quizzes you to see how well you know your own listening habits before making a personalized playlist of 30 songs you might have missed this year. (check it out:

Why it’s hot: Yet another way that Spotify is leveraging user data for audience engagement. This is a bit of a step up from their ‘year in review’ in-app experience, and they are providing an extra value add at the end. They are showing you 30 new songs that you might not know of yet, and proving how well they know you and your taste. Could they get any better?!

Bonus: Un-related, fun, Friday Instagram post that you never knew you needed. Enjoy.

This is my favorite thing I’ve ever read. Swipe left and tell me which dish you’d make. (@prozacmorris_)

A post shared by Sloane Steel (@iamsloanesteel) on


An AI for Fashion

New York startup Finery has created an AI-powered operating system that will organize your wardrobe.

It provides an automated system that reminds women what options they have, as well as creating outfits for them – saving users a lot of time and money (as they won’t mistakenly buy another grey cashmere jumper if they know they already have three at home).

Users link The Wardrobe Operating System to their email address, so the platform can browse through their mailbox to find their shopping history. All the items they’ve purchased online are then transferred to their digital wardrobe (with 93% accuracy).

Any clothing bought from a bricks-and-mortar shop can be added as well, but that’s done manually by either searching the Finery database for the item or uploading an image (either one you’ve taken or one from the internet). Finery uses Cloud Vision to identify what the object is (skirt, dress, trousers, etc.), the color and the material – then the brand and size can be added manually.

Once your clothing is all uploaded, the platform uses algorithms to recommend outfits based on the pieces you own as well as recommending future purchases that would match with your current items.

Users can also create and save outfits within the platform. And, if they give Finery access to their shopping accounts, the startup will aggregate all their unpurchased shopping cart items into a single Wishlist and alert them when said items go on sale.

Finery will alert its users when the return window for an item they’ve purchased is closing. And it will also let them know if they already own an item that looks similar to one they are planning on buying.

Finery has currently partnered with over 500 stores, equivalent to more than 10,000 brands, to create its online catalog. ‘That covers about ninety percent of the retail market.

Next, the company will be expanding into children’s clothing, and then men’s fashion. And it’s working on developing algorithms to suggest outfit combinations based on weather, location and personal preference, as well as a personalized recommendations tool for items not yet in user’s closets.


Why It’s Hot:

  • This personal “stylist” gives courage to fashion-handicaps (like myself) to shop online with confidence
  • It helps avoid unnecessary fashion splurges – BFD considering the average woman spends $250 -$350K on clothes over their lifetime
  • Acts as a fashion-dream catcher that helps grant your wish list by making purchases easy

Source: Contagious

P.s. Apologies for using a Fox News video but it’s the only one decent one I could find (YUK!!!!)

Pharma Trend Spotting for 2018

Going into the final month of the year, we should take a look at what could impact pharma marketers in 2018, and it’s identified half a dozen high-level trends for the year ahead.

Those trends range from maturing technology innovations to marketing around patient hero stories that inspire but also normalize people with chronic conditions. And they’re “changing the opportunities and focus for our clients,” Leigh Householder, managing director of innovation at inVentiv Health, said.

Some of the big-theme trends originated in 2017 or even earlier, but they’re just now maturing to opportunity status. For instance, technology innovations like artificial intelligence and augmented reality will begin to play a bigger role in healthcare next year as they move from novelty experiments to real-world tools. A pilot program by England’s NHS, for instance, uses AI as a first contact point for patients and puts a machine in the place of what would traditionally be a human healthcare provider, Householder noted. The NHS pilot actually incorporates another trend, too: the shifting front door to healthcare.

The shifting front door, whether a new kind of technology interface or pharmacists taking on a larger role in ongoing contact and care of patients, has been evolving for years, but it’s become more important for pharma companies to understand and incorporate it into their strategies.

Another trend she pointed to is the emergence of hero stories, in the past year showcased by individuals who broke through with poignant or meaningful tales of helping others, such as boaters in Texas who braved dangerous hurricane floodwaters to help victims. In healthcare and pharma, those can manifest as showing more real people who are living complex lives with chronic diseases, for instance—people who are simply “living normal,” Householder said.  MRM has partnered with WebMD to showcase how patients with bipolar depression live, and it’s very compelling.


WebMD presents Bipolar Disorder: In Our Own Words

“You can imagine why this is happening now when so many once life-ending diagnoses have become chronic diseases. Whether you’re talking about COPD or cancer, cystic fibrosis or AIDS, people are living for decades longer than maybe they ever expected,” she said, pointing to an outspoken advocate, Claire Wineland, who has cystic fibrosis. Wineland has talked to media outlets about “‘what happens when you have an illness and you’re never going to be healthy? Does that mean you’re never going to be anything other than the sick kid?’ We’re increasingly hearing from voices like that of people who just want to normalize disease,” Householder said.

Another example is the introduction of Julia, a muppet with autism, on “Sesame Street.” Julia helps kids understand what autism might look like in another child, and although she has differences, she’s just another one of the gang.

Householder is working on a follow-up white paper about what these trends mean for pharma, but she offered some initial thoughts about ways pharma can adapt. Understanding how people use technology and creating better user interfaces more quickly, for instance, is one area where pharma can improve. Another is at the new and shifting point of care.

“In the new journey in healthcare, how do we be relevant, useful and impactful at the new points of care? Whether that means an artificial intelligence interface, a call delivery of a prescription or a true care interaction with a pharmacist, how are we going to take the plans we have today and evolve them to the places that people are increasingly receiving care and making healthcare decisions?” she said.

Why It’s Hot

As pharma marketers, we need to evolve with how people interact with not only brands but more importantly, conditions.  Offering support in a variety of ways is a smart way to ensure that patients get as much help as they need.



New, cutting-edge technology lets you… call a website on your phone.

Ok, so maybe it is not on the forefront of new technology, but artist Marc Horowitz’s new website makes wonderful use of existing and familiar technology to bring the experience of a guided museum tour into a new light.

A conceptual artist, Horowitz felt his work needed additional context to be fully appreciated, but did not want to go the traditional route of adding lots of text or creating a video for his portfolio. Instead, created an experience that is part audio tour, part podcast, and part interactive website.

At first glance, HAWRAF’s design looks like a pretty standard portfolio. There are tabs at the top, with images below that represent 32 projects dating all the way back to 2001. But the designers, inspired by the audio tours you’ve probably experienced at a museum or gallery, added another element of interaction. In big block text at the top of the website, it says, “Call 1-833-MAR-CIVE.” When you do, you can hear the artist himself tell you stories about each project by simply dialing the reference number below each image.

As an added bonus, users can choose to read the descriptions rather than dial in, making the experience not only unique, but also accessible for the hearing-impaired.

Why it’s hot

As brands and agencies scramble to adopt bleeding edge technology and embrace the latest trends, it’s worth remembering that existing tools and technology can still be harnessed in interesting and new ways. Fitting the experience to the needs of the brand and the user will always result in a more useful and lasting experience than something ill-suited but fashionable

Learn more at or on

Petlandia – Personalized Story Book About Your Pet!

Petlandia is a service that allows users to edit an avatar to look like their pet and then puts them into a story book. I went through it with my cat, Miso.

Miso, for reference.

I started off by editing an avatar to make it like Miso. Colors and pattern seem to be the major customizable features.

Then I entered details about him and his owners (me and my girlfriend Meg).

And that was it! I had a book all about my kitty.


There’s about 30 pages in the book that I could purchase it for $30.


I browsed their site about after purchasing the book as a Christmas present to my cat (I hope he likes it!) and found that they have an app where you can make stickers for your pets to send in chats. …I had to try it.

I downloaded the app from the App Store.

There’s no logging in, so I had to make Miso’s avatar again. Look at him with his cute lil face!

I sent a sticker to Meg on Facebook, but she reminded me that we have two cats and I can’t play favorites.

So back to the app which allows you to create multiple pets to make some Allister stickers.

Meg was happy with the results.

Why it’s Hot:

  • Quick and easy way to personal merchandise
  • The app is like Bitmoji, but for pets

Here’s their site so you can make your own pet books:





Snapchat looks to separate social from media. And I like it.

Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel, announced an app redesign on Wednesday, one that focuses more on our interpersonal relationships. It looks to separate those one to one moment’s from our always on connection to the media cycle.

The combination of social and media has yielded incredible business results, but has ultimately undermined our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media. We believe that the best path forward is disentangling the two by providing a personalized content feed based on what you want to watch, not what your friends post.

Evan is looking at a longer view of social media success instead of immediate gains. I think this separation is notable and valuable.

Why its hot?

We live in a world where our social lives are wrapped up among news and clickbait. We’ve long seen the trend of younger users moving to 1:1 messaging apps and dark social. It’s the natural response to the “public” requirement of social media. This change begs the thought: “Well… of course these things have been too unnaturally intertwined. Why haven’t thought of that!”


D&D is cool now, just maybe not in the way you’d expect

Published in 1974 and long used as a shorthand for kids that got shoved in lockers, Dungeons & Dragons has found a new uprising in popularity, in no small part thanks to online platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and podcasts.

What was once relegated to basements and the back of boardgame stores is now front and center in online culture and beyond, as evidenced by the popularity of the D&D-loving crew of Stranger Things. Much like a Netflix show, D&D has become wildly popular as performance art, a spectator sport of liveplay gaming. And the genre of role-playing games (RPGs) have been gaining popularity at an incredible pace in the past few years, with D&D having its most profitable year ever in 2016, and being on track to pass it in 2017.

According to [Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons], the total unique hours of D&D liveplay content on Twitch have doubled every year since 2015. These are mostly grassroots productions, but Stewart says the Dungeons & Dragons team is now “aggressively” investing in the scene as well, filling its official Twitch channel with more than 50 weekly hours of liveplay programming…

The programs on D&Ds Twitch channel intentionally span locations and demographics. “We’re trying to show a pretty diverse group of people playing D&D,” Stewart says […] “It’s a value of the company. We want people to feel accepted and welcome in our groups.”

Force Grey is a popular livecast that has featured movie stars, comics, voice actors, and writers and is led by voice actor Matthew Mercer. The episode below is the first of a series starring Chris Hardwick, Shelby Fero, Ashley Johnson, Jonah Ray, and Utkarsh Ambudkar.

Why it’s hot

At the core of most of these shows is a group of friends playing a game and having fun together. It’s collaborative and cooperative in a way that the rest of the world often isn’t, and online platforms provide viewers a window into that space.

For more videos, podcasts, and interviews, visit The Verge or Polygon

Sideways dictionary is like a friend who knows more about technology than you…

…and is really good at explaining it in fun, and sometimes weird, analogies.

This project, a collaboration between The Washington Post and Google’s Jigsaw, offers users the chance to look up technology and information security terms like “Blockchain” and “OAuth” and have them explained without technical jargon or nerdy derision. For instance, “Machine Learning” is described as:

It’s like the game Pictionary. If you have to draw a sheep, you don’t spend three days crafting a photo-realistic, intricately textured representation of a particular breed. You sketch the basic defining characteristics – fluffy body, four legs, head – and hope your team-mate isn’t overly literal. 

Users can add analogies and up-vote existing examples they found interesting or helpful. So if “It’s like the Berners Street hoax that took place in London in 1810” doesn’t immediately help you understand “DDoS Attack,” then maybe “It’s like 20 sumo wrestlers trying to get through a revolving door at the same time” will make more sense.

Why it’s hot

Knowing more about technical terms helps when information security is on the line, and Sideways Dictionary ensures that anyone can start from wherever they are in technical know-how. It might not teach you the ins and outs of how to use a VPN to protect your credentials, but it will at least make sure you understand that a “Virtual Private Network is like Harry Potter and his Cloak of Invisibility.”

Hi Alexa. I need you to drop off my prescription.

Buzz, such as reports this week and last, around the increasing number of states in which Amazon has acquired wholesale pharmacy licenses, currently at 12, as well as forays into redefining other aspects of the healthcare experience, has been increasing.

The challenge is that these licenses lack an additional component, a Verified Accredited Wholesale Distributor (VAWD) Certification which is authorized by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and officially permits companies to distribute pharmaceuticals. The current level of certification limits them instead only to distribution of medical-surgical equipment, devices, and other healthcare related equipment which they currently already offer.

Why It’s Hot

Current estimates state that only 10% of scripts are filed via Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) leaving plenty of room for expansion in that market with the vast majority of scripts being filled by local pharmacies.

The biggest potential benefit Amazon can bring is its core excellence in product distribution. Just as applying their infrastructure to Whole Foods offers people anywhere the opportunity to engage with the Whole foods brand, prescription drug distribution offers the opportunity for patients to experience the customer experience they expect with Amazon.

Even the biggest advantage the local pharmacy can offer, its ability to give the patient face to face access to their pharmacist, has the potential to be challenged. Considering Amazon’s significant investment in voice-activated tech, Alexa, or her virtual co-worker name TBD, can surely provide quicker, friendlier service with the ability to access a catalog of knowledge larger than any human pharmacist can manage.

It will also force significant portions of a US $440 billion market to rethink how it serves its customers. After all, why shouldn’t the process of having your Advair script refilled be just as simple as clicking your Bounty paper towel or Scott toilet paper Amazon Dash Button?

Any way you slice it, Amazon should be able to win in the pharmaceutical distribution experience.

HQ Provides a Glimpse Into the Future of Mobile Gaming and Live Video

Everyone reading this is playing HQ, right? It’s pretty amazing. A live trivia game is hardly anything new – dating back to not only television but radio! – but it’s very well done. And it feels like one of those things that is right place/right time.

HQ is a new live mobile trivia game for iOS from the creators of the late short-form video app Vine. Each day, at 3PM and 9PM ET, the app comes to life for around 13 minutes. A well-dressed host — either New York-based comedian Scott Rogowsky or British on-air personality Sharon Carpenter — then rattles off 12 multiple choice questions live on camera, while a busy live text chat flows at the bottom of the screen. Answer every question correctly and you’ll be one of a small handful of people that splits a $250 prize pool.

Why It’s Hot:

So much of technology in recent years has been about allowing us to connect on our own time, remotely. Perhaps counterintuitively, HQ works because it forces everyone to be playing the game at the exact same time. It’s thrilling in a way that no other social service has been able to provide. It challenges the “on demand” trend and focuses on getting everyone participating to the same thing, at the same time.


UI matters more than you think

Turns out the USS McCain collision was ultimately caused by UI confusion.

The US Navy just issued its report on the collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain and found that both collisions were avoidable accidents. And in the case of the USS McCain, the accident was in part caused by an error made in switching which control console on the ship’s bridge had steering control.

The ship’s commanding officer noticed the Helmsman having difficulty maintaining course while also adjusting the throttles for speed control. So the CO ordered the watch team to split the responsibilities for steering and speed control. “This unplanned shift caused confusion in the watch team, and inadvertently led to steering control transferring to the Lee Helm Station without the knowledge of the watch team,” the report found.

McCain Console

In the commotion that ensued, the commanding officer and bridge crew lost track of what was going on around them. The Lee Helmsman corrected the throttle problem, but the recovery didn’t come in time. “In the course of 3 minutes of confusion in a high traffic sea channel, the McCain was in irreversible trouble. These actions were too late, and…the JOHN S MCCAIN crossed in front of ALNIC’s bow and collided,” the report states.

Read more here.

Why It’s Hot
Good design matters to more than just aesthetics and sales. As seen from this example, sometimes it’s literally life and death.

HoloPlayer One – A Three Dimensional Holographic Interface

This past weekend I went to the PlaycraftingNYC indie game expo and saw a bunch of aweosme innovative games and tech. The one that stood out to me the most is the HoloPlayer One by Looking Glass Factory. It’s a three-dimensional interface that allows multiple people to interact with holograms with full-color, fully dynamic floating 3D worlds/objects with a touch of their fingers.


The 3D worlds are visible from a range in front of the device, so multiple people can view the world without the use of VR glasses.



The interface detects touch in a three-dimensional way, so you can create 3D objects by just touching the air inside the hologram.



I got to sculpt a 3D object the same way you would with clay, move lighting around a 3D world, and even use a sword to slice up fruit in a 3D version of Fruit Ninja.


The team is based in Greenpoint and said we can come by anytime to check it out or have them come in to give us a demo of it. They have a free Unity3D SDK that developers can use to create experiences for the HoloPlayer One. The device is set to launch at the end of November.

Why it’s Hot:

  • Unique three-dimensional interface
  • VR without needing googles
  • Based in NYC and can come in to demo it for us

More info:

They just announced a class through PlaycraftingNYC to teach you how to create hologram experiences:

How Europe Is Taking Online Privacy to the Next Level

The GDPR is coming, the GDPR is coming!…but WTF does it mean?

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation sounds pretty scary, and I think it is. Scary moreso because of the unknowns: How strict or lenient will some of the provisions be interpreted? How will they be enforced?  Will brands ever be able to engage European audiences the same again? Why would anyone eat haggis?

A recent study published this week summarized some of the European sentiment around their data usage and protection, and they did us an awesome favor by providing some nifty charts.

  1. Value Exchange: 83 percent of EU respondents said they prefer free online content with accompanying ads over paying for content, and 69 percent said they would allow their browser data to be accessed in exchange for the free experience.
  2. Constantly giving consent is a drag, man.  Half of Europeans prefer to have access to information that explains how their data is being used for advertising, with the option of stopping any use of their data that they object to, instead of having to approve the use of cookies every time they visit a site.
  3. 3rd Party vs 1st Party data struggles: Publishers feel consumers will give consent if their site access is reduced as a consequence of not consenting — a similar approach to what publishers have done to deter ad blockers.However, the GDPR has banned publishers from reducing site access if users don’t consent.

4. Publishers don’t feel so great: The majority (64 percent) of respondents said they weren’t confident that people would agree to share data with other companies, and only 21 percent said they were “moderately confident.”

5. A place for Online ads: 42 percent indicated that they’re fine with sharing their browsing data for advertising purposes, saying they don’t mind seeing personalized ads in exchange for free news, content or services. Only 20 percent, however, said they were OK with sharing their data with third parties for advertising purposes.

Source: GfK/IAB Europe; PageFair

Why its Hot:

We sometimes take the data that powers our precise targeting for granted. We’ve fed off the cookie for years although some day I’m sure we’ll all look back and say: ‘remember the times we had to rely on a cookie to target our campaigns?’ just like we have flashbacks now about putting tracking codes in print ads (yea the old dude said it).

The point of this is, in a very large, important corner of the world, today, they are making huge strides to regulate personal data and protect consumers. It is not just being talked about, it is happening. It will have tremendous implications on how we conduct our business on global campaigns, potentially limiting scale and targeting options and creating disparity within select audience segments who adopt opt-out behaviors or fail to see value of content that is funded by ad dollars on quality publisher sites.


See the full findings here.