WeChat and the future of CX

The story of the internet has mostly run west to east, San Francisco to Shanghai. WeChat has proven an exception. In China, it has become the dominant platform for everything from social media, bill pay, and messaging.

In the last 2 years, it has added digital storefronts to it’s roster. Businesses like HeyTea are primarily using it–instead of their own app or website– to reduce wait times through mobile ordering.

Image result for heytea whatsapp

Why it’s hot: 

With Facebook looking to integrate Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp with each other and with business payments, it’s worth asking whether a unified online experience with one app for all purchases, messages, and media is the customer experience that we will ultimately demand, or whether a series of apps and websites–each with their own usernames, passwords, and interfaces has benefits that will stand the test of time.

 

Click-to-Buy Experiences take on a new (analog) life

‘Contextual shopping’: Publishers are using model homes for retail experiences

Home-related publications like Real Simple, Hunker and Domino are using model houses to create experiential retail experiences that can drive affiliate revenue.

Domino magazine has created staged homes for years. But this year’s house, located in Sag Harbor, NY was the first to include shoppable technology into the space. In partnership with Stage&Shop, a real estate agency and an app developer, Domino created an app that integrate codes into all of the house’s furniture and design elements that people touring the home could scan to purchase them.

Domino’s winter issue will have a feature on the home, which will also include QR codes for those products that readers use their smartphone to scan.

Brands were included in the home through product placement, and affiliate links were used in the shoppable content as well as in the house itself. But the primary revenue driver for the project still comes from the content created surrounding the home, including its print spread and digital elements. And while it’s an ongoing franchise for the brand, Cho said that Domino isn’t leaning on that revenue, but is looking for constant iterations of how to make the project better and a bigger piece of the puzzle.

 

Why It’s Hot:  An interesting convergence of digital and physical, potentially symbiotically solving parallel/complementary problems of retail and ecommerce experiences:

  • Online purchase is convenient, but I don’t get to see, touch, try physical goods before buying.
  • Retail purchase is experiential, but I don’t want all of the friction of purchase and transport home.

Silent Drive-Thru: An Introvert’s Dream Come True?

Multinational fast-food chains conforming their menus to cultural tastes is as old as Pulp Fiction’s Royal Cheese. Agency Superson helped Burger King Finland take this to another level, playing off the stereotype of shy Finns. Understanding it as an experience product, Burger King applied this concept to the drive thru, nodding to the common Finnish sensibility of reticence.

The brief was to increase app use, so they reconfigured the ol’ stand-by of the drive thru, to show how fast and easy it was to order via their app.

The spot is playful and funny, placing fast-food ordering into the realm of a clandestine caper.

And it turns out, it’s not just the Finns who resent talking to the muffled voice of the drive-thru.

Why it’s hot: Nodding to local culture inherently endears customers to the brand. The sense of collective understanding, and feeling known is a powerful bonding agent.

The drive-thru model didn’t align with the value proposition of the app, wherein you could order ahead and pick-up, so rethinking the model required a relatable story to encourage users to do the same.

Source: Contagious

 

Sleep Therapy for the Masses May Be Coming to You Soon

CVS Health wants to help millions of American workers improve their sleep. So for the first time, the big pharmacy benefits manager is offering a purely digital therapy as a possible employee benefit.

The company is encouraging employers to cover the costs for their workers to use Sleepio, an insomnia app featuring a cartoon therapist that delivers behavior modification lessons.

CVS Health’s push could help mainstream the nascent business of digital therapeutics, which markets apps to help treat conditions like schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. The company recently introduced, along with Sleepio, a way for employers to cover downloads as easily as they do prescription drugs. The company said it had already evaluated about a dozen apps.

Some industry executives and researchers say the digital services should make therapy more accessible and affordable than in-person sessions with mental health professionals.

Big Health, the start-up behind Sleepio, is one of more than a dozen companies that are digitizing well-established health treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, or devising new therapies — like video-game-based treatments for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — that can be delivered online. Since last year, a few pharmaceutical companies, including Novartis,announced partnerships with start-ups to develop digital treatments for mental health and other conditions.

So far, the use of treatment apps has been limited. But with the backing of CVS Health, which administers prescription drug plans for nearly one-third of Americans, those therapies could quickly reach tens of millions of people. A few employers have started offering Sleepio, and more are expected to sign on this fall, CVS Health said. Like in-person therapy, the insomnia app does not require a prescription.

“We are at this pivotal moment,” said Lee Ritterband, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine who has developed online health interventions for more than a decade. “For years, these have been bubbling under the surface.”

Other experts argue that online therapies may not be ready for mass adoption. In a recent study in Nature, researchers warned that most digital treatments lacked evidence of health benefits. Although first-of-their-kind medical apps that claim to treat diseases must obtain clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, health apps that make vaguer wellness claims — like better sleep — generally do not need to demonstrate effectiveness to federal regulators.

Sleepio unfolds more like a low-key, single-player video game, where the user is on a quest for better sleep, than a clinical health program. The app features an animated sleep expert with a Scottish accent, called “the Prof.” An affable but firm therapist, the bot offers people who have insomnia symptoms a series of six weekly online sessions.

“At times, you may feel like quitting or even give up, but don’t despair. This is totally normal,” the animated therapist says in the first session. “What I can tell you for sure is, if we work closely together on this, we have an excellent chance of defeating your poor sleep.”

Big Health has raised $15 million from investors including Kaiser Permanente, the California-based health system. In 2015, the start-up began selling Sleepio directly to employers, sending them aggregated data on their employees’ progress. Companies pay a fee for each employee who uses the insomnia app, but Big Health declined to disclose its pricing.

Delta Air Lines and Boston Medical Center, two of the companies that work directly with Big Health, said employees who used Sleepio reported improved sleep.

 

CVS Health’s rollout of Sleepio is part of its larger effort to popularize online health treatments as employee benefits. Dr. Brennan said the company planned to move forward with the apps it deemed to have solid evidence of efficacy.

“We’re doing it because we think patients are going to benefit from it,” Dr. Brennan said. “That’s an important step for physicians. That’s an important step for patients.”

Source: New York Times

Why It’s Hot

We’ve seen “digital therapeutics” as an emerging trend — from health monitoring comes apps like Calm and text messaging with psychologists. But the mainstreaming of it and association with employer health plans (what data will be shared?) is interesting.

Bringing online habits to offline shopping

Price Kaki app by CASE

Price Kaki is an app that crowdsources and compiles the prices of daily goods sold across multiple physical retail stores in Singapore. The app enables price comparison of groceries, household items and hawker food, across outlets, thus helping shoppers make informed decisions and get value for their money. Users are invited to contribute real-time updates on prices and promotions, with the most active rewarded with e-vouchers. Developed by Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), the app is inspired by e-commerce price aggregators, and aims to bring the same level of transparency and consumer empowerment to offline shopping.

Fun fact: ‘kaki’ is local Singaporean lingo for ‘buddies’ .

Why it’s hot:  E-commerce is outgrowing physical retail, yet offline still dominates. As a result, businesses pursuing further growth are focusing on revolutionizing brick-and-mortar, by integrating the best aspects (like price transparency) of online retail.

Sources: Trendwatching and Channel News Asia

chicken wars are over, yet another fast food war rages on…


Just as we were emerging from the US fast food Chicken Wars, another battle is now raging in the ongoing war between McDonald’s and Burger King. You probably remember the much-celebrated Whopper Detour of 2018. Well, Burger King Germany now brings you “Escape the Clown”. To coincide with the movie IT 2’s release, Burger King placed an ad in a movie magazine found in McDonald’s stores. People could scan the ad through the Burger King app to activate an AR experience leading to a coupon for a one-cent Whopper at a nearby BK. The coupon was only good for a finite amount of time, so customers would have to decide quickly.

Why it’s hot:

Sometimes you play nice, sometimes you can make a savage move. Placing an ad in a magazine at McDonald’s, and hijacking customers, when they’re literally at the point of sale, is about as savage as it gets in marketing. The fact they concealed it with AR is nice, but I’m not sure it was altogether necessary. And I’m not sure how anyone would know to look in the magazine and scan the ad before they would have already ordered a Big Mac. Either way, it’s certainly bold. Even if people don’t go to buy a Whopper, at least they could have had a brand experience that might affect their next fast-food dining decision. The kind of move that can leave an impression, and also land your app on someones phone (not to be lost here).

[Source]

Phone a Friend: a mobile app for predicting teen suicide attempts

Rising suicide rates in the US are disproportionately affecting 10-24 year-olds, with suicide as the second leading cause of death after unintentional injuries. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic, and one that leaves those whose lives are impacted wondering what they could have done differently, to recognize the signs and intervene.

Researchers are fast at work figuring out whether a machine learning algorithm might be able to use data from an individual’s mobile device to assess risk and predict an imminent suicide attempt – before there may even be any outward signs. This work is part of the Mobile Assessment for the Prediction of Suicide (MAPS) study, involving 50 teenagers in New York and Pennsylvania. If successful, the effort could lead to a viable solution to an increasingly troubling societal problem.

Why It’s Hot

We’re just scratching the surface of the treasure trove of insights that might be buried in the mountains of data we’re all generating every day. Our ability to understand people more deeply, without relying on “new” sources of data, will have implications for the experiences brands and marketers deliver.

Woebot – Highly Praised App for Mental Health

AI counseling is the wave of the future. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy administered by a smart chatbot, via an app relying on SMS, has become highly popular and well reviewed. Woebot isn’t just the face of a trend, it’s a notable player in technology transforming healthcare.

Why It’s Hot

It’s not new. It’s better. The first counseling software was called Eliza. It was ~1966. Part of the difficulty was it required human intervention. Ironically, in 2019 when many believe a lack of human contact to be part of the problem, that void actually addresses a barrier in therapy. Perceived lack of anonymity and privacy. Sure therapist visits are confidential blah blah but people naturally have difficulty opening up in person. Plus there’s the waiting room anxiety. With an app, studies have shown that people get to the heart of their problem quicker.

Why it Matters

There’s a ton of demand for “talk therapy” and others. Human counselors can’t keep up. People wait weeks and months for appointments. That’s in the U.S. where they’re compensated well. In this On Demand age, that’s seen as unacceptable. Woebot, and others, address the market need for immediate gratification care. Another issue is cost. Therapy is expensive. Apps are obviously a solve here. No co-pay.

Obligatory Statement

All the apps remind users they’re no substitute for human counselors but they are helpful in reflecting behavior patterns and emotional red flags back to their users. At the very least, it’ll help you make the most of your next therapy visit.

i’ll brt, thanks to easyJet…

Anyone who’s on Instagram has undoubtedly come across a photo and wondered – “where is that, and how do I get there”? Probably on a daily basis. Thanks to easyJet’s new app feature, now you can find out, and book a flight there in a couple of taps.

According to the company – “Simply take a screenshot of a European destination you like the look of and upload it to Look&Book in our app. We’ll then tell you where it is and which flights will get you there.” 

Why it’s hot:

While it’s a great example of turning a ubiquitous behavior into a simple utility, more importantly, it’s another signal that image recognition technology is about to become commonplace.

Getting Men to Talk Mental Health

Doctors are turning to apps to help men who view discussing mental health as a sign of weakness. They’re particularly hopeful that apps can help reach groups like working-class men, men in rural areas, and men approaching middle age, who are more likely to feel isolated and self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs instead of talking about their depression.

One new app that is geared towards helping men break the stigma around mental health is Headgear. Partially funded by men’s health charity the Movember Foundation, Headgear is designed to teach men coping mechanisms that can be used in real life situations.

The app’s 30-day challenge builds mental well-being through videos and quizzes, while tracking day-to-day emotions. While a full study is yet to be released, early anecdotal feedback from users shows positive results with decreased feelings of depression.

Why It’s Hot

While mental health apps have been on the rise, not many seem to cater to this target. Creating apps with advice around specific triggers can drive real impact for those suffering from depression.

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/men-wont-talk-about-depression-and-its-literally-killing-them/  

Amazon’s iPhone app adds AR feature for identifying and buying small nuts and bolts

Can’t tell the difference between a machine screw and a connector screw? Don’t worry, Amazon just added an AR feature to their app to identify one from the other.

Part Finder uses the AR capabilities of the iPhone to measure the depth and width of the part. You must line it up next to a penny and on white paper, so you can’t identify the part anywhere. Some people have reported that even when aligned on white paper, the technology takes a few tries to get the correct result.

 

Why it’s hot:

People are always building stuff. You have to build that Ikea couch but they forgot to include the right number of screws? You can take a picture of it and Amazon, with Prime shipping, will mail it you in two days.

Uber Wants to Use AI to Tell if You’re Drunk

Uber has applied for a patent to use AI to determine a passenger’s “user state” before they’re picked up by their driver. While this may trigger alarm for those who rely on Uber to get them home safely after a night of drinking, it seems as though the company has the passenger’s safety top of mind.

If implemented, the technology would scan for patterns in behaviors like interaction speed, typing, device angle and even walking speed to understand when a customer seems to be acting out of the ordinary. It will also measure how far from normal the behavior appears.

The company hasn’t clarified exactly what this will mean for users, but the patent application mentions that passengers may be paired with drivers “with experience or training with users having an unusual state.” It may also encourage drivers to use pickup and drop off locations that are well-lit and easy to find.

Why It’s Hot:

This unique application of AI can potentially make for a smoother ride for both Uber drivers and passengers. It may also inspire other apps to push the boundaries of how to improve customer experience based on user behavior data.

Amazon Is Using AR To Help People See Before They Buy

Amazon joins the augmented reality scene with a feature on their application called AR view. This allows customers to virtually view how an item would look in their home prior to their purchase.

When a customer gets on the Amazon application they access the feature through the small camera icon located at the top right of the screen, and then choose the AR view option. From there, they can locate thousands of products to virtually place into their home to see how they would look. The customer viewing the item can rotate it around in a 360 degree fashion to see how it would look from multiple different angles in their home. This feature was announced alongside Amazon opening their Black Friday Deals Store.

The feature comes exclusively to Amazon application users who have an iPhone with the iOS 11 update. Amazon plans to make the feature available for Android phones sometime in the future.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

Expanded application to something IKEA offered years ago!

Name That Tune

We’re so used to the apps we use every day just working. When Twitter or Facebook or Google go down, everybody panics! But what happens if our favorite apps simply forgot what they were supposed to be doing.

Alzheimer’s Research U.K., agency Innocean Worldwide U.K. brought a horribly human attribute to Shazam—the ability to forget.

“The Day Shazam Forgot” was a collaboration in which Shazam appeared to have trouble remembering the songs people asked it to identify. When the app finally “remembered” the track, users were driven to a call to action about Alzheimer’s disease and invited to donate to the cause.

The campaign also used Shazam’s existing Shazam Again feature to promote its message.

The effort ran through the month of April in the U.K. In mere hours, the agency says, “The Day Shazam Forgot” yielded 2,018,206 impressions, with 5,096 visitors visiting the Alzheimer’s Research U.K. donation page. (Hopefully they remembered their credit card information.)

Why Its Hot

It can be difficult for nonprofits with a singular focus to find marketing opportunities within existing apps. Finding the right audience is one challenge, but so is fitting your message in a way that actually makes sense.

This is a great example of cause marketing and the types of engagements you can create when the right partnership presents itself.

Monkeys in Magenta

After seven years, the digital band, Gorillaz, are releasing a new album, and as part of their promotion, a new app is encouraging people to find the color magenta to unlock unique content.

Deutsche Telekom has created the Lenz app that will unlock new content for users whenever they hover it over something magenta — the brand’s corporate color.

The brand has teamed up with the virtual band, Gorillaz, to launch the Lenz app, which was created by Saatchi & Saatchi for the Deutsche Telekom music and lifestyle platform, Electronic Beats. With the new app, when a user finds something magenta (it could be a t-shirt, a flower or anyting that matches the Pantone range), they can hold their phone over it, to reveal new content from Gorillaz, including the first ever “live” interview with the band using motion capture and composition technology, and exclusive clips from the band’s new album “Humanz,” dropping on April 28. The app uses Chroma Keying technology to use the color to unlock the content.

http://creativity-online.com/work/deutsche-telekom-lenz-app/51602 

Why It’s Hot

This is a really cool activation. It is great positioning for Deutsche Telekom because it’s not overly intrusive or brand-heavy. And Gorillaz of course gain additional buzz around their upcoming album. I think this is a great example of a brand involving itself in a moment without trying to take it over.

Re-inventing the wheel, one house call at a time

Heal, an app for arranging medical house calls, is expanding nationwide. Currently only available in select markets of California, Heal is expanding and coming to New York among other markets. In the coming months, it’ll begin providing service to cities in New York, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

New Yorkers will now be able to use technology to do what our grandparents used to do when they got sick: request for a doctor to make a house call.

Story from Digital Trends

Why it’s Hot

It’s hot because it shows how tech startups can fill needs that industries have abandoned due to cost or changes in trends. Heal hires doctors who actually want to make house calls and their clients are people who don’t have time to schedule an appointment weeks in advance or to go to urgent care due to busy schedules.

Google Home Adds Voice Shopping For Everyday Items

Starting today, you can shop using Google Assistant on Google Home from retailers who support Google Express, including stores like Costco, Whole Foods, Walgreens, PetSmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond. The service links directly from Google Assistant, which supports voice search that drives searches for the company’s connected smart speaker, to its Express shopping service.

Consumers will have an option to say things like “Okay, Google, order Scott paper towels,” and as long as the brand participates in Google Express, the order is received and processed. If the consumer doesn’t know the brand, they only need to say “order paper towels” or “buy water” and Google Assistant will run through the options available through more than 50 national and locally available retailers.

For now consumers can order things that cost between $4 and $100. Google Assistant recites back the price that includes tax, which in most cases is determined by the location of the store in which the items are purchased.
All you have to do to get started is input your payment info and shipping address in the Settings menu of the Google Home app.

Why It’s Hot

Convenience and the shopping experience, especially for those everyday purchases like laundry detergent, paper towels and dog food. It was only a matter of time that Google would enter the connected home shopping experience with their voice-activated Google Home. Amazon has allowed us to do this through its own Alexa voice assistant.

Currently, Google Express shopping offers access to over 50 retailers for same-day delivery in 12 states. Similar to Amazon Prime, Google charges an annual membership fee. There’s also a minimum order amount and a delivery fee associated with Express. Until April 30, Google is waiving the fee.

On another note, Amazon and Google are considering another new use for their popular home speakers: becoming the home phone. Amazon Echo and Google Home could be used to make or receive calls. The feature could be rolled out sometime this year. Wouldn’t it be great to not have to carry your cell phone all the time in your house.

I Bet You Guys Are Wondering Why I’m Writing About Dresses…


Hopefully that headline got you – my colleagues in the NYC office – to stop on my post even though I’m not there to present it.

Without leaving you in too much suspense, it’s because Google recently partnered with H&M’s “digital fashion house” Ivyrevel to create something called “Coded Couture”.

The fashion influencers currently (beta) experiencing this new phenomenon will end up with completely bespoke dresses, designed based on data gathered from their activities over the course of a week.

How it ostensibly works is – they will download an app (to be released more broadly later this year), which will monitor “who they are”, what they do, and where they go, and the data captured will inform a design meant to reflect their unique personalities.

In the words of one of Ivyrevel’s co-founders, “The Data Dress enables women around the world to order a dress made entirely for them, that reflects the way they live their lives.”

Why it’s hot so hot right now (pls read in Will Ferrel Mugatu voice)

The idea of creating physical things informed by digital data is yet another example of digital transforming the physical world. Most often previously, data has helped personalize digital experiences, this is obviously data informing a physical object. If this became commonplace (/when it does), instead of choosing from mass produced options, everything we wear and use could be completely tailored for our individual lives/lifestyles.

But most of all, I’m just really curious how I would look in a data dress.

What do you guys think?

Telehealth is here, it’s what next that is truly…

Scary? Amazing? Ruined by bad user experience? Right for some not for others? Revolutionary?

Telehealth video calls surpassed 50 million in the US last year. Telehealth video visits will reach 158 million by 2020. Just pick up your phone and you get a video consult with a doctor. There are two points to be made: it is not that Telehealth is big news, it is the dramatic rate of adoption starting…now.

A recent study done by AmericanWell, a major Telehealth provider, basically proves an aggressive adoption rate, but with caveats.  One of the major barriers? A doctor is really not allolwed to diagnose you over the phone. Another? Telehealth also weakens your relationship with a doctor, who uses visual observation as a key tool for diagnosis. But here are the stats that make it hot:

  1. Today, 50 million U.S. consumers would switch providers to one that offers telehealth.*
  2. Willingness to switch to a doctor that offers Telehealth is highest among parents of children under age 18 and 35-44 year olds.
  3. 60 percent of consumers who are willing to have an online Telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition.
  4. 67 percent of adults ages 45-64 who are willing to have an online Telehealth visit would see a doctor online for help managing a chronic condition.
  5. 79 percent of consumers currently caring for an ill or aging relative say a multi-way video Telehealth service would be helpful.

Why this is hot? Not because it is accelerating in use, but for what comes next: biometric sensors for your phone so when you do a video tele-consult, any of us will allow the doctor’s network to hook into all your health data, perhaps resolving the “no diagnosing” barrier. But there are real concerns. Is convenience gained but something lost? Would you like the world better if you didn’t have to go through the hastle of arranging and going to a doctors office? How do the doctors feel? And who is this doctor anyway — do you medical advice from someone you know and trust?

This year, with our IPG health insurance, we all received a plastic flyer offering the service to all employees, 24/7. Please share any experiences you have, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Thanks to Visa, You’ll Never be Running on Empty Again

visa-token-service-cars-1At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Visa will debut prototypes of its new connected car apps, which use the Internet of Things and Visa mobile payments to help drivers pay for things like gas and parking from the driver’s seat.

Partnering with Honda, Visa built an app located in a car’s dashboard that uses the brand’s Visa Token Service to make payments outside the car. Tokens are linked to bank accounts and much harder to scam or steal than credit card information. These tokens are also exclusively for car-related purchases through the app.

So how does it work? When your tank is low, the app notifies you and knows just how much gas the car needs to fill up. When you arrive at a gas station, Bluetooth allows you to pay for the fuel with tokens through the app, without leaving the car.

Similarly, a second Visa car app can pay parking meters by calculating how much a spot costs. This is done through a partnership with booking app ParkWhizz and is only accessible at one of the partner’s locations.

This is just the start of Visa’s vision for the Internet of Things and Tokens:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 11.12.57 AM

So what does it mean for brands? Coffee or other gas-station related brands could potentially tap into the car app to offer exclusive discoutns and offers to customers who use the technology to buy their products. If this technology sticks, it could be used for other types of vendors and stores, further opening the possibility for brands to connect with consumers using mobile payment apps.

The car apps will be tested in the spring, but there are still a lot of bugs to work through before this kind of car-payment technology becomes a widespread reality. It also has huge cost implications, since gas pumps and stations will need to be equipped with the proper technology. Not to mention, there will need to be standard protocol and procedures for the token payment methods.

Why It’s Hot: Cash and credit cards are slowly being phased out thanks to apps like Venmo and even social options such as Snapchat pay. With Visa’s new app, drive-thrus and gas stations could be totally cash and credit free. It will be interesting to see how secure this technology is and how many will be willing to completely ditch old ways for this alternative way to pay.

Source: http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/future-visa-will-tell-you-when-its-time-fill-your-car-gas-169814

Quartz News App and the Rise of Messaging as a UI…

IMG_0197 IMG_0202

The exclusively digital news outlet Quartz just announced its new iOS app last week, which delivers the news as they literally say “in a whole new way”.

Opening the app brings you into a familiar environment that looks like the iMessage user interface, and Quartz starts throwing out news leads, giving you the option to either go to the full story, learn more in the app, or move on to the next news story. They also use emojis and gifs just to make the experience a little more fun and creative.

Why It’s Hot

Quartz is just the latest app I’ve seen that uses messaging as the way you get whatever it is delivering. You may know Go Butler, which promises “anything you want, on demand” via a text exchange. There’s also Hyper, an app “concierge” that helps you book travel. Facebook keeps talking about (yet not releasing) its planned “M” virtual assistant. And of course, people are using WeChat in China to buy basically anything. By using messaging, they are making what would otherwise be active experiences and making them much more passive – requiring significantly less work. Especially as more people start using smartwatches, I’m interested to see how broad this starts to extend. Will this be a niche way of delivering a user experience, or will this become the way we transact digitally?

New Opportunities with Virtual Masks App “MSQRD”

MSQRD (masquerade) is bringing virtual masks to a new level. It’s taking Snapchat’s face filters, L’Oreal Makeup Genius, Sephora Virtual Artist but democratizing it. MSQRD has a principle of openness and will enable more brands or artists to adopt this technology.

msqrd-editormsqrd-filters

They open their SDK to fit into any mobile app (iOS/Android) and computer software (Mac/Windows), they enable creatives to upload and sell their masks, and they provide an editor tool that allows you to upload an image to make your own.

Their technology seems to be the most responsive and realistic compared to the aforementioned apps. The speed of the facial recognition, the physics of the movement and the edge blending make it standout. The app itself is very lightweight (less than 60MB), so plugging into a mobile experience will not really slow anyone down.

Check out the demo of the Joker, SnoopDogg, Freddie Mercury.

Why It’s Hot

With VR becoming more accessible and the capabilities to immerse ourselves into other world’s seeing regularity, the growing opportunities to mask and reflectively become someone/something else adds an entirely new layer to it. Who wouldn’t want to be Drake, J.Lo, or Mr. Mucus?

Download MSQRD (iOS only).

 

Remixed Remix

The right remix makes a old song feel new. And makes a new song feel even newer. Which is why trip hop duo Massive Attack has released a “sensory music player” app with its new EP.

The app is called Fantom, and it remixes and reforms music on iPhones based off environmental factors like a person’s location, movement, and heartbeat fed by Apple Watch sensors and HealthKit data. Each factor affects the music in a different way. Heart rate, for instance, changes the song cadence, while location affects harmonization.

Fantom is not a partnership– one of the Massive Attack band members was part of the team that developed the app.

Why it’s hot: remix albums have been around for awhile, and offer the same remix to every person. Why not algorithmically personalize it if you can? Screen-Shot-2016-01-21-at-11.52.12

source: http://mashable.com/2016/01/21/massive-attack-iphone-app/#rnvkkvkkksq3

Under Armour– Powered by Watson

Amongst the new partnerships announced at CES is one between Under Armour and IBM, which promises to launch “Cognitive Coaching Powered by IBM Watson,” which both companies call the “world’s first complete health and fitness insights app.”

Activity-Insight-1_640_1136How does it plan to stand out against the typical fitness app consisting of wearable device & smartphone sensor? Using Watson’s smarts. The program will integrate data signals from wearable fitness gear with Under Armour’s Connected Fitness community of users, research studies, and institutions with data from IBM Watson. To help individuals achieve their fitness goals as accurately as possible, the Watson database will compare each user’s fitness data to a cohort of people with similar characteristics and goals– a sort of crowdsourcing in which individuals can see real-time results of others they share commonalities with.

Two other projects in the works: using IBM Watson’s visual recognition capabilities to identify foods and their nutritional value and integrating weather- related and environmental factors as they relate to your health and fitness (powerful, as IBM purchased much of Weather.com’s digital assets).

Why it’s hot: the Under Armour- IBM Watson partnership is one of the first brand integrations with the IBM Watson system and the first fitness integration of its kind to use consumer data in a way that allows people to compare themselves to others in real time.

Eulogy for Standalone Apps

A few days ago, TechCrunch wrote a eulogy for standalone apps from tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Some of the apps that “died” this year were Carousel, Slingshot, Songza and Mailbox.

Facebook made some waves this week as well when it announced it is closing Creative Labs, which was the production segment behind apps like Moments, Paper, Rooms and Riff.

Why It’s Hot: It’s difficult to predict which apps will become popular or not, but in these tech giants’ cases, we can see that many of these apps were often inorganic to the platform or copies of more popular apps, like Snapchat. Dropbox had acquired Mailbox when it was still in its development phase, which likely restricted its full formation. With Twitter’s #Music, which was closed last year, it was clearly a latecomer to an already competitive landscape, with Spotify and Apple Music joining in the mix. It’s interesting to observe which apps would be successful in an increasingly innovative and busy industry.

Smartphone-delivered Pheromones

Pura is a smartphone-controlled air freshening dispenser for your home. It is a Kickstarter-funded initiative, dubbed as the first freshener that can be tailored to your lifestyle. You can control the time and rooms and types of fragrances releases. Each Pura has 2 chambers for 2 fragrances. It automatically turns off when you leave the house, and you can program and control it remotely using your smartphone. In addition, each Pura has a smart nightlight and 60 million color-options.

But what is gathering more interest in some circles is what is NOT featured in this promo video but is mentioned in company emails and literature. According to literature from the company, the “Scents for Him” line of fragrances from the company will contain the pheromone androstadienone. Upper-lip application of a pharmacological dose of androstadienone in women has been proven in studies to improve mood and potentially facilitated women’s sexual response. Some studies have shown a beneficial effect of androstadienone on sexual desire and arousal.

The company is also working on a “Scents for Her” line that would have pheromones that may have an impact on male mood and arousal.

Scents are expected to ship in June of next year.

Why It’s Hot

Like you have to ask?

 

Swipe Right for the Next President of the United States

Spending so much time on Tinder that you haven’t had the chance to read up on the presidential hopefuls for the next elections? Addicted to swiping? Want a fun, easy, quick way to expand your political knowledge? Voter might be the app for you.

The iOS app uses Tinder’s familiar swiping mechanism to help you learn more about presidential candidates and parties that match your views. The app currently has various levels of questions. In Level 1, you’ll be swiping about your views on basic, core social, environmental and economic issues, like legalizing marijuana, same-sex marriage, abortions, the death penalty, and increasing or decreasing the minimum wage and military spending. Unsure about an issue? Click the picture for a quick cheatsheet on the facts behind the issues, and a few bullet points from supporters and opponents.

You can also select how important each question is to you (a la matching questions on dating website OkCupid).

Level 2 goes more in depth: you’ll swipe about a fence at the border, increasing spending on education, term limits for congress, taxing the wealthy, financial aid for other nations and more. Once you’ve swiped your opinions, you get matched with potential political parties and candidates.

You’ll be able to view your political matches sorted by percentage, with a neat breakdown of the issues you agree or disagree on, and the ability to contact the party or donate. For candidate matches, you’ll also get a few quotes and a short bio, as well as a breakdown of top campaign contributors by name and industry for the more established candidates.

voter-app-1-psfk voter-app-psfk.png

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

It’s important for young people to understand their political environment, and we haven’t seen a lot of evidence that politics is adapting to Millennials. An app like this takes a key demographic and insights about their behavior and makes politics accessible and even entertaining.

 

 

This app is like Shazam for your beer

So many beers, so little time.

beer

With so many options between the hoppy, the fruity, the wheats, the stouts, the ales, the seasonal pumpkin brews and splices you’ve never dreamed of, your next mystery bottle could either be sinfully good or horribly awry. Don’t you wish someone had told you before you opened it?

It’s about time there’s an app for that.

Letsee Beer, created by Korean startup Letsee for iOS and Android, uses your smartphone camera to scan the labels and shapes of beer bottles and cans (no draught, though). It brings up the beer’s basic info, plus hashtagged descriptions ranging from #fruity to #damntasty and reviews that other users have left to help you determine whether the brew is worth a try.

The creators hope to do more than build a user-generated database to help beer fans know what they’re drinking before they open the bottle. They’re also utilizing augmented reality technology to bridge the virtual and physical worlds and to nurture a social media network that shows the app’s impact with real users.

“By using the more intuitive AR interface, the users will be able to focus on the user-created content itself instead of getting distracted by cumbersome app interfaces,” Ahn Sangchul, founder and CEO of Letsee, tells Tech in Asia. “People may enjoy sharing their drinking experiences with others using our service, and we hope to encourage them to love beer even more.”

 

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

There are many apps for many things, but the incoming element of VR is appealing. It can be used to help connect the physical to the online world — and there are definitely implications that go way beyond beer.

Cloud-based phone set to launch

Robin, the first smartphone from Nextbit, is now available for pre-order. It came to fruition through a Kickstarter campaign, and is the first Android phone that leverages the cloud in a seamless way.

While Dropbox and other services have allowed users to back-up files automatically, Robin claims to be a “smart” smartphone that keeps track of the apps and files that you use and archives those to the cloud that you haven’t accessed in a while without you having to do anything. And those apps that are archived retain all of their cached log-ins and preferences, that are often lost when archiving other ways.

In addition, one of the head designers at HTC came on board at NextBit and tried to introduce an entirely different looking phone with Robin versus what is available in the market today.

Why It’s Hot

As the Internet of Things and Cloud-based computing becomes more prevalent, it is logical that our most personal of electronic devices, do the same. Nextbit has suggested that Robin may just be the beginning as they look to use the cloud to improve battery life and other performance aspects of the smartphone in future models.