ny times has the [alexa] skills…

The inimitable New York Times has created not one, but five new Alexa skills.

Now, people can use their smart speaker to access:

> A daily flash briefing read by journalist Michael Barbaro
> Hear about the travels of Sebastian Modak with “52 places to go”
> Get a weekly music roundup from music editor Caryn Ganz
> Get book recommendations from Times book critics
> Play a weekly “New York Times Quiz” testing their knowledge of recent news

Why it’s hot:

It may not feel a massive innovation, but it’s a savvy move for the Times in a world where people are increasingly eschewing websites. No longer is it enough to build destinations, we have to think about how our brands can be present where people need them, when they need them.


emotionally manipulate your children with technology this holiday…

Judging by this product created by Australian retailer Myer, Aussie parents’ behavior might not be under the same microscope that American parents’ behavior is.

Nevertheless, the store created a connected ornament that changes color based on how “naughty” or “nice” the children in the home are being leading up to Christmas.

According to Myer, “The bauble pairs up with an app, so parents can change the colour to coerce their kids into good behaviour, or be faced with a stocking full of coal.” 

The retailer is even taking a page from Spotify’s book, and using the “data” to power billboards around Australia showing how “naughty” or “nice” children in different areas are:

Why it’s hot: 

I’m not sure it is. Technologically, it’s an interesting idea to create a bluetooth powered product symbolizing what will hopefully be a happy holiday for each child. But, while it would be magical for an unknowing children to see “proof” they’re being “nice”, and therefore they’re headed for the rewards they want this holiday, the opposite seems like it could be a bit extreme.

stay perfectly hydrated with gatorade gx…

Gatorade introduced a prototype product it’s calling “Gatorade Gx”. It’s a combination of a patch you wear while working out, training, or whatever you call your physical/athletic activity, and a connected water bottle. It basically monitors how you’re sweating as you train, “capturing fluid, electrolyte, and sodium loss”.  Based on this, it lets you know when you should drink more, and if what you should drink is something specific based on your unique needs. That something specific being a “Pod” that has certain formula of electrolytes or nutrients you are losing as you sweat (your “electrolyte and carbohydrate needs”).

Why it’s hot:

As we see more uses of technologies like AI, biometrics, and connected sensors, products and services are becoming ultra personal. This is a personal hydration coach, filling a knowledge gap that otherwise only cues from your body might indicate you need. We should be keeping an eye on how brands are taking the old idea of “personalization” to its truest form, creating new ways to give them more than just a basic product or service.


Welcome to the Internet of YOUR Things…

[image credit: RealityEditor.org]

In recent years, the connection between people and objects has become the “next frontier” of digital technology. The so-called “Internet of Things” has already produced connected devices like the Nest products, and we’ve seen Google’s Project Soli working on how to control wearable devices using gestures. But yesterday, I came across another way to accomplish the task of connecting and controlling all of your technology – MIT’s “Reality Editor” allows you to create connections between your own “things”, and control them using just an app on your phone. It basically creates a private network of things, the functions of which you can define and control, and between which you can create relationships. Some of the examples they provide are:

  • Instead of having to get out of bed to turn off a light using a switch next to your bedroom door, connect an object on your bedstand to the light so that when you turn it the light goes off
  • Connect your bed to your car’s heat/air conditioning so that in the winter,  you can turn on the heat when you get up so that your car is warm when you’re ready to drive to work

What’s still a little unclear is how the objects actually communicate, but it appears you need a digital “fingerprint” attached to each in order to actually manipulate and connect them, and that there needs to be an arduino or something else involved. They say you need to create “Hybrid Objects” to actually realize the benefit.

REALITY EDITOR from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

Why It’s Hot

What sets Reality Editor apart is the ability to control all of your things yourself, without needing multiple products ultimately controlled by the companies that produce them (to whom you’re also giving data and private information, even images). It seems to be a smarter way to achieve the same control over your stuff that the “Internet of Things” promises. And what’s really cool is it’s not just a concept – it’s actually in the app store now, so you can start doing it today.

Density Helps You Know Where to Go or Avoid…

[image credit: Density]

Density is a new internet-connected device/sensor that discretely and anonymously counts the number of people who have come to or left a location, giving anyone privy to the data a real-time idea of how crowded a location is. This effectively benefits both the owner/employees of a location, as well as the people who might want or need to visit that location.

The easiest real world example is probably a bar, the owner of which would always know how packed it is, and could decide how to adjust resources (or promotion) accordingly, knowing daily/weekly/seasonal trends, in addition to what’s happening on a minute-by-minute basis. On the “customer” side, knowing how crowded a location is can obviously either help you find the rager, or the quiet, low key setting you want to join. Some other examples Density gives on its website, the usefulness of which I think we can all admit, is knowing how busy the DMV, the Grocery Store, or even one of your conference rooms is.

To tap into this information for any location that has already installed the sensor, download Density’s app.

Why It’s Hot

While it’s certainly not the first service to tell you which locations are most densely packed, it’s the first that I’m aware of to offer a scientifically sound way of knowing (previous apps have mostly relied on voluntary “check in” data pulled from either Facebook or Foursquare/Swarm). And, it’s a connected device that can capture data to be used both by its owner, and anyone else who might want to harness that information, or combine it with other information to make it even more useful/insightful. The Internet of Things is slowly but surely making everything smarter, and this is one small addition that seems to offer a very logical benefit.

[Source: PSFK]

Google Opens Nest API To Control Home Devices

Nest Labs, recently acquired by Google and maker of internet connected thermostats and smoke detectors, has opened its software to third-party developers.  This will now allow outside developers to build applications around the Nest’s existing product line of “internet of things.”

Why It’s Hot:

Nest has established early partnerships with the likes of Jawbone, Whirlpool, Mercedes-Benz, IFTT, and Logitech.  All of these partners have released new Nest-compatible features that fully integrate with the Nest products.

According to the company, you can, for example, have your connected light bulbs flash red as a warning when your smoke detector senses smoke or carbon monoxide.  Or you can have your Mercedes communicate to your thermostat when you will be home so it can turn on the AC before you arrive.

“This API program is about more than just basic control,” Nest representative says. “It is more about customer experiences and making them better in the home.”

The program could provide the fabric needed to connect home devices in smarter ways.  The Nest API could become the “go to” operating system for an extremely broad range of devices.

The API will release to the public in early 2014.