Why people need to know before they go

A new Think with Google article has been published: “Why people need to ‘know before they go‘: Today people can – and do – prepare for every aspect of any experience, big or small. Whether they’re taking a vacation across the globe or dining at a neighborhood café, people have a low tolerance for surprises.”

Here are some of the highlights I found particularly interesting and helpful…

We analyzed search trends and spoke to consumers, identifying three motives that drive them to know before they go. Explore the data to understand how your brand can provide value in these moments.”

Sparking Excitement:

  • Many want a look at what their experience could entail. For example, we’ve seen over 55% growth in mobile searches for “menus” over the past two years.
  • Rising inquiries include…

Building Confidence:

  • People feel a need to prepare for every detail of their experience – from exploring maps to confirming business hours. Consider this: mobile searches for “wait times” have grown 120% over the past two years.
  • Rising inquiries include…

Making the most of a budget:

  • In the past two years, mobile searches for “do you tip in _” have grown over 70%
  • Rising inquiries include…

Why it’s hot / implications for marketers: 

  • Understand intent signals: Whether it’s to get excited, build confidence, or manage their money, people are using search to shape and validate the decisions they make. We should understand this to adapt our messaging accordingly.

  • Build useful tools: People rely on the web to plan the best experience possible. We should provide assistance with tools that cater to these experiences.

Source: Think with Google

When I Tried To find a Locksmith

I was recently having trouble with my front door, neither here nor there, I wasn’t locked out, but I couldn’t lock my door in the morning.

It turns out finding a locksmith is the hardest thing to do in New York City. “Why don’t you just Google it?” you might ask. Because Googling locksmiths is rife with fraud.

“The goal of lead gens is to wrest as much money as possible from every customer, according to lawsuits. The typical approach is for a phone representative to offer an estimate in the range of $35 to $90. On site, the subcontractor demands three or four times that sum, often claiming that the work was more complicated than expected. Most consumers simply blanch and pay up, in part because they are eager to get into their homes or cars.”

Scammers would go as far as adding fake “offices” into google maps so you can’t even use mapping to research. I wound up getting a referral, but I thought about going to a nearby locksmith in person to triple check they were real.

This is not new, the first reports of this problem are from 2011. Maybe you already know about it. So my question is, if this problem is an old problem why are you posting about it. Well, because it’s 2018 and its only just being fixed. In fact google was sued about it just last month.

Google has been sued time and time again.. and the good news is, they’re finally fixing the problem. Enter Google Guaranteed (October of this year).

Image result for google locksmith guarantee

Ok, Lisa this is all old news! But it isn’t old news for my locksmith, Nick, who has  the arduous task of applying to be google guaranteed. Apparently this is a months long process that has some expenses involved. This can be hard for someone trying to start a small business, like Nick.

Why Its Hot?

What happens to businesses if you’re not Googles priority?

“Defendants knowingly and deliberately flood organic search results displayed in response to queries such as “locksmith” (and related terms) with scam locksmith listings they know: 1) do not exist at all, or at least not at the locations indicated, 2) operate for the purpose of defrauding the consumer public, 3) are not licensed in jurisdictions mandating locksmith licensing, 4) are unregistered to do business in jurisdictions (such as DC) requiring business registration.

Defendants flood the market with fictitious listings to dilute Plaintiffs’ and other legitimate locksmiths’ listing in the organic and map results to the point of obscurity, thereby compelling legitimate locksmiths to pay Defendants for paid advertised results merely to be seen by the same prospective customers.”

Google made money off of locksmiths “problem” by creating artificial demand for their ads.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the real life heros spotting locksmith bots check out this article from the NYT. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/31/business/fake-online-locksmiths-may-be-out-to-pick-your-pocket-too.html

‘er’, ‘mmm-hmm’ – it’s a robot

Duplex, Google’s robot assistant, now makes eerily lifelike phone calls for you.

The unsettling feature, which will be available to the public later this year, is enabled by a technology called Google Duplex, which can carry out “real world” tasks on the phone, without the other person realising they are talking to a machine. The assistant refers to the person’s calendar to find a suitable time slot and then notifies the user when an appointment is scheduled.

During demonstrations, the virtual assistant did not identify itself and instead appeared to deceive the human at the end of the line. However, in the blogpost, the company indicated that might change.

“It’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service, and transparency is a key part of that. We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”

Why It’s, Ummmm, Hot
Another entry in our ‘is it good, is it bad’ AI collection. Helpful if used ethically? Maybe. Scary if abused? Absolutely.

google’s magical VR doodle…

If you missed it, Google released its first 360-degreee video doodle yesterday – an homage to a French silent filmmaker and artist Georges Méliès, commemorating his film “The Conquest of the Pole”.

Why It’s Hot:

When even Google Doodles start to show up in 360-degree video, you know it’s bleeding mainstream. Storytelling in 2018 isn’t just a passive experience, it’s an interactive one that immerses the viewer in the story. As we approach video projects in the future, we should be designing for the experience, not just a two-dimensional stream.

[Source]

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Since 2014, when the “right to be forgotten” was court ordered by the European Union, there have been 650K requests to Google to remove certain websites from its search results. This week, Google released a research paper that outlines the types of requests that were submitted.

Most of the requests were to remove five or fewer URLs from its search results. In all, Google says it received requests to remove more than 2.43 million URLs since the end of May 2014, and it has removed about 43 percent of them.

In May 2014 the Court of Justice of the European Union ordered Google and other search engines operating in the area to allow individuals to ask the sites to delist specific search results tied to a person’s name if the information is “inadequate, irrelevant or excessive”.

Some stats:

  • 89% of requests came from private individuals.
  • Social media sites, directories, news articles and government pages make up the bulk of links being requested for removal.
  • A little more than half of requests came from France, Germany and the UK

The underlying information on a third-party website is not deleted in this instance, but it becomes much more difficult to find if it no longer appears in Google’s search results. The underlying information on a third-party website is not deleted in this instance, but it becomes much more difficult to find if it no longer appears in Google’s search results.

How do they decide whether to delete or not:

“Determining whether content is in the public interest is complex and may mean considering many diverse factors, including—but not limited to—whether the content relates to the requester’s professional life, a past crime, political office, position in public life, or whether the content is self-authored content, consists of government documents, or is journalistic in nature.”

Why it’s hot: 

  • In the end, the responsibility to determine what’s in the public interest is placed on a private company, a burden, but also a huge responsibility.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/28/589411543/google-received-650-000-right-to-be-forgotten-requests-since-2014

google AI predicts heart attacks by scanning your eye…

This week, the geniuses at Google and its “health-tech subsidiary” Verily announced AI that can predict your risk of a major cardiac event with roughly the same accuracy as the currently-accepted method using just a scan of your eye.

They have created an algorithm that analyzes the back of your eye for important predictors of cardiovascular health “including age, blood pressure, and whether or not [you] smoke” to assess your risk.

As explained via The Verge:

“To train the algorithm, Google and Verily’s scientists used machine learning to analyze a medical dataset of nearly 300,000 patients. This information included eye scans as well as general medical data. As with all deep learning analysis, neural networks were then used to mine this information for patterns, learning to associate telltale signs in the eye scans with the metrics needed to predict cardiovascular risk (e.g., age and blood pressure).

When presented with retinal images of two patients, one of whom suffered a cardiovascular event in the following five years, and one of whom did not, Google’s algorithm was able to tell which was which 70 percent of the time. This is only slightly worse than the commonly used SCORE method of predicting cardiovascular risk, which requires a blood test and makes correct predictions in the same test 72 percent of the time.

Why It’s Hot:

This type of application of AI can help doctors quickly know what to look into, and shows how AI could help them spend less time diagnosing, and more time treating. It’s a long way from being completely flawless right now, but in the future, we might see an AI-powered robot instead of a nurse before we see the doctor.

[Source]

YouTube’s Algorithm Helps Spread Lies

Time to re-litigate our favorite Hot Sauce topic! Are social media platforms media platforms or not? Do they have a journalistic responsibility to the public?

Last week YouTube’s quickly algorithm spread a rumor that Parkland HS shooting survivor David Hogg was an actor hired by democrats. It had 200K views shortly after it’s posting, but has since been taken down.

Mashable, the source for this post had a very apt understanding of the problem at hand:

YouTube’s job, as it sees it, is to get as many eyeballs on as many videos as possible. It’s as if a media tycoon founded a newspaper, invited every conspiracy theorist to contribute, and blithely waved away the notion that there should be any ethical responsibility to put forth the verifiable truth — because selling ads was all that mattered.

In a recent Guardian study this recent Guardian study out of 643 of partisan videos  recommended to people watching politics content in 2016, 551 were conspiracy-based content that favored Trump while 92 favored Clinton. This study also notes that “More than 80% of the YouTube-recommended videos about the pope detected by his program described the Catholic leader as “evil”, “satanic”, or “the anti-Christ”.”

The Guardian tells the story of french programmer Guillaume Chaslot founder of https://algotransparency.org/ who was looking to make changes internally at YouTube in 2013 before he was fired (reportedly for performance reasons, but I’ll leave that up to you.) He believes that the YouTube Algorithm was biased towards Trump because it is biased towards divisiveness and conspiracy (things that shock and awe audiences can get more clicks). You can read his full blog post on the subject here.

Why Its Hot?

Let’s continue the conversation about how AI and algorithms shape the way we live, is there a way we can make them more human instead of human pandering.

Google Thinks The Future Of The Web Is Email + A Ghost Story

Google is taking the frustration out of ‘clicking out’ to a web page on accident through a new initiative called AMP for Email.

https://images.fastcompany.net/image/upload/w_596,c_limit,q_auto:best,f_webm,fl_lossy/wp-cms/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/1g-to-google-the-future-of-the-web-is-email.gif

“Instead of an email from Pinterest just kicking you to some in-app browser or an external app as soon as you tap one of its links, a new AMP-infused Pinterest email is the web. So you can pin to your heart’s content, right inside the email window. With AMP for Email, you never need to leave the message itself to browse web content.” Google is making this possible by letting email developers incorporate its Accelerated Mobile Pages standard, and for now, and Gmail is currently the only email client supporting this.

https://images.fastcompany.net/image/upload/w_596,c_limit,q_auto:best,f_webm,fl_lossy/wp-cms/uploads/sites/4/2018/02/2g-to-google-the-future-of-the-web-is-email.gif

“Instead of shuttling the user from an email to the web and back, email is simply becoming the web–a deep, browsable entity”

Why it’s hot: While it might seem minor, this has some strong implications for email CRM form both the user and the brand perspective. For the user, it is a more seamless experience with a branded email. For the brand, it encourages further brand engagement and less fear of ‘linking out’.

Source: Co.Design

BONUS:

PLUS……………….. I highly recommend reading this modern ghost story via twitter….. Is it real? I’ll let you decide. P.S It’s real.

“Also, being a Ghost Influencer is now a thing.” – Amanda Z.

Everybody fall in line!

This incisive tweet from type designer James Edmonson of Oh No Type Co looks like a humorous one-liner but is actually a brilliant piece of criticism. In just five words, he summarizes the pervasive tendency towards a visual uniformity that seems to draw in nearly every major tech brand operating today.

Tech company logos

Consider the macro trend of these brands all visually converging alongside the industry’s current mania for design systems. That juxtaposition suggests that we’re far more interested in implementing ideas than we are in ideas themselves.

Put another way, as practitioners of design we’re most comfortable asking questions like “How do we implement our brand’s design language, propagate and scale it, and make sure it’s consistent?” We’re much less comfortable asking questions like, “What’s the larger context for the brand we’re building?

Source: Subtraction.com

Why it’s hot
This post raises valid questions in the age where digital design in general trends towards uniformity over expression.

Google Flights will now predict airline delays – before the airlines do

Google is rolling out a few new features to its Google Flights search engine to help travelers tackle some of the more frustrating aspects of air travel – delays and the complexities of the cheaper, Basic Economy fares. Google Flights will take advantage of its understanding of historical data and its machine learning algorithms to predict delays that haven’t yet been flagged by airlines themselves.

Explains Google, the combination of data and A.I. technologies means it can predict some delays in advance of any sort of official confirmation. Google says that it won’t actually flag these in the app until it’s at least 80 percent confident in the prediction, though.

It will also provide reasons for the delays, like weather or an aircraft arriving late.

You can track the status of your flight by searching for your flight number or the airline and flight route, notes Google. The delay information will then appear in the search results.

The other new feature added aims to help travelers make sense of what Basic Economy fares include and exclude with their ticket price.Google Flights will now display the restrictions associated with these fares – like restrictions on using overhead space or the ability to select a seat, as well as the fare’s additional baggage fees. It’s initially doing so for American, Delta and United flights worldwide.

Source: TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Great example of using AI and predictive methods to drive better customer experience, and combat an industry that is less-than-transparent usually. It makes Google’s search solutions more desired and solidifies it as THE place to search everything. Would like to see if the alerts could get actionable, though, as right now they are more anxiety-creators.

 

Google’s Moving Year in Search Video Shows How We Got Through the Hell of 2017

The search giant’s recap of 2017 includes footage of wildfires, hurricanes, gun violence, threats of nuclear war, protests and so much more—pretty much 2017 in a nutshell. Yet, Google managed to make all this uplifting.

Using Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times,” Google’s video shows the perseverance of the human spirit and may even inspire you to make a difference for the people still reeling from the various tragedies we’ve seen this year. It also manages to provide comfort with a “you’re not alone” vibe, reminding you that others are feeling that sense of powerlessness and existential dread, too—and that if we come together, we can let those feelings drive us to change the world.

Google also gathered some of the year’s top searches, and some of them are a real punch to the gut. see more here

Source: AdWeek

Why It’s Hot

Search data provides deep insight into how we operate as a culture.

 

Google’s Express Service Lets Shoppers Place Orders From Costco Without Membership

Stealing your family and friend’s membership cards is now no longer the only way to shop at Costco without a membership. The members-only wholesale retailer has recently partnered with Google’s shopping service, Google Express, to make some of its products available online in select locations where the Express service operates.

While there will be none of the delicious free samples Costco is known for, online shoppers can still purchase many of the retailer’s most popular items, including in-house brands like Kirkland. The service also features items from other major retailers, including Walmart and Target. Shoppers simply place their orders through the Google Express website, app, or Google Assistant-enabled devices like Google Home. Orders are then shipped directly to the customer’s home, and if they spend over a certain minimum, Google will waive the shipping fee entirely.

The only catch is that non-Costco members who make orders through Google Express must pay a $10 “access fee” to purchase Costco products, though this doesn’t apply for Costco members. The service is also only available in select locations, as shoppers in 10 states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming cannot order without a Costco membership at all.

Source: PSFK

Retail brands are scrambling to provide better experiences for customers — via tech, via access, via personalization and more.

By partnering with major retail players like Costco, Walmart and Target, it places Google in a better position to challenge Amazon, which is currently in the process of expanding its footprint into physical retail spaces, namely through its acquisition of Whole Foods earlier this year.

google maps adds wait times…


Knowing when a local business is busy is helpful, knowing how long you would have to wait if you went is even better. Enter Google.

Google’s Search and Maps apps, and Google.com now provide users estimated wait times for both local restaurants and grocery stores (see above).

Now, you’ll be able to see how long would you wait if you went right now, or when there’s a shorter wait if that’s what you need. It also lets you know when peak times are so you can avoid them, or prepare yourself for the pain. Here’s how it works:

“Google’s new restaurant wait times also comes from the aggregated and anonymized data from users who opted in to Google Location History – the same data that powers popular times, wait times and visit duration.”

Why it’s hot:

Forever, one of the first questions when you have to go to the grocery store or a restaurant, is – I wonder how long I’ll have to wait. With one simple new feature, Google has removed this age-old mystery. They’re not the first to do it for restaurants, but considering how many people use Google to find one, they certainly have the power to affect the most users.

Animation Created with the Use of Virtual Reality

Despite having no prior knowledge of VR coding, artist James Paterson has invented ‘Norman’ – an open-source 3D illustration tool created using Google’s WebVR, Google’s JavaScript API, which enables artists to experiment with their own VR tools. His animations resemble a flipbook made up of stick characters darting between planes, created in three-dimensions using VR controllers and a headset.

Why It’s Hot:

We’ve often seen experiences using VR as a way for people to have a more immersive experience when consuming content. In this case, Paterson is using VR as a way to create content in the form of animation. Instead of drawing on paper and then translating that work to a program that a computer can read, he has created a way to use VR to do the animation directly into the software while keeping his natural movements of drawing intact.

“Norman is the animation tool that I’ve always wanted. I built it in JavaScript, it runs in a web browser and lets me animate naturally in 3D using VR controllers,” he says, explaining its simplicity.

zero training = zero problem, for AlphaGo Zero…


One of the major milestones in the relatively short history of AI is when Google’s AlphaGo beat the best human Go player in the world in three straight games early last year. In order to prepare AlphaGo for its match, Google trained it using games played by other Go players, so it could observe and learn which moves win and which don’t. It learned from essentially watching others.

This week, Google announced AlphaGo Zero, AI that completely taught itself to win at Go. All Google gave it was the rules, and by experimenting with moves on its own, it learned how to play, and beat its predecessor AlphaGo 100 games to zero after just over a month of training.

Why It’s Hot:

AI is becoming truly generative with what DeepMind calls “tabula rasa learning”. While a lot of AI we still see on a daily basis is extremely primitive in comparison, the future of AI is a machine’s ability to create things with basic information and a question. And ultimately, learning on its own can lead to better results. As researchers put it, “Even when reliable data sets are available, they may impose a ceiling on the performance of systems trained in this manner…By contrast, reinforcement learning systems are trained from their own experience, in principle allowing them to exceed human capabilities, and to operate in domains where human expertise is lacking.”

Google Maps Pulls Calorie-Counting Feature After Criticism

Stephanie Zerwas, the clinical director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, was trying to find a restaurant in Orlando, Fla., last weekend, so she put the address into Google Maps for directions.

She was baffled to see a new feature: The iPhone app told her that walking instead of driving would burn 70 calories. While it was perhaps meant as an incentive to walk, those with eating disorders might instead fixate on the number, a dangerous mind-set that counselors try to minimize, she said.

“We’ve gotten into this habit of thinking about our bodies and the foods we take in and how much activity we do as this mathematical equation, and it’s really not,” she said. “The more we have technology that promotes that view, the more people who may develop eating disorders might be triggered into that pathway.”

On Monday night, Google pulled the feature, which it said was an experiment on its iOS app. The decision followed a wave of attention on social media; while some of the responses saw Google’s feature as promoting exercise, there were several complaints that it was dangerous or insulting.

Some users were especially upset that the app used mini cupcakes to put the burned calories into perspective, framing food as a reward for exercise, or exercise as a prerequisite for food. (One mini cupcake, it said, was worth a little less than 125 calories, but no information was provided about how that calculation was made.)

Calorie counting has long been a contentious topic at the nexus of nutrition, exercise and eating disorders. In New York, among other cities, some restaurants are required to post calorie numbers on their menus and displays, an effort the Trump administration is trying to overturn. The Affordable Care Act required some national restaurants to do the same, though the Food and Drug Administration repeatedly delayed the deadline.

Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot: Interesting example of brands adjusting strategy based on social media feedback. What was probably considered a useful, helpful feature by developers was clearly not well received by customers.

Headphones that translate 40 languages

Designed to work with the Google Pixel 2 smartphones, the Pixel Buds wireless earphones can work as a universal translator and have conversations across 40 languages.

Speak one language into the earphones, the smartphone will translate it and speak the other language out loud on the phone using Google Translate app.

 

Source

Why it’s hot: language might no longer be a barrier to moving around the world. When will technology help us transcribe different languages? Maybe also animal languages?

Related image

FDA’s Digital Health Innovation Action Plan Targets Software – Not Hardware – For Regulatory Approval

A few weeks ago I posted an article that spoke to the value connected medicine dispensing could bring to healthcare.

What I neglected to mention is the plethora of HIPAA hurdles that the healthcare industry faces when it begins collecting patient-specific healthcare data on mobile devices such as phones, tablets or wearables.

Thankfully there may be a solution on the horizon that significantly circumvents this challenge.

In the past, if a client were to build an app that collected patient-specific medical data, the entire phone would then be considered a “medical device.” The challenge with this lies in the relative inability of a healthcare company to effectively to manage HIPAA compliance on a device they rarely have contact with.

However, the FDA’s new Digital Health Innovation Action Plan is looking at ways to view the software as the components of a tech solution that needs to be regulated. This effectively paves the way for healthcare companies and the companies to more deeply integrate mobile technology with healthcare.

As part of the plan, the FDA is seeking 9 that meet the following criteria for its pilot initiative;

  • Business is developing or planning to develop tools that meet the FDA’s definition of a device — one intended to be used to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent a disease;
  • Company has an existing track record in developing, testing, and maintaining software products use key performance indicators for quality control;
  • Must agree to provide access to performance measures during the pilot
  • Collect real-world post-market performance data and provide it to the FDA;
  • Availability for consultations and site visits from FDA officials
  • Provide quality management system information

So who did the FDA deem worthy this past week from the pool of over 100 applicants?

  • Apple
  • Fitbit
  • Verily (the health unit of Google parent Alphabet)
  • Samsung
  • Roche
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Pear Therapeutics
  • Tidepool
  • Phosphorus.

“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate, and helps foster beneficial technology while ensuring that consumers have access to high-quality, safe and effective digital health devices,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “These pilot participants will help the agency shape a better and agiler approach toward digital health technology that focuses on the software developer rather than an individual product.”

The end goal of the program is to develop a regulatory framework for software as a medical device so that companies with established, tried and tested quality assurance protocols would be able to update their products faster.

Why It’s Hot:

in the past, mobile devices such as wearables, phone or tablets that collected patient data weren’t HIPAA compliant. This new FDA initiative opens up the potential to build technology that makes these devices HIPAA compliant opening up vast new opportunities for the healthcare industry.

Google and Levi’s Make a Connected Jean Jacket

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

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

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

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

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

Why it’s hot:

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

Source: Wired

OK Google, Am I Depressed?


See gif of how it works here.

As reported by The Verge, yesterday Google rolled out a new mobile feature to help people who might think they’re depressed sort it out. Now, when someone searches “depression” on Google from a mobile device (as in the screenshot above), it suggests “check if you’re clinically depressed” – connecting users to a 9 question quiz to help them find out if they need professional help.

Why It’s Hot:

As usual, Google shows that utility is based on intent – instead of just connecting people to information, they’re connecting information to people. In this case, it could be particularly impactful since “People who have symptoms of depression — such as anxiety, insomnia, or fatigue — wait an average of six to eight years before getting treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.” 

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: NY Times

Why it’s Hot

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

Immersive Branding

Google is redefining how we perceive the multiple “realities” we have been wrangling to understand to begin with by introducing Immersive Computing.

On one end of the human experience, you have reality. Living, breathing, non-digital reality. It’s great. Usually. In the middle, as technology becomes more “immersive,” you have augmented reality. Basically, graphics start to float in front of your eyes on top of the real world–like a monster in Pokémon Go. Then, eventually, as more and more of these graphics are layered over your perception, you naturally segue into virtual reality. At the right end of the spectrum, all reality has been replaced with pixels.

Basically, this is saying that the existing range of really distinct experiences or technological paradigms, aren’t different, but are all a gradient. And as technology advances and devices merge, immersive computing will allow us to pick and choose how much reality get (or don’t get). It’s the ability to dive as deeply (or shallowly) into the digital world as we’d like, at any time we’d would like, through glasses, or goggles, or a screen, or contact lenses…but preferably a Google device (Wink! Wink!)

And it’s also a way for Google (and brands) to eventually be able to hack our perception at a moment’s notice…In gradients of course.

Why It’s Hot:

New interesting way to frame immersive technologies- one that is more palatable to general audiences

  • By consolidating all their “reality related” interface experiments under one tech genre, Google is positioning themselves as the leaders in the category
  • It’s also an indicator of where they are going to be taking headsets/glasses, and possibly Samsung’s contacts.

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Google takes its Street View cars up to space

Google Street View has finally found an address that won’t be blocked by a giant UPS truck: outer space.


Story on TechCrunch

Click on a blue hot spot and get an explanation of what the item is.

Why it’s Hot
This project can serve as motivation for kids curious about STEM careers, similar to the Lockheed Martin “Field Trip to Mars” project from 2016. Also, it’s a fun way to spend 15 minutes at work.

Watch a bear play in an Alaskan waterfall right from Google Earth

Thanks to Voyager, Google Earth’s storytelling platform, you can now basically take an even deeper look at Alaska without having to leave your couch.

Voyager, which is essentially a collection of guided stories and tours based on maps, began streaming live content Thursday, starting with Katmai National Park in Alaska. There are five live cams in Voyager for people to use to explore.

Google partnered with Explore.org, a multimedia organization that hosts several nature livestreams, to bring this new feature to life.

To access the livestreams, users just open up the Google Earth application and head to the menu icon on the top lefthand corner of the screen. From there, simply click “Voyager,” which is demarcated by a ship’s wheel, and head to the “Nature” tab. The livestreams are branded with “explore.org” in the lower left-hand side. When we watched, we saw a bear splashing around in a waterfall and later on, another casually walking through a river.

Google didn’t say whether even more live cams would make their way to Google Earth (and when that’d be), but Explore.org founder Charles Annenberg Weingarten seems to hint at more to come in a post on Medium.

“So, please join Google and Explore.org and discover the “live world.” Whether it be the brown bears of Katmai National Park, the wild belugas and polar bears of the arctic, the bald eagles of Iowa, the elephants and hippos of Africa, the pandas of China, or a live birth of a puppy who will one day become a service dog for a soldier with PTSD — welcome to our family,” he wrote.

Source: Mashable

Why It’s Hot

Love the immersive nature of what Google Earth is and can become. The possibilities are exciting to think about.

Google giveth, and Google taketh away

Google is playing with my heart again.

Earlier this week Google announced that it will stop scanning the contents of Gmail in order to deliver targeted ads. Google said it’s stopping this practice in order to “more closely align” its business and consumer products. Businesses – who pay for G Suite – have the power to put their foot down where consumers do not.

At the same time Google announced it is launching an auto-reply system that scans emails and generates possible responses to choose from.

gmail

The new functionality, added to the app store versions of Gmail, works by analyzing a large, anonymized body of email to generate possible responses. Machine-learning systems then rank these to pick the “best responses to the email at hand”. Google is keen to emphasise that its system knows its limits. Not everything merits an automated response – only about one-third of emails are covered.

Most email is unnecessary and most email responses are perfunctory acknowledgements – verbal read-receipts. In the war for control of your inbox, Gmail may have given us an important missile defence shield. Nice! Thanks! Love it!

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/shortcuts/2017/jun/27/nice-thanks-love-it-gmails-auto-reply-is-perfect-for-the-lazy-emailer?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Why It’s Hot (or not)
As the behemoths continue to get bigger, their power to impact the ways we interact (or not) continues to grow. The war between ease and humanity continues.

No One Lies to Google

Recently Vox came out with an article interviewing Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Who said that polling that predicted Hillary Clinton’s win might have been up ended if pollsters had been exposed to data from Google.

Stephens did a deep dive into Google Trends under the hypothesis that people lie to pollsters, but they don’t lie to Google. He saw trends in increased searches of racial epithets and analyzed area data to find intent to vote (searching for polling places, researching candidates, etc.)

“There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from traditional sources,” Stephens-Davidowitz says. “Those searches are hard to reconcile with a society in which racism is a small factor.”

When asked what he sees as his most startling finding…

I’m pretty convinced that the United States has a self-induced abortion crisis right now based on the volume of search inquiries. I was blown away by how frequently people are searching for ways to do abortions themselves now. These searches are concentrated in parts of the country where it’s hard to get an abortion and they rose substantially when it became harder to get an abortion. They’re also, I calculate, missing pregnancies in these states that aren’t showing up in either abortion or birth rates.

Why It’s Hot:

We are at a point of crisis in polling and electoral faith, if we have Google data to help us match results this might restore confidence in our system. This also can help point us to where people are under served or suffering in our country. By keeping anonymity, this lie free data collection keeps users protected but could use data for good…. or bad, I guess.

Source: https://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/6/13/15768622/facebook-social-media-seth-stephens-davidowitz-everybody-lies

Apple and Google to Implement Ad Blocker in Web Browsers

On Monday, Apple at its developer conference that it will start blocking autoplay videos on its Safari web browser and will add a feature that stops ad tracking technology from using a user’s web behavior to target ads to them.

Google also reportedly will officially move ahead with its Chrome ad blocker sometime next year and will block any site which hosts ad units that don’t adhere to a set of third-party standards — basically, most sites on the Internet. The Financial Times also reported that Google is creating a feature that will allow publishers to charge users who use ad-blockers on a page-per-view basis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why It’s Hot:

Safari (10%) and Chrome (51%) make up most of the desktop search market in the U.S., according to comScore, and over 68% of mobile traffic in the U.S., which means that their efforts to curb ads that damage user experience will have a significant impact on the marketplace. These changes will force publishers to develop new advertising techniques.

Immediately following the announcement by Apple, ad retargeting firm Criteo’s stocks tumbled. Earlier this year, Terry Kawaja, Founder and CEO of media and technology firm LUMA Partners, said consolidation in the ad tech space (mostly driven by policy changes and user demands) will cause 90% of the companies to go out of business.

Gone In 6 Seconds

Australian retailer Myer hosted a flash sale using YouTube’s six-second pre-roll ad slots.

The 6 Second Sale ads feature more than 100 Myer products with discounts greater than those available in store and online by 5%. Viewers have only six seconds (the length of the pre-roll ad) to secure the deal being offered, with those that manage to click on the offer in time are taken to a pre-populated shopping cart on Myer’s site.

The campaign created using Google’s Vogon –  customization tool that lets brands create unlimited variations of the same ad by changing the text, audio or images. The targeting used in the 6 Second Sale ensures no YouTube user will see the same ad twice.

The 6 Second Sale is being promoted through Myer’s website, social channels, catalog and print.

Why It’s Hot

-It merges shopping impulse with a platform experience that times out in a very short amount of time

-Leverages scarcity to heighten the need to buy and drive sales

-Great example of a brand “hacking” a platform to drive a campaign

 

 

Brands Taking a Stand

It doesn’t take a political science degree to know that civic discourse in the U.S. is strained. As tensions wear on, brands are entering conversations they might’ve shunned in the past. But how do they ensure their statements and actions ring true?

Ben Jones, creative director at Google, recently spoke with agency and content leaders in a panel conversation at a SXSW conference to unpack how socially conscious brands can take a stand—and remain standing—through a fraught period.

Why It’s Hot: More and more consumers expect brands to be socially conscious and to have a perspective that causes the safe space to disappear. Taking a stand requires genuine and authentic brand actions. Owning the actions is more important than making the statement.

 

From Goggles to Lenses

Google just released Google Lens, and while we are mandated to go into frenzy mode, a closer look makes the unveiling a bit lackluster after all is said and done.
According to Google’s CEO,  “Google Lens is a set of vision-based computing capabilities that can understand what you’re looking at and help you take action based on what you are looking at.”

Sound familiar? It should…

The tech and use cases are not new. Yelp has long been using Monocle, Amazon has already introduced Flow, and Pinterest Lens has been around for a while. Also, this looks more like a Google Goggles 2.0 release. Since people were not ready for that, seems they have modified it to better fit existing behaviors vs. developing new ones.

What sets this apart from the rest is that, with Google being a search-driven platforms, the capabilities of the product are extended. But this may not be a good thing. While Amazon, Yelp, and Pinterest uses are more narrow and specific, resulting in the likelihood of desired results, the vastness of Google increases the chances of the results missing the mark. For example, I point it to a flower expecting to know where to buy it, and instead, it tells me whether it’s poisonous or not.

Now, what makes this unique is how it can integrate with Google Assistant, allowing users to use voice, images, or a combination of both to conduct searches. This also allows it to live across multiple Google platforms, which makes the adoption of the tech more likely.

This is where it gets interesting for advertisers. If this takes off, this gives us an entire new way to connect with consumers across all of Google’s products, and will probably force us to rethink the customer journey. While unknown, it’s exciting given new uncharted “media frontiers” don’t come about that often. From a data collection standpoint, it can also give us new (and hopefully) better way determine use intent.

Why It’s Hot

  • It’s surprising to see a tech giant unveil something so “meh”.
  • On the bright side it’s an opportunity for our brands to begin testing a new tech with a solid potential of adoption.
  • It’s a good example of a tech company pivoting to better suit existing behaviors vs. developing new ones.

Source.