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.

Source:

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.

Google wants to make you look funny

 

Google wants to make you look funny with fun bitmojis!

Instead of analyzing a photo of you pixel by pixel, Google’s algorithms recognize “qualitative features” of your face such as eye color, and then turn them over to another algorithm which picks from more than 563 quadrillion combinations to make a funny image that sort of looks like you.

As you might imagine, all of this was quite a challenge for Google’s team of artists and scientists. One issue in particular was avoiding the so called “uncanny valley,” a psychological phenomenon which makes an illustration of a human that’s very similar, but not quite identical to the real thing, creepy to humans.

Why its hot?

  • I feel like bitmoji is getting its mojo back by partnering with Snapchat but this is a fun twist
  • This makes me want to download the app, and i dont care about bitmoji at allllll.
  • The video speaks for itself, its a very interactive app and you can save the emojis to share outside of the platform

googler creates AI that creates video using one image…

One of the brilliant minds at Google has developed an algorithm that can (and has) create video from a single image. The AI does this by predicting what each of the next frames would be based on the previous one, and in this instance did it 100,000 times to produce the 56 minute long video you see above. Per its creator:

“I used videos recorded from trains windows, with landscapes that moves from right to left and trained a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm with it. What you see at the beginning is what the algorithm produced after very little learnings. It learns more and more during the video, that’s why there are more and more realistic details. Learnings is updated every 20s. The results are low resolution, blurry, and not realistic most of the time. But it resonates with the feeling I have when I travel in a train. It means that the algorithm learned the patterns needed to create this feeling. Unlike classical computer generated content, these patterns are not chosen or written by a software engineer.

Why it’s hot:

Creativity and imagination have been among the most inimitable human qualities since forever. And anyone who’s ever created anything remotely artistic will tell you inspiration isn’t as easy as hitting ‘go’. While this demonstration looks more like something you’d see presented as an art school video project than a timeless social commentary regaled in a museum, it made me wonder – what if bots created art? Would artists compete with them? Would they give up their pursuit because bots can create at the touch of a button? Would this spawn a whole new area of human creativity out of the emotion of having your work held up next to programmatic art? Could artificial intelligence ever create something held up against real human creativity?

Google’s New AI Tool is a Pandora’s Box of Possibilities

It’s a simple idea: turn a selfie into cartoon character stickers (emojis) of yourself. Google’s new Allo app, touted by the company as a “smart messaging app” that lets you “express yourself better” includes this new AI feature that uses your smartphone camera and facial recognition technology to generate detailed facial expressions to suit every emotion. According to Fast Co, Google thinks there are 563 quadrillion faces that the tool could generate.

“Illustrations let you bring emotional states in a way that selfies can’t.” Selfies are, by definition, idealizations of yourself. Emoji, by contrast, are distillations and exaggerations of how you feel. To that end, the emoji themselves are often hilarious: You can pick one of yourself as a slice of pizza, or a drooling zombie. “The goal isn’t accuracy,” explains Cornwell. “It’s to let someone create something that feels like themselves, to themselves.” 

Full article here

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s another layer on personalization in social media and messaging apps that Snapchat and Instagram will look to integrate. It could also mean the end of Bitmoji as we know it.
  • On a deeper level, there could be many applications outside of entertainment for this type of technology. If you can use AI to better express how you feel to a doctor or nurse, for example, a whole new world of communication could be opened up.
  • And going broader, there’s a big question: as messaging apps get smarter and smarter, do our interactions through them become more or less valuable? When AI is the go-between, are we better expressing ourselves, or is it a substitute for real interaction?

Publishers fear fallout of Google-backed ad blocker

Publishers are responding to a Wall Street Journal report that Google is reportedly launching an ad blocker for Chrome with official cheer but private skepticism and fear.

Officially — and on the record — publishers are genuflecting at the altar of user experience, welcoming moves by Google or other companies to improve online advertising. But go on background, conversations turn to the inevitable imbalance of power when it comes to the duopoly of Facebook and Google. And for some, the move smacks of hypocrisy. Here’s Google, vacuuming up the largest share of digital advertising, positioning itself as the arbiter of what ads constitute a poor user experience. Don’t expect a half page of ads at the top of a search results page to get dinged, no matter the third-party Google officially christens as the standard bearer.

Google is yet to make an official announcement, but the Journal reported that Google’s criteria for what ads should be blocked, stems from the industry committee-led Coalition for Better Ads, of which Google is a founding member. That means pop-ups and autoplaying video ads with sound, and “prestitial” ads with countdown timers, formats which the Coalition has previously deemed unacceptable, could be blocked. Most wouldn’t object to these particular ads, but these type of things tend to snowball. And these days, few publishers are in the mood to give any platform carte blanche.

One scenario Google is considering is to block all advertising that appear on sites with offending ads, instead of just the offending ads themselves.  That in and of itself is enough to set off alarm bells for publishers.

While many publishers share Google’s interests in keeping the web safe for digital advertising, publishers aren’t without fear of Google’s dominance. The Coalition is described as a big tent, with Google being a founding member, but some members privately say they consider the Coalition to essentially be a front for Google. As evidence of the search giant’s power, many publishers contacted for this story said they were under strict NDA with Google not to breathe a word about the ad blocking plans. That alone speaks volumes to the power dynamic at play here.

Why It’s Hot

1.) If nothing else, a Google ad blocker could put the onus on publishers to clean up the web (although the fact that it’d be Google making them do it makes it easier to sell it to advertisers).  Higher quality publishers will prevail on the chrome browser.

On the flip side:

2.) While this could be a good thing in general, allowing Google to have more say in thinking they’re leading a brand safety charge concerns me.  After the YouTube issues they’ve had, this is just another step to them gaining more control in their empire/monopoly.  Will they act the same toward their owned and operated categories?

3.) If Google goes ahead with these plans, it can undermine publishers’ own progress in reducing ad blocking. “We may now have to have two ad blocking strategies, one for Chrome and another for everything else,” said John Barnes, chief digital officer at Incisive Media.

YouTube Brand Safety Issues Threaten Sales

If some of you haven’t heard the news yet, a handful of HUGE brands have completely pulled the plug on spending with YouTube, amid a growing international controversy concerning ads running in tandem with extremist content on the platform. This content includes videos promoting terrorist groups like ISIS, hate speech, gory videos, and other unsavory content.  Brands refuse to re-instate spending until the video site could assure their spots wouldn’t run near offensive content.

Examples of advertisers that have pulled out domestically and/or internationally are big players like Verizon, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motors, McDonald’s UK, and Johnson & Johnson.  To this point in time, YouTube (owned by Google) has been one of the difficult partners out there, who don’t allow 3rd party ad verification partners in to monitor brand safety.  Instead, they bring their own proprietary tools.  DoubleVerify circulated an email to clients on 3/23 stating that the issues of advertisers running next to unsavory content could have been avoided if 3rd party tools were allowed.

Why It’s Hot

This raises so many thoughts/questions about brand safety and how to handle situations like this from an agency perspective.  Our team has been singing the praises of 3rd party ad verification partners for a long time- they police sites and make sure that advertisers are truly protected.  So, I have to ask:

1.)  Are self-policers like YouTube worth running on?  Given this news, how much has their credibility been shattered?

2.)  Were the advertisers doing anything in regards to brand safety before, or was this truly the fault of YouTube not monitoring the content of their site closely enough?  With a pharma client we work on, YouTube has confirmed that we’ve run in safe content because we’ve been so stringent from the start…

3.) Are there implications for a brand (think, from a PR perspective) if they choose to continue to run on YouTube, given this news?  Should brands join the movement of pulling spend JUST to join the movement and make change happen, or should they stay the course (if they’ve been confirmed to be running on brand safe content only?)

Source 1
Source 2
Source 3

Alexa, we have a problem

Google Home is about to offer a feature Amazon’s Alexa can’t match: finds from local stores.

Google Home

The new feature is powered by local inventory feeds sent by retailers that buy ads on Google. In the past year, local shopping queries have increased 45 percent and the search giant has doubled the number of retailers that send local inventory feeds.

With this new feature, Google is offering users something Amazon doesn’t — a way to find merchandise at your local store and try before you buy.

It’s all part of Google’s long-term strategy to develop products and services that use artificial intelligence to make it easier for people to interact with computers – that, in turn, will feed into Google’s ad-based business model.

https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/03/21/google-home-vs-amazon-echo-for-shopping.html

Why It’s Hot
-It continues the local digital trend that’s grown over the past couple of years
-It’s also another interesting bridge between eCommerce and advertising – with a healthy mix of IoT thrown in

‘Family Link’ app gives kids their own child-safe Google accounts

Today Google announced the launch of Family Link, an application for parents to keep tabs on what their kids are doing on their devices, especially for those younger than 13. Family Link requires that both parent and child use Google’s Android phones and tablets. The parent will first download the Family Link mobile app to their own device so a Family Group is created on Google, which establishes the parent as the group manager. Then the parent will set up the child’s Google account and when your child signs onto the new phone the first time, the Family Link app will automatically install to complete the setup.
Think of Family Link like parental controls plus monitoring. The app allows parents to do the following:
• Track kids’ location.
• Require permission for new app installation and see which apps kids have installed.
• Put kids’ phones to sleep when it’s time for dinner, homework or bed.
• Set a “bedtime” and sleeping hours during which devices can’t be used.
• Identify which apps are your kids’ favorites. At any time, a parent can see just how much time they have been spending in various apps. And what they have used in the last 7 and 30 days.
• By default, mature and adult-only apps are blocked inside Google Play so your child can’t even see them though parents can alter the settings to be more or less permissive.
• Set a new unlock code if kids forget their own.
• Ring the phone’s ringer to find lost devices.
• Set which apps get access to the camera or microphone.
Parents cannot see things like which websites their kids visited or who they sent messages to or e-books they read. Kids can also find out exactly what parents see, because they have the app, too. “We don’t want kids thinking Google has built spyware,” said Saurabh Sharma, Family Link’s product manager. “That’s where transparency comes in.”
The app is in a limited testing phase for now and Google is open to having testers try it out and provide feedback. Google hopes to make the feature available in the US in early summer and later this year in other countries as they navigates local laws. An iOS version is not yet available, but it is in the works.

Why It’s Hot
56 percent of kids in the US aged 8 to 12 have mobile phones. Family Link addresses the trend of kids accessing the internet at younger and younger ages. Google allows parents to deselect apps they don’t want their kids to use. Android Pay and YouTube are off limits for all kid accounts (though YouTube Kids is available). Every family is different as far as rules around screen time go, so Family Link takes this into account. Google lets you set a different limit for each day of the week, and you can also set a specific Bedtime period, where the device automatically locks up at a certain time of night. Of course, no tool is going to substitute for the guidance, understanding and rules parents will put in place for their own kids. Family Link opens up the conversations between parent sand their children regarding smartphone and online behavior.

MRC Accredidations Affect Doubleclick Calculations

DoubleClick Digital Marketing and DoubleClick for Publishers are shifting the method used for calculating impressions from “served” to “count on download.” This count on download method follows changes the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council (MRC) made in April 2016 to count impressions after a user’s device indicates that creative download has begun. The previous served counting method records an impression when an ad server receives a request for content.

March 1: Active View calculations use count on download methodology

Starting on March 1, Active View calculations that are based on impressions use downloaded impressions. Overall, the change to Active View calculations will likely result in an increase in viewability rates.

Since Active View data is used across DoubleClick Digital Marketing, you’ll see updates throughout the platform wherever this data appears, including Verification in DCM.

Q3 2017: Impressions metric uses count on download methodology

In the final phase of the transition, the count on download methodology becomes the measurement of record for DoubleClick Digital Marketing in Q3 2017. At this time:

  • The Impressions metric will be computed using the count on download methodology that you can preview with the Downloaded Impressions metric.
  • Billing and attribution that is based on the Impressions metric will use the count on download methodology.

Why It’s Hot

Finally, Google is getting their butts in shape and our clients are going to benefit.  Before, Google was counting an impression at the ad call- beginning in Q3 they will count at the actual ad load.  Given that there could be a significant drop off (think up to 40% on mobile*) between the ad call and ad load, our clients will gain efficiency by paying for only ads that people have the opportunity to actually see (bc it loaded!).  This could ultimately improve performance, and we don’t really even have to do a thing!

Source

*Based off information provided by S4M

I hate the idea of “Smart clothes” but its happening. Levi’s and Google to blame.

Some interesting new technology has hit SXSW and is coming to a store near you this fall. Levi’s and Google have partnered to create a denim shirt enhanced with tech for $350 a pop. I don’t know how I feel about it because enough is enough, right? WRONG. According to Juniper Research, wearables are expected to be a $19 billion industry by 2018.

The smart Commuter jacket, which was introduced over the weekend at SXSW in Austin, is aimed at those who bike to work. It has technology woven into its fibers, and allows users to take phone calls, get directions and check the time, by tapping and swiping their sleeves. That delivers information to them through their headphones so that they can keep their eyes on the road without having to fiddle with a screen.

Why its hot!

  • Wearable’s like Fitbit have seen a decline in sales, resulting in job cuts and budget cuts, its interesting that Google and Levi’s have decided to move forward with an idea like this given the market.
  • This is a wearable but its more so about the fabric.
  • Wearables are expected to be a $19 billion industry by 2018 or this jacket could be the first of many new clothing options.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/14/how-google-and-levis-smart-jacket-shows-whats-coming-next-for-wearables/?utm_term=.4079a6ae4642

Android Instant Apps Made Available for Testing

Generally, to use an app on a mobile device, you first need to download and install it. With Instant Apps, an app can run right away — similar to loading a web page — without having to go through the installation process.

Google says that it has been working with a small number of developers to test the user and developer experience over the last few months. The result is a limited test that includes apps from BuzzFeed, Wish, Periscope and Viki. Google plan to roll-out instant apps to more developers once they have collected enough feedback from their current partners.

bh-device

Why It’s Hot:

“Instant Apps is really about re-thinking where apps are going,” saysGoogle VP of Engineering for Android Dave Burke “Web pages are ephemeral. They appear, you use them, and never think about them again.” Installing apps, on the other hand, comes with a lot of friction and users often only want to perform a single action or get a specific piece of information (say pay for parking with an app in a city you don’t often travel to). Ideally, Instant Apps gives you the speed of a light web page with all of the benefits of a native app.

Google Takes on Cable!

 

Google just joined the “skinny bundle” TV war with YouTube TV, a paid subscription service that streams a slew of premium broadcast and cable networks to your mobile device, tablet, computer, and anything with Chromecast.

Just $35 a month gets you six accounts and access to live TV from more than 40 providers including the big broadcast networks, ESPN, regional sports networks and dozens of popular cable networks. Subscriptions include cloud DVR with unlimited storage, AI-powered search and personalization, and access to YouTube Red programming.

YouTube TV joins a growing wave of services, including Dish’s Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s new DirectTV Now, with a similar web TV offering from Hulu expected soon. And like these other options, unfortunately, YouTube still has some holes with its offering.

Big networks like CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, are on board, but several premium channels, like MTV and CNN, aren’t. You can add content like Showtime and soccer for an added fee, but some content comes with restrictions. If you’re a pro football fan, for example, you’ll have to watch games on your TV or computer because the NFL’s deal with Verizon made it off-limits to your mobile device. And no matter what you watch or what you watch it on, you may see ads.

The company won’t say when the service launches, but says you can expect it in the US in the “coming weeks and months.”

Why It’s Hot

While the offering is new, and we don’t know what they’ll bring to the table in regards to advertising opportunities, this is a smart way for YouTube to gain more ground with quality content and reaching cord cutters (especially ones that are on a budget!).  This is especially pertinent to one of our clients, as we’ve seen higher ROI on TV-like experiences vs. the traditional YouTube or other video buys online.  It will allow us to diversify where we find video content.

Using Tech to Get Away From Tech

 

Consumers are looking for the right balance when it comes to technology. Smart brands are tapping into people’s desires to disconnect.

Dolmio, a pasta sauce company created the ‘pepper hacker’ – a device that automatically disables surrounding Wi-Fi – to help families reclaim dinner time.

 

Why it’s hot….

  1. Using tech to get people away from tech
  2. Keeping consumers top of mind outside of the category

Google Opens Up YouTube and Ad Platforms for Measurement Audit

On the heels of Facebook’s decision to undergo an audit by industry watchdog the Media Rating Council, Google has agreed to have its metrics vetted, too.

The Alphabet-owned site is opening up YouTube ad inventory and ad-buying platforms DoubleClick Manager and AdWords that allow for the MRC to track stats including viewability and how long a video was watched. The audit includes three of Google’s biggest third-party metrics companies: Moat, DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science. The audit will examine how the three companies pull their data, including the technology that plugs into YouTube and the methodology used to measure digital metrics. The MRC tapped Ernst & Young to conduct the review.

“The audit will validate that data collection, aggregation and reporting for served video impressions, viewable impressions, related viewability statistics and General Invalid Traffic (GIVT) across desktop and mobile for each integration adheres to MRC and IAB standards,” said Google’s senior director of product management Babak Pahlavan in a blog post.

The move should help add a bit of transparency for advertisers who have increasingly asked for better metrics and insight into their campaigns with Facebook and Google, which receive about 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising. Both Facebook and Google are notorious for being “walled gardens” that do not let measurement companies in and self-report their own metrics.

Facebook has been under particularly high scrutiny with a number of mistakes to its metrics in the past six months. In November, Facebook began revamping some of its metrics and added a blog that focuses specifically on measurement issues.

Why It’s Hot

Getting both Facebook and Google on board with MRC audits could quell marketers’ frustrations as they push for industry-wide standards to grade their campaigns.  It’s been a constant frustration that these partners have not obliged to be measured the same way as pretty much any other partner in the industry, so this will be a step in the right direction for equalizing the playing field in regards to measurement… along with adding a little more comfort to knowing that the metric are legitimate.

 

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.