Inside Amazon’s plan for Alexa to run your entire life

The creator of the famous voice assistant dreams of a world where Alexa is everywhere, anticipating your every need.

Speaking with MIT Technology Review, Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist, revealed further details about where Alexa is headed next. The crux of the plan is for the voice assistant to move from passive to proactive interactions. Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life. This will require Alexa to get to know you better than ever before.

In June at the re:Mars conference, he demoed [view from 53:54] a feature called Alexa Conversations, showing how it might be used to help you plan a night out. Instead of manually initiating a new request for every part of the evening, you would need only to begin the conversation—for example, by asking to book movie tickets. Alexa would then follow up to ask whether you also wanted to make a restaurant reservation or call an Uber.

A more intelligent Alexa

Here’s how Alexa’s software updates will come together to execute the night-out planning scenario. In order to follow up on a movie ticket request with prompts for dinner and an Uber, a neural network learns—through billions of user interactions a week—to recognize which skills are commonly used with one another. This is how intelligent prediction comes into play. When enough users book a dinner after a movie, Alexa will package the skills together and recommend them in conjunction.

But reasoning is required to know what time to book the Uber. Taking into account your and the theater’s location, the start time of your movie, and the expected traffic, Alexa figures out when the car should pick you up to get you there on time.

Prasad imagines many other scenarios that might require more complex reasoning. You could imagine a skill, for example, that would allow you to ask your Echo Buds where the tomatoes are while you’re standing in Whole Foods. The Buds will need to register that you’re in the Whole Foods, access a map of its floor plan, and then tell you the tomatoes are in aisle seven.

In another scenario, you might ask Alexa through your communal home Echo to send you a notification if your flight is delayed. When it’s time to do so, perhaps you are already driving. Alexa needs to realize (by identifying your voice in your initial request) that you, not a roommate or family member, need the notification—and, based on the last Echo-enabled device you interacted with, that you are now in your car. Therefore, the notification should go to your car rather than your home.

This level of prediction and reasoning will also need to account for video data as more and more Alexa-compatible products include cameras. Let’s say you’re not home, Prasad muses, and a Girl Scout knocks on your door selling cookies. The Alexa on your Amazon Ring, a camera-equipped doorbell, should register (through video and audio input) who is at your door and why, know that you are not home, send you a note on a nearby Alexa device asking how many cookies you want, and order them on your behalf.

To make this possible, Prasad’s team is now testing a new software architecture for processing user commands. It involves filtering audio and visual information through many more layers. First Alexa needs to register which skill the user is trying to access among the roughly 100,000 available. Next it will have to understand the command in the context of who the user is, what device that person is using, and where. Finally it will need to refine the response on the basis of the user’s previously expressed preferences.

Why It’s Hot:  “This is what I believe the next few years will be about: reasoning and making it more personal, with more context,” says Prasad. “It’s like bringing everything together to make these massive decisions.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Google Claims a Quantum Breakthrough That Could Change Computing

Google said on Wednesday that it had achieved a long-sought breakthrough called “quantum supremacy,” which could allow new kinds of computers to do calculations at speeds that are inconceivable with today’s technology.

The Silicon Valley giant’s research lab in Santa Barbara, Calif., reached a milestone that scientists had been working toward since the 1980s: Its quantum computer performed a task that isn’t possible with traditional computers, according to a paper published in the science journal Nature.

A quantum machine could one day drive big advances in areas like artificial intelligence and make even the most powerful supercomputers look like toys. The Google device did in 3 minutes 20 seconds a mathematical calculation that supercomputers could not complete in under 10,000 years, the company said in its paper.

Scientists likened Google’s announcement to the Wright brothers’ first plane flight in 1903 — proof that something is really possible even though it may be years before it can fulfill its potential.

Still, some researchers cautioned against getting too excited about Google’s achievement since so much more work needs to be done before quantum computers can migrate out of the research lab. Right now, a single quantum machine costs millions of dollars to build.

Many of the tech industry’s biggest names, including Microsoft, Intel and IBM as well as Google, are jockeying for a position in quantum computing. And venture capitalists have invested more than $450 million into start-ups exploring the technology, according to a recent study.

China is spending $400 million on a national quantum lab and has filed almost twice as many quantum patents as the United States in recent years. The Trump administration followed suit this year with its own National Quantum Initiative, promising to spend $1.2 billion on quantum research, including computers.

A quantum machine, the result of more than a century’s worth of research into a type of physics called quantum mechanics, operates in a completely different manner from regular computers. It relies on the mind-bending ways some objects act at the subatomic level or when exposed to extreme cold, like the metal chilled to nearly 460 degrees below zero inside Google’s machine.

“We have built a new kind of computer based on some of the unusual capabilities of quantum mechanics,” said John Martinis, who oversaw the team that managed the hardware for Google’s quantum supremacy experiment. Noting the computational power, he added, “We are now at the stage of trying to make use of that power.”

On Monday, IBM fired a pre-emptive shot with a blog post disputing Google’s claim that its quantum calculation could not be performed by a traditional computer. The calculation, IBM argued, could theoretically be run on a current computer in less than two and a half days — not 10,000 years.

“This is not about final and absolute dominance over classical computers,” said Dario Gil, who heads the IBM research lab in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where the company is building its own quantum computers.

Other researchers dismissed the milestone because the calculation was notably esoteric. It generated random numbers using a quantum experiment that can’t necessarily be applied to other things.

As its paper was published, Google responded to IBM’s claims that its quantum calculation could be performed on a classical computer. “We’ve already peeled away from classical computers, onto a totally different trajectory,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “We welcome proposals to advance simulation techniques, though it’s crucial to test them on an actual supercomputer, as we have.”

Source: NY Times

Why It’s Hot

It’s hard to even fathom what possibilities this opens, but it seems application is still a while away.

Immortalized in Film…? Not so fast.

Tencent Shows The Future Of Ads; Will Add Ads In Existing Movies, TV Shows

One of China’s largest online video platforms is setting out to use technology to integrate branded content into movies and TV shows from any place or era.

(Yes, a Starbucks on Tatooine…or Nike branded footwear for the first moonwalk.)

Why It’s Hot:  

  1. Potentially exponential expansion of available ad inventory
  2. Increased targetability by interest, plus top-spin of borrowed interest
  3. Additional revenue streams for content makers
  4. New questions of the sanctity of creative vision, narrative intent and historical truth

Advertising is an integral part of any business and with increasing competition, it’s more important than ever to be visible. Mirriad, a computer-vision and AI-powered platform company, recently announced its partnership with Tencent which is about the change the advertising game. If you didn’t know, Tencent is one of the largest online video platforms in China. So how does it change the advertising game, you ask?

Mirriad’s technology enables advertisers to reach their target audience by integrating branded content (or ads) directly into movies and TV series. So, for instance, if an actor is holding just a regular cup of joe in a movie, this new API will enable Tencent to change that cup of coffee into a branded cup of coffee. Matthew Brennan, a speaker and a writer who specialises in analysing Tencent & WeChat shared a glimpse of how this tech works.

While we’re not sure if these ads will be clickable, it’ll still have a significant subconscious impact, if not direct. Marketers have long talked of mood marketing that builds a personal connection between the brand and the targeted user. So, with the ability to insert ads in crucial scenes and moments, advertisers will now be able to engage with their target users in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Mirriad currently has a 2-year contract with Tencent where they’ll trial exclusively on the latter’s video platform. But if trials are successful in that they don’t offer a jarring viewing experience, we can soon expect this tech to go mainstream.

All drinks are on the house

A new bar opened its doors in St. Louis, and it’s charging customers by the hour. According to Open Concept’s website, when you open a tab, you’re paying for access to the space — not the booze. The rates: $10/hr for a regular open bar, and $20 for top-shelf liquor.

The entire experience is powered by a backend technology that the bar developed and owns. Customers are encouraged to buy their time in advance on the bar’s website, though walk-ins are also accepted. (Guests are able to tip the bartenders either in advance at the door or with cash after each order.) Those who booked online will receive a confirmation code to show at the door; all customers also receive text messages at the bar alerting them as to how much time they have left on their booking.

Open Concept also uses its technology to track all of a customer’s consumption and keep the bar in compliance with legal limits.

Founder and proprietor, Michael Butler, who also moonlights as the city’s current recorder of deeds, got the idea from fundraising parties while running for office after open-bar fundraising events were successful during his campaign.

Why it’s hot:
At a time when younger generations are notoriously cutting back on their alcohol consumption, that flat guaranteed rate might be more valuable than hoping customers keep buying more the longer they stay.

Creators of modern rechargeable batteries share Nobel prize

If you had to slip a couple AAs into your smartphone every morning to check your email, browse Instagram and text your friends, chances are the mobile revolution would not have been quite so revolutionary. Fortunately the rechargeable lithium-ion battery was invented — a decades-long task for which three men have just been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The prize this year honors M. Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough and Akira Yoshino, all of whom contributed to the development of what is today the most common form of portable power. Without them (and of course those they worked with, and those who came before) we would be tied to even more wasteful and/or stationary sources of energy.

Lead-acid batteries had been in use for nearly a century by the time people really got to thinking about taking things to the next level with lithium, a lightweight metal with desirable electrical properties. But lithium is also highly reactive with air and water, making finding suitable substances to pair it with difficult.

Experiments in the ’50s and ’60s laid the groundwork for more targeted investigations, in particular Whittingham’s. He and partner Fred Gamble showed in 1976 that lithium ions, after donating electrons to produce a charge, fit perfectly into a lattice of titanium disulfide — where they sit patiently (in their “van der Waals gaps”) until an electron is provided during recharging. Unfortunately this design also used a lithium anode that could be highly reactive (think fire) if bent or crushed.

John Goodenough and his team soon developed a better cathode material (where the lithium ions rested) with a much higher potential — more power could be drawn, opening new possibilities for applications. This, combined with the fact that the metallic lithium anodes could be highly reactive (think fire) if bent or crushed, led to increased research on making batteries safe as well as useful.

The three scholars whose work most powerfully advanced this technology from theory to commercial reality were awarded equal shares of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, each taking home a third of the nearly million dollars and, more importantly, the distinction of being recognized in historic fashion.

Source: TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

Makes you realize the innovation we take for granted, as something as seemingly simple as this required decades of work.

Orwellabama? Crimson Tide Track Locations to Keep Students at Game

Coach Nick Saban gets peeved at students leaving routs early. An app ties sticking around to playoff tickets, but also prompts concern from students and privacy watchdogs.

The Alabama football coach, has long been peeved that the student section at Bryant-Denny Stadium empties early. So this season, the university is rewarding students who attend games — and stay until the fourth quarter — with an alluring prize: improved access to tickets to the SEC championship game and to the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, which Alabama is trying to reach for the fifth consecutive season.

But to do this, Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step: using location-tracking technology from students’ phones to see who skips out and who stays. “It’s kind of like Big Brother,” said Allison Isidore, a graduate student in religious studies from Montclair, N.J.

It also seems inevitable in an age when tech behemoths like Facebook, Google and Amazon harvest data from phones, knowing where users walk, what they watch and how they shop. Alabama isn’t the only college tapping into student data; the University of North Carolina uses location-tracking technology to see whether its football players and other athletes are in class.

Greg Byrne, Alabama’s athletic director, said privacy concerns rarely came up when the program was being discussed with other departments and student groups. Students who download the Tide Loyalty Points app will be tracked only inside the stadium, he said, and they can close the app — or delete it — once they leave the stadium. “If anybody has a phone, unless you’re in airplane mode or have it off, the cellular companies know where you are,” he said.

But Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy watchdog, said it was “very alarming” that a public university — an arm of the government — was tracking its students’ whereabouts.

“Why should packing the stadium in the fourth quarter be the last time the government wants to know where students are?” Schwartz said, adding that it was “inappropriate” to offer an incentive for students to give up their privacy. “A public university is a teacher, telling students what is proper in a democratic society.”

The creator of the app, FanMaker, runs apps for 40 colleges, including Clemson, Louisiana State and Southern California, which typically reward fans with gifts like T-shirts. The app it created for Alabama is the only one that tracks the locations of its students. That Alabama would want it is an example of how even a powerhouse program like the Crimson Tide is not sheltered from college football’s decline in attendance, which sank to a 22-year low last season.

The Tide Loyalty Points program works like this: Students, who typically pay about $10 for home tickets, download the app and earn 100 points for attending a home game and an additional 250 for staying until the fourth quarter. Those points augment ones they garner mostly from progress they have made toward their degrees — 100 points per credit hour. (A regular load would be 15 credits per semester, or 1,500 points.)

The students themselves had no shortage of proposed solutions.

“Sell beer; that would keep us here,” said Harrison Powell, a sophomore engineering major from Naples, Fla.

“Don’t schedule cupcakes,” said Garrett Foster, a senior management major from Birmingham, referring to Alabama’s ritually soft non-conference home schedule, which this year includes Western Carolina, Southern Mississippi and New Mexico State. (Byrne has set about beefing it up, scheduling home-and-home series with Texas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, but those don’t start until 2022.)

In the meantime, there is also time for students to solve their own problems, which is, after all, the point of going to college. An Alabama official figured it would not be long before pledges are conscripted to hold caches of phones until the fourth quarter so their fraternity brothers could leave early.

“Without a doubt,” said Wolf, the student from Philadelphia. “I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s the first game. There will be workarounds for sure.”

As for whether the app, with its privacy concerns, early bugs and potential loopholes, will do its job well enough to please Saban was not a subject he was willing to entertain as the sun began to set on Saturday. He was looking ahead to the next opponent: South Carolina.

 

Why It’s Hot:  

Another example of a brand/institution using gamification to influence behavior, this takes it a step further – pushing towards the edge of the privacy conversation, and perhaps leading us all to consider what might be an acceptable “exchange rate” for personal information.

Via now drives your kids home.

Via, a leading provider and developer of on-demand public mobility, was selected by the New York City Department of Education to provide a school bus management system for the nation’s largest school district.

As the largest school district in the nation, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) transports approximately 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes each and every day to get students safely to and from school across the City.

“Via for Schools” will be the first integrated, automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform in the world.

Via for Schools will utilize a flexible algorithm, which allows for both stop-to-school and home-to-school pickups, accommodating students regardless of their learning style, mobility constraints, or where they live.

 

 

Parents and students will have the ability to track, in real-time, their bus’ whereabouts and receive frequent and reliable communications in the event of service changes, improving safety and bringing important peace of mind to all users of the system. By utilizing Via’s best-in-class algorithms to optimize school bus routing, the Department of Education will be able to achieve operational efficiencies and reduce transportation costs.

 

Why it’s hot:

NYC has been a testing ground for partnering with brands to improve life in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world. This partnership is a slight variation on the same model, but rather than leasing out Via cars to the city, they’re giving away the technology behind Via.

Source: Fast Company

 

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

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

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

Why It’s Hot

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

Selfies Get Serious: Introducing the 30-second selfie full-fitness checkup

Keeping an eye on subtle changes in common health risks is not an easy task for the average person. Yet, by the time real symptoms are obvious, it’s often too late to take the kind of action that would prevent a problem from snow-balling.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed an app that appears capable of turning a 30-second selfie into a diagnostic tool for quantifying a range of health risks.

“Anura promises an impressively thorough physical examination for just half a minute of your time. Simply based on a person’s facial features, captured through the latest deep learning technology, it can assess heart rate, breathing, stress, skin age, vascular age, body mass index (yes, from your face!), Cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke risk, cardiac workload, vascular capacity, blood pressure, and more.”

It’s easy to be skeptical about the accuracy of results possible from simply looking at a face for 30 seconds, but the researchers have demonstrated accuracy of measuring blood pressure up to 96% – and when the objective is to give people a way of realizing when it might be time to take action, that level of accuracy may actually be more than enough.

Why It’s Hot

For marketers looking to better identify the times, places and people for whom their products and services are likely to be most relevant, the convergence of biometrics with advanced algorithms and AI – all in a device most people carry around with them every day – could be a game-changer.

(This also brings up perennial issues of privacy & personal information, and trade-offs we need to make for the benefits emerging tech provides.)

Move Over, Alexa

Voice command devices, like Alexa and Siri, enable humans to engage, operate, and interact with technology thanks to the power of voice, but these technologies fail to account for the voiceless among us. Many people— including those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases, paralysis, or traumatic brain injuries— are unable to take advantage of such voice-user interface (VUI) devices. That’s where Facebook Reality Labs (FBR) comes in.

Image result for brain computer interface facebook

FBR has partnered with neuroscience professionals at UCSF to give a voice back to the voiceless by attempting to create the first non-invasive, wearable brain-computer interface (BCI) device for speech. This device would marry “the hands-free convenience and speed of voice with the discreteness of typing.” Although BCI technology is not new, the creation of BCI technology capable of converting imagined speech into text, without requiring implanted electrodes, would be.

Image result for brain computer interface gif

In a recently successful—albeit limited—study, UCSF researchers demonstrated that brain activity (recorded while people speak) could be used to decode what people were saying into text on a computer screen in real-time. However, at this time, the algorithm can only decode a small set of words.

Although promising, such results are preliminary, and researchers have a long way to go until the power of this silent speech interface technology can be harnessed non-invasively and in wearable form. What is more, researchers believe this BCI technology “could one day be a powerful input for all-day wearable [augmented reality (AR)] glasses.”

Why it’s hot

Such a radical innovation would not only help those who can’t speak, it could alter how all people interact with today’s digital devices.

Sourcehttps://tech.fb.com

Saving the Early Web

Software becomes obsolete, companies that host websites go out of business, people stop paying for domain names – history is being erased, but some brave crusaders are ensuring it remains documented. Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied are on a quest to preserve the early internet. And although it seems like an easy way to mock the early web, their efforts are focused on maintaining an archive as a way to learn how to make the internet better.

original url http://www.geocities.com/nelly_ville_21/ last modified 2003-03-27 22:06:24original url http://www.geocities.com/we_are_brave/ last modified 2003-03-27 19:10:11Source: https://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/

What started as an archive of what not to do online is slowly becoming a springboard for exploring new ways of experiencing the internet. With design, best practices and cookie-cutter web templates (wix, et al.) the internet has become somewhat of a sterile environment. Like a refined art gallery. And although user experience has improved vastly, much has been lost in the sterilization of the internet.

Today, platforms limit what you can post, and unless you are a developer you are forced into uniformity. But beyond that, the concept that the world wide web was made by individuals and accessible to all is fading. The modern internet is lacking in personality.

But we’re slowly seeing the early web aesthetic having comeback, slowly but surely. Websites are creeping up that embrace pixelated gifs and rainbow comic sans…


Official Captain Marvel Website: https://www.marvel.com/captainmarvel/

Official Bojack Horseman Website: http://www.bojackhorseman.com/

Why It’s Hot: As a digital agency, we should focus on ensuring best in class experiences for users, but should also be open to pushing the boundaries of what is conventional and look into the past for inspiration.

Purina Street Campaign Tests Dogs’ Urine To Assess Health

Pet product brand Purina knows how much pet owners love their furry friends, and wants to encourage routine vet visits. Accordingly, its latest campaign in France involves an outdoor billboard that can check a dog’s health via its urine.

Special billboards use pheromones to attract dogs to urinate on them, and then will run the sample through several tests to tell the owner the results. The tests look specifically for four common problems— diabetes, kidney issues, urinary infection or cholesterol. The results even recommend a particular Purina diet or to take the dog to the vet’s office for a checkup.

The goal is not just to make sure people’s pets are healthy, but also to encourage customers to associate Purina with health and wellness for their pups. “Purina’s objective is to provide simple and efficient solutions to improve the wellness of our pets. We wanted to raise awareness on the importance of veterinary checkups, but also to offer a solution that fits in the daily lives of pet owners—the daily walk on the street or in the park,” Véronique Herman, marketing manager specialist at Nestlé Purina Pet Care, says in a statement.

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot: 

A good way to show a brand’s dedication a a broader cause for it’s audience, as well as execute on more innovation OOH marketing.

 

Keurig of Cocktails or Juicero of Cocktails?

Drinkworks Keurig for Cocktails 6

Drinkworks, a joint venture between Keurig and Anheuser-Busch transforms pods of distilled cocktails into single-serve drinks such as gin and tonics, Mai Tais and Old Fashioned. It’s price point, $399, reminds us of the now infamous Jiucero’s price, not cheap.

Cocktail culture is thriving in the US as more and more Americans ditch beer and the industry giants are ready to play in the field. Each capsule will spout out a single-serve drink and act as an automated bartender for cocktail lovers and home entertainers alike.

“You can get a cocktail in a can, but it’s not the same experience,” Drinkworks CMO Val Toothman told Business Insider. “Cocktails … are a culture. It’s an experience. You want something crafted, freshly made.”

 

 

Why it’s hot: Pod machines are under more scrutiny since the Juicero scandal and companies have to bring a real products that really innovate to solve real needs to market.

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com/keurig-cocktails-drinkworks-makes-cocktails-from-pods-2019-3#each-sleeve-contains-four-pods-each-cocktail-pod-costs-399-with-beer-which-we-didnt-test-costing-225-per-pod-3

Woebot – Highly Praised App for Mental Health

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

Why It’s Hot

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

Why it Matters

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

Obligatory Statement

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

Smart cat shelter uses AI to let stray cats in during winter

For stray cats, winter is almost fatal. Using AI, a Baidu engineer has devised an AI Smart Cattery to shelter stray cats and help them survive Beijing’s cold winter.

It can accurately identify 174 different cat breeds, as to let them enter and exit as they please. A door will slide open if the camera spots a cat, but it won’t work on dogs. Multiple cats can fit inside the space.A fresh air system monitors the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to ensure the small space is well-ventilated.

Another neat camera feature is that it can be also used to detect if the cat is sick — it can identify four common cat diseases, such as inflammation, skin problems, and physical trauma. Once a cat is identified as needing care, associated volunteers can be informed to come and collect it.

Why it’s Hot: A neat implementation of AI for good – it pushes us to think beyond using AI for just marketing purposes and lets us imagine it’s role in helping solve human (and animal) problems. 

 

dorito’s solves its age old problem…

Who doesn’t love Dorito’s? Nacho, Cool Ranch, Flamin’ Hot, whatever you fancy, they’re a classic and delicious snack. But for as long as they have existed, eating them has come at a price – Dorito’s fingers, the unshakeable film of Dorito’s dust that ends up all over everything you touch unless you clean your hands after each chip. 

But your clothes, furniture, pets, and gaming controllers no longer have to live in fear, for the Dorito’s Towel Bag is here, giving Dorito’s lovers a way to clean their hands while eating their favorite snack.

Why it’s hot

It’s a beautiful example of a brand embracing its essence, while improving its experience. Dorito’s dust is part of what makes Dorito’s the chip they are. But instead of eliminating it and changing the product, they created a new one to embrace their product’s dark side.

Casper’s Connected Nightlight

Casper’s new nightlight, the Glow, is far more than the nightlight you may have had in your bedroom as a child. While the product was inspired by the less harsh feeling of candlelight or lamplight, the Glow is future-forward. It’s a customizable connected device that can help improve sleep.

The light is meant to ease you into sleep by syncing with your body’s circadian rhythm, and slowly dimming as you prepare to fall asleep.

The Glow is connected to an app so that users can easily program the length of time the light takes to dim–from fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. Once the settings are saved once, the light will activate the same way each time someone picks it up to get it started. The light can also be twisted to dim or brighten manually.

The light, which retails for $89 or $169 for two, primarily sits on a charging base, but is also portable. The idea is that if you are getting up in the middle of the night, you can pick up the Glow and bring it with you, illuminating your way without disturbing a partner or having to flip on bright overhead lights that can single your body to wake up.

Why It’s Hot

As wellness and self-care continues to be such a pervasive topic, consumers are very aware of the importance of getting a full night’s sleep, and willing to try new strategies and products to help them break the habit of staring at their phones in bed. With competition increasing from other mattress companies, Casper is pushing ahead into becoming more of a lifestyle brand with a holistic approach to sleep.

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90293556/the-future-of-jeans-inside-the-levis-innovation-lab-bringing-denim-into-2019 

Mobile Supermarkets IRL

If the people don’t go to the grocery store, have the grocery store come to them. Stop & Shop is planning to pilot driverless vehicles that bring the grocery store to the customer rather than the other way around. 
Source: https://www.supermarketnews.com/retail-financial/stop-shop-test-self-driving-grocery-stores

Due to launch in the spring in Boston, the initiative will use autonomous electric vehicles from Robomart Inc. to carry an assortment of produce, meal kits, and convenience items to customers.

The process works as follows:
– Stop & Shop customers use a smartphone app to request a shopping visit from the closest Robomart.
– When the vehicle arrives, customers go outside, unlock the vehicle’s doors and then pick the fruit, vegetables and other products they want to buy off the shelves inside.
– After taking their items, they just close the doors and send the vehicle on its way.
– The vehicles’ RFID and computer vision ”grab-and-go” technologyautomatically records the products customers selected and charges them.
– Receipts are e-mailed in seconds.

Answers to questions you may be asking yourself:

  1. Stop & Shop store associates will be restocking the teleoperated vehicles with fresh items throughout their journey to ensure the best selection.
  2. Perishables will be kept fresh via purpose-built refrigeration and temperature control.
  3. Pricing and fees are still undetermined.

Why it’s hot: This solution could potentially eliminate the biggest pain point in online food delivery, allowing the customer to select their own produce.

Prime Design & How Fitting Rooms Could Become Obsolete

Amazon’s private label fashion business has faced several hurdles, but continued investment – Prime Wardrobe, Echo Look, and numerous pure play e-comm acquisitions – proves that they won’t stand for anything less than front row.

Recently, Amazon has acquired Body Labs – a firm which promises to bring 3D models to life. For fashion, accurately predicting size and fit across a diverse consumer base has always been a reach goal. Designers and other stakeholders in the supply chain have long relied on antiquated data, often based on models of an average person, and no one brand has found a scalable solution for custom-designed clothing.

While Body Labs can’t solve for customized design, it can provide brands with a range of different models and bodies that would validate the fit of different patterns, which makes for better fitting clothing.

If Amazon’s private label clothing knows your fit better than any brand can, why would you shop anywhere else?

Why it’s hot:

As personalization is becoming table stakes, Amazon’s foray into one of the most significant aspects of individual expression once again shows that any market can instantaneously become amazon-takes-all.

 

 

 

Giving Musk a Run for His Money

Russia’s (in)famous Kalashnikov manufacturing company has revealed it’s first electric car. The prototype, shown for the first time at an event near Moscow is a throwback to a Soviet hatchback created in the 1970s. But it’s looks are the only thing retro about it. It’s makers have said it is a revolutionary cutting-edge “supercar” that can compete with the likes of Tesla.

There are still some kinks to iron out, but they’re hoping they’ll be able to offer would be able to travel 220 miles (350 km) on a single charge and with a higher top speed than other e-cars on the market.

“Kalashnikov has been looking to take its brand in different directions and recently launched a clothing line and a catalogue of personal items ranging from umbrellas to smartphone covers.”

Reactions to this latest venture have been mixed, from ridicule to praise of its cool look.

Why it’s hot:

  1. It’s a bold and interesting design choice and it will be interesting to see whether this sparks a trend in a greater variety of e-car designs.
  2. A good example of the growing trend of companies diversifying their brand offerings.

Source: https://themoscowtimes.com/news/kalashnikov-unveils-electric-car-seeking-to-dethrone-tesla-62644

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

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

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

 

Why it’s hot:

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

Nike is heading to a famed LA shopping area to reinvent itself as a data-driven, direct-to-consumer brand

Nike unveiled its new concept store, Melrose by Nike, on Melrose Avenue in LA. Everything about it, including its location and the products it stocks, is determined by how people in the area interact with the brand.

The idea is to blend the physical and digital shopping experience. Everything about the store is designed to work with the Nike Plus app.  As soon as you enter the geo-fenced area, you start getting special deals on the app. If they think you’d be interested in a product they have on hand, whether you’ve specified it or not, they’ll reserve it for you in your size. All you have to do is access one of the many lockers in the store. If you see apparel you like, you scan the code, and a salesperson will come to you with it in your size.

Why it’s hot:

Brick and mortar business has grown stale. By blurring the line between digital and physical shopping, the customer will have a more personalized experience.

Plastic Measures

Plastic is one of the most abundant man-made materials found on earth. With over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic recorded in 2017, it’s safe to say that it’s a massive problem. Bottles and bags are spearheading this problem. When purchasing a water bottle it’s evident that there are some ridiculously priced products in the market but a common misconception is “because of the brand name”, though that plays a part in the price, the cost pertains mostly to the plastic, not the actual water (how shocking).

Image result for plastic pollution

Evian, noticing this issue, is taking the first step forward and has pledged that by 2025 all of their bottles will be made from 100% recycled plastic. Eliminating the use of plastic overall would be best case scenario but this is still a righteous move. National Geographic states, “every year another 350 million tons of new plastic is created but only a tiny percentage is ever recycled.” A breakthrough came from Loop Industries’ founder Daniel Solomita who wanted “to find a way to take all of the world’s PET plastic – the most common kind of plastic”. Loop has found “a unique catalyst that breaks down PET plastic with zero heat and zero pressure” this monumental discovery is incremental to the future of recycling plastic due to the fact that the only two methods of recycling plastic at the moment utilize high heat and intense pressure.

Additionally, “This zero energy depolymerization is what allows Loop Industries to do what nobody else can do—recycle any size, shape and color of PET plastic waste into virgin-quality PET plastic resin on an industrial scale.”

Why it’s hot:
It’s so hot that it’s super cool. It really takes the pressure off of traditional methods and because the main focus is to keep the technology as simple as possible for simpler implementation and distribution no one has to take the heat. This is super exciting because this is an absolutely smashing step towards sustainability and guilt-free plastic. Now when you see a plastic bag drifting through the wind, you know it’s on its way to start again.

Source: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/06/sponsor-content-revolution-plastic-recycling/ 

Free Power From Freeways? China Is Testing Roads Paved With Solar Panels

The experiment is the latest sign of China’s desire to innovate in, and dominate, the increasingly lucrative and strategically important market for renewable energy. The country already produces three-quarters of the solar panels sold globally, and its wind-turbine manufacturing industry is also among the world’s largest.

The potential appeal of solar roads — modified solar panels that are installed in place of asphalt — is clear. Generating electricity from highways and streets, rather than in fields and deserts packed with solar panels, could conserve a lot of land. Those advantages are particularly important in a place like China, a heavily populated country where demand for energy has risen rapidly.

Because roads run through and around cities, the electricity could be used practically next door to where it is generated. That means virtually no power would be lost in transmission, as can happen with projects in outlying locations. And the land is essentially free, because roads are needed anyway. Roads must be resurfaced every few years at great cost, so the installation of durable solar panels could reduce the price of maintenance.

Solar roads could also change the driving experience. Electric heating strips can melt snow that falls on them. Light-emitting diodes embedded in the surface can provide illuminated signage to direct drivers to exits and alert them to construction and other traffic hazards.

The Harry Potter chess board is now a real thing.

You’re a chess enthusiast, but let’s face it: your chess board is probably collecting dust in your closet. Since no one in your household wants to play, you’re forced to play a game online or, even worse, not at all. Don’t worry—InfiVention Technologies will solve your issue with artificial intelligence.

InfiVention Technologies is redefining board games with the help of AI. Their product Square Off lets you play a game of chess on a real board with real chess pieces against opponents online or the artificial intelligence of the board. You will see your opponent’s every move in real-time, right in front of your eyes. The board uses magnets to move the pieces, while careful to not dislodge the adjacent pieces from their positions.

 

Training Mode

Why it’s Hot:

No one expected AI to take over board games—it’s often associated with computers. Since board games are rarely single player, many games have transitioned online to allow you to play at your own convenience. This brings back the charm in playing chess.

Source:  This Robotic Chessboard Is Like Something Out of Harry Potter

Honda shows off a cute and high-tech food stand

At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Honda debuted what they call “’a unique form of electric mobility” that was “born to make each person’s ideas and dreams come true.” Its “use is limited only by the imagination.’

Or in other words, it’s a self-driving cooler with LED eyes.”

RoboCas, a cooler-shaped robot with a a telescoping awning

Hello, RoboCas

But Honda has big dreams for this little friend, imagining uses from food vendors to family beach holidays. Honda imagines people using it to open cafes or curry shops wherever they may roam. RoboCas “can follow people in its unique, cute way, bringing happiness and joy to everyone,” the company says. There’s also a Windows tablet stuck on the back, if that helps.

A mobile food vendor prepares her cafe while a man and child sit at a table, ready to order

Could RoboCas change the way mobile food vendors set up shop?

Learn more at the Verge

Internal Innovation Meets Telemedicine

As telemedicine becomes more and more prevalent in our healthcare, Warby Parker just took a very traditional appointment from the exam room; to your living room. The eye exam.

Warby Parker, whose “try before you buy” model of online glasses shopping has already disrupted the traditional eyewear retail store found that many of their users were needing more of an “Rx check” rather than a comprehensive eye exam.

This prescription confirmation, as WB calculates it is nearly a $5B market. So they decided to launch their own startup to capture the demand.  during the 2017 Fast Company Innovation Festival co-CEO Dave Gilboa stated

“We realized that we could use tech to make the experience newer, better, and faster,”

The new Perscitipn Check app leverages a desktop plus mobile experience to check the “health” of your current prescription. After the user completes a few tests the results are compared to a database. If the results are within spec, the user pays $40 for a licensed dr to confirm and write a new prescription. If out of spec, the app instructs the user to go for a traditional comprehensive eye exam. The $40 fee is over a 50% discount from a traditional eye exam.

 

Why It’s Hot

Warby Parker has once again launched innovation in a stagnate market space. Not only did they see that there was an experience gap for their customers, but also decided to take the risks and empower innovation from within. Companies who are humble enough to understand their “on-top” status won’t last forever often employee their best and brightest to create their own competition. This way they get the best new innovation without the delays of typical corporate sponsorship, and they see how the market might compete before a real competitor does.

Overcoming the Challenges of Wearable Tech

Project Jacquard, an experimental initiative from Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, has partnered with Levi’s to create the Commuter Trucker denim jacket.


Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/40473911/google-and-levis-stitch-up-a-connected-jacket

“Aside from a couple of visual tells—subtle patches of raised stitches and a plastic button on its cuff—the Levi’s Commuter Trucker looks exactly like what you’d expect from the 144-year-old brand: a timeless jean jacket that keeps you warm while looking cool. But appearances deceive. The jacket is actually an interface between you and your phone. Brush, tap, or cover the right spot and you can answer or ignore calls, switch up your music, or get travel-time updates, all without looking at a screen.”

The Challenges

  1. Creating durable conductive thread. Tech is treated with gloves, textiles are meant to endure tough situations from being exposed to fire (to remove extra cotton fibers) to heated presses and pre-skewing (Levi’s process where toothed grips latch and torque the fabric).
  2. Figuring out how the wearer would interact with the interface, which is stitched onto the sleeve). “Levi’s and Google arrived at four main motions: brush in, brush out, tap, or cover the connected area. The actions are subtle enough so you can silence an incoming phone call during a conversation and it just looks like you’re brushing dust off your sleeve.”

Although relatively primitive, the gestures don’t do much more than what the remote control on earbuds, this is a starting point.

Why it’s hot:

  • Because although voice-based interactions are becoming more an more prevalent (Siri or Alexa), touch still has an important role to play in our future interactions with new technology meant to disrupt and replace our screens.

Play music on your Oreos

Oreo is a popular snack around the world, but is apparently not so popular with Chinese teenagers. A media and creative arts team at Dimension Plus (agency based in Taipei and Hong Kong), combined Oreo cookies with something most teens love: music.

The result was ‘Oreo Vinyl’, tiny cookies embossed with miniature grooves that play music just like a vinyl record. These cookies are housed inside a cardboard pack, with each cookie playing the “Oreo Anthem” in a different musical style. The project actively involved teens by getting participants at the Strawberry Music Festival, a popular youth event held in Shanghai, to compose each of the different songs.

The grooves on the cookies were made with laser cutting and engraving machines. The cookies can then be played with the Oreo Vinyl Record Player contained in each pack.

Why it’s hot:

Oreo found a way to directly connect with their target audience both in the creation of this concept and in its deployment. This is an innovation that is both unexpected and functional that is sure to increase audience engagement with the brand.