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.

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.

You can still be a Toys ‘R’ Us Kid

Toys ‘R’ Us back… sort-of…

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Tru Kids, the owner of the Toys ‘R’ Us brand is “bringing back the Toys ‘R’ Us brand in a modern way through a strong experiential and content-rich omnichannel concept,” Richard Barry, CEO of Tru Kids, said in a statement.

Learning from its prior mistakes of not embracing technology and a digital transformation, this relaunch is purely digital and content-focused in nature, partnering with Target and Candytopia to help with ecommerce and real-life, memorable experiences.

Dubbed “The Toys R Us Adventure,” the company partnered with Candytopia to create the experiential pop-ups in Chicago and Atlanta and feature more than a dozen interactive play rooms, larger-than-life toys, and installations featuring Geoffrey, the brand’s giraffe mascot.

Why it’s hot: Toys ‘R’ Us’ was the poster child for death by tech, with its rejection of ecommerce and digital transformation. Now the company is trying to show everyone it can learn from its mistakes. The question is, will the nostalgia of Toys ‘R’ Us be enough to drive expensive experiential store visits. It’ll be interesting to see if this attempt at jumping into the digital deep end will have a happy ending. If it does work, will we start seeing the return of other brands who failed to innovate? Blockbuster Video? Tower Records?

Sources: FastCo, Business Insider, ToysRUs.com, Forbes

 

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.

An Insurance Company that Pre-Pays?

Australian insurer, National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), is refunding customers that spend money to protect their homes from disaster by using claims data to identify homes at risk of flooding, storm damage and other disasters.

It invited people to download Safety Hub, a custom-built app, and rewarded them for carrying out home maintenance tasks that reduced the risk of catastrophic damage.

The app combined geographical data with risk profiles to tell people about personalized tasks that they could complete to lower the risk of damage to their homes.

Each time a task was completed, money was paid straight into the customer’s bank account. If the task required the services of a professional, NRMA would pay for that, too.

By giving customers authority over the safety of their home and rewarding them for completing checks, NRMA can not only reduce how much it must pay, it creates transparency. And giving people partial control over their safety can work to empower those in high-risk communities where they are more likely to suffer disasters.

Source: Contagious

Why it’s hot:

NRMA has the chance to create a new standard in insurance with this new initiative. While it saves the company money, it also demonstrates its commitment to its customers, to help them avoid disasters.

This is a good example of how a company leveraged its first-party data with geographical data to create a predictive model and help incentivize customers to avoid costly disasters.

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.)

Take a photo, learn a language

Spark, a New Zealand telecom company, partnered with Google and Te Aka, an online Māori dictionary, to create an app that translates photos of objects into the language of the indigenous people of New Zealand.

The app is called Kupu. It uses machine vision technology to identify objects in a photo and then translates the name of the object into Te Reo Māori.

Why it’s hot: A fun and natural way of promoting and preserving an indigenous language through everyday life.

Source

 

Stress Mapping

BioSay, a Boston startup has created a biometric measurement app that monitors stress levels through inbuilt sensors on a smartphone. The app monitors the how different places and environments affect a user’s emotional state.

Users have to place their finger over their smartphone camera which can detect their heart rate; the reading is called a “bioji”. The app also analyzes facial expressions and voice (through the camera and mic) to aggregate data about their mood. By using location services, the app can gather data about the user’s environment and users are encouraged to add their own data by adding notes or tagging friends they are with.

“Biojis” can be shared or kept private, although the apps founders would like for the data to be shared on a larger scale so that other users and healthcare providers can see how different places are impacting people.

‘The war on stress, depression and disease will not be won by survival of the fittest where data is locked away and we can’t learn from one another, it will be won by collaboration,’ explained Donalds during her TED Talk, featured above. ‘As we endeavour to fight the war on stress, depression and disease our data must not be divided but united.’

The impact that different businesses have on people’s emotional states can be mapped by BioSay, too. This is good news for brands if people leave their stores smiling, but not so great if the experiences they offer cause stress. Smart companies will use the data to gain insights into how they can improve and enhance their customers’ wellbeing.

Why it’s hot: 

  1. Because users can start to understand the lifestyle choices they may not be aware of that are negatively influencing their health.
  2. What’s this going to do for brands with physical locations?

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

Andreeson Horowitz launches new diversity-focused fund

Andreessen Horowitz has unveiled its Cultural Leadership Fund, a vehicle that will be used to back multicultural founders. Reports of the fund emerged earlier this month, with The Wall Street Journal noting it will total about $15 million. LPs in the fund include Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kevin Durant, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Richelieu Dennis and Shonda Rimes, among others.

The stated goals of the fund are twofold:

  1. Connect the greatest cultural leaders in the world to the best new technology companies
  2. Enable more young African Americans to enter the technology industry

WHY IT’S HOT: 

As part of Andreessen Horowitz’s main investing fund, the Culture fund will “focus purposefully and intently on creating opportunities for people of color in tech.” Despite repeated vows the past few years to reverse a woeful track history of diversity in tech, progress has been glacial. Only 3% of the U.S. tech workforce is black, while 57% of the workforce is white, according to data compiled by market research firm IHS Markit. With the help of a set of diverse leaders, the CLF will aim to reverse this trend.

SOURCE: https://a16z.com/2018/08/22/introducing-the-cultural-leadership-fund/

A programmable Harry Potter wand is coming this fall

Kano, a company that makes kid-friendly coding products, is releasing a programmable Harry Potter wand in the fall.

Children (and I’m sure many adults) will be able to build code-able wands with their own spells. They will be able to customize puzzle bits of code. They customizations range from changing the color of the spell, length, or even what the spell does. You can even share your spell afterwards. Unfortunately, you can’t have your spells interact with real-life objects. Instead, you interact with an app on a tablet.

Why it’s hot:

People love Harry Potter, especially kids. They can get lost in the magical world while learning the foundational elements of coding.

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/90204670/kanos-releasing-a-programmable-harry-potter-wand-this-fall

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.

The future of surveillance will be automated

New machine learning techniques are giving surveillance cameras the ability to capture suspicious behavior without the help of human supervision

A Japanese telecom company NTT East built AI Guardman, a new AI security cam with startup Earth Eyes Corp. They combined open source technology developed by Carnegie Mellon to scan video streams with their own algorithm that matches the data from these streams to ‘suspicious’ behavior. From early testing, NTT East claims AI Guardman reduced shoplifting in stores by roughly 40 percent.

But there are potential problems with this security camera. First, it sometimes misidentifies indecisive customers (who might pick up an item, put it back, and then pick it up again) and salesclerks who are restocking shelves as potential shoplifters. Second, it is possible that the data may be biased towards certain groups.

Why it’s Hot:

Currently, store owners may only know if they were shoplifted when it comes to their attention, which could be several hours after the fact. Once this technology is made available, they can be alerted of suspicious behavior in real time.

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

The emerging era of eCommerce

Snapchat and Instagram, two popular social media platforms are entering the world of e-commerce. Both platforms point users in a shopping direction. Each of the apps increase their competition amongst each other as they battle to gain the most following. In today’s digital era, eCommerce is transforming the way we absorb information and online shop.

For Snapchat, eCommerce is utilized as Snapchat presents the “Shoppable Snap Ads”. In this specific ad, Snapchat promotes Spectacles camera sunglasses. Meanwhile, Instagram utilizes shopping in its feature of “Instagram Stories”. With this feature, retail stores can promote their merchandise one user at a time. Brands are slowly beginning to take over each Instagram user’s feed and what they see. Snapchat like its competitor, has a feature in which users can stay in the know about their favorite brands and see how they can take action.

Snapchat additionally utilizes eCommerce to promote Dunkin’ Donuts. As America runs on Dunkin (no pun intended), it allows for users to interact with the brand by playing a virtual reality game, designed as an ad. Snapchat additionally includes “carousel-style” shopping ads, where users can interact with different filters for their favorite brands and send to their friends.

Why it’s hot

eCommerce remains to be a hot topic in today’s ad world. eCommerce is a major influence to how agencies and brands engage with their clients and users. The social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat use eCommerce to their advantage. With fun and eye-catching ads, eCommerce helps increase brand awareness and grow meaningful relationships with clients. As a global customer relationship agency, MRM//McCann works to use eCommerce as a specific tool in which clients can successfully and effectively interact with their users.

Building Ikea Furniture in Harmony

Source: https://qz.com/1256576/robots-can-build-ikea-chairs-now/

Sounds impossible, right? Well for this pair of robots it’s not. After 3 long years, a research team in Singapore has successfully taught a pair of robots to build an Ikea Chair.

They are not the first to build furniture, but the only previous contender was back in 2003 when MIT robots built a simple Lack table.

“And while a robot can be programmed to do a single assembly-line task efficiently, mastering all of the small tasks that IKEA assembly requires is a bigger challenge. Some of the same things humans struggle with, like fiddling with bags of screws, dowels, and doodads while trying to distinguish the slight variations in shape, are also difficult for robots.”

Their next goal is to go from teaching the robot ‘HOW to do it’, they want it to reason ‘WHAT to do’.

This AI will not just save time and stress, it can also save marriages. “The dynamics of flatpack furniture assembly contain a minefield of relationship conflict triggers, to the point where IKEA-related conflicts come up with surprising frequency in marriage counseling sessions.”

Additional reading: The psychology behind why couples always fight when assembling Ikea furniture

Why it’s Hot: 

  • Once we can train AI to accomplish these complex tasks, the next frontier is independent thinking.
  • We’re one step closer to a world where we don’t have to assemble Ikea furniture ourselves.

A Drone That Understands You

Amazon is filing for new patents. Not for a therapy drone, but a delivery drone that responds when you call or wave at it. The concept drone is designed to recognize human gestures, and then respond accordingly. Gestures the drone would recognize include, for example, waving arms, pointing, the flashing of lights, and speech.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/22/17150868/amazon-drone-patent-delivery-wave-speech-recognition

“The human recipient and/or the other humans can communicate with the vehicle using human gestures to aid the vehicle along its path to the delivery location,” the patent states. The patent gives an example of a “shooing” motion, which the drone would recognize and stop moving closer. The drone would also then adjust its speed and the direction it’s moving in. If a person waves their arms in a welcoming manner, the drone can interpret the gesture as an instruction to deliver the package.

There’s no word on when or even whether the gesture-recognition system might debut. Amazon declined to comment.

Why it’s hot:

  • It’s the evolution of drone delivery. Human-machine interaction is changing as devices need to cater to individual needs.

Increased Use of Point of Care Tactics Offer Opportunity For Better In-office Experience

MM&M announced this week that “up to 20% of pharma brands are moving digital media spend to point-of-care tactics” which was grounded in a study fielded by ZS Associates. To a certain extent, this is unsurprising as many forms of digital media such as social and display continue to face increasing scrutiny around the topic of ad fraud.

This will have an impact on two key audiences in healthcare marketing – patients and providers – which if well thought through, should be overwhelmingly positive.

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform

Patients

Platforms such as Phreesia offer patients the opportunity to engage with content as part of the intake process. The biggest challenge here will be placements that are relevant to the specific patient as there is a potential to spend effort on poor placements. Case in point; when I took my son to the pediatrician for his flu shot this year, I was offered the opportunity to “Learn More” about a branded product. The only thing I can recall about the brand is that is had nothing to do with why I was there and wouldn’t be appropriate for my son. Contextual relevance will be critical to success in these moments.

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth

Providers

HCPs, particularly PCPs, are the target of massive amounts of marketing. Overwhelming is an understatement here. When you consider the necessity of staying abreast of current trends and new therapies, to a certain extent, they need to be exposed to these messages. However, when it’s all said and done, the moment that matters is when the Rx decision is made. The opportunity to be a relevant part of that moment as part of the HCPs workflow in the EHR/EMR offers pharma companies an incredible opportunity. When you consider the number of drugs that don’t have the budget for mass DTC advertising, the HCP really is the decision maker in the therapy of choice.

Why It’s Hot

While contextual relevance for audiences is improving and offers plenty of potential, the real win will be when a brand can own the conversation across the moments in an office visit.

Consider a diabetes patient checking in for a check-up who is offered a message around potential therapy they may be eligible with a DTC ad based upon key factors pulled through from their EHR.

Then, at the end of the appointment, the HCP if offered a targeted message in the EHR with a savings offer the patient can print and take with them.

With brands doubling down on these POC channels, we have the opportunity to take the in-office experience to new levels.

Headless Pet

Want a pet but are too lazy, allergic, or maybe even a little weird? Japanese company, Yukai Engineering produced a solution: Qoobo! It’s basically a headless, motion-detecting cat pillow. For just $100, it’s expected to be in your lap by June 2018.

Why is this hot?

All jokes aside; this product can be greatly therapeutic and eliminates responsibility. It also gives us insight as to where technology is today. If pets are absolutely not an option, this is an easy Plan B. (Comes in Husky Gray & French Brown!)

Here’s the source: click!

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.

Robot, a kid’s best friend?

Robots are making their way into schools and education to help children lower their stress and boost their creativity. Among those who have diseases such as diabetes and autism, robots can even help restore their self-confidence.

One research shows that autism children engage better with robots than humans because they are simple and predictable.

Another research that works with children with diabetes makes their robots “imperfect” and have them make mistakes so they don’t intimidate the children. Children learn that they don’t have to be perfect all the time.

Why it’s hot (or not): are robots the right companions for children? What impact would it have on human interactions if children are exposed to AI at such a young age?

 

 

Predicting Malaria outbreaks from outer space

While only 10% of all malaria-related deaths happen in the Amazon region, that equals around 100,000 lost lives each year. So, as the rainy seasons begin, and temperatures rise, forest fall, and a thousand other factors occur, no one has really been able to get ahead of predicting where an outbreak may occur or even when it may occur — until now.

Bring in N.A.S.A.!

From Engadget: The tropical disease can bring on severe fever, headaches and chills and is particularly severe for children and the elderly and can cause complications for pregnant women. In rainforest-covered Peru the number of malaria cases has spiked such that, in the past five years, it has had on average the second highest rate in the South American continent. In 2014 and 2015 there were 65,000 reported cases in the country.

Why is this hot?

  • Good for the world: using U.S./NASA Landsat satellite systems for the greater good of the world’s poorer, more needy populations and their horrifying diseases is using existing technology in new ways.
  • Good for living: just think, if they can detect the outbreak, the government can disseminate NGO’s and supplies and perhaps minimize the death toll and the debilitating nature malaria has on the economy of struggling nations.
  • Good for reputation: this is a model for what a good-hearted world leader does.

Job recruiting with VR: an ethical question

We have on our hands a moral dilemma. Companies are increasingly using VR to train employees (see: KFC, Walmart, US Navy) – and now companies are beginning to explore VR as a recruitment tactic.

But what if the VR experience outshines the reality of the real job? Wired writes:

“To be sure, all recruiting and training materials, including traditional video, tend to accentuate the positive. But the immersive nature of VR means that it can make a stronger, more lasting impression on recruits and employees. “The idea is immersing your future employee in the job,” says Tuong H. Nguyen, a principal research analyst at IT advisory firm Gartner. VR “provides a more dynamic view of what the job is like.” He compares the experience to the difference between reading about or seeing a film of a sunset and seeing a sunset first-hand.”

Why it’s hot:

VR is obviously one of many shiny objects recruiters can use to attract and engage prospective and current employees. Plus, national or global firms who recruit talent from far and wide can use VR experiences to give potential employees a better sense of environments and situations they may experience on the ground, building confidence and interest. But what duties to recruiters have to show the reality, however virtual it may be, without misleading candidates?

Pillboxes May Not Belong in the “Internet of Things” After All

Many people working in the healthcare space have been excited about the potential of expanding device connectivity to medication administration in recent years. After all, pill bottles are “things” so why not incorporate them into the “Internet of Things,” right?

As a result, various private innovation firms, as well as major pharmaceutical companies, have been making significant investments in developing “connected” medication dispensing systems in an effort to combat poor treatment compliance.

Lack of compliance – a patient’s inability to take a given medication as intended by their physician – is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $100 billion to $300 billion dollars a year.

Take, for example, a therapy that is self-administered once daily that also needs to be titrated to meet the unique, metabolic needs of a particular patient. If the patient skips a few doses, goes in for a follow up and swears, “Scout’s Honor, Doc!” that he didn’t miss a day – but in fact only remembered to take it about 60% of the time – the dose adjustment the HCP gives him to meet his unique, but misrepresented, needs may trigger an adverse event – pharma-speak for “serious side-effect” – if he suddenly decides to take the medication as intended.

Now consider the value of a medication container that communicates with the patient’s Bluetooth equipped phone. It can remind the patient to take his medication, record the time it was taken down to the second, and, when paired with a wearable technology, could also record additional health related data that gives additional context. This additional context also gives the health care provider more context in which to manage chronic conditions.

When paired with a relevant app, it can also give an additional view into consumer behavior to help marketers better understand optimal cadence and content topics to increase performance in their marketing plans.

However, a recent study published in JAMA showed that a study of post heart attack patients who were provided electronic pill bottles, combined with financial incentives and social support for medication adherence, had the same outcome in terms of re-hospitalization rate, medication adherence, and total medical costs as those who were not provided these resources.

Why It’s Hot:

While making the health connection has been a major leap forward from a technological perspective, it hasn’t solved the challenge of reshaping human behavior. Yet.

Until this technology has a better rate of success in reshaping patient outcomes, broader adoption of this technology may be in question.

Produce is War: How Driscoll’s Reinvented the Strawberry

“Produce is war, and it is won by having something beautiful-looking to sell at Costco when the competition has only cat-faced uglies.” This lengthy New Yorker article recently dove into how Driscoll’s uses market insight and crop science to build their monopoly on the berry market.

Strawberry from New Yorker

“Driscoll’s focus groups have shown that millennials, adventurous and open-minded in their eating habits, and easily seduced by novelty, may embrace pale berries. With these consumers, unburdened by preconceived notions of what a white berry should look or taste like, Driscoll’s has a priceless opportunity: the definitional power that comes with first contact.”

“According to Frances Dillard, Driscoll’s global brand strategist and a veteran of Disney’s consumer-products division, berries are the produce category most associated with happiness. (Kale, in contrast, has a health-control, “me” focus.) On a slide that Dillard prepared, mapping psychographic associations with various fruits, strawberries floated between Freedom and Harmony, in a zone marked Extrovert, above a word cloud that read “Social, pleasure, joy, balance, conviviality, friendship, warmth, soft, natural, sharing.” (Blueberries vibed as status-oriented, demanding, and high-tech.) As I studied the slide over Dillard’s shoulder in her office, she smiled tightly and said, “This is proprietary.”

Why it’s hot: It’s pretty cool to learn how our favorite fruits came to be. I thought this was a cool case study in now market demand and consumer behavior drive product innovation and brand stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Smog Eating Bikes to Alleviate Beijing Smog

Beijing’s smog condition is out of control, but design firm Studio Roosegaarde is up for the challenge of reducing or eliminating it.

The anti-smog bicycles are expected to hit the Chinese city’s streets by the end of the year.

Here’s how the bikes work: A device installed near the handlebars of the bike sucks in smoggy air and filters out particulates like soot or dust, clearing the way for what will essentially be a bubble of clean air right in front of the rider.

The bikes are still in the planning stage, so their effectiveness has yet to be put to the test, but it’s possible that this air-filtration system could benefit more than just the cyclist who rides it. With Roosegaarde’s partner bike-sharing service Ofo providing access to over 6.5 million bikes in Asia and the U.K., a lot of air could end up running through those filters.

(Source:https://www.good.is/articles/beijing-bicycles-remove-smog-directly-from-the-air)

The design firm is known for creating other anti-smog tech. In 2016, they created a Smog Free tower, a 22 foot tall construction that can filter a million cubic feet an hour, with much of the particulate matter collected made into fashion accessories.

Why it’s Hot: 

  • Outside the box thinking of enabling everyday items to help reduce pollution and help the environment is another way of tackling our environmental concerns that is accessible and feasible.

Amplify the power transportation infrastructure

ViaPass – Designed for their most loyal commuters and to make Via more affordable than ever.

Customers can take unlimited Via rides for a week or a month at any time of day, anywhere below 125th Street in Manhattan and within their service zones in Brooklyn/Queens.

Members can choose between two unlimited-ride options:

  • 7-day unlimited ViaPass for $63+tax
  • 30-day unlimited ViaPass for $234+tax

Other incentives:

  • 20% off the base price on all airport trips
  • 50% off the base price on all trips between Manhattan and Brooklyn/Queens. Rides within Brooklyn/Queens are covered by the ViaPass
  • 50% off the base price on all ViaExpress trips

Why It’s Hot: Disrupting the transportation category including MTA with technology and innovation. Watch out for their IPO.