This week’s headline quotes Ryan Bradley’s article about pop-up restaurants - a familiar insight from another industry that speaks to the transformation of spaces (GQ “How pop-ups took over America’s restaurants”).
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures - including our newest entry on Experiential Retail. The Center's trend cards are also available to help you talk with colleagues and members of the community, map how trends fit together or how they fit into your community, or spark innovation activities.
As you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you're reading this week to help prepare for the future.
The Verge “What an ‘infinite’ AI-generated podcast can tell us about the future of entertainment”
Developed by PhD student James Ryan, Sheldon County is a podcast that will never sound the same twice, asking users to type a random number into a website that generates characters, relationships, jealousies, betrayals, and events in a text narrative that is read aloud by a voice synthesizer, and then zipped up into an audio file.
Wired “The quest to bring 3-D-printed homes to the developing world”
San Francisco-based housing charity New Story has partnered with construction technology company ICON to design a 3-D printer for building homes in regions of the world that lack the economic resources to house their poorest citizens – the companies recently showed off a 350-square-foot 3-D-printed structure, the first house in the country built to local housing code, that is a prototype of a fast, cheap, and sustainable home design. See also Next Big Future and The Verge.
GeekWire “For every 100 families living in poverty on the West Coast, there are no more than 30 affordable homes”
The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s new “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes” report finds that no state in the country has an adequate supply of rental homes for “extremely low-income” households, defined as families living at or below the poverty line – the most extreme shortages are in a handful of states, including Washington, California, and Oregon, where tech hubs are driving income inequality, but no state in the nation has more than 60 affordable rental units for every 100 families living at or below the poverty line.
Variety “Spotify enlists its users to add music metadata (EXCLUSIVE)”
Spotify has begun to solicit music metadata suggestions from its users, asking them to describe genres of albums or moods of songs – Spotify is using Line-In, a music metadata editor, to allow users to suggest edits that are reviewed by Spotify. See also Engadget.
GQ “How pop-ups took over America’s restaurants”
“Pop-up restaurant” can accurately describe everything from a parking-lot cookout to a brand activation to a fine-dining experience with some pop-ups serving as sneak previews, market tests of restaurants to come, or offerings from brick-and-mortar spots on another coast – their popularity shows how transient public tastes can be and how the public’s sense of community is changing.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
MarketWatch “Google’s parent company is using AI to make the internet safer for LGBT people”
GLAAD announced a partnership with Alphabet’s Jigsaw division to change the way artificial intelligence understands LGBT-related content online, training AI with positive LGBT-related content and teaching it phrases that are offensive to the LGBT community and those that are acceptable – because content related to marginalized or minority groups tends to generate more negative feedback than content not related to those groups does, artificially intelligent algorithms have started to learn in some cases that LGBT-related phrases are “bad” and end up censoring and deleting “bad” content on social media platforms, GLAAD has found.
Cities and Government
NextCity “L.A. names first Chief Design Officer”
The Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne will become the city’s first chief design officer, helping city engineering and transportation officials infuse design qualities into infrastructure and forming design competitions to recruit emerging architects for civic projects. See also CityLab.
Mashable “Lyft tests a bunch of 'all-access' subscription plans for frequent users”
Some Lyft users are being offered monthly subscription plans, testing different price points for rides (up to $15 each) for a lump sum up front – some offers included a $400 monthly plan for up to 60 rides, a weekly $50 plan with seven rides, a $300-for-30-rides plan, and a $199 plan for 30 rides in a month. See also CNET, Digital Trends, TechCrunch, TechSpot, and The Verge.
Communities and Demographics
The Washington Post “National Geographic confronts its past: ‘For decades, our coverage was racist’”
With its April 2018 issue, National Geographic focuses on race and its own history of racism – editor in chief Susan Goldberg discusses the findings of University of Virginia professor John Edwin Mason’s exploration of the magazine’s past, noting that “until the 1970s National Geographic all but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers…Meanwhile it pictured ‘natives’ elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages — every type of cliché.” See also Fast Company and NPR.
Mashable “Google Maps launches a 'wheelchair accessible' option for 6 cities”
Google Maps launched a "wheelchair-accessible" option for six major cities – London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney – that provides information about train and bus routes, including stations, that are wheelchair-friendly. See also CNET, Digital Trends, Gizmodo, and The Verge.
The Verge “Airbnb adds new search filters for people with disabilities”
Airbnb has added new filters to help people with disabilities more easily find accommodations – filters focus on step-free entry to rooms, wide entryways to fit wheelchairs, elevators, showers that can accommodate wheelchairs, ramps, and more. See also Engadget.
The Knight Foundation “College students show strong support for First Amendment, but some say diversity and inclusion is more important to a democracy than free speech, Gallup-Knight survey shows”
A new Gallup-Knight Foundation report reveals that while U.S. college students still overwhelmingly support an open learning environment on campus that allows all types of speech (70%) versus a positive one that puts limits on offensive speech (29%), this number has dropped since 2016, from 78% – and the majority of college students say protecting free speech rights (56%) and promoting a diverse and inclusive society (52%) are both extremely important to democracy.
Nieman Lab “Why do people go to Wikipedia? A survey suggests it’s their desire to go down that random rabbithole”
A Wikipedia study collecting 215,000 responses from visitors to Wikipedia pages across 14 languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, English, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian) finds that 35% of users said they were on the site to find a specific fact, 33% were looking for an overview of a topic, and 32% wanted to get information on a topic in-depth – when asked for their motivations for reading the Wikipedia page, intrinsic learning was the top motivator.
Gizmodo “Schools are spending millions on high-tech surveillance of kids”
Schools in Arkansas, New York, and across the country are spending millions to outfit their campuses with some of the most advanced surveillance technologies available, including face recognition to deter predators, object recognition to detect weapons, and license plate tracking to deter criminals – privacy and civil liberty experts are still debating the usefulness of these tools for the general public, but school officials see them as key to ensuring safety on campuses.
GeekWire “Cities join net neutrality fight with Open Internet Pledge spearheaded by New York City mayor”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the Cities Open Internet Pledge at South by Southwest, encouraging mayors to pledge to procuring internet services from providers that treat all lawful traffic the same and uphold net neutrality when providing city-owned WiFi and other internet services to their constituents.
The Washington Post “Melania Trump will meet with tech giants including Facebook and Google to talk cyberbullying”
First Lady Melania Trump reportedly plans to convene technology companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Snap to discuss ways to combat online harassment and promote Internet safety, the first major policy push in the First Lady’s long-ago announced campaign to combat cyberbullying. See also CNET, Fast Company, GeekWire, Gizmodo, and Mashable.
The Verge “YouTube will add information from Wikipedia to videos about conspiracies”
YouTube will add “information cue” text boxes with information from Wikipedia to videos about popular conspiracy theories to provide alternative viewpoints on controversial subjects. See also CNET, The Drum, Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, and TechSpot.
Gizmodo “Wikipedia had no idea YouTube was going to use it to fact-check conspiracy theories”
Wikipedia apparently learned about YouTube’s strategy at the same time as everyone else – a series of tweets from Wikimedia Executive Director asked the public to support Wikipedia as much as it relies on it. See also Wired.
The New York Times “How companies scour our digital lives for clues to our health”
The emerging field of digital phenotyping seeks to assess people’s well-being based on their interactions with digital devices, with researchers and technology companies monitoring users’ social media posts, calls, scrolls, and clicks in search of behavior changes that could correlate with changes in physical and mental health – the field is so new and so little studied that even proponents warn that some digital phenotyping may be no better at detecting health problems than a crystal ball.
News and Journalism
Nieman Lab “Reuters’ new automation tool wants to help reporters spot the hidden stories in their data (but won’t take their jobs)”
Reuters’ new Lynx Insights is an automation tool designed to augment reporting by surfacing trends, facts, and anomalies in data, which reporters can then use to accelerate the production of their existing stories or spot new ones – the tool will first be used in reporting on financial markets, to quickly determine the total value of merger and acquisition deals for a given year or analyze historical trends in commodities pricing. See also The Drum and Wired.
ArsTechnica “Apple is acquiring the Netflix of magazines”
Apple announced the acquisition of digital magazine service Texture, which serves articles from more than 200 magazines digitally on iOS, Windows, Amazon, and Android devices for a flat monthly fee. See also Advertising Age, Gizmodo, The Inquirer, ReCode, TechSpot, and The Verge.
Axios “Scoop: Facebook aiming to launch News for Watch this summer”
Facebook is reportedly preparing a standalone national news product for its Watch platform, testing different video partnerships with roughly 10 publishers – Facebook plans on launching the feature this summer and testing what works best. See also Advertising Age, Engadget, Fast Company, and Gizmodo.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
Washington Business Journal “Here's a new use for a shipping container: a D.C. library”
While the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library undergoes its three-year remodel, the D.C. Public Library has plans to distribute its services across various temporary sites, including a "Container Lab" housed in a 40-foot and one 20-foot shipping container that will "act as a mobile lab space to house and showcase library programs."
Cincinnati Business Courier “Macy's rolling out mobile checkout to hundreds of stores”
Macy's will make shopping easier with a new mobile checkout feature at a majority of its department store locations – the retailer is testing mobile checkout within its smartphone app that allows customers to scan their own items and have an employee verify purchases and remove security tags at an express lane.
Reuters “Zara to lure millennials with augmented-reality displays”
Fashion retailer Zara will introduce augmented reality displays in an effort to lure millennials into its stores – the displays show models wearing selected looks from its ranges when a mobile phone is held up to a sensor within the store or designated shop windows, with customers able to click through to buy the clothes.
The Washington Post “Toys R Us to close all 800 of its U.S. stores”
Toy store chain Toys R Us is planning to sell or close all 800 of its U.S. stores, affecting as many as 33,000 jobs, as the company winds down its operations after six decades – fearing further losses in the toy business, a group of toymakers led by Isaac Larian, chief executive of MGA Entertainment, submitted a bid to buy Toys R Us’s Canadian arm and expressed interest in buying as many as 400 U.S. stores. See also The Associated Press, Advertising Age, The Daily Dot, Digital Trends, Engadget, Fast Company, GeekWire, The Verge, and The Washington Post.
Engadget “Netflix won’t reward kids with 'patches' for watching TV”
Following reports that Netflix was testing a rewards program wherein children could earn "patches" for watching shows (Variety “Netflix is testing patches to gamify binging for kids”), Netflix has clarified that the feature won't be seeing a wide release.
Reuters “Exclusive: Amazon's internal numbers on Prime Video, revealed”
Internal documents obtained by Reuters show that Amazon’s U.S. audience for all video programming on Prime, including films and TV shows it licenses from other companies, was about 26 million customers – Amazon’s strategy to use video as a tool to convert viewers into shoppers appears to be working. See also CNET, Mashable, and TechSpot.
MarketWatch “Netflix is poised to enter the TV news business”
Netflix is reportedly in the early stages of developing a weekly news magazine show in line with CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s 20/20 that it hopes will be “sharp, balanced” – the move follows efforts to develop current affairs talk shows from David Letterman, Joel McHale, Hasan Minhaj, Michelle Wolf, and Norm MacDonald. See also Engadget, Fast Company, and TechSpot.
CNET “Amazon's Alexa can answer your health care questions”
Health services company Cigna announced the "Answers by Cigna" skill for Amazon's Alexa, to provide answers to more than 150 commonly asked health care questions.