This week’s headline quotes Michael Martin, vice president of digital products for Nike, talking to BuzzFeedNews about the company’s new Nike by Melrose store, which uses Nike commerce data, including information collected through the Nike app, Nike Training app, Nike+ Run Club, and Nike buying patterns in its existing stores, and rotates merchandise based on shopping patterns – the store will also send push notifications to Nike app users when they walk by the store and introduce a Retail mode for the Nike App that allows users to scan items in the store for inventory details, request certain items to be brought out for them to try in the store, and reserve products from the app (BuzzFeedNews "Nike is tailoring its stores for local shoppers using big data").
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The New York Times "High-skilled white-collar work? Machines can do that, too"
Using the fashion industry as an example, a look at how artificial intelligence and algorithms are increasingly used to recognize customer interest and product demand patterns, supplanting traditional creative directors in charge of purchasing and merchandise planning.
The Guardian "The future will be dockless: could a city really run on 'floating transport'?"
London-based transportation app Citymapper coined the phrase “floating transport” to describe a model of transportation that “has no set stops or infrastructure…and [is] filling a mobility gap in our cities” – the shorthand term is useful for thinking about everything from dockless bicycle and electric scooter programs to short-term car services that are not tethered to fixed locations, all of which rely on a combination of GPS and cellular connectivity to track whichever vehicle is being rented, charging users by the minute and immobilizing the device wherever it is left at the end of its trip.
NPR "More states opting to 'robo-grade' student essays by computer"
With several states, including Utah and Ohio, already using automated grading on standardized tests and other states like Massachusetts exploring the option, a look at how machines are being used to grade student essays and long form answers – many teachers and researchers remain unconvinced, noting that artificial intelligence and algorithms can miss meaning and context and ignore the subtleties of expression.
BuzzFeedNews "Nike is tailoring its stores for local shoppers using big data"
Nike’s new Nike by Melrose store is its first to be merchandised and designed based on Nike's digital commerce data – 50% of the apparel and 25% of the footwear in the store are based on Nike commerce data, including information collected through the Nike app, Nike Training app, Nike+ Run Club, and Nike buying patterns in its existing stores, with merchandise rotating based on shopping patterns. See also Digiday and GeekWire.
PitchFork "How smart speakers are changing the way we listen to music"
Streaming music has proven to be one of the leading benefits driving smart speaker adoption, with almost 60% of users asking their voice control devices to "play music”, but the convenience of this music provides big technology companies (many of whom have invested in their own subscription music services) with access to huge amounts of data and insights about the listeners, which can be routed back to ever-more-personalized user experiences and to an industry catering to a new range of perceived listener interests rather than artist-driven works.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The Inquirer "Google's Duplex AI could soon be running call centers"
According to The Information ($), Google has reportedly interested a large insurance company in the use of its Google Duplex service to improve call handling by giving the common but simple queries to Duplex, leaving a limited number of human workers to field more advanced call issues. See also Digital Trends.
The Verge "Self-driving cars are headed toward an AI roadblock"
The talk of fully autonomous cars makes it seem like they could be only months or years away, and while testing of self-driving cars continues to accelerate, there is growing concern that the technology may be years, if not decades, away – the massive amounts of training data required for deep learning systems and algorithms to be able to “generalize” may place self-driving technology further away in our futures.
Economics and the Workforce
The Washington Post "A record number of folks age 85 and older are working. Here’s what they’re doing."
Analysis of U.S. Census and U.S. Department of Labor data finds that 255,000 Americans 85 years old or older were working over the past 12 months (4.4% of Americans that age, up from 2.6% in 2006) – those aged 85 or older work as crossing guards, farmers and ranchers, product demonstrators, and truckers.
The Washington Post "In the future, college never really ends"
As new technologies force workers to keep learning and retraining, some colleges and universities are exploring models for perpetual education – the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business launched a scholarship program that pays for graduates to take classes there forever, with courses that normally cost $10,000 each for a week in the classroom covered by scholarship funds as students pay for travel, housing, and food.
Time "WeWork will no longer let employees expense any kind of meat"
WeWork notified its 6,000 global staff that they will no longer be able to expense meals including meat and that it won’t pay for any red meat, poultry, or pork at WeWork events – the company’s leadership framed the policy as a means of reducing individuals’ personal environmental impact. See also Advertising Age and The Guardian.
CNET "Starbucks will ditch plastic straws for fancy designer lids"
Starbucks announced plans to phase out plastic straws at over 28,000 company operated and licensed stores by 2020 – the company will offer a new strawless lid or straws made from plastic alternatives. While this and similar stories demonstrate companies’ efforts to show concern for the environment, many have also noted that efforts to eliminate plastic straws are unlikely to have a noticeable effect on the levels of plastic entering the environment, that they could make restaurants less accessible for many disabled people, and that they fail to shift consumers’ responsibilities toward more responsible practices like reusable cups and straws (Pacific Standard "Banning straws won't save the oceans"). See also Advertising Age and Mashable.
News and Publishing
TechCrunch "YouTube is fighting fake news with $25M to promote journalism and more context in search results"
YouTube announced new plans to stem the spread of conspiracy theory videos and fake news on its platform, including adding context to search results about breaking news topics to help people quickly see if a video is from a trustworthy source, working with the Google News Initiative to create a working group of news organizations and media experts that will advise YouTube on new features, and inserting information from third-party sources like Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica next to videos about “well-established historical and scientific topics that have often been subject to misinformation.” See also The Verge.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
The Chicago Tribune "Office napping climbs out from under the desk and into high-tech pods"
A small but growing number of businesses are providing designated spaces for employees to nap and recover on the job, hoping to encourage a more productive and focused workforce – a trend that falls in line with what many libraries have already been providing for students on academic campuses.
The Outline "Libraries are filling an affordable fitness void"
A look at how library programs that incorporate physical activity are growing in popularity and filling an important gap in affordable workout and recreation spaces across communities.
Variety "‘Game of Thrones,’ Netflix lead Emmy nominees"
Streaming service Netflix supplanted longtime industry leader HBO as the most Emmy-nominated network or platform, earning 112 nominations, up from 91 last year – the gain demonstrates the scope of streaming services’ original programming, which is fueled by unprecedented spending on content. See also Fast Company and Wired.
Wired "A landmark legal shift opens Pandora’s Box for DIY guns"
The Department of Justice has offered a settlement to Cody Wilson to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 after the U.S. State Department demanded that he take down a site containing blueprints for 3-D printing a gun – while Wilson’s argument focused on a free speech claim that the 3-D-printable data he sought to share was equivalent to freely sharing information, the decision to allow this information to be shared on the internet could radically change future gun control efforts.
Wired "3-D printing is the future of factories (for real this time)"
A look at Desktop Metal, a startup that builds printers that make metal parts, and its vision to use 3-D printing for high-volume, mass production.
Quartz "Alexa makes decision-making easier than ever—by making your choices for you"
As voice technology becomes more dominant, consumers may become the victims of incidental loyalty, having the full array of options reduced to those provided by the voice device and likely having the device serve up a narrowing list of options based on previous decisions.
Government Technology "More cities turn to Alexa to field resident questions"
A look at how cities are using voice control technologies to provide information to residents – Johns Creek, Ga., launched an Alexa Skill allowing residents to present questions related to zoning, police and fire department activity, current traffic conditions, available jobs within city government, as well as city events and meetings.