Voice. Hands free. Livestreaming. Oh, and a cluster about Food - let’s just make that its own heading from now on. And Virtual Reality – if it makes it to McDonald’s and roller coasters, you know it’s for real.
And a Happy Teen Tech Week! Thanks to YALSA for letting me contribute to their Twitter Takeover this week (#TTW16) – I’m looking forward to the rest of the week’s tweets from other partners.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work. I managed to update the coverage for badging, data, drones, fandom, and fast casual.
And let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.
The power of voice continues to expand, as Amazon expands its Echo line with Amazon Tap, a Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker with built-in WiFi and the Alexa operating system, and the Echo Dot, a smaller version of Echo that hooks into existing speakers (TechCrunch “Amazon Adds the $130 Tap and the $90 Dot to the Echo Family”). See also Ars Technica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Fast Company, Geekwire, Gizmodo, PSFK, Re/Code, and Wired.
Google’s Hands Free app notifies shoppers of participating stores using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and location data and allows shoppers to pay with Google while the cashier confirms their identity by verifying the shopper’s appearance with the image logged into the app (The Daily Dot “Google Wants You to Make Payments with Your Face”). Google receives purchasing information from stores and charges the credit card on file with the app. Google is also testing face-recognition where cashiers use cameras to confirm a shopper’s identity, making it so the shopper never even has to produce their phone. See also CNET, Engadget, Mashable, Re/Code, and The Verge.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Spotify’s Discover Weekly and the recent Fresh Finds playlists get me through my work days. So it was fascinating to hear how the latter, Fresh Finds, are curated – relying on a select group of 50,000 or so from among Spotify’s 100 million users, the lists leverage an algorithm to find the artists these select users listen to before the music breaks and then a group of Spotify employees sorts the songs into genres and puts them into an appealing order, meant to encourage listeners to discover music they might not otherwise find (Quartz “Spotify Is Using 50,000 Anonymous Hipsters to Find Your Next Favorite Song”). See also The Verge. And if you didn’t read it when it came out a few months ago, read “The Magic That Makes Spotify’s Discover Weekly Playlists So Damn Good.”
Books, Media, and Content
Facebook is reportedly preparing to open its Messenger platform to publishers, allowing them to share content via chat bots, with short descriptions linking back to articles on their website (Mashable “Report: Facebook Plans to Open Messenger to Publishers Later This Year”).
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will expand its Primetime Emmy Awards short form category to include content from digital creators and distributors like YouTube Red and others (Mashable “Television Academy Expands Emmy Categories to Include Digital Content”). Digital content producers are obviously pleased with the opportunity to be recognized (Mashable “Team Internet Rejoices as Primetime Emmys Embrace Digital Content”). See also The Daily Dot and Engadget.
A fascinating illustration of what some of the nation’s biggest decision-makers have in common (The New York Times “The Faces of American Power, Nearly as White as the Oscar Nominees”).
A report from the Center for American Progress compared the median earnings for a 30-year-old Millennial in 2014, a 30-year-old Gen Xer in 2004, and a 30-year-old Boomer in 1984, and found that, despite Millennials being more likely to have finished college than previous generations and working in an economy that is more productive than previous generations, today’s 30-year-olds make about as much as a 30-year-old would have in 1984 and a dollar less than a 30-year-old in 2004 when adjusted for inflation (The Atlantic “Can Millennials Undo What the Recession Did to Their Earnings?”).
A lot of attention focused on some California school districts that will begin testing how well students have learned emotional skills like self-control and conscientiousness (The New York Times “Testing for Joy and Grit? Schools Nationwide Push to Measure Students’ Emotional Skills”). The districts are responding to an update to federal education law that requires states to include at least one nonacademic measure in judging school performance – a requirement that has raised concern even among proponents of teaching emotional skills. See also Quartz.
A new report from Columbia University’s Teachers College and funded by The Wallace Foundation finds that more communities are looking into cross sector collaborations, including Collective Impact models, to help improve education (Education Week “Interest Growing in Public-Private Partnerships, Says Report”).
A study in Lancet looks ahead to the state of agriculture in 2050, when fewer calories will be available per person overall as fruit and vegetable availability will decline by 4%, a particular challenge as climate changes and populations grow (Gizmodo “Here Is What We’ll be Eating in 2050—and What We Won’t”).
3D printing is quickly moving into kitchens, as new 3D devices are designed specifically for food-printing and manufacturers like 3D Systems collaborate with organizations like the Culinary Institute of America (BBC “How 3D Printing Is Shaking Up High End Dining”).
More about “ugly” food – we talked about Copenhagen’s WeFood last week – Canada’s Loblaws supermarket has introduced a "Naturally Imperfect" produce line of aesthetically unpleasing and bruised produce at reduced prices (Mashable “Ugly Fruit Is Taking Canada By Storm. Here's Why You Should Care”).
Assortative mating, where people marry people like themselves, with similar education, earnings potential, values, and lifestyles, is on the rise, leading to greater societal segregation by class and mirroring growing income inequality in the United States (The New York Times “Equality in Marriages Grows, and So Does Class Divide”).
Part of a push to make search new and more dynamic (and maybe drive some new advertising channels), Google has begun experimenting with a new format for search results, allowing brands, celebrities, or organizations to populate a Twitter-like feed built right into results, similar to the company’s mobile "cards" results (The Verge “Google Is Letting Celebrities and Businesses Post Directly to Search Results”).
Google’s implementation of Europe’s “right to be forgotten” requirements will shift from being removed from its European sites (google.co.uk and google.fr) to now be removed from search results across its sites if the search is made from within the European Union (The Verge “Google Will Apply the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ to All EU Searches Next Week”). See also Re/Code.
There’s been a lot of interest in livestreaming, but it looks like one of the early providers, Meerkat, is stepping back from livestreaming towards a more familiar social network model, perhaps connecting groups of live video users (Re/Code “Meerkat Is Ditching the Livestream — And Chasing a Video Social Network Instead”). The challenge wasn’t in finding viewers, but in finding users willing broadcast regularly. See also Engadget and Mashable.
We’ve probably seen enough posts about Kiddle, the search engine powered by Google (but not a Google product itself) designed for kids, already. Some interesting insights into the process behind the search engine – it excludes terms deemed not safe for children; the first 1-3 results are "handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors"; the next 4-7 are sites not for children but written in appropriate and easily read language for children, also chosen by the Kiddle experts; the next are "famous sites written for adults...but are harder for kids to understand"; but criteria for what qualifies a subject to be banned from Kiddle and descriptions of who the experts are or their qualifications aren't available from the provider (Mashable “'Kid-safe' Search Engine Helps Find Age-appropriate Content”).
Another look at Snapchat from the perspective of its most innovative users. Snapchat can seem almost aggressively user-unfriendly - it’s hard to find anyone without knowing their screen name – and that is perhaps by design, creating a playful, goofy space for sharing personal moments outside of public display or even embarrassment (Bloomberg “How Snapchat Built a Business By Confusing Olds”). And with its Live Stories, mashups of news events pulled from feeds of Snapchat users and produced by the company’s content team, the app can draw viewership in the tens of millions – just a fraction of the 8 billion videos viewed on the platform each day.
An interesting look at the world of apps. Apple has reported paying $40 billion to app developers and "creating and supporting" 1.9 million US jobs since its App Store opened, but there is concern for a middle class of apps that is small and shrinking, hundreds of apps languishing in obscurity, the majority of Americans now downloading zero apps per month, and the average person spending 80% of their mobile time on just three apps (The Verge “Life and Death in the App Store”). Point, counter-point, there may be a wider economy being built around apps, including in-app purchases and advertising (TechCrunch “Reports of the Death of Apps Have Been Greatly Exaggerated”).
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
It’s only in Sweden right now, but McDonald's is promoting Happy Goggles, Happy Meal boxes that turn into virtual-reality viewers (AdWeek “McDonald's Is Now Making Happy Meal Boxes That Turn Into Virtual Reality Headsets”). See also CNET, The Daily Dot, The Dieline, Engadget, Fast Company, Geekwire, Mashable, PSFK, The Verge, and Wired.
Six Flags Magic Mountain is partnering with Samsung and their Oculus VR system, to introduce virtual reality goggles into the Revolution roller coaster, syncing riders VR experience to the motion of the coaster (The Los Angeles Times “Six Flags Magic Mountain to Add Virtual Reality to a Coaster”). See also ArsTechnica, Mashable, Motherboard, and The Verge.
Google’s Cardboard virtual reality viewer is now available in a new Virtual Reality section of its online store (Gizmodo “Google Is Finally Selling VR Headsets Directly”). See also Engadget, Mashable, and The Verge.
The United Nations and Unicef are using virtual reality as a tool for building awareness, fund-raising, creating change, and, eventually, collaboration (Wired “VR Films Work Great for Charity. What About Changing Minds?”).
Google filed a pair of patents that would leverage augmented reality in books via motion and pressure sensors embedded within pages or through pairing with phones or tablets to deliver added content (Engadget “Google Patents AR-based Pop-up Books”). It’s still an early step in the process, so don’t expect these any time soon, if at all. See also Fast Company.