Intrigued by the viral video phenomenon? YouTube has released a new Trends Map that highlights the most popular videos at a moment in time across the United States (other countries coming soon). A visual representation of YouTube’s Trends Dashboard, users can observe who’s watching what videos and where. They can also filter by gender, age, video views or shares.
What makes a retail experience fun?
Person 1: “I don’t think shopping is ever fun for me. It’s a chore.”
Person 2: “The pleasant surprise.”
Person 3: “Well, for me, it’s two things. The first one would be the successful shop, where I go with the intention to buy something, I find it, I love it, and I buy it. The second would be where I go shopping [without any intention]…and I find something unexpected and I buy it.”
These were some of the replies I heard recently in casual conversation. Retail fun isn’t for everyone it seems, and is a mixture of personal, emotional, and contextual factors.
When I attended the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, one of the sound bites that stuck with me came from the “State of Tech Retailing in 2013: Showrooming, Battling for Online Supremacy, OEMs Going Direct, Private Label and more” panel:
“What’s missing in retail these days is fun…giving customers a reason to just come in and see what’s there.”
-Tony Chvala, Global GM of Merchandising & Buying at Groupon Goods
I would agree, and have found that retailers could be working harder to inject more fun into experiences. I’ve since started retail funspotting, a new word I’m using to describe sightings or stories of fun in retail, not unlike the foodspotting movement that sets out to capture, share, and find great dishes.
A couple of my favourite retail funspotting examples include Stella & Dot’s trunk parties and the Bi-Rite Market’s approach to eating good food. One of my fellow Nuruners recently hosted a Stella & Dot party, which in my opinion borrows from the Tupperware party model, except that it involves jewelry and accessories such as smartphone cases and necklaces. The party was a success and everyone who attended had fun. Not to mention the buzz about the merchandise that has come up in conversations for the last couple of weeks. What I find fun about the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco is that they set out to get customers excited about eating good food. The staff is trained to strike up conversations with virtually all customers and help them learn about the possibilities of the food in front of them (via FastCompany).
If you have any retail funspotting stories to share, I would love to hear them here or on Twitter @jenchow with the hashtag #retailfunspotting.
If you’re a retailer, have you thought about how you might inject more fun into your customers’ experiences?
A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending the absolutely terrifying conference presented by Kevin Slavin from the MIT Media Lab, who discussed how algorithms and machines are progressively taking over our lives. He outlined a series of examples to support his theory.
It all began in 1994, when developers were obsessed with a game: battle of the algorithm. It all had to do with developing a program that would battle another program by anticipating what the other program was going to do. Slavin explains that what could have been a really cool game has since spiralled out of control.
The most well-known example is the stock exchange, where algorithms govern markets, acting on their own to make decisions that seemingly come out of thin air. Last year, algorithms went into a tailspin no less than 18,000 times, meaning as many micro-crashes within fractions of seconds where stock prices may drop a few cents before climbing back up. As long as everything goes well, that is.
But Slavin demonstrates that this new order doesn’t only apply to the stock exchange. Left up to an algorithm to determine book prices, the stimulating genetics manual, The Making of a Fly, hit the astonishing price of $23 million on Amazon.
An elevator manufacturer developed an algorithm to predict which floor the elevator was going to stop on. He even went so far as to remove the floor buttons, which had become redundant. The problem is that people panic when they get into an elevator without buttons, especially when there isn’t a button to stop the elevator in case of an emergency.
Over 60% of films viewed on Netflix are chosen based on a recommendation algorithm.
And now, algorithms are going one step further to estimate script potential for new movies and TV shows (a previous article recounts how Netflix made its production choices for House of Cards based on viewer data). In the end, Netflix will end up just like the 1994 game and the stock exchange, with production algorithms locked in loops with distribution algorithms and without any human oversight…
Would the future be so bleak if machines finally ran the world?
Slavin gives us reasons to hope. For over two years now, the best chess algorithm is better than the best human. A competition was organized; it was open to anyone who wanted to enter – humans, machines, groups of humans, groups of machines, combinations of humans and machines – and against all odds, two amateurs with three machines and a mediocre algorithm won. They beat the best algorithm in the world. Closer to everyday lives, Slavin states that the best way to “beat” Google’s search algorithm is still a human who can “hack” system logic with the help of some good software.
Slavin’s conclusion? We shouldn’t be afraid of machines, but rather, realize that they are only truly powerful when humans are involved. Citizens must be vigilant to stop the frenzy of autonomous machines running the world and put pressure on controlling bodies (like the SEC for the stock exchange or civil aviation authorities) to maintain the human factor in the equation.
Read more from Jean Pascal at A Nos Vies Numériques.
With the winners of its “If I Had Glass” competition recently announced, Google has moved another step closer to the launch of its new camera-computer-glasses. From preliminary research to the first prototypes, and finally in this pre-launch rollout, Google has been anything but secretive about the project (more accurately, they’ve been expertly transparent).
This isn’t an accident. It has to do with following the evolution of this innovation and creating a lot of buzz along the way.
Try to bring up the subject (if you really haven’t heard about it yet, check out How It Feels [through Glass]) and you’ll see that it’s one of the most divisive new technologies out there. Half of your friends will think that these glasses are the coolest invention since the television, while the other half will explain to you why Google Glasses are paving the way to hell. For the former, the idea of augmented reality turns into superior speed and promises us an augmented life. For the latter, Orwell never dreamed of half of what awaits us when we sell our souls to Google. This division can be found in the Google contest tweets with the hashtag #ifihadglass, half serious, half “bashtag.”
From an anthropological perspective, the questions are complex. What are the rules and etiquette of usage? Do we have the right to film someone without his or her knowledge? Can we ask someone to remove their glasses? Or, alternately, must we ask permission to put them on? Will the split between those for and against be largely generational or by class? Will there be socially accepted uses while others are widely rejected? These questions echo those asked with the arrival of the first cell phones, when watching someone seemingly talk to themselves in the street was pretty darn funny.
The true issue here is the acceleration of new technologies. In essence, technological innovation denotes progress. The stark division of opinions expressed about Google Glasses could indicate that our culture has too much difficulty understanding and digesting this progress to give it collective meaning. The ensuing debate could be a much more profound societal issue than just a dispute over Google’s latest gadget, and could lead each person to choose the vision of society they wish to live in.
It seems we’ll always be torn between wanting them and maintaining a healthy dose of mistrust.
This article was originally published on Infopresse.
A catastrophe is the result of the culmination of many factors that wouldn’t be of any consequence on their own, but together ignite a disaster. A faulty gauge (technological factor) in conjunction with a veteran pilot who falls asleep (human factor) and the advent of a violent storm (weather factor) leads to a plane crash. Individually, each factor is commonplace and easily managed. Just remove one of these factors from the equation and the catastrophe would be avoided. A nuclear power station is designed to withstand earthquakes and tsunami waves, but not to handle the flooding of its cooling systems that ensues.
What if the materialization of (genuine) ideas was just a positive version of a catastrophe? A designer brings all sorts of personal experiences to the table, draws upon the work of their colleagues and has an antenna tuned to the world. The further away they are from their work, the more factors will come into play to spark an idea. Which one will be the determining factor? Nobody knows, not even the designer. But, remove just one of these factors, and the idea wouldn’t have come about in the first place.
Design Thinking is a systematic problem-solving protocol that utilizes creativity factors to lead to the solution of a real-world problem. You could also call this innovation. That’s why it always starts in the field. No matter the subject, you’ve got to get out and meet real people—empathy isn’t enough. Spend a day in a freezer and you’ll come away knowing very little about what it’s like to work in the cold every day. It is only in meeting and talking to people that you begin to understand their true feelings and emotions.
Project scope notwithstanding, it is always possible to determine explicatory elements that will spark creativity. If you’ve only got 15 minute spend it on Twitter and forums. Search for emotion-laden words and expressions like “I hate car salesmen” or “I love jam”. These statements will reveal more than analytical studies. And if you’ve got more time and ambition, treat yourself to a real ethnographic project.
Once you’ve brought together the factors for a catastrophe, you’ve got to set it off since it won’t happen on its own. That’s why brainstorming is so important to the Design Thinking methodology. Set up a structured meeting, identify a well-defined problem and draw upon real-life experiences and discoveries to solve it. Statistically, if the factors are in place, numerous and varied points of view will emerge, collide, combine, and evolve. In the words of Oscar Wilde’s, “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.”
Afterwards, all that’s left to do is make a prototype of the idea to confirm interest, improve upon it, send it into production and pass it along to marketing to bring it to fruition. But that’s another story…
This article was first published on Infopresse.