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Published: 19 Apr 2018

Cooper Hewitt Explores Inclusive Sensory Design

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Tactile Orchestra

New York’s Cooper Hewitt museum is hosting The Senses: Design Beyond Vision, which explores how design impacts an individual’s ability to receive sensory information. Visitors can interact with more than 40 objects and 65 conceptual projects – many of which address conditions such as dementia and blindness. 

  • Colour Palate: New York designer Emilie Baltz’s screen-based installation explores the dynamic between food colour and palatability. Visitors use a series of levers to manipulate the appearance of products like ice cream and soda. Similarly, prismatic chocolate bars from LA chocolatier Compartés illustrate the relationship between colour and appetite. For more on food design that stimulates the senses, see Crafting Craveability in our Industry Trend The Future of Flavour.
  • Tactile Materials: Several installations probe the interplay between the senses. For Tactile Orchestra, a collaboration between design firm Studio Roos Meerman and social innovation incubator KunstLab (both Dutch), visitors trigger musical sounds by stroking a furry wall. Meanwhile, an immersive fragrance pod from American perfumer Christopher Brosius imbues plush pom-poms with an aroma intended to evoke winter. For more on tactile design, see our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Captivate.

  • Inclusive Tools: An auditory map from Washington DC’s Smithsonian museums demonstrates how technology can ease everyday life for those with sensory impediments, while London designer Simon Kinneir’s chopping board features indentations to help people with sight loss prepare food. See Design for Disability for more inclusive innovations.

The exhibit complements the museum’s current show Access + Ability (see our blog post) and runs until October 28 2018.

Published: 19 Apr 2018

Beecosystem: Beehives for Beginners

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Beecosystem

A US-based company is hoping to inspire a new generation of beekeepers with wall-mounted hives that can be installed inside or outside buildings.

Beecosystem's modular HexHive boxes are for beekeeping beginners who want to learn about the importance of pollination and bee populations. The hives have been innovatively designed to take up minimal space, making them perfect for urban nature-lovers.

HexHive boxes can be attached to any wall using a mounting bracket and a clear plug-in tube that runs between the modules and a specially designed window unit if the hive is situated indoors. Beekeepers can attach supplementary hexagonal modules to their original box, using the built-in magnetic connection points, if they want their hive to expand into additional boxes.

To populate their HexHive, newbie beekeepers will have to order worker bees and a newly mated queen from a packaged bees company that will ship directly to your door.

"Over the past decade, honeybee health has been in serious decline and the situation is getting dire," says founder Dustin Betz. "We wanted to reconnect people with food systems in a super-tangible and intimate way."

A single HexHive box costs $599 and includes a wall mount, clear tubing and window unit. Customers can also buy a starter kit of beekeeping tools for $150. The HexHives are available to pre-order now.

Beecosystem highlights a growing consumer interest in the natural world. For more information, including trends in indoor gardening and urban tree climbing, read Nature Embracers.

Published: 18 Apr 2018

Alibaba Adds Visual Recognition To Smart Speaker

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AliGenie

Visual recognition is the big add-on feature for AliGenie 2.0, launched by China’s Alibaba Group in March.

AliGenie is the artificial intelligence (AI) platform powering Tmall Genie, a smart speaker where consumers can voice order items from Alibaba’s Tmall online retail platform (500 million active users per month).

AliGenie 2.0 is arguably the most sophisticated smart speaker currently available in the world. Children can scan covers of more than 100 books and have stories read to them. The elderly, or people with visual impairments, can scan 40,000 medicines for accurate identification. The device also recognises certain flash cards, which helps language learners read Chinese characters.

Users begin by downloading the Genie FireEye app. Then, they attach their smartphones to a phone holder called the XHolder, which is connected to Tmall Genie. Two million units have been sold since the holder launched in mid-2017.

An emotional connection to users is promoted through an activation screen enabling the device to engage with users through touch. There’s a suite of more than 20 simulated, animated facial expressions. For example, tickling the head of Tmall Cat when it appears on the screen will cause it to giggle and purr.

AliGenie 2.0 was developed by Alibaba’s AI Labs, which focuses on theoretical research and product commercialisation in areas such as speech recognition, natural language processing, deep learning and voice identification.

For more on voice-controlled retail, see ee Reflexive Retail, part of our Liquid Retail Industry Trend.

Published: 17 Apr 2018

Milèo New York: Skincare for Wellbeing

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Miléo New York

American luxury start-up Milèo New York capitalises on the wellbeing trend by harnessing the healing properties of aromatherapy in a new sustainable skincare collection.

The unisex range consists of four facial elixirs, which feature naturally occurring oud as the core ingredient. According to the brand, oud’s multifunctional properties regenerate skin cells and reduce inflammation – resulting in smooth and hydrated skin.

Each elixir contains 48 botanical extracts, which aim to stimulate a sensorial experience for the wearer. Amber Fort, for instance, is a brightening facial oil that combines Indian pink lotus flower and Indian jasmine – known to promote relaxation.

The launch feeds into a growing trend for reviving aromatherapy for the luxury sphere. It adapts the conventional use of fragrance to create evocative sensorial experiences for the skincare realm. For more on aromatherapy and fragrance, see New Fragrance Worlds  and Agile Beauty.

To ensure the purity of the ingredients being used in its formulas, Milèo harnesses an innovative testing method called gas chromatography-mass spectrum analysis, which quantifies the time an ingredient was harvested and how it was distilled. As a result, only clean and ethically sourced ingredients – free from chemicals, pesticides and synthetic enhancements – touch the wearers’ skin.  

This eco-friendly strategy is key to engaging with young luxury consumers, as clean and ethical values drive this demographic’s spend. Approximately 47% of millennials check whether high-end brands foster sustainable values before purchasing (Deloitte, 2017). For more on this see, Elevating Beauty and Luxury in a Turbulent World.

Published: 17 Apr 2018

Textile Display Features ‘Liquid Pixels’

Suspended from the ceiling at New York’s AFA Gallery, Computer 1.0 is a large-scale woven textile that acts like a digital display. 

The piece incorporates clear, flexible polymer tubing which carries ‘pixels’ of coloured liquid through the textile, revealing captivating patterns that shift across the surface. When viewed using a smartphone camera, certain alignments trigger stories that are superimposed using augmented reality.

The work is the result of a collaboration between Brooklyn-based designer Julian Goldman and textile artist Victoria Manganiello. The duo set out to visualise the binary system of modern computing through the historical art of weaving, prompting us to re-examine the human relationship with textiles and technology.

As technology recedes into the fabric of our apparel and built environment, brands are developing alternative ways to display and interact with information. Computer 1.0 reminds us to consider the origins of our ubiquitous personal devices to help reshape the future of product design.

To find out about the latest display innovations, including projected interfaces and LG’s roll-up TV, see our coverage of CES 2018. Read more about how our technological landscape is evolving in Mobile World Congress 2018, and explore how NFC tags are creating seamless, screenless product experiences in our A/W 19/20 Product Design Direction Essence.

Published: 17 Apr 2018

Self-Service DNA Test Identifies Risk of Heart Conditions

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Color Hereditary Heart Health Test

US-based company Color has added a new genetic testing kit to its line of products that detect predispositions to inherited health conditions.

The Color Hereditary Heart Health Test costs $249 and analyses a customer's genetics for mutations in 30 genes responsible for heart function, focusing on an individual customer's risk of developing cardiovascular complications such as arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy.

Once the genetic test has been completed, the scheme offers a holistic approach to follow-up care: returned positive results come with personalised screening guidelines and the company provides board-certified counsellors for customers to discuss future health plans. Ongoing support and advice is also offered, alongside discounted test prices for family members if a customer's results indicate a genetic risk.

The Hereditary Heart Health Test joins Color's range of three other genetic testing kits, which screen for the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as the possibility of developing high cholesterol.

The global wellness industry is now worth over $3.72tn (Welltodo, 2018) and tech companies are getting behind a push to improve wellbeing through personalised testing, wearable tech and accessible healthcare innovations. "The thing we ask ourselves every day," says Color co-founder and former Twitter engineer Elad Gil, "is 'how can we help facilitate things so precision medicine will be available to everybody next year or in two years?'"

Health and fitness technology dominated the Wearable Technology Show in London this year. For more health-based innovations, read the report here.

Published: 16 Apr 2018

Probiotic-Fortified Fresh Fruit Snacks

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Probiotic Apple Snacks

Researchers at the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain and Universidade Federal do Ceará in Brazil have developed a new technique for fortifying fruit with probiotics to boost gut health.

To create the probiotic fruit, scientists saturated apple pieces with a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus casei and then dried them at different temperatures using a variety of techniques, including ultrasound and conventional air drying.

Their experiments revealed that drying the fruit at 60 degrees allowed the probiotics to survive within the fruit and qualify as a probiotic product.

The study's co-author Juan Andrés Cárcel, doctor of food engineering at Universitat Politècnica de València, said: "[Probiotics] contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. They have anti-inflammatory potential and protect against colitis, among other benefits." We've seen the gut-health food market explode in the past year, with a plethora of new product development taking the spotlight – from start-up brands to established food and drink companies. For an in-depth look at this topic, see our recent report Going With The Gut.

See also New Architecture of Taste (part of our Future of Flavour Industry Trend), US Speciality Food Trends 2017 and Food Influencer Round Up: United States for more key examples.

See also Ingestible Gut Health Sensors and New Food Covetables for exciting tech developments that help consumers to monitor and control their gut health.

Published: 16 Apr 2018

Push for Inclusive Typography

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LR: Kosuke Takahashi, Apple

Brands and designers are increasingly catering to consumers of mixed abilities, creating targeted products that both appeal and empower (see Design for Disability). We look at two graphic design projects that demonstrate this surge in inclusive design by encouraging everyone to understand, engage and express themselves.

Japanese designer Kosuke Takahashi’s typeface Braille Neue aligns Japanese and English characters with the braille alphabet, allowing for information in public spaces to be accessible to people with full and limited vision.

The typeface is simplistic and angular, resembling a dot-to-dot drawing, whereby braille impressions act as markers that guide the form of each letter while adhering to classic character shapes. Braille Neue’s continuity with standard characters allows for the typeface to be easily implemented into existing signage. Takahashi aims for the typeface to be adopted at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

Similarly, in March this year, Apple created a series of 13 new emoji characters that represent people with mixed abilities – depicting wheelchairs, guide dogs and hearing aids.

The graphics have been submitted to the Unicode Consortium, a US non-profit organisation that develops text standards and chooses which emoji are added into messaging vocabulary. With an average of 60 million emoji used on Facebook and five billion on Messenger in any given day, the mass adoption of these images encourage greater public acceptance and offer candid ways to express individual experiences.

Read Packaging Futures: Diversity for how sensorial design is creating brand experiences that translate across consumers of mixed ability. Also, read Cooper Hewitt’s Accessible Design showcase for the latest innovations in disability product.

Published: 16 Apr 2018

Depop’s Hybrid Store Doubles as Brand Comms HQ

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Depop

Depop, a British reselling platform inspired by social media, has opened its first mixed-purpose retail format in Los Angeles. 

Courting Gen Z’s entrepreneurial mindset (75% of users are under 24), the hybrid space encompasses a store, pop-up space, and a photo studio for rent. Workshops invite people to gather, learn and socialise. 

Additionally, the hub is home to Depop’s marketing office and acts as the brand’s headquarters for social media content production. Everything going on in store is repurposed into aspiring content by an on-site brand communications team.

Located in LA’s hip Silverlake district, the brightly coloured 1,000 sq ft space sells a rotating curated display of the platform’s most-coveted items from popular local sellers – with a pop-up space showcasing items from top individual vendors. The store features a seating area and a studio, available to book for free via Depop’s app, where skilled staff help users take professional-style photographs of merchandise for their microsites on the platform.

Consumers are invited to take part in free workshops hosted on site such as How to Style Fashion and Lifestyle Photos and How to Build a Brand.

Depop plans to open further physical locations – including in New York later this spring, and in London and Milan next year. 

To read more on the lucrative $20bn resale market – which is forecasted to reach $41bn by 2022 (ThredUp, 2018), see Destination Teen: Targeting Youth and Sneakerheads Unboxed. See also Brand Spaces 2018/19.

Published: 16 Apr 2018

Chatbot for Cryptocurrency Beginners

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A chatbot named Ben is enabling cryptocurrency beginners to understand and trade Bitcoin on their smartphone

A chatbot named Ben is enabling cryptocurrency beginners to understand and trade Bitcoin on their smartphone without needing any prior knowledge of the digital currency.

Ben helps buy and sell bitcoin for a 1% transaction fee, offers lessons on cryptocurrencies and allows users to check the latest industry news from their smartphone. The app makes the trading process accessible to customers who lack technical knowledge via simplified terminology and an easy-to-use interface, following the trend in streamlining financial services to match consumer demands (see also Fast-Forward Finance).

Ben, which also lets users compete against friends by tracking investment progress in percentage form, is free to download, but is currently only available on the US App Store and Google Play. User cryptocurrency is stored on the cloud, but can only be accessed from a customer's smartphone, using a private digital key.

The app highlights a growing interest in trading cryptocurrencies among younger people, with 38% of American male millennials (aged 24 to 37) preferring to invest $1,000 in Bitcoin than in the stock market (Blockchain Capital, 2017). The chatbot is expecting to support other cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum and Ripple, in a few months.

The finance industry is changing rapidly and tech solutions such as Ben are disrupting the market to offer quick, cheap access to services and simplified investing for the everyday millennial consumer. Find out more in Turbo-Charged Consumers: Millennial 20/20 Summit 2018.

Published: 13 Apr 2018

Shiseido’s Tiered Beauty Playground Spoils Loyal Consumers

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Japanese beauty brand Shiseido has redesigned its flagship The Store in Ginza, Tokyo, creating a tiered retailing ecosystem that reinforces brand loyalty.

Conceived in a minimalist palette of black, white and wood, The Store draws inspiration from Shiseido’s proprietary six-tier status membership scheme, with consumers receiving varying levels of access and benefits according to their annual spend or number of visits. 

While some areas are open to all shoppers, the members-only elements fuel consumer curiosity, along with their appetite for customisation. See Re-engineering Exclusivity and Membership & Tiered Retailing

  • Beauty Counselling: The first two floors are dedicated to customisable beauty, with experts offering one-to-one consultations and skincare solutions. At the Styling Bar, all consumers have access to free professional hair stylists offering speedy hair and make-up services.

    Store members benefit from additional customised consultations held in the private Beauty Up Cabin. Shoppers can also pay for personalised beauty sessions featuring Shiseido’s advanced skincare technology, while members are presented with gift certificates that can be redeemed against beauty services.
  • Photo-Ready: Tapping into Gen Z and young millennials’ desire for experiences, the third-floor Beauty Boost Bar offers hair styling and makeovers accompanied by an in-store photo studio, providing sharable content. 
  • Members Only: Creating a sense of exclusivity, a members-only café on the fourth floor offers healthy food and drinks, goods and books, as well as beauty seminars and events.

See also Asia’s Digi-Beauty Boutiques and Rise of the Exploratorium.

Published: 12 Apr 2018

Josh Wood's Digital Hair-Dye Matching

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Josh Wood

British celebrity hairstylist Josh Wood is tapping into the personalised beauty trend by tackling a pet peeve among consumers: finding their perfect hair colour outside the salon.

His company is launching a customised, digital colour matching service which offers users a salon-inspired approach to hair colouring remotely. The tool determines a suitable shade for consumers via an online questionnaire, with factors such as hair colour, hair texture and shade preference being used to generate a selection of suitable products.  

This personalisation strategy directs consumers to relevant items, and encourages experimentation with new haircare products. An extension of this concept might see augmented reality (AR) allow consumers to visualise their look ahead of application. Some 85% of millennial women would be more likely to try new hair products, styles and colours if they could see the results beforehand (Poshly, 2017).

The Josh Wood Colour System is an at-home hair dye range offering permanent dyes, a toolkit of root concealers, and a colour-preserving care line including a mask and gloves to boost hair health and shine. Each product is derived from four key shades ranging from dark brown to light blonde, and the hair dyes are formulated into 12 colours.

For more on personalised beauty and the latest haircare trends see, Bespoke Beauty: New Retail Strategies, Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke, 10 Tech Trends to Watch in 2018, Product Projections 2018: Hair.

Published: 12 Apr 2018

Bobbi Brown Launches Wellness Collection

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Evolution_18

US beauty innovator Bobbi Brown has entered the wellness market by launching a range of dietary supplements and drink powders under the brand Evolution_18.

The collection includes Overnight Vanilla – a powder enriched with collagen, hyaluronic acid and coconut oil that is designed to increase skin hydration and elasticity. Strengthen dietary capsules contain keratin and biotin for stronger hair and nails. Probiotic quick-melt sachets boost gut health, while Afternoon Chocolate is a chocolate-flavoured protein powder with additional cacao, vitamins and minerals to encourage increased brain function.

Launching on US shopping channel QVC in April, the range will cost between $35 and $60.

Brown stepped down from her eponymous makeup line in 2016 and has since redeveloped a boutique hotel in New Jersey called The George Inn, which opened its doors in January 2018.

For more on new brand developments in the nutraceuticals market, see Top Trends: Indie Beauty Expo 2017, Beauty 360 and Health & Nutrition Vitafoods 2017.

Additionally, look to Brand Stretch: Elastic Food and Drink Developments and Retail's Elastic Brands for more inspiration on how to diversify your brand.

Published: 12 Apr 2018

Writing Robot Transforms Any Wall into Digital Screen

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Scribit

Italian design studio Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) has unveiled Scribit, a writing robot that can draw and erase digital content on physical surfaces, enabling a wall to act as a screen.

The circular drawing device is suspended on cables, allowing it to accurately move up and down, and left and right. The robot interprets imagery as points along a vertical and horizontal axis and uses this information to plot down four coloured erasable markers held within the device.

Users can upload digital files and send these to a mobile app to be recreated as illustrations. Scribit uses the same precision technology to remove markings with an internal eraser, making it possible to respond to information in real time and display updating news feeds on any vertical surface, from whiteboards to glass or plaster. 

Scribit reacts to growing concerns about screen dependency. By translating the accuracy and fast-paced flexibility of digital technology to a physical medium, the device allows users to remain connected while away from their phones and computers. Consumers yearning for digital detox through analogue experiences is a key theme within our A/W 19/20 Design Direction Captivate, which examines how products are tapping into the human psyche to offer impressive digital-like effects in physical spaces. 

See Essentialist Communities for insights into how and why consumers are seeking low-tech lifestyles, and Circuit for how embedded, human-centric design is catering to this emerging consumer group. 

Scribit’s crowdfunding campaign launches on June 5 after being presented at this year’s Milan Design Week. Our Milan coverage will be published on April 27.

Published: 12 Apr 2018

Brits Invest in Home Security

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Some 31% of British adults are using smart security gadgets to protect their homes

Some 31% of British adults are using smart security gadgets to protect their homes, according to new research from UK tech retailer Laptops Direct.

Among those who have invested in security tech, 52% opted for outdoor CCTV, while 35% purchased a video doorbell.

Smart alarms, as well as door and window sensors, have also proven popular. Smart locks, which track who enters your front door and can be locked remotely, were the fifth most sought-after gadget.

Almost 40% of adults surveyed said the increasingly accessible cost of smart security was an important factor in their decision to buy these gadgets. The survey also revealed that 25- to 34-year-olds were the age group most likely to install smart security at home.

Mark Kelly, marketing manager at Laptops Direct, said: "Brits have more sophisticated forms of protecting their homes to choose from than ever. These handy gadgets also make security more accessible for those living in smaller spaces such as apartments."

With 41% of those surveyed saying they are more concerned than they have ever been about security, it's clear that more consumers are interested in protecting their homes with smart tech. Find out more by reading Super Security.

To understand how brands can reconquer customers' trust in the era of machine learning, read Tech for Trust: DLD 2018 – our report on the Digital Life Design conference in Munich.

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