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Published: 14 May 2018

Sleep Tech Boosts Creativity

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Dormio helps users augment their creativity while they sleep

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have invented a glove-like device called Dormio that helps users augment their creativity while they sleep.

Before falling asleep completely, humans go through an intermediate state between wakefulness and sleep called hypnagogia. While in this hypnagogic state, people lose the frontal function of their brains, which means they lose their sense of time and space and their thoughts become intuitive and hyper-associative. During this state, human creativity is unleashed, as it's not constrained by the logic and rules of waking life.

According to Dormio's website, artists and scientists such as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Salvador Dali have taken advantage of the creativity offered during hypnagogia by holding a steel ball that would fall when they fell asleep – waking them up and allowing them to write down the ideas generated during this semi-lucid state.

Dormio modernises this technique, but instead of waking up the user, it simply prevents them from falling asleep completely. Sensors in the glove-like device track the user's hypnagogic state by measuring heart rate and muscle tone. When Dormio senses the user is transitioning into the deeper stages of sleep, its accompanying app emits sounds via the user's smartphone. This way, it suspends the user in an extended hypnagogic state, allowing them to access their subconscious for longer.

The device's creators plan to upgrade the device so that it can influence the content of the user's dreams and extract information from them, potentially enabling people to interact with their subconscious. See also Shadow Selves: Tapping Consumers' Dark Sides.

Published: 10 May 2018

Pigzbe: Cryptocurrency Wallet for Kids

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Pigzbe

London-based start-up Pigzbe is launching an interactive digital 'piggy wallet', powered by its own family-friendly cryptocurrency, to help children aged six and over learn about money.

Pigzbe is a digital service that allows parents to transfer money to their children, as well as a physical device that acts as a cryptocurrency wallet and game controller. The blockchain-based device is powered by Wollo, Pigzbe's crypto token.

By using a crypto piggy bank, children not only learn about saving, exchanging and spending, but also about volatility, as Wollo's value is likely to fluctuate. Kids will also learn the foundations of modern money through an immersive game featured in the accompanying app. They can play it using their Pigzbe device, which will send them haptic and visual signals.

The service comes with a Wollo card, which kids and parents can use to spend their cryptocoins with selected retailers in the real world. Wollo coins will be available in June 2018. Pigzbe plans to deliver its product and platform in Q2 2019.

Financial illiteracy is a real problem in the US, with only 57% of adults in the country having an understanding of basic financial concepts (Global Financial Literacy Center, 2016).

In a cashless society, where money becomes a more abstract concept, products like Pigzbe could make it easier for families to talk about money – a habit that has been found to improve children's financial literacy (OECD, 2017).

For more on the behaviours of millennial parents (aged 24 to 37), see Gen Alpha: Raising the Superkids. For insight into the future applications of cryptocurrencies, see Blockchain Expo London 2018.

Published: 9 May 2018

AR Urban Exploration Race

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District participants navigate checkpoints by following the race's app on their phone

Asian sports events consultancy Exceed and Australian experiential agency Lightweave have organised District – an urban exploration race that combines augmented reality (AR) and location-based technologies.

The District race has no set route or distance, but participants have only two hours to navigate through 80 checkpoints and challenges – this time spread around Hong Kong's eight districts. Each district will have challenges themed according to its unique character in order to help participants discover the city and learn about each area.

Runners have to use the accompanying app that will follow their location, guide them to checkpoints and reveal the challenges they need to complete, such as a quiz that tests players' knowledge of the neighbourhood, or running round the block in under a minute. Points are awarded whenever a racer reaches their destination and when they complete a challenge, and increase based on their distance from the race's starting point.

The app offers a gamified experience, as players can keep track of their ranking by checking the live leader board and become further motivated by competing against their friends. Those who complete the race receive an AR-enabled finisher medal.

The first District race took place in Singapore on March 3 and the Hong Kong race is scheduled for May 13, costing HK$450 ($57) to participate. The organisers expect to launch the race in the US, Australia and Europe later this year.

For more on consumers' desire for urban adventures and extreme experiences, see our Active Lives Macro Trend.

Published: 8 May 2018

Social Network for Creative Girls

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Maverick's aim is to encourage girls and young women to create more

California-based start-up Maverick has launched a social network that connects young female creators with adult female mentors. The network is designed to encourage young women to create more and practise their skills by taking inspiration from role models across a variety of fields.

Maverick can be accessed online or through a free app, where users can browse through challenges set by mentors, who are known as Catalysts. These innovators, artists and entrepreneurs are chosen by the company for being inspiring role models for the Gen Z (aged nine to 23) demographic the app is targeting.

Challenges range from creating a dance routine to taking a picture that demonstrates your culture. App users respond to the challenges that interest them by sharing an image or a short video. They can then see other users' submissions and reward them by commenting on their work or giving them virtual badges – choosing between 'unique', 'creative', 'unstoppable' and 'daring' – instead of giving them a generic 'like'.

The app launched on April 27 and has already raised $2.7m in funding. Although it's mainly targeted at girls and young women, Maverick is an inclusive platform – both in terms of gender and age.

The founders are now taking the platform to the physical world through a series of MaverickLive events around the US. The first took place in Los Angeles on April 28 and featured young female influencers such as Laurie Hernandez, Chloe and Halle Bailey and Ruby Karp.

For more on how to remain relevant to Gen Z consumers, see SXSW 2018: Speaking Gen Z's Language.

Published: 1 May 2018

Precious: AI for Digital Family Photo Albums

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On average, parents share 1,500 images of their children online before their fifth birthday

San Francisco start-up Precious has created an app that helps parents with the overwhelming task of organising their baby's pictures using artificial intelligence (AI).

The app automatically identifies all the photos of babies on the user's phone and picks the best by sorting out the ones that are blurry or dark. It then organises them into weekly or monthly pictures and creates a calendar journal that makes it easier for parents to browse through old photos, according to their baby's age. It also aggregates location data from the images and creates 'photo stories' that provide context with graphics and highlight various milestones in a baby's life.

One of the app's most popular features is the Baby Time Lapse feature, which uses facial detection to find and align photos of the baby's face and create a short time-lapse video that shows them growing one day at a time.

On average, parents share 1,500 images of their children online before their fifth birthday (Parent Zone, 2015). However, this is not indicative of the actual number of pictures taken, as 56% of British parents do not post photos or videos of their kids on social media (YouGov, 2017). Precious caters to these parents, who are sceptical of social media and concerned about their privacy, but still want milestone reminders – similar to Facebook's On This Day feature – which they can share with family and friends.

For more on today's kids and the trends that will shape their childhoods, see Gen Alpha: Raising the Superkids.

Published: 30 Apr 2018

Hispanic Attitudes to Social Media

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In the US, 41% of young Hispanics trust what people say about brands online and seek advice from their friends when making purchase decisions

Hispanics in the US are using social media more frequently than other ethnicities in the region, according to a new report by US insight agency ThinkNow in partnership with Mitú, a US media company targeting Latino audiences. Key findings include:

  • Social Media Buffs: Hispanics are the largest ethnic group in the US, totalling 57 million. With 69% using Facebook daily, there's huge potential for brands that reach them on this platform. However, their appetite for social is not satisfied by Facebook alone, with this group also using Instagram and Snapchat more frequently than Asians, African-Americans and non-Hispanic whites.
  • Affluent Latinos Always On: Latinos earning more than $75,000 use social media throughout the day much more than non-Hispanic whites who earn the same amount. Social media usage for both groups peaks at 8pm, during the primetime, showing that social media is competing with television. This is especially true for affluent Latinos, 70% of whom are online at that time of day.
  • The Younger, the More Engaged: Young Hispanics (aged 18 to 34) enjoy sharing content on social media to engage with friends and brands – more so than older generations. They also trust views expressed on social media, especially when it comes to brands: 41% trust what people say about brands online and seek advice from their friends when making purchase decisions, proving the importance of social media as a path-to-purchase medium when it comes to this group.

For more on how to engage with young social media users, see SXSW 2018: Speaking Gen Z's Language.

Published: 24 Apr 2018

Norway’s Sustainable Smart City

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Oslo Airport City

Norway has announced plans to build an 'energy positive' smart city beside its major airport by 2022.

Oslo Airport City will occupy four million sq m of space and house the airport's growing workforce of an anticipated 40,000 people by 2050. Designed by Nordic Office of Architecture and Haptic Architects, the city will be powered entirely by renewable energy and have the capacity to sell its surplus energy supplies to surrounding communities.

All cars in the city will run on electricity, while incorporated high-speed light rails will ensure that residents are never more than five minutes away from access to public transport. Other green technology integrated into the plans includes auto-lighting on streets and in buildings, as well as smart-tech waste and security management.

Alongside business and cargo hubs, renders of Oslo Airport City also show a large indoor swimming pool and cycling route encircling a lake, catering to Norwegians' interests in sports and outdoor leisure activities.

"This is a unique opportunity to design a new city from scratch," says Tomas Stokke, co-founder of Haptic Architects. "Using robust city-planning strategies such as walkability, appropriate densities, active frontages and a car-free city centre, combined with the latest developments in technology, we will be able to create a green, sustainable city of the future."

The smart cities market will be worth over $2tn by 2025 and Europe is set to have the largest number of smart city project investments globally (Frost & Sullivan, 2018). Learn more in High-Octane Hubs, part of our Smart Cities Spotlight Trend.

Published: 23 Apr 2018

Thrifty Millennials Turn to Refund Apps

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Ibotta

A new generation of apps is helping price-conscious American millennials claim refunds and earn cashback payments.

Millennials love a good bargain. Almost 80% of US millennials are influenced by price (Forbes, 2017) – and they also expect ethical production, transparency, convenience and high-quality products. Adept at thrifting and coupon clipping, young shoppers are turning to third-party apps to help them to save money effortlessly.

  • Automated Savings: Two American apps are helping users to claim refunds. Earny, a start-up based in Santa Monica, California, launched in 2015. Meanwhile, Paribus was founded by financial giant Capital One in 2014. The free apps scan a shopper’s email and card receipts to detect whether the prices of recent purchases drop shortly afterwards. They automatically claim the difference as a refund on the shopper’s behalf, taking a 25% commission. Paribus, which claims to have 2.5 million users, works with 30 major retailers including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Walmart. Unlike Paribus, Earny scans Amazon. Earny CEO Oded Vakrat claims the business model works to the advantage of retailers by “reducing item return rates because customers are more satisfied from their purchase”.
  • Tailored Cashback Deals: US cashback app Ibotta, a Denver-based business founded in 2011, enables shoppers to earn cashback on purchases, either in store or in app. Consumers check Ibotta before they shop and select certain offers (an algorithm provides guidance). Post-purchase, consumers take an image of the receipt and receive cashback within 48 hours in the form of real cash via PayPal. The app partners with more than 280 retailers including Walmart, Target and eBay.

For more on bargain shoppers’ consumer behaviour, see our report Budget Retail’s Quality Drive.

Published: 23 Apr 2018

App Helps Children Manage Emotions

Mobile games from US-based company Neuromotion Labs are teaching children emotional management skills using just a smartphone and a heart-rate monitor. The Mightier app encourages kids to learn deep-breathing exercises when their heart rate rises during gaming, helping them understand the correlation between frustration and heart rate.

Children strap a heart-rate monitor that's paired with an iPhone onto their wrist and choose a game to play from the Mightier platform. As they play the difficulty increases, which pushes their heart rate up. If their heart rate reaches the 'red zone', the game pauses and an animation runs, which encourages the child to take part in a deep-breathing, calming exercise to lower their heart rate.

The platform was built for children between the ages of six and 14 who are struggling to self-regulate their emotions. It's particularly useful for those with challenging behaviours, oppositional disorder, ADHD and autism.

"We have clinical research that shows that intentionally calming yourself down in the moment is extremely effective in exercising your parasympathetic nervous system and strengthening your emotional regulation," says co-founder Trevor Stricker. Research carried out by Mightier revealed that 45 minutes a week of play reduced outbursts from children by 62% and decreased oppositional behaviours by 40%.

Parents can pay three monthly instalments of $89 for the Mightier starter kit, or a one-off payment of $249. The kit includes access to the app and an online members' hub, expert parent support and a heart-rate monitor.

For more insights into Gen Alpha (aged nought to eight), see Gen Alpha: Raising the Superkids.

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: 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

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: 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.

Published: 11 Apr 2018

Somewear's Pocket-Sized Global Hotspot Device

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Somewear Global Hotspot

US tech firm Somewear Labs has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for the Somewear Global Hotspot – an adventure-tech product that connects your smartphone directly to satellite networks, giving 100% global network coverage wherever you are in the world.

The pocket-sized device, which weighs just 3oz (85g), connects to your smartphone via hotspot, allowing thrill-seekers to access two-way communication with any phone number or email on their contact list anywhere on the globe. Users can also share their location and download maps using the integrated GPS.

When connected to the Somewear app, the device provides vital travel information, including weather updates and local news. This information is delivered straight to the user's smartphone, enabling explorers to stay in touch, informed and safe, even when they're off-grid. A built-in SOS button also connects the user to 24/7 monitoring by an international emergency response co-ordination centre. The device is waterproof to one metre and operates at extreme temperatures.

"Somewear provides an experience beyond emergency scenarios," says co-founder Alan Besquin. Users will pay for one of three month-to-month data plans to use the device, starting at $15 a month for 20 satellite messages of 160 characters and rising to $50 a month for unlimited satellite messages. The device will begin shipping in July 2018.

Consumers are increasingly investing in thrill-seeking experiences to indulge their inner adrenaline junkie, and wearable technology is helping minimise risks involved. For more, read Survivalist Thrill-Seekers.

Interactive Artwork Aims to Boost Mental Wellbeing

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Intangible Goods

A vending machine in Sydney is selling customers small packets of advice based on their mood, in a bid to get more people talking about mental health.

The art installation, created by Elizabeth Commandeur and Mark Starmach, dispenses envelopes the size of chocolate bars and crisp packets filled with homemade cards and activity ideas to improve emotional wellbeing. The packs have been designed in collaboration with medical professionals to combat common mental health problems.

Visitors pay A$2 ($1.50) for a "snack" that matches their specific emotional need, choosing from packs such as Connection, Friendship, Reassurance, Spontaneity, Bravery, Structure and Purpose. A Spontaneity packet includes instructions to burst a blown-up bag next to someone's ear, while Belonging asks the customer to stick three stars on a small map of Sydney at locations that mean something special to them.

"In this fun, interactive artwork, we hope people find an unexpected way to talk about the things we all need more of in our minds, and increase their awareness of an important cause," Commandeur said in a statement.

Called Intangible Goods, the artwork will be moving around Sydney's central business district until April 8. All proceeds are being donated to organisations combating mental illness and stigma.

The installation confirms that discussion around mental health is now firmly in the spotlight as people become increasingly proactive about safeguarding their emotional wellbeing. The wellness economy is expanding rapidly, with a focus on respite and self-optimisation – see Nurturing Mental Health and Working the Wellness Dollar for more.

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