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Published: 14 Mar 2018

British Adults Concerned About Sharing Data

A third of British adults would feel more comfortable if an organisation explained how it intended to use their data

Brits are concerned about sharing their personal information online and are more comfortable sharing data with organisations they know and trust, according to new research from UK non-profit Open Data Institute (ODI). Key highlights include:

  • Familiarity Breeds Trust: Knowledge of an organisation increases people's likelihood to share their personal data. Sixty-four per cent of respondents would share their personal information with a brand or organisation they know, while only 36% would offer such details to one they didn't. However, this behaviour changes with age. One in five (20%) 18- to 24-year-olds would feel comfortable sharing their date of birth with an organisation they hadn't heard of, while for 45- to 54-year-olds, the figure is just 8%.
  • Health Comes First: The most popular 'data trade-off' was for medical research, with 47% saying they would share health-related information if it helped develop new medicines and treatments. In fact, more consumers trust health organisations with their data (64%) than they do their friends and family (57%).
  • Information is Power: A third of respondents (33%) said they would feel more comfortable if an organisation explained exactly how it intended to use or share their data. The findings also reveal a lack of data literacy among consumers and highlight the role that brands might play in addressing this, as 18% would welcome clear, step-by-step instructions on how to share their personal data safely.

For more on how brands can attain trust in the era of big data and artificial intelligence, see Tech for Trust: DLD 2018.

Published: 13 Mar 2018

Pop.Up Next: Hybrid Flying Concept Car

Pop.Up Next concept car

German car manufacturer Audi, European aerospace company Airbus and Italian engineering company Italdesign presented a new flying car concept called Pop.Up Next at the Geneva Motor Show 2018 (March 8-18). It's a hybrid between a car and a quadcopter, and is fully electric and autonomous.

Unlike other flying cars, Pop.Up Next consists of two parts: a two-seat car pod and a drone-like quadcopter module that attaches on top to transform it into a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle.

The companies envision that when passengers travelling in the car get stuck in traffic, they can use an accompanying app to hail the quadcopter component, which will pick up the vehicle and fly it to its destination. These flying parts will recharge on top of buildings until they're summoned by a user.

Pop.Up Next is the evolution of Pop.Up, a concept Airbus and Italdesign presented in Geneva in 2017 without Audi. The new version is much lighter than its predecessor and has a redesigned interior. According to its creators, it aims to free commuters from the need to drive and offers a solution to growing traffic problems in city centres.

"Creativity is needed where new mobility concepts for cities and people's diverse needs are concerned," said Bernd Martens, Audi board member and Italdesign president. "Pop.Up Next is an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future." 

For more on the future of mobility, see Radical Transport. Don't miss our Geneva Motor Show 2018 coverage, publishing on March 22.

Published: 12 Mar 2018

Amager Resource Center: Urban Ski Slope on Waste Plant

Amager Resource Center

From autumn 2018, Copenhagen's waste-to-energy plant Amager Resource Center (ARC) will include a year-round artificial rooftop ski slope, a hiking hill and a climbing wall for local residents.

Originally opened in March 2017, the waste facility is considered the cleanest and most efficient incineration plant in the world. Usually, such waste-management plants are kept outside cities or well hidden. ARC, however, will become a destination in its own right. Designed by Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, the building's new features will include a grove of 30 trees, the world's tallest climbing wall and a 600-metre ski slope on top of its slanted roof. The surrounding area will provide further recreational facilities, such as soccer fields, a go-kart track and water sports.

ARC brings Copenhagen one step closer to becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2025. It powers 62,500 homes and provides 160,000 households with hot water, while emitting 100,000 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide than the city's previous plant.

As part of the new design additions, the plant will emit carbon dioxide smoke in the form of giant rings for each 250kg of the gas produced. The smoke rings will be visible from most of Copenhagen and are expected to raise awareness about the scale of air pollution that's produced, even in a plant with huge efficiency measures. It's an attempt to help people become more aware of the waste they produce in their daily lives.

For more on the innovative solutions for environmentally friendly city living, see Smart Cities: High-Octane Hubs.

Published: 8 Mar 2018

How to Talk About Sex & Sexuality

We're in a time where not understanding sexuality and gender is unacceptable

Learning how to talk about sex and sexuality is vital for brands today, said Sarah Forbes – author of Sex in the Museum – during a lecture in London on February 22. Organised by global talk curators Rising Minds, the event explored key themes including:

  • Biased Views: Brands should proceed with caution when communicating aspects of sex or sexuality, owing to inherent bias. "Even in fields that are supposed to be unbiased, biases still creep in because we are human beings and the ideas we have about gender and sexuality are socially constructed," said Forbes.
  • Appropriate Language: We're in a time where not understanding sexuality and gender is unacceptable, said Forbes. Brands shouldn't portray ideas about concepts such as gender fluidity before talking to these communities and heeding their advice. The word cisgender illustrates the importance of language, she explained: "It's not 'trans' people and 'normal' people – this is not going to fly well with your audience." If brands want to be on the right side of history, they must educate themselves, she explained: "Terminology and ideology go hand in hand."
  • Tech Innovation: Forbes urged tech companies to look to the sex industry for innovation inspiration, because "as soon as there's a new technology, it's used for sex". Our Rewiring Relationships report reveals more on how disruptive technologies – including artificial intelligence and virtual reality – will irrevocably change behaviours around dating and love in the coming years.

For a better understanding of consumer attitudes towards gender and sexuality, see Gender-Fluid Generation: Beauty Attitudes and Culture Guardians.

Published: 7 Mar 2018

Somnai: Immersive Lucid-Dreaming Experience


London-based production company Dotdotdot has launched an event called Somnai that lets participants dream lucidly and access their subconscious minds.

Somnai promises to "awaken all your human senses" through a layered-reality experience, with the first performances taking place in March 2018. During 90-minute sessions, participants engage with immersive technology to trigger lucid dreaming, allowing them to explore and control aspects of their dreams while in a semi-conscious state.

This will be made possible via interactions with live actors, virtual-reality (VR) technology and immersive media. Participants will wear a VR headset, but also experience stimuli from real-life actors and sensory elements to trigger taste and touch, altering their sense of reality even further.

"We can mess with you because we've got you in a digital environment," chief executive Andrew McGuinness told Huffington Post. "You feel the wind blowing up, you feel the spray, there's a smell of seaweed. So everything's there to convince you and immerse you really in that environment."

The event's theme is an indicator of how consumers are increasingly interested in exploring their unknown, possibly darker sides of their personalities – an idea unpacked in Shadow Selves: Tapping Consumers' Dark Sides. With an enhanced desire for introspection, consumers are seeking opportunities to access their subconscious as a source for greater meaning, creativity and self-care.

It also chimes with New Nightlife, which looks at how people are embracing immersive theatrical nightlife experiences that diverge from traditional forms of entertainment.

Published: 5 Mar 2018

Chinese Parents Put Children First

Some 72% of young Chinese parents (aged 20 to 29) believe that raising their kids is more important than developing their career

Chinese parents are prioritising their families over their careers and putting their children's needs before their own, according to findings from global market research firm Mintel.

Released in December 2017, the study surveyed young parents aged between 20 and 39, who have at least one child aged 17 or below. Key findings include:

  • Children First: Some 72% of young Chinese parents (aged 20 to 29) believe that raising their kids is more important than developing their career. They strive to improve their children's quality of life: 93% set tangible goals for the next five years, such as buying a house (35%) or a car (24%).
  • Pet Love: Chinese parents believe that pets can improve their children's quality of life. Sixty-five per cent think they're beneficial to their children's growth, as they offer opportunities for exercise and companionship - particularly when considered in light of the country's one-child policy, which was in place until 2016.
  • Father Figures: Chinese fathers are involved in their children's upbringing, with 54% stating that communication among family members is very important. They also have a say when it comes to family leisure and entertainment, with 44% choosing activities that get their children moving.
  • Family Tech: Seventy-three per cent of Chinese parents admit to using tech devices to help their children study. However, they are conscious of the negative effects of exposing children to digital media and want to protect them from it (see also Kids & Family Tech Trends).

For more on the attitudes of Chinese consumers, see China's Youth: Challenger Consumers.

Published: 2 Mar 2018

One Shared House: Co-Living in 2030

Danish design think-tank Space10Ikea’s exploratory concept lab – has co-ordinated an online survey that investigates the public’s perception of communal living spaces.

One Shared House 2030 supposes a future of augmented urban developments and housing shortages in 2030, to which co-living arrangements could be an effective response. The survey asks participants what type of people they would like to live with, what spaces and amenities they would be willing to share, and what they believe would be the positives of living in a communal settlement.

The findings show that overall, people would prefer to live in the city with individuals from all walks of life. Four to 10 is the ideal number of people in the community and ideally, all members would enjoy equal ownership of the house.

Participants are open to sharing, particularly regarding use of the internet, garden and workspaces. However, the boundaries between public and private spaces are important, with the majority wanting their private space to be unfurnished and off limits when they are not present. 

Despite a common concern about the potential lack of privacy, interviewees acknowledged the benefits of co-living environments, citing socialising and reduced living costs as the two greatest benefits. 

For more on how co-living environments are influencing interior and urban design, read Smarter Spaces: Optimising the Home and The Communal City in LDF 2017: Lifestyle Trends.

Published: 1 Mar 2018

Love and Producer: Virtual-Dating Game for Chinese Women

Love and Producer

Chinese game developer Pape Studio has created a dating simulation mobile game called Love and Producer that's already been downloaded seven million times since launching in December 2017.

Love and Producer falls into the genre of otome games - a Japanese term describing story-based video games for women, where the player's goal is to form a romantic relationship with a virtual male character. In Love and Producer, the protagonist is a woman trying to save her father's TV production company from bankruptcy, while developing relationships with four male characters with unique superpowers. Each man adheres to four different archetypes: a CEO, a scientist, a policeman and a famous popstar.

One of the special features of the game is that it allows players to interact with the characters over the phone or through social media, bringing the virtual relationship a step closer to reality. It's been so popular that fans rented a gigantic digital billboard in Shenzhen to wish one of the characters a happy birthday. The game is free to download, but in-game purchases are already valued at around 200m yen ($31.5m) (GameLook, 2018).

Women in China are no longer a minority when it comes to gaming and they shouldn't be ignored. In fact, 54% of players of Honour of Kings, Chinese multinational Tencent's most profitable game, are women (South China Morning Post, 2017).

For more on Chinese consumers' shifting attitudes and behaviours, see China's Youth: Challenger Consumers.

Published: 28 Feb 2018

Online Zine Makes You Go Offline

The Disconnect

The Disconnect is a new free online magazine of fiction, poetry and essays that is only accessible when the reader goes offline.

The magazine's homepage contains a warning notice informing visitors that they need to disconnect from the internet if they want to access its content as, paradoxically, it's an "offline-only magazine". The moment the user is disconnected, the zine loads. It locks again when the device reconnects.

The Disconnect's first issue came out in January 2018. It includes an essay titled Escape: The Next Digital Divide, which examines the privilege of disconnecting and distancing oneself from the internet. This is The Disconnect's fundamental premise, as expressed in the magazine's about page: "By forcing you to physically disable your internet connection, The Disconnect creates a dynamic that allows you to enjoy engaging, digital content at your own pace."

Technology overwhelm is contributing towards continuous partial attention, which is limiting people's ability to focus, causing anxiety and attention disorders, and even lowering their IQ. The Disconnect is tapping into the notion of monotasking, also known as "single tasking", which means concentrating on a single task at a time (see The Purpose Collective for more). By disconnecting, readers avoid the links, ads and alerts that would normally distract them from the articles they originally intended to read.

For more on consumers' desire for simplicity and digital minimalism, see Essentialist Communities and Simplicity Strategies.

Published: 27 Feb 2018

Livin: Smart Shower Device

Livin Shower

Californian start-up Livin has created an innovative product that aims to personalise the shower experience.

By using machine learning, cloud computing and sensor technology, the Livin Shower fixture can bring the water up to the user's preferred temperature, play their favourite music, and save these personal preferences for up to 10 members of the household.

The smart shower fixture is compatible with Amazon Echo, Google Home and Nest, which means users can just say "prepare my morning shower" and be notified when it's ready through the accompanying app. They can even have their room warmed up to prevent the after-shower chill.

Using a proprietary temperature-control algorithm, Livin reaches the specified temperature in the shortest amount of time and auto-pauses the water stream, helping to save water by reducing unnecessary flow. It also monitors water usage and displays results in the app, which could motivate people to reduce wastage.

Livin Shower's early-bird price on Kickstarter is $299 and it can be pre-ordered for $599. It is expected to start shipping in autumn 2018.

With smart home devices becoming more accessible than ever and the smart home market expected to reach $53.45bn by 2022 (Zion Market Research, 2017), we expect to see similar technology addressing more of our everyday needs.

For more on the future of smart home tech, see Internet of Home Comforts and Smarter Spaces: Optimising the Home.

Published: 26 Feb 2018

US Cannabis Industry Booming

In the US, cannabis sales are expected to hit $21bn by 2021, up from $11bn in 2018

Although cannabis is still considered illegal in the US under federal law, medicinal cannabis has now been legalised in 29 states, with retail cannabis shops opening in California for the first time in 2018.

As regulations are relaxed, the industry is growing significantly and will drive job growth in the coming years, according to a study by job search website ZipRecruiter.

Released in January 2018, the study highlights growth opportunities in the legal cannabis industry. Key findings include: 

  • Cannabis Careers: The cannabis industry saw 445% growth in job posts in 2017 – outpacing the tech sector (254% growth) and healthcare (70%). There are now more people employed in the legal cannabis industry (235,000) than there are dental hygienists (204,000).
    Federal legalisation would further boost the job market – immediately creating an estimated 782,000 roles. That figure could increase to 1.1 million by 2025.
  • Rapid Expansion: The legal marijuana industry in the US is growing exceptionally fast. US consumers spent an estimated $9.7bn on legal cannabis in 2017 (Business Insider, 2017). Sales are expected to hit $21bn by 2021, up from $11bn in 2018 (BDS Analytics, 2018).

For more on how marijuana culture is changing, see Women Embrace Weed, New Food Covetables and Retail's New Prestige Players.

Published: 21 Feb 2018

MIT Enterprise Forum: Advancing Voice Tech

Google Home Mini

Voice is on the verge of becoming a primary tech interface, according to speakers at the Advances in Speech Technology MIT Enterprise Forum in New York (February 15).

Key areas of development include the emerging field of "conversation design" – creating personalised and context-sensitive dialogues between humans and machines – and the rapidly advancing area of intelligent speech transcription. We round up the highlights:

  • Voice-to-Visual Spectrum: Dan Padgett, head of conversation design at Google, said the company is building an ecosystem spanning voice-only (for example, smart speakers), intermodal (smartphones, for instance) and visual-only (like televisions) devices. The goal is to co-ordinate experiences across these platforms, Padgett explained: "If [users] ask about shirts at Gap, it might be better to move them to a screen and show what they look like," rather than verbally describing every shirt.
    Google also launched the petite Home Mini smart speaker last autumn, and announced screen-equipped smart displays similar to the Amazon Echo Show at CES last month, set to launch mid-year. Google Home devices are now available in 12 markets spanning eight languages.
  • Cracking the Conversation Code: AI-powered speech recognition is advancing quickly, with a word-error rate of 4.9% in 2018 compared to 6.1% at the end of 2016, said Padgett – who describes his role as "teaching robots to talk to humans".
    While technology can recognise speech, understanding what users mean remains challenging. For example, 'Springfield' could refer to a town in Missouri, Massachusetts or elsewhere; while a request to play 'Yesterday' is likely to mean the Beatles track – but the Boyz II Men cover is also a popular version.
    It's crucial for voice-led tech to acknowledge ambiguity, let users clarify their intent, and remember user choices for the next encounter. Slowing down the interaction is preferable to getting it wrong, given users' low tolerance for error.
Google Assistant on JBL smart display
Google Assistant on LG smart display
  • Designing Oral Dialogues: Designing for voice revolves around interactions that are "linear, always moving forward and ephemeral", said Padgett. Information must be structured to support easy recall. The "end-focus principle", for instance, requires that old or known information is stacked at the front, with new facts at the back.
  • Strides in Transcription Tech: Several companies showcased AI-fuelled speech transcription tech, primarily targeted at enterprise customers. Silicon Valley speech-tech start-up AISense is seeking to "translate all spoken conversations as usable data, regardless of linguistic difficulty", said Seamus McAteer, head of revenue and partnerships.
    Launched in February 2018, the company's Otter app records and transcribes audio – for example, from meetings or calls. AISense also powers a feature introduced in January 2018 by video-conferencing firm Zoom that offers automatic transcriptions of meetings held on the platform. This feature is likely to become standard for web conferencing in the next few years.
    Stenopoly, the first product from Philadelphia-based Lovoco, performs real-time bilingual captioning, translation and transcription. The company is primarily targeting the meetings industry and academia.
    Californian tech firm VoiceBase's software performs speech analytics, pulling out keywords and topics. A user can click on a keyword to find all instances of it in audio or video recordings, or search millions of voice conversations with a simple query. The company also uses deep learning to analyse conversations at scale and predict, for instance, which customers will convert in a given timeframe, or which transactions are fraudulent.

See 10 Tech Trends to Watch in 2018, CES 2018: Home Electronics and IFA Berlin 2017 for more on the rise of talkative technology. For an overview of voice-first marketing developments, read Advertising in the Alexa Era.

Published: 20 Feb 2018

2018 Olympics: Payment-Embedded Merchandise


Multinational corporation Visa has created a range of gloves, stickers and commemorative pins embedded with payment technology to enable fast, contactless transactions at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

At the event, Visa is showcasing the future trajectory of monetary exchange, whereby users pay for goods and services via embedded tech, leaving their credit or debit card at home. This is made possible through the continued development of near-field communication (NFC) chips, which enable any object to process payments when within a four-inch radius of a receiver.

Visa has released three different payment-embedded items suited to the conditions and culture of the Olympic Games. The commemorative pins are inspired by the custom of both spectators and athletes collecting pins as souvenirs of the event, while the stickers serve as flexible micro tags that can be attached to any surface for easy use. The gloves allow users to pay for transactions while keeping their hands warm in Pyeongchang’s cold climate.

Each device purchased is pre-loaded with a monetary value that the user wishes to spend, avoiding the need for the merchandise to be connected to their bank account. During the event, Visa’s merchandise is available to purchase from on-site stores as well as from vending machines located across the Olympic grounds.

Read NRF 2018: Tech-Driven Retail for examples of how emerging tech is shaking up the retail environment and creating seamless check-out experiences. For more on how digital innovations in packaging are transforming products into services, see Digital Packaging Futures.

Published: 19 Feb 2018

Thai Smart Visa Targets Digital Nomads

Growing numbers of consumers are swapping the nine-to-five for a nomadic lifestyle

Thailand's cabinet has approved a new Smart Visa in a bid to attract investors, start-up entrepreneurs, high-level executives and skilled professionals.

The Smart Visa does not require a work permit and will give recipients a four-year visa instead of the current one-year option. It also gives dependents the right to live and work in the country and extends the standard 90-day reporting period to immigration to an annual check-in.

According to officials, "the Smart Visa is intended to increase knowledge transfer and skill development in desirable fields such as technology and medicine". Eligible applicants will need to prove a minimum monthly income of 200,000 baht ($6,258). Applications for the visa began on February 1.

Other countries in Southeast Asia are also making efforts to attract digital nomads. Working in partnership with Malaysian urban regeneration group ThinkCity, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) is aiming to repopulate Kuala Lumpur's centre by creating co-working spaces that will attract foreign and local creative workers.

"Digital nomads will come in and bring new ideas," said Duncan Cave, ThinkCity's programme manager. "The synergies between them and local Malaysians should be great."

The Work/Life Revolution is gaining momentum across the globe. For more on the flexible workers who are swapping the nine-to-five for a nomadic lifestyle, see Tomorrow's Wandering Workers and Digital Nomads.

Published: 14 Feb 2018

MoveCar: QR Codes Tackle China’s Parking Shortage

China has an estimated shortage of 50 million parking spaces

In a bid to solve China's parking problem, Alipay – the world's largest mobile payment platform – launched MoveCar within its app last month. The programme enables people to anonymously contact the owner of a parked vehicle that is blocking their car, and ask them to move it.

MoveCar's Chinese name translates roughly to "move a car with a code immediately" – which is exactly what the programme does. Drivers create a custom QR code, print it out, and place it on their windscreen. If a car is blocking someone's way, anyone can scan the QR code and contact the driver to let them know they need to move it.

By using a QR code, both parties remain anonymous and the car owner does not feel as exposed as they would if they'd provided their phone number instead, for example.

Chinese cities are famous for their traffic jams, but parking is an even greater problem, with an estimated shortage of 50 million spaces. With MoveCar, Alipay is aiming to tackle part of the issue. Consumers are already on board – the tool attracted 40,000 users within 10 days of its release.

For more on transport innovations, see our CES 2018: Automotive report.