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Published: 18 Oct 2018

Millennial Marriages are Slowing the US Divorce Rate


Owing to longer premarital co-habitation, and getting married later in life, millennials are causing the US divorce rate to drop.

In an analysis of US census data, Professor Philip Cohen of the University of Maryland discovered that the country's divorce rate dropped 18% between 2008 and 2016. When variables such as age and marriage rates were factored into Cohen's analysis, the divorce rate was still 8% lower in 2016 than it had been eight years earlier. The census also reveals that divorce in the boomer demographic (aged 54 to 72), had almost doubled between 1990 and 2015 (Pew, 2017). These findings led Professor Cohen to argue that divorce rates are set to decline in coming years, owing in large to the millennial demographic's approach to marriage.

Millennials are getting married later: in 1990, the median age for a first marriage was 26.1 years for men and 23.9 for women. In 2017, it had risen to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women (US Census Bureau, 2017). In Norway, the average age of marriage - 39 for men and 38 for women - is seven years later than the average age of becoming a parent. This indicates that couples are living together for much longer before marriage than previous generations - and in some cases, starting families prior to marriage.

As relationship structures and timelines shift, we expect to see new forms of celebration and milestones emerge among consumers. Brands should look to help couples forge their own traditions and rituals. The New Family Network, from our latest Macro Trend The Kinship Economy, highlights the brands providing such services.

Published: 17 Oct 2018

Dress for Success: Affordable Interview Dressing

Amber Butchart giving a candidate advice on interview attire

Dressing appropriately for a job interview is a key concern for jobseekers  as well as a financial burden. Charities in Britain and the US are empowering job hunters by providing low-cost and rentable clothing and accessories for interviews.

Recent research has found that UK graduates spend £58 ($77) on average on a new interview outfit – an amount which is unattainable for many (Barclays, 2017). But career-finding app Debut and fashion historian Amber Butchart have collaborated with charity shops across the UK to launch a new initiative: Dress to Impress for £10, providing a whole outfit for just a tenner ($13).

More than 650 charity shops have committed to the enterprise by dedicating retail space to interview-appropriate clothing. Store volunteers will also be on hand to share styling advice from Butchart to allay any concerns.

Similarly, in the US, the New York Public Library has extended its offering beyond books by launching the Grow Up Work Fashion Library in August 2018. The fashion library focuses on accessories, offering items such as professional bags, briefcases and ties for three-week loans. It also has information sheets suggesting interview tips, career resources, books and websites – including those with advice on professional attire.

The two initiatives illustrate how contentious the issue of workwear has become. While professionalism is often associated with traditional tailoring, a recent survey reveals that only one in 10 people wear a suit to work (Travelodge, 2018).

As working life adapts to societal shifts, affordable, high-functioning clothing will be in demand. For further insight into the future of workwear, see Fashion's Workplace Challenge. For more on navigating the changing workplace, see our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 16 Oct 2018

Smart Caption Glasses: Theatre for the Hearing Impaired


As of October, London's National Theatre will offer Smart Caption Glasses for hard-of-hearing audience members. The glasses provide live subtitles, enabling theatregoers to enjoy performances as they unfold in real time.

Developed by tech company Epson, the software follows live production dialogue and stage directions, such as audio and lighting cues, to provide instant subtitling. This accommodates changes in pacing that might occur during performances. It also ensures that hard-of-hearing audience members reach significant points in the production - such as jokes - at the same time as the rest of the viewers.

The Smart Caption Glasses can be linked to a touchpad that allows users to alter the subtitling font size, colour, placement and the background display to suit individual needs. The technology could also potentially be used to offer foreign-language subtitles to non-English-speaking audiences, similar to US health-tech company Starkey's recently released translating hearing aids.

The glasses will be available for the National's 2019 season, including at some performances of a touring production of Macbeth. The glasses can be reserved through the National Theatre's online ticketing interface, with booking launching at the end of October for members, and November for the general public.

In the UK, there are 11 million people with hearing loss, making initiatives such as these a wise investment (Action on Hearing Loss, 2017). Time and again companies are proving the commercial benefits of appealing to traditionally under-represented consumers.

For our take on some of the recent designs accommodating a wide spectrum of abilities, see our Design for Disability report, as well as blogs on inclusive clothing for children and adults, and on new technology for the visually impaired.

Published: 12 Oct 2018

Facebook Launches Its First Video Chat Device: Portal


Facebook is aiming to make video chat a more natural, seamless experience with the release of its first hardware device, Portal.

Facebook's Portal combines a video screen with an artificial intelligence-powered camera that tracks users' movements, keeping them in the frame throughout the chat. The device also features four integrated microphones that pick up speech, regardless of where the user is in the room. These features mean that, unlike smartphone and computer video-chat apps, Portal allows the user to move and speak freely, as if their conversation were happening face to face.

With Portal, Facebook is tapping into a global trend of dynamic, borderless living, facilitating a realistic communication experience through technology (for more on this, see our report Being Borderless). Facebook also appears to be targeting family relationships: Portal's Story Time, an augmented reality application, allows users to read stories to loved ones using a teleprompter while smart visuals and audio illustrate the story. For more on how technology is supporting new family dynamics, see Crafting Modern Connections, part of our latest Macro Trend The Kinship Economy.

Facebook is wise to capitalise on the popularity of video chat: in 2017, it hosted 17 billion video chats on its Messenger platform (Facebook, 2017). However, reaction to Portal has been mixed; reviewers have found the camera tracking effective, but are concerned about privacy in light of Facebook's recent data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Facebook describes Portal as "private by design", fitting it with features such as a camera cover and a button to completely disable the visual and audio recording functions, with the aim of increasing the product's privacy credentials. For more on how to preserve consumer privacy, see our Safeguarding Security report.

Published: 10 Oct 2018

Femtech Fave Releases First Silent Wearable Breast Pump

London-based femtech company Elvie has just launched the world's first silent wearable breast pump. The device is free from the tubes and distinctive noises of a traditional pump, allowing discreet and hands-free milk expressing.

The Elvie Pump sits in the wearer's bra, allowing the user to continue with daily tasks while expressing milk. Like Elvie's Kegel training device (see our blog), the pump comes with an app that records data on factors such as milk production and pumping history. More importantly, the app allows the device to be controlled remotely, meaning the user doesn't need to fiddle with the pump while it's in their bra. The device has the potential to revolutionise breastfeeding for all mothers, especially those who return to work while still pumping. A single pump costs £229 ($300), with the double unit retailing for £429 ($560).

Traditional pumps are noisy and require the use of bulky machinery, often forcing users to find a private place in which to express. In the UK, although mothers have no legal right to breastfeeding breaks in the workplace, employers must meet obligations under health and safety, flexible working and discrimination laws (NCT, 2017). The NHS advises that the toilet, often one of the only private spaces available in a workplace, is not a suitable place in which to express milk (NHS, 2018).

The Elvie Pump is designed to be unnoticeable and allows women to express discreetly, as highlighted in its promotional video. Brands stand to benefit by following Elvie's example and providing tech that supports breastfeeding mothers. The hashtag #NormalizeBreastfeeding has over 740,000 mentions on Instagram, illustrating the growing movement towards destigmatising this natural act.

Our report Motherhood highlights further ways in which consumers can be supported in this chapter of their lives.

Published: 5 Oct 2018

Creatives Move Out of the City for Fresh Inspiration

City Quitters

Can creative inspiration be found outside of the melting pot of urban centres? And can innovation thrive in a rural setting? New book City Quitters by UK trend forecaster (and out-of-house Stylus expert) Karen Rosenkranz explores how young designers are moving further afield in search of a fresh perspective for their work.

As explored in New Metropolitans, cities are undergoing a demographic shift. Millennials (aged 24 to 37) are increasingly relocating out of urban areas, while boomers (aged 54 to 72) are stepping in to their place.

According to Rosenkranz, the rising cost of urban living and fierce competition are making it harder for creatives to thrive in a city environment. The dulling effect of financial anxiety and long work hours, plus a global homogeneous aesthetic fuelled by identikit social media feeds, led her to question whether “fresh, original thinking is no longer the preserve of a thriving megacity?”

For Italian artist Ivano Atzori and American set designer Kyre Chenven – two of Rosenkranz’s ‘city quitter’ subjects – the move to a small valley in Sardinia, Italy, steered the formation of their interdisciplinary studio Pretziada. The duo looks to the region’s design vernacular to inform their work, evolving traditional making techniques to peddle Sardinian crafts to the world.

This migration of creatives to the countryside will help rid rural life of simplistic utopian clichés, and instead, foster a fresh visual language that directs heritage crafts into the future.

For more on how crafts are being revived to offer consumers a sense of belonging, while fulfilling the innate human desire to create, see our S/S 20 Design Direction Journey.

City Quitters: Creative Pioneers Pursuing Post-Urban Life is published by Frame.

Published: 4 Oct 2018

Lego Engages Adult Creativity with New Model Kit


Lego has released Lego Forma, a new mechanical model kit aimed at adults looking to "reconnect with their creative side". The premium kit targets self-proclaimed 'kidults' and the AFOL community adult fans of Lego.

The Forma kit allows buyers to build an articulated fish, complete with a hand-crank to simulate realistic swimming movement. The model comes in four different prototypes each of which has the same fish 'skeleton' but can be decorated with different shark or fish 'skins'.

Lego's new release taps into the growing kidult market: in 2017, 11% of toy purchases were made by over-18s for their own use (NPD, 2018). As discussed in Playful Escapists, consumers are turning to nostalgic activities such as Lego model-building as a reprieve from today's high-pressure, digital-heavy world.

The Lego Forma kit has launched on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, to test the demand for such a product. The target of 500 units sold quickly, and now over 3,500 sets have already been purchased. This sales tactic is wise, following Lego's 8% revenue decline in 2017 due to a surplus of stock that prevented the release of new products (Lego, 2018). The kits are expected to be delivered in January 2019.

With its new model kit, Lego is catering to demand for tactile play opportunities for adults. For more on the benefits of experiences that engage the senses, see our Sensory Opportunity Spotlight Trend.

Published: 2 Oct 2018

M&S Expands Inclusive Offer with Easy-Dressing Kids’ Range

Marks & Spencer Easy Dressing Kids Range

British retailer Marks & Spencer has released a line of clothing designed for children with disabilities. The Easy Dressing range matches designs from the retailer's main kidswear collection, so every child has the opportunity to dress like their peers.

First launched in August with a range of schoolwear options, the line has now been extended to include clothing suitable for daywear. The designs cater to children with sensory and physical disabilities, featuring soft fabrics and flat-lock seams for comfort, popper and Velcro fastenings for ease, and pockets and extra fabric to accommodate casts and feeding tubes.

In addition, M&S has also used children of mixed abilities to model its Autumn/Winter range in its ad campaign and on-site. As one in 20 kids in the UK have some form of disability, the new collection and ad campaign provide mainstream representation and useful products for members of society whose needs are often ignored (DLF, 2017). The collection is also affordable, with the most expensive item, a coat, costing £36 ($47).

The collection is already garnering a positive response on Twitter - a fitting reminder that as consumers increasingly demand a diverse range of products for all abilities, ages, sizes and races, companies also benefit from catering to these needs.

For more on accessible design, see Design for Disability and our recent blog on inclusive clothing for adults.

Published: 28 Sep 2018

Neighbourhood App Nextdoor Opens Platform to Police

Nextdoor have opened up their platform to public services including the police

Neighbourhood app Nextdoor has launched a new public service platform that allows councils, fire departments and the police to interact with their local communities.

Launched in the UK in 2016, Nextdoor is a social media platform that helps to build communities in a local area; a Neighbourhood Watch for the digital age. To join a neighbourhood in the app, users have to provide proof of their address, a system that previously prohibited public services such as the police and councils from using the Nextdoor app to communicate with local residents.

Nextdoor found that once communities began to use the social network, they would typically start to share crime and safety updates. "At that point, what happens is we hear from local police forces who actually want to get involved," Nick Lisher, UK country manager for Nextdoor, explained at the launch of Nextdoor's new public service platform.

After trialling the service with the Metropolitan Police Service for the past year, the update now allows local police, fire and council departments to send and receive messages within a neighbourhood, without having access to the full private community's news feed.

Nextdoor sees this new platform as one solution to the UK police staffing crisis. This year, police numbers in the UK are at their lowest since 1996 (Home Office, 2018). By communicating directly with neighbourhoods, police resources can be deployed more efficiently, reacting to patterns of reports and using residents' observations to help solve criminal cases.

In a recent blog, we discussed how technology can be used to help prevent crime and violence. See our Safeguarding Security report for more examples of how new technologies are addressing consumers' security concerns.

Published: 25 Sep 2018

Crime-Fighting Algorithm Will Help Prevent Tiger Extinction

Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to help identify and intervene in areas where human-animal interaction is threatening the tiger population. With less than 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild, technology such as this may be crucial in preserving a species on the brink of extinction (WWF, 2018).

Researchers from the University of Kent have used computer modelling to determine where conflict between humans and endangered tigers is most likely to take place in Sumatra, Indonesia. Their research analysed 13 years' worth of data on human-tiger interaction, revealing areas where conflict is more likely - such as near villages and on certain connecting routes.

The researchers also mapped attitudes towards tigers among residents in the area, plotting where tolerance of tigers was particularly low. Combining the maps has identified high-risk areas where tiger killings, in retaliation against livestock being lost to big cats, are more likely. By using the algorithm, conservationists can identify where intervention is most vital, helping locals to secure livestock and remove tiger snares.

The algorithm was adapted from crime-fighting technology, where human-on-human attacks were likewise mapped to determine where law enforcement would be best placed to prevent outbreaks of crime. The algorithm also has the potential to be adapted to prevent the killing of other species facing human and natural threats.

As more advanced forms of machine learning and AI move into the mainstream, there's potential for brands to donate their proprietary technologies and resources to novel uses, benefitting the environment and humanitarian causes. See our Technology With a Conscience report for examples of these initiatives. For more on using technology to ensure a sustainable future, see our Sustainability Turns Smart Product Design report.

Published: 20 Sep 2018

India's New Market: Homosexual Relationships Legalised

India has legalised homosexual sex

In an historic ruling, consensual homosexual sex was decriminalised in India on September 6. As the country with the second largest population in the world, this development allows a huge demographic to live their lives as they choose, without fear of legal repercussions (US Census Bureau, 2018).

Now that consensual homosexual sex has been removed from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, it is thought that so-called Pink Capitalism will be a huge boost to India's economy.

The legalisation of same-sex relationships will encourage tourism from the global LGBTQ+ travel market, which is valued at $211bn annually (Peter Tatchell Foundation, 2018). Products and services catering to the particular needs of India's LGBTQ+ community will now also be legally permitted. So it's no surprise that a recent report demonstrates a strong correlation between LGBTQ+ inclusion and economic development (Open for Business, 2018).

The legalisation of homosexual relationships in India opens a new market to businesses and companies that seek to support the interests and requirements of those in the LGBTQ+ community. However, while the law may have changed, India remains a largely conservative society.

To ensure due sensitivity when addressing this topic, see our reports Speak the Language of Now and How to Talk About Sex & Sexuality.

Published: 18 Sep 2018

AI Algorithm Identifies How City Structure Affects Health

Open spaces in cities correlate with lower obesity rates

A machine-learning algorithm has been developed to estimate obesity levels in US cities without directly assessing the medical data of inhabitants. The researchers hope their findings can help future cities improve the health and wellbeing of their residents.

Researchers from the University of Washington studied satellite and Google Maps Street View imagery of city infrastructure and building placement, correlating it with obesity rates in individual cities. They also included 'points of interest' such as food and pet shops, which encourage activity within a district. For example, in areas with shops, people are more likely to walk around and socialise compared to less-frequented industrial districts.

Their initial research has found, unsurprisingly, that green urban areas with widely spaced buildings correlated with lower obesity rates, as these features facilitate physical activity. Despite wealthy areas typically including these elements, validation tests demonstrated that income was only one contributing factor to inhabitants' health; a city's infrastructure also affected its obesity rates.

The algorithm has only been applied to US cities so far, but could be rolled out further afield if adapted to account for differences in city planning and lifestyle across other cultures.

Obesity affects almost 40% of US adults (CDC, 2018). Dynamic approaches to health management in cities is a wise move, as less than 20% of the US population live in rural areas (Census Bureau, 2016). The University of Washington's research will be helpful in planning future urban infrastructure and offers a novel solution to concerns over healthcare.

Our recent blog on Norwegian town Lyseparken illustrates how cities of the future can be built with the wellbeing of inhabitants in mind. For more on the future of urban spaces, see our Smart Cities Spotlight Trend.

Published: 14 Sep 2018

New Apple Watch Brings ECG Tech to the Masses

Apple Watch

Apple has launched the Apple Watch Series 4 at its annual showcase event in Cupertino, Silicon Valley. The latest iteration of its wearable device focuses on health-tracking and wellbeing, with particular relevance for senior and boomer demographics.

The new Apple Watch is the first device from the company to include an electrocardiography (ECG) sensor. ECGs can detect disordered heart rhythms, which can indicate vulnerability to heart attacks and strokes. All data recorded by the ECG is stored in the Apple Health app, a feature that will appeal to the 90% of health tech users happy to share device data with their doctor (Accenture, 2018).

The Apple Watch Series 4 can also detect when its wearer has fallen, using an algorithm to analyse movement and impact. The wearer is sent an alert with the option to dismiss the notification or call the emergency services; if the wearer stays inactive for over a minute, the watch automatically notifies emergency services.

The new Apple Watch's health technology will specifically benefit the senior and boomer demographics. "The key breakthrough here is the ability to notify the support network around elderly people when someone wearing an Apple Watch has fallen over," Lloyd Price, co-founder of digital health company Zesty, tells Stylus. "I think the biggest buyers of Apple Watch will not actually be elderly people, but their carers who want peace of mind."

We're living in an ageing society: the proportion of the world's population over 60 years old is estimated to rise to 22% by 2050 (WHO, 2018). Brands would be wise to follow Apple's example and develop technologies that help to care for older generations.

For more on health tech aimed at boomers and seniors, see our Starkey Hearing Technologies and Papa App blogs.

Published: 13 Sep 2018

Starkey's New Hearing Aids Tap Wearable Tech Appeal

Starkey Hearing Technologies' new AI-powered hearing aid, Livio

US-based health-tech company Starkey Hearing Technologies has revealed its new artificial intelligence-powered hearing aid, Livio. In addition to optimising the wearer's listening experience, it also translates languages in real time and records the wearer's biometric data.

Livio uses directional microphones and binaural audio signal processing to amplify important sounds, such as a friend talking in a noisy room. A key innovation is its use of machine learning algorithms to optimise hearing in different environments, rather than relying on manual tuning.

It is estimated that 466 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss worldwide (WHO, 2018). However, only 40% of people who need hearing aids actually wear them (Action on Hearing Loss, 2017). One reason for this is hearing aids' negative associations with age and illness.

Starkey hopes that Livio's multifunctionality will help to alleviate some of the social stigma still surrounding medical devices. Beyond its hearing capabilities, Livio acts as a fitness tracker, recording the number of steps and time spent physically active, displaying the data in a linked app called Thrive. The wearable additionally logs the duration of social engagement and active listening, presenting the data as a mental health 'score' on Thrive.

Livio also incorporates real-time translation of 27 languages. The wearer's speech is translated on the screen of their linked mobile device, while the responses they receive are heard through the hearing aid.

As disabling hearing loss is projected to affect 900 million people by 2050, health tech companies would be wise to further develop designs that facilitate optimal living for the hard of hearing (WHO, 2018). As noted above, 60% of those in need of hearing aids do not wear them, demonstrating the effect social stigma can have on the adoption of health treatments. In our Tackling Taboos report, we highlight how businesses and platforms can integrate products with stigma-busting rhetoric to entice reticent demographics.

Published: 11 Sep 2018

Adobe Uses Eye Tracking to Pioneer Infinite VR Experiences

Adobe has pioneered a virtual reality (VR) system which tricks the brain into thinking the body is surrounded by infinite space.

A significant limitation of existing VR systems is that they're restricted by the physical space in which the user can move, or require participants to sit still and use a games controller, breaking the sense of immersion. But Adobe – in collaboration with New York's Stony Brook University and US tech company Nvidia – has developed a system which enables users to walk around in a confined physical space, while creating the illusion that the virtual one mapped onto it is much larger.

The system takes advantage of saccades – rapid eye movements that humans subconsciously make to take in their surroundings. Our brains ignore the visual feedback during these movements to prevent disorientation and dizziness. Adobe's VR system capitalises on this "saccadic suppression" and makes minute adjustments to the VR space, forcing the user to subconsciously adjust their position in response. This allows for the sensation of near-infinite movement within a limited space.

This technology has great potential for the world of gaming, but the developers believe it can also be used in architectural planning and remote education.

As discussed in our report on this year's Immersive Showcase at the Tribeca Film Festival, innovators are using VR to cultivate original experiences for consumers. Brands interested in using VR should take into account Adobe's new system when planning future applications.

For more on dynamic uses of VR, see Retail's VR Future and Designing Amplified Experiences.