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Pepper, The Ticklish Robot Pepper is a robot created by Softbank, one of Japan’s telecommunications companies. Some people consider Pepper the future of customer service. Pepper looks directly at you and follows your movement once you’ve gotten his attention and it’s also capable of learning over time about an individual’s preferences and modifying its behavior accordingly. Pepper can recognize basic human emotions like happiness or sadness. And a cellphone store is slated to be opened in Japan staffed mostly by Peppers. But, I personally would prefer that our future robot overlords looked a little less like an Anime version of C3PO. Oh, and if you touch its head it says “Oh! That tickles!” (My goodness, how annoying.) Application to Marketing: Some American company will give itself a PR boost by opening a Pepper-staffed storefront. Everyone will get excited and decide they need their own robot-themed marketing outreach campaign. (Remember drones?) Most of these campaigns will be convoluted and ineffective but they’ll look good enough in a 2 minute video to win a Cyber Lion or two. Within a year, Pepper will seem like a quaint anachronism. I hope. Availability: Do you want that Cyber Lion or don’t you? Better get on this then! Read More Stop Staring at my Data Sometimes I wonder if the U.S. government has secretly invested in encryption startups. Yet again, the government is loudly proclaiming their right to view everyone’s private data. Yet again, demand for encryption services has skyrocketed. With exquisite timing, ProtonMail an end-to-end encrypted email service, is exiting beta and launching apps for iOS and Android. ProtonMail has an interesting approach to ducking FBI warrants, the company is based in Switzerland, a country with unusually robust privacy laws. Application to Marketing: In this post-Snowden era, encryption has value to consumers. Privacy concerns have moved into the mainstream. This isn’t limited to government surveillance. Digital behemoths like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon have come under fire for the extent of the data they collect on users and the use they make of that data. Given the general distaste for advertising in the society, compounded with the use of private data in ad targeting technology, I think that this year we will start to see news articles about individual brands violating customer privacy. Don’t let that brand be yours. If an adtech partner is offering you too much data on your customers and their online behavior, be wary. Availability: Encryption. It’s not just for terrorists anymore! Read More Goodbye, Dumb City Smart City initiatives have been getting more and more attention around the world. No wonder. Governments are confronting the challenges of a quickly-urbanizing global population and the promise of technological solutions for intractable problems like crime, energy use, water management and government services with shrinking budgets. India dedicated $1.2 billion dollars in their budget last year for Smart City initiatives. But the scale of the necessary infrastructure is so massive, that even that substantial investment is a drop in the bucket. Application to Marketing: The private sector is going to have to supply the funding to build Smart City infrastructure. There is precedent for this. Both the cell networks we rely on and the cable that brings content into our homes are examples of (poorly conceived and executed) privately-funded infrastructure. The advantage for the companies that build the next generation of infrastructure is that they will “own the pipes.” But there is also the advantage of appearing (or being) public-spirited. Certainly, finding out how your company could make your city smarter and more livable will yield dividends in the future. Availability: As with most things, Google is already doing this. Read More Goodbye, Stupid Desktop I’m staring at a big screen. It’s my computer screen and it’s dominating my desk space right now. I switched from my laptop to this gargantuan beast, after a visit to the optometrist revealed a sudden and humiliating need for reading glasses. I am discontented with this arrangement since this movie screen sized monitor broadcasts my work habits to all of my co-workers. But what is to be done. It’s not like I could slip on a VR or AR headset and work in total privacy without cluttering my desk space with a computer and peripherals. Not yet, anyway. But some innovative minds in the VR and AR space have realized that work spaces, not game consoles are the real killer app for these new technologies. Application to Marketing: The office is about to fundamentally change for the first time since the 1980’s. Computers are expensive and their powerful processors are increasingly unnecessary because of cloud computing. Why replace them with netbooks when you could replace them with a VR headset tethered to a keyboard? The disappearance of these large screens will accelerate the blending of personal and business time since office workers can be doing anything in the privacy of their own virtual world. Content has already changed from half an hour sitcoms and hour long dramas to short duration chunks ideally suited to quick work-break consumption. Daytime advertising used to focus on housewives and the unemployed. Now it’s for everyone. Availability: Two years. Three max. Read More

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