I remember when virtual reality tried to go mainstream in the mid-80s, big, heavy headsets and poor computer graphics let you walk around a world that looked like a big pixel. It was interesting but even the teenage me was unimpressed. Jump forward to now and virtual reality has become cheap and nimble.

Enter Google Cardboard. For about $15 you can have a virtual reality headset sent to you. Slide your smartphone in, put your headphones on and you’re off.

fold

Sure there are more expensive headsets from Samsung or Facebook, but why bother? The experience on Google Cardboard is excellent enough to make you lose your balance or walk into chairs.

The New York Times sent its subscribers a free headset a while back and has been putting excellent content on its VR app: NYT VR. For now it’s just a cool toy, but I can see how the marriage of cheap headsets, smartphones, and apps, will lead to new ways to communicate, learn, get the news, etc.

Advertisements

ImageDo ya feel lucky? Well do ya?

If you do, place your bet and double it again as it appears that lucky streaks are for real. If fact, they’re a behavioral fact of life.

It isn’t that people have a “hot hand,” explains a recent study by University College, London and as reported in The Economist, or that people are self-deceiving and only believe they’re winning when they are not. What occurs when one [usually] wins a series of hands is that wining streaks increase in length because winners start choosing safer bets and safer odds, which leads to more wins, albeit for less winnings. Conversely, those experiencing a losing streak also bring it on themselves making even riskier bets after each loss, and thus lose more.

The rule “the house always wins” is thereby assured, for winning streaks win less and losing streaks lose more. Perhaps the “gambler’s fallacy” is correct after all.

 

As one who loves data, I always find it interesting when it is used in new and creative ways. While I was impressed with fun infographics, IBM and the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) have taken the creative use of data in an entirely new and exciting direction.

I’m sure we all remember Watson from Jeopardy, but now he’s entering a whole new world – food trucks! At SXSW this year, IBM has a food truck with ICE and all of the recipes have been created by Watson. IBM explains, the food truck will be used to explore “whether a computer can be creative by designing a machine that can create surprising yet flavorful recipe ideas no cookbook has ever thought of.”

“How can this be?” you may ask. Watch the video below and see:

It’s really incredible how data is used to not only come up with new and exciting pairings but also understand how humans will react to these combinations. Now we need to figure out how to get the food truck to the IBM site in RTP!

A recent humorous article about “killing the email signoff” filled me with a sense of relief as I came to the realization that I am not alone in my agonizing deliberation about email signoffs. I have spent way too much time, and thought way too deeply, about the appropriateness of signoffs and what meaning the signoff I was using conveyed. Using the signoffs “best,” “regards,” or “sincerely” often left me feeling empty and entirely insincere and signoffs such as “cheers,” or my all-time least favorite “ciao,” left me feeling fake, cheesy or unnecessarily pompous. Working in the context of the military makes the whole process much easier as everybody simply signs off V/R (surprise an acronym!), Very Respectfully, even if you have absolutely no respect for the person that you are emailing.

So I often just revert to “thanks,” but then am left wondering what I am thanking the person for. More often than not I just go with nothing and wonder if the person on the other end thinks I’m being rude.

As the article states, siImagegnoffs are a relic of actual letter writing (yes those pieces of paper that you put a stamp on and mailed) which was much more infrequently done and thus carried much more value and meaning than the multiple emails we send and receive daily. So if you receive an email without a signoff, don’t take it personal, it’s just part of a long overdue cultural shift.

If you are like me and watch an unhealthy amount of professional basketball, it would behoove you to check out Stats.NBA.com and spend the next, oh, 8 hours or so poring over “advanced metrics.” New statistical categories like TS% (True Shooting Percentage), PIE (Player Impact Estimate), and EFF (Efficiency Rating), have been created in the past few years to explain the game in ways plain ol’ points, rebounds, and assists cannot.

NBA Stats - Home

The “statistical revolution” in basketball was started by nerds, embraced by bloggers, co-opted by front offices, and is now packaged in friendly charts and graphs. The site is comprehensive, easy to use, and pretty to look at. Check it out.

This is one of my favorite (PG rated) some ecards. Current or former iPhone owners can relate. Your apps are in a sense like players on a team. You have your team captain, the most important app. For most this would be either email or Facebook. And then you have the rest of your starting lineup: Alarm Clock, Maps, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Safari. You also keep the second string around for when you’re traveling or killing time: Netflix, Yelp, Flight Tracker, Angry Birds, Draw Something.

How often do you use apps? Would you say you’re addicted? If you’re anything like the 762 smartphone owners surveyed in Apigee’s 2013 Mobile App Behavior survey then I bet you are. Of those surveyed, 82% said there are critical apps they can’t go without — not even for one day. Those include email (57%), Facebook (41%) and alarm clock apps (31%).

Curious about how much time you spend on apps on your phone? There are (of course) app’s out there that will actually monitor your app usage and supply you with all the horrifying details. But meantime, let’s see how smartphone owners across the U.S., UK, Germany, France and Spain use their apps:

2013Apigee_Infographic_02

As if brands didn’t need enough of a reason to build emotional connections with consumers in their 20s, an interesting article titled The Mysteriously Memorable 20s: Why do we remember more from young adulthood than from any other time of our lives?, reminds us of the importance that this meaningful stage of life plays in the construction of our identities and the way that we formulate our personal narratives.

ImageBuilding brand relationships during this crucial stage of identity formation by having even a small role in one of those integral memories of self-actualization can create extremely meaningful lifelong associations and loyalty. And if the ultimate mark of a successful brand is the ability to become so entwined in a consumer’s life that the brand has become a part of that consumer’s identity, then there is no time better than the 20s to be there with consumers as they define their self-image.

Another interesting issue that this article raises, especially for those that are in or entering their 20s, is that this period of life is not a time to be spent wondering “what if?” Memories, as the foundational aspect of our self-identification, are our most valuable possessions and the 20s are clearly an essential time for creating new and unique memories by exploring and experiencing life to its fullest.

So what are some of your most cherished memories from this formational period of life and are there any brands you associate with those memories? Do those brands play a role in your identity today and do you still have an affinity for those brands?

mzl.ucmlbqhf.175x175-75We often hear about technology’s double-edged sword: it’s intended to bring us closer together but more often than not, it distracts and disrupts us from making real human connections. As we continue the debate on technology’s role in facilitating honest and emotional communications, engineers, programmers, and designers are taking baby steps toward making technology feel more human.

Take for instance, the new free app from Rebtel: Re:Beat. This is the first app to take a function of the human body-the thud thud of a heartbeat-and turn it into a digital “love note.” The app works like this: the camera and flash function on a smartphone “senses” the beat of a person’s heart by measuring subtle changes in the color of their fingertip. Next, the rhythm is animated as an image of a beating heart. As a Valentine’s Day bonus, the app provides a couple of heart warming messages to send along with the personalized heartbeat.

Rebtel, one of the world’s largest mobile VoIP providers, designed the app as an homage to the everyday connections their services provide. According to the company “…sending your heartbeat to someone dear to you is a perfect way to express the depth of your love, especially if you’re not able to see them in person.”

Want to send a human connection in a digital package to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Here’s a link to the app. And from me to you, dear reader, Happy Valentine’s Day!