Yahoo Developing Map Algorithm To Find Scenic Routes

Yahoo Labs is adding a dimension to their navigation algorithm that aims to provide more beautiful, quiet, and happy ways to get from A to B. Researchers at Yahoo Labs sourced images from Google Streetview (irony surely not lost on them) and crowdsourced user opinions about which streets were more beautiful via, then assigned an attractiveness variable to each location. When calculating a route, the navigation tool considers beauty alongside distance and traffic to generate a path that’s not only efficient but pleasant. The full study is available via Cornel University Library open-access archive.

via Gizmodo

Yahoo Scenic Map Algorithm

Why I’m Curious

Jokes about using their competitor’s tool to conduct this experiment aside, I’m impressed by Yahoo’s effort to identify whitespace in a market so dominated by Google.

This also serves as an example of infusing emotional storytelling in to a digital space that we usually consider utilitarian. As an integrated agency, we often discuss how we can translate the emotional impact of traditional mediums like video in to the digital experiences we build for our clients. This is a great example of “Show, Don’t Tell”. Providing a tool that responds to a human truth like our enduring desire for beauty in modern spaces that are increasingly un-beautiful is an elegant way to reflect the brand’s values. This execution also positions technology an altruistic hero, using a virtual tool to help us re-discover the physical places we inhabit.

Finally, the crowdsourcing inquiry (beauty is subjective, after all) generates an interesting new body of data with implications for disciplines like city planning, design and architecture, and psychology.


Ad-worthy Instagram Photos = Brand Rewards & Prizes

Your Instagram photos can now win you prizes, courtesy of SnapMyAd. This new free app, synched with Instagram, offers gifts in exchange for using people’s images in companies’ ad campaigns. Users simply sign in with their Instagram accounts and apply existing images to the app. Brands can push specific product sales, promotions and events for consumers to take photos of, and decide which pictures they want. Once both parties agree on a perk, brands can use those photos in campaigns. Prizes can range from Amazon gift cards to magazine subscriptions.


Why I’m Curious: 

Talk about leveraging UGC. Will this change how users grant permissions for brands to leverage their photos/comments? Will fans now expect reimbursement in return always? I’m curious to see how this application evolves and if larger brands will begin to take part.

Sources: Mashable Article + PSFK Article

App Alert: Glide boasts 3.5 million users

Private video messaging application Glide has reached the 3.5 million download mark, dispensing 139 days worth of video in its first few months. The company also noted it saw a 120% increase in daily active users last month. “Glide’s growth can also be attributed to the startup’s ability to iterate quickly to meet the demands of users,” Jordan Crook writes.

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 6.10.41 PM

Why I am Curious

We discovered and posted about Vine, Instagram, Whatsapp, Line, and GroupMe before they even reached their million download mark. Just curious to see who is going to win the battle of instant video messaging.

Haagen-Dazs Serenades You While You Wait For Your Ice Cream to Soften

From creativity-online:

Haagen-Dazs has launched a “Concerto Timer” app that entertains brand fans while they wait for the two minutes needed to let their Haagen-Dazs ice cream soften slightly (or “temper”), to reach its full consistency and flavor.

Impatient eaters who are ready to dig into their cartons of Haagen-Dazs even if the ice cream’s still hard enough to warp a spoon now have a little musical buddy to soothe their hungry souls. The brand’s new Concerto timer appemploys the generally poorly utilized tech of AR, but in a delightful, useful way. Aim your phone at a container of the ice cream and it will summon a violin-concerto playing muse, who will perform a tune for the two-minutes it takes for Haagen-Dazs to soften to prime devouring consistency. Apparently, this is the first iOS mobile AR app that integrates 3D Kinect technology and video data.

Why Am I Curious?

While I think it is up there in the list of relatively less useful apps from brands list, it is kind of delightful at the same time, and after all the app store is kind of a junk drawer at this point. The app itself solves somewhat off a non-problem or something that consumers did not really perceive to be an issue but i think it is kind of brilliant in how the brand tries to infuse itself into every second of brand experience while reinforcing its image of a classy ice-cream connoisseur.

CitiBike Launches – Getting The Most Out Of NYC


How’s this for WOW factor? CitiBike has partnered with the City of New York to partner and brand the bike for the launch of the citywide bike sharing program going live this spring. Stations were installed this week in the Meatpacking District along with dozens of other locations in New York City.

To go along with the in-person experience, which is branded and in high-traffic areas, is a new, clean and responsive website, Citi Bike, an upcoming mobile app and a range of other products and services included: riding tips, maps, pricing, events, demos, and eventually open data for anyone to access.

Why I’m Curious:

With over 10,000 followers and fans on Facebook and Twitter as well as the app/website and in-person activation, this was a multi-million dollar campaign and a huge investment in New York – both for New Yorkers and tourists. The emotional payoff will be significant, what will the business payoff be? How much does that matter to Citi or was this also a CSR/sustainability play that they’ll tie into their work with the New York City local government?

Optimizing our lives

Getting around the city quickly can be extremely painful at time. That is until now, Corral Rides is a transit aggregator that gives users multiple transportation options by simply type in your destination and it shows you pricing and schedule or time for each option. The app seamlessly integrates with Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber so you won’t have to open them all. 


Those concerned about the security of their personal information would be glad to know that the app doesn’t get into the private APIs that Lyft, Uber, and Sidebar use, and it has to switch you over to the appropriate apps once you’ve selected them as an option.



Why I am Curious?

If the current consumer behavior is to engage with mobile devices while traveling then shorter travel times creates fewer opportunities for a digital experience. Therefore, forcing new content delivery tactics to achieve client goals.  

How will this effect the ways we plan 3-5-10 years down the road for each of our clients. 

“Making Cities More Usable” – Dennis Crowley on Foursquare at SXSW

A lot of people might think of Foursquare as that checkin app with badges and leader boards and finding out where your friends are. But it’s a lot more than that now, thanks to all the map data and information that they know about places people are going to.

In a conversation onstage at SXSW with Anil Dash, Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley discussed the company’s evolution from an app that was primarily focused around helping people to find their friends, to finding out more about the world that they live in.

Crowley said that one of the underreported stories is the number of companies that rely on Foursquare’s map data and what developers can potentially do with that. The place database has more than 50 million places of interest in it, and it changes frequently. Users enter new places as soon as they open up, and signal places that have closed down.

When talking about the map data that it has, Crowley compared Foursquare’s check-ins to Google’s web crawlers scanning the Internet for new websites. “People tell us about the places that are interesting, the places that are no longer interesting,” he said.

More importantly, the company isn’t entirely dependent on just its users anymore for a lot of its data. Thanks to the Foursquare API, the company gets location data from lots of different apps. For instance, every Instagram picture that has a location attached to it sends a data signal to Foursquare about that place of interest.

At the end of the day, the data that Foursquare has is the ability to provide more personalized maps than what is available today. Crowley said that maps haven’t really changed that much since people started making them, but now that we have certain amounts of trending data or interest data, Foursquare could help make the places that people see more meaningful to them.

Crowley likened that to Harry Potter’s “Marauders Map” and how it provides Harry with details about the people and places around them. “There is enough data that we should be able to make that Harry Potter map and give it to everyone in the room,” Crowley said.


Why I’m Curious: The relationship between Foursquare and its API partners is kind of symbiotic: Foursquare has one of the best map data sets out there and makes it available. In exchange, it finds out more about the places that its partners’ users go to. It’s interesting to see how powerful data can be when combined with contextually relevant partnerships. It’s obvious most of these apps are created with the user in mind, the user experience as the priority, and they are becoming more and more valuable as complementary apps emerge.

Weather Channel Soaks People at Bus Shelters

The Weather Channel recently tricked out one shelter with hidden sprinklers to promote the client’s latest Android app. The app apparently provides such precise forecasts that you might never again be caught in surprise downpours.

Read more here.

Why I am Curious

Disruptive Advertising / PR Stunts: How is “disruptive”defined? (e.g. Annoying? Irritating?)

Durex Launches On-Demand Delivery

Durex launched an on-demand delivery service for people who need condoms outside of typical store hours. The service launched in Dubai, is available between 4pm and 4am and will expand to more countries based on interest.


From PSFK,

SOS Condoms is a “public service application” that makes ordering a condom as easy as ordering a pizza. For those people who never seem to have a condom when they need one, a professional team will be available to deliver them discreetly in less than an hour.

The SOS Condoms app, developed with Buzzman, lets you request a delivery, confirm your location, and choose your product from the selected range. It will then be handed over to you in a discreet way that suits your situation and you can pay cash on delivery.

Why I’m Curious

In our instantaneous world it where it seems that you can get anything delivered it makes sense that now you can. I’m interested to see where this will move next, as living in New York we already have the opportunity to order anything at anytime from a mobile device. It’s smart their utilizing voting and UGC to determine the next location, as they know there will be a market upon launch. However, I could see this being even more amplified with a partnership to go beyond just condom delivery.

Ignore Your Phone, Get Coupons

The movie theatre chain Cinemark introduced an new feature on its app for iPhone and Android that rewards moviegoers for not using their phone during the film. The “CineMode” feature enables you to earn digital coupons during the movie.

From PSFK,

If you activate it before the movie begins, your screen will automatically dim and you’ll be prompted to set your volume to vibrate. CNET reports that if you try to access your phone during the movie, the app will warn you that you won’t get your reward, but if you wait until the end you’ll get a coupon for a special offer at the cinema like discounted concessions.

Why I’m Curious

In a world that’s always connected, I thought it was interesting that we need to be rewarded for courtesy.  It’s interesting that Cinemark thought that this would be such a prime spot to activate the rewards, because it’s so hard for people to concentrate on one screen.

Made a Belieber out of Me


To help promote the launch of Justin Bieber’s new album, Mercury Records U.K. partnered with Blippar, an augmented reality app, to give fans exclusive content including a video featured Justin Bieber, the opportunity to win concert tickets and of course, the ability to superimpose Justin Bieber into your smartphone photos.

From Mashable,

Here’s how it works: After downloading the free Blippar app [iTunes link] for iOS or Android devices, your camera phone’s function will appear on the interface. The camera recognizes Justin Bieber’s “Believe” album cover, so whether you see it in a store, on a poster or even online, holding the phone over the image will bring the screen to life. A quick video of Justin introducing the augmented reality app pops up.

Why I’m Curious

Besides being a lover of AR, the Blippar integration is so much more than that. Usually AR is used, and loved, by the fashion industry in order to allow consumers to try on their latest looks or by brands to help make a simple product “come to life.” However, Blippar and Mercury Records U.K. knew that above everything else, Bieber fans just want Bieber.

The app integrated three different types of exclusive content to create buzz about the new album. I’ll be waiting to see what other socially-savvy artists turn to mobile apps to offer exclusive content for fans.

Karma – The Social Gifting App (Now Owned by Facebook)

– Jordan

From TechCrunch:

In short, Karma lets you buy and send gifts to friends and family directly from your iPhone or Android smartphone. Gift recipients can then exchange that gift for other items from the same vendor, or choose to donate the money used to purchase it to a charity. It may sound simple, but building apps that deal with money, shipping physical products across state lines, and allowing for exchanges can be very tricky — especially with the kind of gifts Karma deals in, which include wines and food products. Linden tells us the Karma team actually spent months building a comprehensive e-commerce platform from the ground up, so there’s a lot going on underneath that slick user interface.

Why I’m curious:

Facebook’s recent acquisition of this app automatically brings it to the top of my interest list, but why would Facebook buy such an app. My belief is that Facebook is gearing up its revenue model by introducing a whole lot of new features that include purchasing direct from the platform. There may just be a long term plan to deep root Facebook into our lives to include not only keeping up with friends and family but also payments for nearly everything we buy, with this data Facebook could overtake Google to be the ultimate powerhouse in ad targeting.

Weotta Go answers the question: “What should we do next?”

Seems like a simple and harmless question, but we all experienced that moment when your friend asks, “What should we do next”, and your brain goes blank. Now there is an app offering a solution to this need and it is called Weotta Go.

The iPhone app is focused on spontaneity as opposed to making plans in advance. When you open up Weotta Go, the results are tailored to the time and location. For example, if it is noon, the app shows nearby lunch spots. If it is later in the day, you start to see happy hour recommendations. In the morning, you guessed it: Coffee shops near your location. You can also filter the results based on how far you’re willing to go (the narrowest filter is “2 blocks”), the price, the category (activities, attractions, coffees and sweets, food, and sporting events), and the context (is this just for guys, girls, kids, or a couple on a date?).


Even better, the app changes the results on-the-fly. Its recommendations are delivered as a stack of photos, which you can tap on for more information, drag down to save in a list, or swipe across to say that you’re not interested. As you do that, the list will change to show you more items in the categories that you’re interested in and less of everything else.

After you’ve created a list of things you find promising, you can also share it with your friends via email. The app also offers integrations with other services, like purchasing tickets from StubHub for a sporting event or from Fandango for a movie.

Why Am I Curious?

I find this interesting because of how the apps brings mobile, local, real-time, and big-data algorithms together in order to create the most customized and relevant ideas possible. I am also curious to see if they will add new data sources (via Facebook Connect) in order to further improve the strength of their algorithm and be more customized. Also, another question is how the app will be monetized. As mentioned, there is the relatively small affiliate model with 3rd party vendors such as StubHub and Fandango but what could really help is the obvious local offers/deals solution that could be attractive to brands given Weotta will have access to very specific real-time data of not only where people are but also potentially what they are in the mood for.

Ritz Carlton Makes it Personal

Solidifying the notion that luxury knows no limits, luxury hotel group Ritz-Carlton debuted its long-awaited mobile app on May 1, giving luxury travelers easier access to the company’s portfolio of hotels around the world.

The booking engine and hotel room look up functionalities of the app are great but the app goes beyond being a booking engine and incorporates QR codes and location-based services. For example, the app includes personal tips from President & COO Herve Humler that identify the “hidden gems” guests shouldn’t miss when they check in (think: a Viennese crystal chandelier in Doha and a secret garden in Sanya), and offer personalized suggestions to guests based on location and duration of stay. Here are some interesting app features:

  • Insider information about each hotel
  • QR capability at 20 Ritz-Carlton hotels, allowing you can scan your mobile device when you check-in
  • GPS technology that allows the app to recognize when you’ve arrived at a Ritz-Carlton, and send you location specific advice, information and exclusive offers.
  • Integration with social media platforms including The Ritz-Carlton World Concierge global recommendations from Four Square
  • The ability to share your favorite Ritz-Carlton memory or experience in the ‘Let Us Stay With You’ section of the app.

Why Am I Curious?

We all know instant accessibility to information is a consumer expectation at this point but the real art is extending a particular brand into the digital space in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the consumer, and it is particularly difficult in the case of luxury consumers as it is difficult to stay true to core values of an organization and create premium experiences in the digital realm. I like the fact that Ritz Carlton gave thought into what may constitute relevant and useful for their brand and went beyond creating a simple utility app. Staying at a luxury hotel is all about creating an end to end premium experience that goes above and beyond what is required and this app extends this premium experience into the digital space and enriches the physical experience. It is not a requirement but a luxury.

I am so also curious about the further features that can be incorporated into the app to further enhance the luxury traveler experience. For example, currently, the app doesn’t gather any further information about the guest beyond his or her location, but if the app can identify the guests, Ritz Carlton can have access to a plethora of valuable information on the guests, and surprise and delight them on the spot based on previous stays, like/dislikes and provide a truly customized experience without the guest even asking for one.

An aggregator here, an aggregator there.

From Techcrunch today, comes a release about a new LBS APP, Gopogo.  The article says, “With the rise of social networks, people are now sharing more information about themselves online than ever before.  Social feeds now disseminate content in real-time, but the problem of course is that a lot of this sharing gets lost in the noise — and with content piling up so quickly, stuff quickly gets lost.”

So, enter Gopogo.  They’ll tap into all the available APIs from existing LBS services, to aggregate information into what they call “Strings”.  When users use Gopogo, they’ll have access to all of these strings, and be able to publish additional content out to their own LBS accounts, adding to the Gopogo strings.

Currently the service is only available for NYC and L.A., and APIs for various services are being added on a rolling basis.  It’s in Beta, but already has 10,000 users, and funding on its way.

Why I’m Curious

New Apps launch all the time, and I agree that there is a lot of fragmentation among apps that might have marginally better experiences than their competitors.  But aren’t each of these apps trying to develop their own business model – Gopogo doesn’t even seem to have one nailed down yet.  Maybe the hope is to get bought up by a bigger player.  But if all your data is sourced from other services’ APIs, who’s to say that you can’t be duplicated, or shut off?

iPhone app aims to program your dreams – Creepy or Awesome?

Called Sigmund, the 99-cent app builds off of pre-existing sleep science to help people “program” the content of their dreams from a list of 1,000 keywords. After you select one to five words from the list, a sorta-soothing, sorta-robotic female voice reads the words you select during the deepest moments of your sleep cycle – the REM cycles – when you’re most likely to dream vividly. In a sleep study that was the basis for the app, 34-40% of participants’ dreams were memorably altered by the suggestive readings. Yet, what goes on in the sleeping brain is not entirely remembered so the rate could actually be higher

You don’t have to fall asleep to the sound of the voice repeating the same words over and over. Before you go to bed, you tell the app what time you’re going to sleep and what time you plan to wake up. It reads the words you’ve selected only during the points in your sleep cycle when you’re most likely to be dreaming, based on averages of when REM cycles tend to occur. So if you’re sleeping 4 hours, you’ll get the words at different times than if you’re sleeping for 8 hours. The iPhone sits next to your bed and plays the words over its internal speaker.

Daniel Nadler, the Hardvard PhD student behing the app, said his team combed the dictionary for words that would influence dreams in positive ways only. But if you take a look at the list of words offered by the Sigmund app, it’s pretty easy to imagine some dreams that would be totally creepy, if not downright terrifying. A dream, for example, that includes “mountain,” “meadow” and “rain” might be soothing, but throw in “tiger” and “anaconda” and, depending on your sub-psyche, things could turn south.

The behind motivation behind the design is to end nightmares. People can, of course, choose whichever words from the list they’d like, but Nadler says that overall the app has been pretty successful at helping people to avoid recurring nightmares and to replace them with dreams of their choice.

Some of the app’s early users agree. Nancy Xie, a 20-year-old Harvard student, also reacted positively to having her dreams programmed:

I entered ‘running, mountains’ the first time it worked and had a really vivid dream jogging on a trail in the Sierras, a place that I had been to a number of times. It really took me back there.

Still, it’s not something she wants to do all the time, she said by e-mail:

Influencing my dreams is not something I want to do every night, just like watching a movie is not something I want to do every night. I make an event of it. But when I do use it, I use it a few nights in a row, because it works best that way.

Nadler, who created the app with the help of two other developers, hopes more people will be making “events” out of their dreams in the future. As people get busier and busier, he said, there’s all the more need for people to get entertainment or professional value out of their dreams.

Why I am Curious?

Well, first of foremost, I am curious about whether this would work on me. But at the same time, I am totally scared of having a creepy or scary dream, so I am not sure if I would ever use it. The premise has been around for a while now, so I wonder if it will be possible to improve upon this technology to use this as a tool to improve learning or break bad habits?

Kaleidoscope, An App for Curated Street-Style Fashion, Arrives on iPhone

Between Pinterest, Fancy, Have to Have, Pose, Fashism, Lucky Shopper,, Snapette and about three dozen others, it’s fair to say the world is not in dire need of another fashion inspiration or social shopping app.

However, all that aside, there are a few things that make Kaleidoscope different. For one, its high-quality feed of street-style images. Instead of depending on user-generated content for fashion inspiration, Kaleidoscope displays thumbnails of photographs pulled from or produced on its own. Between 30 and 50 new images are posted each day. The startup is currently forming partnership with select bloggers to bring their content to Kaleidoscope’s feed as well.

Kaleidoscope also brings quality curation to another key part of its service: product recommendations. The app uses ShopStyle‘s API to locate products that match the clothes in each photograph, and internal staff — i.e., the startup’s interns — filter through the options to offer users the best fit.

Also, it is integrated with third-party networks which makes it easy to share looks straight to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

The app only has a few thousand users at present, but the expectation is that the number will multiply quickly now that it’s available on iPhone. The company is also doing a big marketing push around Coachella, including a partnership with Details magazine.

Why I am Curious?

I am curious if this app will be more successful than its earlier counterparts that do not have the aforementioned features. It seems as though they are fixing the things that tend to go wrong with other fashion inspiration based platforms. There is something to be said about engaging users via user-generated content. However, the flipside of this is the quality of the content. The street-style photos may not always be high quality or form a cohesive content pool. I like Kaleidoscope’s model of not depending on the user for content but forming partnerships with an already established content curation sites or bloggers with an existing following.

However, the most interesting thing to me about this app is their integration with the ShopSytyle API to make product recos. I like looking at inspirational “real-people” fashion photos but I do not  have the time or the patience to figure out where to find the pieces to put together a look that I may like. I hope that through this API integration, Kaleidoscope will be able to point people to where they can purchase a piece they see on the photo but also make recommendations for similar looks at different price points. Because for some reason it so happens most things that tend to grab my attention on these curation platforms tend to be at the “aspirational” price point.

Pair: cutesy couples can get personal.

Hey you. Obnoxious over-sharer of relationship bliss on Facebook. This one’s for you.

Pair,  a new social network for couples, recently launched in March. This new service creates an exclusive network for you and your loved one to share a stream of sweet nothings (i.e., texts, photos, drawings and videos) in a private space, saving me and the rest of the world from bllleeeeching all over your love connection. Granted, anyone can use this, not just romantic couples. And Pair includes notes and reminders, as well as moments for you to catalog and keep close forever, not to mention a “thumbprint” feature that lets you share thumb touches when you’re far apart. How sweet.  Pair is available only on iOS right now and will soon be available for Android powered phones, too.

Why I’m Curious

According to PSFK, “within just a few days of its release, Pair has already reached a million exchanges.”

My initial reaction was, quite frankly, a scoff. Another social network? Really, anyone know how to use privacy controls anymore? But after delving into the details, I get it. Especially considering all of the ways we stay connected: Facebook, Twitter, MMS, Flickr, Instagram, Draw Something, iCal and on, and on, well it makes sense to just pull it all together and keep it private. And really, in the end, it becomes a digital memory book of your relationship. Perhaps one day, there will be options to print it and have something tangible. Who knows? But, I get it, Pair, I get it.  

HarperCollins Brings Book to Life

To bring to life the story of Canadian author Kenneth Oppel‘s new young adult novel “This Dark Endeavour” — a Gothic thriller about the early life of Victor Frankenstein — the Canadian arm of HarperCollins teamed with Dentsu to develop a mobile QR/AR campaign to drive in-store activity and online engagement.

The novel’s target audience was the preteen and teenage girls, ages 12 to 17, a demographic well-known for being mobile savvy.

With that in mind, Dentsu Canada has created a mobile app to engage the core audience of the book. The free app, available from the Android Market, utilizes the new marker-less marker technology, through which natural images can trigger animation.

In this instance, book shelf installations, one of the core motifs in the book, placed through Indigo,Chapters and Coles chain bookstores around Canada led to the discovery of an ancient text in a secret library – also a common theme in the book. Users scanned the shelf to find the hidden book, thereby unlocking information about the novel’s plot and characters.

Posters in the stores contained instructions for how to download the app. Printed bookmarks directed those without smartphones to an associated website.

After the app’s release, the author saw a 25% rise in traffic to his website. Book sales increased by 45% compared to the week before the campaign’s launch.

Why Am I Curious?

This is the first time i am reading about the use of this sort of AR technology and i think this technology would lend itself well to many different campaigns for the mobile and technology savvy audiences.

It is also very promising to see the results the app has led to. Normally, these type of mobile applications’ ROI tend to be traced only at the engagement and sentiment level but in this instance, it is possible to see the direct sales volume lift this app has led to. I hypothesize that the return on this app would be much longer lasting as it ten

iCache Geode Turns Your Phone into Your Wallet (No NFC Needed)

– Jordan

From TechCrunch:

The already successful Kickstarter for the iCache Geode is already making headlines. This uber sleek cell phone case design allows you to combine all of your credit/loyalty card information and store it on your smartphone. The case is unique in the fact that it does not use NFC technology, but instead registers the correct card information to the case’s credit card or e-ink display.

Why I’m curious:

There seems to be a lot of discussion around mobile payment and whether or not 2012 is the year for mobile payment revolution. This product however, may be one step closer to the mobile payment catalyst, although it may have come a bit too late. With Google Wallet rolling out across new devices this year as well as the high probability the the new iPhone will have NFC technology coming this summer I believe that these guys are too late in the game to truly differentiate themselves from the key players.