Kinect-powered shopping cart helps you shop

Microsoft has demonstrated an early prototype of a Kinect-powered shopping cart, which is being developed for Whole Foods by Texas-based company Chaotic Moon. The project is called the “Smarter Cart” and it uses a tablet and scanners to read the items you place inside, check whether they’re on your shopping list, cross them off and ring them up.

The motorized cart can follow you around the store and has voice recognition and speech so you can give it instructions and it can let you know if the item you added wasn’t on your list or is the wrong type of item. The “Smarter Cart” has a Windows 8 tablet and uses a UPC scanner and RFID to read the items. All you really need to do is upload a shopping list and place the items in the cart. It will cross them off your list and you won’t have to wait in a long line at the checkout because your items are rung up as you go (via PSFK)

Why I’m Curious:

While the shopping cart, like Siri, leaves a little to be desired, I think this is an interesting trend of making our tools smarter to better serve us. I like the idea of making it easier to shop by checking off your shopping list and ringing you up and I think this could have larger implications for marketers in the retail space in terms of gathering additional information for targeting.

Social media game to track terrorists

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Prague are sponsoring a social media gaming contest to test ways social media and open source data can be used to track terrorists and locate missing children.

Tag Challenge, the social media game, will be played by people in Washington D.C., New York City, London, Stockholm, Sweden and Bratislava, Slovakia on March 31.

Here’s how the game works . Profiles and mugshots of five suspects in each city will be posted on Tag Challenge. Players will have an entire day to locate the suspects in a public area of their city. The suspects will be wearing a t-shirt with the Tag Challenge logo. Suspects are not real-life crime suspects. The first player to upload photos of each of the five suspects to the Tag Challenge website will win $5,000.

Players can team up with other players, but only one person will be rewarded the cash prize. Although funded by the State Department, the contest page says the game is “not associated with any law enforcement agency, and the contest is not part of any law enforcement effort.” Graduate students from six countries who participated in social media and security conferences organized the game out of curiosity and for fun.

The game will offer government officials insight to “whether and how social media can be used to accomplish a realistic, time-sensitive, international law enforcement goal,” the Tag Challenge website says. “Results, strategies, and any data derived from the event will be made public after its conclusion.”

-Judy

Why I’m Curious:

I think the idea of the government starting to tap into gamification is interesting. However, it is a little scary that this is being used to provide government officials insight into if social media should be an outlet for time-sensitive, realistic law enforcement. It kind of adds a whole new layer to the idea of Big Brother is watching.

Real world interactivity with hamburgers

I love this idea for Wimpy Burger out of South Africa: “Wimpy wanted to let visually impaired people know that they offered braille menus in all of their restaurants. To spread the word we built braille burgers that blind people could actually read. With the help of skilled chefs we took sesame seeds and meticulously placed them on burger buns so that the seeds formed braille. ”
– Judy

Why I’m curious:

I love the idea of making a product itself interactive and engaging. I think it’s a really cool and buzz-worthy way of highlighting Wimpy Burger’s braille menus.

Taking Social (Back) to the Street

Wherever you go you’re surrounded by people, but you don’t know anything about them.  The girl sitting two tables down from you in a coffee shop may be the love of your life or the guys three rows behind you in a movie theater might be your new best friends, and you’d never know.  Until now. MagnetU has just announced the official launch of a new wearable social device that lets you take your social interests and desires with you wherever you go, and matches you up with like-minded people for spontaneous social experiences. READ MORE

 

Why I’m Curious

This is one of the first forays in this country into the fully networked world that was once just a fantasy in movies like Bladerunner or Minority Report. In Asia, permission based marketing is already the most effective form of advertising. In countries like Singapore it’s a matter of course for mobile customers to receive targeted mobile messages triggered just by being in the vicinity of a permission based ad unit. As users become more and more accustomed to sharing personal data the options for reaching them with marketing become really interesting. The question is – will this be a game-changer in the privacy debate or just another fad?

– Sarah R

Retail Store Asks The Internet To Rob It

To promote their home cinema solutions, Pause Swedish electronics retailer created a movie trailer called Heist. The trailer invites viewers to break in to their stores and steal an LED television worth $5,700 dollars.

On November 10th after the store’s closing, online viewers will be tasked with deactivating the store’s security system and actually break in. But it’s not a one-burglar job–you’ll need to tag team with a buddy in order to crack the code.

In order to enter the store, and, as copywriter Joakim Labraaten puts it, make some “Tom Cruise-moves,” you’ll need the assistance of a partner at a computer to help you shut the security system down and crack codes along the way. The contest begins November 10th, after Pause shuts down for the evening, and then ends when an LED television set is finally removed from the store.

But even those who don’t get away with a new set enjoy some benefits. Those who crack the door code get a 10% discount off Pause products, those who get past the motion detector get 20% off and if you actually make it into the showroom with the TV, you get a 30% markdown off goods.

 

Why I’m Curious:

By turning their retail environment in to an entertainment experience, Pause is able to promote their specialty- home entertainment- and provide value to viewers. This way, it connect the online world with their physical store.

It accurately targets their tech-loving target by giving them a challenge that appeals to their unique interest- hacking- and encourages sharing by making the heist a team effort. Finally, it directly rewards all the people who decide to engage with the heist through discounts or an actual physical good.

Luxury vending machines tied to Fashion Week

For New York Fashion Week, Hudson Hotel partnered with upcoming designers to feature “fashion necessities” in a vending machine within the hotel lobby.

– Judy

Why I’m curious:

While the idea of a high-tech vending machine isn’t new, I like the idea of a vending machine that provides luxury items. I think this is interesting because it turns the typical vending machine idea of being for everyone on i

ts head. This is clearly targeting the design-conscious. It also appeals to the lifestyle consumer mindset of getting what they want, when they want it, and where they want it. Moreover, Hudson Hotel’s partnership with emerging designerselevates the hotel’s brand positioning as a potent combination of urban adventure, daredevil design, and true affordability.

Here’s the full PSFK article:

To celebrate Fashion Week in New York, USA, Hudson Hotel will feature a large vending machine in its lobby that will carry fashion ‘necessities.’ The luxury items will be from upcoming and promising designers from the U.S., including a diamond and wood strand bracelet from Ruby Kobo, a python clutch from SANG A, hand-made 7-fold wool ties from Public School, and a rabbit fur jacket from Jolibe. Other designers include Alice Ritter, Gemma Redux and Grey Ant.

The idea of an innovative vending machine isn’t new. PSFK featured an article this year on the rise of the hi-tech vending machine. There’s even been a vending machine shaped like Santa that dispenses MUJI Christmas products.

Using Wi-Fi for Navigating the Great Indoors

– Labs

The technology is typically accurate to within a “couple of steps” of your current location, says Anand Atreya, cofounder of WiFiSLAM: “This accuracy will change how you interact with indoor environments.” The technology could aid with navigation inside large and complex buildings such as hospitals or airports, he says, adding that app developers will likely find more imaginative uses, too.

Learn more here.

Why I’m Curious
This technology can help us map the indoors as well as target users inside large public spaces.

Meet Foursquare’s Newest Competitor: Visa

–Adam

Visa has unveiled a new location-based mobile service for retailers. So far, Visa has only tested a pilot with the Gap.

Here is how it works: You’re out to lunch and pay with your Visa card. That transaction triggers a deal, because you are already enrolled in a Gap program online with your Visa card and phone number. And because you have opted in and fit the parameters of the deal, you then receive a text message that could say: “50% off a regular-price item for the next four hours.”

Foursquare launched a partnership with American Express that tied mobile behavior to transactions at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival this March.

Daily deals leader Groupon recently launched Groupon Now to serve mobile deals for immediate use.

eBay acquired location-based service Where, which also sends out deals based on the user’s location.

Why I am curious:

 

Mobile is bridging the digital and physical worlds. In the past, it was difficult to envision the success of such programs, which required huge (and usually prohibitive) investments in hardware at the points of sale.

Today, retailers can target consumers with certain spending habits, like those who tend to spend more on travel or apparel. Merchants can also send out a deal directly after a certain type purchase. Use your card to fill up at a gas station? A fast feeder hawking breakfast could send you a text for free coffee.