Robots are going soft in their new age…

This month researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) shared a way to 3D print robots with advanced shock absorbing materials, so that robots can be safer to use and more accurate in their movement.

It uses a Programmable Viscoelastic Material (PVM) that allows the originator of the 3D print file to program the movement and elasticity of each area of the design.

It’s particularly interesting when you think about ‘soft robots’ being created for use in exoskeletal rehabilitation, my knee replacement in a few years just got much more appealing…

But more importantly it really demonstrates just how quickly robotics is moving forwards, we have robotic caterpillars that use liquid crystal elastometer tech, a walking soft robot  and as if that wasn’t enough check this little guy out…

autobot

Octobot is the first autonomous, untethered entirely soft 3D printed robot!

The Harvard team behind this derived a way to power the Octobot through a chemical reaction controlled through a logic board. They describe this as a ‘hybrid assembly approach’ whereby they create each of the components; circuit board, control panel, fuel storage, power component and fabricate the cushioning exterior using; 3D printing, molding and soft lithography methods.

Mind bending.

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Too Punchy apparently…

I originally wrote this for a university blog who asked for some tips for their students on breaking in and succeeding in the advertising industry. Apparently this candid account of my journey so far is too punchy, they asked me to ‘tame it down’, I said NO! I have just the audience who might appreciate this as it is. So I’m publishing it here.

It’s longer than my normal posts, so grab a brew, take five and I hope you find some of this useful…

My Seven Tips for Survival

My job didn’t exist when I was at uni, it barely existed five years ago. I didn’t grow up thinking ‘One day I shall be a Transformation Strategist, or a Creative Technologist’. The reason I studied Art & Design at college is because I liked my teacher who taught design at school and I wanted to create beautiful things.

When I went on to university, the degree was titled ‘Graphic Design and New Media’; my first lesson was on search engines, an introduction to Google, my degree introduced me to Flash, Quark, InDesign and Freehand and on the day I graduated all of those skills were already out of date.

The reason I’m telling you this is that my first tip for stepping into our industry is to understand that it moves and evolves at breakneck speed, there’s a new start up every two minutes and a new technology every one. You have to be on your game every second to stay ahead.

What I did learn during my studies was that design and creativity is a fluid process; the principles of craft, attention to perfection (not just detail) and experimenting with how far you could push the boundaries would always deliver a result. Following graduation I found that print quickly bored me, so I taught myself to code and started to design interfaces, basic brand websites back then, and got excited. Code seemed to not only bend the rules but break them entirely, what you could achieve with dots per pixel rather than dots per inch seemed to know no boundaries, the only limitations were those of my mind. This brings me to my second tip, always push the boundaries and seek terrain unexplored.

Having realised this I quickly sought out the best agency in my area to learn how to do just that, I lived in Leeds at the time. I waited for a vaguely relevant job to come up, then when it did, I hounded them to employ me. I got the job, my first proper footing on the ladder (this was about two years after I graduated), that first foot is the hardest but most important one you’ll ever take.

The job was as an Account Executive, I didn’t exactly love booking rooms and making the tea, but I was surrounded by clever, fun people and quickly identified who I wanted my mentor to be, the smartest most rock ’n’ roll guy in the building who also happened to be leading the digital transformation for the whole agency. I stuck to him like glue for the following four years and he helped me become a savvy client facing strategist, adept in the rapidly changing world of digital. Tip three, surround yourself with the people you aspire to be and don’t be afraid to ask them to mentor you.

When it was time to move on life took me to London. I got a job at one of the leading UK agencies where I learnt how to manage big platform projects and start up enterprise solutions. I worked 12-18 hour days, every day to cram 3 years of progress into 18 months. It paid off, one of the top agencies in the world head hunted me into their team.

From then it was about jumping in with everything I had and pivoting my way through the most breakneck world I had ever experienced. I said yes to everything, then worried about how afterwards. I pushed myself to be the best at everything I took on, failure was not a situation I would accept. Tip four, do whatever it takes, if you don’t someone else will.

The hard work paid off when six months into the job I got a real chance to prove my abilities, arguably the turning point that made my career. Following leading a successful series of workshops I was asked to move to Japan and run the resulting global project for a major client. I had one week to pack up my life, lock up my flat and get on a plane, I didn’t even have an address to go to, it all happened so quickly my living arrangements were being organised whilst I was on the 13 hour flight to Narita.

48 hours later I found myself in an alien environment; I was half the age of the people around me, western, female and not able to speak the language. Was I nervous? Hell yes. I was amongst an incredibly intelligent bunch of people who knew this organisation inside out. Japan is a culture that lends to following a career path within the same company for the span of an entire career, these guys had started on the factory floor and worked their way to the top, then here I was to lead them through a massive change program. I swallowed the nerves, rolled my sleeves up and threw myself in. Tip five; if you’re not shi*tting yourself slightly, then you’re not pushing yourself enough.

Over the next six months I had to adapt daily to navigate many challenges. I started to build a strong team around me and the agency team back in London were nothing short of amazing. We spoke every day, we tackled problems together, when I got stuck they were there, when they couldn’t tell what was happening where I was, I brought them in, it was fluid, with many highs and lows but collectively we succeeded by working tightly together. Tip six; you are only as good as the team around you.

Since starting my career I’ve been a designer, a coder, a planner, a strategist, a client lead and half of a creative team. I’ve built teams, projects and many, many beautiful, useful things. I’ve changed minds and lives, kickstarted businesses, led huge programs, mentored, managed and broken every rule in the book. Most of all I’ve taken risks. Tip seven; don’t be afraid to take risks, it’s how we improve ourselves.

The words of my mentor when I left that first job in Leeds still ring true today, ‘Why will Karen succeed? Quite simply, because she has no fear’.

So my advice to you as you start on your journey in a particularly exciting but turbulent industry, is ‘Just say yes, be brave and jump in’.

What’s the worst that can happen…

jumping-off-a-cliff.jpgimage found on https://developingourwings.wordpress.com/ – thank you

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Behaving Badly

As a transformation strategist one of the biggest challenges I come across every week is getting planners and brand managers to shift from thinking like a brand to thinking like their intended audience. Too many briefs I see only have demographic customer profiles, which fall short when you’re planning for a digitally connected world.

To shift from broadcast to joined up storytelling, just knowing characteristics like; gender, age, marital status, geographic location, socio-economic status and so on simply isn’t enough and to make assumptions is lazy and will frankly lower your ROI.

I’m encouraging inclusion of behavioral insights, or customer modeling as it’s also known, into all the briefs and plans we’re creating with clients and here’s why:

1. Nearly every digital marketing touch-point is intended to invoke an action
2. An action is more likely to be taken if encouraged in a relevant way at the right time in a customer journey
3. A customer journey is made up of a customer behaving in a certain way
4. These behaviors are encouraged by a certain mindset at each touch-point
5. These mindsets are triggered by insights both implicit and explicit
6. Understanding what those insights are better enable us to invoke the intended action

Simple really.

Demographic profiling gives you just enough to paint picture of a typical persona in a hypothetical group of people. Behavioral profiling will give you a much higher chance of success because it’s a stronger predictor of what your relationship can be because it’s action orientated.

If you want to know more, I recommend this book; Misbehaving, written by Richard H.Thaler who pretty much invented the field of behavioral economics. It’s insightful and tells a great story. Not surprising when you think about it.

 

the-brain-009

Photograph: Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/Alamy/Alamy

 

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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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New ads on the block

Though the penetration of ad-blockers has slowed since the initial surge it’s by no means showing signs of stopping and certainly not of declining.

Ad-blocking has firmly established a threatening presence as the reckoning force that threatens the ongoing revenue streams for content creators and advertisers. In 2015 they ensured a global loss of £14.1bn in ad revenue and that figure is predicted to double in 2016.

I blogged about Native ads in March which are becoming stronger and more relevant in the main, but what I’m really liking is the determination across the creative industry to rise to the challenge and simply create better ads. Because why not?

Last year D&AD created ‘Ad Filter’, an extension that works across Chrome and Firefox replacing crappy boring ads with engaging brilliant ones. Olivier Apers, executive creative director of design agency BETC Paris, which collaborated on the filter said ‘We wanted to demonstrate that people don’t hate advertising, they just hate bad advertising,’ – so true. 

Good advertising is about integrating with what our audiences are doing, that isn’t going to change, perhaps the introduction of this will remind bad advertisers to stop blanket broadcasting.

If the industry as a collective can lift the bar on creative then we’ll earn the upwards curve on trust back, meaning advertisers will protect their income and users will stop inadvertently putting their favorite sites out of business.

Time to roll our sleeves up. 

Bicep Appreciation

Image shamelessly lifted from the Marines Bicep Appreciation Pinterest Page

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the voice inside my head told me to do it

Psssst

I’ve been trying to work out how to deliver whispers through experiences.

No I haven’t finally lost the plot, though you’re forgiven for thinking so but it has got me thinking about what we need to bring together to do this.

Binaural sound is trending at the moment, though largely delivered through bigger immersive experiences or using 360 video and normal headphones, which is ace and puts you in the moment more than one directional sound can.

But it’s not enough for me. I want to take this one step further and completely blur the lines between visual and sound effects so that they’re delivered together seamlessly…

Imagine a VR headset with built in bone conduction audio that would give you complete visual and audio 360… still with me? Good.

This really would take you to the next level of immersion and rumor has it something is being trialled, which I am very excited about…

Immersive storytelling is about to get a whole lot more… well immersive.

 

vogtk

found on imgflip.com –  thank you 

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179

This week I was privileged enough to be counted amongst 12 other fantastic women as leaders of tomorrow in the IPA Women of Tomorrow awards

In the run up to this event and many others on March 8th, I’ve been asked a lot about how I feel about being a leading woman, and more recently a leading woman ‘in tech’ and I wanted to share my thoughts with anyone else who may be interested.

First and foremost I am both proud and humbled, it is exciting to be recognised as one of the women to watch ‘bursting full of brains, vision, inspiration and energy with a wealth of experience, results and high recommendations under their belts.’ Thank you Nicky Bullard, one of my judges and another amazing woman.

Whilst I am a feminist (it would be silly to not be on my own side having been a woman for a while now) I have to thank my other judge Dan Shute (who is a man) for calling out that one of the reasons I won was not because I’m shouting about my gender but because I’m cracking on with simply being the best person I can be, which is all I’ve ever done. 

I love being a woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘anti man’. I also love being a leader, inspiring others to become leaders, working with clever people and working with techy stuff, because I love all these things I am good at it.

I encourage everyone to find something they love doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, black, white, young, old, privileged or not. I live my life on the mantra of ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it.’ Thanks Walt. I’m not saying we all get our fairytale ending if we skip through life singing, but live by this and a ton of hard work and very little can hold you back. 

I’m as much an advocate for equality as I am for not using circumstance as an excuse, together we will always achieve more. 

That said, sadly there are a dying breed of luddites out there still doubting equality, to them I’d like to point out that 179 is the sum of my bra size and my IQ, I’ll let you do the math.
  

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getting native ads right

There are so many ways websites can generate revenue through ads, personally, like many people I find 99% of them irritating, but as an advertiser I also know the importance they have for businesses selling and buying the spaces. 

With the rise of ad-blockers the focus on making creative work harder and better has never been more prevalent and one of the biggest digital marketing trends continuing this year are custom-made native ads, designed to appear as part of a website’s standard content.

Beyond just the aesthetics, native ads are also created to integrate seamlessly into the functionality of the site, which means they impact the customer journey, particularly if the buyer is taking over a lot of space. This can have a negative effect especially if the branding isn’t clear, which is often the case as they normally contain content relevant to the site rather than an explicit ad message. 

Native ads aren’t necessarily immune to ad blockers, the execution of them varies greatly but fundamentally they are not published as the site’s editorial so the tech is still ad serving. You only have to block ads on Forbes to see this happening, and those native ads are created for Forbes.

So how do you create a good native ad?

First and foremost, think about the behavior you’re targeting on the site through the content you choose rather than the demographic. For example, if it’s an automotive site, create refreshing content relevant to the cars or consideration process of buying a car, not the ‘ABC1’ you might be hoping will see it and be distracted by your set of golf clubs because you’ve assumed as a demographic that’s what he wants to see instead.

Secondly, don’t be deceptive in the customer journey. Native ads are generally accepted more than traditional ads because they are more trusted, this is because of the relevancy not just at first view level but of the journey in totality. Don’t abuse this, keep your click destination as relevant as the core content. 

Finally, keep it considered and polished. Native ads aren’t a home for any old crap, brand metrics show that they are considered to be more premium from discovery through to purchase. Stay true to the above  points and you will see a greater halo effect on your brand without having to be shouty about your brand presence. 

Simple really; know what your audience want to see, make it worth them seeing and follow that thought through to purchase. 

Stick to these principles and avoid the display pondweed caught in the ad blocker net.

Don’t be this guy…Polar-Bear-in-Fishing-Net-MAIN

image found on the daily mail. thank you

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music is morphing

The audioscape is shifting. In 2014 digital music revenue matched the physical and though the report isn’t out yet I suspect the balance tipped over towards digital in 2015. Whilst downloads still just about make up the bulk of that revenue, streaming services show continued growth to satisfy the personalised on-demand needs of the ever impatient consumer.

It is becoming more apparent however, that rather than posing a threat to traditional radio broadcast, it is in fact providing pre-cognitive insight to help programmers find the next hit, or know when to stop playing a track to death, thankfully.

Having long been an advocate of services such as Spotify, Amazon Prime and YouTube I’ve pondered several times where the data connections between airplay, streaming and record sales will join up.

A short while back I spoke with Spotify (the world’s biggest music streaming service) about how their platform can inform what’s next, allowing them to be ahead of the curve on everything from up and coming artists to how to name their playlists, the value is clear; it’s a completely accurate analysis of listener choice.

Streaming is a mainstream activity. Over two thirds of internet users accessed a licensed digital service in 2015 and the strength of the industry today is seen in the total flexibility it provides, allowing artists to reach a much wider audience in a way they want to be reached.

This has seen a shift from music models based on ownership to those based on access, which coupled with consumers streaming more and more on smartphone and tablets (up 114% in 2015 according to Wells Fargo) means subscriptions will continue to shape the music portfolio available.

So what’s next? I reckon we have three things to look forward to:

First up, music will become more intuitive. The Echo Nest acquired by Spotify provides an intelligence platform that mixes human skill, clever algorithms and social curation, meaning you can quickly get personal. This thinking will spread.

Secondly, enhancing how we perform by influencing the frequency of our brainwaves will continue to improve. We all know that faster music makes us run faster and slower music focusses breathing for yoga. This thinking is already built into how Spotify’s algorithm can work, for example their partnership with Nike which matches music to your tempo.

Thirdly, a merger of these two approaches to create a constant seamless service that will use prediction to enhance our brainwaves through binaural beats so we all become super intelligent thanks to music.

OK, maybe that last one is a few years away… but it will happen.

 

-3952

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YOLO to FOMO

How many times have you rolled your eyes and resignedly sighed ‘Oh the Yoof of today’?

If I’m honest, I lost count a while back, but that said I’ve also forgotten the last time I said it. Why? Because quite frankly this ‘Yoof’ are outsmarting c-suites around the world and as they start to enter the workplace they’re shaking things up, I believe for the better.

They’re more focused, more ambitious and more tech enabled than any other generation to date. They also have the lowest drug abuse, lowest alcohol abuse and lowest teenage pregnancy rate than any other generation. They’re tech savvy and life savvy.

They are the first digitally native generation, having never known a world without the internet and according to Business Insider 61% would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate.

They’re the generation happy to pay over the odds for the latest smartphone but that make up for it by streaming video content for free rather than paying to rent movies, they dual screen constantly, multi task ferociously, are hungry for everything, patient for nothing.

For brands, they pose an increasingly difficult audience to reach, with such rapid and sporadic consumption of media they live in fear that they will miss out. They constantly switch between devices and channels, which has resulted in them having the attention span of a goldfish… literally.

They’re exposed to thousands of brands, hundreds of times from their waking moment to their sleeping one, so the question posed to brands today is, how do you make your 8 seconds count?

Less is certainly more, and any communication must cut through the noise in a concise way, bear in mind that these guys have entire conversations through emojis, or Kimojis (JGI).

Forget disruptive technology, these guys are already beginning to change the landscape. The clunky old guys at the top currently trying to move things forwards will simply need to keep up or get ready to pack their suitcases and go home.

 

emoji unicorn

 

p.s. YOLO = You Only Live Once (totes popular with millennials) FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out (which if you read the post you’ll get 😉 )

p.p.s. sorry if you’re feeling old now

p.p.p.s. but I did use a unicorn emoji so that restores the balance

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