The last decade has seen record sales decrease at an alarming rate and pop stars have often turned to product endorsements as a fruitful alternative income. While a partnership with Pepsi can earn big stars millions of dollars, new app Patrons hopes to bring together touring musicians and companies on a smaller scale — enabling businesses to ‘patronize’ the arts while providing artists with unique opportunities throughout their tours.
Currently in Beta, Patrons posits itself as a middleman between art and business. It provides a platform, in the form of a smartphone app, through which bands can promote their availability and businesses can approach them with customized offers. Whether it be trading a free haircut for a social media shout-out, a free hotel room for an acoustic set or a USD 100 bar tab in exchange for a DJ set, the developers see endless opportunities for matchmaking.
Are any there other services which could monetize the influence of potential ambassadors?
The Valedo is a Swiss invention, consisting of two sensors, which a user can temporarily attach to themselves and sync with a companion app via bluetooth. The app then gamifies a series of 45 motivational, therapeutic exercises designed to improve movement awareness, fine muscle control, stretching, balance and spinal stability.
Of course, there are already products such as LUMOback on the market which promise to monitor and improve a user’s back and posture. The Valedo improves upon earlier offerings, however, by requiring short bursts of activity rather than long periods wearing inconvenient trappings: the company claims that 10-15 minutes of exercise per weeks for two weeks can make a notable difference for those suffering from lower back pain.
The Valedo is retailing for EUR 299 and the company hopes it will be adopted by medical practitioners to encourage longterm self-regulated therapy for back pain sufferers. You can watch the promotional video below:
To begin, users simply attach the sensors to their body with medical tape — one on the chest and one on the lower back. The app then guides them through the exercises via a series of simple gaming levels. Different levels can be completed lying down, sitting or standing. The sensors use a 3D gyroscope, a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer and a series of algorithms to monitor the wearer’s performance and presents progress reports, for both the user and their physiotherapist.
The gamification of the exercises gives the Valedo an edge over competitors — transforming a chore into a comprehensive and satisfying task. It’s a strategy we’ve seen employed in many other platforms — such as Blue Goji and Loop —
which enable users to make the leap from exercise to gaming without really noticing. What other areas of healthcare could be gamified?
There are four billion phones on the planet constantly communicating their users’ social, physical and mental status. Developments in behavioural analytics now mean there are valuable insights to be found not only in users’ direct communication, but also in their actions.
Our moods directly impact our smartphone usage, however subtlety, and when someone is suffering from depression their behavioural patterns can change dramatically from day to day. Ginger.io is a health care start-up which uses the big data collected from users’ smartphones — alongside advanced behavioral analytics — to improve mental health care.
In addition, Ginger.io enables doctors to stay connected with mental health patients in between appointments, interacting with them via their smartphones through simple questions and surveys. Care providers also monitor patients’ phone usage to detect warning signs in their behaviour. Depending on the patient, this may materialise as reduced phone usage, heightened browsing or even less physical movement. The platform analyzes the data, filling in many of the gaps left by the absence of communication in between face-to-face appointments. It flags up worrying signs, so that care-givers can intervene when their patients are most in need. You can watch the video below to find out more:
The service has already seen great success across the US. It lowers costs for providers, enables better patient support and improves long-term clinical outcomes. But many underprivileged patients do not have access to the platform, which is available via partner institutions. In light of this, Ginger.io has recently launched a grant-funded project called Utah SmartCare to treat low-income patients from the Utah — which has the highest rate of depression and suicide in the US. The initial stage, which is funded by Cambia Healthcare Foundation, will target 500 patients with co-morbid conditions, 80 percent of whom live at or below the poverty line.
Are there other partnerships which could bring this service to communities in need?
Vast areas of people’s lives are now lived out in the digital world. Social media profiles, financial accounts and professional and personal emails are now regarded as digital assets and they are closely protected in life by passwords and access codes. But these protective measures can become unwelcome obstacles when someone dies, leaving behind a complicated and confusing digital legacy.
Often relatives and friends don’t know how much their loved ones have locked up in their e-wallets and PayPal accounts. But the UK’s Planned Departure is now offering users a comprehensive way to organize and protect their digital legacy, allowing the recently deceased to pass on assets such as Bitcoin and Twitter followers.
Komal Joshi founded the startup after the death of her own father in 2010, when she encountered problems finding the passwords and secret answers for all his online accounts. Functioning similarly to a traditional will and testament, Planned Departure’s customers can rest assured that whoever is involved with administering their estate will be able to access every part of their digital existence — eliminating time and effort spent dealing with digital service companies, and the distress it can cause for bereaved loved ones.
Users can sign up for the service indefinitely for GBP 199.99 or pay an annual fee of GBP 19.99. They then list their assets and their wishes for each one. These can include digital inheritance from e-wallets, currencies such as Bitcoin and AirMiles, sentimental documents such as photographs, text files and digital libraries of eBooks or downloaded music. Users with popular social media accounts — a Twitter account with many followers for example — can even donate them to a designated charity, enabling them to exploit their marketing value for a good cause.
Are there other ways that digital services can make it easier to deal with the assets that the deceased leave behind?
There are now so many photo-sharing apps that it’s hard to get too excited about yet another one hitting the market. However, a recent tendency for product developers to harken back to old processes in the digital age is producing interesting results. We recently wrote about PrintSnap, which uses barebones tech to mimic the functions of the classic Polaroid instant cameras, and now Dudr is a smartphone app which recalls the fun and spontaneity of the disposable camera.
Developed by a German startup, the app requires users — usually groups of friends or guests of an event — to each download the app to their smartphones. Each ‘dude’ — which is what Dudr is calling its users — then presses the camera icon at the same time, activating Dudr’s patented location-based trigger system. The app uses GPS to register ‘dudes’ nearby, adding everyone’s photos to a shared stream. Each member of the group then embarks on a mission to take 24 photos in 24 hours. When the time is up, members can view the collected shots, creating a communal, semi-private bank of memories.
CEO Bernd Schmekel says he was inspired by the limitations of disposable cameras — which often use 24-shot rolls and can take 24 hours to develop — to bring more excitement and anticipation to digital photography. The gamification aspects could make the app appealing to organizers of parties or immersive theatre, as well as weddings, since it encourages social participation — guests won’t just be snapping away constantly but will be searching out inspiring shots. Are there other ways to turn smartphone photography into more of a group activity?
As property costs rise, people are attempting to cram their lives into increasingly small but affordable spaces. The lure of minimal living grows stronger, and in this climate, services which enable consumers to rent rather than buy their products are flourishing. We have already seen companies rent out everything from jeans to electric cars.
Lumoid is a US photographic equipment rental service which has recently expanded its ‘library’ to include wearables and drones — enabling customers to try-before-they-buy the latest high tech gadgets. Lumoid’s catalogue include sleep tracking and fitness devices from Samsung, Jawbone, Fitbit and others, as well as digital and analogue camera equipment. Customers earn points when renting products which can be cashed in if and when they decide to make a purchase, lowering the price of the item.
Lumoid also offer a Home Try-On program for wearables, tapping into the personalized nature of these devices — some may be a good fit one customer while another is more comfortable for someone else. Customers can pick any five items from the program, which are then shipped, free of charge, anywhere in the US. The customer then has seven days to test-drive the products, giving them time to download apps and sync data etc. At the end of the week, customers choose which model or models they want to purchase and they are then sent a brand new version of that item. If they haven’t found an item they like, they simply return all five in the provided box and are charged a USD 20 rental fee.
In a culture of short-term usage — especially in the fast moving world of gadgets — perhaps a subscription service could be a possible expansion on this model. Companies rely on, and pander to, the consumer’s desire for the latest gadget — and a rental service that offered a vast catalogue of gadgets for short term usage, at a fixed fee, could appeal to both nervous and fickle consumers alike. Could other exciting but intimidating gadgets benefit from similar schemes?
This is part of a series of articles that looks at entrepreneurs hoping to get their ideas off the ground through crowdfunding. At the time of writing, each of these innovations is currently seeking funding.
Last year we wrote about Jibo — the world’s first family Robot — a friendly AI device which uses facial recognition and natural language processing to offer personal assistance in the home. Jibo is a table top device with more than a passing resemblance to Pixar’s endearing animated lamp, that is programmed to become a social and interactive member of the family — taking photographs, connecting with other smart devices in the home, and talking to its owners in a Siri-like voice. Now, Robotbase are crowdfunding their own take on the friendly artificial intelligence assistant in the form of the Personal Robot.
The Personal Robot shares a vast number of features with Jibo — its facial and object recognition capabilities, its ability to correspond with users intelligently, its potential interaction with the Internet of Things and its capacity to provide entertainment — changing lighting, playing music and narrating stories to younger users. The main advancements on previous devices are its ability to move around by itself and its ability to detect its owner’s emotions. Its mobility and intelligent navigation are an important evolution, enabling it a much greater degree of autonomy and allowing it to move from one room to another as and when it is needed. It uses mapping and navigation algorithms to build its own map of the house or office and there-after can also provide real-time video surveillance — adding personal security guard to its long list of occupations.
The crowdfunding campaign is underway and Robotbase have already surpassed their USD 50,000 goal. Backers can currently pre-order a Personal Robot for USD 995 and it is likely to retail for USD 1,995 from December 2015. Robotbase are also keen to highlight the devices potential capacity as an office assistant — it can access facts and data and take meeting notes — and are offering customized Personal Robots with company logo and uniform to companies who want to road test the office of the future. You can watch the Personal Robot in action in the video below:
Personal Robot is a 4ft upright model. Its digital ‘face’ displays the head and shoulders of one of numerous friendly animated cartoons. The ‘face’ is connected to the mobile base by a simple white pole so that the whole device resembles an oversized board game piece. As more humanoids appear on the marketplace, appearance and “personality” will doubtless become deciding factors in consumer selection. What other forms could the personal robot take to appeal to different customers?
We recently reported on Elegy for a Dead World — a computer game which helps players improve their creative writing — and we now have yet more inspiring examples of the video game maturing beyond simple entertainment. That Dragon, Cancer is a point and click adventure game created by Ryan Green, which tells the story of his son Joel’s four year fight with cancer, and Never Alone, developed by Upper One Games — the worlds first indigenous owned video game company — is an educational game which transforms a traditional native Alaskan story into a two player puzzle platformer.
Both developers recognized the power of games to inform and educate players, while simultaneously entertaining them, and chose the interactive format because of its power to engage its audience. The games combine rich imagery, atmosphere and emotive narratives with simple gameplay to commemorate their stories, keeping the memories alive for the players and creators alike.
That Dragon, Cancer takes place in an impressionistic world navigated by simple mouse movements, accompanied by narrated poetry, prose and a soundtrack by Jon Hillman. Players explore a 3D environment, unlocking the tender story of a family’s experience with cancer. The game completed a successful Kickstarted campaign in 2014 and is planned for release in late 2015 in association with Ouya.
Never Alone is based on Kunuuksaayuka, a traditional Iñupiat tale, and tells the story of a young girl called Nuna, fighting against a blizzard which is threatening the survival of her community. In the game, she is accompanied by an arctic fox and players can choose which character to play as, or ideally play in two player mode — co-operating with their companion to help Nuna and fox work together.
Upper One Games, which developed the platformer, was setup by the Cook Intel Tribal Council (CITC), a nonprofit organization based in Alaska. The CITC is committed to tackling issues ranging from drug addiction, alcoholism, unemployment and education, and Never Alone fits into this programme as an attempt to teach players about native Alaskan heritage, while simultaneously raising funds to supplement the CITC’s US government funding. It is currently available on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam for USD 14.99. You can watch the release trailer below:
Are there other important narratives which could be made accessible through video games?
Regular readers of Springwise may remember the article we wrote about 3Space in 2011. Back then, the UK-based company was helping non-profits and community projects find temporary homes in vacant commercial properties. Four years on and we are pleased to report on its latest venture, which sees the transformation of emptied bank branches into free working spaces for social enterprises, entrepreneurs and community groups. The project, Hatch, has been launched in partnership with Barclays Bank and the first ‘branch’ recently opened in Oxford.
The new community space is the first of four hubs set to open in under-utilised Barclay’s properties in 2015. Known as Hatch Oxford, it offers free desk space to non-profits and early stage local start-up businesses, as well as providing mentoring possibilities and a fully-equipped maker space in the disused bank vault — complete with sewing machines, workshop tools and 3D printer.
What other surplus assets could larger companies turn over for community use?
The majority of people are capable of working out which of their companions make them happiest and which get on their nerves, but just in case anyone out there is struggling, a new app called pplkpr is offering to help users work it out.
Pplkpr — pronounced people keeper — is a smartphone app, synched with a wearable device, which monitors the user’s physical and emotional responses to the people they are hanging out with. It analyzes the data to help users identify how their companions make them feel — whether that be happy, scared, nervous or calm — and advises the wearer who to see when and who to cut out of their lives completely. It can even act on the users behalf, scheduling meetings and deleting bad influences.
Pplkpr tracks the wearers movements with GPS and monitors the users heart rate variability with a Bluetooth heart rate monitor. At first, wearers are required to input their feelings manually, prompted by questions when entering or leaving social situations, but eventually the app’s algorithm learns which emotions are associated with the subtle changes in the user’s heart rhythm and who produces which responses.
Pplkpr is available for download from the App store, or you can watch the video below to learn more:
The app was developed by artists Lauren McCarthy and Kyle McDonald as a working experiment into quantified living and algorithm decision making: the artists hope it will inspire questioning of this area of research and development. While the app can be taken with a pinch of salt, perhaps there is scope to use the technology as an aid for those who struggle with emotional reactions — could it be transformed into a platform that helps autism sufferers manage and understand their feelings, for example?