Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Drinking Beer Helps Make Decisions

Surprising but true. It was a delightfully counter-intuitive discovery, one that parallels what we found under the cap of a bottle of Session beer recently.

There are many choices to be made while drinking is going on, whether at a club, bar or home. Rock paper scissors is an old parlor game that Session beer brings to the moment, and it helped decisions to be made as the evening wore on.

For us, it took quite a few bottles before we amassed the complete set (we think this was not an accident), yet once armed with our prize it became a recurring theme woven into the fabric of the evening as it unfolded, and part of the stories that were shared long after.

"Great brands are no longer the ones that are the best storytellers but the ones that the best stories are being told about"
so says David Verklin CEO of Carat America. We agree. Though we have a hard time imagining he was talking about this specific brand at the time, his sentiment is highly applicable to it.

More than pure entertainment, the brand delivered utility, albeit it in an unexpected way. A clever twist to a familiar theme, one perfectly suited to the character of a good time out.

Crowdsourcing finally snags the Netflix $1,000,000 prize.

It was inevitable. The competition that Netflix launched to improve its movie recommendation algorithm by 10% is finally over.

While the challenge took a while to crack the end was apparently tantalizingly close, with different cohorts posting their breakthroughs within minutes of each other.

Crowdsourcing is not new, but this recent application suggests an interesting lesson. While separate teams made strong progress in isolation, they reached a point beyond which they could not advance the algorithm further towards the goal. It took a final step of amalgamating the efforts of different groups and merging their algorithms together. One can only imagine the messy mathematical mash-up that entailed, but it resulted in the crucial incremental efficiency which enabled the 10% barrier to be breached.

It affirms how much more progress we can make through collaboration when conquering tough challenges. Several heads are better than one (as long as they’re the right heads!).

Full Wired magazine article here...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Car That Steers Itself. Science Fiction Becomes Fact.

The prediction that cars will someday drive themselves is nothing new. The tantalizing possibility has appeared in a number of science fiction films including The Minority Report in recent years.

That someday has arrived. The new Lexus HS 250 touts Lane Keep Assist technology. This feature reads the lines on the road, detects the car's position in the lane and helps to keep the HS from drifting out of the lane, even by steering itself back when necessary.

One must wonder how far off the day is when ours hands will be able to be taken fully off the wheel and the coordinates we've plugged into the console will take care of the driving for us. The rollout will be gradual and thoroughly tested for sure. But what might have been unthinkable in the world of commercial air-travel has already come to pass. Planes routinely take-off and land through automation, with the Pilot's involvement reduced to back-up in case of system failure. Our skies are much safer as a result. It takes no leap of the imagination to foresee how much safer our roads would be without human error.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Anatomy of a great night out

This study explored the night-time social life of young 20 somethings. Its goal was to understand what space there was for mobile devices to deliver greater utility.

The biggest discovery was how much unpredictability and spontaneity were the main experiential elements that defined a great night in the eyes of this cohort. The video gives their account of its value. An abridged report appears here