February 13, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Tom Dart wrote that automated assistants such as Cortana and Siri are changing how people speak:
- In the United States voice recognition apps seem to struggle with southern accents and slang.
- People in Australia and India often say they have to fake an American accent to get their smartphones to understand them.
- While voice recognition is getting better…it may not need to. People are adapting themselves to their virtual assistants rather than the other way around.
- Most people have a “telephone voice” – a clearer version of their voice that people use when speaking to strangers or those over the phone.
- But with the hyper-connected world we have today, where people in Texas maybe talking to those in Thailand, people are increasingly using their “telephone voice” during day to day interactions.
Read more here
Source: The Guardian
February 12, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Rolfe Winkler wrote about a startup that could change how people sell houses:
- OpenDoor Labs pays cash for homes that people quickly want to sell, and then goes onto sell the same home a few weeks later for a fat profit of about $15,000 a house.
- After users enter their address they’re presented with an estimate. Then an inspector comes over to look at the condition of the house and provide an updated offer.
- The startup aims to make selling homes easier by helping homeowners use the internet, and avoid the headache of a broker.
- OpenDoor prides itself on the strength of its algorithms to accurately price homes.
- The startup then offers 24-hour open houses by having doors that unlock via text and security cameras to monitor visitors.
- Since OpenDoor actually owns the homes it’s possible the startup will fail the next time a housing crash rolls around.
Read more here.
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Via: Marginal Revolution
February 11, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Maddison Connaughton was told she has “Resting Bitch Face” or RBF. She turned to science to see if there was a cure:
- Victoria Beckham, Kristen Stewart, and Kanye West are among the celebrities that are thought to have RBF.
- Scientists did a facial expression analysis of celebrities like the ones above and compared it to “normal” faces. They found that those that have RBF have resting faces that score as being composed of 5.76% contempt.
- The percentage is incredibly small – but the human brain is trained to pick up on subtle differences and even a look of 5.76% contempt is enough to trigger a feeling of discomfort in many that interact with people that have RBF.
Read Connaughton’s reaction to the findings and other details here
February 10, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Over on Reddit someone came up with a bright idea in the appropriately named lightbulb subreddit:
- User NikhilSax suggested a game that requires users to take care of a virtual pet. Every time users spend money on the pet, that money would be transferred to their savings account.
- Another user suggested that different pets be offered. Those who pick a dog would be expected to take it out on walks. Their smartphone’s GPS sensor would ensure they left the house. Thus the game would get them to exercise in addition to save.
- Cats would be a step down in that they don’t need walks. Then things like snakes and lizards and finally…a pet rock. Where the only thing you have to do is to pay $10 to buy the rock, thus adding $10 to your savings account.
- For those who aren’t so concerned about their savings accounts, a user suggested that any money that users pay to feed a virtual pet, then be used to pay for a real shelter animal’s meal.
Read the entire discussion thread over here.
February 8, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Lauren Goode wrote about a service that aims to be the Uber for filling up your car’s tank:
- Users of WeFuel use an app to point to the location of their car.
- The service then dispatches a truck in 30 minutes to fill your car up with either regular or premium petrol.
- As long as the car’s tank is unlocked users don’t have to be there for the delivery.
- It costs $7.49 per refill in addition to the price of fuel which is calculated daily for specific zip codes.
- Plans for a $19.99 monthly subscription which allows unlimited refuels are in the works.
- Safety is paramount. The fuel is delivered in a hazmat truck. Your car will only be refueled if it’s in an uncovered space. And the person doing the refueling will take out a fire extinguisher before doing so.
Read more about the viability of the company, and why it launched in a state that accounts for 40% of all electric vehicle sales over here.
Source: The Verge
February 7, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
In the 1980s Israel started sending school children to Poland to see Nazi camps such as Auschwitz. These trips are now at the heart of a new scandal writes Adam Taylor:
- The cost of the trips has long been a sore point for Israeli families. Poorer students can’t afford the US$1,300 usually required.
- The Israeli government gave tenders to a number of tour operators to manage the trips. Having multiple ones was meant to bring down prices.
- However Israeli authorities now believe that the companies were illegally coordinating with each other to fix prices and keep profits high.
- There are also allegations that some of the companies paid bribes.
Read more here.
Source: The Washington Post
Via: Marginal Revolution
February 5, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
The Economist had a fascinating article on a recent Thai economic trend:
- The dolls – or “child angels” as they are known – are blessed with the spirit of a child and are thought to bring good luck.
- Their owners go so far as to feed and water them, while dressing the US$110 toys in the finest clothing.
- The dolls are so popular that one airline allows fliers to purchase an extra seat so that their doll can buckle in and travel in comfort.
- At buffets the dolls can dine for the child price – although they’ll be expected to pay for any food on their plates that remains uneaten.
- Even “Disney on Ice” will offer tickets for the dolls.
- Smugglers have taken note of the trend and are using the toys to smuggle drugs.
- And there’s a bit of a backlash – the dolls are, after all, meant to be haunted with spirits. Some people don’t want to purchase tickets that could seat them next to the dolls.
Read more about why Thailand’s political turmoil helped drive this craze, and why the Prime Minister isn’t too happy about them over here.
Source: The Economist
February 3, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Feargus O’Sullivan wrote about the rise of the Night Mayor:
- Cities usually view the night with suspicion – a time when well-meaning citizens are asleep and more illicit characters take to the streets.
- In 2014 Amsterdam decided to instead see the night as an opportunity and appointed a night mayor.
- One action taken by the night mayor was to modify the rule requiring nightclubs to close at 5am on weekends. By letting night clubs pick their own hours there wasn’t a one time rush of sound and interference when all night clubs simultaneously closed.
- Another initiative was to have night walkers on patrol. They inform night birds in a friendly way if they’re being too loud, and could be more considerate.
- The idea has been so successful that Paris, Toulouse, and Zurich have adopted their own night mayors. London and Berlin aren’t far behind.
Read more here.
Source: City Lab
February 2, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
Justin Bachman wrote about a service that aims to be the Netflix for air travel:
- For $2,950 a month OneGo will let you take an unlimited number of flights anywhere in the United States.
- Travelers are required to make bookings seven daysin advance – though for an additional $1,950 a month that requirement is dropped.
- The company markets itself to business fliers who don’t want to have to worry about the hassle of making a last minute booking if a client asks for a meeting in Chicago the next day.
- The startup’s fate rests on it getting enough customers for airlines to start offering it volume discounts.
- Airlines have tried selling ‘all you can fly’ tickets before but this is the first year round offering not limited to a specific carrier.
February 1, 2016 in Daily Bulletin
All eyes are on the Iowa caucuses today. Businesses have found ways to take advantage writes Jeremy Quittner:
- Some places such as Pizza Ranch have become election year institutions with candidates always planning events.
- They are usually divided between the Democrats and the Republicans. Pizza Ranch, for example, usually only hosts Republican candidates.
- One diner launched a coffee bean caucus. Patrons were invited to drop a coffee bean into a jar to indicate which candidate they supported.
- The jars have been a surprisingly good predictor of caucus results leading to a lot of media attention that boosts business.
- Another business sells caucus theme merchandise known for being edgy – think of all the plays on the word ‘caucus’.
- According to one company, the Iowa caucus leads to an additional $100,000 in revenue.
Read more over here.