Amazon Gives MyFirmsApp Nod to Use Lex AI Service

MyFirmsAppMyFirmsApp, an app solution for accountants and bookkeepers, has been given the go-ahead by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build AI into its web, mobile and connected device apps using Amazon’s Lex AI service.

Lex, introduced last month, builds conversational interfaces using voice and text that is built on the same technology that powers Amazon Alexa. The MyFirmsApp development team will trial the speech recognition and natural language understanding capabilities of Lex in a bid to ‘deliver a better and more interactive experience for accountants and their clients who use apps built on the MyFirmsApp platform’.

“AI is an exciting prospect for accountants as it will make it possible to effectively add another member to the team that is available 24 X 7 to answer multiple questions and carry out simple tasks. This ‘virtual’ member of staff will help the accountant retain trusted advisor status by appearing to be available at all times,” said Joel Oliver, CEO at MyFirmsApp.

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Snapchat Partners with Oracle for Offline Ad Targeting

Snapchat LogoSnap Inc, the company behind Snapchat, has signed a deal with Oracle Data Cloud – as it aligns its ad targeting with the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The Wall Street Journal reports, confirmed by Oracle via Twitter, that the deal will help marketers use data from offline purchases to target customers with more relevant ads on the Snapchat app. It will also help these marketers measure whether campaigns result in real-world sales.

Evan Spiegel, CEO and co-founder of Snapchat, has previously said that he doesn’t want consumers using the app to be served “creepy” ads, through the amount of data used to target users. But it seems there has been a significant change of heart, as Snapchat tries to catch up with other major ad players.

Last summer, Snapchat began a new advertising era by rolling out an expansion of its advertising tools. As part of the expansion, it introduced its advertising API to enable adverts on its app to be sold by third parties.

In addition, the photo and multimedia messaging service further expanded its targeting options for marketers in September.

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Matterport Brings its VR App to iOS

Matterport VR AppImmersive media tech company Matterport has introduced VR support for iPhone devices, after already being available to Android users. The Matterport VR app provides users with the option to publish any Matterport 3D space in VR.

The app comes pre-loaded with over 150 VR experiences. These experiences can be accessed via its iOS, Gear VR and Cardboard apps.

Bill Brown, CEO of Matterport said: “Companies that move quickly to integrate immersive media are going to deliver a better consumer experience and position themselves for long-term success.”

Matterport began offering 3D virtual tours of popular destinations and sites. In October, the company began to branch into VR with the launch CoreVR, which enables anybody with a Matterport Pro 3D camera to become a VR content creator.

Matterport says it has enabled CoreVR ‘free of charge for any 3D space created through June 2017 to allow both iOS and Android customers to experience just how easy it is to create their own VR spaces’. Bear in mind though, Matterport’s camera will set you back $4,500 (£3,652).

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Amazon’s Dash Buttons go Digital for One-click Buying From Device

Amazon DashAmazon has introduced virtual dash buttons in an attempt to make it even easier for people to order products through its app and website.

The physical version of the buttons – which are small gadgets that enable one-click reordering of products – have been available to the Amazon Prime subscribing general public since July 2015. Now, Prime members will be able to enjoy the same one-click ordering but directly from their devices.

On the digital dash buttons page, Amazon says: “Each Dash Button is paired to a specific product of your choosing, making it simple to order your favourite products with the press of a button. All Dash Button orders ship fast and free via Prime. Each Dash Button features the brand logo and/or brand name of the product.”

Dash buttons can be found on the Amazon home page or stored in the user’s Your Dash Buttons section, where favourite buttons are stored. Amazon will automatically create buttons on products typically reordered by the user.

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Innovation Lab: Laser-powered Mice, Cardboard Drones and Smelly Porn

At Mobile Marketing we’re proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it’s on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world’s innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

mouse hunting
Scientists Activate Killer Instincts in Mice Using Lasers

Scientists at Yale University have combined advances in gene therapy and optogenetics to terrifying effect, producing mice that can be triggered into a predatory state using specially designed helmets.

Previous research found that the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in producing and regulating emotions, was activated while rats hunted. Building on this, neurobiologist Ivan de Aruajo infected mice with a virus that made neurons in their brains sensitive to blue light.

The mice were then equipped with tiny fibre optic helmets that shined a blue laser on the amygdala. The researchers found this prompted the animals to tense their jaw and neck muscles, and engage in hunting behaviour on anything they were presented with, from prey like crickets to inanimate objects like bottle caps.

“The first thing we thought was, maybe this was just generalised aggression,” said de Araujo. “Or maybe we just made the mice very hungry.” However, when activated in the presence of another mouse, the test mice instead became more curious, but didn’t attack, suggesting the experiments were indeed triggering predation behaviours, not hunger or aggression.

icarus droneUS Military Funds the Ultimate Paper Plane
The Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable System (or ICARUS for short) might just be the most advanced paper plane ever created. Designed by R&D design group Otherlab, the cardboard drone is designed to deliver supplies to dangerous areas, then be destroyed.

The design is based on research by DARPA, the US Department of Defense’s technology group, into self-destructing electronic devices that could stop military equipment falling into enemy hands, and was funded by the military too.

The ICARUS is designed to be released in mid-air by larger aircraft, and operates like a glider, with no internal engine or motor, just a guidance system enabling its path and destination to be controlled.

As well as transporting military supplies, the ICARUS is intended for use delivering humanitarian supplies to remote areas where retrieving drones would be difficult, or for loads where minimising human exposure was wise, such as transporting blood, vaccines or other medical supplies.

UV sticky tape
UV Controlled Adhesive Unsticks in a Flash

A team of German scientists have created a strong adhesive that can quickly stick and unstick with a flash of light. While the initial use case is building precise microelectronics, manipulating parts without leaving a sticky residue, the eventual aim is to let humans climb surfaces just like Spider-man.

The material combines a tape inspired by gecko feet adhesion with a porous, light-sensitive film that curls up when exposed to UV light. By turning the UV on and off, it controls how much of the material is touching a surface at a micrometre scale, triggering the stickiness on and off.

The researchers were able to pick up and move surfaces including glass plates and spheres, and the material left no more residue than a rubber band on the objects picked up. The material would be especially useful in clean room environments where contamination was a major concern, but the truly exciting application is in human-sized adhesion, especially as a 20cm square should be sufficiently strong enough to pick up a adult male.

ohroma-girl-hdWebcam Site Introduces Scent Mask Integration
NSFW cam site CamSoda has announced the OhRoma, a VR-compatible scent mask for those looking to insert an extra level of immersion into their VR webcamming experience. The mask, which costs $69.99 (£57) can be loaded with cartridges to recreate the smell of anything from perfume and a meadow to perfume and private parts.

“Here at CamSoda we remain steadfast in our pursuit of technology that challenges the boundaries of what is imaginable and to provide our fans with as many dimensions of sensory stimulus as possible,” said Daron Lundeen, CEO and president of CamSoda. “Virtual reality figures to play a pivotal role in 2017 and we wanted to enhance the experience for our fans by introducing OhRoma which now allows users to smell what they are seeing and hearing.”

The mask will come with an accompanying app that connects to the device via Bluetooth, and when it is used, it will heat up the cartridges to produce the various aromas matching the VR experience they are viewing.

wef anti drone cannon
Swiss Police Deploy Anti-drone Cannons at World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum at Davos attracts its fair share of controversy every year, gathering together as it does the world’s governmental and financial leaders, and with that comes a number of security concerns. With the advent of consumer drone technology, those security concerns take on a new high-tech angle, and according to Bloomberg, local police have been preparing HP 47 Counter UAV Jammers to ensure drones don’t get too close to the venue.

“While drones have great potential, they have – just as every new technology or aspect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – also a potential downside,” said Georg Schmitt, spokesperson for the WEF. “The forum takes the safety and security of its participants seriously. It is therefore normal that we take any potential issue into account and prepare for it.”

The HP 47 can disable drones from up to 1,000ft away, preventing operators from accessing video feeds or remote controls, and trapping the machines within an ‘invisible fence’ that enables them to easily capture or destroy them.

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Facebook Mobile Conversions Overtook Desktop During the Christmas Period

mobile shopperLast year, Facebook saw more mobile conversions than desktop conversions for the Christmas period for the first time.

The internet giant has revealed that the mobile portion of online transactions grew by 55 per cent year-on-year, starting from Black Friday. Overall, mobile made up 51 per cent of online transactions – an increase of over 10 per cent compared to the same period in 2015.

Facebook IQ says:Our smartphones are with us at all times—during our commutes, in the check-out aisle, on the couch during commercial breaks—and increasingly, we are turning to them to research products and services, compare prices, check availability and get information while in-store. It’s where we discover new things, follow brands and are exposed to ads.”

A Kantar survey of 2,067 US retail shopping adults, commissioned by Facebook, found that 30 per cent had discovered a new product on Facebook – with 20 per cent saying Facebook led them to buy a new product or service online. Furthermore, around 33 per cent said Facebook and Instagram are good places to find out about new products and services.

Moreover, Facebook data has shown that shoppers who see retail or ecommerce ads on Facebook mobile convert 1.08 days more quickly than those, who see the same ad, on desktop. People on smartphones also browse fewer products before making a purchase, on average.

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Amplero’s New Capability Lets Marketers Influence Friends of Friends

Amplero LogoAmplero, a digital intelligence platform which leverages machine learning and continuous optimisation, has introduced a way for marketers to influence friends of friends.

Influencer Optimisation, a machine learning-based capability of Amplero’s Intelligence Platform, enables marketers to pinpoint their key customer influencers. It measures each influencer network by number, strength, intensity of connections, as well as the influence a customer has over the behaviours and actions of the connections. Amplero claims this recently accounted for a 28 per cent campaign lift of non-targeted individuals for a ‘top mobile provider’.

“Using Amplero’s new Influencer Optimization capability, marketers can now think beyond 1:1 personalised customer interactions and understand the full network impact of their campaigns,” said Olly Downs PhD, CEO at Amplero. “Identifying and targeting the most connected influencers and empowering them to spur friends and connections to take the desired action can lead to significant incremental revenue, retention or engagement results for our clients.

“While most marketers are focused only on the behaviour of specifically-targeted customers in a given campaign, machine learning that takes into account ego networks enables continuously-optimised interactions with the customer that take into account how they interact with one another.”

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Jaguar Land Rover Introducing VR to Showrooms

Jaguar Land Rover VRUK automotive manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover is introducing VR across its showrooms to ‘immerse customers in each new vehicle the company launches’.

Through VR headsets, the multinational automaker will give customers the opportunity to see and interact with life-size models of cars before they are available in showrooms. It will use animations to tell technical stories about each vehicle and enable the customer to explore the vehicle’s interior in 360° from different viewpoints.

Andy Goss, Jaguar Land Rover group sales operations director, said: “This new way of buying a car will engage customers further with our innovative capabilities. The VR Experience will also help retailers to break the ice with customers and inject even more fun into the process of buying our vehicles.”

The largest automotive manufacturer in the UK says VR experience packs will be introduced to retailers by the end of this month. It will roll out the VR experience across more than 1,500 retailers in 85 markets. The first vehicle to implement the VR will be the Land Rover Discovery, with the technology also being implemented on all subsequent new vehicles in 2017.

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Google Products Top Search Results 91 Per Cent of the Time

Google on TabletGoogle buys millions of its own search ads – with ads for Google and parent company Alphabet products top of Google search results 91 per cent of the time – according to data analysis by Semrush for the Wall Street Journal.

The analysis looked at 25 different hardware product search terms and conducted 25,000 searches – 1000 on each – to find that a Google product, more often than not, was the top search result.

For example, when ‘phones’ or ‘smart phones’ was inputted into a Google search 99.9 per cent of the time a Google Pixel would be advertised.

Searches for ‘carbon monoxide detector’, ‘smart speakers’, ‘smartwatches’, ‘streaming device’, ‘laptops’, ‘streaming stick’, ‘thermostat’, ‘smart doorbell’, ‘virtual reality’, ‘VR headset’, ‘smart lights’, and ‘smart plug, all presented either a Google or Alphabet product 100 per cent of the time.

Despite the Journal points out that “Google said that when it competes for ads, other advertisers are charged as if it wasn’t bidding, meaning its participation doesn’t directly inflate price”.

In an official statement, Google said: “We have consciously and carefully designed our marketing programs to not impact the ad auction. All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes — set to tougher levels than our customers — to govern the use of our own ads products.”

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Mobile and Multi-channel Retailers Experience the Most UK Marketing Success

Supermarket-Shopping-Trolley-Phone.jpgSupermarket marketing campaigns are seen as the most effective by UK consumers – with mobile and multi-channel retailers enjoying the most success.

A study of 500 UK consumers, commissioned by 3Radical, found that 80 per cent of Brits believe supermarket campaigns to be effective and encourage purchases. One multi-channel retailer that saw success was Marks & Spencer. It credits 30 per cent of its online traffic to its mobile, while 62 per cent of its online sales are picked up in stores.

Not far behind on marketing effectiveness is technology brands at 79 per cent. However, the most uninspiring campaigns come from banks & finance (50 per cent) and fashion & beauty (38 per cent).

The same study found that loyalty schemes have been also been a key factor in the marketing success experienced by some sections of British commerce.

David Eldridge, CEO at 3radical, commented: “Whilst mobile and multi-channel approaches have been part of the sales priorities for many years now, 2016 really saw this forming an integral part of consumer marketing in a huge way. The brands that embrace a multi-layered approach – that combines mobile, loyalty, interactivity and creativity – are emerging as clear winners in consumers’ eyes.”

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