Masterclassing

Innovation Lab: Pooping Robo-gulls, Computer Beer and Microscopic Pac-Man

Tim Maytom

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.

Nivea's Robot Seagull Poops Out Sunscreen From the Air


Summertime looks like it's finally here, so many people will be headed to the beach, either for a day trip at the weekend, or a holiday abroad. Skin care is obviously an important factor when you're out in the sun for a long period of time, and while we'd usually suggest simply applying some lotion by hand, Nivea has created a new approach: hang out under a robot seagull.

The skincare brand's "Care From the Air" campaign involves a robotic drone shaped like a seagull that was designed to dispense suntan lotion in a manner that resembled...well, see for yourself. Paired with infrared cameras that would enable it to identify children who were without sun protection, it certainly makes for a novel approach to skin safety.

Whether or not the seagull will be patrolling a beach near you is up for debate – while the creation certainly seems to attract attention in the video, it's not clear if Nivea has any plans to release it in the wild.

Not everyone was so sold on the idea however. At Cannes Lion, jury president and co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Sir John Hegarty called it "the most stupid thing I think I've seen in my whole life", according to Ad Week.

robot predator cameraScientists Teach Robots to Navigate By Tracking Prey
In a move that certainly doesn't resemble anything from the first 10 minutes of a sci-fi film, scientists in Switzerland have been improving robotic navigation and environmental interaction by teaching drones to track objects like predators.

Scientists at the Institute of Neuroinformatics at the University of Zurich have used specialised cameras and software to give an autonomous robot the ability to find, track and follow a human-controlled drone.

The end goal is software that will enable robots to assess their environment and find a target in real time and space, which could prove an essential skill for devices like autonomous cars or delivery drones, enabling them to follow a lead vehicle or form a chain of robots.

The project saw robots mirroring animals in more than one way. An essential component was a 'silicon retina', software that enabled the robot's cameras to mimic human eyes and their ability to process visual data incredibly quickly.

UK Brewers Turn to AI for Perfect Beer


Craft beers and microbrewing seem to be all the rage today, but one brewing company has taken an extra step when it comes to producing the ideal beverage, bringing in AI to help out.

The IntelligentX Brewing Company is a collaboration between machine learning company Intelligent Layer and creative agency 10x. The two firms have created algorithms that process feedback as a way of helping brewers improve their products based on what customers want.

The AI takes the form of a Facebook Messenger chatbot which asks drinkers several questions about beer, from multiple choices to rating different tastes from one to 10. The algorithm then analyses the answers and produces data for the brewers.

According to IntelligentX, its four beers, Golden, Amber, Black and Pale, have been changed about 11 times since they were first created, taking into account over a year of feedback from drinkers, and tweaking the recipes slightly each time to account for the data.

spectorDesigner's Gadget Can Identify Fonts on Sight
Most people probably don't spend too much time thinking about fonts, but for graphic designers, publishers and illustrators, a good font can make all the difference, especially when it comes to making your work stand out.

Those people may be interested in Spector, which was created by Fiona O'Leary, a student at the Royal College of Art, as her graduation project. The device not only captures and recognises fonts, it can also detect colours, and transfers all the information it collects to publishing software InDesign.

The handheld gadget uses an algorithm to break down images that it captures into data, detecting shapes and colours, and using a database to identify the typeface. At the moment, Spector can only store 20 images and identify seven different fonts, but O'Leary is working on expanding its capabilities.

Watch These Protozoa Play The World's Smallest Game of Pac-Man


There's never been a game of Pac-Man quite like this before. Scientist Erik Andrew Johannessen at the University College of Southeast Norway was looking to create a microscopic environment in which to study single and multicellular organisms, and decided to build a replica of the classic 80s arcade game.

The environment measures less than a millimeter across, and is filled with a nutrient rich fluid that contains a variety of microscopic organisms, from speedy, circle-shaped Ciliates to glowing green Euglena, acting as Pac-Man and the ghosts respectively.

The project used microscenography to light the environment with the neon glow of the game, and while it may seem like a nostalgic joke, the maze environment actually closely mirrors the organisms' real-life habitats, and enabled the scientists to identify behaviours never before seen.

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