October 10, 2018: Amazon plans to launch 3,000 Go stores by 2021, Facebook officially releases Portal home device and renames Camera Effects Platform to Spark AR, New privacy scandal leads to Google+ getting shut down, and voice technologies continue to shape the industry.
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Amazon’s Go-ing Global
Alexa, more details, please.
Amazon has already opened four of its Go Stores in the U.S. (three in Seattle and one in Chicago), and is rumored to be opening stores in New York City and San Francisco by the end of this year. The Go stores, which use infrared sensors and automation software to let consumers shop and checkout without having to interact with employees or kiosks, have revolutionized the shopping experience and, in typical Amazon fashion, have created a playbook for retailers to replicate.
What’s Bezos saying?
Although Bezos himself has yet to confirm the aggressive expansion plans, the move would put Amazon head to head with some of the largest retailers in the world. For comparison, Target operates about 1,800 stores and Walmart about 6,000 stores. The expansion would be Amazon’s most aggressive move in the brick and mortar space since the acquisition of Whole Foods back in ‘06.
What’s Amazon’s end-game?
For Amazon, it’s all about the convergence of speed and convenience to facilitate the ultimate customer experience. By continuing to expand its physical footprint, Amazon has the opportunity to collect more precise data on its consumers – gaining insight into how the same person shops on and offline. This data can then be used for more precise targeting and further personalization.
With the new store model, the role of employees shift to become service-oriented. Employees will begin to serve as influencers in their own rights, providing valuable product knowledge & expertise to consumers throughout the buying journey. While it’s likely that Amazon will eventually implement some form of augmented reality so consumers can seamlessly access ratings & reviews, until then, employee advocates could serve as another form of influence along the customer journey.
Facebook’s Portal Into Your Home
On the heels of a massive security breach that exposed the private info of more than 90 million users, Facebook has officially launched its new smart device, the Portal. Timing isn’t everything, right?
Tell me more
The company claims the device is “powered by AI” with features designed to “take all the guesswork out of video calling.” The “Smart Camera” feature will pan and zoom to keep callers in the view of the screen. Background noise is filtered out with the “Smart Sound” algorithms in the device. Currently, content for the device is powered by Facebook Watch, Food Network, Newsy, Spotify Premium and iHeartRadio. Amazon’s Alexa can also be used on the device.
What people are saying…
What FB is saying…
With all major tech companies working to play offense and defense in the full ecosystem, it was only a matter of time before FB entered the hardware game. Where the competition for standalone devices is so crowded, FB’s opportunity to stand out in their ability to personalize the TV-watching experience with data. Since FB has so much information around users’ TV-watching habits (i.e., who’s watching what & talking about shows vs. looking for recommendations), it’s likely we’ll see FB integrate influencer recommendations and content into the device, along with other voice-enabled search & discovery features.
Facebook’s (Much Needed) Spark
Facebook has renamed its Camera Effects Platform to Spark AR and has expanded the program to Instagram.
Facebook introduced its Camera Effects Platform at its F8 conference in 2017 as a solution to bringing AR to the cameras in people’s phones, instead of to standalone devices, like glasses. In a blog post on Friday, Facebook said it is now accepting applications for an expanded closed beta of Spark AR on Instagram, adding “Beta participants will be able to use Spark AR Studio to design immersive, interactive experiences and make them available to their followers on Instagram.”
What does this mean for the industry?
Facebook’s announcement comes on the heels of platforms like Snap, Apple, Google and Amazon continuing to create similar software tools and platforms for AR development — all of which emphasize ease of use to promote overall user adoption.
Global spending on AR/VR products and services is expected to nearly double to $27 billion this year, with the market seeing a 72% annual growth rate until 2022. The ability to digitize the world around us creates a whole new dimension for brands to create engaging experiences for consumers, wherever they may be. Soon enough, it’s likely that we will begin to see influencers begin to hold VR and AR events in which they virtually interact with followers in an authentic and real way.
Google+: Could Have Been Worse
Google has officially announced plans to shut down Google+ after it discovered a security vulnerability that exposed the private data of up to 500,000 users.
According to a report from the New York Times, between 2015 and March 2018, a bug in the Google+ platform allowed developers to access personal data from the connections of people who had installed their app, even if those people didn’t give permission for their information to be accessed. The worst part? Upon discovering the bug in March, Google opted not to disclose it to the public out of fear of regulatory pressure and unfavorable comparisons to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
Google+ has been failing for some time so the decision to shut it down was likely a long time coming. However, the incident – specifically, the decision to not disclose the bug – is likely to have bigger repercussions for the company. It also comes just a few days after London’s High Court shut down a class action lawsuit against Google that had accused the company of illegally collecting users’ internet habits for tailored advertising purposes from 5.4 million iPhone users. It was only a matter of time before the Googs got wrapped up in the data privacy scandals Facebook and Twitter have been dealing with.
“Many of the things we tap to control are already turning to voice control technology. And as they all do, we should be prepared for a new kind of speaking culture with a faster speed that changes office norms, favors a different kind of brain, and starts creating a bamboozlingly rich range of conversational styles. If this mad prediction turns out to be true, then culture is going to change faster than we think, and in unpredictable ways.” – Owen Dowling
Voice technologies are quite literally dictating the world we live in. TLDR; Dowling says it best.