Alternate Reality or Augmenting Reality?

Even as the retail world’s tides remain ever changing, certain characteristics remain afloat: companies are still looking for creative and effective ways to differentiate themselves from a sea of positioning statements and promotional waves that never quite break on the shore of consumer receptivity. After years of searching for and developing a better way to personalize the consumer shopping experiences and further find ways to interact with consumers, the retail market has finally gotten their sea legs through the utilization of a once exclusive technology, which was originally used by NASA and Boeing in their proprietary product development programs. What is this amazing technology that is well-positioned to further enhance the future of consumer experience, you ask? Augmenting Consumer Reality.

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Think with Google : The Profit-Driven Marketer

Props to Corey Eulas for pointing out this excellent collection of information from Google themselves about a change in mindset to go from thinking about Marketing as a cost, to thinking about Marketing as the full profit center that it can and should be. It seems along the lines of “the more you know” / “knowledge is power.”

If the question is simply would you rather have a cost per acquisition of $80 or of $90, the answer is that it really depends on what both bring. If the $80 CPA gets you a handful of leads from an ad placed further down somewhere, how does the lifetime value of those new customers compare to what you may get from the $90 CPA if that is what it takes to get that number one spot? And maybe more importantly, does your business even have all the analytics and metrics in place to figure out those lifetime values, to track a user all the way through their flow, seeing your ad on their mobile phone, checking up on your company during spare minute or two on their work computer, then going through the final conversion on their tablet while relaxing watching tv in the evening?

It really makes you think … with Google ( www.thinkwithgoogle.com ). There’s even a Strategic Guide fifteen page doc with more in-depth analysis, and this “Profit-Driven Marketing” collection is just one of who knows how many other collections of knowledge and insight are hiding in there. What do you think?

Project Loon

Recently, I learned of a revolutionary project developed by Google to promote quality Internet access to rural and remote places. However, what is truly interesting about this effort is that the Internet conglomerate is using balloons to make the whole thing possible. That’s right, balloons!

But these aren’t just any balloons, these are a global network of high-altitude balloons floating twice as high as commercial jets in the stratosphere.

While those of you reading this (myself included) rarely go more than 15 minutes without being “connected”, roughly two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access.

And while some might argue that Internet access in desolate areas is inconsequential, Google definitely does not think so. After all, with the Internet comes search engines that connect users to a plethora of knowledge including sustainable agriculture, water collection and treatment, building construction, and disease control.

So just how does Project Loon work?

As the term stratosphere suggests, the winds in the Earth’s stratosphere are stratified with each layer containing winds that vary in speed and direction. Utilizing GPS tracking and software algorithms, Google is able to determine more or less where their balloons need to go. Then, they move them into the position where the wind is blowing in the desired direction. By using the wind to their advantage, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communication network.

Through a specialized Internet antenna attached to a user’s home or business, signals are transmitted from the balloon to the ground allowing for connectivity via a consumer grade router.

Amazingly, each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area of about 40 km (25 miles) in diameter at near 3G speeds.

Each balloon’s life span is approximately 100 days. Upon retirement, gas is released from the balloon and it returns in a controlled descent to a pre-selected recovery zone where it is collected and either re-used or recycled.

Where is Loon?

Beginning with a pilot test in June 2013, thirty balloons were released from New Zealand’s South Island. Since then, the test has expanded to include more people throughout the region. 2014 plans for this project include continued expansion that will encompass the 40th parallel south.

For more information on how Internet access is exceedingly beneficial to those living in remote areas, watch Zack Matere, a Kenyan farmer’s, story here:

Want to know what’s next for Project Loon?

Continual up-to-date information on this ambitious project is available by following the Project Loon Google+ page.

Larry Page On The Future Of Google

In a recent TEDx talk Larry Page, CEO and co-founder of Google, discusses his ongoing vision for the search engine giant with acclaimed journalist, Charlie Rose. Points of interest include the company’s recent acquisition of DeepMind, a London based artificial intelligence startup, Chrome, Android, Google Shopping and Project Loon, a revolutionary effort to bring internet access to rural and remote areas via specialized balloons traveling on the edge of space.

A Little Bit of What We Saw at SXSW

For everything that’s happening in Austin, TX for SXSW, there’s only a miniscule amount of information that can be taken in when relating to the event as a whole. But that’s okay, because everywhere you turn, there’s something amazing to be seen in the sea of brilliant new technologies, information, and ideas. Craig, Alex, and Matt embarked on the journey to Austin to soak themselves in what SXSW had to offer, and they came back with a few things to share.

The team made it a point to learn about the latest from the UX/UI world as well as see what some of the great online innovators are saying about the state of responsive design and preparing for the influx of devices that are being introduced to market. Admittedly, much of what we heard was still being attributed to the birthing era of responsive design, and much of that we are quite familiar with as far as going through the rounds and testing responsive ideas ourselves. A common theme we were hearing was the internet of everything and the internet of things. As we see more consumer products being introduced as “always connected” and “smart” such as the NEST, there comes more thinking and planning on how the experience will be portrayed. It’s definitely exciting times in the world of user engagement.

Apart from the technical aspects of the web, we saw quite a few inspirational talks from peeps that have started some good things. Dark Rye is a small group of people working on unbranded content for Whole Foods Market. The idea is all about storytelling and the end result is a online catalogue full of engaging video and inspirational stories. The budget is low but it all stems from passion – the passion of the stories that are found and the dedication of the team that makes it all happen. It’s a great recipe for an audience to click the share button.

Of course, with the maker movement in full swing, we had to sit in on some DIY talks. We saw 4 ambassadors share their ideas and success stories about their endeavors and the communities they share in. More and more hacker spaces keep popping up and spearhead a growing community of Makers to keep learning and inventing. It’s a lot to chew, but these places offer all sorts of savviness in programming, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer software design to name a few. It’s a great place to hang if you love taking stuff apart and want to hang with others doing the same thing. I’m keeping my eyes on the Steam Carnival up in LA to see what sort of sorcery those makers come up with.

There’s endless tales to be told from SXSW 2014, and some additional experiences may soon get their own blog post. Keep on the look out!