- Speaking To Your Home: Amazon unveiled two new devices that are more mobile than the original Echo, but still powered by Alexa. The Amazon Tap is a battery-powered portable speaker that can run up to nine hours on a charge. It’s about a third smaller than the original and costs $130. The other device, called the Echo Dot, is about the size of a hockey puck and connects to existing speakers. At $90, Amazon hopes customers will be drawn to its ability to turn traditional speakers into “smart” ones that respond to voice commands. Like the original Echo, it needs to be plugged into an outlet to work, but can be moved easily. [via Re/code]
- Automatically Re-ordering Supplies: Back when Amazon first revealed plans for its Dash Replenishment Service, its automatic-reordering system that would be triggered by “smart” appliances, it named Brita as a partner. Now, that partnership has come to fruition. Called Brita Infinity, the pitcher will be able to track how much water is flowing through it. When approximately 40 gallons of water have passed through the purification filter, it will send a signal to the Dash Replenishment Service to reorder more filters [via The Verge]. This follows last week’s announcement from Samsung for a new line of printers that will automatically reorder ink cartridges. [via The Verge]
- In-Store Self-Sufficiency: In Sweden’s first unstaffed food shop, all you need is a phone. Customers simply download an app to their smartphone which allows them to unlock the door and scan items they want to purchase. The shop has basics like milk, bread, sugar, canned food, diapers and other products that you expect to find in a small convenience store. Once finished, customers are free to leave and will be charged in a monthly invoice that they can pay via the app [via Big Story]. Keeping with the laissez faire approach to customer service, Timberland’s NYC store blends physical and digital, with tablets and “tap walls”. Products feature a tag that can be tapped by tablets in order to view product information, styling options and recommendations. The store features interactive “tap walls” with an assortment of exclusive merchandise via a creative digital installation. Customers can tap these images with a tablet to browse and save online-only items. [via PSFK]
- Point of Sale Supremacy: Apple Pay is leading among mobile payments providers with 12 million monthly users. Mobile-payment researcher Crone Consulting has issued a report that breaks down mobile payments by provider. The study looked at the big three: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay. It found that Apple Pay is the clear winner as far as active monthly users goes, saying the service has over 12 million people regularly using it each month. As for Android Pay, it matches Samsung Pay’s 5 million monthly users. That said, Apple had a head start in the space and Android Pay and Samsung Pay could surpass the Cupertino-based company’s within a year [via Fast Company]. Google is rolling out a pilot program that introduces a new way to pay cashiers — and it involves leaving your phone in your pocket. It’s called Hands Free, and it’s a way to basically connect your phone with a point of sales system using the sensors on your phone. [via Techcrunch]
- Rivalling Facebook, Acting Like A Cable Company: Snapchat disclosed that their users watch 8 billion videos a day, which is over 5 times times the number the company counted a year ago. This puts Snapchat just behind Facebook in terms of video views, which reported it had reached 8 billion daily video views last November [via Fast Company]. This rapid success may be in part due to the fact that Snapchat has revamped their Discover feature after shutting down underperforming channels last October. The company has begun hiring people to help build new channels and create original content. According to Kyle Bunch, managing director of R/GA’s social practice, “[Snapchat] is behaving as a new cable company and finding the right partners they deem worthy of having a channel and growing with the platform”. Snapchat just teamed up with Tribeca Film Festival, which will host a Discover channel next month. The festival is calling on filmmakers, known or not, to submit movies shot directly on Snapchat, and winners will be rewarded with a screening through the channel [via Digiday].
- Prioritizing Live, Making It More Accessible: Some of the most entertaining Oscars coverage was on Snapchat, but this year you didn’t have to be inside Snapchat’s app to see it: you could watch it all on the web. Snapchat quietly updated its website with a way to view the Oscars’ Live Story online. This was the first time users were able to see snaps outside of the app, and it’s a big step toward making Snapchat more accessible and potentially more viral [via The Verge]. Speaking of going mainstream, a new collaboration between the Snapchat and Major League Baseball kicks off next Friday when players will be allowed to use cellphones in the dugout for the first time. Before, during and after Spring Training games, players will be permitted to post their own snaps and selfies – and there’s a special selfie stick for the occasion: the SnapBat. [via Engadget]
The Business of Virtual Reality
- Zuckerberg Says It Will Take 10 Years for Virtual Reality to Reach Mass Market: Facebook’s founder has been a virtual reality booster—but now says it will take a decade or more to catch on with consumers.
- Wall Street Firm Says Virtual Reality Is Like Smartphones 9 Years Ago: It’s time to start paying attention.
- Mobile Virtual Reality on Track to Hit $861M in Revenues This Year: That is a big increase for a market that is only just getting off the ground thanks to Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Cardboard casings.