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02 : 11 : 18 : Weekly Debrief

Need to Know

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2 November 2018

Author: The Future Laboratory

Image: Mobile Journalism by Jim Brady, Eindhoven


This week: Spatial brings AR collaboration to the workplace, Refinery29 proposes a new visual identity for mental health, the internet's first 'digital smell', Rent the Runway enters the co-working space and Dunkin’ Donuts builds a home powered by coffee.


1. Spatial brings AR collaboration to the workplace

New York – The collaboration platform uses holographic transportation to remove the need for workplace video conferences or travel.

Using augmented reality (AR) headsets, Spatial connects users remotely in a digital workspace. When placed in the cross-reality conference, colleagues can see and talk to each other’s life-like avatars, which appear in the same room. Users can also brainstorm or visualise ideas through a voice-driven 3D web browser, demonstrating a new type of interface that isn’t confined to a computer.

‘With Spatial, collaboration becomes an immersive 3D experience where you can express ideas visually by just saying them, organise thoughts in the room around you and never let space confine your work,’ says Anand Agarawala, the company’s CEO and co-founder.

With workplace technology focused on collaborative working, such augmented reality systems may soon replace individuals’ office computers. For more on preparing your workplace for new technology, explore our Far Futures portal.


Rebranding Mental Health for Refinery29. Photography by Flora Maclean

2. Refinery29 proposes a new visual identity around mental health

Global – The women’s media company has enlisted photographer Flora Maclean to reframe how mental health issues are represented online.

The series is a response to current stock imagery for disorders such as depression, which tend to show mostly white, male models with their head in their hands. To change this, Refinery29’s art director Anna Jay commissioned a series of stock images to use across the website. The images are also on display at the Exposure Gallery in London.

To inform the visual language, Refinery29 conducted a survey with people who suffer from mental illness to find out the words and phrases that sum up their experience. With answers such as ‘[depression] feels like I can barely keep my head above water’, photographer Flora Maclean translated these thoughts into visual concepts that approach the disorders with sensitivity and respect.

Visualising intangible emotions in a tactful way is a difficult task. However, brands like Refinery29 and Swirl are working to create a more sensory visual language around mental health.


The Lush Spa Experiment film by Mill+

3. Smells could be sent over the internet

Malaysia – A group of researchers are working on a ‘digital smell’ in their quest to create a multisensory internet.

Kasun Karunanayaka, a senior research fellow at the Imagineering Institute in Malaysia, has previously conducted experiments in a bid to bring the digital smell concept to life. For his team’s latest project, he is working with Japanese start-up Scentee to develop the world’s first smartphone gadget that can produce smell sensations.

The Scentee Machina app will add smells to various phone functions, integrating with other apps. For example, it could add a scent of coffee to a morning alarm or distinct fragrances to text messages from different friends. To do this, the team is experimenting with ways to allow people to perceive odours through electrical stimulation.

At our Global Futures Forum 2018 event, we heard from Luca Maria Aiello of Nokia Bell Labs, who is working to create a map that captures the complex smells of cities.


4. Rent the Runway enters the co-working space

US – The luxury fashion rental service is installing drop-off boxes at WeWork offices for customers to return borrowed items.

As the first step in a broader partnership, the drop-off boxes will also allow WeWork members to hire new clothing and accessories via a tablet connected to the Rent the Runway website. The service is primarily aimed at those who subscribe to its monthly subscription plans. Normally, these customers would return items in the mail, which can slow down turnaround times for other renters.

The company also plans to open a series of clothing rental pop-ups at select WeWork locations. ‘We knew there was a demand for creating these drop boxes in other convenient locations,’ Maureen Sullivan, COO at Rent the Runway, told CNBC. ‘There is a massive opportunity to not only grow our drop-box network… but also to grow mini-stores within WeWork.’

There is rising demand for Office Stores, as brands recognise that the workplace can be a profitable retail opportunity.


Rent the Runway
Dunkin’ Donuts microhome by New Frontier Tiny Homes, US

5. Dunkin’ Donuts builds a home powered by coffee

US – The chain has worked with New Frontier Tiny Homes to create a microhome that runs on biofuel made with discarded coffee grounds.

The Home That Runs on Dunkin’ is a fully functioning house featuring a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and jacuzzi, which shows how coffee waste can be used as an energy source. The fuel that powers the home’s generator is a biofuel blend, using 80% coffee oil extracted from spent grounds. It provides enough energy to run a washer-dryer, air conditioning, a fridge and lighting.

The space was initially located in New York’s Madison Square Park, with consumers now able to rent it on Airbnb for £10 ($13, €11.50) a night. While the tiny home is a one-off, the project demonstrates the opportunity for coffee brands to move beyond their wasteful practices to create a powerful and sustainable source of energy.

Last year Transport for London announced that it will use coffee grounds to power some of the city’s buses.


To future-proof your world, visit The Future Laboratory's forecasting platform LS:N Global for daily news, opinions, trends, sector specific insights, and strategic toolkits.


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