DESIGN How to disrupt business as usual
FASHION ICONOCLASTS from KANYE to QATAR TECH FLOPS we can’t ignore
345 BRILLIANT IDEAS featuring AIRBNB, DOMINO’S, FACEBOOK, NIKE, VOLVO & more
TWITTER grabs a new playbook
GOOGLE’S class war with APPLE ADIDAS targets women SAM ADAMS gets crafty How GE & IBM recruit
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey From politics to the NFL, a tweetstorm is brewing. See page 94.
AN ICON JUST GOT LARGER
THE NAVITIMER 46 mm
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Contents October 2016
Logo motion Google’s Jonathan Lee subtly transformed the company’s signature imagery into an interactive visual. (page 64)
INNOVATION BY DESIGN Fast Company’s fifth annual celebration of the best in world-changing design, featuring Airbnb, Google, Oculus, Volvo, Domino’s, and more. Begins on page 58
On the cover: Photograph by ioulex This page: Photograph by Ina Jang October 2016 FastCompany.com 9
FEATURES 94 Live From Twitter HQ Inside CEO Jack Dorseyâ€™s audacious plan to beat back Facebook and Snapchat by playing a whole new game. By Harry McCracken
102 The New Fashion
How Tom Ford, Kanye West, Alexa Chung, and kindred spirits around the globe are defying norms and upending the traditional world of high fashion. By Missy Schwartz
Issa Al Sulaiti
Fashion without borders Qatar-based lifestyle blogger Husnaa Malik is one of the trendsetters turning the Gulf states into a style epicenter. (page 118)
10 FastCompany.com October 2016
The long view To engineer a large-scale food transformation, Kimbal Musk is going local. (page 36)
DEPARTMENTS 16 From the Editor 18 The Survey We asked 50 designers to share how, or if, they brainstorm. Here are their best ideas.
20 Most Innovative
The latest from AMC Theatres, Dyson, L’Oréal, R/GA, and more.
24 Most Creative People Former Birchbox co-CEO Hayley Barna has an eye for atypical venture investments.
26 The Recommender From a Harlem hat exhibit to on-demand doctors, what we’re loving this month.
128 The List Ten product fails that tell the story of how we got to now.
12 FastCompany.com October 2016
Photograph by William Widmer
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NEXT 31 Google Finishes First How the search giant usurped Apple and Microsoft in the education-technology market—and where their battle is going next.
36 Walkin’ in Memphis Kimbal Musk, Elon’s younger brother, is planning a revolution around healthy food.
40 Acting Out Actress and activist Laverne Cox talks about the intersection of art and politics and the importance of civic duty.
44 IBM’s Secret Weapon How top companies from Big Blue to GE are using machine learning to build more dynamic workforces.
46 Adidas Wakes Up With help from designer Stella McCartney and model Karlie Kloss, the brand is staging a U.S. comeback by targeting women.
50 The Doppler Effect Doppler Labs is bringing computers to a new place: your ears.
56 Sam Adams and the
Audacity of Hops
Hair: Ryan Randall at The Only Agency; makeup: Deja Marie Smith
The patriarch of craft beer is charming customers with offbeat flavors and a lot of R&D.
Center stage Laverne Cox’s work, both on and off the screen, is helping to subvert transgender stereotypes. (page 40) 14 FastCompany.com October 2016
Photograph by Dan Monick
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From the Editor
Several weeks ago my sister, Judy, introduced me to a podcast called Presidential, and I’ve become addicted to it. It’s a week-by-week exploration of each American president, with a playful spirit and provocative leadership insights. The most recent episode I listened to focused on FDR’s relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, who wrote a book called Tomorrow Is Now. What could be more modern than that? There’s much discussion in the current election season about what makes America great. A less-discussed corollary: What makes American business great? For several months, our editors have been poring over thousands of submissions for our Innovation by Design Awards (beginning on page 58), which, in aggregate, reveal what animates economic success
Twitter comes into focus CEO Jack Dorsey is trying to reposition his company around news and live events, instead of social networking.
today. Whether it’s the intuitive ease of Airbnb’s new app or the clever underwater server farms of Microsoft’s Project Natick, the drive for change is palpable. What unifies these efforts has little to do with billionaires and CEOs. Instead, there is an optimistic and hopeful embrace of disruption, anchored by creative problem solving. The discipline of design ties all of this together. Design is so frequently misunderstood, yet it is critical in a world that is constantly in flux, and where each new challenge requires a uniquely tailored solution. Combining hard-science arenas like computing with the more intuitive realms of art and psychology can be tricky, but that melding is where the magic happens. Even things that may not seem like design—Google’s and Apple’s exciting advances in the ed-tech market (“Getting Schooled,” page 31) or beer maker Samuel Adams’s quest for new tastes in the face of rising craft breweries (“Honing Her Craft,” page 56)— have design principles at their core. Design requires us to focus on what really matters most. Architect David Adjaye’s vision for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (“A Bold Monument to the Black Experience,” page 60) in Washington, D.C., uses physical space to evoke emotion and deliver information, all in service of a larger, empathetic goal. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is tapping his design roots in trying to reenergize the promise of a platform still avidly used by millions of the world’s most influential people (“Live From Twitter HQ,” page 94). Eleanor Roosevelt was not trained as a designer, and she would not have recognized that label as a description of her efforts. But as each change came, she adapted, through the Great Depression, World War II, and beyond. And each adaptation revealed new, richer elements of her potential, just as the competitive stresses of today are unleashing the best of what American business can be.
Celine Grouard (Safian)
THE TRICKIEST SKILL IN BUSINESS
Robert Safian firstname.lastname@example.org
16 FastCompany.com October 2016
Photograph by ioulex
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The Survey We asked. You answered.
GROUP THINK Love it or loathe it, brainstorming is a ubiquitous part of office culture. Whether it is an effective tool for generating ideas and solving problems is up for debate. And since we love a good debate, we invited 50 leaders in the design community— typically some of the most opinionated, creative, and analytical types in business—to share how or if they brainstorm. Here are some of their responses, including a characteristically honest one from the legendary and outspoken creative director George Lois.
“You always hear about “All ‘brainstorming seskeeping negativity out sions’ are group gropes. of brainstorms. Like, A great art director people are just supposed [should] work with a to say happy things and copywriter, and then he write them on Post-it or she goes for the big Notes. Ideas can come idea that sears the virfrom both positive and tues of a product into negative energy.” a viewer’s mind and heart with no paralyzing, Mike Simonian Principal, Mike & Maaike pragmatic, unambitious, half-ass ‘strategic think“Food. Must. Be. Present. ing’ to contend with.” When chomping, we George Lois Creative director, Lois Transmedia think better. No food, no brainstorm.” “1. Make it playful: Play Bradford Shellhammer Head of curation and merchandising, eBay makes it safe to think differently. 2. Draw: It “I see brainstorming as helps you visualize ideas. a tool to use when you 3. Think like a designer: need to take apart a Ask ‘What if?’ questions. problem. Success is gen- 4. Define your values: erating many different You can’t decide things dots that can be conby saying, ‘Because I like nected in many different it.’ You need to underways—not one stubborn stand what you believe solution. If the end result in. 5. Make people dance looks like the product after lunch. Then they of a mob, I have failed.” won’t fall asleep.” Desiree Garcia Design lead, IBM Watson
18 FastCompany.com October 2016
Ayse Birsel Cofounder, Birsel + Seck
“Always ask why. And when you have your first answer, then ask why again. And again. Until you ladder up to the original cause of the problem to solve.” Mauro Porcini Chief design officer, PepsiCo
“Everyone—from the youngest to the most senior—has to come in with ideas based on research. We then test the ideas, assessing and editing them. Lastly, we build on the ideas that are getting traction, while keeping a few outliers in hand that can magically seem compelling again.” David Rockwell Founder and president, Rockwell Group
“Engage everyone in the room. Sometimes the quietest voices are the most powerful.” Autumn Furr Head of public relations, Rebecca Minkoff
Illustration by Wren McDonald
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Most Innovative Companies Updates from the MIC alumni
AMC THEATRES Making connections R/GA founder and CEO Bob Greenberg is bringing the Internet of Things into the workplace.
Milestones The movietheater company, owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, announced in July that it will acquire Europe’s Odeon & UCI Cinemas, a move that will make AMC the world’s largest theater chain. Challenges AMC was forced to up its bid for American theater group Carmike Cinemas by 10% to $1.2 billion after Carmike’s shareholders balked at the original sale price. Buzz
TASTEMADE Milestones Best known for its bite-size, shareable recipe videos, food-media platform Tastemade is trying out new show formats. It recently launched a scripted series, travel programs, and more than 8.5 hours of other content on its Snapchat channel.
R/GA One of the world’s most techsavvy offices isn’t in Silicon Valley, but in New York City: It’s the global headquarters of R/GA, the digital ad agency that counts Google, Nike, and Verizon among its clients. In January, nearly 1,000 employees moved into a new, 200,000-square-foot work space in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards teeming with connecteddesign innovations. The overhead lights are tuned to natural circadian rhythms; enormous projection screens display local transit times 20 FastCompany.com October 2016
attracting five clients (new and old) and $20 million in business. In the coming months, R/GA will add further capabilities to its own office, including broadcasting equipment that will enable meetings between employees at all 17 R/GA offices. “As we go from the office’s original 40 innovations to 100, all of those new features will be things that could be right for [other companies],” says Greenberg. —Nikita Richardson Milestones R/GA has partnered with mall operator Westfield Labs to fund startups that design digital innovations for retailers.
SAFARICOM Milestones Just 18 months after the arrival of Uber in Kenya, the African telecoms giant launched Little Cab, a competing ride-hailing service that allows riders to summon and pay for trips via an app and offers them free Wi-Fi while in transit.
Challenges Competition is on the rise: Apple’s Beats by Dr. Dre, a longtime client of R/GA, recently hired rival agency Anomaly to work on the same account.
Challenges Executives at Safaricom are facing government scrutiny after leaked documents raised suspicions that officials bribed contractors between 2013 and 2015.
A SMARTER OFFICE
and company announcements; and a proprietary app allows employees to book conference rooms. The idea for the connected office was borne, in part, of R/GA founder and CEO Bob Greenberg’s desire to stem employee attrition (down 5% since the move) by creating a space that’s exciting to come to every day. “It’s all designed to help you do your best work,” he says. “Collaboration [among R/GA employees] has improved massively.” Now, Greenberg is helping clients experience the same benefits. R/GA recently launched a connected-design arm aimed at exporting its workplace discoveries to other businesses. This opens up a novel revenue stream for R/GA at a time of increasing competition for traditional ad services. So far, the program has been a success,
Challenges BuzzFeed’s rival platform, Tasty, is going high-tech, announcing a new tie-up with grocery-delivery company Instacart that allows viewers to order items seen in its videos on demand.
3URJUHVVLYH&DVXDOW\,QV&R DIÃ€OLDWHV%XVLQHVVLQVXUDQFHPD\EHSODFHGWKURXJK3URJUHVVLYH6SHFLDOW\,QVXUDQFH$JHQF\,QFZLWKVHOHFWLQVXUHUVZKLFKDUHQRWDIÃ€OLDWHGZLWK3URJUHVVLYH DUHVROHO\UHVSRQVLEOHIRUVHUYLFLQJDQGFODLPVDQGSD\WKHDJHQF\FRPPLVVLRQIRUSROLFLHVVROG3ULFHVFRYHUDJHVSULYDF\SROLFLHVDQGFRPPLVVLRQUDWHVYDU\DPRQJWKHVHLQVXUHUV
Most Innovative Companies
GOLDWIND SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY CO. Milestones The Chinese turbine manufacturer has grown its international footprint after purchasing a wind farm in Texas, its largest in the U.S. Goldwind, which last year surpassed GE as the biggest producer of turbines, plans to double the number of machines on the Texas site. Challenges Siemens and Spain’s Gamesa recently combined their turbine manufacturing operations, placing the partnership just behind Goldwind in market share. Buzz
DYSON Milestones In June, the vacuum maker released the Supersonic hair dryer, its first foray into personal care. To promote the product, Dyson’s new London flagship store features an on-site hair salon. Challenges Reviewers have expressed skepticism about the steep $400 price tag of Dyson’s hair dryer, which is more expensive than many topof-the-line models. Buzz
MAKERBOT Milestones After a year of litigation, a Minnesota judge dismissed a costly class-action lawsuit against the 3-D printer company over design flaws, freeing MakerBot up to focus on an expansion to schools and businesses on the West Coast and in Asia.
Challenges Since April 2015, the company has laid off 36% of its workforce, closed its three retail locations, and moved its manufacturing overseas as consumers struggle to find everyday uses for a 3-D printer. Buzz
THE MACARTHUR FOUNDATION Milestones The “genius grant” institution created a new 100&Change award that gives $100 million to a single organization, working in any field, that proposes a viable solu tion to “a critical problem affecting people, places, or the planet.” Challenges The Chicagobased organization was recently criticized by the former chief executive of the Chicago Housing Authority for not funding enough initiatives aimed at solving issues of AfricanAmerican poverty in the city. Buzz
L’ORÉAL Milestones Looking to increase its share of India’s $11 billion beauty market, L’Oréal has revised its strategy from targeting the country’s elite to focusing on the mass market. It now offers its products in sample sizes at more affordable prices—Indians’ preferred way of buying health and beauty items— in hopes of attracting 150 million Indian consumers by 2020. Challenges The French cosmetics giant is playing catch-up in India, where longtime competitors Unilever and Procter & Gamble have been selling their leading products in smaller sizes since the 1990s. Buzz
22 FastCompany.com October 2016
A NEW LISTENING EXPERIENCE SONOS Like many of its peers in the homeaudio industry, Sonos has traditionally relied on big-box retailers to sell its high-fidelity, Wi-Fi–connected speakers in stores that are often overflowing with other electronics, people, and piped-in music. But this year, the 14-year-old company is reclaiming control of the way potential customers engage with its products. In July, it opened its first retail space, in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. In a nod to music lovers, the 4,200-square-foot store is filled with memorabilia, including cassette tapes from the personal collection of Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and out-of-print music magazines. More significant, it houses seven semiprivate listening rooms, three of them designed by local artists, where visitors can try out Sonos’s five speakers as they would in their own homes. “We came to the realization that there was nowhere you could experience Sonos the way you should be able to experience it,” says Sonos
president Patrick Spence. “But how do you solve that problem without inviting the entire world to your house?” For two years, he and his team tested retail layouts in an L.A. warehouse before hitting on the concept of experiential rooms, complete with books, furniture, and other residential touches. The company expects the spaces to spur customer engagement with its speakers. But the experiment is already paying off in other ways: Upon seeing that people were struggling with the Sonos app setup, the company reconfigured its software, adding step-by-step instructions to help users start their Sonos experience more easily. “We learned something that we’ve put back in the product,” says Spence. “And that will help us make our [speakers] even better.” —NR Milestones In August, Sonos announced that it would add support for the steaming-music service Bandcamp, which is favored by indie musicians, to its app. Challenges Seemingly caught unaware by the rise of voiceassistant speakers like Amazon’s Echo, the company is now “exploring voice as a new control option.” Buzz
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Most Creative People What’s new with members of our MCP community
OUT OF THE BOX Hayley Barna PARTNER, FIRST ROUND CAPITAL
Last August, Birchbox co-CEO Hayley Barna decided to walk away from the influential beautysubscription-box startup that she cofounded in 2010 (she remains on the company’s board). “What we created with Birchbox was truly unique at the time,” she explains. “I loved it, but it turned out the beauty industry is not my lifelong passion. It’s [exploring] innovative business models.” So, in February, Barna signed on as a partner at First Round Capital, the seed-stage VC firm that has invested in companies such as Uber, Warby Parker, and, not coincidentally, Birchbox. (Meanwhile, Barna’s former company has been struggling, enduring two big rounds of layoffs earlier this year and receiving a $15 million injection of funds from current investors in August, reportedly due to cash-flow issues.) One of Barna’s initial First Round investments is certainly a departure from the makeup-sample universe. She’s working with—and has joined the board of—a travel startup called Collective Hotels & Retreats, which builds pop-up luxury tent resorts in high-end locations such as Colorado’s Aspen and Vail. “I laugh whenever I say glamping, but that’s what it is,” she says. “It’s an atypical venture investment. I’m really excited about it.” Barna is also eager to dig into opportunities related to women’s health, transportation, and the workplace, among other areas. “For now, I’m fully focused on helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground,” she says. Still, you never know. “I’m not secretly sitting on my next business idea, but [starting companies] is part of who I am.” —Claire Dodson 24 FastCompany.com October 2016
B E S T R E C E N T T E C H D E V E L O P M E N T “Tech has become more a part of pop culture, and being a founder has become a viable career path for people who might have gone into banking or consulting.” W O R S T D E V E L O P M E N T “Too much screen time. We’re addicted to information. We need to work on our attention span.” W H O W O U L D B E O N H E R M C P L I S T Hanya Yanagihara, author of the dark 2015 coming-of-age best seller A Little Life. “It’s heartbreaking but beautiful.” R E C E N T A C C O M P L I S H M E N T “I Marie Kondo–ed my apartment. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff. When I did my refrigerator, I found things from, like, 2012. I was like, ‘What have I been doing?’”
How she stays productive
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The Recommender 8 things the Fast Company community is loving this month
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GETTING SCHOOLED How Google is beating Apple and Microsoft in the battle for America’s classrooms By Ainsley O’Connell Illustrations by Matt Rota
A Mozart duo echoes through the dim auditorium of Philadelphia’s String Theory high school, performed by a pair of plaid-skirted violinists reading music off their school-issued iPads. In other classes at the performing-arts-themed public charter school, students use their iPads to plot DNA data, design graphics, and make movies. At first glance, the school is a model Apple education customer, buying into both its hardware and iOS ecosystem. October 2016 FastCompany.com 31
A more complicated reality lies beneath the tablet glass. Teachers at String Theory distribute curriculum via Apple’s iTunes U—but students use Google Docs and Google Drive to complete and submit assignments. “They get the full App Store experience, and they can also use all the functionality of Google,” says Christine DiPaulo, the school’s director of innovation. “It’s the best of both worlds.” Apple may not share that perspective. Since the Apple IIe desktop computer found a home in California schools in the ’80s, ushering in the era of the classroom PC, Apple and Microsoft have vied for the attention of American students. With the introduction of the iPad in 2010, Apple had a tool poised to displace the PC as an education essential, and the app-based software to go along with it. Within a few years, the company was selling millions of the touch-screen devices to schools, eclipsing Microsoft, which was marketing its own devices and free Office software to students. In 2013, Apple devices accounted for 50% of shipments to U.S. classrooms, according to research firm Futuresource Consulting. Microsoft, despite its lead globally, came in second at 29%. It’s an entirely different picture today: Google now dominates K–12 education in the United States, even in schools, like String Theory, that have formal relationships with Apple and Microsoft. Just five years after Google introduced its bare-bones Chromebook laptop—which runs a software suite that includes Gmail, Google Drive, Hangouts, and more, and retails for as low as $150—the search giant has topped both Apple and Microsoft in U.S. education sales. It shipped more than 5 million devices to U.S. buyers in 2015, roughly twice the total of each of While Apple its rivals. In the first quarter of and Microsoft 2016, the Chrome operating syswere waiting for tem’s share of shipments to U.S. multimillionclassrooms hit 51%—a number dollar contracts, that will continue to rise, accordenterprising ing to Futuresource. teachers were “This is a real battleground,” maneuvering to says Mike Fisher, Futuresource’s put Chromebooks associate director of educational into students’ technology. At stake: the roughly $43 billion worldwide market for hands. educational hardware and software, which is expected to double by 2020, even as the global PC market declines and tablet sales slow. And the significance extends beyond the classroom. If students develop familiarity with an operating system at an early age, or so the thinking goes, they will prefer it in their future professional lives. (That’s certainly been Microsoft’s strategy; the company, which still leads education sales outside of the U.S., emphasizes that proficiency with applications like Word and Excel is a critical workplace skill.) Caught on their heels in the U.S., and anxious that Google’s Chromebooks will soon repeat their success overseas, Apple and Microsoft are fighting to regain momentum. First, they need to convince educators that in a world of rapidly changing technology they can give both students and teachers a competitive edge. In a classic Google move, the company began infiltrating American schools not by selling products, but by giving something away for free. It started wooing teachers in 2006 with Google Apps for Education, a software suite that includes classroom-management tools, along with Gmail and Google 32 FastCompany.com October 2016
E D -T E C H 10 1 Classroom technology in the information age 1971 Three teachers invent the Oregon Trail computer game to teach students history and math skills. It infiltrates schools one floppy disk at a time.
1983 Apple donates an Apple IIe each to roughly 9,000 California public schools; its products have been classroom mainstays ever since.
1991 Buh-bye, chalk. The digital Smart Board allows teachers to display interactive information from their computers.
1996 Texas Instruments releases its TI-83 graphing calculator, used to solve complex math problems (and pass notes).
2005 Nicholas Negroponte launches One Laptop Per Child to bring affordable computers to children in the developing world. It falters, but is a precursor to Google’s Chromebook.
2010 Schools across the country start experimenting with the iPad to offer self-directed learning experiences.
2015 The Chromebook overtakes the iPad as the best-selling education device in the U.S.
2016 Facebook and nonprofit charter school network Summit Public Schools begin releasing their selfdirected learning platform to schools across the country.
Drive. By observing classes and incorporating teachers’ ideas into the products, Google won millions of converts to its education tools. (Facebook began following Google’s footsteps this fall, supporting California’s nonprofit Summit Public Schools charter network in the rollout of learning-management software built with the social network’s engineers.) Google’s resource investment started paying off when the company introduced the Chromebook in 2011 and adopted an unorthodox early distribution strategy. Most education sales in the U.S. happen at the district level and involve months of needs assessment and negotiation before devices are, generally, shipped by the thousands. Google, impatient to gain traction, simply bundled 30 Chromebooks together with a charging cart and a printer and started pitching them to schools. While Apple and Microsoft were waiting for their multimilliondollar contracts to come up for renewal, enterprising teachers were maneuvering to put the affordable, easy-to-share Chromebooks into students’ hands. “We found teachers who were able to secure budget and go and buy those for their classroom,” says Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome in business and education. “[Chromebooks] were flying off the shelves.” That initial flurry of interest in the devices turned into an avalanche in 2014 as state-mandated achievement tests moved online. Forced to adapt, districts around the country upgraded their Wi-Fi and snapped up no-frills Chromebooks by the tens of thousands. Today, more than 60 million students worldwide use school-issued education accounts for Google’s standard productivity apps each month, from email to spreadsheets, while their teachers use Google Classroom to create class websites that serve as a central hub for assignments, notes, and more. The Chromebook has its detractors. Some educators say that
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browser-focused laptops fail to engage students in the same way as touchscreen devices, like iPads and Surface tablets. Students perceive the iPad as a personalized device that enables creativity, says String Theory cofounder Jason Corosanite—a difference that, in his view, justifies the higher price tag, typically in the range of $400 or more. After Corosanite’s school switched from laptops to iPads in 2011, he says, students’ time spent on tasks, an indicator of learning in progress, “went through the roof.” Apple executives similarly argue that iPads, with their cameras, gyroscopes, and rich library of apps, are uniquely suited to encourage the kind of creative problem solving that American schools seek to nurture. They can be used for just about any kind of hands-on lesson. “iPad doesn’t have to be left on a desk,” says Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of product marketing and applications. “It’s a microscope, it’s a video camera.” With the two-year-old iPad app Playground Physics, for example, students can film friends out on the swings, and then track and analyze their arc of motion. The app, developed by award-winning design studio Local Projects on behalf of the New York Hall of Science, is emblematic of the type of wow-worthy content that first drew educators into the Apple ecosystem. Such apps still sell iPads. But today, there is good (if not great) educational content available for all the major operating systems. At the same time, teachers and administrators are increasingly interested in the kind of management tools that Google’s Chromebooks are uniquely suited to deliver: setting up student accounts, updating software, grading homework, and more. And with classroom Wi-Fi improving, schools can take advantage of free access to Google’s massive cloud servers, which store student data and sync updates to homework assignments. Plus, administrators can manage the Chromebook remotely—an enormous advantage for short-staffed district technology teams juggling thousands of student and teacher accounts. In response, Apple has started rolling out its Classroom App, giving teachers the means to control all the devices in a classroom, and has introduced tools that make it easier for schools to generate and manage login IDs. Microsoft also now has a “Classroom” offering as part of its Office 365 Education suite, which provides teachers with a way to organize course materials and to communicate with students and includes the cloud-based collaborative software OneNote, a rival to Google Docs. This new software may check the right boxes, but Adam Newman, founding partner at education advisory firm Tyton Partners, predicts that Google will retain its edge due to its strong bond with teachers—not to mention its price. He sees a place for Apple as a premium product, “but it will be as a lighthouse, not necessarily as a real share leader.” Microsoft is better positioned, thanks to its global advantage. The challenge, says Newman, is that “there’s a complexity to what Microsoft is offering, and in a lot of places that complexity can be overwhelming.” Teachers just want tech that works, no hassle. In June, however, Microsoft took a step toward charming teachers—and repositioning itself at the forefront of innovative learning—with the launch of Minecraft: Education Edition. The classroom-oriented version of the popular computer game, which teaches children computational thinking and other STEM building-block skills, is now available for between $1 and $5 per student. (Microsoft acquired the company that developed the game for $2.5 billion in 2014.) “There’s really nothing like it among our competitors,” says Tony Prophet, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for education marketing, adding that the game has generated “huge excitement from educators around the world.” Google, meanwhile, is onto the next platform. Last year, it began using Google Cardboard to allow students to take virtual-reality “field trips” as part of their regular art, history, and science lessons. Already, more than 1 million students in 11 countries have taken one—and more are on their way. 34 FastCompany.com October 2016
B E HIND T HE S C R E E N S Education’s top three technology players offer software suites designed for education. How do they compare?
Apple’s App Store boasts more than 170,000 education apps and offers its own iBooks Author and iMovie tools to students. The new Apple Classroom app gives teachers the power to control what students see and do on their iPads. Plus, teachers can launch apps, observe progress, and reset passwords. The search giant is strongest when it comes to classroom management, allowing teachers to create digital home pages for their classes and use them to make announcements, post assignments, and moderate discussions. But with more than 200 VR field trips now available through its Expeditions tool, Google is building a distinctive library of educational content as well. Microsoft’s Classroom is similar to Google’s, including the ability to integrate with any online grade book. And like Apple, Microsoft gives teachers the means to control students’ devices. Its Take a Test app lets them block functions like copy and paste when students are taking an online exam.
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SOUL FOOD Kimbal Musk is sowing the seeds for a health revolution in Memphis. By Jennifer V. Cole Photograph by William Widmer
Right around the time in 2014 that Memphis was named the most obese city in the U.S., a local philanthropist approached Kimbal Musk with an idea. If Musk, a social entrepreneur who runs the Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant group and nonprofit, could help overhaul the city’s food system, he’d supply the 36 FastCompany.com October 2016
funds. It was a big ask: Memphis is defined by its abiding love for fried chicken and a rich barbecue culture; each summer, it hosts the largest pork-cooking contest in the world. A few conversations later, Musk accepted. After all, taking on outsize challenges runs in the family. Musk
Growing Memphis Musk’s new Memphis restaurant is on a former commercial cotton farm that’s being transformed into a vibrant city park.
was 26 when he and his brother, Elon, sold their first tech company for $300 million. After they founded the startup that later became PayPal, Kimbal went on to culinary school and opened his first Kitchen restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, in 2004. He embedded himself in the community, pledging to buy most of
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F OOD F OR T HOUGH T With more than 300 learning gardens in schools nationwide, Kimbal Musk is laying the groundwork for healthier communities.
Who t hey be nefit
How t hey work
Why t hey work
The modular gardens are built on the grounds of schools, many of them in areas that lack access to fresh food. They are maintained throughout the year by teams of students and neighborhood volunteers.
Each garden is assigned a “regional educator” who connects the Kitchen community and the local school. They work with teachers to create lesson plans for students as they grow vegetables and herbs.
It’s about the ripple effects. “We get emails from parents asking us what kale is because their kids are asking for it,” says Musk. “That kind of extraordinary presence in the community is critical to the future of real food.”
Going green Musk estimates the learning gardens in Memphis will reach 60,000 to 70,000 students.
the restaurant’s food locally and to involve kids in the growing process by constructing learning gardens on public school grounds. His commitment had dramatic effect: Over 12 years, as Musk coached local farmers on how to scale their businesses to meet the demand of his growing restaurant group and other farm-to-table outposts, Colorado’s local food economy increased from $4 million to $20 million. Now Musk is taking the operation to Memphis, with a mission to transform the city’s food scene as he did Colorado’s: by bolstering farmers, building learning gardens, and opening restaurants. Although Memphis is flanked by fertile Delta soil, much of that land is used for cotton. Real food isn’t farmed or sold on a scale that can feed the city, a fact that’s contributed to its obesity epidemic. “Memphis is a victim of industrial food—high calorie, low nutrition,” 38 FastCompany.com October 2016
says Musk. “You have it every single day. The prices are cheap, but they’re extremely expensive in terms of the effects on your body and your health care system.” He feels the solution lies in convincing cotton farmers to shift to organic food by showing them opportunity. “Once a farmer is trained in how to sell to our restaurant, they can sell anywhere,” he says, listing other restaurants and mass-market purchasers including Chipotle (he’s a board member), Walmart, and Whole Foods. “It’s a learning process
“I consider myself a pretty fast mover, and very few [places] push me to move faster. Memphis is one of those places.”
[with us] that translates into working with other players.” This past August, Musk laid the foundation for his Memphis work with the opening of the Kitchen in Shelby Farms, a recently expanded park in the city center that was once a commercial cotton farm. Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the team behind New York’s High Line, the undulating acres feature lakes, fishing ponds, meadows, wooded hiking trails, a thriving herd of American buffalo, and the potential for an organic demonstration farm. In January, Next Door, the Kitchen’s more casual sister restaurant, will open in Memphis’s Crosstown Concourse, a redevelopment project that’s transforming a dilapidated Sears distribution center into a vertical urban community with schools, apartments, a research hospital, concert halls, and 60,000 square feet of retail space. “The whole city is really coming to
life,” says Musk. “I consider myself a pretty fast mover, and very few [places] push me to move faster. Memphis is one of those places.” Musk’s plan isn’t just to increase the amount of organic food grown in Memphis; it’s to make sure that produce is available to everyone. That’s why he’s building 100 learning gardens in local schools, and why he chose to open the Kitchen in Shelby Farms Park. “It has every level of wealth, color, and creed all around it. Everyone has access to it,” says Musk. This quest for accessibility also inspired him to develop the Kitchenette—an affordable, grab-and-go concept specific to Memphis—that opened this fall in Shelby Farms. “I didn’t want to create a restaurant that would just serve the wealthy in town,” says Musk. “Our goal is to bring real food to the masses. It would be distracting from the mission to do otherwise.”
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“I JUST WANTED TO GET IN THE ROOM” Actress and activist Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black, has put transgender issues front and center in television and in politics. She talks about being a role model, election-season scapegoating, and how an alien transvestite helped her find her voice. Interview by J.J. McCorvey
Breakout artist Cox is using her platform to battle misinformation and create new narratives for the transgender community. 40 FastCompany.com October 2016
This month, you’re starring in the TV remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What drew you to the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” which Tim Curry memorably played in the original? I became obsessed with Rocky Horror when I was in college. I connected deeply to the message of the film; the song “Don’t Dream It, Be It” became a personal mantra. And Tim Curry’s iconic performance just transformed me. At the time, I was gender-nonconforming: I had a shaved head, and I wore false eyelashes and makeup, but I didn’t identify as female yet. So this movie and its gender fluidity were everything to me.
Hair: Ryan Randall at The Only Agency; makeup: Deja Marie Smith
Photograph by Dan Monick
There’s a lot of singing in this role. How did you prepare for it? I really started working on my [lower-range] chest voice again. For a long time, after I first discovered that I could sing really high, I exclusively sang in my head voice. I’ve met other trans singers who struggled with finding their voices during and after transition. Being comfortable with our voices is a really big deal. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started accepting that I have a deep voice, too. And once I was ready to deal with that, the universe brought me something really spectacular: the role of Frank-N-Furter. Now I can sing a full octave range, and you get a taste of that in the movie.
“I try to keep artistic decisions out of the realm of the political. Though, certainly, it’s all political.”
When the legal drama Doubt airs next year on CBS, your character will be the first series regular on broadcast TV who is trans—and is actually played by a trans actor. Why has it taken so long for trans actors to break through? For years, a lot of people in this industry didn’t think trans actors existed or had the talent to deliver when roles came along. There’s a business part, too. Sometimes you need a name just to get funding. And we have not until recently had any famous trans actors. But if you don’t cast trans people to play trans—or to play any role—then we don’t get the opportunity to become stars and amass the clout to carry a movie. It becomes a circle where we don’t get opportunities. I just wanted to get in the room, to have them see what I could do. After the Civil Rights Movement, a lot of TV shows debuted—Julia, with Diahann Carroll, The Cosby Show—that helped challenge viewers’ stereotypes of African Americans. Do you think your work has a similar effect? I hope so. Frank-N-Furter is an alien from another planet [laughs], so Frank-N-Furter is not really reflective of the day-to-day realities of transgender people. With Doubt, my character is an attorney who is a black transgender woman and is fighting for the rights of others. Hopefully, it’ll encourage the public to see me in a new light, and maybe see trans people in a different light as well.
Fortress of solitude Through her character on Orange Is the New Black, Cox has spotlighted the issues faced by transgender prisoners.
You are so symbolically important to people. When you’re making career choices, do you feel that you have to keep the trans community in mind? I think about that, but I have to grow as an artist and push myself. So when it comes to decisions about playing a particular part, I really think about the challenge. I think about the humanity of the character, and who I might be working with on it. I try to keep artistic decisions out of the realm of the political. Though, certainly, it’s all political. And you’re not shy about using your platform to fight for causes. You’ve drawn attention to transgender murders and taken a stand against LGBT–unfriendly laws. What motivates your activism? I remember having a conversation years ago with my brother about this. I’m political anyway, so the question was: Do I speak up, do I speak out? [There had never been] a conversation in the mainstream media that challenged the ways in which trans stories were told. I wanted to change that, to create space for myself as a full, multidimensional human being, and hopefully give other trans people space to do that as well. A lot of it is just about seeing a need and speaking out, ’cause somebody’s gotta do it. It’s a civic responsibility. You have been a vocal opponent of North Carolina’s HB2, the socalled Bathroom Bill, which forces individuals to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate. We’ve recently seen large organizations like Target, PayPal, and the NBA join activists in protesting it. What does that signal to you? I was very excited when I heard that the NBA was pulling the All-Star game from North Carolina. When people discriminate, there need to be consequences. There are over 100 anti-trans bills that have been introduced in the past year. One hundred. It’s really about scapegoating trans people during an election year to turn out a particular
42 FastCompany.com October 2016
party electorate. It’s important that we push our own narratives, instead of all of the misinformation about trans people that folks want to try to perpetuate. Free CeCe, a documentary you executive produced about a trans woman who spends a lot of time in solitary confinement in a men’s prison, had its world premiere in June. On the most recent season of Orange Is the New Black, your character spends a significant amount of time in solitary. Did you help develop that story line? That was the writers. They had done the research, and when I got the script, I was like, Oh wow, here we go. My hope is that through Orange Is the New Black and Free CeCe, we can begin to have conversations about solitary confinement in this country. It’s cruel and unusual punishment and needs to be banned. Solitary can result in psychological and emotional effects for the rest of someone’s life—paranoia, hallucinations. Often people who have been in solitary are suicidal. Kalief Browder is a person I can’t help but think about. Do you know that story? [As a teenager, Browder spent years in solitary while awaiting trial at New York’s Rikers Island. He committed suicide two years after his case was dismissed.] I do. It’s so sad. When he got out after being in solitary for years, he lost the will to live.
Your character, Sophia, goes to a dark place while in solitary, really stripped-down physically and emotionally. How did you evoke that? Obviously, I’d had conversations with CeCe over the years about her experience. It’s a scary place to go, because it has to be real for me— so that it’s real for the audience. You are stripping someone of something fundamentally human when they are not able to have human contact. You’ve been open about a past suicide attempt. Yeah, I’ve talked about that, yes.
30-SECOND BIO Laverne Cox HOMETOWN
Mobile, Alabama MAJOR ACTING CREDITS
Orange Is the New Black (Sophia Burset), Grandma (Deathy), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Dr. Frank-N-Furter), Doubt (Cameron Wirth), Freak Show (Felicia Watts) FIRST OPENLY TRANSGENDER PERSON TO
Play a trans regular character on a broadcast TV show, receive an Emmy nomination in an acting category, appear on the cover of Time magazine, or receive a wax figure at Madame Tussauds ON POLITICS AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY
“We need to vote not only this year, but also in the midterm elections and particularly in 2020 when gerrymandered districts will be redrawn.”
The doctor is in Cox, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was inspired by the gender fluidity of the original.
Did you draw on that experience as well? There have been times in my life when I certainly have wanted to end it, so yeah. As an actor, you shouldn’t tell all your secrets to the public. You have to have something for yourself to draw on. I tried to go into those places in my own history when I felt very isolated, and then worked to amplify those sensations, those states of mind. What was it like for you growing up in Alabama? It was a mixed bag. It’s important to note that the black community that I grew up in, in Mobile, was supportive of me as a good student who was talented. I studied dance, I did public speaking, I won a lot of talent shows. But I had to suppress my gender stuff and my femininity. I was bullied a lot, and I internal“As an actor, you ized a lot of shame around that. But shouldn’t tell I survived it. And everything that I all your secrets went through has made me who I to the public. You am today.
have to have some-
thing for yourself What inspires you? I love excelto draw on.” lence. Leontyne Price, who is an opera singer, is my idol. Her voice is so brilliant, but so is her work ethic, her discipline. On Facebook, I’ve been sharing videos of [1990s gymnasts] Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug—that amazing Olympic moment when [Strug] vaulted and landed on one foot. You know the hours of work that went into that. It’s a grind, but there’s no substitute for just doing the work. There is something inspiring about that. October 2016 FastCompany.com 43
NOT-SOHUMAN RESOURCES How artificial intelligence is being used to screen, test, and hire new talent By Sean Captain Illustration by Jun Cen
Making a good impression with a prospective employer often requires little more than a great résumé and congenial personality. But how do you impress an algorithm? That’s the question facing applicants of Facebook, IBM, and a spate of other companies that are starting to incorporate artificial intelligence into their hiring practices. They’re using machines to scan work samples, parse social media posts, and analyze facial expressions on behalf of HR managers. Such practices raise questions about accuracy and privacy, but proponents argue that harnessing AI for hiring could lead to more diverse, empathetic, and dynamic workplaces.
44 FastCompany.com October 2016
Mind and Machine
Though traditional personalityassessment techniques, such as the Myers–Briggs test, are designed for objectivity, somewhere along the way “managers still inject personal bias,” says Mark Newman, founder and CEO of HireVue, a recruiting-technology company. That’s where machines can act as a check. HireVue records and analyzes interviews, noting things such as facial expressions and word choice to provide its clients (including Hilton Worldwide and GE) with feedback on a candidate’s levels of engagement, motivation, and empathy. Koru, another human resources software developer, also gauges personal attributes, using a written test to evaluate “impact skills,” such as grit, curiosity, and polish. Koru compares candidates’ results to those of a client’s top staff performers to identify those most likely to excel at the company. But recruitment isn’t just about discovering the best people—it’s about eliminating the worst. Fama, founded in 2015, uses naturallanguage processing to conduct automated web searches on a candidate, scanning news coverage, blogs, and even a person’s public social media history for signs of bigotry, violence, sexual content, and illegal drug use. It can also look for indicators of positive attributes, such as volunteering. Artificial intelligence can even be used to check for skills specific to certain jobs. The year-old company Interviewed, which has worked with clients such as Instacart and IBM, administers “blind auditions” in which applicants for customerservice jobs field chats or calls from bots that represent consumers. It’s now beginning to automate the assessment of what cofounder Chris Bakke describes as “softer skills,” by using computerized analysis to identify speech patterns among, for example, empathetic individuals. An algorithm’s ability to understand something like empathy, Bakke says, points to a new hiring technique— one in which machines assess, but humans make the final call.
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Behind the Brand
ADIDAS GETS IN THE GAME To counter shrinking market share, the athletic-wear giant is betting on women. By Elizabeth Segran Photograph by Clayton Cotterell
Leading the charge Adidas veteran Nicole Vollebregt is hoping to woo female athletes and nonathletes alike.
46 FastCompany.com October 2016
In a recent series of videos for Adidas, supermodel Karlie Kloss bakes, codes, and practices ballet. Yoga instructor Adriene Mishler takes viewers behind the scenes of a video shoot. DJ Hannah Bronfman goes surfing, boxes, and fries octopus. The lifestyle-meets-athletics campaign, tagged “Here to Create,” represents a change of strategy for the company, which has traditionally relied on ads that feature professional sports figures, usually male, at the top of their game. The videos are the latest installment in Adidas’s campaign to capture an audience it hasn’t often targeted: women. There’s a lot riding on the effort. The company saw its share price drop by 38% from 2014 to 2015; in
September 2014, Under Armour overtook it to become the secondlargest sportswear company in the U.S., behind Nike. (Adidas managed to reclaim its runner-up position this past August, but the pressure is still on.) The problem: Though Adidas remains nearly synonymous with soccer globally, here in the U.S., it hasn’t been keeping up with trends—particularly the rise of athleisure. Overall workout-wear sales have increased 42% in the past seven years, with newer entrants in the sportswear market, such as Lululemon, H&M, and Zara encroaching on market share. In response, Adidas put together a sweeping plan to appeal to women, including a new leadership structure and novel approaches to creating and selling a broader range of female-focused products. There are early signs that the strategy is working: North American sales increased by 32% in the second quarter of 2016, spurred by smart partnerships and a renewed focus on running gear. A team of three new leaders are helping Adidas execute the strategy. In February, Nicole Vollebregt, a 20year veteran of the company, was
“The performance technology we have, whether that’s fabric or running shoes, is huge. That’s something that all of those fashion brands don’t have.” named its first head of global women’s business. She’s joined by Alison Stewart, the newly appointed senior director for Adidas’s women’s division, and former Lululemon CEO Christine Day, who acts as a strategic adviser for the company. All three are focused on cultivating what 48 FastCompany.com October 2016
Behind the Brand
Adidas calls the “versatile female athlete”—the woman who wants stylish gear that can withstand sweat. “We realized that we needed a different approach to how we address the female athlete as a brand,” says Vollebregt. “We work with every business unit [in the company] to make sure we are delivering products and experiences she wants.” Pure Boost X, a running shoe the company introduced in January, is a prime example. Rather than taking a male sneaker and sizing it down, as it has done in the past, Adidas created a shoe specifically for the female foot (see sidebar for more). The company is emphasizing its long-standing Adidas by Stella McCartney line of workout wear, naming Kloss the face of the 2016 collection. In addition, it’s promoting a line of wearables, including a bra with a built-in heart-rate monitor. “The performance technology we have, whether that’s fabric or running shoes, is huge,” says Vollebregt. “That’s something that all of those fashion brands don’t have.” It’s one thing to create products for the versatile female athlete, and an entirely different challenge to get her attention. Data collected from MiCoach, Adidas’s fitness training app, suggested a solution: Create a community. After MiCoach revealed that women tend to exercise in groups, Adidas announced a partnership with Wanderlust, which stages wellness events around the world. Adidas now sponsors Wanderlust’s regular “mindful triathlons” (5k, yoga, meditation), and the pair will collaborate on festivals featuring influencer athletes. Uniting women through yoga classes and events may be a page straight from Lululemon’s playbook, but for a company with Adidas’s scale, it can be leveraged in new ways. “When we embark on something new, it may take us a little longer because we are a big organization,” Vollebregt says. “But once we decide on an initiative and turn on the tap, we can ramp up extremely quickly because we have thousands of our own stores globally.”
One-two punch DJ Hannah Bronfman shows off her boxing skills in one of Adidas’s “Here to Create” videos.
F IL L ING O U T T HE R O S T E R How Adidas is targeting female athletes with new products and initiatives
Pu re Boost X Adidas used motion-tracking technology to study the movement of the female foot and designed the Pure Boost X to match it. The sneaker features a floating arch for extra support, as well as material engineered for a flexible fit.
MiCoach Train & Ru n a p p Because data showed that women are motivated by community, Adidas updated its app to include a social feed that allows users to share workout stats with friends. 5
Wa n d e rl u st pa r t n e r s h i p In addition to collaborating on events, Adidas and Wanderlust are building an influencer program in which Wanderlust participants will lead running and yoga classes. There’s also an apparel collection in the works.
Wea ra ble s Adidas’s smart bra, introduced in 2012, is outfitted with sensors that measure calories burned, heart rate, and other performance indicators. It pairs with the MiCoach smartwatch and the Train & Run app, allowing users to adjust their effort based on real-time feedback.
Ave n ue A In February, Adidas launched its first subscription-box service. The boxes, which are distributed four times a year, feature a celebrity-curated selection of athletic gear, including a full exercise outfit with sneakers and accessories, such as the MiCoach Fit smartwatch .
“ Here to Create” ca m paig n Adidas brought in advertising firm 72andSunny to create the series of ads that present a fuller picture of a woman’s life, from athletic pursuits to family-centric moments. It garnered nearly half a billion impressions.
World Changing Ideas
NOW HEAR THIS Doppler Labs thinks the next frontier for wearable computing is your ears—and with Here One, it wants to lead the way. By Harry McCracken Photographs by Justin Kaneps
Audio guides With their smart earbuds, Doppler Labs cofounders Noah Kraft, left, and Fritz Lanman are bringing augmented reality to ears. 50 FastCompany.com October 2016
I’m trying to listen as Doppler Labs cofounder and CEO Noah Kraft walks me through his company’s new smart earbuds over the din of a crowded restaurant, but the cacophony of chattering diners and clanking silverware is overwhelming. I can’t make out a word. Then, all of a sudden, the background noise disappears. Kraft’s voice comes in loud and clear. It feels a little magical—even though we’re not actually at a restaurant. I’ve been getting a demo at Doppler’s San Francisco headquarters, and all of that background noise was a simulation, pumped into my ears—and then muted—via a cobbled-together tangle of earphones, microphones, circuitry, and other components. In November, Doppler plans to ship a pair of sleek, wireless earbuds
World Changing Ideas
T HE E A R S H AV E I T By building computers into earbuds—and connecting them to smartphones and the Internet—Doppler can perform a wide range of functions, with more on the way.
LISTENING TO MUSIC
AT A MUSEUM
ON THE ROAD
The Here One app lets you adjust the sound of live music to your preferences. It can also, through content partners, give users the audio equivalent of a backstage concert pass.
Here One will be able to connect users with a partner museum’s audio guides and beacon technology to offer visitors location-specific insight into the art.
Here One’s ability to layer streaming audio on top of the sound that surrounds you in the real world will let it deliver commentary, statistics, and more while you’re at a sporting event.
Doppler’s technology can turn down the drone of airplanes and subways. Longterm, Doppler wants to be able to intelligently tweak what you hear using factors such as geolocation.
The Here One earbuds will be able to help users focus on the audio of the people around them—useful for conversing at restaurants, bars, and loud clubs.
embedded with the same technology, allowing anyone, anywhere to neutralize the hubbub of a real restaurant. Paired with a smartphone, the $299 Here One buds will stream music and answer calls. They will also be capable of remixing your world’s audio in a variety of subtle and sophisticated ways. In addition to letting you filter out specific sounds—a baby’s cry, your talkative colleagues—the buds will be able to add effects, such as reverb to live music, transforming a neighborhood club into a concert hall. If you are at a concert hall, they’ll be able to overlay the music with streaming commentary, or even let you listen in on a performer’s backstage conversations. You’ll be able to tune into a ballgame while you’re on a run without blocking the sound of oncoming traffic. What this all adds up to is a new form of augmented reality— one that has a shot at being both practical and socially acceptable. Google Glass flopped, in part, because wearing a computer display in front of your eyes turned out to be an awkward, off-putting way to interact with the rest of society (a 52 FastCompany.com October 2016
lesson for MagicLeap’s upcoming headset and Microsoft’s Hololens). But people already walk around with buds in their ears—why not exchange them for a pair that’s designed to enhance the world, rather than simply tune it out? Doppler is scrambling to launch Here One in time for the holidays. Its ambitions, however, are lofty enough to keep it busy for years. “We want to be the future of computing,” Kraft declares. “If Microsoft put a computer on every desk, and Apple put a computer in every pocket, at Doppler Labs we want to put a computer, speaker, and microphone in everyone’s ears.” To fuel this mission, the company has raised some $50 million in fund-
“What if we could curate how we hear the world? What if we could give ourselves more control?”
ing, from major venture-capital firms as well as music-industry bigwigs such as David Geffen, Quincy Jones, and “Uptown Funk” creator Mark Ronson. Now Doppler just needs to integrate a complex array of hardware and software technologies into earbuds that are a mere 20.1 millimeters tall—less than the diameter of a nickel. The red-bearded, 29-year-old Kraft is an infectiously enthusiastic salesman, the kind of person who grows only more animated when he’s short on sleep—which, as the CEO of a startup working furiously to hit its product-launch timeline, he often is. “I lose my voice every day by about 5 p.m.,” he says. San Francisco doesn’t exactly suffer from a shortage of hyperenergetic young tech CEOs, but Kraft, unlike most, is not a born geek. The idea for Doppler sprung from his lifelong love of music. After studying international relations and history at Brown, he produced movies (including next month’s boxing drama Bleed for This, executive-produced by Martin Scorsese), started a rock band,
and even worked on a friend’s electronic-music tour, helping to pick clubs and promote shows. As the tour went from venue to venue— usually small rooms with subpar acoustics—Kraft was struck that his friend’s music sounded different in every space. “What if we could curate how we hear the world?” he recalls asking himself. “What if we could give ourselves more control?” By 2013, Kraft had the glimmer of a smart-earware concept in mind, but knew that he needed someone with tech experience to help make it a reality. When Fritz Lanman, a former Microsoft executive who engineered the company’s prescient investment in Facebook, considered backing his idea, Kraft instead talked him into becoming Doppler’s cofounder and executive chairman. Lanman’s credibility and connections soon helped recruit alumni of companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Nest. For his part, Kraft sold Lanman on a plan that involved shipping progressively more sophisticated products and learning about design, manufacturing, and marketing along the way. Everything that Doppler has Illustrations by Grace Garcia
Protecting our troops
done since its founding has been homework for the Here One launch. First came 2014’s Dubs Acoustic Filters, earplugs designed to make music sound good, but quieter. A year later came the Here Active Listening earbuds, which let you perform audio tricks such as tweaking how live music sounds and minimizing the engine noise on an airplane. Rather than attempt a fullblown retail rollout, the company offered the earbuds to backers of its Kickstarter campaign, which raised $635,000. Then it partnered with Coachella to sell them to attendees at this year’s music festival—in part to make clear that Doppler’s goals go far beyond competing with Beats and Bose. In a tent, the Doppler team walked users through the earbuds’ fancy sound filters, showing them how to block out the sound of the crowd—or the entire festival— with a swipe of a finger. “We had 4,000 people wearing a tech product in their ears,” says Kraft. “If it had been a headphone, that wouldn’t have happened.” The Here One buds will have similar audio-manipulation capabilities as Here Active Listening, along with the ability to auto-suggest settings depending on a user’s location. They’ll also be able to stream audio, which permits them to play music and make calls. More important, it enables Doppler to work with content partners, such as museums, sports teams, and music venues, to deliver audio commentary and other enhanced experiences. That’s just the beginning. Doppler wants to get increasingly better at eliminating noise, and if it’s going to turn down the volume on distractions such as sirens and wailing infants, it needs to be able to identify them on the fly, in a multitude of variations. (It’s not just babies that have distinct voices; European sirens sound nothing like their U.S. counterparts.) That’s a formidable artificial-intelligence challenge that has not been the subject of much research, so a Doppler team is collecting vast quantities of real-world audio for analysis. “Where speech 54 FastCompany.com October 2016
World Changing Ideas
recognition has thousands of published papers, environmental audio classification has dozens,” explains senior software engineer Jacob Meacham as I chat with him in a lab dominated by a subwoofer so big it doubles as a couch. “On our second day, we were at the forefront.” The implications of such research go far beyond Kraft’s initial yen to make live music sound better. Here One isn’t a hearing aid; if it were, it would be subject to a torrent of medical-device regulations that the company is happy to avoid for now. But two key members of Doppler’s team—VP of product Kennard Nielsen and Kristen “KR” Liu, director of accessibility and advocacy—are hearing impaired and enthralled by the possibility that its technology could help others by amplifying conversations and suppressing background noise. “I’m 38 years old, I’ve worn a hearing aid my entire life, and all of a sudden [with Here One], I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before,” Liu marvels. Even as Doppler puts the finishing touches on Here One, it’s tinkering with features that won’t be ready anytime soon. One such project is using the earbuds for real-time language translation. When I get a demo of this work in progress, I feel a tad silly: I have to don a backpack that contains a pint-size desktop PC and the largest battery you can legally carry on an airplane. But I understand why the company is investing in the effort when a Doppler staffer says, “Buenos días, amigo. Cómo estás?” I hear, “Good day, friend. How are you?” Kraft watches and beams. Afterward, he emphasizes that Doppler isn’t sure how, when—or maybe even if—it will deploy translation to consumers. “We know we want to get there, but we’re not going to compromise our ability to ship this first product,” he says. Once again, he’s taking things one thoughtful step at a time. And if this next one is well received, he just might realize his dream of putting a computer in every ear.
Sounding off Doppler Labs struggled to find a manufacturer that could meet the challenge of squeezing its technology into an earbud.
L I T T L E BUDS, BIG T E CHNOLOGY For Doppler, stuffing a powerful computing platform into two tiny earbuds required a variety of hardware and software engineering feats. Here are some of the highlights.
EARBUDS Each one contains circuitry with a multiprocessor, low-latency audio system, a high-fidelity speaker, three microphones, and a battery.
STORAGE CASE The pocket-size Here One case doubles as a charger, providing up to an additional six hours of streaming.
APP Doppler’s smartphone app acts as a remote control, allowing users to adjust how they hear the sounds around them.
CONNECTION Buds use near-field magnetic induction technology to communicate with each other and stream content from apps on a user’s phone.
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C h a l l e n g e ex p e c t a t i o n s Glanville wanted to produce something customers likely had never tried before: nitrogenated light beers. While stouts such as Guinness are typically infused with nitrogen, a process that creates a cascading froth and creamy smoothness, the gas has a tendency to overwhelm more subtle flavors. Glanville’s team spent two years tweaking recipes before launching three new offerings in February—including Nitro White, now one of the country’s topselling nitro beers.
Taste test Glanville takes a sip of Sam Adams’s original microbrew, the Boston Lager.
In 2012, Glanville led the development of a nano brewery and outfitted it with the kind of equipment you might find in a home setup, allowing employees to test new blends in small batches. Last year, she devoted even more resources to R&D, bringing in accomplished brewer Megan Parisi to test unique combinations of spices and fruits with an eye toward imaginative new flavors. After months of tinkering with the peel, pith, and flesh of grapefruit, Parisi landed on the recipe for what has become the most popular IPA in the country: Sam Adams Rebel Grapefruit IPA.
Ta k e c u e s f r o m e m p l o y e e s
HONING HER CRAFT Sam Adams’s master brewer is enticing a new generation of beer drinkers. By Elizabeth Segran Photograph by Matthew Monteith
56 FastCompany.com October 2016
Sam Adams is in the midst of a turf war. When its original microbrew, the Boston Lager, debuted in 1985, it became known as a flavorful alternative to mass-market brews and established Sam Adams as the modern-day patriarch of craft beer. But a slew of newcomers have cropped up in recent years, with the number of craft brewers nearly doubling since 2012, sopping up the company’s market share. Sam Adams has tasked brewery manager Jennifer Glanville, a mentee of founder Jim Koch, with leading its efforts to reclaim market dominance. Here’s how she’s working to win back the palates of beer drinkers.
Every day, Glanville gathers a team of brewers to sample recipes in various stages of production. As they sip, they talk about what foods they’ve been eating and what they’d like to see turned into a beer. Offthe-cuff suggestions have informed some of Sam’s seasonal hits, including pumpkin, chai, lemongrass, and even oyster-flavored beers. Glanville credits Sam Adams’s size for such creative success: “We’re in an interesting place between the tiny beer makers and the enormous ones,” she says. “We’re able to source the best ingredients, while still playing with flavors in a handcrafted way.”
FAST COMPANYâ€™S FIFTH ANNUAL IBD AWARDS SPOTLIGHT THE BEST PRODUCTS, SERVICES, AND IDEAS OF 2016: 26 EXPERT JUDGES PORED THROUGH MORE THAN 1,700 ENTRIES AND SELECTED FINALISTS IN 11 CATEGORIES. READ ON FOR A LOOK AT SOME OF THEIR PICKS FOR DESIGN THAT IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE.
October 2016 FastCompany.com 59
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INSIDE Page 64
Google’s logo revamp
Domino’s Zero Click ordering
Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Microsoft’s HoloLens, and HTC’s Vive National Museum of African American History and Culture Page 76
Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 sneaker
Airbnb’s mobile app
Volvo’s Concept 26 interior
The full list of 272 honorees in 11 categories
60 FastCompany.com October 2016
A BOLD MONUMENT TO THE BLACK EXPERIENCE For its first 72 years as the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., was a slave territory, and the five-acre tract on which the new National Museum of African American History and Culture sits once contained a slave market. So even before the ribbon was cut or the foundation laid, the building, which opens September 24, was already firmly rooted in the geography of America’s most inhumane and violent institution. Yet instead of sadness, David Adjaye, the museum’s lead designer, saw celebration. He knew all about slavery, segregation, and lynchings, as well as more current reminders of that shameful legacy, such as the killings of Trayvon Martin and other innocent black men, women, and children. But Adjaye wanted to capture a broader view. “I refused to see the African-American story as tragic,” says the Tanzanian-born, Britishraised architect. “Instead, it is an extraordinary journey of overcoming, and shaping, what America is.” That idea was a touchstone of the building’s design; the $540 million, 400,000-square-foot structure is literally encased in the symbols of African-American triumph. From the visually striking exterior to the carefully designed exhibit-hall environments, Adjaye and his team—in collaboration with architecture firms the Freelon Group, Davis Brody Bond, and SmithGroupJJR—have created what he calls “a spatial narrative,” by which he means that the building itself tells the story of the AfricanAmerican experience. Located on the National Mall near the Washington Monument, Adjaye’s metallic, multitiered structure consists of three inverted box shapes that thrust upward. Inspired by Yoruban caryatids—traditional wooden sculptures of female figures found in East Africa that are often topped by boxshaped crowns—the design is meant to recall both the head wraps worn Photograph by Ike Edeani
Tiers of emotion Architect David Adjaye wanted the building itself to tell a story.
by many black women in the U.S. and hands raised in praise or prayer, a common symbol in African-American spiritual life. “I was fascinated with how these [shapes] were connected,” says the much-lauded architect, who has constructed prominent buildings such as the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo. “It was so uncanny to make connections between the Yoruba caryatid and modern expressions in black America. They became clues to the architecture of the building.” The lattice exterior, which is made out of 3,600 bronze-colored cast-aluminum panels, references ironwork patterns created by 19th-century enslaved workers in New Orleans and Charleston, South Carolina—an homage to the skill and the unpaid labor of these craftsmen. Established in 2003 by an act of Congress, the museum is being overseen by founding director Lonnie Bunch III, a longtime Smithsonian executive. Adjaye, whose group beat out hundreds of other firms for the commission, was named lead designer in 2009, and construction started three years later. While the building was in progress, Bunch and his team—in consultation with historians and luminaries such as Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell—amassed around 34,000 artifacts, mostly from private collectors. Ideally, the curators want to create dialogue and “complicate questions of race, agency, and history,” says deputy director Kinshasha Holman Conwill. “The hope is that people will leave here transformed and wanting to learn more.” That seems likely. During a preopening tour in June, when the interior was still essentially a construction site, the space exuded a solemn dignity. Workers wearing hard hats were guiding cloth-covered display items into various exhibition spaces, and the partially completed rooms were full of shipping crates and dangling wires. But things were far enough along to offer a sense of what the experience will be like. The overarching idea is that a visitor’s journey through the museum mirrors the rise of African-American people’s position in society. Exhibits begin three levels underground, where low ceilings and a lack of natural light create a somewhat claustrophobic effect. That heightens the emotional impact of galleries such as Slavery & Freedom, which displays a 16.5-foot cotton tower, artifacts from a wrecked slave ship, and two log cabins, including one that housed enslaved people on Edisto Island, South Carolina. As you move upward, rooms feature a lace shawl owned by Harriet Tubman, Emmett Till’s coffin, a plane flown by Tuskegee Airmen, and the original Soul Train sign. The 62 FastCompany.com October 2016
Making history Tours of the museum begin underground, then rise into sunlit galleries as the subject matter grows more uplifting.
exhibit halls are much more than just expertly curated trips through time: They resonate because America has still not decisively resolved the complex issues that make the museum so necessary in the first place. One of the most powerful moments comes about halfway through, when museumgoers arrive at a room called the Contemplative Court. This is the point where underground galleries give way to aboveground halls with high
ceilings and picture windows, where the museum focuses on more-optimistic topics such as sports, music, visual arts, hair, and style. The Contemplative Court’s sunlit stone benches and soothing water feature offer a space “to reframe what you experienced and contextualize it,” says Adjaye, who hopes visitors will sit for a few minutes and reflect on the nation-shaping hardships they’ve just seen. “Then you move on up into the light.” —Ayana Byrd
Alan Karchmer (top and left); Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images (right)
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Palette cleanser Googleâ€™s Lee helped modernize the companyâ€™s colorful visuals.
Google’s logo revamp
A NEW LOOK CONNECTS THE DOTS Perhaps you didn’t notice when Google updated its logo last fall. The changes were relatively subtle, with a cleaner, sans-serif typography replacing the original’s highly ornamental lettering. But the revamp was actually a big deal, and not just because the logo is viewed trillions of times a year on Google’s search page. It reconceives the logo as an interactive visual device that adds functionality, using a clever animation of dots to communicate various responses to user actions. We spoke to Jonathan Lee, a Google creative director who helped spearhead the redesign, about how he approached the biggest change yet to the company’s visual signature. —Mark Wilson Why change the logo now? We wanted to future-proof the brand. There are things we know are coming: We’re designing for wearables, to have our brand work on a watch face or in Android Auto in cars. That was the core momentum builder. The logo is designed to react to users. It employs four animated dots to help people grasp what’s going on while they’re interacting with Google products. Why was that important? The intention was to allow a new level of expression in our interface and for our brand. We’ve been investing heavily in using motion. The way the dots move communicates more than just, “Hey, we’re dots.” How something behaves after you interact with it gives you a better understanding of where you are in an application. Right now, the primary expressions are that it’s listening to you speak [in voice search] and is showing that it’s actually catching some sound from you. It also can show you that it doesn’t understand what you said. How nervous were you before you introduced it? It was so nerve-wracking the day of, knowing that we had worked for months and months with the collective effort of so many people. I was frankly ecstatic and relieved that people responded so well. It’s kind of a complicated thing to ask the world to understand. Photograph by Ina Jang
October 2016 FastCompany.com 65
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AN ELEGANT MOBILITY SOLUTION
66 FastCompany.com October 2016
Unlike most wheelchairs, which look institutional and utilitarian, the Go is ultrastylish—a truly covetable accessory that’s meant, says designer Benjamin Hubert, to “look cool lined up at the club.” And it isn’t just eye candy. Though wheelchairs are used by more than 2.2 million Americans each day, they tend to be one-size-fits-most affairs that ignore how different people’s bodies can be, especially when disability is involved. The Go is custom-tailored to its owner’s shape, in part via a full-body scan and 3-D printing. The wheel rims are lined with hundreds of tiny silicone knobs, which, when paired with specially designed gloves that come with the chair, help minimize rotator-cuff injuries by improving grip and reducing arm fatigue. —John Brownlee
Photograph by Mitch Payne
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Project Natick’s server subs
A data saver making waves Cloud computing relies on huge data centers that are difficult to protect, time-consuming to build, and expensive to cool. A team at Microsoft Research is trying to solve those issues with a concept called Project Natick. Their surprising idea: steel containers that can be submerged in the ocean. “Some people think it’s awesome, and others think we’re sort of lunatics,” laughs project lead Ben Cutler, whose group created a 10-foot-long prototype that last year survived a test in the Pacific. With roughly half of the world’s population living near water, submerged data centers make sense. Water can cool servers naturally, and new centers are relatively fast and easy to build. Cutler also hopes to tap into natural energy sources such as tidal farms, making the idea as green as it is practical. —Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
Graava’s action cameras
A smarter way to capture the action Artificial intelligence meets video editing in this small device, which solves the GoPro’s biggest issue: You never know what to do with all that awesome footage. Created by San Francisco design firm Matter, the Graava has sensors that track changes in sound, acceleration, heart rate (the camera syncs to third-party monitors like the Apple Watch), and other data points while you’re filming. Its software uses that info to choose key moments and stitch them into a shareable highlight reel of whatever length you choose. “When we think back on our lives, it’s those moments of drama, passion, or activity that become our memories,” says Matter founder and chief designer Max Burton. “Graava mirrors that.” —Claire Dodson 68 FastCompany.com October 2016
Domino’s Zero Click ordering
A C R E AT I V E WAY TO BUY A PIE Pizza chains have long courted customers with gimmicks like stuffed crusts and meat-heavy specialty pies. And while Domino’s also offers its share of shameless waistline expanders, the company has distinguished itself by emphasizing technology and experience design. The goal: to make transactions as frictionless as possible. “In that instant when our customer is thinking, What should I get for dinner?, an easy ordering experience can make a world of difference,” says Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer. Domino’s has been at the vanguard of pizza tech since at least 2008, when it launched its popular tracker function, and lately it has been increasing its digital efforts. In May 2015, it introduced emoji ordering, which lets customers summon dinner by tweeting a pizza icon. Less than a year later, it became the first fast-food company to release an Amazon Echo application that enables users to order via voice command. The company’s latest breakthrough takes effort reduction even further: no-click ordering. Save your info and preferred order ahead of time, and you can summon food simply by opening the app. A timer appears, counting down from 10. At the ding, your order has been placed. That’s it—no additional buttons to push, no decisions to make, no effort whatsoever. All of these innovations are driven by Domino’s AnyWare system, a cloud-based hub with customer profiles that can be accessed from a range of platforms. With AnyWare, Call of Duty addicts can order on their PS4, for example, and Ford drivers can use their car’s Sync system. While the number of purchases on some of these emerging platforms is small, “a lot of this is about exploring technology and staying on the forefront so we’re there ahead of our competitors,” says Kelly Garcia, VP of digital development. “We’re learning so that we’re ready when they break out.” Overall, Domino’s digital strategy is paying off, with the app and website pulling in more than $2 billion in digital sales a year—more than half of its delivery revenue. In the second quarter of 2016, same-store sales jumped almost 10%, a spike the company attributes in part to its tech efforts. The next step with Zero Click will likely be to make it more customizable, and Maloney says Domino’s is experimenting with other ways to improve the delivery process. “Pizza shouldn’t be creating angst with our consumers,” he says. “It’s supposed to be a fun food.” —MW Photograph by Kevin Van Aelst
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Fairphone’s smarter smartphone
A D E V I C E T H AT ’ S MORE THAN ITS PARTS
Tired of having to upgrade your phone every year or two? Amsterdam-based Fairphone designs devices that are meant to last. The Fairphone 2, released last December, has a modular design that makes it easy to replace the battery, screen, and other components. It’s part of a broader effort to make products that are socially and environmentally responsible. Fairphone cofounder Miquel Ballester lays out how his latest device improves on the smartphone status quo. —Belinda Lanks
AN ECO-FRIENDLY APPROACH
Fairphone’s catalog of easy-to-install parts makes upgrades simple and affordable. Want the latest camera? Instead of buying a whole new phone, just swap in an updated photo unit. The Fairphone 2 also allows two SIM cards, so you can use separate personal and work numbers. “That has an immediate environmental benefit,” says Ballester. “Instead of walking around with two devices, you have one.”
Before it started manufacturing the Fairphone 2, the company enlisted a Chinese NGO to assess the labor practices of its Suzhou-based manufacturing partner. As a result of the findings, Fairphone started a program to upgrade the plants (such as improving safety exits), convert many temp workers to full-time employees, and make other improvements.
Many smartphones contain minerals that are sourced from troubled countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where mining often funds armed groups that brutalize civilians. Fairphone tries to ensure that the gold, tungsten, tin, and tantalum it buys is conflictfree—without abandoning those countries by purchasing elsewhere. “We want to show that it is possible to source from these high-risk areas, but in a better way,” says Ballester.
D.light’s A1 Lantern
A truly bright idea
Illustration by David Plunkert
When Sam Goldman was a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African nation of Benin in 2004, he saw a boy get seriously injured in a kerosene-lamp fire. So later, while attending Stanford’s design school, Goldman—working with fellow student Ned Tozun—decided to create something that could better serve the more than 1 billion people around the world who lack electricity. That school project grew into San Francisco–based company D.light, which, after coming up with several less-affordable iterations, last year introduced a solar-powered lantern that’s safe, reliable, and, most important, inexpensive. The A1 is more than twice as bright as kerosene lamps and can withstand years of daily use. It costs just $5—the amount a family would typically spend on kerosene in a three-week period. “Our goal,” says Goldman, “was a light that was essentially no-risk in a world that is full of risks for our customers.” —Kim Lightbody October 2016 FastCompany.com 71
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Mystery solved. Nest Cam Outdoor Security on your phone 24/7
Spot bike thieves and break-ins. nest.com/outdoor
74 FastCompany.com October 2016
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Microsoft’s HoloLens, and HTC’s Vive
A N E W WAY O F SEEING Last summer, Pokémon Go instantly transformed augmented reality from a geeky-cool niche concept into a mainstream phenomenon. But if you really want to experience AR’s world-changing potential, you can’t just download an app and start chasing after Charizards. Serious augmented reality—and its cousin, virtual reality—finally arrived this year in the form of several impressive products that could mark a big evolution in how we connect to the digital world. Microsoft’s AR device, HoloLens, started shipping in March (it’s currently available as a $3,000 developer kit; the company says a cheaper consumer version is in the works). The headset, which vaguely resembles ski goggles, layers 3-D digital imagery on top of your regular field of vision, Illustration by Rich Tu
October 2016 FastCompany.com 75
Technology Will Save Us’s DIY toy
A wearable just for kids creating a seamless blend of the real world and computer-generated content. Meanwhile, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive—also released in early 2016—offer fully immersive experiences that place you inside stunningly convincing virtual worlds. At $599 and $799 apiece, the strap-toyour-face screens are as pricey as they are exciting. “We’ve all used mice and keyboards and touch screens, but AR and VR represent a new way of interacting with information and digital services,” says Lewis Ward, an analyst at IDC. “We’re not sure what we’re going to find yet in this new UI paradigm, but it could turn out to be as disruptive as touch screens have been in the past decade.” Each of the three devices is a technical feat. Invented by a teenager in his Long Beach, California, garage, the Rift solves problems that had bedeviled engineers and designers for decades, such as motion sickness– inducing interfaces and bulky, uncomfortable hardware that prevented extended use. The Vive’s biggest achievement is its pair of headset-linked handheld controllers, which are easy and intuitive to use, making the experience exponentially more engaging. And HoloLens nails the dizzyingly complex challenge of stuffing a 3-D projector and room-mapping camera into a lightweight, wearable device that doesn’t need to be tethered to a separate computer. As tantalizing as these platforms are, there are still some significant barriers to widespread adoption. The Vive and Rift need to be hooked up to powerful, expensive computers in order to work, pushing their true cost into the thousands of dollars. And HoloLens currently suffers from limited processing power and a relatively small field of vision. To put it another way, none of these products is likely to be the iPhone—a breakthrough technology that immediately and radically remakes the landscape. Instead, they seem more akin to Steve Jobs’s original Macintosh computer. When it arrived in 1984, the Mac failed to catch on in the broader market. But its many widely imitated features—most notably its mouse and transformative graphical interface—went on to define personal computing for decades. Even if the HoloLens, Rift, and Vive don’t themselves grow into the kind of mass-appeal gadgets that inspire mainstream acceptance, the breakthrough solutions they offer could lead to generations of evermore-sophisticated VR products. And to be sure, the devices make you gasp with wonder when you use them for the first time; it’s one thing to read about the promise of virtual reality, and quite another to experience how utterly transporting the technology can be. “The demo that got me was Medium for Oculus, which lets you sculpt in 3-D,” says designer Rob Girling, whose firm, Artefact, is building developer tools for VR. “It feels like [open-world building game] Minecraft times 1,000, times 10,000. But it still feels like a demo.” Ultimately, that’s the biggest early issue with AR and VR: The content currently available for these platforms seems intended to showcase the promise of the devices rather than to provide fully realized and satisfying experiences. But more meaningful interactivity is tantalizingly easy to imagine. Augmented reality could one day become a normal part of everyday life, feeding us a constant stream of information about our environment. More immediately, we could start seeing practical applications such as AR how-to manuals that layer instructions on top of tricky projects, making experts of us all. And VR, in addition to potentially transforming the gaming industry, could, for example, let us watch NFL games from the point of view of our favorite team’s starting quarterback. “The killer app has yet to come,” says Jake Barton, a designer whose firm, Local Projects, creates immersive digital experiences. “But what happens when you get the Spielberg of VR?” —Cliff Kuang 76 FastCompany.com October 2016
Roughly the size and shape of a bicycle bell, the Mover Kit is an enticing device that budding technophiles can design themselves. “First, kids invest in putting it together,” says Bethany Koby, CEO of Technology Will Save Us, the digital toy company behind the kit. “Then they learn how it works. We tried to understand what inputs and outputs would spark them to invent their own games.” After following the assembly directions, kids can connect it to a computer and use the easy drag-and-drop coding interface to program it to light up in response to physicalactivity cues (a jump of a certain height, say). Then they just strap it to their wrist or bike and head for the playground. —CK
Nike’s self-tying sneakers
A futuristic shoe Technology that lets you avoid lacing your footwear has existed for decades: It’s called Velcro. But Nike’s HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers, due to go on sale later this year, offer a much more sophisticated solution. The shoes are outfitted with tiny sensors that detect when wearers slide in their feet, activating a small motor-and-pulley system that automatically draws the laces to a certain degree of tightness based on the size and position of the foot. Buttons next to the tongue allow for easy adjustments depending on user preference and type of activity. But the HyperAdapt is not just about performance and convenience. The shoe is intended to be as engaging as it is technologically impressive. “You can feel it tighten, hear the motor run, and see the laces [move],” says Nike senior innovation engineer Tiffany Beers. “It’s a shoe that ignites three senses.” —CD
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
Travel agent Airbnb designer Amber Cartwright is building a digital product that better serves both hosts and guests.
Airbnb’s mobile app
A VA C AT I O N - S TAY UPGRADE When you rent an Airbnb, there’s no front desk or concierge, so the company’s app is especially important. It guides guests through the entire process: not just selecting a place to stay, but communicating with the host and discovering things to do nearby. To make that experience as effective and engaging as possible, Airbnb significantly overhauled its app last year, simplifying its interface and introducing thoughtful filters to make it easier to search listings. When it came to creating those filters, “we learned that words like trendy aren’t useful, because they don’t make you think about what you’ll be doing on your trip,” says Airbnb design manager Amber Cartwright, who oversaw the process. “What is useful is a word like lively, which [indicates] what kind of trip you’re making, like whether you’ll be going out at night with friends.” The app also introduced a new algorithm that surfaces the freshest, most popular, and most useful host recommendations for nearby restaurants and activities. Next, Airbnb plans to revamp the app’s host-focused functionality, which lets listers handle transactions and guest interactions via mobile. The idea, Cartwright says, is to “build out more complex business tools for them to set prices and manage listings and schedule their time. We want to help them to be micro-entrepreneurs.” —CK
Photograph by Noel Spirandelli
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
Spring’s accelerator boot camps
A FEMALE-FOCUSED HELPING HAND
Startup accelerator Spring, which launched last year, nurtures businesses that benefit adolescent girls in East Africa and South Asia. In 2015, the group organized a design-focused boot camp in Nairobi, Kenya, and similar projects are now set to take place in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Here are some of the businesses that took part in the Kenya sessions. —BL
Started by a pair of Georgia Institute of Technology grads, this company installs free toilets in homes that don’t have access to a sewer system (it charges a fee to cart away waste, which it then turns into charcoal briquettes). The Sanivation toilet addresses several issues related to public pit latrines, such as sanitation, privacy, and safety. “We look at girls as indirect consumers who can trigger purchases,” says cofounder Andrew Foote, who assembled focus groups at schools in Kenya to help design toilets that would most appeal to young women.
The Nairobi-based family-health company aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by using SMS and voice technologies to send advice and reminders to expectant and new mothers. Spring helped Totohealth design a content system that’s aimed at teenagers. “[Teens] are more on their own than somebody who is carrying a pregnancy in a stable relationship,” says Fonda Ruiter, a pediatric and public-health specialist at Totohealth. “They do not have the support an adult would have.” TINY TOTOS
Tiny Totos is working to improve day-care facilities in poor Nairobi neighborhoods. The company helps train caregivers to create safe and nurturing environments, and also provides funding and business coaching. “We just want kids to have a place where they can be kids,” says Tiny Totos cofounder Emma Caddy. “To learn, be confident, and find a kick-start to rise above the squalor of their surroundings.”
Kinduct’s stats app
A data-crunching sports tool
78 FastCompany.com October 2016
When the L.A. Dodgers recently wanted a better way to analyze players’ health and performance, they turned to Kinduct’s Athlete Management System, which gathers information from various sources—Fitbits, RFID chips, electronic medical records—and packages it all in an easy-to-navigate app. Users can click through charts that find patterns in individuals or teams. “[Sports organizations] had all this data, but it wasn’t connected,” says Kinduct CEO Travis McDonough. “Now we have this layer of predictive analytics that can tell an athlete, ‘Hey, you’re trending toward an injury.’ ” Kinduct is also offering the app to personal fitness trainers and corporate wellness providers, and it’s experimenting with ways hospitals might use it to help patients. —KL Illustration by Karolin Schnoor
Stuck in traffic. Ideas
still moving for ward.
Your whiteboard, reinvented. Imagine you could see and write on the whiteboard when you’re not in the meeting room. With BrightLink Pro, you can. Collaborate in real-time, whether you’re in the room or across the world. Keep writing, without stopping to erase; just add digital pages. When the meeting’s done, share the notes instantly through email or a USB thumb drive, so nobody has to take a picture. BrightLink Pro turns any flat surface interactive; you don’t need a computer or software to use it. Just turn it on and see how easy it is to reinvent your whiteboard. Take a product tour now at epson.com/movingforward. Or contact an Epson collaboration specialist about introductory offers including our 1st-Time Buyer program. 800-374-7300. EPSON is a registered trademark and EPSON Exceed Your Vision is a registered logomark of Seiko Epson Corporation. BrightLink is a registered trademark of Epson America, Inc. Copyright 2014 Epson America, Inc.
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
Their own devices With her mix-andmatch system, Slaker is encouraging budding tech innovators.
Nascent Objects’ modular electronics
A P L AT F O R M F O R C R E AT I N G YOUR OWN GADGETS If you’re someone who’d rather invent a new device than get the latest thingamajig at Best Buy, Nascent Objects can help. The California-based company, working with design firm Ammunition, has built a modular system that lets anyone make their own electronics. Using a broad assortment of parts—batteries, cameras, sensors, and so on, as well as software to run everything—makers can snap together products for fun or as marketable 80 FastCompany.com October 2016
prototypes. “We designed the components to have individual value as discrete, smart puzzle pieces that can be easily rearranged into a myriad of devices,” says Ammunition’s VP of product design, Victoria Slaker, who spearheaded the project with Nascent CEO Baback Elmieh. “Iteration can happen quickly and inexpensively.” Nascent has prebuilt a few examples, such as a water-use sensor called the Droppler. The rest is up to users’ imaginations. —Nikita Richardson Photograph by Timothy O’Connell
GOVERNMENT By working with 31 states on everything from infrastructure to policy, Optum helps government entities more effectively get people the care, services and benefits they need.
PHARMACIES Optum helps get over 66 million people the treatment they need through pharmacy care services.
HEALTH PLANS Optum supports 300 health plans so they can better serve their members.
HOW DO WE POWER MODERN HEALTH CARE? BY CONNECTING EVERY SINGLE PART OF IT. At Optum, our mission is simple: Help make the health system work better for everyone through data, technology, insights and expertise. As a health services and innovation company, weâ€™re uniquely equipped to power modern health care by working with partners across the entire industry, not just in individual silos. From health plans to providers to employers to governments, we activate critical partnerships every day. Itâ€™s how we power modern health care to help build a healthier world. optum.com/healthier
DOCTORS Optum aggregates health care data on more than 200 million lives so providers can deliver the smartest care.
HOSPITALS Optum partners with four out of five U.S. hospitals to enhance their revenue cycle information and capabilities, so they can take better care of patients.
Optum works with half of the Fortune 500 to improve employee wellness.
By connecting all parts of health care, Optum helps deliver better outcomes to millions of lives. Now thatâ€™s Healthier.
LIFE SCIENCES Optum helps more than 150 global life sciences organizations use powerful health analytic platforms and data to reveal unmet needs and patient insights for new medicines.
MODERN HEALTH CARE WORKS BETTER THE MORE PIECES WE
CONNECTING ALL PARTS OF HEALTH CARE TO CREATE BETTER OUTCOMES.
HEALTHIER ISN’T JUST A FEELING FOR US, IT’S A
HEALTHIER IS HERE At Optum, Healthier goes way beyond a feeling. Quite simply, it’s our passion and our purpose. As a health services and innovation company, we power modern health care by combining data and analytics with technology and expertise. Our insights quickly lead to better outcomes for hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, health plans, governments, employers and the millions of lives they touch. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good feeling as well. optum.com/healthier
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
Revolution Precrafted’s houses
A FAB COLLECTION OF PREFAB STRUCTURES
Want to live in a house designed by one of the world’s most famous architects? A Manila, Philippines–based real estate developer named Robbie Antonio has tapped an impressive list of big names to each create something for his line of covetable, prefabricated structures that can be easily purchased online. His company, Revolution Precrafted, is set to start shipping the houses and gazebolike canopies this year. Prices average around $300,000, which doesn’t include the cost of the land or site preparation, and superstars such as Jean Nouvel and Daniel Libeskind are working on designs. Antonio provides an early look at three of Revolution’s offerings. —Diana Budds
(1 ) MARCEL WANDERS
Known for his witty tongue-in-cheek furniture, the Dutch designer has now debuted his firstever house, a glass-walled rectangle supported by ornate columns that look like they’re intricately woven. “It’s a perfect example of how an interior designer thinks,” says Antonio. “He conceived of a detail and stuck by it.”
(2) ZAHA HADID 2
Before she died in March 2016, the renowned architect created this wood-and-metal pavilion, which can cover an outdoor dining table or decorate a backyard. The biomorphic form is meant to resemble a bone-tissue pattern. “A house is something you need, but a pavilion is a want,” says Antonio. “It’s an art piece, it’s sculptural, and it’s functional.”
(3) TOM DIXON
Volvo’s Concept 26 interior
A different way to drive
Illustration by Peter Judson
The British furniture and housewares designer concocted a boxy steel-frame house that’s perched on stilts, making it perfect for shoreline locations. The building is shipped as a surprisingly lightweight kit that’s assembled on-site. Residents can easily add rooms to the modular structure as space is needed. “You want more [room]?” says Antonio. “Buy four.”
With Concept 26, Volvo has created a prototype of a car interior that tackles issues raised by the prospect of full automotive autonomy. “It is answering very human questions that were neglected in the tech-focused conversations around autonomous vehicles,” says Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, GM of Volvo’s Los Angeles–based innovation lab. “It puts people at the center of the experience.” When the car is driving itself, there are two passenger modes: relaxing (the seat reclines) and working (a retractable table slides into place). In either mode, the steering wheel recedes and the passenger-side dashboard flips to reveal a screen with a list of options—from sending emails to watching Netflix—that are curated based on how long the drive will take. Trip too short for that entire Game of Thrones episode? The car can choose a route based on what you’d like to get done; you’ll arrive at the end of the show. —CK October 2016 FastCompany.com 85
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
The Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium
AN EYE-OPENING SPORTS FACILIT Y Stadiums with retractable roofs are commonplace, but there’s never been anything like the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, which is set to open for the 2017 season. Instead of a flat panel that slides back, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has an innovative oculus design that recalls a camera lens. It’s one of many forward-looking elements of the $1.5 billion, 71,000-seat stadium. The project’s lead architect, Bill Johnson, explains. —BL THE ROOF
The oculus’s eight segments each retract in a straight line, but an optical illusion makes it look like everything is rotating—a spectacular effect on such a large scale. “One goal was for people to come from all over the world not just for a football game, but to see the structure,” Johnson says. And while most retractable roofs take more than 15 minutes to open, the oculus’s clever mechanism and light materials let it accomplish that task in as little as six. THE TECHNOLOGY
Just under the oculus will sit a unique, 360degree “halo” HD screen that, at five stories tall and 1,100 feet long, will be more than triple the size of any other NFL video setup. IBM, the project’s technology partner, will wire the facilIllustration by Ryan Peltier
ity with 4,000 miles of fiber-optic cable, build advanced security systems, and help create future interactive experiences. “The idea,” says Johnson, “is to provide a game-day spectacle that can’t be experienced at home or in a bar.” THE ENTRYWAY
One of the most striking features is the 163foot-high entrance, which is far more inviting and dramatic than a typical stadium design. Massive glass triangles let in natural light and connect the stadium to Atlanta’s skyline. THE SEATS
To increase home-field advantage, end-zone seating is steeper than usual, creating “a wall of fans that forces the opposing team to play into an intimidating environment,” Johnson says. THE ECO FOOTPRINT
The Falcons’ new home will likely be the first-ever LEED Platinum–certified stadium. Solar PV panels in the parking area will power electric-vehicle charging stations, and the property is connected to the Atlanta Bike Trail Network. On-site vendors will prepare some dishes with vegetables grown in the stadium’s urban garden, which will exclusively use rainwater harvested on-site. October 2016 FastCompany.com 87
A F R I E N D LY FAC E F O R PAT I E N T S When health care platform Zocdoc launched almost a decade ago, it didn’t give much thought to its logo, opting for a traditional, conservative design that cost just $80. Since then, the site—which connects patients to doctors and manages appointments—has blown up into a business valued at $1.8 billion, expanding to reach more than 60% of the U.S. population and working with large hospital systems such as New York’s Mount Sinai. In 2015, the company decided it was time for a rebrand, and it tapped global design agency Wolff Olins to reimagine its overall look and feel. The result is friendly and human-centered, complete with an anthropomorphic logo that turns the letter Z into an expressive, emoticonlike face. Wolff Olins North America president Tim Allen explains the changes. —Meg Miller What are the problems with the branding used by traditional health care companies? There are all these familiar visual cues like shields and crosses. Everything is blue and green. It is all about security and authority, which are needed in this market, but it’s gotten unbalanced. There’s also this inherent hierarchy that happens: You’re the patient, we’re the caregiver. For Zocdoc, we were trying to create a partnership between patients and health care providers and create an identity and an architecture that expressed that. Central to your solution is Zee, an adaptable avatar that expresses human emotions like perplexity, happiness, and relief. What was your approach? We wanted to make the logo dynamic, responding to the patient’s needs and emotions. 88 FastCompany.com October 2016
Zocdoc wanted something a little more being smart, caring, intuitive, and compelling. Health care is too often a frustrating and bewildering experience. Zocdoc is on a mission to cut through that confusion, so we reimagined the brand experience from the patient’s perspective, aiming to make Zocdoc a place of trust and ease. We created a visual identity that could put a smile on your face when appropriate. How important is design in shaping the future of the health care industry? At the root of design is the process of solving problems with creativity. There’s no way to take on the new health care challenges of affordability, access, obesity, wellness, or preventive care without design. Functionally, you’re designing for people so that they can achieve goals. Emotionally, you’re hopefully creating a sense of wonder and delight. Photograph by Sacha Maric
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
Whatâ€™s up, Zoc? Branding expert Allen and his team helped health care platform Zocdoc tweak its image.
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
I N N OVAT I O N BY D E S I G N AWA R D S : THE HONOREES FROM THOUSANDS OF SUBMISSIONS, FAST COMPANY’S JUDGES SELECTED THESE 272 FINALISTS. FOR FULL DESCRIPTIONS AND A LIST OF THE WINNERS, GO TO FASTCODESIGN.COM/IBD.
PRODUCTS August Doorbell Cam
Le Cube S
Customizable, ergonomic conveyance
Canal+ set-top box
Tiny, potent, portable illumination
Video game teaching urban planning
Crutch that alleviates arm strain
Digital tool that lets apps link to each other
Action camera with AI photo editing
Add-ons transform Ikea into bespoke design
Microsoft HoloLens Microsoft Operating System Group
Capital One Mobile Capital One
Touch pad with dozens of new uses
Your finances, simplified
Lust-worthy household gadget Bloque Termodisipador
Sumart Diseno y Arquitectura
Here Active Listening
Bricks that circulate cool air
Sensel and Frog
Goals in Google Calendar Google
Always-on digital assistant
Genre fiction dished out in text messages
Elegant airfarerecommendation engine
Augmented reality for your ears
Mover Kit Technology Will Save Us
Sladda Veryday AB
Class Story and School Story
Wearable toy that kids can program
Ikea’s first bike
Part puzzle, part art
Platform to connect schools and parents
Boulding Blocks Pioneer in VR tech
Hubb Lifetime Oil Filter
Naoto Fukasawa, Konstantin Grcic, and Jasper Morrison
Easy-to-use but powerful consumer drone
Home digital stethoscope and thermometer
Car part that never needs replacing
Cubetto Primo Toys
Wooden toy that teaches coding
Self-lacing shoe inspired by Marty McFly
Tool that guards against hackers
Gatekeeper for your IoT gadgets D.light A1
IsoCore Striking Tools
Shock-absorbing sledgehammer June Intelligent Oven
Futurecraft 3-D Adidas
Senses and times your cooking Kano Complete Kano and Map Project Office
Open-source, DIY computer Kano Screen Kit Map Project Office
Google OnHub Whipsaw
Super Wi-Fi hub
Kit for inventing home electronics Nest Collection Form Us With Love
Gorgeous roomdividing system Nextbit Robin Smartphone with easy cloud storage Numbers Osmo
Toys and app for learning math
Part of Kano Complete
90 FastCompany.com October 2016
Simple camera app with 7 million filters
Flexible and simple design tool
AI chatbott Detour
AR headset for doctors
Walking tours of the Bay Area
Social-powered video discovery
Plug-in gadget makes cars run cleaner
Gatekeeper for your IoT gadgets
Kids choreograph dances for creatures
Bathing suits for every taste and body type
All-in-one tool for digital design
Ustwo with Thriveport
Journal to monitor and boost your mood
Giphy Cam Record your life in GIFs
New guest experience
Gmail Inbox Smart Reply
Better way to find a vacation home
Digital camera with built-in printer
UI mockups designed with real data
Detour San Francisco
Breakthrough VR technology
Programming made fun on iPhone
Redesigning the spork
Slick electric bike
Tritensil Map Project Office
June and Ammunition
Highly engineered blow-dryer
Tough solar light for people off the grid
Nextbit and Branch
Tiny personal airplane
AI-powered quick replies
Track indoor air pollution
Pinterest Product Design Standards Pinterest
Share images faster
Quip Inbox and Slack integration Quip
Easy-to-use projectmanagement tool Robinhood Robinhood
Unusually simple stock-investing app
Using a Kinect to design housewares
Evolution of the “Like” button
Sustainable streetlights for Paris
UX system spanning countless applications
Apartment rental, rethought
Naoto Fukasawa, Konstantin Grcic, and Jasper Morrison
Sketching app that links IoT devices
Connected Worlds Design IO
Virtual space where kids tend a forest
Scanning allows you to try on clothes virtually
Atlanta’s cuttingedge sports facility
Technology Will Save Us
Card game reimagined for mobile
Pocket computer to teach kids coding
Smart data-sharing for HIV research Slack platform
Forest of Light
Canva for Work
COS x Sou Fujimoto
Brainteaser where you match colors
Online design tool
Making Slack into a home for other apps
Haunting catwalk for fashion brand COS
Clara Clara Labs
Watson News Explorer
Forest of Light, the Asia Culture Center
AI meeting scheduler
Kyu Sung Woo Architects
Boldly remade shoreline
Visualizing the best way to win matches
Using AI to map the news
Culture hub and public park
Powerful web-based design tool
Tennis Analytics for Coaches SAP
3-D painting for VR Toca Blocks Toca Boca
World-building app for kids
Knowledge sharing for the maker community
Generator Amsterdam DesignAgency
Hostel 2.0 Hudson Yards Park
SPACES, PLACES, CITIES
Related Companies, Oxford Properties, and Nelson Byrd Woltz
Vast park above an N.Y.C. railyard
AR drill that projects how-to guides
D.C. destination decades in the making
Rockaway Beach Boardwalk Pentagram
Work space that fosters great ideas Starter Home* No. 1 Entry-level homes that fit in urban dead spaces
Next-gen health tracking for pro athletes
Hunts Point Landing
The Strand, American Conservatory Theater
Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Medium for Publishers
Artist’s stunning web of color
Dilapidated shoreline becomes wetland and park
Revitalized cultural landmark for San Francisco
Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability
University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Ultimate View of the Masters IBM iX
Stroke-by-stroke golf tourney analysis
Blogging remade for the 21st century Metmuseum.org
Vizable by Tableau Artefact
Beautiful interactive data visualizations
BioDesign Studio Local Projects
Interactive exhibit of bioengineering
Art institution’s new website
Blackbirds Bestor Architecture
Work & Co.
Experimental, high-density housing for L.A.
Cultural icon’s web presence
Metopera.org Domino’s easy pizza-ordering app
MTV Bump MTV International
WEBSITES AND P L AT F O RM S 10,000ft Insights 10,000ft
Web platform for fostering innovation
Crowdsourced branding system PAOM x Sosolimited x LIA x Processing
Open-air climbing gym beneath the Brooklyn Bridge
Design Trust for Public Space
Apple Store meets medical clinic
Laying the Groundwork
Wearable gadget senses other devices when you touch them Exploring the Star Wars Universe Kirell Benzi
125,000 Star Wars events, visualized Histography Matan Stauber
Interactive timeline covering 14 billion years Memodo Gabor Balint
Tactile objects for controlling a smart home Momentum and Purificatum Fabian Zeijler
Gadgets for tracking indoor air quality PsychicVR Xavier Benavides Palos
Enabling psychic powers in VR using brain sensors Readi School of Visual Arts
Gear that becomes emergency tools
3-D Printed GazeActuated Wearable
Social Shot Robot mines Facebook profiles to mix personalized drinks
N.Y.C.’s new affordablehousing guidelines LinkNYC
Carnegie Mellon University
Connectivity kiosks, free for all
Clothing morphs when others look
New York City’s first micro apartments
Bespoke clothing designs
Maggie’s Centre Barts
Sasaki Associates and Ross Barney Architects
Steven Holl Architects
Robots for the elderly
Humane cancer clinic
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Ghostly archive of unrealized architecture
HR tracking, elegantly designed
Intuitive project management
University of California, Berkeley
Office of Jonathan Tate
Bezalel Academy of Art and Design
14 billion years of history on one timeline
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
Kinduct Text messaging through video
Free chart-making service
Turning unused waterfront into a community park
High-speed transit as luxury experience
GM’s foray into car sharing
October 2016 FastCompany.com 91
I N N O VA T I O N B Y D E S I G N
World Community Grid IBM
Using spare computing power for scientific research
InVōc Fjord Chaotic R&D
Gesture-based smart-home control
GRAPHIC DESIGN AN D DATA V I S U A L I Z AT I O N
California College of the Arts
Online trading for local farmers
Modular sofa that can be redesigned via app Naloxone Nasal Atomizer Frog
Ultrafast device for opioid overdoses
EXPERIMENTAL Nascent Objects Kit for inventing home electronics
Clothing morphs when others look AMIE 1.0 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
3-D–printed building BioLogic Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab
Second skin responds to body heat and moisture
Organic Information Structure
Fuel-saving breakthrough for airplanes
Anaptár 2016 Anagraphic
Easier way to find a doctor
Radial calendars tracking the heavens
Modern branding system that scales
C by GE
Architecture of Radio
Studio Richard Vijgen
Legible font for any platform
Morphing lightbulb matches your circadian rhythms
App that visualizes radio waves in the air
Concept 26 Volvo
Lean-back experience for driverless cars Doors Théoriz
Immersive digital space Functional 3-D Printed Ceramics Studio Olivier Van Herpt
3-D printing for a new medium Futurecraft 3-D Adidas
3-D–printed shoes Future of Urban Homes Ikea
Tiny, reconfigurable houses Google Ara Seymour Powell
Modular system for making smartphones and more
Mapillary BioDesign Studio
Digital photos turned into searchable maps
Interactive exhibit of bioengineering
The Met’s brand identity
Virtual, 3-D space for organizing info
Jones Knowles Ritchie
Branding scheme that unifies the museum’s many faces
Reinvention of the airline experience
Making U.S. government info easily searchable
The New School’s brand identity
Massively parallel, superfast 3-D printing
Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec
Algorithmically generated, infinite typeface
Alluring exploration of data visualization
OFFF Film Titles
Destinations on Google
Houseplant’s data stream translated into a chatbot Reality Editor
ReForm Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab
Single-stop vacation planner Editions at Play
Data visualization of skies around the world Tomorrow’s Meatball
Striking, lively visual identity Google Brand System Biggest logo update in 16 years Grubhub brand identity Wolff Olins
Grubhub reskinned as a lifestyle company Helia
Collective Health Member Experience Collective Health
User-friendly medical benefits CRISPR Genome Editing Platform
Novartis Assess MS Microsoft Research, Novartis
Spotting MS symptoms with a Kinect Pause PauseAble and Ustwo
Soothing meditation app Phoenix exoskeleton SuitX
Low-cost support for paraplegics
Eatwell Assistive tableware set
Planned Parenthood Experience
Crockery catering to special needs
Reimagined patient care
SCHARP DataSpace Artefact
Smart data-sharing for HIV research
Type meets architecture
Health Hub Experience Guide
Pick Me Up type tool Studio Hato
Kaiser Permanente patient-friendly hospital
University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center
Gadget for creating unique letterforms
Next-gen health tracking for pro athletes
Evolution of the “Like” button
Viceland branding Gretel
Data-tracking menstrual cup
Vice’s scruffy ethos translated to TV
Lumee by Profusa
Universal Everything HDR
Apple Store meets medical clinic Vicis Zero1 Artefact
Football helmet to better protect against brain injury Water-Resistant Wrist Brace 3M
Clever wrist brace
World Community Grid
Visualizing U.S. mortality
Using spare computing power for scientific research
When and How You Will Die
Crutch that alleviates arm strain
Ideas for making VR a social experience
High Yield, Future Tense Pentagram
Novel health care model for millennials
Alarming debt patterns made beautiful
My UV Patch
92 FastCompany.com October 2016
Handheld gluten testing
Platform for cuttingedge genomics
Friendly logo for health care startup
IoT toys for exploring the world
Customizable, ergonomic conveyance
Zocdoc brand identity
Body scanner for the home
Dynamic branding for a data-science business
Meatballs that use sustainable food chains
The Skies Epitomized Microsoft Research
Metropolitan Museum of Art
MIT Media Lab
AR app for controlling the IoT
Naked 3-D Fitness Tracker
Bionic Partition The Living, an Autodesk Studio
AI-powered basketball analytics
H E A LT H
Instagram’s new app icon
3-D Printed GazeActuated Wearable
Lift-Bit Carlo Ratti Associati
IBM Sports Insights Central
Millennial Healthcare System
Drone for medical supplies
Stretchy sensor that monitors UV rays
BRANDED ENVIRONMENTS Bloomberg Tech Hub, San Francisco IwamotoScott
Bloomberg’s swanky West Coast home
Warby Parker Annex
Warby Parker, Lawrence Group
Everlane and Brook&Lyn
Everlane’s ethos, in microcosm Harry’s Newsstand at Grand Central Harry’s
Cheeky kiosk for the startup shaving brand LittleBits pop-up shop Daily Tous Les Jours
Tech toys on display for kids to explore Moxy Hotels
Pavilion EH&I i29 Interior Architects
Dutch magazine’s bold new office Revolution Precrafted Robbie Antonio
Dream homes designed by starchitects New Stand New Stand
Funky kiosk for gifts and magazines Target Open House Local Projects
Naoto Fukasawa, Konstantin Grcic, and Jasper Morrison
Design partner, Khosla Ventures
Toys and app for learning math
New Story Model
Interactive exhibit of bioengineering
Smart fitting room
Crowne Plaza hotel room designed for mobile working
New Story Charity
SOCIAL GOOD AirCarbon technology Newlight Technologies
Making plastics from atmospheric carbon AQtap water ATM solution Grundfos
Easy access to clean water
Project Natick Microsoft Research
Server farms cooled by the ocean Smog Free Tower
Tracking system for new wells
D.light A1 Tough solar light for people off the grid Eatwell Assistive tableware set Sha Design
Crockery catering to special needs Fairphone 2 Seymour Powell
Smartphone designed to last Grace Farms
Adobe Creative Cloud 2015
Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Nick de la Mare
Map Project Office
Lean-back experience for driverless cars
Kit for inventing IoT gadgets
August de los Reyes
Gatekeeper for your IoT gadgets
Edyn Garden Sensor + Water Valve Fuseproject
Warby Parker Pupils Project
IKO Creative Prosthetic System Carlos Arturo Torres
Resource that helps kids design their own prosthetics Lancôme Le Teint Particulier
Principal, Big Tomorrow Design manager, Pinterest Head of experience design, Airbnb
Target Open House
Data-driven nutrition system
Founder, Local Projects
Kids’ wearable supports charity
Wayfindr Open Standard
Next-level VR headset
Gatorade Gx Platform
Free glasses for the needy
President, North America, Wolff Olins
UNICEF Kid Power
Warby Parker, City of New York
Digital tool that lets apps link to each other
Water and soil monitoring for plants
Drool-worthy infotainment center for travelers
Incubator for women-focused businesses
Installation explaining the IoT
Founder, Pensole Footwear Design Academy
Judges recused themselves from deliberation on entries from companies where they are employed.
Design manager, Google
Director, Center of Integrated Design, University of Texas, Austin
Manager, IBM Cognitive Visualization Lab
Jason Mayden Designer, Accel
Partner, A(n) Office
Creative director, Aesop
Grace Farms Foundation and SANNA
Bluetooth navigation beacons for the blind
System for customized makeup tones
Gorgeous nexus for nonprofit collaboration
World Community Grid
Learning to Make
Hummingbird Bike Hummingbird
Approachable but chic showroom
Network for local manufacturing
Tru by Hilton
Want Les Essentiels
Charity: Water Sensor Project
Energy management for off-grid communities
Want Les Essentiels West 4th
Hilton reimagining the midrange hotel
Philanthropic crowdfunding service
Installation explaining the IoT FRCH Design
Boutique-hotel experience for millennials
Mapping and monitoring the crisis in Syria using YouTube
New in-flight experience
Inviting eyeglass shop
Creation Lab Installation turns soccer moves into art
Technology Will Save Us
Using spare computing power for scientific research
Online guides for DIY tech toys
Zipline Zipline International
Drone for medical supplies
Aza Raskin CEO, Other
Eric Rodenbeck CEO, Stamen
My UV Patch L’Oréal
Stretchy sensor that monitors UV rays
Open-source city mapping
Executive creative director, Huge
Ultralight folding bike Mapillary
Managing director, Snøhetta
Dr. Jordan Shlain Managing partner, Private Medical
Product design director, Facebook
Ricardo Viramontes Creative director, Lyft
October 2016 FastCompany.com 93
“We’re really good at delivering news faster than anyone else,” says Dorsey, foreground, with, from left, Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour, CFO Anthony Noto, CMO Leslie Berland, and COO Adam Bain.
FOR THE CHATTERING CLASSES—POLITICOS, CELEBRITIES, ATHLETES, AND MEDIA—TWEETING IS AS ESSENTIAL AS OXYGEN. CAN CEO JACK DORSEY’S BET ON LIVE VIDEO, INCLUDING THURSDAY NIGHT NFL GAMES, WOO THE MASSES?
By Harry McCracken PHOTOGRAPHS BY IOULEX
LIVE FROM TWITTER HQ
O N C E U P O N A T I M E , T H E R E WA S A N O C E A N
that surged with a billion and one stories. Every one was different, and they combined in unexpected ways to create new stories. Fishing one out of the torrent took patience, but could be enormously rewarding. This ocean is the subject of Salman Rushdie’s 1990 fantasy novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a book unfamiliar to me until Jack Dorsey spontaneously urged me to read it as we chatted in the Aviary, a secluded spot at Twitter’s expansive San Francisco 96 FastCompany.com October 2016
headquarters. “I think you’d really like it,” said the company’s cofounder and CEO, smiling intriguingly. “It reminds me of Twitter.” Once you read Rushdie’s fable about “a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity,” as I rushed to do, it’s obvious why Dorsey sees parallels between it and the service he helped launch in 2006. (Told of Dorsey’s affinity for his novel, Rushdie, who tweets prolifically about everything from politics to baseball for an audience of 1.2 million followers, says he’s “tickled” and is “happy to have been 16 years ahead of the game.”) In the book, the sea of stories is being poisoned by a bad guy who prefers silence to speech, and an intrepid lad must try to restore its splendor. Dorsey’s intrepid task? He must rekindle the promise of Twitter’s first several years, when the company aspired to be the first billion-user Internet service. Dorsey was famously fired as CEO in 2008, returned as executive chairman in 2011, and succeeded Dick Costolo as CEO last year. (He also launched the financial-services company Square and is still its CEO.) Now his role is widely, and uncharitably, seen as a rescue mission for an endangered institution. The company’s challenges are manifold. Since Twitter’s 2013 IPO, its stock price has halved. While Snapchat and Instagram have exploded in reach, Twitter has been unable to fix its intimidating learning curve that discourages new users. In its most recent quarter, it reported 313 million monthly active users, an uptick of only 3 million from the previous quarter. (Facebook, despite having more than five times as many users, added 60 million in the same period.) Revenue for the quarter and Twitter’s estimate for the next one fell short of analysts’ expectations. And the platform has been dogged by charges that it is a haven for hatemongers and other miscreants. That’s led some well-known users to flee and commentators to publish think pieces with apocalyptic titles like “The End of Twitter.” Yet for all the eagerness to write Twitter’s obituary, it remains a central piece of our cultural infrastructure. It’s where Donald Trump drives the election news cycle, Shonda Rhimes takes TV viewers behind the scenes of her many series, and Bill Gates shares infographics about progress in tackling the planet’s most
“This is not a pivot,” says CMO Berland of Twitter’s focus on live events. “This is who we’ve always been.”
important problems. Even seemingly mundane tweets are fodder for news stories (“Ellie Goulding Writes Mysterious Tweet After Getting Back in the Studio”) in a way that happens far less often elsewhere, Facebook included. Dorsey is pushing his company to turn that cultural relevance—a place where news is both conveyed and made on a moment-by-moment basis—into a growth engine. In late April, Twitter reclassified its iOS app on the App Store, moving it from social networking to the news category. This had the practical effect of vaulting the service out of Facebook’s shadow into a No. 1–in-its-group spot. But the move also signifies how Twitter is working to redefine itself. What Dorsey wants is to reset the game— or, more precisely, to stake out an entirely new one. Comparisons with Facebook have followed Twitter from its earliest days, rarely to its advantage. The results of this new framing could leave Twitter looking less like a social network that can never match Facebook’s scale than like a new kind of media company. Emphasizing news and commentary over networking, Twitter believes, dramatically
broadens its appeal. In surveys, nonusers told the company that they “felt that in order to really use Twitter, they had to be tweeting every day,” says chief marketing officer Leslie Berland, whom Dorsey recruited from American Express earlier this year. While devotees saw Twitter as an essential way to stay up on the news, those who weren’t active thought it was primarily another way to share stuff with friends and family. “Many of them said to us, ‘You know, I don’t have anything to say,’ ” Berland explains. “They come in thinking we’re a social network.” To fuel a shift in perception—among consumers, marketers, and investors—Dorsey, Berland, and COO Adam Bain are betting big on live video, exemplified by a high-profile investment in live-streaming NFL programming. Already, Twitter’s new focus, Dorsey says, “has been really emboldening, because now you can actually see it—it’s here, and now it’s here, and now it’s here, and now it’s here,” using his hand to mark off recent accomplishments on the edge of the table we’re sitting at. “And it’s getting better and better every single day.” Dressed in a white T-shirt and black jeans, the
bearded 39-year-old is preternaturally calm and thoughtful. That’s his normal demeanor, but it’s particularly striking given that our discussion of Twitter’s strategy is taking place less than an hour before he hosts an analyst call to discuss the company’s disappointing results. “Happy endings are much rarer in stories, and also in life, than most people think,” Rushdie cautions in his novel. “You could almost say they are the exceptions, not the rule.” It’s not surprising to reveal that the young protagonist in his story ultimately triumphs. Dorsey is writing Twitter’s next chapter right now—a kaleidoscopic quest featuring looming adversaries, bedeviling trolls, and artificial intelligence. And it all kicks off with football.
ĐĐ On April 5, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced, via his first tweet in 19 months, that Twitter had won the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games for the upcoming season. The news shocked the sportsmedia world. Speculation about likely partners centered around Amazon, Apple, Facebook,
UNDER THE INFLUENCE SIX VIBRANT COMMUNITIES ON TWITTER THAT DRIVE THE LARGER CONVERSATION
. Black Twitter
. Media Twitter
. NBA Twitter
A community of African-American writers, comedians, activists, and entertainers who advocate for social justice (e.g., #BlackLivesMatter) as well as lead the conversation around pop-culture icons like Beyoncé (#lemonadesyllabus)
A collective of journalists and editors that often features discussion and critique of other media people, sites, and articles
A gathering of pro hoops players, coaches, analysts, and fans who obsess over the draft, Golden State Warriors’ point guard Stephen Curry, and hidden messages in LeBron’s tweets
Must follow: Writer and activist Feminista Jones (@feministajones); actor and activist Jesse Williams (@iJesseWilliams) Trending topics: #OscarsSoWhite, a critique of the heavily white Oscar 2016 nominees that bubbled out of Black Twitter and onto the red carpet, leading the Academy to broaden the diversity of its voting members 98 FastCompany.com October 2016
Must follow: BuzzFeed Politics reporter Andrew Kacynzski (@BuzzFeedAndrew); The Cut writer and model/DJ Gabriella Paiella (@GMPaiella); New York Times Magazine editor Jazmine Hughes (@jazzedloon) Trending topics: #Longform, a hashtag created to showcase high-quality, heavily reported journalism from reputable outlets in an age where Internet readers are flooded with clickbait
Must follow: Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32); Goodwin Sports Management digital media marketer Nate Jones (@JonesontheNBA) Trending topics: #NBAfreeagency, a central location for critiques and rumors around the NBA’s free-agency players, like Kevin Durant’s summer move from the Oklahoma City Thunder to Golden State
Illustrations by Peter Hoey
Google, and Verizon. If Twitter wanted to make a bold statement about its streaming-video aspirations, it couldn’t have picked a better way to do it. “In traditional media, it’s a widely held view that the NFL created Fox Sports,” says John Ourand, media reporter for Sports Business Journal, citing how the then-fledgling Fox network used football rights to build a media empire. It’s also, Ourand adds, “a widely held view that the NFL created ESPN, [which] charges cable companies a ton more than any other channel. The fact it has [Monday Night Football] is a big reason.” The NFL deal marks a new evolution in Twitter’s impulse toward live events, which goes back to its earliest days. Back then, the service was, as one 2007 article snarked, “full of news flashes about which variety of latte a friend just ordered at Starbucks.” But some members were already using it to follow and discuss current events, and even hear from newsmakers such as
then–Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, one of the first Twitter celebs. That same year, MTV used Twitter to enhance its Movie Awards and Video Music Awards shows by enlisting stars to tweet during the events. As smartphones improved, Twitter looked
beyond 140-character chunks of text, acquiring Vine, a not-yet-launched, Instagram-esque way to capture and share videos in 2012. Even though Vine videos were (until recently) only six seconds long, they’ve been widely used to share compelling imagery of newsy events such as the 2013 suicide attack on the U.S. Embassy in Turkey. Periscope, a video-streaming platform that Twitter purchased in early 2015 (also shortly before it launched) is even more news-friendly, enabling users to broadcast high-quality live videos of any length from a smartphone in real time. It’s been increasingly integrated into the Twitter app, where live Periscope videos play inside tweets. Twitter’s move toward live streaming actually predates Dorsey’s return. In late 2014, then-CEO Costolo asked Bain and CFO Anthony Noto to formulate a plan for investing in content. When the National Football League announced an auction for the right to stream a single 2015 game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, Twitter was reportedly among the bidders.
. Politics Twitter
. Advertising Twitter
. Finance Twitter
A gaggle of lawmakers, pundits, journalists, Republicans, and Democrats who talk about the 2016 election and spark political movements like #BernieBro and #NeverTrump
A cast of agency creatives and execs, the marketers they serve, and the ad-obsessed who congregate to discuss controversial advertising decisions
A cache of investors, public-company executives, and obsessive stock watchers who talk money and how it moves in the world economy
Must follow: Political commentator and CEO Angela Rye (@angela_rye); writer and frequent Fox News contributor Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) Trending topics: #ImWithHer or #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, the rallying cries of two polarizing presidential nominees—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—used during an election where both have been unusually active on Twitter
Must follow: Consultant Cindy Gallop (@cindygallop); Tom Goodman, SVP of strategy and innovation at Havas Media (@tomfgoodwin) Trending topics: #KevinRoberts, as in the high-profile, now former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, who resigned in August after implying that the gender disparity in advertising was “over,” shining a light on what’s seen as the industry’s surfeit of out-of-touch white guys
Must follow: Kit Juckes, macro strategist at Societe Generale (@kitjuckes); Joseph A. Lavorgna, managing director and chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank (@Lavorgnanomics) Trending topics: #VIAB, or the ticker name for Viacom, whose up-and-down, seemingly never-ending stock-market soap opera has kept the financial enthusiasts on Twitter humming —Claire Dodson
TWITTER’S VIDEO STREAMS OF SPORTS AND OTHER LIVE E V ENTS COULD SOLV E M U LT I P L E P R O B L E M S AT O N C E .
October 2016 FastCompany.com 99
Twitter lost that auction to Yahoo, which paid $17 million and then delivered a resounding flop: Although Yahoo claimed 33.6 million views, analysts calculated that only 2.36 million actually watched, making it the least-seen game in NFL history. To those inside Twitter, the NFL’s one-game experiment confirmed the distinctive opportunity that they had. It was “the epiphany of ‘We can really own this,’ ” says Twitter’s Noto, who had been a star linebacker at West Point and the NFL’s finance chief from 2008 to 2010. “People are already talking about these games on Twitter,” he says. “They clearly are engaged in conversations with each other while they’re watching the game. How do we create an experience that leverages the great content conversations happening on Twitter with the actual content that they’re talking about?” Dorsey says that Twitter can give partners nies can’t. “We’re doing the thing that people have been doing for close to 10 years, which is: They watch a screen, and they tweet about it,” he says, motioning toward an imaginary, big HDTV and then cradling a phantom smartphone in his hands. “We’re bringing that into the same screen, and, most important, we’re making that mobile, so you can watch it anywhere.” “We really ended up with Twitter because we thought it gave us a great opportunity for incremental audience reach and mobile reach,” says Brian Rolapp, executive VP of media for the NFL, which awarded these games to Twitter even though it wasn’t the highest bidder. “We have data that says seven of 10 of our fans have a second screen open [while watching games]. They’re texting, they’re playing fantasy, they’re on Twitter.” If superfans aren’t at home to watch a broadcast, the league would much prefer that they watch and cheer in the Twitter app than do something other than think about football. Twitter won’t confirm what it paid for its NFL rights, but it reportedly ended up plunking down between $10 million and $15 million to stream 10 Thursday night games during the 2016 season. That’s less than what Yahoo paid for a single game and a pittance compared to the $45 million per game that CBS and NBC are paying to air the same slate of Thursday night games. Twitter isn’t the exclusive outlet for the content, but the exclusive experience it’s offering has found some quick traction. Long before its first (Continued on page 122) 100 FastCompany.com October 2016
PEERING INTO PERISCOPE HOW KAYVON BEYKPOUR’S LIVE-STREAMING APP FITS INTO TWITTER WHILE ALSO BEING ITS OWN THING
If you’re not paying careful attention, you might think that Periscope is a live-broadcasting capability within Twitter, akin to Facebook’s Live Video, an offering that is said to occupy an outsize percentage of Mark Zuckerberg’s attention these days. Periscope videos, after all, appear seamlessly inside tweets. And each time you compose a tweet, there’s a “Live” button tempting you to broadcast rather than type. But Periscope is no mere feature. Like Facebook’s Instagram, it’s also an app unto itself, with its own community. That duality also exists behind the scenes, where Periscope is run by cofounder and CEO Kayvon Beykpour, who has a 54-person team and the freedom to shape the service’s destiny while piggybacking on Twitter resources such as the Cortex artificial-intelligence group. He’s also a member of
Twitter’s executive team, giving him influence over the company’s overall direction. By investing both in high-end, must-see programming such as NFL games and Periscope’s democratized approach to streaming, Twitter is covering the whole spectrum of live events. “They’re really part of the same mission,” Beykpour explains. “You can experience something live with other people and have a conversation around it in a way that makes the content more compelling.” On Periscope as on Twitter, those conversations can be ruined by abusive users. “If you’re broadcasting and someone says something negative, it’s almost too late, because you’ve experienced it already,” says Beykpour. Periscope recently fought back against the trolls with a new feature that creates mini-juries of users and lets them
vote, on the fly, on whether a comment is offensive. The tactic has helped—and its deeply Periscopey feel makes it unexpectedly engaging. So far, Periscope seems to be flourishing. In the first year after its March 2015 debut, Periscope racked up 200 million total broadcasts and reached an average of 110 years’ worth of video watched per day. Like tweets before them, Periscopes are becoming part of the culture—even showing up on television newscasts, where anchors have been known to be flummoxed by the hearts that bobble up as viewers like a video. Periscope’s personable nature, even when combating miscreants, helps explain why it has caught on in a way that earlier live-streaming apps did not. “It’s scary to be live,” says Beykpour. “It’s our responsibility to make it feel as frictionless and as notscary as possible.” —HM
“Our mission has always been to help people see the world in real time,” says Periscope CEO Beykpour.
EMERGING POWER PLAYERS ARE REDEFINING NOT JUST HOW CLOTHES ARE BEING DESIGNED, MADE, SOLD, AND CONSUMEDâ€”BUT ALSO WHERE AND WHEN. By Missy Schwartz
JP Yim/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3
T H E R U N WAY RENEGADE
Kanye West CEO, Yeezy
For most of the past decade, the Grammywinning rapper struggled to prove himself as a clothing designer, promising a debut line, Pastelle, that never materialized, and getting critically eviscerated for one that did: 2011’s womenswear collection DW Kanye West. It wasn’t
until his 2013 deal with Adidas (worth a reported $10 million) that the man who often compares himself to God finally elbowed his way into fashion’s promised land, via his Yeezy label. The collaboration has yielded the hugely successful Yeezy Boost sneakers and boots, which launched in 2015 and have consistently sold out within minutes (and often turn up on eBay for thousands of dollars). Despite receiving frosty reviews, the first two Yeezy ready-to-wear clothing
lines have boasted high sell-through rates at Barneys and other premium retailers. But West’s real ingenuity is being able to rattle the system from within. Last February, he unveiled Yeezy Season 3 with a presentation at Madison Square Garden that doubled as a preview of his latest album, The Life of Pablo. It was live-streamed into 700 movie theaters globally and later viewed by 20 million people on Jay Z’s Tidal platform. There were jumbotrons and merchandise booths, and for
the first time in New York Fashion Week history, the general public could purchase tickets to a show. In its outsize Kanye-ness, its ambition and unabashed commercialism, the event upended the elitist nature of 70 years of runway shows. And still, the industry’s gatekeepers attended, as if tacitly acknowledging that this may be where fashion is headed. Vogue editor Anna Wintour indicated her approval by sitting not with her colleagues but with West’s wife, Kim Kardashian.
Models take the stage during Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 show at Madison Square Garden last February.
T H E C U LT I VAT O R
Alexa Chung Creative director, Alexachung
Ezra Petronio/Art Partner
British model and TV host Alexa Chung has been a global trendsetter for a decade, her unique look— clean lines, layers, feminine riffs on menswear—setting off such recent crazes as Peter Pan collars and brogue shoes. Her style savvy has attracted 2.3 million Instagram followers, and last year she helped relaunch the networking and shopping app Villoid. So, when Chung announced in July that she was starting her own high-end readyto-wear brand called Alexachung (backed by an anonymous British entity), the industry took note, and probably groaned with envy. After all, fashion
companies worldwide assign entire divisions to cultivating the kind of passionate social media followings Chung has built organically—and can mobilize instantly. The $1,000 Alexa handbag that she inspired Mulberry to create in 2009, for example, was so in-demand that the company reported an earnings surge of 79%. The following year, her collaboration with the J.Crew spinoff Madewell sold out in just days; she returned for an encore. Two 2015 denim forays with AG Jeans were equally successful, as was a vintagethemed womenswear line for Marks & Spencer. If her fans respond to the debut of Alexachung next May with even half their traditional enthusiasm, it will cement Chung’s status as a leading force in millennial-driven fashion.
October 2016 FastCompany.com 105
THE GAME CHANGER
Tom Ford President and CEO, Tom Ford
Art + Commerce
Even for Tom Ford, the move was bold. In February, less than two weeks before he was scheduled to unveil his fall men’s and women’s collections at New York Fashion Week, he canceled. The designer and CEO of a privately held luxury empire with $1 billion in sales announced that he was breaking with the tradition of showing new lines five months before they go on sale. Instead, he would adopt a “see now/buy now” model and present those fall collections in September, as the garments hit stores. The news came just
hours after Burberry declared similar plans and soon other influential labels, including Vetements (see page 108) followed, sending shock waves through the fashion world. With this customer-first approach, Ford capitalizes on today’s social-mediadriven reality, where influential consumers can Snapchat their hot new Tom Ford stilettos and directly boost sales. It’s the latest move in a forwardthinking career: In the ’90s he transformed a fusty, nearly bankrupt Gucci into a vital brand now valued at $12 billion, and last fall he debuted his new collection not with a runway show but a music video starring Lady Gaga. “I can do what I want,” he said recently. Including test the boundaries of an entire industry.
106 FastCompany.com October 2016
Kevin Tachman/Trunk Archive
A hoodie featured in Vetementsâ€™ Paris show last spring bears a quote from a 1994 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210.
Demna and Guram Gvasalia Head designer, CEO, Vetements
In January, the Parisbased design collective Vetements, known for its cheeky, luxe streetwear,
made viral tidal waves with a hot-selling $330 yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of the courier company DHL. Warholian stunt? Inspired antifashion commentary? Even critics weren’t sure. What was certain was that Georgiaborn head designer Demna Gvasalia and his CEO brother, Guram, had become trendsetters even
within the trendsetting business. (Demna, a Louis Vuitton vet, is also the creative director at Balenciaga.) During couture week last June, Vetements, which simply means “clothing” in French, debuted its spring 2017 collection— an audacious collaboration with 18 different brands, from workwear staple Carhartt to Comme des
Garçons—that exploded the very notion of a difference between high and low fashion. On the retail side, the brothers recently joined the incipient movement to make collections available for sale within days of a runway show, hoping not only to reach more customers more quickly, but to put a dent in fast-fashion knockoffs.
October 2016 FastCompany.com 109
STYLE REVOLUTION Jamie and Lyndon Cormack, cofounders of Herschel Supply Co.
Created in Collaboration with INFINITI
Using advanced fabrics and the latest mobile technology, these innovators are turning the fashion world upside down. By FastCo.Works
Kate Unsworth, cofounder of Vinaya
Photographs by Trevor Brady (Herschel) and Trevor Paulhaus (Mizzen+Main)
Kevin Lavelle, founder of Mizzen+Main
Herschel cofounders and managing directors Jamie and Lyndon Cormack at the companyâ€™s Vancouver headquarters
Photograph by Grant Harder
Created in Collaboration with INFINITI
MAGIC FABRICS Lyndon and Jamie Cormack, cofounders of Herschel Supply Co., have begun weaving innovation into their classic bags. With its nostalgia-inspired, casual luxury backpacks, Herschel Supply Co. isn’t the first brand you associate with innovation. But brothers Lyndon, 40, and Jamie Cormack, 42, who cofounded the Vancouver-based company in 2009, are counting on two sleek new product lines to change that perception. SealTech is a lightweight, water-resistant, and self-healing fabric; a double-sided coating enables the material to actually reseal itself from small tears with the heat of your hand. And ApexKnit, a high-density knit, reduces waste and weight by eliminating seams—patterns and gradients are woven into a product, instead of printed or dyed.
How did the creative process compare to that of your first bags? JC: We’re more educated. Rather than looking at 40 different bags, we’re looking at one technology. It’s about becoming more of a specialist. Having one goal in mind: to perfect something. There were so many times when our sales team would say, “It’s good enough! Let’s bring it to market.” And we kept saying, “No, we need to do this right.” So it’s having the patience to do that and fight those battles, even internally. To take the time to trademark this fabric globally. To make sure we put ourselves in the ready position. That takes a long time.
You’ve turned to technology to give you an edge, but the availability of tech in apparel attracts more competitors. How do you stay ahead? Jamie Cormack: It’s all we talk about. There are new materials every season. To look five years out is crazy. It’s all going to change. Our director of innovation is focused on everything: from the way a trolley pulls out of hard-shell luggage to the way our TSA lock snaps into place. The way a computer slides into a computer sleeve. A water bottle pocket. Fabrics, meshes. Every single component of every single bag. Innovation is making sure that the form and the function are perfect.
Where do you look for inspiration? LC: We’re looking outside our industry, looking at athletics and fashion and figuring out how to take the ideas that we love and think are really cool and make them work for us. JC: With SealTech, we were just trying to find a fabric that could last a lifetime. The first time I saw it was on really expensive tent covers, and I thought, How can we get it into a bag? We took the coating and double-coated our fabric, on both sides. It’s softer, it feels nice in hand, and it doesn’t crease or wrinkle. And then from a technical standpoint, it’s water-resistant, and it reseals itself. I love that innovation. You’re telling a story with the fabric but in a simple silhouette.
What’s different about the new fabrics? JC: ApexKnit is a jacquard, which is a knit that can be woven into What’s hard about launching new products with advancements a particular shape. You’ve seen it like this? LC: ApexKnit costs more. So what before in footwear and apparel, but we will need to do is find the hybrid never before in the bag space. Lyndon Cormack: The average backof new technology and our classic pack has 30 pieces. Our ApexKnit products at an achievable price. backpack is only four. It has this Make rad items that customers can streamlined styling because we are afford. using more of an architectural process rather than cutting and sewWhich is more important right now, ing pieces together. Most apparel, innovation or design? including our own, is a cut-and-sew JC: Innovation and design are the product. But with ApexKnit, it came same thing to us. It has to be designout better than we could have exdriven, but it also needs to be innopected. It wasn’t just about adding vative. If we’re doing the same thing new features. ApexKnit allowed us we did yesterday, then we’re done. to deliver a product that is literally We’d be bored. It’s really about being ApexKnit bags are made of a high-tech fabric laced with innovation. more progressive. that reduces seams and enables new designs.
Vinaya CEO Kate Unsworth believes in designing with empathy. The result is elegant devices that promote mental well-being.
Created in Collaboration with INFINITI
DESIGNER WEARABLES Kate Unsworth, the cofounder of Vinaya, is creating smart, jewelry-like devices that are as high-end as they are high-tech. London-based Vinaya is dedicated to creating what cofounder Kate Unsworth, a 28-year-old musician and former tech management consultant, calls “conscious technology for the mindful generation.” The design firm’s chic wearables fit right in at luxury and fashion-forward retailers. Two more buzzed-about products are due to launch next year: AltruisX, a collection of rings, necklaces, and bracelets that filter mobile alerts and track smartphone usage, and Zenta, a “biometric” wearable that monitors the user’s physical and emotional well-being. And several designer collaborations are in the works.
How do technology and design work together at your company? If you were to pull apart our stones and put our circuit board next to those of our competitors, it’s like a work of art. Everything—down to the color of the board and where the logo is placed—is aesthetically thought through. It’s something we can’t help but do. Making a circuit board, which consumers can’t even see, a thing of beauty? Now that’s a design statement. How do you pull that off? In product development, the engineers usually develop the features and pull the electronics together that make the most sense to save power. And then they hand it over to the industrial designers. We saw a flaw in that. The engineers tend to be male so they don’t always understand this consumer. They’re not jewelry wearers. From day one, everyone at Vinaya sits side by side in the same room— which is much easier when you’re a small startup than if you’re Apple or Google—and says, “This is what the consumer is asking for. It needs to be this type of form factor.” And the product designers will say, “Well, how about this?” And the engineers or hardware guys will say, “It can’t be done, but how about this?” It’s a back and forth, day in and day out. Wearables are notorious for their drop-off rates. How do you get people to keep wearing yours? Our products improve the more that you use them, so you’re incentivized
to keep wearing them. If you were to just use it for two months, you’d get fairly accurate results on your well-being, lifestyle, and stress, and how you can better manage that. But if you wear it for six months, we’d help you in even smarter ways. It’s an exponential curve. What inspired you to start Vinaya? I was working as a management consultant in technology, and I became completely attached to my phone. I checked it hundreds of times a day. As I like to say, I’d become a “human doing,” as opposed to a human being. It was affecting my relationships. I also realized that every time I felt a negative emotion, like fear or stress or sadness, I would just distract myself with my phone. I wasn’t actually processing my emotions or dealing with them. So I went offline for two or three weeks. What happened? My whole perspective changed. I thought, I don’t want to live in a world where technology detracts from our ability to be human. And I realized the values and metrics that drive technology creation are things like efficiency, productivity, power, profit. It’s rarely things like empathy. So Vinaya started as a plea to product designers to bear in mind how their products were going to impact humanity. We are designed by that which we design. The fact that the smartphone is not just changing our behavior but actually rewiring our brain—that affects future generations because we pass that on in our DNA.
The Bluetooth-enabled Altruis emits subtle vibrations for important notifications.
What a grand mission, especially for a startup. As you look ahead, what are the main challenges for Vinaya? It’s going to be keeping up with the pace of innovation in this space. We’ve been good at it so far, but it’s still early. We’re already thinking two generations ahead of what’s on the market today and where wearables will be in five years. This industry moves so fast and we’re on a steep, steep, steep curve.
Created in Collaboration with INFINITI
TWO-WAY PLAYER Kevin Lavelle, the founder of Mizzen+Main, is outmaneuvering industry giants with “luxury performance” apparel.
Mizzen+Main, a four-year-old startup in Dallas, features high-tech men’s apparel that combines the comfort and flexibility of athletic wear with the fit and elegance of custom suiting. It’s a new category of fashion, a hybrid that 30-year-old founder and CEO Kevin Lavelle calls “luxury performance.” The snappy, proprietary fabrics, which are wrinkle-resistant, machine-washable, and moisture-wicking, are proving a draw not just for professionals but also pro athletes (Mizzen+Main has dozens of organic endorsements). Where did the idea for a “performance dress shirt” come from? About a decade ago, when performance fabrics were becoming mainstream, I watched a guy in a dress shirt soaked in sweat run into an office building, and I wondered, Why couldn’t you make a dress shirt out of performance fabrics? At the time, I knew nothing about design or textile manufacturing. I did my due diligence and then spent about a year in product development. When did you realize you had something that could actually work? The day I got the first prototype, I wore it home, and my wife didn’t notice that I wasn’t wearing a traditional dress shirt. If she couldn’t tell, I realized I could probably make something happen on a larger scale.
How much consumer education is required since this is a new kind of shirt? Early on, we put a fair bit of effort into explaining the basic concept. But when it comes to dressing up or wearing suits, guys don’t really want to think about the technology in their fabrics. They want to know, “Do I look good? Do I feel good?” And Nike, Under Armour, Lululemon, Reebok, and Adidas have explained how performance fabrics work. Speaking of apparel giants, how do you protect your niche? I don’t see a company like Under Armour or Nike or another sports brand moving effectively into traditional menswear because guys
CEO Kevin Lavelle sporting a Mizzen+Main performance dress shirt
going into a business meeting or to a wedding probably aren’t going to wear a sports logo on their dress shirt or on their chinos. With Mizzen+Main, I’m saying performance-fabric dress shirts are leaps and bounds better than cotton, and that there’s no reason to wear cotton dress shirts anymore. You can’t say that if you’re Brooks Brothers or Peter Millar, because you have a $100 million or billion-dollar business that is cotton. We live between the world’s biggest sports apparel companies and the world’s great apparel companies. Both industries left this wide-open space between them. We created the category and have grown 400% to 500% every year.
FastCo.Works is Fast Company’s content studio. These stories were created with and commissioned by INFINITI.
How do you incorporate technology into an apparel startup? We’re incorporating advancements into manufacturing and materials. We look at the fabric, at what fibers we use, and how inherently stretchy, moisture-wicking, and wrinkle-resistant we can make them. We’ve invested years to make our cuffs and collars better and our fabrics more breathable and more structured while still having more stretch.
A dress from van Herpen’s “Lucid” collection, shown in March, evokes a bubblelike exoskeleton.
T H E M AT E R I A L I S T
Iris van Herpen Designer
Since her student days, Dutch designer Iris van Herpen has embraced cutting-edge technology to invent bold new materials that blow past existing notions of “fabric.” She pioneered the use of 3-D printing in fashion, and, in 2015, employed it to create a ready-to-wear collection made from materials including metal powder, rubber, and magnets. At her Paris show this past July, she debuted an ethereal dress made
of thousands of handblown glass balls. Drawing inspiration from art, philosophy, and science, van Herpen operates at the height of high concept (that 2015 line was influenced by the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland), which keeps the industry enthralled. Clients include Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton, and kindred spirit Björk, for whom van Herpen fashioned a “snake dress” made from shiny acrylic tubes. As the fashion world tries to figure out the future, van Herpen is already there: She can’t wait to get her hands on a material being developed by the U.S. military that uses mirrors to simulate invisibility.
120 FastCompany.com October 2016
Victor Boyko/Getty Images
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Twitter (Continued from page 100)
live-stream—Jets versus Bills on September 15—top-tier marketers including AnheuserBusch, Ford, Nestlé, Sony Pictures, and Verizon had signed on as sponsors.
ĐĐ Twitter warmed up for the NFL season this past summer by streaming events such as Wimbledon and the Republican and Democratic conventions. In early August, I caught its coverage of the red-carpet premiere of Warner Brothers’ Suicide Squad, hosted by a couple of bespectacled BuzzFeed reporters hyperventilating with anticipation over the comic-book supervillain team-up and its stars. Below the video window, a feed of tweets from everyday Twitter users alternately shared the BuzzFeed guys’ excitement and mocked their exuberant nerdiness. Twitter used real estate in users’ feeds to deliver an audience to the stream, and a tweet from Jared Leto (who plays the Joker in the film) helped the premiere become a top trending topic on the entire service. The whole thing was a goofy, good-natured dry run for more meaningful streams to come, and it showcases Twitter’s unique power to turn an event into a conversation. Twitter’s streaming experience can be enjoyed without having to learn any of the platform’s typical arcana. You don’t need to figure out whom to follow, how to use hashtags, or what to tweet about. You can even partake if you’re not logged in or don’t have an account at all. In short, it’s Twitter on training wheels—perfect for potential users who are intimidated by the classic Twitter timeline. If everything goes according to plan, Twitter’s live video streams could solve multiple problems for the company—by giving users, advertisers, and content partners reason to look at the service in a fresh way. “If you think about the 313 million people who use Twitter, there’s at least another 313 million like-minded people who just happen to not use Twitter because they either tried it and didn’t get it, or they tried it with the wrong intentions,” says Joel Lunenfeld, the company’s VP of brand strategy, who spent years helping brands market themselves on Twitter before shifting his focus to helping Twitter market itself. To reintroduce Twitter to nonusers—and those who have given the service a try in the past but lost interest—CMO Berland launched a new branding campaign in late July. One digital ad 122 FastCompany.com October 2016
shows an amalgam of imagery: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage; a Black Lives Matter march; Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda; the Cleveland Cavaliers; and an obsessive Pokémon Go player trampling over the hoods of several cars. It ends with a new, newsy tagline—“It’s What’s Happening”— and a flurry of bright colors meant to better evoke the service’s personality than its official shade of blue, Pantone 2382 C. The ads do an uncommonly coherent job of explaining why the uninitiated would want to try Twitter, a feat that has often eluded the company in the past. “The goal of that campaign, and this is just a start, is to clearly define Twitter,” says Dorsey. “You may have come in here assuming you’re going to see baby pictures from your friends. What you’re going to see is what’s happening in sports and politics and the world around you.”
ĐĐ Other sports leagues took note of Twitter’s NFL deal and began envisioning their own contests streaming live on Twitter. Twitter suddenly had a roster of premium events to set itself apart from rivals, attract new users, and engage current ones. In a rapid-fire series of announcements in June and July, the company unveiled agreements to broadcast MLB and NHL games in their entirety, plus live highlights of English
EACH TIME TWITTER’S STOCK PRICE DROPS, THE NOTION RESURFACES THAT SOME TECH OR MEDIA GIANT MIGHT SNAP IT UP AT A LOWBALL PRICE.
Premier League soccer and original programming produced by the NBA. It will also carry news programming from Bloomberg. For now, Noto says, the company is focusing on DVRresistant live events rather than scripted programming such as sitcoms. Twitter is hardly the only digital company targeting premium streaming video. Unlike
Facebook and Snapchat, though, Twitter has a now decade-long, good track record working with traditional media companies, sports leagues, and brands. “We’re bidding against people with deeper pockets, but we’re still winning the deals,” says Ross Hoffman, VP of global media partners. “There are many instances where we’re the right partner.” “Twitter has a unique ability to bridge digital media and TV,” says analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research. The company “can legitimately compete for TV budgets. Not [digital] video budgets, but budgets that would go to premium television.” The NFL-on-Twitter ad experience will be familiar in many respects, with commercial breaks right where they’d be on a network broadcast. That appeals to marketers who now expect their digital advertising to be seen by prospective customers and are no longer smitten with the novelty of retweets. “The idea of putting something out there and praying it goes viral is really past us,” says Greg Hahn, chief creative officer at advertising giant BBDO. “You have to be strategic. If [Twitter is] live-streaming Thursday Night Football, that guarantees you some eyeballs. If you can guarantee a specific audience at certain times, then that becomes the new prime time.” Video has been integral to how Twitter makes money since 2013, when the company introduced an ad product called Amplify that lets marketers sponsor brief video clips. (The NFL, to cite one example, has been a significant Amplify client.) Today, the majority of Twitter’s revenue comes from video ads rather than textoriented ones. “The response rate is higher for those video ads, and [users’] feeling for Twitter goes up as well,” says COO Bain, who was a leading candidate to become Twitter’s CEO before Dorsey made his comeback. Unlike traditional network TV, Twitter can target users based on cues from their tweets. “If somebody is talking about being in the market for a car, we can help bring relevance there” by showing an automobile ad, says Bain. “If people are tweeting about going to the gym, there’s a whole set of athletic brands that want to be relevant in that moment.”
ĐĐ Twitter’s live video initiative, as significant as it may be, won’t displace the core experience of perusing tweets in a timeline anytime soon. And for many beginners, the service remains stubbornly impenetrable. Newcomers enticed by Twitter’s ad campaign could well lose interest before they understand what Twitter is trying to do for them. Dorsey himself can sound like a critic carping from the sidelines when he assesses the current state of Twitter. “Right now, you have to do a lot of work up front to build a great timeline,” he says. “And then you have to do a lot of work to dig through it, to find the most meaningful stuff.” Which doesn’t mean progress hasn’t been made. The effort to create a compelling live
experience has refocused the company’s productdevelopment efforts. As its streaming plans took shape, the service itself has become more intuitive and welcoming. In February, Twitter announced plans to finally start using algorithms to push the most relevant tweets to the top of users’ reverse-chronological timelines. (Change-phobic Twitter devotees flooded the service with the hashtag #RIPTwitter, though in the first couple of months, only 2% of users chose to switch the function off once it was implemented.) For the Rio Olympics, the company upgraded Moments—the Twitter-powered news section that debuted last October—by letting users follow a particular country, sport, or event, and have relevant tweets automatically pushed into their timelines. Another major undertaking involves deploying artificial intelligence to help make sense of the hundreds of millions of tweets that get posted each day, along with photos and videos. For most of its history, Twitter was not exactly a hotbed of AI talent, but in mid-2014, the company acquired Madbits, a startup that built technologies to help sift through giant repositories of images. Its staff became the foundation of Cortex, the team of AI specialists inside Twitter whose goal is to smarten up every aspect of Twitter’s services. Today, Cortex is being used to weave pieces of content together in brand-new ways. “In the case of a sporting event, there’s some expert commentary that you’re probably interested in, but you don’t want it to be only that,” says VP of engineering Jeremy Rishel. “If 100 people cheer, you want to know that, but you don’t want to read a hundred [versions] of the same tweet.” One of the early beneficiaries of Cortex’s work can be seen in Periscope. Engineers created a feature called Highlights that automatically stitches together mini-trailers for every video. “They were born from a very simple realization that [our] average broadcast is seven minutes,” says Periscope cofounder and CEO Kayvon Beykpour. “If I have 20 broadcasts in my feed, am I really going to watch 140 minutes of video to catch up on what happened? Probably not.” In June, Twitter paid a reported $150 million to acquire Magic Pony Technology, an excellently named London-based startup, and folded it into Cortex. Its algorithms, which Twitter plans to adopt for both Periscope and major-event video streams, analyze imagery to improve how a video looks, filling in detail that might otherwise get lost. “While you’re traveling home on the train, where you might have a spotty network, you can still see something with a look and feel that’s HDlike,” promises Dorsey. 124 FastCompany.com October 2016
Strategic use of AI could also play a role in helping Twitter address its most notorious, seemingly intractable problem: users who engage, often anonymously, in misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of hate speech. It’s not that the company has done nothing to foil them; it’s just that the trolls often seem to be a step ahead. Recently, Dorsey says, “we’ve seen a trend— not just on Twitter, but on the Internet more broadly, and in the world—of really targeted harassment and abuse.” In July, when Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones was the subject of such a campaign and announced she’d be leaving Twitter, Dorsey personally stepped in and, in a tweet, asked Jones to contact him. The ringleader, conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos, ended up being permanently banned from the service, and Jones returned. As an open network that doesn’t enforce the use of real identities, Twitter can’t eliminate ha-
FOR ALL THE EAGERNESS TO WRITE TWITTER’S O B I T U A R Y, I T REMAINS A CENTRAL PIECE OF O U R C U LT U R A L INFRASTRUCTURE. rassment altogether. Truthfully, Dorsey seems more interested in helping users shield themselves from abuse than wiping all offensive content off the platform. “We want to make sure that people feel safe to express themselves freely, and for us that means that we’re providing really crisp and clear tools so that people can report, and people can mute, and people can block,” he says. “But at the same time, if people want to, they can see everything.” In this spirit, the company recently introduced options that let users hide notifications for people they don’t follow as well as “lower quality” tweets. “Twitter has made some progress with regards to safety, but has a long way to go,” says DeRay McKesson, the civil rights activist who has used Twitter to chronicle and organize protests seeking justice for unarmed African Americans killed by police. McKesson, who befriended
Dorsey when they both marched in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, and remains a prominent Friend of Jack, has 536,000 followers but has manually blocked 19,000 other users. Ultimately, he says, Twitter’s value outweighs the hassle. “There are some days that are easier than others,” he allows, “and there are no easy answers.”
ĐĐ One day in mid-August, a bizarre rumor takes off on Twitter: The service itself is going to shut down in 2017. The company is compelled to issue a denial, and worried fans tag 100,000 mournful tweets #SaveTwitter. It’s hardly the first Twitterborne death hoax. (Just ask Robert Redford, Paul McCartney, or Cher.) Still, the fact that it surfaced at all is evidence that many people perceive the company’s condition as fragile. Even in a worst-case scenario, the threats to Twitter’s well-being are not remotely existential. The company has $3.6 billion in cash (and equivalents). It makes about $24 per U.S. user annually, and in its second quarter, it generated $175 million in earnings before interest, taxes, and depreciation, up 45% from a year earlier. That said, unless the company proves it can grow, its universe is destined to shrink.“I’m still bullish that there’s a need for a product that, when you pop it open, tells you what’s going on in your world,” says Josh Elman, who was an executive at Twitter from 2009 to 2011, and is now a venture capitalist. That service, he believes, is “a billionuser product. Will Twitter the company get its exact product to do that? That’s a good question. It’s harder to reignite momentum than it is to keep fanning the flames.” Each time Twitter’s stock price drops, the notion resurfaces that some tech or media giant might snap it up at a lowball price. Google and Facebook, both of which once coveted the company, have probably long since moved on, but perhaps an old-school player such as AT&T could make a run at it. Another theory has the company going private: In early August, speculation centered on a rumor that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who together reportedly control close to 10% of Twitter stock, might team up to buy it outright. Twitter would prefer to create a future for itself that inspires confidence on Wall Street, thereby driving its stock higher, warding off bargain hunters, and preserving its independence. That, ultimately, is what its new focus on news and live video is all about. As Dorsey and I wrap up one of our conversations, I lob him a question about his long-range vision—the sort that most tech CEOs are only too happy to tackle. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked when he throws it back in my face. “I think the present is so much more interesting,” he says, politely but insistently. And for Twitter, it is. This company has so much at stake right now that the future isn’t some far-off destination. It’s what’s happening. email@example.com
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Brainstorm, Innovate and Create
10 GADGET FLOPS WE CAN LEARN FROM These products didn’t connect, but they paved the way for tech we now take for granted. By Dan Tynan Illustration by Markus Magnusson
IBM PCjr 1984
Quickly discontinued due to pokey performance, the first offspring of the IBM PC had an infamous, almost unusable keyboard and was incompatible with some software written for the original PC.
Sony HDD Walkman 2004
Redeeming factor: The wireless keyboard connection was years ahead of its time.
AT&T Videophone 2500 1992
Nintendo Virtual Boy 1995
This little dingus used standard landlines to transmit jittery images of your loved ones at a painfully slow 10 frames per second. The cost? A cool $1,500. Redeeming factor: Today, video chat is commonplace (and free!) with Skype, Facetime, and other now-familiar apps. The portable 3-D game console displayed only two colors (red and black) and required users to lean into a stereoscopic display supported by short stilts. Dizziness and nausea soon followed.
Motorola Rokr E1 Apple iTunes phone 2005
HP TouchPad 2011
Redeeming factor: Nintendo had the right idea. Twenty years later, virtual reality would make a big comeback with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. A box that brought the Internet to your TV. But viewing low-res web pages on a cathode-ray TV using a dial-up modem and a clunky remote was less appealing than a Nash Bridges rerun. Redeeming factor: It helped convince tech companies that TV on the web was smarter than the web on TV.
Redeeming factor: The concept was solid, and all of SPOT’s features are now standard on smartwatches. The digital-music player required users to convert MP3s to Sony’s native ATRAC format using the cumbersome Connect online store. Redeeming factor: Its failure helped persuade Sony to ditch its proprietary media format, helping rid the world of user-unfriendly digitalrights-management schemes. Finally, a much-awaited pairing of an iPod with a cell phone. But this Motorola–Apple collaboration had a stingy 100-song limit and no way to download tunes wirelessly, making it more frustrating than futuristic. Redeeming factor: It pointed the way toward the iPhone. HP’s first tablet ran WebOS, the operating system behind the much-loved Palm Pilot PDA. That’s all it had going for it. Buggy, slow, and lacking apps, it was dead in less than three months. Redeeming factor: Its visual metaphor of displaying info and apps as “cards” is today used by Google Now’s and Apple’s operating systems.
Google Nexus Q 2012
The big flaw with this media-streaming device: It could only access content from the Google Play Store or YouTube. It also cost way more than earlier-to-market players Roku and Apple TV. Redeeming factor: It served as a precursor to Google’s Chromecast, a far cheaper and more versatile streaming gadget that remains popular.
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128 FastCompany.com October 2016
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Redeeming factor: Many Lisa features resurfaced with the more affordable and successful Macintosh.
Microsoft SPOT watch
Eleven years before Apple Watch, it could display messages, stock prices, and weather reports on your wrist. But its bulky housing, tiny screen, and short battery life drove SPOT to the pound.
The first personal computer with a windowsand-icons-style graphical user interface, Steve Jobs’s visionary Lisa had one disastrous flaw: a staggering $10,000 retail price.
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M8 NS 5% POSTCO
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