We live in the future. Cars drive themselves. Computers beat humans at Go. Voice assistants aren’t just here; they’re 50% off on Amazon. We can put digital holograms into meat space and our fleshy bodies into software. We can even bring the late ’80s Michael J. Fox into the modern era. That’s real life time travel!

More and more, computation feels boundless. Ultimately, though, it’s the ways we interact with computers that ensure we can enjoy those technological advancements. It’s also design’s role to mitigate, or provoke, the ensuing risks. The best interactive projects of 2019 include ergonomic breakthroughs in VR, artificial intelligence that serves as a check on data-guzzling corporations, and one very hilarious website to buy a purse.

Q genderless AI

[Image: Virtue]

Ask a room full of designers why voice assistants are women by default, and you’ll get some nervous giggles that bury hard truths. (I know because I’ve done it!) But as society has come to recognize gender as a spectrum, it’s absurd to talk about male or female assistants at all. Q is the world’s first genderless AI, sampled from the speech of many nonbinary people, averaged together into one voice. And Q just makes a whole lot of design sense, too, given that computers have no conception of gender in the first place, so why should we ascribe it? [Link]

Virtual reality for everyone

[Photo: Oculus]

Facebook may have cost us our democracy, but at least it brought us the first, truly usable, self-contained virtual reality system that requires no wires or external cameras. The Oculus Quest, which launched this year for $400, is the iPod of VR. That’s because it solves not one but half a dozen huge shortcomings with virtual reality’s core interface—and most practically, how you can blindfold someone with a VR headset but ensure they don’t punch through a wall. [Link]

A privacy assistant for your voice assistant

[Image: courtesy Alias]

Our voice assistants, like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo, are always listening. Technically, they’re supposed to only perk up and begin to eavesdrop with a “wake word,” but to hear that word, they have to be listening all the time! Project Alias is an open source piece of hardware/software that can literally stick onto a voice assistant and deafen it with white noise. Only when you tell it the wake word (and since Alias never connects to the cloud itself, it’s never sharing anything private you say) does it allow Google or Amazon to hear you. Alias could be a precursor to a whole new UX layer that’s built to protect us from big corporations. [Link]

Gleeful shopping

[Screenshot: courtesy Man Repeller]

Online shopping tends to be about the goods rather than the experience. But Repeller, an experimental store by the fashion blog Man Repeller, is quite the experience. It’s an unpredictably zany, fun, and net-artsy take on buying apparel and accessories. Put it this way: When is the last time Amazon created a custom Mad Libs? Repeller teases a wave of ecommerce that could be about the journey of shopping rather than the destination. [Link]

A phone with flesh

[Photo: courtesy Marc Teyssier]

Stroke. Tickle. Pinch. These are the gestures of Skin-On Interfaces, an experimental take on smartphone UI that imagines your phone is not a slab of aluminum but a chunk of flesh. On one hand, it’s incredibly creepy. On the other, Skin-On Interfaces effectively demonstrates just how far we are from interacting with gadgets with the full, gestural language of humanity. [Link]

Humans born from a button press

[Image: generated by]

I hit F5. I just created life. I hit F5 again. A new soul hits my screen. This is the power of This Person Does Not Exist, which combines a cutting-edge generative AI, which can produce convincing human faces from thin air, and a stupid-simple interface for doing so. In the era of Deepfakes, we’re entering a war on what’s real. This Person Does Not Exist articulates how Photoshop was only the beginning. Faking identity no longer requires skill when clever AI meets barebones UX. [Link]

Robot feeding

[Photo: courtesy University of Washington]

A million people in the U.S. cannot feed themselves, but a University of Washington research project is building a robot arm that’s capable of seeing food, poking it appropriately, and angling it at the perfect trajectory for one’s mouth. Perhaps that sounds simple. It is not. This is deep, automated ergonomics work (imagine forking a squishy banana versus a cherry tomato). And while in its early days, it’s a humbling demonstration of the soft skills robots will need to learn if they’re ever to care for us. [Link]

UI lit by room

Phones of today automatically turn up and down their brightness to match the brightness of the room. It’s a handy feature that saves your eyes from burning out of their sockets in a dark space. But Apple alum Bob Burrough imagined where this technology could go next. He developed a screen system that could actually respond to lamps, and other direct sources of light, to illuminate more like a book than a smartphone. It’s a wild effect the first time you see it. And then? It just looks normal. We should be making digital phones work more like normal analog objects. [Link]

Mind-blowing cabinets

These wooden cabinets by Sebastian ErraZuriz shapeshift, with panels that fan out and drawers that nest like matryoshka dolls. It’s enough to make you never want to see the minimalist design of Ikea again. Hello maximalist UX. Let’s make living our lives not as easy as possible but as fun as possible. [Link]

Why restrict yourself to one constellation,

when galaxies await?

With the overwhelming amount of digital information

available to us, most people rely on a search function

to find what they need in large document collections.

But searches only reveal results directly tied to the terms

you’ve entered, missing the surrounding context of

related ideas that deepen your understanding of a topic.

Laniakea maps the entire landscape of a document set

according to its most meaningful content, enabling

users to quickly grasp and navigate thousands — or even

millions — of documents.


Salesforce has announced updates to its Marketing Cloud email solution to support new inbox functionalities provided by several major Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The new features include Salesforce’s AI solution, Einstein and interactive email capabilities that could serve as an alternative solution to AMP for Email. The interactive capabilities will be integrated from the company’s acquisition of Rebel beginning early next year.

Why we should care

Email consistently outperforms other digital channels as an ROI driver for marketers, but consumer expectations keep climbing. Studies show that personalization is a key driver of engagement and sales. Salesforce’s combination of AI-driven personalization and interactive email components could help marketers improve engagement with their campaigns.

the start, marketers approached email like digital mass-mailer postcards,” said
Salesforce senior director of product management Joe Teplow. “New things
are happening. We’re seeing more and more of this functionality being supported
by email clients, where they’re jumping on the bandwagon and proposing their
own ideas for future uses. Those who aren’t forward-thinking about email can
get left behind.”

Gmail and Outlook, for example, support functions such as in-email payments, survey responses and more. Subscribers and customers can take action without ever leaving the email.

These capabilities could also add significant automation to email operations processes. Salesforce’s AI aims to improve email campaign deployment by recommending images and identifying optimal send-times, the company said. It also uses natural language processing (NLP) to automate copywriting tasks such as personalized subject lines based on customer preference data.

More on the news

  • Starting in early 2020, Salesforce Marketing Cloud will pilot Rebel’s integrated interactive capabilities, called Interactive Email, in Email Studio and Journey Builder.
  • Einstein features include Einstein Content Selection which makes automatic recommendations for visual assets for emails based on customer preferences and behaviors.
  • Einstein Copy Insights uses NLP to identify the optimal words for email subject lines, as well as text messages and social media copy,
  • Einstein Messaging Insights notifies marketers of under or overperforming messages and makes recommendations for improvements.

More about the Managed Inbox

About The Author

Jennifer Videtta Cannon serves as Third Door Media’s Senior Editor, covering topics from email marketing and analytics to CRM and project management. With over a decade of organizational digital marketing experience, she has overseen digital marketing operations for NHL franchises and held roles at tech companies including Salesforce, advising enterprise marketers on maximizing their martech capabilities. Jennifer formerly organized the Inbound Marketing Summit and holds a certificate in Digital Marketing Analytics from MIT Sloan School of Management.


We recently held our first Data workshop here at the Wiredcraft office, focusing on the basics of Google Data Studio so that attendees could understand its uses, tools, and create their first reporting dashboard.

The class had limited spots so that we could give each attendee the guidance they needed to complete the 5 exercises we assigned them – in case you missed out, here’s a quick summary of the workshop, along with the slides and exercises so you can try it out for yourself.

What is Google Data Studio?

Data Studio is a free reporting and data visualization tool from Google. It works best with data from Google Analytics, but it can be connected up to any data source, including raw CSV or Google Sheets. There are also partner connectors that allow you to use data from sites such as Twitter, Facebook or HubSpot.

It allows you to create a reporting dashboard that pulls from your data source in real-time, and create tables and charts that best fit your needs.

Why should I use it?

The biggest reason is automation. There are often standard reports that are regularly requested by our clients that use the same metrics, but are just for a different time period or user segment. By creating a dashboard, clients can self-serve that data, so that they have easier and quicker access to what they need.

Dashboards are linked to the data in real-time, so can pull whatever date range you need.

The second reason is visualization. Tables of data are fine for analysts who are looking for specific numbers, or are used to working with data in this way, but our brains are more suited to seeing patterns using charts instead. Using a dashboard can help to uncover seasonal or long-term insights that may have been missed.

Data Studio offers a range of chart types to visualize your data:

  • Table
  • Scorecard
  • Time Series
  • Bar
  • Pie
  • Geo Map
  • Line
  • Area
  • Scatter
  • Pivot Table
  • Bullet
  • Treemap
Some of the chart types available in Data Studio.

The third reason is accessibility. Google Analytics, while easier to use than other similar platforms, still has a fairly steep learning curve in learning how data is recorded and where reports are kept. By creating a dashboard, clients do not need to learn how to use the GA admin, instead having all data they need in one single report.

So how do I get started creating my first dashboard?

Luckily, the slides from the workshop can be downloaded here. There are step by step instructions to help you get started:

  • Getting access to the Google Demo account (in case you don’t have an existing data set)
  • Creating a blank dashboard
  • Connecting your data source

From there, we have 5 exercises, building up in difficulty:

  • Creating a scorecard
  • Adding various charts and understanding how metrics and dimensions interact
  • Exploring data with a heat map to spot trends
  • Understanding calculated fields to create your own metrics
  • Custom conversion funnels to see how users drop off at each shopping stage

There are hints given for each exercise, but the last one in particular can be a little tricky! Let me know at [email protected] if you get stuck.

Samantha Cheah

Online Marketing & Analytics

Posted on September 04, 2019
in Data

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