Office viruses, Human Retail, Flagship Funerals, and Online Drinking
1. Worried about viruses? Don't read this. In 2017, researches wanted to see how long it takes for a virus to spread in an office. They placed a (harmless) sample on a doorknob and on the hand of one volunteer in an office with over 100 people. Within four hours, the virus could be found on 50% of the office's surfaces.
2. Your office knows you're sick. Employers are eager to use new facial-recognition tools to track "subtle changes in the mood" of their employees and emotion-sensing software to intervene in their work if it senses high levels of stress, distraction, or simple boredom. Perhaps this while Coronavius-work-from-home experiment is a test run for a broader employee rebellion against the office?
3. Would you like to participate in an experiment? Escaping the office will not help you regain your privacy. Tech companies are partnering with cities to try new gadgets. This often involves recording and analyzing people in public spaces, with no option for anyone to opt-out and no transparency as to what is being collected, by whom, and for what purpose. Greg Lindsay and Dan Wu wrote a great overview of these types of initiatives across the world.
4. The future of retail? Automated stores with human mannequins. Amazon is now offering the technology... Meanwhile, the window of a shoe store on Madison Avenue featuresan actual human, strutting on a treadmill and waving hello to onlookers. Humans have been featured in windows for at least 150 years, but this time might be different. As more on more of traditional "work" taken over by machines, humans will be upgraded (or reduced) to doing what humans do best: perform tasks that are unpredictable, entertaining, and socialize with other humans.
5. Death of Retail meets the Retail of Death. Funeral homes are struggling to get people offline into a physical store. This is especially true in East and Southeast Asia, where parlors and cemeteries are often hidden outside of cities. A new wave of operators are trying to make death great again, opening swanky locations within cities, and adding amenities such as showers, changing rooms, and wireless internet.
6. Meanwhile, in Japan... People who are forced to work from home found a new way to socialize: Online drinking party. Each participant grabs their favorite drink and joins a video chat to interact with new and old friends. Kampai!
7. Bonus Content
👓 I spoke to the Globe and Mail about the possible impact of Coronavirus on Airbnb.
🎧 I was on Steve Gruber's radio show to talk about the use of urban tech to fight coronavirus in China and the US. I managed to avoid politics and share quite a reasonable view of what's ahead (I think!).
That's it from me. Once again, do check out the new future of office course and feel free to forward this email to a friend or share the subscription page on Twitter or LinkedIn.