Need to Know
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Lume uses VR to visualise complex data, Walmart launches a digital toy lab and Covergirl employs AI in its first physical store.

This VR tool visualises data in 3D

Lume, UK

London – Lume is a new visualation tool that uses VR to present data in 3D, helping to communicate scientific research in a more compelling and accessible way.

Design consultancy Imagination has developed the VR platform in association with Cambridge University medical laboratory, TheLeeLab. Using a VR headset, audiences can view data graphics in 3D. By simplifying complicated information in this visually-driven way, Imagination says the tool aims to inspire more ‘public engagement with science'.

‘Lume makes highly complex data intuitive to understand, patterns easier to recognise and insights more compelling to present and share with everyone,’ Alexandre Kitching, CEO at Lume and project lead at Imagination, told Design Week. Dutch Design Week 2018's Data Church is another example of the way VR and data visualisation are increasingly being combined to create experiential visual metaphors for challenging concepts.

Vivahouse turns empty buildings into co-living spaces

Co-living at Whitleys Shopping Centre by Vivahouse, London Co-living at Whitleys Shopping Centre by Vivahouse, London
Co-living at Whitleys Shopping Centre by Vivahouse, London Co-living at Whitleys Shopping Centre by Vivahouse, London

UK – The company has launched its first urban co-living concept in Whiteleys Shopping Centre in West London.

Vivahouse has created a modular prefab accommodation system that can be built into vacant commercial buildings in under 24 hours. The spaces seek to cater to the non-committal, rent-oriented lifestyles of Millennials and Gen Z, with spaces available to rent for as little as a week. Longer-lease stays start at £600 ($771, €678) a month, with the price including all bills, taxes and a pantry stocked with essentials.

While the Whiteleys co-living space is temporary, Vivahouse is set to complete its first permanent location in 2019. ‘We’ve created a solution to the UK’s low availability of land and shortfall of housing, at a quick turnaround build time with a rapidly scalable model,’ says Rajdeep Gahir, co-founder of Vivahouse.

This comes at a time when nearly 1,000 UK retailers in went into administration in 2018, leaving the high street struggling to fill empty commercial buildings and attract footfall. For more on how brands are creating new forms of accommodation, look out for our upcoming microtrend Repurposed Resorts.

Covergirl’s first store is powered by AI

New York – The brand’s first permanent retail store encourages experimentation with beauty through technology.

Customers visiting the Times Square flagship will be greeted by Olivia, the brand’s artificially-intelligent member of staff, who can direct shoppers to products, answer questions and share beauty tips. Covergirl has also installed augmented reality (AR) glam stations, where shoppers can virtually try make-up on before they make a purchase.

Taking a similar approach to Glossier, Covergirl is using selfie-optimised backdrops to boost social media engagement among its Generation Z customer base. ‘The Covergirl flagship represents this incredible moment in beauty – where rich experiences matter most and where true self-expression and experimentation are the only beauty standards,’ says Ukonwa Ojo, chief marketing officer at parent company Coty.

Retailers are reconsidering the purpose of their brick-and-mortar stores, using an added layer of technology to augment the shopping experience.

Covergirl flagship, NYC Covergirl flagship, NYC

Walmart creates an interactive online toy box

Walmart Toy Lab, US

US – The retail giant has unveiled an immersive online playground, allowing children to virtually test and play with 20 of this year's top-rated toys.

By logging on to the Walmart Toy Lab, children can become toy testers, exploring an array of play items from different brands at the click of a mouse or tap of a screen. Walmart has positioned the online experience as an interactive version of toy-unboxing videos, which have proved popular among children.

The Toy Lab is part of a wider initiative to develop interactive programming and shoppable ads in partnership with entertainment provider Eko. The move also demonstrates Walmart's quest to fill the gap in the toy market left by the closure of Toys R Us. By allowing children to test drive popular toys via their own devices, the Toy Lab could also drive more considered spending on toys and therefore less waste. In this vein, our Conscious Play microtrend considers how brands are responding to parents’ desire to be more environmentally friendly.

Stat: China’s beauty market continues to evolve

The Chinese beauty market will be worth £48.3bn ($62 bn, €54.6bn) by 2020, according to new data presented by Beautystreams. The findings suggest that China is poised to become beauty’s next superpower, owing to shifts in both consumer habits and significant upgrades in manufacturing and technology.

During an in-depth briefing in New York, Beautystreams creative director Michael Nolte revealed that, in the past year, more than a quarter (36%) of Chinese women have started using products from premium beauty brands, while 58% have switched to more expensive product lines. At the same time, both domestic and foreign independent beauty brands are increasingly popular in China. This reflects broader attitude shifts among China’s luxury consumers, which subscribers can explore in The State of Luxury: China.

Thought-starter: Are pets the new luxury consumers?

While Millennials continue to delay parenthood, or eschew it altogether, foresight writer Holly Friend finds they are spending billions on luxurious lifestyles for their pets.

Growth in the high-end pet sector is largely being driven by Millennials, who are sacrificing car or home ownership yet still choose to keep a pet. With three-quarters of Americans in their 30s owning dogs, and about half (51%) owning cats, Mintel reports that Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers to become the largest pet-owning demographic in the US.

Analysts have linked this to Millennials' complicated attitude towards parenthood, suggesting that the role of a pet has changed from furry companion to starter child.

Even the lifestyles of cats and dogs increasingly mirror those of their owners. Marketing buzzwords such as natural, raw, authentic and organic are now common in supermarket pet food aisles. Tails.com, which works with veterinary surgeons to create tailor-made food based on a dog’s nutritional needs, has recently attracted investment from Nestlé, showing the opportunity in premium pet food subscription services. In the offline world, retailer Petco and JustFoodForDogs offer hand-crafted, human-grade meals for canines.

For more, read our High-end Pets Market.

Boo Oh, US Boo Oh, US