Need to Know
15 : 03 : 19

A capsule hotel for upscale singletons, skincare made with fermented silk and luxury spend accelerates in India’s tier II cities.

Q is the world’s first genderless voice

Meet Q: The First Genderless Voice by Virtue

Austin – Created by Vice Media’s creative agency Virtue, the genderless voice aims to combat sex bias in artificial intelligence.

According to Virtue, technology companies gender their voice products in order to fit harmful stereotypes. For example, a male voice is used in more authoritative roles, such as banking, and a female voice in service-orientated roles, such as Amazon's Alexa. To counter this, the company built a genderless voice designed to be used in voice-assisted products such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, in addition to public place such as train stations.

To create Q, the voices of five people who identify as non-binary were recorded. This amalgamated voice was then tested through a Europe-wide survey, which asked participants to rate the voice on a scale of male to female, finally finding a gender-neutral balance.

In an age in which artificial intelligence permeates all aspects of our lives, it is imperative that we embed ethics into the foundations of AI.

A skincare range made with fermented silk protein

Eighteen B by Bolt Threads Eighteen B by Bolt Threads
Eighteen B by Bolt Threads Eighteen B by Bolt Threads

New York – New skincare label Eighteen B draws on biotechnology and material futures for its range of silk protein products.

Working to the mantra that better science equals better skin, its proprietary b-silk protein was created as a response to the overly-processed ingredients used in skincare today. The b-silk protein is made using a lab-based fermentation process and is the key component in Eighteen B’s range of lightweight and rich moisturisers, which promise to lock in moisture and promote lift, firmness and long-term skin health.

Created by Lindsay Wray, the brand’s chief science officer and a material scientist at Bolt Threads, the range also endorses a clean approach to beauty. ‘As the market rapidly evolves, the Eighteen B team is committed to rigorous testing and the development of safe, effective products that serve the health of your skin and our environment,’ reads a brand statement.

For more on the blurring of science, technology and skincare, explore our latest beauty macro trend Algorithmic Beauty.

NatWest debuts a biometric debit card

UK – High street bank NatWest is working to improve frictionless spending and reduce fraud with a biometric debit card.

Featuring a small panel bearing an electronic copy of the user’s fingerprint, the cards are designed to allow ease of spending over £30 – the current contactless spending limit. When the user places their finger on the panel it will confirm their identity and authorise payments without the need for a PIN or signature.

Partnering with Dutch firm Gemalto, which developed the biometric technology, NatWest is currently piloting the cards with 200 of its customers. ‘This is the biggest development in card technology in recent years and we are excited to trial the service,’ says David Crawford, head of effortless payments at NatWest.

While biometric innovations have previously been symbolic of our Dislocated World, increasingly they are becoming part of our daily customs. At the end of 2018, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport became the first US airport to fully implement facial recognition technology at every stage of the passenger journey.

Biometric Natwest card Biometric Natwest card

hotel zen tokyo is a high-end capsule hotel

hotel zen tokyo hotel zen tokyo
hotel zen tokyo hotel zen tokyo

Tokyo – The hotel offers small rooms for single guests, without scrimping on the quality of its interiors and services.

Opening in April 2019, hotel zen tokyo comprises 78 capsule rooms set over seven floors. The rooms are tiered against five categories, varying in price and size, however all rooms include original art from graduates of the Tokyo University of the Arts.

While capsule hotels for single travellers have tended to be low-budget, hotel zen tokyo aims to elevate the guest experience through its dining options. Its basement bar and lounge, TAIAN, features a drinks menu curated by upscale sommelier Kota Narusawa, with a focus on pairing food with Japanese wine and sake. Guests also have access to a work lounge, private lockers and communal bathrooms.

While hotel zen tokyo's aesthetic plays to the tenets of Stripped-back Hospitality, it is also catering to an underserved market of discerning single consumers. For more, explore The Uncoupled, our newest Tribe featuring Jang, a single man who seeks out hotels for lone travellers.

Stat: Luxury spend is flourishing in India’s tier II cities

Consumers in India’s tier II cities are keen to splash their cash on high-end fashion, cars and electronics, according an analysis of 600 luxury goods retailers in India by American Express.

Overall, luxury spending in India grew by 4% between 2013 and 2018, with luxury spending in tier II cities in particular growing at a rate 30 times greater than in tier I locations.

According to the report, spending by women in cities such as Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad was focused on luxury fashion boutiques, while men – shown to account for 78% of luxury spending in India – spent their money on high-end hotels and cars.

With India’s emerging middle class, luxury goods brands have an opportunity to explore the diversity and desires of consumers across its micromarkets. For more, explore our dedicated market State of Luxury: India.

Thought-starter: Has singledom become a positive lifestyle choice?

The second of our 2019 macrotrends, Uncoupled Living looks at how being in a couple is becoming a less prevalent way to structure society, as more adults embrace the single life.

Being single has long been considered temporary. You were single until you married. Even people whose relationships once existed outside the accepted norm, such as homosexuals, strove to have their relationships recognised in the ultimate way: with the right to be in a couple, to marry and to divorce.

But marriage rates are declining, and the singles population – those who are divorced and those who have never married – is rising globally. In the US, when today’s adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, one in four are predicted to have been single for their whole lives.

The implication for brands is clear: this is a market of consumers who approach life differently. With more people living and eating alone, and buying items for one, it is time to consider how this uncoupling of society will affect consumption. From downsizing packaging to removing the stigma of single parenthood, opportunities abound for those that celebrate the positively single lifestyle.

Prepare your brand for the future of Uncoupled Living here, or pre-register your interest in our in-house presentations here.

Klarna Culture Calendar by Snask Studio’ Klarna Culture Calendar by Snask Studio’
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