Social Pulse, Week of 12-14

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology, and consumer habits that impact the social web and our culture. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday here.

The Blob Opera: Google’s latest machine learning experiment is Blob Opera, where you control four colorful blobs by changing what pitch they sing – either set to traditional holiday carols or make your own. The creators trained a machine learning model on voice recordings, and the blobs are singing what the algorithm “thinks” opera sounds like, based on what it learned through the training. An additional model works to enable the harmonizing. Try it here. Mobile is best. Google’s Arts & Culture App is better.

Unpacking Social Media’s Cultural Impact in 2020: The global events of 2020 had a huge impact on the culture of the social web this year.

AR Baby Yoda (aka Grogu) in Your House: Simply Google search “Baby Yoda,” “Grogu,” “The Child,” or “The Mandalorian” on mobile or in the Google app, scroll down to the Knowledge Panel with a Wikipedia summary of the character, click “View in 3D” and BOOM – you’ve got Grogu projected into your home (or whereever you want to put him) via the magic of native mobile browser augmented reality. Or maybe it’s The Force.

Anonymous Video Chat Apps Are Growing In Popularity Again: Ten year-old anonymous video chat app Omegle is finding a new life thanks to YouTube and TikTok. Even Roblox has introduced a similar feature, called Ro-Meet and yes, it’s more kid friendly than Omegle. The rise of this type of social networking is creating new memes, including a satisfying trend of spurning famous TikTok influencers by pretending not to know them.

Fitness Subscriptions and Wearables Compete for Your Steps (and $$): Watch out Peloton! This week Apple launched Apple Fitness+, a new fitness app with recorded exercise classes that you can do from an Apple TV, iPad or iPhone, so long as you own an Apple Watch. Also this week, Amazon made its Amazon Halo wrist-based wearable and app-based classes available to the public. Although Greg’s review is NOT GREAT: “If you aren’t an Apple Watch or Fitbit fan and are looking for an entry-level wearable (without a screen, clock, alarm, or speaker) that stores photos of yourself half-naked and you’ll probably have to replace within the year, Amazon Halo could be the device for you.”

App of the Week: This week news app Gawq launched its 1.0 app with the objective of creating radical transparency through algorithm-free news aggregation. Users can filter out Opinions, Non-News, Paid News and Pay Walls in curating their feeds. And whatever you click will not affect what you see in the app tomorrow. Try it out here.

Business Reads of the Week: Five Research-Backed Tips to Make Zoom Calls Less Exhausting; How Couples Can Find Balance While Working from Home; Conferences After Covid Will Be Shorter—and Smarter; What if you could do it all over?

Buzzword of the Week: GEO, aka Gif Engine Optimization, aka getting your brand’s GIFs into culture.

Quick hits: