YouTube Testing New Virtual Background Options: Google is using its neural network to improve the ability to recognize hair, faces, glasses and shoulders, which is helping a beta group of YouTube Stories users swap out their background images with nothing more than a phone. It’s called the “video segmentation tool” and gives us a glimpse of real-time production that will be coming to social media in the near future. Want to send that selfie video from the beach? Simply click the beach background option – no special greenscreen or post-processing required. (LINK)

Déjà Vu for your Déjà Vu: Sometimes we all get that feeling that we’ve experienced this all before. And that you know what will happen next. Except new research looked into the feeling of premonition that often accompanies déjà vu, using lab experiments that tried to induce the sensation and tracked whether subjects really did know what would come next. As it turns out, déjà vu didn’t seem to bestow the ability to predict the future. But you already knew that, right? (LINK)

More Augmented Reality Innovation: Last week we shared news about Ghostbusters AR and Harry Potter: Wizards Uniteare launching soon. This week Jurassic World Alive was announced, following the same formula as Pokemon Go, where players will walk around the physical world collecting and interacting with characters. This week Nickelodeon announced adding AR features to its Sky Whale mobile game and a new AR game, Do Not Touch. In other AR news this week, a collective of eight internet artists transformed the Jackson Pollock room in the New York City Museum of Modern Art into their own augmented reality gallery — without the museum’s permission. At this pace, Augmented Reality is shaping up to be one of the mainstream tech breakouts of 2018.

7 Twitter users are suing President Trump for blocking them:After being blocked from the @realDonaldTrump account, Twitter users are suing the President in a case that will test how courts apply the First Amendment to the social media accounts of public officials, whether such accounts constitute a “public forum” or whether public officials should be able to block constituents or critics. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald suggested that the case should be settled and that Trump should mute rather than block his followers. As we consider the wider impacts of social media post-Trump, this will be a fascinating case to watch.  (LINK)

Ramen Fork is Here! The company that invented ramen rolled out a new device that gets rid of your slurping noises. The smart fork connects to an app and plays a noise that sounds like a toilet flushing. FINALLY.


Google Tiltbrush Painting SXSW


I’m a SXSW old-timer at this point. This will be my 11th year attending. I’ve spoken four times and am now on the SXSW Advisory Board. I directly credit this event, the people I’ve met there, and the things I’ve learned with impacting my career in significant ways.

But you have to put a lot in to get a lot out.

So in 2014 I curated this extensive First-timer SXSW advice from the Pros post. There are lots of good insights there from a host of friends who attend each year. Otherwise, my must-do’s for 2018 are below…

Greg’s advice for first-time SXSW attendees:

  • Seek out the smartest, weirdest, most disruptive topics and experiences you could not get back home. The curation of breakthrough content and thinkers at SXSW is amazing — take advantage.
  • Do not go to any sessions that are essentially case studies you could read about online. Instead, make a note for yourself to go read those when you get home.
  • Do not go to any sessions where you yourself could be on the panel. You’re already a subject matter expert. Go learn something new!
  • Do not to go any sessions with a movie, television or social media celebrity. In my experience the lines are huge, the content isn’t great, and there’s probably a niche session down the hall that you’ll get more value from.
  • If a session sucks, get up and walk out immediately. You picked the crappy session, but you don’t have to sit there for an hour being pissed. Literally look at the rooms next to your session, and I bet there’s something of value nearby.
  • Go to everything early, and expect to wait in line. Lines are real. If there’s one session you care a lot about, schedule your day around getting into it.
  • Bring battery backups for your devices. This seems obvious until you’re sitting nowhere near a power adapter and realize you’re on low battery mode.
  • Eat a big breakfast. Lunch breaks can be hit or miss, depending on the sessions you pick. A protein bar in your bag will help.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. By the second day you’ll be glad you did.
  • Bring a jacket that can tolerate rain. Austin isn’t really built for downpours and many event venues are designed around patios or open air courtyards. Stay dry!
  • Network like crazy. Don’t hang out with your crew from back home. Meet and befriend creatives, innovators and disruptors. This is just as valuable as the content.
  • Eat a good dinner each night. Make dinner reservations in advance and invite strangers you meet during the day to hang out and share what they heard during the day. You can’t hit every session, but this gives you an exponential window into what you missed.
  • Spend a day when you get home processing, writing and sharing your takeaways (and formally connecting with the amazing people you met). That stack of business cards in the corner was all for naught if you don’t get those into LinkedIn!
  • Lastly, if you aren’t willing to put in the effort for an amazing experience, stay home next year and complain about it on social with everyone else. SXSW didn’t jump the shark. Lots of people just missed the point of putting in the work to get a lot out of it.

Want to hang out? Best way to hook up is text — 612-845-1020.

See you in Austin!

There is a digital layer on the entire physical world that can be unlocked with our phones. It’s called Augmented Reality, which is a techie name but pretty self-explanatory.

We’re just starting to explore the value, good and ugly from this technology.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This fall we saw Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Dog” targeted with AR graffiti in Central Park.

Now we’re seeing apps to unlock artist information and games in galleries — unauthorized, because regulations don’t exist.


We live in exciting times.

I Ain’t Afraid of No (Augmented Reality) Ghosts: A short demo of the game Ghostbusters World was showcased at Mobile World Congress this week, showing attendees a preview of the new game built on Google’s new ARCore platform. The Pokemon Go augmented reality treasure hunt phenomenon will soon be tested with some new games like Ghostbusters coming in 2018. We’re most excited for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. It’s going to be a fun summer. (LINK)

Facebook Messenger Broadcast: Companies can now send a Facebook message to anyone who has begun a conversation with them, thanks to a new product from Facebook for small businesses who don’t have the resources to build a more robust bot platform. Most users won’t like feeling spammed by any page they’ve ever DM’d, so Facebook is capping the number of messages businesses can broadcast to deter spam. But look for more of these Messenger-first tools to come to the marketing toolkit in 2018. (LINK)

So You Say You Would Give Up Social Media? This week the Pew Research Center dropped new 2018 research on social media usage, and it’s pretty expected. Facebook continues to be the most widely used social media platform (68% of U.S. adults), and other than YouTube no other network measured in this survey is used by more than 40% of Americans. Pinterest remains more popular with women. LinkedIn remains popular among college graduates and high earners. And WhatsApp’s popularity is extending to more Latinos in the United States – 49% of Hispanics report that they are WhatsApp users. But here’s the shocker: 59% of social media users think it would not be hard to give up social media, with 29% indicating it would not be hard at all. Yeah, right. (LINK)

Uber Driver has a Spotify Playlist For Every Kind of Passenger: Nobody wants to ride in the back of a stranger’s car in silence. And one Uber driver is making waves this week by sharing the series of Spotify playlists he made for the stereotypes of people he picks up, including: white dudes who look like they like rap, quiet people, f*cking hipsters, basic 20-30s, 30+, and heady bros. The driver, who also studies sociology and video production at college, has only been driving a few weeks but he’s already seeing thousands of followers added to his Spotify Playlists. (LINK)

Here’s “White Dudes Who Look Like They Like Rap”

Wow: This week hundreds of Australians gathered to say ‘wow’ like Owen Wilson. And the internet loved it. “Wow.”


I got to meet Sophia the Robot today.

She can see faces, make eye contact, recognize people and improvise answers. She spoke at the United Nations and was named the first robot citizen (Saudi Arabia).

Humanoid robots have a long way to go, but the advancements in A.I., psychology and uses for this kind of technology are fascinating.

What struck me most was how the young people in the crowd were eager to project humanity upon a robot that was clearly reading a script and had a full-time human attendant manning her mainframe during the back and forth interview.

They didn’t care how carefully constructed the event was or how much artificial intelligence was being used versus scripts. Instead, they were entranced at a talking robot with human-like features and emotional cues.

She talked about disruptive technology and how it doesn’t come out of the blue but rather from theoretical or philosophical principles that over the years mature into real world manifestations like herself.

She knows she freaks people out and says that our role as humans will be to decide how we want to build approved forms of communication and understanding (like humanoids with human faces using English and mimicking our behaviors) and then choose how we want to interact with them or allow them into our lives.

At CES, Sophia took her first steps last month. A walking humanoid will be all the more easily accepted and creepy, won’t it?

At today’s event, she talked a lot about elder care and psychology (treating PTSD) in the short-term, which is more realistic — especially given the success of innovations like PARO the therapeutic seal that I’ve had the opportunity to pet multiple times.

Overall, awesome experience. We have a cool marketplace here with lots of smart people helping engineer the what’s-next. It was fun to gather with them and talk about the future today. The future with talking and thinking robots.

Did Kylie Jenner’s Tweet Cost Snapchat $1.3 Billion? Snapchat’s user-experience has always been a mess, but this latest update spurned more than a million people to sign a petition to reverse the update. But nobody saw this coming: Reality star Kylie Jenner — Snapchat’s most viewed user by a longshot —  tweeted that she doesn’t open the app anymore. And the following day Snap’s shares dropped by as much as 7.2% ($1.3 BILLION LOSS). Whether directly tied to her tweet or the overall decline in active users, Snap is certainly feeling the heat of an influencer scorned today. (LINK)

The Legal Case Against Archiving Video Games in Museums: Whether you grew up on Bubble Bobble, Super Mario or Wolfenstein, there’s a nostalgic place in our collective history for our first video game experiences and being able to re-play them decades later. As technology evolves and the sheer amount of games increase exponentially, there is disagreement about how to preserve old online games. The Entertainment Software Association (including Electronic Arts, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) is petitioning the US Copyright Office to not make DMCA exemptions for abandoned online multiplayer games. They are afraid video game museums will emerge as competitors! We’re not confident their objection will pass, however, which means we’ll most likely see World of Warcraft, Dota 2 and even Angry Birds Classic preserved in museums for centuries to come. Score! (LINK)

#SideProfileSelfies: This week #SideProfileSelfies went viral thanks to one woman on a mission to change the way people look at themselves by breaking down “one of the last beauty taboos” — the nose. Radhika Sanghani hates her nose and the lack of larger-nosed ladies with stereotypically ‘hot’ roles in movies or ad campaigns, tweeting “Let’s stop hating our noses for not being tiny, little snubs and learn to love them by sharing a #sideprofileselfie.” The result has been a news cycle on the more positive side of “selfitis,” which had its own news cycle this week about the obsessive taking of selfies. After all, selfies are nothing to sniff at. (LINK)

Listening to Metal Music is Good for Your Health: A new study published in the Journal of Community Psychology showed that metal music is good for your brain, your emotional health and can be a positive outlet for people ages 18-24 who may spend some quality time in the mosh pit. “Despite experiences of intense family situations, ostracism, bullying and loneliness, these participants all got through this period of life with little or no explicit mental health issues.” Another study from Humboldt State University found that metalheads generally lived happier lives than non-metal music listeners. So crank up some Slayer and Metallica this weekend and let it all out. For your health. (LINK)

Kids Meet a 101-Year-Old: In more wholesome social news this week, the latest edition of HiHo’s “Kids Meet” series features a group of curious kids interviewing a friendly centenarian woman named Alice. She talks about the days before radio and cars, listens attentively to the kids, and pretty much makes you want to call your Grandma and remind her how much you love her. If you dig this, check out Kids Meet a Guide Dog for the Blind. (LINK)

MIMA Super Bowl Greg Swan

This interview originally appeared at promoting a sweet event on the same subject…

In your expert opinion, which Minnesota brand did the best job with their Super Bowl digital activation/campaign? Tell us why you chose them and what other marketers can learn from them?

The Minnesota business community was extremely well represented at Super Bowl LII, from host committee partners to official sponsors to local businesses putting in the extra effort to make a splash for visitors and international media.

The American Birkebeiner International Bridge, sponsored by North America’s largest cross-country ski race of the same name, was the hands-down best local activation of the event, serving as the focal point for the Super Bowl Live experience.

It transformed Nicollet Mall into a winter playground, with visitors skiing, tubing and skijoring down the 200 foot, snow-covered bridge.

It was a must-photograph, must-tweet experience for visitors, added talk value to the free events downtown, and was the most memorable brand activation of the 2018 Super Bowl festivities.

Did you notice any missed opportunities or “head-scratchers” among MN brand activations? 

I won’t mention the brands by name, but there were a few exhibitors that seemed to bring their stock trade show footprint experience to the Super Bowl experience.

A sandbag toss game or bracelet giveaway may work fine at your Convention Center of Cleveland tradeshow, but this is the Super Bowl and you have literally thousands of people skipping your booth because it’s boring and forgettable.

Schwan’s Co. did the exact opposite —  erecting a 40-foot-high tower of Schwan’s delivery trucks with interactive tailgate trivia for passersby. It was a spectacle that made you stop and pay attention, and that’s what the Super Bowl is all about.

Seeing one more Super Bowl come and go, do you feel the Super Bowl is still a wise marketing investment for brands? When is it the right strategy? 

Like any brand activation, sponsors of big events have to weigh business objectives, audience mix, impact and scale into their plans.

The brands who signed onto the host committee, exhibited at Super Bowl Live, the NFL Experience and during the game itself all helped bring once-in-a-lifetime memories to thousands of residents and visitors to our town.

Despite viewership decreasing slightly, the Super Bowl remains one of the few tentpole moments we have in American culture where we gather together for a shared experience.

Even those consumers who didn’t watch the Super Bowl knew it was happening and felt compelled to justify why they were opting-out.

In a noisy, algorithm-filled world, brands looking to capture attention or shift sentiment among a broad audience base, the Super Bowl can be an extremely efficient choice to break through.