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Mar 30, 2023 14 min read

🕙 Wiser! Tech #119: what's happened in tech this week 31/3/23

News, insights, and information that you need to know about what happened in Tech this week.

🕙 Wiser! Tech #119: what's happened in tech this week 31/3/23
Table of Contents

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Zipline - drone delivery is about to get super interesting!

Zipline is an autonomous delivery drone that's about to change everything. The unmanned delivery drone has already clocked up over half a million deliveries across 40 million commercial miles, including getting more than 8 million vaccines to remote locations in Africa.

  • Zipline was founded in 2014 and began drone delivery operations in Rwanda in 2016. Today, Zipline delivers 75% of Rwanda’s blood supply outside the country's capital city, Kigali and serves more than 3,400 health centers, and more than 45 million people.
  • Zipline has completed more than 540,000 commercial deliveries — more than most other companies in the sector combined, using drones that reduce the carbon emissions of deliveries by 97% compared to gas cars, and are also far more efficient than electric vehicles.
  • Zipline operates on three continents and in Rwanda, Ghana, the U.S., Japan, Nigeria, Kenya, and Côte d'Ivoire. Today in the U.S., Zipline designs, tests and manufactures its Zips in California, and serves customers in Arkansas, Utah and North Carolina. In 2024, Zipline will also operate in Michigan and Washington, and additional U.S. states will be announced soon.
  • The FAA recently authorized Zipline to enable its autonomous Detect and Avoid (DAA) technology, which is our autonomous airspace deconfliction tool, which is a key step in the path towards long range drone deliveries in the U.S. without visual observers. Zipline will soon be turning on its DAA system in the U.S., and expects that it will begin beyond line of sight flights in the U.S. later this year.
  • Zipline already works with the likes of Walmart, Pfizer and Toyota.

Here's The Thing: drones make a lot of sense when you've got to get smaller items from A to B quickly. Zipline claim they are 7x faster than motor deliveries, covering a 10 mile journey time in 10 minutes. They also have a huge advantage over cars when it comes to emissions and comparisons with both petrol and electric vehicles.

They're accurate too, dropping its Droid on the end of the zipline into a space no bigger than 2 feet wide. With a 6-8 lb payload, the Zipline expects to be able to handle most home deliveries for food, healthcare and convenience items in the US.

🔥 For more on the Zipline, watch this: ➜

But it's not just home deliveries where drones are proving their worth.

Ikea deploy drones at 100 locations for inventory management

On this week's episode of Big Tech Little Tech, my tech of the week story was about IKEA using autonomous drones for inventory management, flying about the warehouse at night counting everything on the shelves. The self-flying drones are being used across 100 sites to do the counting in all those awkward and hard-to-reach places.

There's also Seat's use of drones for just in time supply chain management on the Volkswagen brand's Spanish production line.

🎙️ For Big Tech Little Tech podcast, you can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Or here on Apple➜


Panera to use Amazon’s palm reading tech for cashless payments and loyalty programme

Panera Bread, the bakery-café chain, has announced plans to roll out Amazon's palm scanners that can access a customer's credit card and loyalty account using only a wave of their hand.

The biometric-gathering technology, developed by Amazon and called Amazon One, is already popular in airports, stadiums and Whole Foods Market grocery stores. Panera is expected to become the first national restaurant company to use it.

Panera Bread CEO Niren Chaudhary said in a press release that the contactless payment method is meant to serve as a convenience.

Here's how it will work: After a brief palm scan, Panera customers will be greeted by name and then receive tailored meal recommendations based on their preferences and previous orders. They will also be able to pay by simply rescanning their palm. According to the company, guests can link their credit card to an Amazon One ID in "a minute."

"Our philosophy has been centered around leveraging best-in-class technology to create a better Panera experience," Panera's CEO, Chaudhary, said.

Panera has not specified which locations will include the gadgets, but they have already been piloted at some restaurants in St. Louis, Mo., where the chain is headquartered. Panera's loyalty program includes about 52 million members.

Here's The Thing: there's growing concern about Amazon’s palm-recognition technology. In 2021, a group of US senators questioned Amazon's data collection practices and specifically whether biometric data is being used for advertising and tracking purposes.

"In contrast with biometric systems like Apple's Face ID and Touch ID or Samsung Pass, which store biometric information on a user's device, Amazon One reportedly uploads biometric information to the cloud, raising unique security risks," the senators' letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said.

In 2023, a shopper based in New York City filed a lawsuit against Amazon claiming that the company did not properly notify customers in Amazon Go stores that their biometric information was being collected.

In response, Panera said that the palm scanner is optional for customers, and the company itself does not store personal palm data. The food chain also stressed that any private and personal data shared with Amazon One is never stored on the device.

Further Reading


Levi Strauss to use AI generated virtual models

The global jeans brand is partnering with, a digital fashion company that specialises in AI-generated fashion models, to showcase their clothing items. Levi's plans to use AI-generated clothing models to diversify its online shopping experience. The point is that the AI generated models can be more body-inclusive, allowing customers to view a wider range of clothing displayed on a wide range of body types, ages, sizes, and skin tones.

Levi's claims this approach is more sustainable, but they didn't explain how. The company says it isn't looking to replace real models with the technology but instead supplement them to create a more personal shopping experience.

➜ The denim brand claims the tech will be used to ‘supplement human models’ rather than completely replace them.

The AI-generated models will have various body shapes, sizes, ages, and skin tones to suit potential buyers who struggle to find clothing that fits their body type. While AI will not fully replace human models, Levi's is excited about the potential capabilities this may afford them for the consumer experience.

Here’s The Thing: Levi's plan to use AI-generated clothing models is intended to make the brand more body-inclusive and also create greater personalisation for customers. The intention is to help customers who are frustrated with the limited representation in traditional models. The question is can the AI generated images really replace human models enough to create a significant enough personalised shopping experience?

Levi's are not alone in using emerging tech to create a personalised shopping experience. Walmart have launched "Be Your Own Model", an experience that allows users to virtually try on clothing using their own photographs and augmented reality tech. Amazon Fashion partnered with Snap last year, providing Snapchat users with the ability to virtually model branded glasses and sunglasses using AR filters.

As for Levi Strauss, we’ll have to wait and see until later in the year when the new AI models are unveiled.

Calvin Klein goes to market with a virtual influencer

Calvin Klein has launched a partnership with Katii, a new virtual influencer. This collaboration is a testament to the consumer brand’s involvement with emerging tech and explores new media opportunities using the computer generated personalities.

As with its other virtual influencer campaigns, Calvin Klein’s collaboration with Katii is not a random move. Thai virtual influencers have been rapidly gaining popularity in the growing swirl of the metaverse zeitgeist. Katii joins an illustrious group of other virtual models, such as SIA’s CGI created human AI Ailynn, the first virtual influencer agency in Bangkok.

‍This collaboration originates in Thailand, which has become a rapidly developing advertising market and a creative hub. According to the Bangkok Post, “Digital advertising billings last year rose 8% to 21 billion baht and are forecast to grow another 11% this year to 23.3 billion.” For Calvin Klein, Katii is the ideal ambassador: She is fresh, scandal-free and loves to experiment with fashion. She is also going to perpetually 22 years old.

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Ticketmaster launches NFT-gated services

Ticketmaster made a big move in the world of cryptocurrency this week. The ticketing giant will introduce NFT-gated services that allow artists to reward fans with special presales, prime seats, exclusive concert experiences, and more, all using NFTs.

Here’s how it works:

  • Fans purchase the NFT tied to their favorite artists
  • They connect their digital wallet to Ticketmaster to verify ownership
  • That’s it!

The first artist partnering with Ticketmaster to roll out the new feature is Avenged Sevenfold, a heavy metal band. NFT holders will get to buy their tickets before anyone else in an exclusive presale days before the public ticket sale.

Here’s The Thing: The concept is interesting. It means that fans no longer have to worry about buying overpriced tickets from touts or competing with bots just to get a ticket. If you’ve ever sat at your desk, waiting for the online sale to open, you’ll know how frustrating it can be to be told you’re 147,637 in line and counting. Only to find all the tickets have gone in 7 minutes. But then half an hour later, you’ll find them advertised at significant hikes in price.

These NFT-gated services have the potential to change the this experience altogether. It’s a promising idea, but it’ll depend on whether big-name artists end up offering NFTs to fans in the first place.

Source: Ticketmaster


The original viral image (left) and another AI-generated fake from the same batch (right). Image: via Reddit / u/trippy_art_special

The new reality: the swagged-out pope is an AI fake

The recent viral image of the pope wearing a swagged-out puffy jacket is an AI-generated fake, but it highlights the difficulty of distinguishing fakes from reality in the future. The image went viral because it aligns with the hyperreal aesthetic of AI art generators and because the pope is a celebrity with a known sense of style.

The Verge wrote a good piece that explores how AI fakes will be shared and spread and the potential consequences of this technology.

The swagged-out pope is an AI fake — and an early glimpse of a new reality
AI fakes are hyperreal — soon, they’ll just be real.

Here’s a selection of tweets and images that demonstrate the power of generative AI with Midjourney

This one is from Unreal Engine…


Controlling GPT4 with your thoughts

A YouTuber called Fireship connected his brain to OpenAI’s GPT-4 using a device called a Neurosity Crown. The devices cost around $1,000 and they fit on your head, placing sensors on your scalp that read your brain waves. The demostration shows how you can train a specfic thought, such as “think of a lemon,” to drive a specific actions in the AI. It’s fun and scary at the same time.

What else is happening in the tech economy

  • Galaxy Digital CEO says the government should fear AI, not crypto. Mike Novogratz, the CEO of digital asset investment firm Galaxy Digital, told investors he is shocked over the amount of regulatory attention for crypto rather than artificial intelligence (AI), a technology he believes will trigger a “deep fake” identity crisis.
  • Real estate investors have bought a real house using a Solana NFT. The single-family home was valued at $235,000 before the tech startup Homebase drummed up $246,800 in about two weeks by tokenising the residence on Solana via a smart contract tied to an NFT created for the purpose.
  • Tommy Hilfiger has launched first of a kind “Metaverse Hub”. The space is open in Decentraland and enables users to easily move in and out of each experience. In the hub, designed to look like the brand’s TH monogram, users can find POAPs, artwork from Web3 artist Vinnie Hager, DressX-powered digital fashion, a photo booth, an AI fashion creation competition, and more.

Further Reading

Fifteen of the best creations built with OpenAI’s GPT-4
It’s barely been two weeks since OpenAI released the latest version of its Generative Pre-trained Transformer to the general public, and yet we already have a wealth of great ideas, pushing the boundaries of imagination and creativity. Here’s 15 of the best…
AgeTech: The Science and Future Of Anti-Ageing Technology
🔐 AgeTech is the science of getting old without getting older. Over the past 10–15 years, with the significant help of artificial intelligence, scientists have made huge strides in understanding the biology of ageing. Now, there’s a promise of extending both our longevity, and our healthspan.
OpenAI releases GPT-4
OpenAI released GPT-4, a multi-modal AI large language model that’s smarter and more powerful than previous models. It’s the latest milestone in scaling up deep learning.
Unlocking The Power Of NFTs For Brand Engagement
I’ve tracked, analysed and assessed 250 consumer brands and how they are using emerging technologies, such as NFTs, to redefine traditional methods for customer engagement.
How Starbucks leverages machine learning for customer engagement
Starbucks has over 30,000 stores worldwide and completes around 100 million transactions per week, making it the third largest restaurant chain in the world. A key to their success is data, which they have a ton of, and machine learning AI.
Brand Strategy: how airlines are using emerging tech for customer engagement
Consumer brands are finding new ways to engage with and win new customers using emerging technologies like NFTs and the Metaverse. I’ve tracked 250 consumer brands and their innovative use of emerging tech to for the clues on what’s happening and what’s coming next in the tech economy.


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