Category Archives: Consumer

Marlene Dietrich Google doodle honors the legendary actress's career

Marlene Dietrich, the iconic German-born actress, is being honored today on the Google home page on her 116th birthday. She was one of the most well-paid actresses of her time, starting in many well-known Hollywood films such as “Morocco” (1930), “Shanghai Express” (1932), and “Desire” (1936). Google said, “Marlene Dietrich lit up the silver screen during Hollywood’s Golden Age.”

On December 27, 1901, 116 years ago today, she was born in Schöneberg, Germany. She spent a lot of her career in the 1930s in Hollywood. She also held dual citizenship in Germany and the United States. She performed for many years, from 1919 to 1984. She passed on May 6, 1992, in Paris, France at the age of 90.

Google said the Doodle for Marlene Dietrich “was illustrated by artist Sasha Steinberg who captured her mid-performance, suited up in her gender-bending tux and top hat. Steinberg, who is also a drag performer under the name Sasha Velour and winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race (Season 9), counts Dietrich as a major influence in creating their drag alter ego.”

For more on her life and contributions, see her Wikipedia page.

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December global festivities Google doodle marks day 2 of Google's holiday doodle series

Today’s Christmas holiday marks day two of Google’s 2017 holiday doodle series. After posting the first of the series on December 18, Google has added two new images to the slide show for today’s doodle.

“Our favorite penguins couldn’t be more excited to reunite with their loved ones. Happy to be together for the season of cheer, this colorfully feathered family can’t wait to sink their beaks into a delicious feast,” writes Google on the Google Doodle blog.

While the December 18 doodle included an image of the penguins making plans over the phone with their bird friends, today’s doodle has replaced that image with the following artwork of the penguins and birds together:

The doodle has also added the following image of all the friends sharing a dinner surrounded by lighted palm trees:

Same as the first doodle, today’s image leads to a search for “December global festivities.” Going off the last image in the slide show that lists the holiday doodle series dates, there are two more holiday doodles to be posted, one for New Year’s Eve and one for New Year’s Day:

Google & NORAD Santa Trackers show St. Nick already in flight for his 2017 trip around the world

It’s Christmas Eve in North America, but on the other side of the globe, Santa has already started his 2017 Christmas trip around the world to deliver gifts.

According to both Google’s Santa Tracker and NORAD’s Santa Tracker, Santa is approximately 14 hours from making his away to North America and has already delivered more than a million gifts.

NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) has been tracking Santa’s whereabouts since 1955 when a Sear’s department store ad mistakenly printed the phone number to NORAD’s headquarters as a hotline to find Santa. The military organization took up the call, and has been following through on the tradition ever since.

Google launched its first Santa Tracker in 2004 using Google Earth. In 2007, Google partnered with NORAD to track Santa, but then in 2012, Google went back to tracking Santa on its own and NORAD partnered with Microsoft.

(You can find out more about Google’s history tracking Santa in this Marketing Land story from 2014: How Google Became A Santa Tracker Tradition To Rival NORAD.)

Google’s 2017 Santa Tracker

Google is continuing its tradition of following Santa and his reindeer around the world this year, offering a number of ways to track where he is at any given moment.

There is the desktop tracker that shows Santa’s path via Google Maps. You can also download the Chrome extension for Google’s Santa Tracker, or the Android app.

In addition to tracking Santa’s whereabouts, Google displays approximately how long before he makes his way to your stop, and provides a “Live Feed” with animated updates from Santa and his elves.

NORAD’s 2017 Santa Tracker

NORAD’s Santa Tracker appears to be using both Bing Maps and Cesium mapping technology that lets viewers follow Santa’s journey in either 2D or 3D mapping images. There are photos of locations Santa has already visited along the bottom of the map that link to Wikipedia pages for each of the locales.

NORAD has also created quick videos of Santa’s stops so far, a list most likely to grow as Santa gains more ground.

NORAD will also send you Santa’s location if you email noradtrackssanta@outlook.com. Here’s an automatic response I received after sending an email with a subject line “where’s Santa” earlier today:

Also, much to my surprise, NORAD’s hotline number — (877) 446-6723 — has a live operator who will tell you exactly where Santa is at the time of your call, and where he’s headed next.

Whether or not you’re following Santa’s trek around the world tonight, Search Engine Land hopes you and your family are enjoying your holidays and wishes you a happy New Year in the week to come!

Winter solstice 2017 Google doodle marks the shortest day of the year & official start of winter

Today’s winter solstice 2017 Google doodle brings back the animated mouse that has made an appearance on Google’s home page for each of the equinoxes and now both solstice dates.

Previously, the mouse did some spring cleaning all the way back in March for the spring Equinox, enjoyed the sunlight on a summer day during the June 21 summer solstice and prepared for the arrival of fall on September 22.

Leading to a search for “winter solstice 2017,” today’s doodle shows the mouse doing a little ice skating and playing in the snow.

“Though most refer to the solstice as an entire day, in reality, the solstice is defined as a single moment: when the sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn,” writes Google on its Google Doodle Blog, “This year, that moment will occur at 16:28 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). After this point in time, periods of daylight will once again begin to grow longer.”

Here are all four of this year’s seasonal doodles in the order they appeared:

Spring equinox

Summer solstice

Autumn equinox

Winter solstice

The winter solstice not only marks the official start of winter for 2017, it’s also the shortest day — and longest night — of the calendar year.

December global festivities Google doodle kicks off series of holiday doodles

Today’s Google doodle kicks off a series of holiday doodles leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The doodle, which leads to a search for “December global festivities,” includes three animated images that you can swipe or scroll through using the arrows within the artwork.

“The festive season is here and this pair of slippery-footed siblings are excited to spend time with their warm-weather relatives!” writes the Google Doodle team on the Google Doodle blog, “Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks to see what kind of fun this feathery family has in store.”

Here are the three images that make up day one of Google’s holiday doodle:

The doodle is being displayed on Google’s home page in most countries around the world.

AI marketing and the journey through the uncanny valley

“Things usually get worse before they get better.”

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Whether it’s the valley of the shadow of death in the 23rd Psalm or the Dangerous Trench on the way to Shell City in the Sponge Bob movie, we’re used to the concept of feeling that things are getting worse, even though we know we’re headed in the right direction.

This experience can be represented by a U-shaped curve, literally forming the shape of a valley between two peaks. In technical terms, the curve represents a nonlinear relationship between two variables. A specific example is the uncanny valley — the hypothesis of the unease, frustration, or even revulsion we feel as something approaches the behavior and appearance of a human without getting all the way there. In this case, the two variables are the humanlike nature of the object and the emotional response to it. This can be experienced with robots and AI assistants, and with 3D animation. Perhaps you know someone who gets illogically angry when Siri or Alexa fails to understand their commands, or maybe you get uncomfortable watching humanoid robots or CGI-animated humans in TV and movies.

Although 78 percent of marketers are adopting or expanding artificial intelligence marketing in 2018, marketers are also uneasy about the uncanny valley. They are concerned that by implementing AI marketing, they will lose control of the customer experience, possibly bewildering or even revolting their customers. While this is a reasonable concern, it could prove to be an unfounded and risky position — because marketers have already forced their customers into the uncanny valley through the use of marketing automation and aggressive personalization. And to quote another truism, when you’re going through hell, keep going. Because you don’t want to stay there.

Your customers are already in the uncanny valley

Could it be true that we’re already subjecting our customers to experiences that create bewilderment and revulsion? You don’t have to have 3D avatars or robots in your customer experience to create these eerie, negative feelings in your customers. The uncanny valley is represented by a sudden decrease in empathy when a human-like being ceases in some way to be human. Here are some specific examples to indicate that your customers may already be in the uncanny valley:

Broken context

Example: An AI assistant or chatbot initially passes for human but fails to understand the context of a question that would be simple for a human to understand, revealing that it is not human. Here is just one of many anecdotes from Reddit:

In just seconds, this user went from loving their Echo to figuratively (literally?) flipping the table in frustration.

Not quite lookalikes

Example: A cursory read of our example user’s Facebook history could tell you that he is a foodie, a vegetarian and a fan of subscription boxes. Recently, this user got targeted by a new artisanal food subscription service that was relevant in many respects, except for the fact that they exclusively offer cured meats. It’s reasonable in some respects that an artisanal cured meat subscription service would target him. Except that as a vegetarian, this user found their ad bewildering and invasive, causing him to lose interest and scroll quickly past. In his scrolling fervor, he accidentally registered a click on the ad, leading to weeks of cured meats in his feed.

Bad timing

Another example from that same user: Currently, his bank is aggressively targeting him with a competitive mortgage offer. Three weeks ago, there were credit, fund consolidation and other signals that he was preparing for a home purchase. At that point, it was stone cold silence from the bank. But now that he has signed a mortgage with another bank and closed escrow, he is getting targeted after the fact with an offer that he would have considered three weeks ago. Now, it’s just aggravating.

Three ways to ascend from the uncanny valley

Ascending from the uncanny valley is possible, but it takes buy-in from executives and a concerted effort by the entire marketing organization. Fortunately, Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) provides a new approach for interacting with customers, allowing for consistent relevant experiences across all channels and continuous optimization at scale. Marketers shouldn’t fear the uncanny valley. They should focus on crossing through to the other side. Here’s how:

1. Keep context: Match your level of sophistication across channels

Ideally, your website, app and chatbot work together to provide integrated, personalized service. Your customers should be able to access the same contextual features whether in the mobile app, at the brick-and-mortar store or when chatting with Alexa. If a user clicks through to your site from a specific offer email, that offer should automatically persist on the website. While your customers often encounter the same creative elements across your app, social, display, email and website, they’re disappointed when experiences are disjointed and out-of-context.

Unfortunately, many brand experiences can only be delivered to users in a single channel due to the inherent limitations of current marketing clouds, making a promise of sophisticated interaction that can’t be delivered in other channels.

2. Reduce uncertainty: Use visual cues to signal behavior and ability

If you do have varying levels of sophistication for some of your communication channels, you can give your customer cues to set appropriate expectations. If you have created a bot or an app with sophisticated abilities, imbue it with human personality. In contrast, a limited chatbot doesn’t need a name, a highly humanized voice or an avatar. And if your mobile app focuses on a subset of features, be clear about what they are in the app name and description.

3. Responsiveness: Reduce the lag between insight and action

If you gain insight about an individual customer, how quickly can you adjust your interactions to be responsively relevant? A human conversation involves both parties responding in real time to conscious and subconscious cues. If your campaigns and audience segments are static, or if your channels are siloed, it can take too long to move at the speed of the customer. However, with AI marketing that has dynamic decisioning at its core, new data and behavioral signals can immediately be acted upon without human intervention. The result is a more responsive customer interaction that adapts as your customer evolves.

To get to the other side

Helping your customers ascend out of the uncanny valley can seem like a monumental task, but with AI marketing, it is now feasible. Consumer brands that make the leap and move away from the rules will be the first to reap the benefits of consistent, cross-channel interactions that are optimized at scale by AI.

Hurricane Irma was the No. 1 top trending Google search in the US & globally for 2017

Google has released its “Year in Search” for 2017, offering up more than 40 top 10 lists for searches in the US and globally. The search terms are ranked based on the top trending searches that saw the highest spike in traffic over a sustained period in 2017 compared to 2016.

In the US, the No. 1 top trending search term was “Hurricane Irma” — it also ranked No. 1 on the top trending global searches and top news searches in 2017.

In addition to “Hurricane Irma,” “Hurricane Harvey” also showed up in the top overall searches and top news searches in the US, as did “Las Vegas Shooting” and “Solar Eclipse.”

“Many of our trending questions centered around the tragedies and disasters that touched every corner of the world,” says Google, “In these moments and others, our collective humanity shined as we asked ‘how to help’ more than ever before.”

For US top searches, Google released a number of categories, covering everything from the top searches overall to the top searched people, athletes, how-to searches, actors, movies, consumer tech, and even the top searched celebrity breakups of the year.

Former Today Show news anchor, Matt Lauer, who was fired in November by NBC over alleged inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace, was the No. 2 top searched term overall in the US, as well as the No. 1 top searched person, followed by Meghan Markle.

Markle ranked as the No. 1 top searched actor, most likely the result of her engagement to England’s Prince Harry, which was announced in late November.

The top how-to search was “How to make slime,” and the top athlete search was Floyd Mayweather. The iPhone 8 beat the iPhone X for top searched consumer tech, and the top searched celebrity breakup of 2017 was “Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell breakup.”

Here is a selection of Google’s year-in-search lists from the US:

Top 10 searches overall

    Hurricane IrmaMatt LauerTom PettySuper BowlLas Vegas ShootingMayweather vs. McGregor FightSolar EclipseHurricane HarveyAaron HernandezFidget Spinner

Top 10 people searches

    Matt LauerMeghan MarkleHarvey WeinsteinMichael FlynnKevin SpaceyBill O’ReillyMelania TrumpKathy GriffinMilo YiannopoulosGal Gadot

Top 10 news searches

    Hurricane IrmaLas Vegas ShootingSolar EclipseHurricane HarveyBitcoin PriceNorth KoreaHurricane JoseHurricane MariaApril the GiraffeDACA

Top 10 consumer tech searches

    iPhone 8iPhone XNintendo SwitchSamsung Galaxy S8Razer PhoneiPhone 8 PlusSuper NES ClassicGoogle Pixel 2Apple Watch 3Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Top 10 how-to searches

    How to make slimeHow to make solar eclipse glassesHow to watch the solar eclipseHow to watch Mayweather vs McGregorHow to buy BitcoinHow to freeze your creditHow to solve a Rubix CubeHow to make a fidget spinnerHow to cook a turkey in the ovenHow to screen record

Top 10 celebrity breakups in 2017

    Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell breakupMalika Haqq and Ronnie Magro breakupDutchess and Caesar breakupAaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn breakupKylie Jenner and Tyga breakupLindsey Stirling and Ryan Weed breakupChris Pratt and Anna Faris breakupNick Viall and Vanessa Grimaldi breakupAmy Schumer and Ben Hanisch breakupLady Gaga and Taylor Kinney breakup

For global searches, Google put together 15 different categories of the top trending search terms. Many mirrored the results of the top searches in the US, with “Hurricane Irma” at the top of the list for global searches overall and “Matt Lauer” leading the top searched people list.

The top searched global news story was “Hurricane Irma.” This list was nearly the same as the US version, except it included a search for “Manchester” in place of “DACA.”

Top 10 Searches (Global)

    Hurricane IrmaiPhone 8iPhone XMatt LauerMeghan Markle13 Reasons WhyTom PettyFidget SpinnerChester BenningtonIndia National Cricket Team

Top 10 people searches (global)

    Matt LauerMeghan MarkleNadia ToffaHarvey WeinsteinKevin SpaceyGal GadotMelania TrumpFloyd MayweatherMichael FlynnPhilippe Coutinho

Top 10 news searches (global)

    Hurricane IrmaBitcoinLas Vegas ShootingNorth KoreaSolar EclipseHurricane HarveyManchesterHurricane JoseHurricane MariaApril the Giraffe

You can find Google’s full list of 2017’s top US searches and global searches on the Google Trends website.

Max Born Google doodle marks 135th birthday of man behind the Born Rule in quantum theory

For the second day in a row, Google is highlighting a Nobel Prize winner on its home page. Following yesterday’s Robert Koch doodle, today’s doodle marks the 135th birthday of German physicist and mathematician Max Born.

Born was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1954 for his research in the field of quantum physics that led to the Born Rule, a quantum physics theory used for predicting the location of wave particles based on mathematical probability.

From the Google Doodle Blog:

Previous theories proposed that wave equations were exact measurements, involving cumbersome physical measurement experiments. A gifted mathematician, Born discovered that matrices or “arrays of numbers by rows and columns” could yield a similar result, relying on predictions of probability. This revolutionary theory now provides the basis for practically all quantum physics predictions.

After earning his Ph.D. from Göttingen University, Born would go on to serve a theoretical physics professor at the same university. In 1933, he was forced to flee Nazi Germany and relocated to England, where he took a position with St. John’s College, and then at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. Born remained in England for two decades and only returned to Göttingen after he retired.

Designed by guest artist Kati Szilagyi, the doodle leads to a search for “Max Born” and features the mathematician working through his quantum physics theories. Szilagyi also added a special wave-function detail within the image. (Hint: It’s the Psi symbol on the end of his red pen, and not the blue line squiggle through the Google letters. As an English major, I only know this after doing a search for “wave function symbol.”)

Google also shared some of Szilagyi’s early drafts for the Max Born doodle:

Google notes Born’s work in quantum mechanics — the area of physics focused on matter at its most granular level — led to many game-changing technologies, including personal computers, lasers and medical imaging devices.

Max Born Google doodle marks 135th birthday of man behind the Born Rule in quantum theory

For the second day in a row, Google is highlighting a Nobel Prize winner on its home page. Following yesterday’s Robert Koch doodle, today’s doodle marks the 135th birthday of German physicist and mathematician Max Born.

Born was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1954 for his research in the field of quantum physics that led to the Born Rule, a quantum physics theory used for predicting the location of wave particles based on mathematical probability.

From the Google Doodle Blog:

Previous theories proposed that wave equations were exact measurements, involving cumbersome physical measurement experiments. A gifted mathematician, Born discovered that matrices or “arrays of numbers by rows and columns” could yield a similar result, relying on predictions of probability. This revolutionary theory now provides the basis for practically all quantum physics predictions.

After earning his Ph.D. from Göttingen University, Born would go on to serve a theoretical physics professor at the same university. In 1933, he was forced to flee Nazi Germany and relocated to England, where he took a position with St. John’s College, and then at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh. Born remained in England for two decades and only returned to Göttingen after he retired.

Designed by guest artist Kati Szilagyi, the doodle leads to a search for “Max Born” and features the mathematician working through his quantum physics theories. Szilagyi also added a special wave-function detail within the image. (Hint: It’s the Psi symbol on the end of his red pen, and not the blue line squiggle through the Google letters. As an English major, I only know this after doing a search for “wave function symbol.”)

Google also shared some of Szilagyi’s early drafts for the Max Born doodle:

Google notes Born’s work in quantum mechanics — the area of physics focused on matter at its most granular level — led to many game-changing technologies, including personal computers, lasers and medical imaging devices.

Robert Koch Google doodle honors German physician awarded the 1905 Nobel Prize in medicine

Today’s Google doodle pays homage to Robert Koch, the German physician and microbiologist credited with ushering in the Golden Age of bacteriology.

Instead of marking his birthday, Google is honoring Koch with a doodle on the anniversary of being named the Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine in 1905.

“By developing many of the basic principles and techniques of modern bacteriology, he inspired a new generation of scientists and microbe-hunters, ushering in a Golden Age of bacteriology,” writes the Google doodle team on the Google Doodle blog. “During this Golden Age, scientists discovered the microorganisms responsible for causing twenty-one different diseases.”

Designed by doodler Sophie Diao, the doodle leads to a search for “Robert Koch.” The imagery highlights the potato slices Koch used to isolate bacterial cells during his research, as well as Koch’s image in a Petri dish. Google says Koch used potato slices for his experiments until his assistant, Julius Petri, came up with the Petri dish.

As Google notes, Koch understood how solutions to big problems can often be found in their microcosms. It was his research that resulted in scientists’ ability to identify the bacteria for anthrax, cholera, and tuberculosis: “Countless lives have been saved thanks to his role in proving the revolutionary idea that germs cause diseases.”