You can control your web experience by turning on or off the animations from here.

Get the full report

2021 Change Report

(Re)Building a sustainable utopia.

Digital transformation is realized not through the adoption of momentary trends, but through the grasp of momentous changes that evolve the ways we engage in the world through technology.

Our annual Change Report is a convergence of the visions of our 1,600 specialists who breathe those changes daily. Explore them here and download the full report to reimagine the future of your business today.

Download the full report

The nine tangible signs of sustainable digital transformation

Data democratization

Data democratization and productization are creating company cultures in which workforces are fluent in a shared second language.

Discover Change

The MACH revolution

Thanks to headless technology and cloud-native solutions, modern enterprise architectures are reducing wastes of time, money and resources for business leaders.

Discover Change

Becoming digitally sustainable

Responsible business is sculpting a sustainable future for people, profit and planet with a different kind of digital-first thinking.

Discover Change

The contactless economy

Novel approaches to digital service design are helping businesses stay connected to customers in a reality shaped by physical and social distances.

Discover Change

Bridging the digital divide

Inclusive design and sustainable development are helping businesses connect with more customers in a digitally dependent world.

Discover Change

The agile evolution

Nimble business operating models and inter-industry partnerships are setting new standards for growth with agile transformation.

Discover Change

Investing in tomorrow’s workplace

Trust and flexibility are making the workplace of the future better for business with the likes of workspace optimization and warehouse automation.

Discover Change

Hyperconnected humanity

Business-changing decisions are being made in minutes, not months, thanks to the real-time processing potential of 5G and IoT technology.

Discover Change

When physical met digital

The digitalization of the physical and the humanization of the digital are accelerating a more engaging and lucrative concept of the customer experience strategy.

Discover Change

Explore the technology

Discover how Kin + Carta is making the world work better with diverse, inclusive and responsible digital approaches that have resilience and sustainability at the core.

Kin + Carta exists to make the world work better.

Leveraging more than 1,600 highly specialized technologists, strategists and creatives across four continents, we make the journey to becoming a digital business tangible, sustainable and profitable.

Let’s talk

Want to discuss a particular change? Get in touch today to meet the experts behind the report and discover how Kin + Carta can help you get started.

Ready to make a change?

Realize the potential of sustainable digital transformation for your business by downloading the 2021 Change Report today.

Download the full report

Data democratization

We’ve inadvertently reached an intellectual impasse of data collection and usage.

We have data sets upon data sets amassed over decades, but many of them are still out of reach for anyone who doesn’t have ‘IT’ in their title. Some can’t analyze them, whilst others can’t even access them in the first place.

Progressive business leaders, then, are faced with one of their biggest challenges yet: how do they create options for all employees and weave data fluency into their culture in an era of self-service analytics and organizational acrobatics?

The solution: data democratization and productization.

As many industries are already discovering, the value of creating a data marketplace for widespread access and eloquence is revolutionary for harnessing insights to make faster, fewer and better decisions.

Everyone from chief execs to chief copywriters can benefit from sharing a common second language that revolves around treating data as a product - and customers can benefit from better applications of it.

What could you stand to gain if data fluency replaced data truancy at every level of your organization?

What’s happening?

10% of sales departments can take advantage of their company’s data*.

26.8% of executives have successfully built a data-driven culture within their firms*.

61% of people don't mind sharing their data with organizations so long as they know what it's being used for, and it's useful to them.

What does change look like?

  • Now

    Leaders are starting to see the value of treating data as a product and how this can pave the way to data democratization for the benefit of their entire business model.

  • Near

    Those who can craft data-driven cultures that embrace data democratization will empower employees to become fluent in the language of data and, thus, inspire them to do more with it.

  • Next

    The realization of data democratization will allow employees from every department to shop freely in data marketplaces for outlook-altering insights. The resulting businesses will be more agile than they ever thought possible.

As a data-driven culture is more a factor of influence than of control, spread the word about how data and analytics can help drive business results across business units. Data and analytics is not a technology implementation — it is a change management initiative.

Jorgen Heinzberg, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner

The MACH revolution

Old technologies. New expectations. Obvious ramifications, right?

If the whole world can change overnight, leaders need a modern enterprise architecture that can do the same - not legacy solutions that put them to shame.

It’s altogether timely, then, that we are now in the midst of the MACH (micro-services based, API-first, Cloud-native, headless) revolution. What were once the pride of early adopters are becoming the joy of marketers and developers everywhere: frictionless digital experiences.

Agility, flexibility and reliability are turning from occasional treats to organizational traits for those who know the value of being able to pivot at a moment’s notice.

The likes of headless technology and cloud-native solutions are transforming the ways in which businesses scale, replace, update and improve across the board - and this is only the beginning.

No great change is without its pain-points, of course, so leaders are having to find ways to alleviate them before realizing the future of versatility and customer experience.

What’s happening?

70% of people told us that they have abandoned an online purchase because the website or app was complicated, slow or unfamiliar.

75% of people agree that an old-fashioned or out-of-date app, store or website reflects poorly on a brand.

74% of respondents agreed that "It's important to me and people in my household that websites and apps be accessible for people with different needs".

What does change look like?

  • Now

    The pandemic has challenged the agility of enterprises like their futures depend on it, so they are increasingly turning to MACH solutions to create more sustainable architectures.

  • Near

    As the operational challenges of taking the MACH approach are overcome, the costs of testing and time-to-market will fall and the bars for employee and customer experiences will be raised across numerous industries.

  • Next

    The nimblest enterprises that integrate MACH technologies at every level will future-proof themselves against any local or global crises that threaten to crack the ground beneath their feet.

We live in exciting times for digital experiences and 2020 has shown us the need for a new playbook – platforms that can allow businesses to build compelling and differentiated experiences. This requires flexibility, the scope to experiment at low cost and technology that converts ideas into market-facing content within hours rather than weeks.

Kevin Zellmer, VP of Partnerships at Contentful

Becoming digitally sustainable

The spotlight on sustainability was cranked to full beam when the pandemic turned the whole world upside down.

Business leaders who had taken a proactive approach to sustainable development and digital enablement used the light to guide them on the path to recovery.

Those who had to be reactive averted their eyes and waited for them to adjust before they could even take a step.

Now, the reality we all share is that sustainability is more than a cogent recommendation. It’s an urgent requirement.

So, what are the next steps? How do leaders build more responsible businesses today for a better tomorrow? How do they follow the lead of B Corporations and hold themselves accountable for every digital, physical and mental action?

This is no longer about doing the right thing for professional reputation. It’s about doing the vital thing for future generations - and they won’t be forgiving towards those who do nothing.

What’s happening?

81% of people agree that "brands and businesses have a responsibility to do good in the world - not just to maximize their profits".

80% of people think businesses face a responsibility to invest in becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

74% of people agreed that "It's important to me and people in my household that websites and apps be accessible for people with different needs".

What does change look like?

  • Now

    Business leaders have been nudged down the right path of sustainability by the fork-in-the-road pandemic. They now face a global responsibility to consider the impacts of every turn they take from here on out.

  • Near

    The businesses that choose the routes of responsible digital transformation and sustainable development will be the pace-setters as we collectively move on from a landscape-altering crisis.

  • Next

    Fully sustainable businesses will become a reality and people, planet and profit will benefit. The leaders who held themselves and everyone around them accountable for their efforts will find themselves on the right side of commercial history.

Millennials cite ESG investing as their top priority when considering investment opportunities. This is crucial because the biggest-ever generational transfer of wealth – likely to be around $30trn – from baby boomers to millennials will take place in the next few years. ESG investing was already going to reshape the investment landscape in this new decade – but the coronavirus will quicken the pace of this reshaping.

Nigel Green, Founder and CEO at deVere Group

The contactless economy

The way we work, the way we play and the way we pay have changed for good.

With health and safety firmly at the fore, business leaders are hurtling headlong into a contactless economy that demands an agile approach to service design and a nimble architecture that’s ripe for instant pivots.

Cashierless technology, contactless delivery and product recognition by way of AI are all signposts on the path towards a sustainable economy, but it isn’t all that straightforward to find sense in a safety-first world.

How do leaders approach service design to create contactless experiences that people actually need? How do they overcome the operational and emotional challenges of making them a reality? How do they prepare employees and customers for a future of contactless everything?

When safety is everyone’s prerogative, leaders need to find ways to work it into our everyday lives without a hitch so frictionless, contactless experiences become the rule, not the exception.

What’s happening?

75% of people said they used contactless payment more often in the last 12 months than in previous years.

75% of consumer respondents used less cash in 2020 than in previous years.

53% of global point-of-sale transactions will be contactless within five years*

What does change look like?

  • Now

    The shortcomings of the solutions that don’t put our physical and mental health first are becoming painfully obvious, as the businesses behind them face the very real prospect of turning out consumerless in a contactless economy.

  • Near

    Businesses will start adhering to the new global safety imperative by pursuing people-first initiatives in service design that transform the ways they connect with employees and customers and, indeed, the way users engage with each other.

  • Next

    The future’s most safety-conscious, inclusive and sustainable businesses will be able to create new contactless experiences like it’s second nature and neither customers nor employees will think twice about engaging with them.

The pandemic has only served to accelerate an existing trend, only now touch-free payments are no longer a convenience, but a necessity.

Philip Konopik, Ireland Country Manager at Visa

Bridging the digital divide

What would you do if you discovered that you are shutting out a fifth of your potential customer base because of the way your digital experiences are designed?

That’s the reality facing businesses with exclusionary strategies that ignore the likes of the Purple Pound - and the pandemic has only widened the divide further still between the digitally native and the digitally neglected.

Every day, billions of underrepresented people are hampered by skills gaps, exclusion points and digital poverty and businesses that aren’t addressing them are getting exposed.

There is, however, a way to close the chasm.

The global imperative to be more inclusive can change lives and livelihoods for the better. Indeed, many businesses are already part of The Great Inclusion and their epoch-shaping actions are speaking louder than any box-ticking words.

Discover the new standards of diversity and inclusion as indispensable parts of commercial strategies and how you can lead with empathy and compassion at this critical moment for world commerce.

What’s happening?

53% of people make purchasing decisions based on how diverse and inclusive they know a business to be.

75% of disabled people and their families have refused to give their custom to UK businesses after they provided poor accessibility or customer service.

23% uplift in purchase intent on the most inclusive ad shown to participants in a recent Microsoft study*.

What does change look like?

  • Now

    The pandemic has shone the spotlight on the stark contrast between saying and doing when it comes to accessible design, diversity and inclusion. It leaves business leaders with now-or-never decisions to make about educating staff and adhering to industry standards.

  • Near

    Digital experiences for customers and employees alike will have to become more diverse and inclusive as legislative changes like WCAG 3.0 come into effect. Compliant businesses will embrace the fact that being the change is better than reacting to it later.

  • Next

    A more inclusive design-led world will be a more lucrative world for the businesses that build bridges for the digitally neglected, turning "the missing 20%" into "the engaging 20%" and opening the online world up to excluded people everywhere.

Diversity & Inclusion is one of the things that we want Unilever to be famous for. This means making sure our business is fair, attracting and retaining the very best talent and helping them unlock their full potential.

Alan Jope, CEO at Unilever

The agile evolution

Sometimes we can plan change. Sometimes we have to change plans. The success of either scenario depends on how nimble we are to begin with…

Of course, nobody could have prepared for the worldwide tremors of an industry-agnostic health crisis, but everyone can now appreciate that agile transformation is something of an organizational survival skill. Seismic shifts in customer expectations and employee obligations have changed our perceptions of the truly agile business model, but what does that look like for those who already know the difference between a challenge and an opportunity?

How do businesses identify the operating models that will not only see them through this crisis, but bolster them to cope with any future crises to come? How can organizations go global to serve local with the right partners, the right goods and the right talent when the world is susceptible to constant change?

It’s a reality that’s playing out in the era of the agile and many leaders are already making strides. In landscapes dramatically reformed by cultural, commercial and technological upheaval, the agile evolution is irrevocably underway.

What’s happening?

72% of people agreed with the statement: "I prefer to eat, socialize and shop local to where I live".

73% of consumers surveyed in Britain and the US prefer to buy from British and American companies if possible.

What does change look like?

  • Now

    Leaders are beginning to see the benefits of agile transformation in a new-look world, whether they are benefiting from having planned ahead or planning ahead to benefit in future.

  • Near

    As businesses adapt to more agile models, with cross-functional collaboration and cross-border partnerships blooming, they will realize the true potential of empowering more employees and engaging more customers in their everyday lives.

  • Next

    With streamlined operating models, seamless offshore talent strategies and swift decision-making setting new industry standards across the globe, tomorrow’s truly agile businesses will be able to be there at the point of need every time, whether there is a foundation-shaking crisis or not.

Quite frankly, the Agile approaches scare corporate bureaucrats. At least those that are happy pushing process for process’ sake versus trying to do the best for the “customer” and deliver something timely and tangible and “as promised”—because they run out of places to hide.

Jim Highsmith, American software engineer and author

Investing in tomorrow’s workplace

The world is renegotiating its relationship with work. Technology is the multiplier. Trust is the facilitator.

From work-life equalization to workplace optimization, cultural and operational changes that were afoot before the pandemic have been fast-tracked to the forefront and leaders have been forced to react to forge the right stacks.

When working from home becomes homing from work, employees expect the kind of flexibility that fuels productivity and fosters connections between colleagues.

When faster order fulfillment depends on smarter stock replenishment, employers expect the kind of efficiency that delights the customer and ignites the workforce.

When flexible ways of working become permanent options, employees and employers will together enter a new era of mutual understanding when it comes to meeting each other’s needs.

The physical workplace will never be the same again, but how do leaders use this opportunity to invest in better ways of working? How do they enable better lifestyles for their employees? How do they build better businesses for the future?

What’s happening?

58% of people can't see the way they do their jobs going back to how they were before the pandemic.

69% of people now prefer to work from home at least some of the time if they can.

69% of people agreed that "the opportunity to work flexibly will be a big consideration next time I look for a job".

What does change look like?

  • Now

    Many workplaces of old are no longer fit for purpose, so businesses in almost every industry are grappling with the physical and digital possibilities that lay before them to help and not hinder their workforces.

  • Near

    Leaders will face surging responsibilities to balance the commercial with the emotional as they seek to create remote company cultures that people want to be a part of, whether they are looking at them from the inside or the outside.

  • Next

    With astute technology stacks and mutual understandings, the workplace of the future will, at long last, nurture more trusting relationships between employers and employees, as we collectively rebuild a more rewarding world of work for us all.

Many organizations throw billions into building magnificent buildings, but they don’t hear this very simple idea: If you don’t understand how your social and spatial environments are interacting, more likely than not, all that investment is for naught.

Felix Kabo, Architect and Scientist, Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan

Hyperconnected humanity

Every now and again, a metamorphic movement comes along to alter our expectations of the future.

The endless possibilities of lightning-fast 5G, IoT technology and the real-time data processing that follows are already changing the world. From precision farming to factory-floor robotics, some businesses are enjoying slicker processes, safer environments and smoother experiences than ever before.

Products and services are running seamlessly. People and technology are coexisting peacefully. Data and insights are flowing freely.

That’s all well and good, of course, but it’s not easy and it’s not cheap, so leaders who crave connectivity are faced with some transformative questions.

How do they make it both useful and cost-effective? How do they make smarter investments to create smarter solutions for both employees and customers? How do they protect customer trust in a safety-conscious, data-savvy world of interconnected people and devices?

The answers lie in choosing the right partner for the journey ahead. There is no wormhole between the here-and-now and the hyperconnected future, but there might well be a sinkhole for those who stand still...

What’s happening?

53% of people are "excited about the possibilities of 5G devices".

72% of people are "worried about the security and privacy risks of more and more things around the home being connected to the internet".

69% of people "feel like they have given up a lot of data to businesses online, but not gotten much in return".

What does change look like?

  • Now

    The world is waking up to a vast array of interconnected possibilities to create superior digital experiences for customers and employees.

  • Near

    The business leaders who find the right partners and harness the capacity of 5G IoT technology to fuel innovation and drive end-to-end value will leave competitors trailing in their wake.

  • Next

    Businesses that prove they can protect privacy rights and use data appropriately will nurture trusting and harmonious relationships with their customers, as IoT devices fit seamlessly into our daily lives.

[IoT] is really an exercise in bridging the technology capabilities with improving business operations. No one deploys an IoT project simply to use a new technology. In certain industries, 5G will be forefront in driving industrial automation, by enabling both indoor and outdoor environments to seamlessly connect

Patrick Film, Senior Research Analyst at International Data Corp

When physical met digital

Leading brands are blending the best of both worlds to create customer experience strategies that are turning heads for all the right reasons.

Whatever the recipe, you’ll want what they’re having before long.

Today’s customers want more and they want it faster, which means employees need more and they need it to be better than it was before the pandemic, but where does that leave brands that are trying to find the answers?

How do they create concepts that will actually engage people and promote products and services? How do they find the perfect marriage of convenient experiences that turn touchpoints into precious brand points?

Trust, loyalty and satisfaction are all at stake at any given moment, so business leaders are faced with the future-defining challenge of deciding what to digitize and what to humanize in an ever-changing world of commerce.

The blended reality of brand experience is here and the possibilities of trust at first sight and long-term relationships are there (and now isn’t the time to fake it).

What’s happening?

77% of people expect every store to offer some kind of online option nowadays.

75% of respondents agreed that "shopping online can be convenient, but it's no replacement for being able to experience a product for yourself in-store".

71% of high-income earners expect to do more online shopping in future*.

What does change look like?

  • Now

    Brands have been presented with an opportune moment to find the perfect blend of online and offline experiences to appeal to the post-pandemic consumer, but they must develop a robust understanding of them first.

  • Near

    Those that can personalize to capitalize and automate to accumulate will not only set the new standard of the convenient customer experience, but they will set themselves up for a more sustainable future.

  • Next

    The industry leaders of tomorrow will leverage a vast array of data, spaces and technology to meet consumers at their points of need with ultimate agility and necessary velocity.

There are all sorts of things happening online, like recommendations, preferences and suggestions. That stuff hasn't been fully evolved into the store experience. Bringing the digital into the physical store experience — I think that's going to be a big investment area for 2021.

Michele Herron, SVP Strategy, Marketing & Small Business Segment Leader at Visa

Gamifying inclusive experiences

Access concerns the ability or capacity to engage with products and services online. Millions of people are excluded from digital experiences because either they lack the skills or knowledge to access them or because the experiences are not designed with empathy to allow them to do so. Businesses today have an opportunity to become an example by ingraining inclusive design into their experiences.

Join Ryan Fitch, Data Engineer, and Omar Shanti, Labs 365 Chicago Lead, as they walk you through Koko, a gamified experience where Machine Learning and Computer Vision are leveraged to teach users how to communicate seamlessly with American Sign Language (ASL), and to train a model to be able to provide real-time translations between ASL and a verbal language. Koko is proof that creating inclusive learning experiences with emerging technology can help drive valuable change through human-centered design.

Transcript

Omar Shanti:

Software has never been as ingrained in our lives as it is today.

How we work, order groceries, and even check on our loved ones is increasingly shaped by the technology we have on offer. But, as the pandemic has sadly illustrated, the same technology which has empowered some has excluded others.

Against this backdrop, championing digital inclusivity and bridging the digital divide separating different demographics is more crucial than ever. Designing experiences that empower all users is key.

For us here at Kin + Carta embracing inclusivity is a top priority - whether delivering virtual experiences for our clients or experimenting internally. In a moment, Ryan Fitch will talk about one such experiment: Koko.

Ryan Fitch:

Emerging from Kin + Carta’s Labs, Koko is an experiment that ties together cutting edge technology and inclusive design to build and enable communication. Initially developed as a tool to interpret hand signs, Koko has evolved into a gamified web experience that enables participants to learn and develop their skills with American Sign Language.

We as a group of engineers, designers, and product strategists came together with one common goal to provide the participants with a unique and engaging way to learn language rooted in human-centered design. This allowed us to create an experience that is inclusive and purposeful as the participant walks away with not only relevant American Sign Language experience but also empathy for a new way of communication.

We aligned with Kin + Carta’s data privacy considerations by asking the participants to provide their consent before beginning the experience. This allows us to feed their images through the cloud hosted image classification model which outputs a score that is used to measure the efficacy of the sign and is eventually relayed back to the user as a performance indicator. To ensure a compelling experience, we built a gamification system around our Computer Vision core to create a feedback cycle that measures how much American Sign Language the user has learned.

Koko is built on GCP and leverages its latest Vision AI offerings. By virtue of its architecture, Koko learns as its users learn. Specifically, the more that users interact with Koko, the more ASL that they will learn, and the better the Koko algorithm will be at discerning signs.

Although Koko lives in the jungle, she proves that opportunities to create inclusive learning experiences with emerging and existing technologies alike, and drive change through human-centered design exist all around the world.

Omar Shanti:

We’ve just seen how Koko leverages emerging technology to tackle digital inclusivity. But the fact is digital inclusivity must be rooted in user-centered design and embedded throughout the entire delivery lifecycle.

Over the past few years, many companies have recognized this and begun to champion this initiative and trail-blazed in their industries. This prompted Gartner to list Inclusive Design as one of its Top Digital Experience Trends for 2020.

We at Kin + Carta agree and have no doubt that this change will only continue to gather momentum in 2021.

From digital twin to data marketplace.

Siloed data and a lack of transparent access and governance are problems that plague most organizations today, threatening their ability to make faster, fewer and better decisions across different departments by discovering insights at speed. As a connective of different specialisms across several countries, Kin + Carta also faces a unique set of challenges and bottlenecks that can only be solved by making data more accessible within the organization.

With the endgame of reducing inefficiencies and avoiding emerging data silos, DigitalKin was born. Join Dhyaanesh Mullagur, Technical Consultant; Don Johnson, Technical Principal; and Chris Weiland, Director of Kin + Carta Labs; as they provide an inside look into DigitalKin, a conversational Slackbot built on a data mesh architecture designed to enable employees to discover company-wide insights by providing access to a user-friendly data marketplace.

Transcript

Chris Weiland:

Data is quickly becoming both the language and the fuel of business.

Digitally mature companies understand data as a service and a knowledge asset that must be easily accessed, analyzed and reported by everyone - specialist and non-specialist alike - who has a need for information and the insights gained from it.

This is the goal of data democratization.

What will this look like for companies that decide to embrace a democratized data marketplace? Our Labs Innovation team created a platform and an interactive user experience to explore and answer this question, using our own organization's data.

Let's take a look at "Digital Kin".

Dhyaanesh Mullagur:

DigitalKin was born from a very fundamental problem that plagues most organizations, siloed data and a lack of transparent access and governance. Kin + Carta faces a unique set of challenges since we are a Connective of different specialisms across multiple continents. This visualization represents the real time connectedness and slack interactions across our organization globally. As we scale, avoiding emerging silos and connecting various data sources to reduce inefficiencies is starting to become an active problem and out of this the DIgitalKin project was born.

Don Johnson:

Thanks Dhy!

To solve this problem, we began by exploring the evolution of Data platforms. How would a modern data platform be architected today? And the answer we discovered was using the Data Mesh. Why? Well this architecture's core principle is using data as a product. And with this, we can take much of the knowledge of microservice design and apply it to data.

We started by dividing K+C into its business domains: Ordering, Customer CRM, and Demand Forecasting. Each of them are a data product in a mesh with an underpinning of shared data governance, infrastructure,and a common language for consumption. After building the data mesh, we now have a unified platform we use to discover insights.

Let’s drill into Demand Forecasting and take a look at how we have put this together. Slack, Salesforce, and G-Suite are powerful tools on their own but there is a lack of coordination to deliver a unified picture.

To bridge this gap, we connected them into their relevant core domains. These core domains are the building blocks for higher level concepts which are shared among the derived domains. For Demand Forecasting, the Experts domain is where all of the magic happens because it connects employee profiles and skills with client needs.

And finally, we build Business Applications on top of all this. By combining Slack bot and DialogFlow with our Data Mesh, DigitalKin gives our Kin access to all of these insights.

Dhyaanesh Mullagur:

Here is an example of our product in action. As you can see Kin around the company can enter the chat and query for various data in a conversational way. In this example the bot reminds our casting leads of an upcoming project and the user is then able to ask follow up questions to find about the Kin with the technical expertise required to fill that role. The feature set is definitely ever expanding as we seek to add more data and allow different queries.

This was one experience that the underlying technology enabled us to build. As we continue to develop this, we are working towards other use cases and a customer experience driven approach experiences in a customer experience driven approach to see how to best serve the data and corresponding insights to the company. It is an ongoing transformation that begins with data and ends with addressing the daily needs of our Kin.

VR and AR meet the real world

While digital commerce has been a rising trend for the past few years, 2020 has turned online shopping from convenience to necessity. As this transformation might have shed light on the weaker points of supply and demand planning and logistics solutions, it has also opened up a world of opportunities for businesses to engage their customers in a more interactive and valuable way. In the realm of these opportunities, Kin + Carta Labs leveraged virtual reality and augmented reality technology to create an interactive experience called “FLWR”, where the physical and the digital worlds meet.

Transcript

Kim Ortegel:

The COVID pandemic fast-tracked a new normal in which online shopping has become the norm. Many customers, however, still find reasons to choose the physical in-store experience.
In this sense, there is an opportunity for companies to use technology to enhance the customer’s online journey, to make it feel closer to the physical experiences they long for.

What if Virtual and Augmented Reality are the answer? Virtual Reality uses technology to replace your field of vision and your real world experiences, while augmented reality uses technology to enhance your experience within the real world. Technologies like VR and AR can help develop immersive online environments that empower customers to see and feel your products as if they were right next to them.
Our Labs innovation team leveraged these technologies to create an interactive user journey where the physical and the digital worlds meet. We call that experience "FLWR".

Tyler Stewart:

FLWR is an experience that aims to bridge the gap between a user in an immersive VR environment and participants watching via a Mixed-Reality view in which the VR player is composited into the digital environment in real-time.

In FLWR, the player in the VR headset takes on the role of a gardener watering plants as they sprout up from the ground with their trusty hose, but with a twist: all the plants look the same to them, and only the spectators can see which plants are flowers and which are weeds. Points are awarded for successfully watering a flower, but points are lost if you accidentally water a weed, so the gardener and the onlookers must work together to grow a beautiful garden (and go for a high score!). One of the most exciting parts of watching people try FLWR for the first time is watching the different communication techniques that groups of people develop as they take turns in (and out of) the headset, and seeing how each technique scores.

When we set out to build FLWR, we knew we’d be exhibiting it in a conference environment, so we considered a real-time “third person” view which shows the current player projected into the digital environment to be critical for the audience to understand and appreciate what the VR player was experiencing. Getting the audience involved allowed us to have many attendees all participating in the experience at once.
That said, while we used it to make our experience more engaging for attendees, the paradigm of a VR experience with support for a non-VR observer view could have a number of other interesting applications.
It could be used to train someone how to perform a task where going in blind could be dangerous, or to train for tasks where participants might normally have to be brought on-site.
Applied to retail settings, this could be a step towards rebuilding the relationship between a customer browsing a store for a particular product, and a retail-worker, who could step in to assist that customer and secure a sale.

And while FLWR focuses on exploring the idea-space of bringing the physical into the digital environment, we’ve also explored augmented reality, offering a whole different set of possibilities, from navigating an unfamiliar space to visualizing a piece of furniture in your own living room before you buy it.

Kim Ortegel:

FLWR is a great example of how the digital and physical worlds can come together to create amazing experiences that enhance the customer journey.

As our new normal continues to evolve, what benefits can you envision emerging from combining Virtual and Augmented Reality to enhance your customers’ experiences?

Rethinking product recognition

Contactless experiences were a rising trend before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new safety imperative has fast-tracked them into society. Consumers today expect to be able to purchase goods and have them delivered in a contactless way to stay safe. Kin + Carta has designed its own contactless solution, IdentifAI, a mobile app that identifies food items using machine learning to provide an end-to-end contactless shopping experience. Join our Labs 365 team as they demonstrate how IdentifAI can power the next generation of shopping experiences and spearhead a revolution in the new contactless economy.

Transcript

Nicole Wagner:

Commerce as we know it is changing. Gone are the days of exchanging cash and coins for physical goods at brick and mortar stores. Today we live in a contactless economy as consumers now expect contactless purchasing and delivery to stay safe.
Embracing contactless solutions brings new challenges to retail. Automated systems will need to handle ambiguous situations such as missing barcodes or mislabeled items. The emergence of machine learning means that handling these issues is now possible.

To demonstrate these capabilities, Kin + Carta built IdentifAI, an end-to-end machine learning solution for a contactless shopping experience, using only a smartphone.

IdentifAI is an iOS app that identifies food items using the phone’s camera. Powered by machine learning, consumers can quickly enter a list of food items and find recipes that use those ingredients. Behind the scenes, employees can use the app to collect photos of food items and use them to improve the recognition model over time. The solution reports the model’s performance to a dashboard so that data scientists can make future improvements to the system. IdentifAI is a full machine learning solution that brings value to consumers.

Andrew Lake:

We initially set out to build a solution to demonstrate how machine learning can be used on the edge to drive intelligent customer experiences. After some research, the team realized that object identification is a powerful application of machine learning with various potential business use cases - whether that be for custom shopping experiences or inventory management systems.

IdentifAI is powered by Apple’s CoreML framework. Alongside hardware advancements that support machine learning at the edge, both Apple and Google have introduced software frameworks to leverage this hardware in mobile apps. We selected CoreML so that object recognition can run right on the device, instead of the cloud. Object recognition takes just seconds, whether you’re on or offline.

IdentifAI’s backend workflow is powered by Google Cloud Platform. GCP offers best-in-class data science products, so you can focus on building your applications. Using these tools, we built an analytics dashboard to help monitor the model’s performance and present insights in an actionable way. This completed an end-to-end workflow of model training, deployment, use, and analytics for continuous improvement.

Nicole Wagner:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions will continue to shape our world in new ways. In IdentifAI, we demonstrated how AI can power the next generation of shopping experiences, and spearhead a revolution in the new contactless economy.

The pandemic has only reinforced how quickly consumer expectations can and will continue to change. We should expect that modern shoppers’ needs will continue to evolve, with an ever-increasing demand for convenience and digital intelligence. At Kin + Carta we’re excited by this challenge. We look forward to making the seamless customer experiences of the future real.

Office World: Culture within people

As we are propelled into a world in which remote collaboration has become ordinary for many workers instead of an option available to a minority, businesses around the world are all faced with a common challenge: using technology to craft a company culture that helps foster connections between people, sustain a productive workforce and establish the foundation for a healthy work-life balance. As our research has shown, the majority of people can’t see the way they do their jobs going back to how they were before the pandemic. In this new scenario, how can leaders invest in technology to design the ideal environments for employees that are not only forced to, but are choosing to work remotely?

In 2020, Kin + Carta Labs issued the Kinnect Challenge, a call for Kin to build digital experiences that would help retrieve the connections that once existed among the Kin who used to share a physical office. Among the projects that were born out of the Kinnect Challenge, Scrum Master Thain Humphrey and Technical Principal Praneet Sahgal will walk us through Office World, an interactive experience where members of Kin + Carta can meet virtually in a digital recreation of our Chicago office.

Transcript

Thain Humphrey:

The pandemic has changed the way we work. Remote working, once considered a radical idea, is now commonplace in a variety of industries. While this shift has brought benefits, such as flexibility and shortened commutes, there are some things we lost. Offices brought community, chance interactions, and opportunities to connect with our coworkers.

In response, Kin + Carta Labs issued the Kinnect Challenge, a call for Kin to work on experiences to rebuild that spirit of connectedness that filled our office space, day after day. One of our teams recognized that we were missing our physical office, and so they set out to build a virtual one. I’d like to introduce Praneet Sahgal to tell us more about tomorrow’s workplace project, Office World:

Praneet Sahgal:

Office World is an online interactive experience where members of Kin + Carta can meet virtually in a digital recreation of our Chicago office. In this space, coworkers can interact with one another, explore the office, and spend time together. The current version includes the office common areas, such as the cafe and the employee lounge. In the future, we plan to add more space, more ways to interact with one another, and more options for character customization.

Kin + Carta has a vibrant and active community of gamers and hobbyist game developers, and the community was eager to work on an interactive experience to help people connect virtually. To test out our idea, we first built a working prototype, tapping into our Kin’s expertise in game development, art, design, and sound. We then used our prototype to playtest the experience with coworkers. From user research, we found that this experience could recreate some of the joy and satisfaction of spending time with coworkers in a shared space.

Office World uses the Unity game engine, a full framework for developing games and interactive experiences. It handles graphics, sounds, user input, and more. This mature game engine is widely used for 3D projects in a variety of industries, and is popular within our internal game development community. For real-time server communication, we used an open-source toolkit called Forge Networking.

For server hosting, we selected Google Cloud Platform because of its best-in-class tooling for managing multiple servers with Kubernetes. As the experience scales up, we’ll be looking to leverage GCP services such as Google Kubernetes Engine and Google Game Servers. We’re excited to see what tools Google releases to help build interactive multiplayer experiences!

Thain Humphrey:

It’s clear from the events of the past year that remote working is now the norm for years to come. As we all adjust to this new way of working, it’s important that companies not only invest in building products and services that sell, but also invest in culture and community. This means building shared spaces for employees, whether it’s a Slack workspace, virtual events, or even a virtual office.

The best company cultures foster empathy, innovation, and engagement. Kin + Carta prides itself on being a place where you can bring your whole self to work, which is what made Office World possible. By encouraging experiments and projects like this, we are not only building a culture that brings innovative solutions to our clients, but also showcasing our digital products that help foster one of the key factors to a business’ success in the new normal: resilient remote teams bonded together by a common culture.