At the new Rebecca Minkoff store in San Francisco, the mirrors come alive. Walk into the fitting room with, say, a blouse and a jacket, and the dark glass lights up with a suggested handbag to match. You can browse the racks at the upscale fashion boutique or swipe through “looks” on massive touchscreens. If you see something you like, you tap in your phone number, and you’ll get a text when it’s ready to try on.
From the sharp interface design to the seemingly seamless fusion of digital connectedness to physical retail, this place feels like the brick-and-mortar store of the future. But the brains behind it come from the online world. This Rebecca Minkoff store and a partner location in New York are opening for the holidays to show off eBay’s latest tech for re-inventing in-store shopping.
Yes, that eBay.
Though most consumers still think of eBay strictly as an online shopping destination, the company’s official corporate mission is to strive toward becoming a venue for all commerce. And that means integrating itself with the physical world, where the vast majority of retail still takes place.
Echoing the efforts by so many other internet companies to invade the physical world—from Amazon to Foursquare—the eBay mirrors flip the standard script in which offline stores struggling to catch up by porting their physical presence online. In this case, both eBay and Rebecca Minkoff—which started as an online-only brand—are venturing offline in a recognition that the future of shopping will include elements of both.
“People still want to use their five senses, not just the one sense you use when you’re doing e-commerce,” says Steve Yankovich, eBay’s head of innovation and new ventures. “So physical retail, a showroom, I think will never go away.”
From Novelty to Expectation
The “connected” Rebecca Minkoff stores include a feature becoming more common in physical retail, in which the store will “recognize” users of its mobile app, allowing staff to see who’s in the store and what they’ve bought. Using that purchase history, the staff can act like a human version of Amazon’s recommendation engine.
The stores are also equipped with cameras that are able to track individual shoppers (anonymously, eBay says) through the store. By observing shopper behavior, store managagers can tweak everything from layout and display to price, mimicking the kind of A/B testing and analytics commonplace on e-commerce websites.
The digital mirror-equipped stores are opening just as eBay appears to be rethinking another experiment in offline retail. The company has pulled its eBay Now same-day delivery app from the App Store, apparently in favor of integrating the service into its main app. In keeping with eBay’s basic idea of serving as a platform to connect buyers and sellers, eBay Now worked by letting shoppers place orders that drivers filled by buying the items direct at local chain stores.
One possible appeal of eBay Now to brick-and-mortar stores like Staples and Walgreens was that it gave them a way to compete with Amazon’s move into same-day delivery. But it’s unclear how much demand for such a costly service exists. The magic mirrors, on the other hand, integrate aspects of online shopping with the most traditional form of retail gratification: actually being there. Whether eBay ends up becoming a major provider of physical retail tech remains to be seen. But as mobile devices make computing a ubiquitous presence in the physical world, the kind of digitally augmented experiences eBay’s experiment with Rebecca Minkoff envisions will no longer be a novelty—it will be expected.
The first human trial of an experimental vaccine against Ebola showed “promising” results but it will be months before it can be used in the field.
Twenty volunteers were immunized in the United States and none suffered major side effects. All produced antibodies according to research published Wednesday the New England Journal of Medicine.
“The unprecedented scale of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has intensified efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines,” said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is developing the vaccine alongside GlaxoSmithKline.
The vaccines under development “may play a role in bringing this epidemic to an end and undoubtedly will be critically important in preventing future large outbreaks,” he said.
The news comes amid the worst ever outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever, which has killed nearly 5,700 people in West Africa, most of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In the first phase of testing, the 20 healthy adults were divided into two groups, receiving a higher or lower dose of the vaccine. The volunteers were injected starting in September.
The researchers reported no serious side effects but two people who received the higher-dose vaccine briefly spiked fevers, one above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, which disappeared within a day.
Each of the volunteers showed a positive result for Ebola antibodies in blood tests within four weeks, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which conducted the study.
The 10 volunteers in the higher-dose group developed higher antibody levels, the NIH said.
In addition, two of the lower-dose group and seven of the higher-dose group developed a kind of immune cell called CD8 T cells, which are an important part of the body’s response against disease.
“We know from previous studies in non-human primates that CD8 T cells played a crucial role in protecting animals” who got the vaccine and then were exposed to Ebola, said researcher Julie Ledgerwood, the trial’s principal investigator.
The NIAID is “in active discussions with Liberian officials and other partners about next-stage vaccine testing in West Africa” for efficacy and safety, the NIH said, but no announcement on larger-scale trials was expected before early next year.
Another experimental vaccine that has shown promising results in primates is the Canadian VSV-EBOV, licensed by the U.S.-firm NewLink Genetics. It is also in early stages of human testing.
Many questions remain as larger studies are being designed, including the best dose and how soon protection may begin, cautioned Dr. Daniel Bausch, a Tulane University Ebola specialist who wasn’t involved in the study.
There is no licensed treatment or vaccine against the Ebola virus, which is transmitted through bodily fluids and has been fatal in an estimated 70 percent of cases in the current outbreak.
The World Health Organization said Thursday that the global death toll from the Ebola virus had increased to 5,689 out of a total of 15,935 cases of infection, almost entirely in western Africa.
The WHO believes that the number of deaths is likely far higher, given the difficulty in collecting comprehensive figures and Ebola’s high fatality rate.
Al Jazeera and wire services
Thanksgiving is upon is. Families will gather this week to eat, drink, reminisce — and, inevitably, argue about what’s going on in the news. Here are some topics that are likely to come up at your family’s feast, and some pointers for how to respond to what your relatives may say.
With activists mobilizing to protest low wages at retail stores this week, corporate toads are seeking payback
Ronald “the Great Communicator” Reagan had a reputation for being a funny, cheerful politician who succeeded by making people feel good about themselves. But it’s important to remember that it wasn’t all people and he often made rather nasty jokes about some people to entertain others and make a point. For instance, one of his more famous punch lines as Governor of California, guaranteed to get big laughs was “a hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane and smells like Cheetah.”
Funny, funny stuff, to be sure. But it perfectly illustrated one of right-wing America’s most long-lived tropes: the hippie protester. (This is not to be confused with the African American civil rights protester which usually morphs from “protester” to “rioter” to “thug” the minute the police show up looking like Robocop.) Going back to the 1960s, anti-war and social justice protesters have been characterized in a very particular way: they are held to be lazy, unclean, diseased and deviant. And weirdly, even if you haven’t seen a real “hippie” in a couple of decades, if you check with Mr Google, there are quite a few people out there who are obsessed with them. Yes, they are conservatives, many of the same ones who love Ted Nugent. Go figure?
But despite the fact that the old style hippies are mostly geriatric these days, the trope was raised again with some energy during the Occupy protests. Newt Gingrich, the man who created the vocabulary the right uses to denigrate its enemies, crystallized it this way when he was asked to respond to Occupy Wall Street: “Go get a job, right after you take a bath.”
The right wing media also gave the conservatives what they wanted with lurid headlines of total anarchy at the Occupy camps. This was in the New York Post:
Needless to say, there were real incidents, as we’ve unfortunately come to expect at any large scale gathering. (Like last summer’s gang rapes at country music concerts, for instance.)But the reporting among right wingers had the Occupy Protesters as primitive animals marauding across America’s cities like the Mongol Horde of the 13th century. In reality, Occupy had its problems but cleanliness wasn’t among them.
St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s decision to “open up” the grand jury proceedings by including massive amounts of testimony and evidence has been decried as “highly unusual,” “deeply unfair,” and evidence that police officer Darren Wilson received “special treatment.” McCulloch’s move to include a good deal of exculpatory evidence and testimony led to a three-month, closed-door proceeding that included 70 hours of testimony, including 60 witnesses and three medical examiners. The breadth of the evidence presented to the grand jury has led many to declare that it turned the entire proceeding into something that walks and quacks an awful lot like a trial, but without many of the procedural rules that would make a trial truly fair.
This move to morph a grand jury inquiry, which is typically a short rundown of the case for the prosecution, into a trial-like parade of mountains of evidence raises serious issues about the rights of Michael Brown’s family to have a fair process for their dead son, as well as highlighting concerns about unequal treatment of different kinds of criminal defendants. But seemingly lost in this jumble of legal concerns is the fact that McCulloch’s decision to shift the truth-seeking function of a criminal trial into the secret realm of the grand jury room violated another set of constitutional rights—ours. It violated our collective public right to an open criminal justice system. And if ever there was a trial to which Americans deserved a meaningful right of access, Wilson’s trial was it. Instead, we have a post-hoc document dump.
In the 1980 case of Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia, the Supreme Court declared that the press and public have a First Amendment right of access to criminal trials. In the words of Justice William Brennan, “Open trials are bulwarks of our free and democratic government: Public access to court proceedings is one of the numerous ‘checks and balances’ of our system, because ‘contemporaneous review in the forum of public opinion is an effective restraint on possible abuse of judicial power.’ ”
This right of open trials belongs not just to the accused but to all of us. It is, the Supreme Court said in the 1986 case Press Enterprise v. Superior Court, “a shared right of the accused and the public, the common concern being the assurance of fairness.” And while those accused of crimes have a constitutional right to a “speedy and open trial,” they do not, the court has said, have a right to a private trial.