It’s impossible to turn on the TV, pick up a paper or look at a website without witnessing the influence that online social networks have gained over the last several years.  They’re everywhere, and nobody can seem to decide whether this is a good thing or not.  Do online networks isolate people or bring them together?  Are they dangerous or empowering?

It’s tough to say, but one thing is certain: social networking has become an extremely powerful agent of change. Online networks have been growing at staggering rates–The Economist recently pointed out that if Facebook were a country it would have the third largest population in the world–and many businesses have been forced to recognize that as networks expand so does an individual’s potential influence.  One of my favorite examples is Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” YouTube campaign, which has over 9 million views.  Carroll’s video not only led the airline to reverse its decision not to compensate him for the $3,000 guitar that was broken on a United flight, but also to schedule a personal call between Carroll and United execs “to make it right.”

Review sites like Yelp have also increased the potential influence that individuals have over businesses, especially those that are trying to make a name for themselves.  After visiting a brewery that recently opened down the street from the Republik, one of my friends posted a less than favorable review of the fledgling establishment on Yelp.  She promptly received a lengthy letter from the businesses’ owner, who  urged her to revise her comments, and listed a series of points in the brewery’s defense.

Now social networking seems to be shaking up the long-established hospitality industry.  Short-term rental services like, and have helped create a new kind of hospitality market, the ‘social B&B’, that appeals to travelers who don’t want to stay in a hostel, but would rather not pay the exorbitant rates that hotels often charge in major cities., which encourages members to create personal profiles, allows local residents in cities throughout the world to list their apartment or house for rent.  Interested travelers can then look at pictures and reviews of available rooms, which in New York go from anywhere between $10 a night to $8,000.

Social B&Bs have the potential to draw a significant portion of the market from existing establishments, and, needless to say, not everyone is happy about it.  In an article on the subject that appeared in the New York Times, Benji Lanyado explains, “Innkeepers, for one, point out that [social B&Bs] are unlicensed, uninsured and, depending on local real estate laws, against the law.”  Such opposition could certainly deter the growth of these sites, but I have to agree with Lanyado’s conclusion that “neither apartment owners who stand to make money…nor the growing numbers of travelers looking for a middle ground between [hostels] and a traditional…hotel are likely to be deterred.”

Hotel owners are beginning to see social networking sites as a threat, and they will understandably do what they can to limit the impact that sites like AirBnB have on their business.  But if they consider other industries that have faced similar challenges–music, television, travel–they’ll eventually come to the same conclusion that we have: change or die.

by Robert Shaw West Brand Futurist The Republik Companies Chairman/CEO

Photo Credit: © TripAdvisor


It seems like everyday I find myself reminiscing with someone about a once popular but now laughable piece of technology. My nostalgic musings on the ridiculousness of the Zack Morris phone or the StarTac are inevitably concluded with a smug scroll through the galaxy of apps that now populate my super-smart phone. “How did I survive without my blackberry?” I often hear. How indeed.

But just as I congratulate myself that I stand firmly at the pinnacle of consumer gadgetry the clouds open and I catch a humbling glimpse of a distant peak. One such moment came recently when I learned of a collaboration between Microsoft and Carnegie Melon University to develop “Skinput” technology, which “turns the human body into a giant touch screen.”

The device is in its infancy and presently involves a cumbersome armband and projector, but researchers have already used it to perform an impressive variety of tasks. Skinput senses vibrations in different areas of the body, like when you touch your fingers or even different parts of your palm, and coordinates these inputs with a screen projected onto the skin. Chris Harrison, one of the project’s leaders, “envisions a future device no larger than a small stack of coins, worn around the wrist or bicep, with all the capabilities of an iPhone.”

Zoiks! Two minutes ago I was blissfully ignorant thinking that my 3.5-inch touch screen offered everything that I’d ever need, but now I’m afraid that Zack and I have more in common than I was willing to admit.

by Cody Short Brand Futurist The Republik Corporal Strategic Ops

Photo Credit: © Chris Harrison


Fox news has discovered a green product, and it’s not cash. (heyo!) Seriously though, a korean man has developed a printer that prints with used coffee grounds or tea instead of ink. It is, however, completely manual, so you may want to forgo printing out that Deer Hunter Script and stick with a plane ticket or something.

Either way, it doesn’t require electricity which may prove useful when 2012 comes and we need to print out our own death certificates for the coming apocalypse.

Read more here

“But will it run on human blood?”

by David Avis Brand Futurist The Republik Corporal Creative Ops

Photo Credit: © Jeon Hwan Ju


Israeli invention allows paraplegics to walk

Argo Medical Technologies in Haifa, Israel has developed a robotic exoskeleton that may give the gift of upright mobility to paraplegics. The brains behind the futuristic mechanical suit Amit Goffer, founder of Argo, was paralyzed himself in a traffic accident. The suit is strapped onto the legs and operated by a control box housed in a backpack worn by the user. At the push of a button, the user can stand up, begin walking while another button allows the user to sit down. Further experiments are planned in Europe and the United States.

Read more here.

Now if they could get Obama’s cabinet nominees to pay their taxes, they’d be onto something.

by David Avis Brand Futurist The Republik Corporal Creative Ops

Photo Credit: © Argo Medical Technologies Ltd.


Tsunami Prediction

“British mathematicians say they’ve created a formula that can be used to predict tsunamis and how destructive the tsunamis might become.” These brits found a correlation between the final height of the giant wave as it crashes into land and the shape of the initial wave that is spawned. This correlation, if correct, can give those unfortunate land dwellers up to three hours to evacuate.

Read more here.

“Follow the advice and take the high ground – or just leave.”

But should these powers be used for good or evil?

by David Avis Brand Futurist The Republik Corporal Creative Ops

Photo Credit: Cantus via Wikimedia Commons – Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA


MOMA’s Sky Umbrella Puts You In A Good Mood When The Weather’s Bad

Gray skies and rain will make even the most cheerful feel a little under the weather. Not anymore with the Sky Umbrella.  Now looking up at the ’sky’ on a miserable day can lift your spirits. Designed Tibor Kalman and MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), this creative umbrella may actually do more than protect you from the rain.

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Do you think the Sky Umbrella can lift your spirits on a rainy day?

by David Smith The Republik

Photo Credit: © The Museum of Modern Art Store