5 In 5: Minor League Robots, Zoom Escaper, Cruise to Nowhere, Tinder Matches, Zoom Boom

Each week, Padilla’s Insights + Strategy team stands at the intersection of people, culture and brands to bring you five stories that you can read in five minutes.

1. Minor League Robots

Minor League Baseball is experimenting with robotic umpires. Why should you care? Known as the Automatic Ball-Strike System, the robot ump is designed to streamline games by ensuring consistent strike zone callout and determining optimal strike zone for the system. The technology has already been used in independent leagues, but it was met with mixed reviews from players. Some are saying that the art of pitch framing (a valuable skill that takes years to master) will be lost with a robotic umpire calling the shots. As with all new technology, it has the power to transform the fundamentals of the game – but it remains to be seen if that’s a good thing in MLB’s case. [NPR]

2. Zoom Escaper

Zoom Escaper is a new app that allows you to leave meetings by creating fake and unbearably annoying sounds. Why should you care? “I’ve been thinking about how sabotage might work in a digital context, especially one where the means of production are also personal devices that mediate your social life,” said Sam Lavigne, creator of the app. Some of the “annoying sounds” include: a bad connection, an echo, a man crying in the background and likely the most unsavory of all – the sound of urination. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but after a year of Zoom calls we really can’t blame anyone for trying to find an exit/escape by any means necessary. [The Guardian]

3. Cruise to Nowhere

British cruise line P&O has launched cruises to nowhere for vaccinated passengers. Why should you care? The voyages will be offered to British travelers starting this summer with no stop offs and exact routes determined by the weather that day. Other major cruise lines are also offering special vaccinated-passengers-only cruises, but with more precise destinations such as traveling from Israel to the Greek Islands. It’s too soon to tell if these special vaccinated-only cruises will incentivize travelers to get the COVID vaccine, but one thing’s for sure – we’re desperate to get out – even if the destination is to nowhere. [CNN]

4. Tinder Matches

Tinder will give 500 lucky matches free COVID tests. Why should you care? Ah, what’s more romantic than finding love in a pandemic? Tinder’s answer: free COVID tests for matches. With the U.S. finally turning a corner fighting the pandemic, singles are more than ready to mingle. Tinder said on “Dating Sunday,” users swiped 3.4 billion times – making January 3, 2021 one of the app’s busiest days. This spring will bring warmer weather, more vaccines and for singles – maybe a chance to reconvene their dating lives safely with Tinder. [Mashable]

5. Zoom Boom

Zoom Boom – what plastic surgeons are calling the rise in Botox procedures after a year spent on Zoom calls. Why should you care? There has been a 30% increase in cosmetic procedures since the start of the pandemic as people have spent the last year looking at (and critiquing) themselves on Zoom. Patients are also seeing this as an opportune time for a major cosmetic surgery because they can hide the evidence under their masks, or simply by staying home during the pandemic. This unintended side effect of the pandemic comes alongside many other “new normals” such as how we interact and how we shop, with many experts believing our changed behaviors could leave a mark that extends well beyond the pandemic. [ABC News]

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