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The best thing from this year's CES is a $15 foam cube



I've been a CES tour guide for the last few years, watching time-lapse trends where 3D printing went from corner novelty to a huge exhibit and Smart Cities moved from notion to pervasive presence.

This year's CES was a retread of CES 2017, except that instead of Amazon Alexa integrations as far as the eye could see, this was the year that, in the quip of my friend Lori Luechtefeld of WIT Strategy, "Google basically shrink wrapped the entire city of Las Vegas, including the monorail!" So mine was a souvenir des CESes passées (remembrance of CESes past) experience– more big TVs and connected kitchen appliances and soon-to-be short-lived electric cars.

With one exception.

Smack in the middle of South Hall (around the corner from where Kodak proudly showcased 3D scanning and printing technology that turns you into a shrinky-dink, the same technology that has been available in my local shopping mall for years) stood Merge VR, based in San Antonio and founded by chief executive Franklin Lyons.

Merge used most of its CES display to focus on the dramatic 6DoF Blaster that turns your smart phone into a virtual super soaker, but the thing that made my heart get fluttery is the Merge Cube, a.k.a. "the hologram you hold in your hand."

The Cube looks like the love child of a Rubik's Cube and the tesseract from the first Avenger's movie: it's made of charcoal grey, lightweight foam, and it has intricate faux metal engravings on it. When you look at the Cube through the camera of your smart phone it comes alive. Merge's app superimposes holograms on top of the Cube, and since you can easily twist and turn the Cube in your hand that means you can also manipulate the holograms.

The Cube is completely intuitive and compelling– the opposite of the awkward paddles you have to use in most VR environments.

This might not sound exciting in the abstract (although if you click here you'll get a more savory sense of what I'm talking about), but up close the Cube provoked both the most excited squeals and most fascinated rapid speculation among my tourists.

With the Cube, you can hold a virtual skull or heart, turning them to get different perspectives and zoom in on what you want to see. You can twist engine parts and dental molds around to see how they fit together, and there are virtual games that combine features of Lego and Minecraft.

You can also place a virtual object and use the Cube to walk around it, so a virtual statue could either be in the palm of your hand or on your kitchen table where you can look at it from different angles.

Best of all, it's an open platform. Developers can build new and exciting experiences on top of Merge, and this last feature is what made the Cube my favorite exhibit at this year's CES. The open platform changes the Cube from a toy to a tool, from something that will quickly gather dust in closets to a vibrant ecosystem in the making akin to what Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain calls the "generative internet."

My tourists agreed: a cardiologist and med school professor thought that the virtual heart would be a wonderful anatomy tool for his students; an R&D scientist for a major cola company got a calculating look on his face when he imagined using the Cube to test new packaging virtually; a senior executive for a major Scandinavian auto dealership was excited to imagine her engineers learning about new engines more easily using the Cube.

Merge's product isn't just creative itself: it provokes creativity in others.

The biggest surprise — which I've spoiled in this article's headline — came when I learned the price point: the Cube costs just $15.

The LG tunnel of flexible TV screens is impressive. The Byton electric car prototype is beautiful. Alibaba's "smile to pay" technology is interesting (and a bit creepy).

The Merge Cube is important.

Marketers shouldn't let the Cube's low price point and toy-like form factor blind them to its potential: with even base-hit success the Cube will absorb a lot of attention, and attention is the oxygen that brands need to breathe.

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YouTube Re:View – Eminem battles Venom



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Welcome to YouTube Re:View, a weekly listing of the most talked-about YouTube videos in the UK, brought to you by The Drum. This week Eminem takes on Venom, Post Malone pranks people with undercover record store surprise, Boston Dynamics' SpotMini takes on Bruno MArs, musician Calum Scott share his coming out story and Netflix get set to release it's latest original series, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

A shady symbiote – Eminem 'Venom' official music video

The music video for Eminem's latest track, 'Venom', from the motion picture staring Tom Hardy, follows the arc of a young man who finds a CD copy of the rapper's latest album Kamikaze on a street, only to discover that the disc is attempting to cover his body in black slime in the style of Venom.

(View Count: 184,672*)

Post Malone pranks people with undercover record store surprise

In support of Post Malone's Omaze campaign where you could ride with him in a Bentley and win your own, the rapper went undercover as an aspiring hip-hop artist where he workshops lyrics, talks about Bentleys and surprises fans.

(View Count: 3,635,874*)

SpotMini takes on Bruno Mars

Last week Boston Dynamics' Atlas was doing parkour. This week Spot is showing off it's dance moves, taking on Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk. These dance moves don;t only put some of us to shame, but are fantastic reminder of the rise of improvements in machines.

(View Count: 3,532,482*)

Calum Scott: A coming out story

Calum Scott made it to the finals of Britain's Got Talent in 2015. Three years later he released his debut album, Only Human. In this clip, the artist recounts a painful part of his young adult life, coming to terms with his sexuality and letting the world know about it. Abandoned by friends, in this moving profile, Scott explains how he found the courage to be truthful about himself through music.

(View Count: 567,575*)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina trailer

Though there has been various versions of the infamous comic book teenage witch, Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina looks set to be the most horrifying of them all. Most teenagers only need to choose what birthday cake they want for their sweet 16, but half witch, half human Sabrina Spellman must make a choice between the witch world of her family and the human world of her friends.

(View Count: 3,968,266*)

YouTube UK Ads Leaderboard: September’s Top 10

Dior brings us all the joy literally, as their ad for their latest fragrance JOY clinches the top spot – while tech, cars, sport and the National Lottery (if we win that and the Bentley, we’ll be the happiest, right?) are fast in the running. Discover the latest Top 10 ads on the YouTube UK Ads Leaderboard and the brands and agencies who worked their magic to create them.

YouTube UK Ads Leaderboard: September’s Top 10


(*all view count numbers, correct at time of publication)

Never miss a beat with the week's top videos on YouTube UK. Tune in next Friday for the next line-up.

Can’t wait? Get YouTube Re:View delivered straight to your inbox and visit Think with YouTube to find out why YouTube is more than just viewers.

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Cyprus Tourism Organisation launches month-long Halloumi pop-up in Soho



From tomorrow (20 October) for one month only, Londoners will be treated to a brand-new halloumi pop-up restaurant serving a ‘bottomless halloumi brunch’ menu. The pop-up has been launched by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) as a way of showcasing their national cheese and enticing people to visit the island.

Located in Soho at Las Banderas, the restaurant has been created especially for the event by Francis Puyat and Andrew Zilouf of 100 Hoxton, with the menu featuring an array of halloumi-inspired brunch dishes.

Christos Moustras of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation said: “Halloumi is Cyprus’ most popular cheese and we’re so excited to be able to bring a key element of Cypriot culture to our latest pop-up venture with Las Banderas. We are delighted to return and make halloumi the key focus of brunch, a popular meal time in the UK.”

Andrew Zilouf said: “As lovers of innovative food, we were thrilled to partner with the CTO for a second year running for this project and have worked really hard to create a menu that we hope is both inspiring and delicious, the perfect start to the day!”

Diners will be able to book for brunch at Las Banderas seven days a week from 11am-4pm, before it disappears on Sunday 18 November 2018.

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Are you a kinky copywriter?



I am a man of unfailing habit. Drop me from the sky into even the most uninhabitable locations and within 45 minutes I will be gobbling cheap charcuterie while I re-watch Con Air.

In life, aside from making me awfully boring and clogging my pores with the distinct whiff of translucent meats, my habitual nature doesn't cause any great problems.

But translate the same appetite for routine into my copywriting and I'm about as much use as a dildo made from scorpions.

Habit, with cosy malevolence, throttles originality. Preference of any sort, if allowed to calcify around your process, eviscerates your imagination.

The trouble is, none of us is naturally immune to habit. The human brain can be a timid piece of apparatus, dating back from the time when experimenting with the unfamiliar was liable to leave you headless and quivering at the end of a pterodactyl's beak (please don't point out the appalling anthropological inaccuracies).

As such, the modern copywriter has inherited a fondness for routine that has been 8 billion years in the making (again, I know this is wrong, be quiet).

But while our endless capacity for habit may still keep us out of danger, it also blankets our creativity in a gentility it does not need.

Copywriting is not a profession for the risk-shy – even if the wider industry still has an uneven relationship with creative recklessness.

Habit and curiosity are doomed lovers. And, however messy the divorce may be, a copywriter should always seek custody of their more impulsive urges. And your Shabba Ranks CDs.

The problem is often that we are blind to our own habits. By their very nature, the auto-pilot elements of our creative method go unseen, humming along in the background like a computer's fan or an Ed Sheeran song.

Which is why every copywriter should continually unpick their own creative tapestry. Make sure they don't drift from brief to brief with the same style, the same desk, the same construct, the same joke, the same words – bucketing out slop and chum that's all been chopped from the same old sources.

Instead, our process should be kinky. Not in the sense that we handcuff ourselves to a gimp and write with a pencil in our teeth. Kinky in the sense that we are constantly looking for the next creative thrill, experimenting with the uncomfortable in the hope that discomfort will give us something new. Kinky in the sense that, if we've tried it once, we won't try it again for a bit, so rich is the promise of untouched spaces and unspanked alphabetical bottoms. Kinky in the sense that writing must feel exciting in order to sound exciting.

And if we fail to add this kinkiness to our writing, where are we? Sat in the tundra, watching a man in a vest beat people up on a plane, wondering, forlornly, where all the ham has gone.

Follow Andrew on Twitter for more perfectly accurate natural history

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