Chewable Beverages, Mean Girl Outrage and Ten Finalists In A Bizarre Musical Instrument Competition | Non-Obvious Insights #402

Dear Newsletterest,

We are buried under three inches of snow today in what constitutes a winter storm for the DC area, but don't worry - everyone is safe and school is closed. Depending on the climate where you live, I can feel some of you judging us right now but don't hate. A snow day is a snow day. 

The upside of the snow is that I've been curled up inside reading and writing so this week's stories might reflect that. Forecasting the future of chewable beverages, the outrageous revelation that the new Mean Girls movie is actually a musical, a new partnership that might kickstart the category of genomic nutrition, AI sports models may soon take over fantasy sports betting and the ten finalists from the most bizarre musical instrument competition you'll ever see. Enjoy the stories this week!

Stay curious,

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Mean Girls Fans Outraged To Discover the Movie Is A Musical

There was a time in my life where I would experience a movie in a theater without ever having seen a trailer for it. I was living in Australia and that time introduced me to seeing a film without any preconceptions. Movie trailers have always been notorious for giving away the entire plot of a film in their quest to sell it. But they are harder and harder to avoid thanks to YouTube. 

This week, some moviegoers had inverted experience of this ... seeing a movie that didn't seem to match the trailer they had watched beforehand. Apparently, movie trailers for the new film Mean Girls spend two minutes showing scenes from the film yet none of them reveal a fundamental fact about the movie: it is a musical. It seems this is disturbing for about one quarter of moviegoers who are so put off by not knowing this detail ahead of time that they are taking their outrage online.

It's a sad reality when some of us are so conditioned to get what we expect that any small surprise sends us into a tailspin. What happened to the beautiful ignorance of not knowing what happens next in a film or otherwise?

How Chewable Beverages Could Make A Comeback ... and Be the Future

The 90s were a decade for grunge music and inventive beverages. The Orbitz was a soft drink described rather unappetizingly as "a lava lamp you could drink" and featured floating sugary chunks of tapioca in a more disgusting precursor to the boba tea craze. While this concept of floating chunks of something in a drink is still dated, there is some precedent for experimentation in this area.

One Indian chef a few years ago, for example, went viral with her recipe for Masala Coke -- a a drink that balanced the sweetness of Coke "enhanced with cumin, sulphurous black salt, lime juice, and fresh cilantro and mint." Smoothies or Sangria are both drink styles that are often served to be chewed while drunk as well. Along the way there have also been questionable entrepreneurial efforts in the space, like Chuice which was a bottled drink that "combines juice, salad, and granola into a single shot of drinkable-yet-chewable sustenance." Trust me when I tell you that a photo of this product is not a pretty sight.

A futuristic effort in the chewable drinks category was a startup called Oohowater that made an edible water bubble using brown seaweed extract and calcium chloride to produce edible water pods that could reduce plastic bottle use. Sadly, that idea didn't quite work, so they pivoted to making disappearing packaging and rebranded to become Notpla. So it seems the promise of chewable beverages is still out there waiting for someone to own the category and it has potential. It's pretty clear that anyone who can create an edible version of Masala Coke would be pretty popular. 

Genomic Nutrition Is Coming and It's Going to Be Popular

The promise is simple and appealing. Get your genetics tested so that you can optimize the food you eat based on your unique needs. Personalized nutrition is already a billion dollar industry without much actual personalized science behind it. Imagine what will happen when the genomics start catching up. An early initiative hoping to pave a path toward exactly this is a new partnership between natural and organic grocery store Earth Fare and GenoPalate, a leading genomic nutrition platform.

Together they are hoping to crack the code for genetically personalized nutrition grocery shopping. At CES this year, I saw a handful of products and initiatives in this space also. Many focus in the wearable sector on creating tracking technologies to help us measure our activities on an ongoing basis. The interesting thing about this partnership is that it aims to make all the testing actionable by having an actual grocery component. That's something we're likely to see more of as this space evolves. 

AI Models Are Finally Getting Adopted In Fantasy Sports

The past few months have seen an explosion in people experimenting with Chat GPT to write everything from college essays to resignation letters. The tool has become indispensable for some, helping with search queries, research and answering just about any question. Yet for the many use cases out there, one that seems to be getting surprising little attention is the potential for AI to help you win some money.

In particular if you play fantasy sports, and specifically in daily contests where you select your players or other game elements to bet on in real time, AI tools could offer a way to actually outsmart the competition. Tools like Gridiron AI for American football and SSTrader for actual football are two of many that will start to get popular as sports betters seek an edge in their selections. They are in a golden era at the moment where they are not integrated into the betting platforms themselves (which will happen in time). For now, because they are independent, the edge they offer could be real and significant. If you are a fantasy sports better, now might be the time to try them out. 

Meet the Bizarre Top Ten Finalists In The 2024 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

In early March on the campus of Georgia Tech 10 finalists will meet for a face to face competition to take home a $10,000 prize and bragging rights in the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition. The contest is attracts innovators who are inventing the "world's next generation of musical instruments."

This year's finalists come from five countries and include The Babel Table (multiple arrangements of latex membranes and compressed air to produce a variety of "voices" from deep percussive effects to electronic-like chirping), the Bone Conductive Instrument (an instrument that "vibrates the individual resonant frequencies of the body"), the Circle guitar (an electric guitar concept that "uses a rotating wheel that strikes the strings"), and the X.E.K.I. (short for eXpressive Electronic Keyboard Instrument).

Aside from being a fascinating competition in its own right, the effort is also particularly brilliant marketing for the Center for Music Technology at the Georgia Tech School of Music which sponsors the whole initiative. I imagine this works very well. What aspiring musical technologist wouldn't put the school at the top of their list after seeing some of these innovations?

Even More Non-Obvious Stories ...

Every week I always curate more stories than I'm able to explore in detail. Instead of skipping those stories, I started to share them in this section so you can skim the headlines and click on any that spark your interest:
How are these stories curated?
Every week I spend hours going through hundreds of stories in order to curate this email. Looking for a speaker to inspire your team to become non-obvious thinkers through a keynote or workshop?  Watch my new 2024 speaking reel on YouTube >>
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