Numlock News: May 3, 2019 • Horse, Hockey, Tampon
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
In a world where soft drink machines and vending machines have been souped up by technological advances, somehow escaping the notice of the disruptors are sanitary napkin and tampon dispensers, which remain decidedly analog. While manufacturers have phoned in some minor improvements over the years — for instance, new machines that issue supplies for no charge — the amount of applied engineering on the necessary machines is decidedly lacking. One company, Impact, claims about 25 percent of the share of the commercial feminine hygiene dispensing market, which altogether stands at about $50 million to $75 million in the U.S. But change may very well be on the horizon: the Hooha is a Wi-Fi powered dispenser that distributes tampons after a phone number is texted and also maintains supplies, a decidedly lacking feature in existing models.
Korean Skin Care
South Korea exports $2.6 billion worth of beauty products annually. Korean skin care products have gone mainstream in the United States: today $150 million of those products are sold in the U.S. and that figure is three times as high as it was in 2015. Importers saw an opportunity as younger Americans preferred skin care over cosmetics, and it’s having a large effect on the Korean industry. AmorePacific Corp. owns two of the largest brands of Korean skin care products, and they’ve seen overseas sales jump from 21 percent of their business five years ago to 40 percent of their business today.
Widespread dissatisfaction with the lack of consistent and meaningful investment in women’s hockey has prompted 200 of the world’s top players to announce collectively they will not play pro hockey in North America this year at all barring serious changes. The U.S. National Women’s Hockey League was plagued by low salaries and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League just folded. The strike is a massive and immediate threat to the NWHL and business as usual. It casts aspersions at the NHL, which has done little to throw its support for the women’s league in the same way the NBA backed the WNBA.
The diaper business is a highly competitive one, though its bottom lines are threatened by declining births in many developed countries. That isn’t stopping R&D — Proctor & Gamble alone has two diaper research and development centers in Germany and Cincinnati, Ohio and has filed 5,000 new diaper patents— as the competition for the roughly $1,000 per year it costs to keep a kid in fresh ones is cutthroat. P&G’s Pampers raised the price of its primary diaper by 4 percent, while Kimberly-Clark’s Huggies is taking it in a different direction and is rolling out a Bluetooth sensor that will send you a text when the kid needs a change.
The Kentucky Derby is a highlight of the horse racing calendar, but if we’re getting down to brass tacks here the entire enterprise is sort of an elaborate scheme to invent a market for the genetic material of horses. Of all the horses who raced in North America last year, just 4 percent earned more than $100,000. But for the great ones, the payoffs only start at the finish line: the breeding rights for 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify ended up selling for a reported $75 million. And indeed, apparently you don’t even have to race in the Derby to score a big payday: the breeding rights of Omaha Beach, the 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite, were reportedly sold Tuesday for $22 million, one day before Omaha Beach was scratched from the race because of an ailment.
You Actually Did One Time Have A Friend Like Me
Early projections have the live-action remake of Aladdin pulling in $80 million this coming Memorial Day weekend, with some estimating ticket sales up to $100 million through Monday. Part of this is likely thanks to Will Smith’s genie character no longer being the most disturbing blue CGI in a trailer following the release of the Sonic The Hedgehog monstrosity. That’d put Aladdin closer to Jungle Book, which debuted to $103 million and eventually made just shy of $1 billion globally, than Dumbo which opened to $46 million and has racked up considerably less.
Investment in enterprise AI technology — a broad description of a suite of tools that can offer insights that, in the right hands, may aid in decision making — was $12 billion in 2017 and is projected to rise to $57.6 billion by 2021. But the reality is that the tools are still very much prone to percolating the biases and assumptions made by their designers and the data that trains machine learning algorithms. These oversights can lead to serious problems that amplify existing prejudices and can undermine the goals of better decision making, and all those new billions being thrown at machine learning aren’t necessarily going towards installing new guardrails and taking conclusions with appropriate skepticism.
In last week’s subscriber special edition, I got to talk to the wonderful Kelsey Piper about when international aid goes wrong, why altruism is hard and all about the selfless people who give themselves malaria for science. Her work can be found at Vox’s Future Perfect and at @kelseytuoc.
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Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Saving the World · Summer Movies · No One Man Should Have All That Power · Film Incentives · Stadiums & Casinos · Late Night · 65 is the new 50 · Scooternomics · Gene Therapy · SESTA/FOSTA · CAPTCHA · New Zealand · Good To Go · California Football · Personality Testing · China’s Corruption Crackdown · Yosemite