Atari Is Entering the Wearables Market in Oddest Possible Way: A 'Speaker Hat'
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The year was 1982. The movie, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, was the most popular movie ever released. Atari was the most successful video game manufacturer on the planet. It seemed like a match made in heaven.

What followed was the most disastrous event in video game history. The gameplay was confusing. The graphics were under whelming. The game was simply bad.

Out of five million cartridges, only 1.5 million were sold, and many were returned.

Atari ended up burying 700,000 cartridges in an unmarked location in the New Mexico desert, which were then later unearthed in 2014.

This event helped to lead to the decline of the original Atari, and the entire videogame industry in the United States.

Recently, Atari has had a resurgence. Nostalgia for the company has brought rise to produces like the Ataribox, a crowd-funded console resembling the Atari 2600 that they say will play current and classic Atari content.

And now, at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, Atari has made another bold announcement.

Their next great product?

A hat.

Atari, as a tie-in to the movie BladeRunner 2049, is releasing a classic blue baseball cap with the Atari logo prominently displayed on the front. For many people, that would be enough incentive to buy it, but they haven’t stopped there.

This is a “Speaker Hat“. As a fully featured Internet of Things (IoT) device, the hat has two Bluetooth speakers built into the rim and a microphone for calls. It is designed to connect with any Bluetooth enabled device to play music and have phone conversations, etc.

Perhaps more interestingly, they say that the hats are meant to connect to each other, creating some sort of network amongst themselves. Think “walkie-talkies”, without always having to press a button.

Some concerns have been expressed with their approach. For one, phone conversations are often considered to be private, and via this method, they will cause others to overhear your intimate thoughts. However, the “Speaker Hat” is merely the first of a proposed line of wearable products in the “Atari Connected Life” initiative, which could include haptic clothing and camera-wear. Atari’s idea maybe to disrupt current perceptions, and instead of trying to make everything private, have natural conversations with people as if they were there beside you.

If you’re interested in trying out a Speaker Hat, you can register for the chance to be an early tester.

Like their original founder Nolan Bushnell, Atari has always shown that they’re not afraid of taking risks and pushing the bar forward.

Perhaps in 2049 we’ll all be wearing Atari clothing, and that New Mexico landfill will stay blissfully empty.

Jul 21, 2017
This Billion-Dollar Brand's Covid Strategy: Act Like a Startup Again

Kendra Scott had 2020 planned out for her eponymous jewelry and home decor companywhen all of her plans–along with those of so many businesses–changed in an instant. “Covid-19 was not part of our plan,” Scott told Inc. editor-at-large Tom Foster during Inc.‘s latest Real Talk: Business Reboot webinarThursday. “The best-laid plans don’t always come to fruition.”

Scott, who’s based in Austin, says she had to return to a “startup mentality” to face the health crisis that temporarily closed the doors on her 108 retail locations and the economic freeze that altered her supply chain and changed customers’ purchasing habits. Working from home–while juggling homeschooling for herthree kids–and staying in touch with her teams and customers, she reminds herself to “be creative and collaborative and take each day as it comes.”

Here are some of the insights and highlights from Foster’s conversation with Scott:

Be flexible

Scott learned about flexibility during the Great Recession when she realized that selling her jewelry primarily through stores owned by others wasn’t going to work for her or her long-term plan. “Every store around was closing. Nobody had a store,” she recalled.

“When the crisis hit, I had to pivot quickly.It forced me to look at my business differently,” she said. That meant opening her own brick-and-mortar shop and going direct to consumer through the web. She remembers telling her staff that this move could not fail(“I’ll have to move back in my mother,” she said with a laugh), and thatit could succeed beyond their hopes.

A decade later, Scott has 108 stores and a thriving online business. And, pre-pandemic, her company wasvalued at $1billion.

Create a connection–however you can

Muchof the success of her retail locations is the way the stores’ designencourages customers to interact with the merchandise and salespeople. Unlike other jewelry stores filled with glass display cases (and, in some cases, plexiglassbarriers), Kendra Scott stores emphasizetactility and connection.

The challenge now is maintaining that feel in the 78 shops that have already reopened post-Covid, as well astranslating the experience online. Salespeople can no longer touch customers, but, as Scott muses, “How else can we touch her heart, touch her mind?”

One way has been speeding up a virtual try-on concept that was in the works for a year and that launched in April. Another has been implementing curbside pickup programs at some stores. This is especially important, since Scott believes brick-and-mortar stores are not going away. “We need those places,” she says. “We have to create places that allow people to connect.”

As Scott advises her employees: “Don’t worry about the transaction.Worry about the connection.”

Businesses need to ask (and answer), “Where is [the customer] in this moment? How can we serve her? How can we bring her joy?” Scott says. “Because she’s our boss. She signs our checks. If not for her, we don’t have jobs.”

Reach out

Since the start of the pandemic, Scott and her team have been reaching out to customers on every possible platform. She advises people to pick up the phone, send emails, or get on FaceTime with customers tomake them feel seen and appreciated. (Even her mother has been making calls.) Scott has also sent many handwritten letters. “The simplest things can make a real difference,” she says. “Don’t focus on the business. Focus on the customer.”

Learn from every crisis

Scott, whose company survived the last recession (and whose previous business did not succeed), knows about challenges. She also knows about keeping the faith during tough times. “There’s a reason this moment is happening,” she likes to tellherself. “In the moment, you may not understand it,” but a lesson will present itself. If you can understandthat lesson, you–and your company–will gain from it.

“Right now it seems so hard to understand why something like this has happened,” Scott says. One possible lesson: After the quarantine lifts and some of the harder hit sectors of the economy rebound, “We may be kinder to each other, more loving to each other,” she hopes. “Those are the gifts that may come from this struggle.”

May 28, 2020

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