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Posts tagged ‘Google’


Google’s home delivery service now covers most of the US

Google’s same-day delivery service, Express has been growing quickly (it just spread throughout New England), but it’s now poised to be almost ubiquitous in the US. The internet giant has expanded its I-want-it-now shopping option to 12 more states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington. That puts Google Express within reach of 70 million more people, or about 90 percent of Americans. The whole continental US should be covered by the end of 2016, Google adds.

As before, Express is really about bringing a same-day choice to retailers where it wouldn’t otherwise have the option, such as Costco, Fry’s and PetSmart. You have to buy a minimum amount ($15 to $35), but you can pay a delivery fee (typically $5) instead of opting for the $95 annual membership. It’s not quite an Amazon Prime competitor, but it does serve as a foil to Google’s arch-rival. If you’re like many shoppers, you skip search engines entirely in favor of store sites like Amazon — this is Google’s way of bringing you back to its home turf.

Source: TechCrunch


Google to ‘pause’ its Fiber rollout

Google announced on Tuesday that it plans to “pause” the planned expansion of its Fiber high-speed internet service in the 10 cities it had been looking into and will eliminate a number of positions in those cities — 9 percent of the division’s total number of employees, according to Ars Technica.

This decision will not affect customers in the eight metro areas where Fiber is already installed, only those where the company was considering expanding into. Nor will it impact places where the company has already confirmed Fiber’s rollout — including San Francisco, Irvine, Huntsville and San Antonio. Cities like Chicago, Dallas, Portland, Tampa and San Diego, however, will not be so lucky.

The company cites a need to “stay ahead of the curve ” in providing gigabit internet service as the reason for its pivot. Fiber has reportedly failed to hit its subscriber goals while Google recently purchased high-speed wireless ISP, Webpass. The two factors together may have influenced the company’s decision to stop installing physical fiber lines. Still, these layoffs aren’t nearly as bad as what The Information reported was coming in August — their sources claimed that CEO Larry Page had ordered the 1,000 person division to cut its worker count by half.

Via: Ars Technica

Source: Google Fiber Blog


New York’s free gigabit WiFi kiosks are coming to the UK

BT celebrated the 80th birthday of London’s iconic red phone boxes earlier this month, and while some of these are being updated for the digital age, there are still countless antiquated payphones across the country needing a new lease of life. Today, BT has announced plans to rip out hundreds of these and replace them with next-gen kiosks that’ll offer free gigabit WiFi, free UK calls, charging facilities and access to maps, directions and info on local services via an embedded Android tablet.

If the rejuvenation project sounds a little familiar, that’s because BT’s teamed up with Intersection to make this happen — the same subsidiary of Google’s Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs that’s behind the Links kiosks in New York City. The monoliths themselves are identical, serving as up to 1 Gbps WiFi hotspots, providing free calls (headphones are recommended if you don’t want to broadcast your conversation through the booth’s loudspeaker), hosting two USB ports for emergency device charging and offering all kinds of useful information via the built-in tablet.

All of this will be paid for by advertising revenue, with two large displays on either side of the kiosks showing promotional material alongside public service announcements. Beyond what you can see, the pillars will also host environmental sensors for recording temperature, air and noise pollution, as well as traffic conditions and other metrics suitable for future big data/smart city applications.

The London Borough of Camden will be the first testbed for the payphone replacements, with 100 expected to be installed starting next year. “At least” 750 kiosks are planned in central London alone, with rollouts in other major UK cities over the next couple of years also on the agenda. Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of free internet browsing on the embedded tablets, which had to be switched off in New York after less fortunate residents of the city began monopolizing them, sometimes for, erm… self-gratification.

Source: BT, LinkUK


Google’s Jamboard is a 4K digital whiteboard for collaboration

It’s hard to recall today, but being able to edit a document at the same time as others was a transformative feature for Google’s suite of online office apps. That feature debuted a decade ago, though; these days, it’s something most of us take probably take for granted. And as useful as real-time collaboration is in Docs and Sheets, it’s not as organic as throwing ideas up on a physical whiteboard. So, in a bid to evolve the way we work once again, Google is unveiling Jamboard, a cloud-connected digital whiteboard that lets teams collaborate together no matter where they are.

At its core, Jamboard is basically just a 55-inch 4K display that you can use like a typical digital whiteboard. You can sketch out your ideas with a stylus for a small conference room full of coworkers. But what makes it quintessentially a Google product is its cloud connectivity. Whatever you draw on the device — which the company calls your “jam” — gets saved to your Drive folder automatically. You can pull in content from the web or other Google apps to buoy your ideas.

Most importantly, there are multiple ways for colleagues to collaborate on your work in real-time. Remote teams can use their own Jamboards to tune and contribute to your sessions as if they were right next to you. You can also pipe your jam to a Hangouts call, allowing you to potentially broadcast it to the world. And there are companion apps for Android and iOS that allow colleagues anywhere in the world to follow along. If you have an iPad or Android tablet, you’ll be able to take advantage of all of the editing tools available to Jamboard devices. Phone collaborators, on the other hand, will be able to see everything going on and input data. (You can also pipe your jams to the web, but there’s no online editor yet.)

The Jamboard itself basically looks like an oversized Nexus 10, right down to the thick bezels and the webcam above the screen. There’s a small tray at the bottom for the passive stylus and eraser, right below the downward firing speakers. You can mount it to a wall, just like any other flatscreen TV, or you could opt for the stand that sits atop four large caster wheels, which makes it easy to move about your office. There are USB and HDMI ports along the side of the Jamboard (yes, you can use it as a standard 4K display), along with volume controls and an input select button right behind the bottom-right corner.

In many ways, Jamboard is a physical extension of Google’s office suite. But it’s also a way for the company to promote freeform brainstorming without tying users to specific apps. “From the beginning… we were putting people in sort of productivity boxes from the start, you had to choose right away, are you going to use Docs, a spreadsheet, or a slide deck,” G Suite product director Jonathan Rochelle told Engadget. “We thought that might somehow limit creativity.”

Though the Jamboard’s stylus looks like a fat crayon, it’s capable of drawing lines up to a fine 1mm. There’s also a round eraser that also helps to clear off smudges from the screen. Both of those devices are passive, meaning you won’t have to worry about battery life or even pairing them. Any stylus-like device will let you draw on the Jamboard, and, just like a real whiteboard, you can also use your finger to erase things as well.

In my brief hands-on time with the device, I was impressed with the responsiveness of the stylus, which felt almost as fast as drawing on a real whiteboard. Jamboard is capable of detecting up to 16 touch points at once, so you and a few colleagues will be able to use the screen at once. Clearly, Google is targeting the same market as Microsoft’s Surface Hub, but it could be even more appealing to companies already tied to Google’s apps.

Google plans to release Jamboard for under $6,000 in the first half of 2017 for G Suite customers. The company has already started testing the device out with big companies like Netflix, Spotify and Instrument, and is accepting signups for an early adopter program for companies who are eager to start jamming sooner.


Google adds a food delivery shortcut to Maps for iOS

Not content with a simple navigation app, Google has updated Maps for iOS with a handy food delivery shortcut. So when you tap on a nearby restaurant, perhaps to see its opening times, you’ll soon see a button titled “Place an Order.” Tapping this will give you a few different options (these will vary depending on your country and the business in question) such as Grubhub, Seamless and Eat 24 in the US. Select your preferred service and you’ll be thrown across to the relevant iPhone app. It’s a small addition, sure, but one that could make ordering dinner just a little faster at night.

Via: Mac Rumors

Source: Google Maps (iOS)


Google buys eye-tracking startup to boost its VR hardware

Google’s mission to bring VR to the masses has resulted in the development of the Daydream View and Cardboard, but the company isn’t stopping there. In July, we brought you news that the search giant is secretly working on a new high-end standalone headset, which we now know will incorporate eye tracking and use sensors to help users interact with the virtual spaces in front of them. To help it do just that, Google has confirmed the acquisition of Eyefluence, a three-year-old startup that specializes in turning eye movements into virtual actions.

We previously met Eyefluence CEO and founder Jim Marggraff when he showed off his company’s developments in virtual reality storytelling. Marggraff — the man behind the LeadPad kids tablet — and his team have already developed software to see what you’re looking at and tell whether you’re interested or just plain bored by it. Google hasn’t clarified what the Eyefluence team will specifically work on, but its technology seems a natural fit for a company looking to differentiate its offering from the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Google won’t be the first company to double down on VR optics. Fove, a startup that raised $480,000 on Kickstarter, will open pre-orders for its own eye-tracking headset early next month. “Over the last three and a half years we have built an incredible team, advanced our eye-interaction technology, and created strong partnerships that have lead to the development of a completely new language for eye-interaction,” says Eyefluence in a blog post. “With our forces combined, we will continue to advance eye-interaction technology to expand human potential and empathy on an even larger scale.”

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Eyefluence


FTC complaint blasts Disney, Google over child influencer videos

It’s sketchy enough when companies send free products to YouTube stars in return for positive coverage, but it’s worse when those videos are explicitly aimed at kids. How is a young child supposed to tell the difference between genuine enthusiasm and someone compelled to say good things in return for gifts? That’s what a handful of consumer watchdog groups plan to solve. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy and Public Citizen have filed a complaint asking the FTC to stop the practice of aiming influencer videos at kids. Companies like Disney and DreamWorks (via Maker Studios and AwesomenessTV) are allegedly being “unfair and deceptive” by targeting these pseudo-ads at the preteen crowd. Google, meanwhile, purportedly “encourages and benefits” from distributing these videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

Many of these clips have no disclosures, the CCFC says. Moreover, they’re often intermingled with ordinary videos on YouTube. The group likens the current state of affairs to children’s television before regulators stepped in — remember how many ’80s and ’90s cartoons were just glorified toy ads? The watchdogs argue that explicit disclosures aren’t enough, as they wouldn’t eliminate the “inherent deceptiveness” of targeting videos at susceptible young minds.

YouTube’s response is mixed. The company tells us that the absence of disclosures violates both the law and YouTube’s policy, and those videos that do include disclosure are “restricted” from the YouTube Kids app. You can read the full statement below. The problem, as you might guess, is that children don’t always watch on YouTube Kids. No, Google doesn’t treat its regular YouTube website or apps as child-safe places, but that doesn’t stop kids from using them all the same.

It’s not clear how the FTC will react to the complaint. It won’t be surprising if the Commission does more than improve its enforcement of existing disclosure rules, mind you. Although this isn’t the first time that advocacy groups have asked the FTC to curb child-oriented video ads, it has lately made a point of cracking down on sponsored internet content. Given that many little viewers don’t even know what disclosure is, the FTC might have no choice but to ban kid-focused influencer videos if it’s going to meet its goals.

“YouTube believes that creators should be transparent with their audiences if their content includes paid promotion of any kind. As our long-standing policy makes clear, anyone uploading videos to YouTube has a legal obligation to disclose to YouTube and their viewers if a video contains paid promotion. Any videos that have disclosed paid product placement or endorsements are restricted from the YouTube Kids app.”

Via: TechCrunch

Source: CCFC


Android Pay is coming to hundreds of thousands more websites

Android Pay will already let you know where it works in the real world, but soon it will be available at hundreds of thousands more places online. Thanks to new partnerships with Visa and Mastercard, Android Pay users will soon be able to zip through online checkouts at any site that already accepts Visa Checkout or Masterpass.

The new deal is a big step for Google’s plan to build a universal payment system and will allow users to pay online with a quick fingerprint scan on their Android device. (Or whichever other authentication method you prefer.) In other words, you’ll be spared the need to remember multiple usernames and passwords when you’re shopping around the web. Users only need to link up their Visa Checkout or Masterpass accounts to their Android Pay account.

Unfortunately for stressed-out holiday shoppers, Google says the new integrations won’t show up in the app until “the early part of 2017,” so you’ll have to stick with Android Pay for Chrome until then.

Source: Google


Google’s VR future includes a headset that tracks your eyes

Google’s plans for a new headset are advancing. In July, we wrote that Google had been actively assigning individuals to work on a high-end standalone headset that doesn’t require a computer or smartphone. In the three months since, people familiar with the matter have told Engadget that Google’s device will integrate eye tracking and use sensors and algorithms to map out the real-world space in front of a user.

With these two technologies, Google will be able to augment the reality in front of the headset, displaying digital objects alongside environments and objects from the real world. Sources also confirmed that Movidius, an AI company currently being acquired by Intel, is providing chips that will aid in tracking motion and positional awareness. Sources have previously explained that the headset, which is separate from the company’s Daydream VR platform, will not require a computer or phone to power it.

Earlier today, The Drum reported on a potential “wireless virtual reality” device that passed through the FCC’s approval process. Although the heavily redacted filings reveal very little, beyond some wireless capabilities, it does have Mike Jazayeri, director of product management for Google’s VR group, listed as a contact. We were unable to confirm whether the FCC-approved device, apparently for internal and partner testing, is related to the standalone headset plans.

While we’re unsure what form the final headset will take, there are two companies that are aspiring to achieve similar goals: Microsoft (with its HoloLens headset) and Magic Leap. The latter actually counts Google among its extensive investors list, with the search giant leading one funding round and participating in another.

Magic Leap refers to its technology as “mixed reality.” It differs from HoloLens by generating a digital light-field signal that can apparently create a better illusion of depth than HoloLens. Although all three products have similar goals, one source described the new standalone headset as something that blurs the line between virtual and augmented reality — bringing the world into VR, rather than VR into the world.

At the time of writing, Google has not responded to a request for comment. Movidius declined to comment.


Google Pixel XL’s modular components can be easily replaced

iFixit gave Google’s Pixel XL a middling repairability score of 6 out of 10 partly because its display was poorly assembled. Still, the team found a lot of modular components that can be easily replaced when they cracked Mountain View’s new flagship open. They also noted that HTC acted as the perfect silent partner, barely leaving a mark on the device despite manufacturing it for the tech giant. The only indication that HTC was involved is a logo on the XL’s battery, which you can peel off — it’s right in the middle of a tab you need to pull if you want to pop the phone’s battery out.

By the way, the Pixel XL has a 13.28 Wh battery that’s much better than the iPhone 7 Plus’ (11.1 Wh), but not as good as Samsung S7 Edge’s (13.86 Wh). If you want to see what the phone’s back-mounted fingerprint sensor, 12.3-megapixel rear camera and other notable parts look like outside the device itself, check out the full teardown process on iFixit’s website or watch the video below.

Source: iFixit

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