Tag Archives: Google

Google’s self-driving car gets pulled over

In Mountain View, California on Thursday, a police officer made a traffic stop to pull over one of Google’s self-driving automobiles, however, he wrote no ticket.

A Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif, May 14, 2014. Image from Voice of America News.
A Google self-driving car goes on a test drive near the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif, May 14, 2014.
Image from Voice of America News.

An officer pulled over a Google self-driving vehicle that was being tested on neighborhood streets Thursday.

“As the officer approached the slow moving car he realized it was a Google Autonomous Vehicle,” a police department post said.

The car was going 24 mph in a 35 mph zone, as indicated by the Mountain View Police Department — with traffic clearly backed up behind it. The car wasn’t speeding, but it was driving too slowly.

He stopped the car and reached its administrators to let them know it was obstructing traffic activity, but no citation was given. He asked the passenger how the car was picking speeds along roadways.

The Google project responded in a blog entry, stating it’s never gotten a ticket and pled guilty to driving slowly — adding, “Driving too slowly? Bet humans don’t get pulled over for that too often.”

The officer verified that the car had not infringed upon the law, and no ticket was issued in light of the fact that the car had committed no violation.

“After 1.2 million miles of autonomous driving (that’s the human equivalent of 90 years of driving experience), we’re proud to say we’ve never been ticketed!” the project posted.

Nevertheless, the incident raises questions about whether the cars are excessively wary.

An accident report filed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles described the Google car as “over-cautious”.

“We’ve capped the speed of our prototype vehicles at 25 mph for safety reasons,” the post responded. “We want them to feel friendly and approachable, rather than zooming scarily through neighborhood streets.”

In September, Google announced that it was working to make its cars drive “more humanistically” following complaints that they had been too polite.

Google’s self-driving cars are programmed to comply with the laws of the road, but this can bring about issues when the vehicles are sharing the road with drivers who do not.

Google researchers have stated that getting autonomous cars to function well in the world of human drivers is one of their created difficulties and challenges.

Google Maps is revolutionizing monster hunting

Most everyone is familiar with the tale of the sea monster that dwells deep in the depths of Loch Ness in Scotland. The creature is said to be enormous with a small head, a long neck, flippers, and at least one large hump on its back. Sightings have been recorded of the elusive “monster” waddling across land and into the water, as well as inside the massive lake itself.

The Loch Ness Monster, or “Nessie”, is a must-see for monster enthusiasts everywhere. Since it’s not possible for everyone to get to Loch Ness, Google Maps has launched a new feature– bringing Loch Ness to the homes of people everywhere. Using the ever popular “Street View” (a feature allowing users to see a 360-degree view of pretty much every place in the world), monster lovers can now look out over Loch Ness and even virtually dive into the water in hopes of catching a glimpse of Nessie.

monsterTo create the newest addition to “Street View” (creatively titled “Nessie’s Perspective”), Google partnered up with Adrian Shine, an expert on the Loch Ness Monster. This collaboration between Google and Shine has seemingly revolutionized monster hunting. In his article for Forbes, columnist Robert J. Szczerba begs the question, “With the powerful search and mapping technology of Google, partnered with potentially millions of monster hunters searching the lake, how long can Nessie stay hidden?” Szczerba makes a good point. If legendary creatures such as Nessie, Bigfoot and the Chupacabra really exist, then using advanced technology along with the enthusiasm and knowledge of monster hunters could lead to some fascinating discoveries.

Just last year, a mysterious image appeared on Apple Maps in Loch Ness. Although blurry, the picture looks startlingly like every other depiction of Nessie. While many skeptics believe that the creature was merely a large fish, the picture sparked a wave of new found appreciation for and desperation to find the Loch Ness Monster.

As technology continues to advance, there may be far more genuine monster sightings to come. So take a minute, go to Google Maps, and scour the depths of Loch Ness. Maybe you’ll be the next person to find Nessie.

 

 

Are we using Google, or is Google using us?

It’s safe to say that Google is one of the most influential tech companies in the world. Although highly popular in America, Google is even bigger in Europe, handling around 90% of the search engine traffic. Because of its immense popularity overseas, the European Union became concerned when they began to suspect five years ago that Google was violating antitrust laws. At the time, they couldn’t find enough evidence to bring forth a formal case; however, last Wednesday, Margrethe Vestager (the European Union’s competition commissioner and antitrust regulator) officially had enough information to file antitrust charges against the company.

These charges are due to accusations that Google promotes its own products over its competitors’ (i.e. its shopping services, e-mail, etc.). Vestager even goes as far as to say that Google uses its Android smartphone operating system to block rival companies. For example, Android users cannot choose between Google Play (a place to buy music, videos, and games) and the much more popular App Store and iTunes, both run by Google’s competitor, Apple.

In a speech on April 16th, Vestager said, “One should congratulate a company in being that successful. Dominance in general is not a problem. But if you create a situation where you abuse a very powerful market position… then we have a problem.”
Vestager’s claims are backed up by overwhelming statistics that are pretty hard to ignore. In Europe, as of March 2015, Google dominated the search engine market by 92%. This left other high profile companies like Bing with 3% and Yahoo with 2%. In the smartphone market, Android dominated by 71%, leaving iOS (Apple’s operating system) with only 21% of the market.

google
Google Headquarters

If Google can’t come back with a strong defense, they’re looking at a fine of more than 6 billion euros (nearly $6.5 billion U.S.)- a record breaking fine regarding technology companies and antitrust laws.

Google has ten weeks to respond to the formal charges. As the company prepares to present its case, they released a statement on their blog saying, “While Google may be the most used search engine, people can now find and access information in numerous different ways—and allegations of harm, for consumers and competitors, have proved to be wide of the mark.”

Google is no stranger to antitrust lawsuits, having beat one back in the fall of 2014 by a San Francisco tourism company who were angry that their website wasn’t as promoted on Google as it was on other search engines. It’s clear that the European Union is going to be a much more threatening opponent. While Google was able to defeat their first antitrust lawsuit by claiming “freedom of speech,” it’s going to take a much stronger defense to win against Vestager.

If Vestager wins the lawsuit, many of Google’s business practices will be forced to change, possibly affecting all users of Google services, not just those in Europe.

FCC redefines broadband

Recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to redefine broadband after proposing the change last year. The newly defined broadband will be “internet which is actually fast enough to use.” According to the FCC, that means it isn’t considered broadband internet unless the consumer is guaranteed download speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) or faster and upload speeds of 3 Mbps or faster.

The proposal was supported by companies such as Netflix and Google, who will undoubtedly reap the benefits in consumer satisfaction. Why? To get any kind of buffer-free service, it’s recommended to access at least 1.5Mbps connection, with 5Mbps recommended for HD, and 25 for 4K content.

fcc comissioners
“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to redefine broadband.” Graphic from Extreme Tech

According to the former FCC policy from 2010, “broadband” was considered 4Mbps down/1Mbps up. The new policy seems to go above and beyond, then, for considering the Mbps needed for broadband consumers. However, a single internet connection is usually shared between several individuals. Let’s say you happen to be trying to stream a video at the same time as a couple of your roommates — you’d need a minimum of 15Mbps in order for everything to work seamlessly.

While the FCC isn’t actually forcing internet service providers to speed up connections, you can bet companies are going to try to speed up their internet now that they can’t claim many of the current packages on the market are broadband. This new definition will simply make it easier for the consumer to compare truly acceptable speed packages to their poor counterparts.

As an additional plus for many consumers, this new policy might also affect the pending Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger. With two of the largest internet service providers combining forces, the US is looking very seriously at a monopoly over two-thirds of the country. They won’t only influence bills;with their power they could influence government regulations to model their company policies. Smaller provider companies simply wouldn’t have the means to compete.

On the other hand, now that broadband has been narrowed down to a much smaller percentage of packages currently on the market, the Department of Justice might decide that a Mega-Comcast would be against government policy on monopolies.

Weekly Time Wasters: The power of the combover

This week there is no theme or agenda. This is mostly because I’ve been sick and thusly unmotivated to come up with one. That being said, I have still found some pretty good clips for you this week at the expense of my health. I’ll take that standing ovation now. Continue reading Weekly Time Wasters: The power of the combover

Instagram and Picnik: The photo wars

One of the biggest pieces of news in the past few weeks was the purchase of Instagram, the photo sharing app, by Facebook who acquired the company and app for an impressive billion dollars. Something that happened beneath the radar is the closing of Google-funded Picnik, a popular web based photo-editing website. Continue reading Instagram and Picnik: The photo wars

April Fools pranks from around the Web

April Fools came and passed once more with a number of websites and companies using this time to announce phony technology and health news. This seems to be a tradition as old as the Internet. This article is going to highlight just a few of the April Fools inspired jokes from around the Internet. Continue reading April Fools pranks from around the Web

Privacy concerns with Google

On Jan. 24, Google changed its privacy policy. It did not go unnoticed; Google account users and privacy advocates alike stated their concerns over the new changes. These changes integrated all of  Google’s services into one account. Before each account for Google+ and YouTube may have used the same username/password combination, but were seen as two separate entities; under the new policy, these accounts and their data are all recorded as a single account. Continue reading Privacy concerns with Google

Part game, part search practice

Screen capture.

A Google a Day is a website that acts as part training tutorial and part puzzle. The website uses brain twisters to prompt and encourage searching skills from those who use Google. While the game is intended to help users learn to use their searching skills, it also encourages them to cheat and work outside the box.

The game prompts questions that can’t be answered with a simple Google search. The question for Nov. 6 prompted users to find the answer to: “Three days after the birth of the man who was the first to see the rings of Saturn, a famous artist died. Who was that artist?” To make certain that a simple Google search of the question will not bring you the answer, the website is what Google refers to as a time machine, saving Google as it was the day before the question was asked and preventing the answer from coming up in trending search results. The website is powered by Deja Google. Not only does it access a previous version of Google — it excludes websites that have the answer directly on them.

What makes this game challenging is that you are competing against the clock and yourself. For those who are really competitive, the goal is to solve the question in shorter times. Users are also able to share the question with their friends via Facebook or email. This allows those who like to brag to show off how quickly they’ve managed to conquer the question and challenge their friends.

The game doesn’t just leave users out there by themselves. Those who are struggling can ask for hints. Frequently hints give users the answer within a few simple clicks. The hints serve a dual purpose. They allow users to find out how they should search for the answers to complicated questions, and it allows users who are struggling to ask their friends for help on particularly difficult questions. In this, it allows users to cheat to an extent and talk to someone outside of Deja Google.

While A Google a Day may not be the most visually interesting game, it’s a game that teaches users valuable skills while imparting them with trivia they may not encounter any other way. While at its core it may be a puzzle game, it does much more for users. It would be nice to see the game update some of the sharing options to include Google+. Overall the game provides an entertaining and challenging way to pass time.

Ice Cream Sandwich, the new Google OS

The new OS from Android. Photo from Creative Commons.

Ice Cream Sandwich is supposed to be the next generation mobile operating system for Google. This next generation OS was leaked to the public via eBay.

Ice Cream Sandwich is the codename for Android 4.0, though it is surprising that an early build of the OS would get leaked to the general public. This is not the first time something like this has happened. There is the now infamous leaked iPhone 4, which was left on a bar stool by a programmer doing some field testing of the product.

The buyer released a video detailing the new OS on YouTube which shows a number of interesting features. These features include such things as an updated Honeycomb user interface. If the home key is held down for a long period of time, it will open the now iconic Honeycomb menu.

Other new features on this phone are an improved user interface for the camera and a new look for both the notification bar and other menus. The video only reveals the new outward appearance to the OS; beyond that, people are left guessing what is running under the hood.

While there is no evidence this all may be a hoax, it is entirely possible that it could be. The announced find was made only shortly after Google made an official announcement about the OS. The announcement did little more than give the OS’s code name and go over some of the basic features that would be included in the new OS.

It would not be that difficult for an enterprising mind to hoax the new OS. That’s one of the drawbacks of an open source OS, it makes it extremely easy for malicious individuals to hoax finds. The existing versions could be manipulated by someone with the know how to reflect the interface demonstrated in the Google press conference.

Unlike the iPhone 4 leak, news agencies are not flocking to get a hand on this possibly leaked phone. A lesson possibly learned from the iPhone 4 debacle where Engadget paid $5,000 to get what was possibly, at the time, a Chinese knockoff iPhone only to later get sued by Apple for possibly leaking industry secrets. The suit was later dropped, but it is unlikely anyone is willing to face off against Google if it turns out this phone was acquired maliciously.

Whether this is a hoax or someone’s honest mistake of selling a test phone, it will be interesting to see how the story around this potential leak develops. Either way, everyone will get to enjoy the Ice Cream Sandwich OS later this fall when it’s officially released.

TV and internet collide

Graphic by: Marie Stovall

Google and Apple are both banking on a new, previously failed to be tapped, platform to extend their reaches to. That platform being televisions, both mega-corporations hope to provide devices to take advantage of the surf-on television crowd because they see the potential in profit that the venture would provide them if it ever gets off the ground.

Apple has had a version of Apple TV around for quite some time, but they are now preparing to launch a new version of what has been considered a failed attempt to broach into this new platform. Users had a number of complaints about the device, ranging from just wishing it had more features to outright distaste for Apple TV. With its new launch, Apple hopes to answer and make up for some of the issues found with the previous incarnation of Apple TV. The new release will include an app turning your iTouch or iPhone into a remote control for Apple TV. This is an easier, more streamlined setup, making it simpler for users to get ready to watch their favorite shows.

Other features to be included with the new Apple TV are streaming of photos and music from iTunes on a computer. It will also allow users to stream video from YouTube and Netflix, along with renting HD movies and TV shows from presumably iTunes or some other Apple-run service. The interface looks to be clean and sleek with very intuitive controls. These features aren’t additions, but are improved upon from the previous generation of machine.

Google TV, on the other hand, sports a much more diverse and surprising lineup, creating a much more true blending of Internet and TV. Google TV runs on the Android OS, but the built-in browser for Google TV is their popular chrome browser for computers, which creates an interesting and surprising blend of their two popular products. Demos show the new fusion of the two programs running smoothly, showing no real hiccups.

This has the advantage over Apple TV in that it has a full web browser, allowing users to not only search through their own saved video files, but also search the entirety of the web for whatever they want to watch. If users feel the need to update their statuses, they can do so without leaving the comfort of their own couch. They can play a flash game on their big screen, such as Farmville, with no problem. Google TV comes with its own fully integrated version of Adobe flash built in.

Since it runs on the Android platform Google TV, has the ability to allow users access to the Android Market, allowing them to customize their TVs in ways that have never been experienced before. Like Apple, Google TV has access to YouTube and Netflix built in, but with the added freedom of being able to search the web and play videos from other places. Google TV also has a fully customizable homepage for your favorite things in such a way that they are easy to access and ready to go when you are.

Apple has ease of use, but Google has the clear advantage in that it is much more customizable. It’s hard to see who will come out on top. The one thing that may weigh in Google’s favor is that they are not going it alone in this venture as they have a number of partners such as Sony, Intel and Best Buy.

Google Wave, The Wave Of The Future

Google Wave, is the latest project in development at Google. It promises to make people rethink how the browser can be used. Earlier this year Google announced the project and by late September it was in limited preview mode. Google users can sign up to join the preview and have the option once they are in to nominate 20 other users to have the chance to join.

Google Wave very well may be the future of online communication. It is a combination of messenger, forum, and e-mail. Instead of a message being sent to an inbox it is put into a text document known as a Wave. Waves work in real time, so as you type it others can see what you are saying. They also allow for a great diversity in editing, giving anyone who is part of a wave the power to edit any message in real time, making this great device for collaboration. One nice thing about this is wave replay, which allows people to run through the wave from the beginning and see when stuff was added and how it was edited. Waves do not have to be purely text, they can be multimedia, incorporating pictures and video. All it takes is a simple click and drag and pictures and videos can be added to the wave.

One of the more impressive things about Google Wave is live translating. You select an language and Google wave will automatically begin translating your type into whatever language. This opens up a great number of possibilities and is likely to make this a very attractive application for businesses that do work overseas that requires collaboration on projects.

A great deal of the appeal to Google Wave is it doesn’t require you to download anything. Everything you need is right there in the browser window. What makes this possible will soon be open and free to everyone as Google has announced plans to release the source code for Google Wave once it is out of closed preview. The idea behind this are hopes that the open source community will aid Google in pushing wave to its limits and bring ideas and add-ons to the table that Google itself might not of thought of. In this, Google is borrow from the Mozilla model of play.

Another reason for the open source release is hopes that service providers and other e-mail services will pick up on Wave and replace what they currently have. Google plans on Wave completely replacing e-mail protocol, and hopes that by releasing the source code they will encourage those companies to follow suit to redesign email for today.

The potential Google Wave offers is hard to ignore with its fusion of e-mail and instant messaging. It is hard to say where Google Wave will go, it would not be the first revolutionary idea to go ignored before its time. Whatever happens with Google Wave it is certainly one of the more interesting Web-based applications to come out in recent years.

Long overview of Google Wave

Video from outside source.

Images from:

www.cdrinfo.com

kmwaves.org

wave.google.com

Google Chrome: Both an OS and a Web browser

Late last year Google unveiled Google Chrome. Rumors were abound about it being some sort of operating system (OS) to give Microsoft Windows a run for its money. At the time, people and rumor-mongers alike could not have been further from the truth. What Google instead unveiled was a simplified web browser called Google Chrome. It was a sleek, simple browser that loaded pages faster and more accurately than most of its counter-parts. It included tabbed browsing along with a pallet page which showed the user’s most frequently visited sites. That was about it as far as Google Chrome was concerned… Or was it?

Earlier this year, rumors once more abounded about a new OS from Google, though many thought it was in reference to Google’s Android OS, something they had come out with for mobile devices earlier in the year. Once more, the name Google Chrome was tossed about and the rumors eventually died down. Then in July, Google made an official announcement about the Google Chrome OS.

The Google Chrome OS will not be like another OS in current existence, it will be an OS targeted to light-weight, low-powered netbooks. Instead of focusing on the processing power of the OS, it is more concerned with getting people online as fast as possible. The OS itself works like some sort of sped-up web browser, ideally allowing someone to connect online within seconds of loading up their computer. Google also made it clear that security would be a major part of their emphasis for the new OS, trying to make it as virus and spyware-proof as possible. Google has claimed that much like the browser, the OS will be simple and sleek. Will this be on the market for desktops and laptops? Probably not, though netbooks could certainly use something like this.

Google Chrome OS could cause a stir in the netbook market, as the tiny laptops are often bogged down by cumbersome Vista or Mac’s OSX. The two major OS eat up a fair amount of the tiny netbooks’ hard drive and a decent amount of its ram, slowing down what should be a fast little machine. One can always go open-source and find a simple and clean Linux-based OS, assuming you can figure out how to run it. The Google Chrome OS promises to be open-source, meaning it will be more or less free. Combine that with the promise of a sleek, simple interface and it could cause series trouble for its competitors in the netbook market. Google states that the OS could be found in some netbooks as early as the second half of next year, leaving one more thing for those who love all things “google” to look forward to.

Google Chrome OS preview

video embedded from outside source

Photos from:

blogs.learnnc.org

thetechherald.com