Google’s Project Loon (say ‘loon balloon’ five times fast) will use solar-powered giant devices hovering 12 miles above the ground to beam Internet down to places where it’s not possible to lay cable.
Hello Tumblr! Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know today:
- A million Samsung phone users are about to get Jay-Z’s new album three days early and for free! Those lucky ducks.
- Google is combatting child porn with a number of measures including a new image identification system.
- Police in 26 states are using facial recognition technology to fight crime.
- Netflix is happy right now. The video streaming service is hooking up with DreamWorks for its biggest partnership to date.
- This week, a group of homing pigeons will tweet their way across Europe using tiny digital backpacks.
- Word on the street is that Facebook is going to reveal a video functionality for Instagram. But that may not be a great idea…
Google is taking to the air. The online giant has announced plans to test a network of stratosphere-wandering balloons intended to provide Internet access to the two-thirds of humanity who still can’t log on to the Web.
The solar-powered balloons transmit signals to each other high in the sky, signals which eventually find their way to a user’s “Internet antenna” on the Earth below. The balloons simply drift with the winds—algorithms help the balloons rise or fall into the wind pattern that will take them where they need to go.
Now that Google has reportedly agreed to buy Israeli crowd-powered navigation app Waze for $1.3 billion, many other “Silicon Wadi” startups are daring to dream big. Here are some others that could potentially follow in Waze’s footsteps:
- Powermat: Battery drainage is one of the biggest problems faced by consumers as they increase their reliance on smartphones. Enter Powermat, whose wireless power solutions help millions charge their devices between home, car, and office.
- Wibbitz: Wibbitz’s text-to-video platform uses advanced language processing to allow anything published online to be instantly turned into a video clip. Its publisher solution—which boasts a clientele of 50,000 websites and 17 million monthly viewers—will soon be available for iPhone.
- Parko: Recent studies show that city drivers spend at least 20 minutes on average searching for a parking spot. Parko has developed a crowdsourcing solution for parking in a similar vein to Waze’s solution for traffic: It connects motorists looking for a spot with others about to leave one, while its algorithm identifies parking spots without users needing to remove their phones from their pockets.
Google honors Maurice Sendak’s birthday with a moving Where The Wild Things Are doodle.
1. The “McDonald’s theory of bad ideas”
This isn’t entirely new, but I love how Jason Jones recasts it to apply to group collaboration. We probably know what we’d all want in an ideal world. But the hardest part is establishing a floor—what suggestion sucks so much that we’d never do it? Let’s start there and work our way up. The by-product is that we all reveal what we consider to be “self-evidently bad,” a process which, in and of itself, can help everyone question their assumptions.
2. Julian Assange’s take on the new book by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt
The book is, he says, “an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary,” a notion I find alternately horrifying and inspiring. The piece strikes at the core of my ambivalence about Google, which is a subject of something I’m writing this week, two weeks after my trip to their big developer conference. I’ve never come across a company with such vision in some areas—try out a Chromebook Pixel—and such a sad lack of humanity in others—ahem, Google Glass. Never has such a bipolar company had so much power, so much money, and such an uncertain future as they wean off display advertising.
I spotted the founder of this company at Google I/O wearing a full-length, multicolored glowing faux-fur coat that absolutely blew my mind. We’ve been covering the right (and wrong) way to design wearable technology, and I’m convinced this sort of thing—while obviously a little ostentatious for everyday use—is hinting at the most inspiring future for fashion design and software you wear.
Associate editor Christina Chaey takes Google Glass out for a spin.
“Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
In a blog post today, Google introduced a new Gmail inbox that aims to prevent information overload and “puts you back in control” by allowing you to automatically filter incoming messages.
How Google Unified Its Products With A Humble Index Card
“We’ve actually tapped into one of the oldest pieces of graphic and information design around—business cards, calling cards, greeting cards, playing cards.”
“The restraints of the card actually made it easier to do the rest of the [Google Now] design,” Duarte recounts. “It forced us to focus. It forced us to realize [things like], you can’t have a card that feeds two or three images at once, that just gets messy.”
The highlight of Google’s year is the I/O developers conference it hosts each May. On Wednesday, 6,000 people converged on San Francisco’s Moscone Center and more than one million tuned in to the YouTube livestream of the conference keynote to hear about the newest Google products and services. And during the three-and-a-half-hour opening keynote, Google delivered. And delivered.
The sheer number of new product features was staggering—engineering director Vic Gundotra unveiled 41 new features for Google Plus alone—but only a few made the cut for being truly innovative.
Oh, and you can watch the announcements live, here.
After Apple booted Google Maps from iOS last year, Daniel Graf led the development of a beautiful, refreshed mapping experience that shot to number one in the iTunes store and kicked Apple’s ass on its own turf. Here’s how Graf made it happen—in his own words:
“We have a very successful Android version of Google Maps, so the easiest thing to do was to say, this is super-successful, users love it, so why don’t we just port it over to iOS? But I wanted to challenge the team. While the Android version is a great product, you can also tell it’s been around for a while. You have to access everything via menus—it’s not really best-use-case driven anymore. I said, let’s take a step back—what if we could start from scratch and forget anything we’ve ever done? We have the foundation—the Google data, the mapping data, the local business data, the imagery, the navigation algorithms—it’s a dream to start with.”
Google salutes moms in a touching Mother’s Day tribute.