With Google and Microsoft as emerging widgeteers, might Apple finally be losing one of its historic advantages? Hardly.
Space Lawyers: They Exist
A James Cameron and Google-backed asteroid mining company has a bevy of them on retainer to help divy up all that unobtanium. Plus they help craft liability laws for space tourists and consult with governments on extraterrestrial visits.
The search giant is known for its playful, unconventional workspaces—perhaps intended to offset its fairly Vader-esque public image, and certainly, to sweeten the deal for young, in-demand engineers who may be juggling other offers. In Pittsburgh, Googlers enjoy an industrial theme and slides. In Zurich, it’s birch trees and meeting cocoons. Meanwhile, in London, Google has two established offices—one is industrial chic, the other, a space-age white box. Now, a third office—a “Super HQ”—has opened on the eighth floor of Central Saint Giles, the Renzo Piano-designed tower in Covent Garden.
For most people, high school science fairs yield amusing but not altogether practical results: your baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, your potato clocks. There are exceptions, of course—15 year-old Jack Andraka created a cheap, efficient pancreatic cancer sensor for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. And there are the finalists in Google’s annual Science Fair, which invites entrants ages 13 through 18 to compete for a variety of prizes. These kids are results are anything but amusing. They’re potentially world changing.
Below, we look at five of our favorite finalists (there are 15 in total). The winner will be crowned next month.
To understand the patent mess that is gripping Silicon Valley right now, you need to travel across the country to a dark-paneled federal courtroom in Norfolk, Virginia, just down the block from Bob’s Gun Shop.
“The input to this device is a real challenge because there is no physical keyboard—just like a phone doesn’t have a physical keyboard—and there is no touch screen either. How do you input? We’ve dabbled and experimented with lots of different types of input including using your voice, using some type of touch interface on the side of the device itself, as well as using your head,” Lee says. “So using your head as input, for example, we’ve tried dozens and dozens of different types of head gestures. As you can imagine, some are more extreme than others. It creates a pretty funny experience. In fact, we created a game internally, both to exercise and test things out, but also to demonstrate the absurdity of using your head. It’s kind of like DDR but with your head instead of your feet.”
Google’s self-driving cars may be out on the road already, but it will take awhile before public is truly ready to give up all driving control to artificial intelligence. In the interim, Volvo has a solution that lets drivers (sometimes) sleep at the wheel while still improving highway safety—and it just completed the first real-world tests.
Dubbed SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), the EU-backed project is working on road trains—vehicles equipped with software already found in many Volvo vehicles (including laser sensors, cameras, and radars) that are automatically led along the highway by a lead vehicle, which is commandeered by a professional driver. Regular drivers could one day simply use in-car navigation to find the nearest highway road train, get on the tail end, and let the vehicle platoon take over steering, braking, and acceleration.
Google’s Project Glass product lead Steve Lee walks us through his experience with the development of the company’s sci-fi-inspired eyewear—from his team’s “hundreds of variations and dozens of early prototypes” to his vision of the future.
“As John Lilly tweeted, in response to seeing that Yahoo had launched its own web browser, “Um what? Great move … in 2008.”
Google’s high-profile, $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which closed yesterday, has set the tech world abuzz with speculation on Google’s first steps as it enters the hardware business: They’re going to do a 180-revival of Motorola! No, Motorola is doomed! No, they’re going to shutter Android! Google’s second, much quieter acquisition this week, of San Francisco industrial design studio Mike & Maaike, answers most of those questions.
Today Bing is announcing a revamp of its front end, to make its search results more useful for users. But what’s much more interesting is what’s happening on the back end, underneath the hood, as Microsoft re-architects how the data used for search results is collected, stored, and repurposed.
“We decided we needed to reinvent search,” Bing director Stefan Weitz tells Fast Company.
Is that all?
“Today, the primary threat by far to internet freedom is government filtering of political dissent. This has been far more effective than I ever imagined possible across a number of nations. In addition, other countries such as the US have come close to adopting very similar techniques in order to combat piracy and other vices. I believe these efforts have been misguided and dangerous.”
Despite the mythology that has built up around venture capital, it has become a slowly moldering investment vehicle. “The past 10 years haven’t been very productive,” Maris points out. According to the research firm Cambridge Associates, during the decade ending last September, VCs as a class earned a 2.6% interest rate for their investors—less than you could have earned in an S&P 500 index fund. The numbers look slightly better over shorter periods; VCs have delivered a 4.9% return the past three years and 6.7% over the past five, still far from terrific.
Google’s insurgent attitude—perceiving startup funding as broken and appointing itself as the fixer—has ruffled some in the insular, clubby world of venture capital. Not on the record, of course. Google Ventures is already big enough that it has participated in deals with almost every prominent Valley investor, and nobody wants to talk ill of a partner. Behind the scenes, though, some question the firm’s experience—most of its partners are former Googlers who haven’t worked in venture capital before—and its passion. If you were looking for money and were choosing between Google Ventures and such top firms as Andreessen Horowitz or Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, people would tell you to go with one of the other guys.
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6 ways Google hacks its cafeteria to get healthier and happier employees.
Much has changed since Google earned a reputation for fattening its staffers with food on demand. These days, the company is focused on advancing its healthy-eating initiatives. Explains Jennifer Kurkoski, who has a PhD in organizational behavior and runs a division of Google’s HR department called People Analytics, “When employees are healthy, they’re happy. When they’re happy, they’re innovative.”