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. EnterPowermat, 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 foriPhone.
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.
Meet our tech editor, Chris Dannen. Chris edits Fast Company’s software and media experimentation site, Co.Labs. Here are the three best things he found on the Internet this week:
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.
3. ElectroFur 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.
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.
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’s Plan To Fight Human Trafficking With Big Data
A collection of tech and data companies are working together to track, map, and fight the criminal underworld that ships people around the world.
Google announced this week that it’s giving a $3 million Global Impact Award (part of a series of grants given to nonprofits changing the world with technology) to help three anti-trafficking organizations—Polaris Project, Liberty Asia, and La Strada International—create a Global Human Trafficking Hotline Network. While these organizations operate effective trafficking hotlines across the world, they don’t share their information. That’s the kind of big-data problem that Google can help with.