Astro Teller: Google is making a modest return on its experimental lab investment

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Google X boss Astro Teller spoke with the New York Times on the topic of the experimental lab and the value it produces for the company, saying that the X lab’s goal is to find new technology markets that the Mountain View company can jump into and problems it can solve.

According to Teller, Google gives X projects a longer period of time in which to prove they can become profitable. He specifically highlights the “Neural Network Project” (previously known as Google Brain) as one project that has turned a serious profit. In fact, Brain is now bringing in enough “value” to offset the costs of running the entire X lab, Teller says:

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Pebble publicly launches 2.3 software update with actionable notifications and Android Wear compatibility

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Pebble announced in December that it would be launching a new update for its smartwatch software that would enable actionable notifications and compatibility with Android Wear-supported apps. By updating to the latest version of the Pebble app for Android and the lastest device software, users can take advantage of any Android Wear action right from their Pebble.

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Google adds two-week grace period to Project Zero bug squashing initiative

Google Personal Search

Google announced its Project Zero initiative in the middle part of last year, and now the Mountain View company is making some amendments to the rules for disclosure of bugs it finds in vendors’ software. There has been a 90-day deadline in place since the launch of the program, and that seems to be working well according to a post on the Project Zero blog, but the company says that it has taken into consideration “external feedback around some of the corner cases” and made some changes. Read more

Google Mattel Event today will merge View-Master line with Google Cardboard

I’m here, the event starts at 9ET. I’ll update as we go. I know my kids are stoked.

Announcements starting…embargos breaking…

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The Cardboard View-Master is the fruit of half a year of design. When Mattel saw the Google Cardboard they knew it was the next generation of View-Master.

1940 – Viewmaster was introduced – Stereoscopic viewer.

  • Can be bought via Google Play on the smartphone or on these little ‘reels’. That are probably SD cards in big cases.
  • The physical is a tie to the past – 75 years of View-Master.
  • Available this fall. For around $30. 4 reels will cost about $15 and have exclusive content.
  • Will launch on Android but will be available on other platforms iOS, Windows and more. Specs of Android phone are fuzzy at the moment.
  • These aren’t wearable. These are for kids and they should be able to put these on and take them off as they want. Not to zone out.
  • Will be 1st experience with 3D  for many kids. Mattel wanted to do it right – This works really well out of the gate but nailing down the experience.
  • Current Google Cardboard apps wil work with the new Mattel View-Master.
  • Testing with lots of pediatric ophthalmologists out of St. Louis University and others to make sure this is safe for kids.
  • Light-Gaming “treasure hunt” ideas are coming.
  • Mattel plans to release its new Google Cardboard based VR toy on iOS by end of the year

Google adding fact-checked health information to Knowledge Graph

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Google’s Knowledge Graph–which highlights fact-checked info at the top of certain types of search results–is being expanded to include health-related searches. So next time you want to check whether you have the common cold or a rare strain of Ebola, Google should provide the necessary reassurance.

Starting in the next few days, when you ask Google about common health conditions, you’ll start getting relevant medical facts right up front from the Knowledge Graph. We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is—whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators.

Google says that the information is pulled from “high-quality medical sources across the web” and then checked by both its own doctors and others from the Mayo Clinic …  Read more

Google testing a new virtual ‘Genius Bar’ for Google Play customer service

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Google has used its Hangouts technology in many ways over the last couple of years, and one big way was the introduction of a new service called “Helpouts” that lets people sell their expertise to others over video conferencing. Now, it looks like Google is bringing Hangouts to a new area: customer service on the Google Play store.

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Google acquires Launchpad Toys, makes popular Toontastic kids app free

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It appears that Google is about ready to jump into the kid-friendly mobile app space, as Launchpad toys has today announced that they’ve been acquired by the Mountain View company. Known for its Toontastic storytelling app for kids, the company is joining Google to “create even more amazing creativity tools for kids.”

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Android One initiative expanding to Indonesia w/ three affordable smartphones

Android One Indonesia

Android One, Google’s program focused on bringing high quality smartphones to developing markets at affordable price points, is expanding to Indonesia later this month, the company announced today. Indonesia will become the fifth country in which Google has rolled out the Android One program since the initiative was first introduced at Google I/O last year. Read more

10 reasons why Google should buy the remains of Radio Shack

Everyone has known for years that RadioShack was dying. Heck, in 2007, the mainstream satirical Onion ran a storyEven CEO Can’t Figure Out How RadioShack Still In Business. That story hit between the time the iPhone was announced and when it was launched, to put it into perspective.

But modern smartphones actually helped keep RadioShack alive while, at the same time, undercutting its product business. RadioShack lived and died by smartphones.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that RadioShack was pursuing a bankruptcy plan, which would see it sell half its stores to Sprint, a few others possibly to Amazon and boarded windows for the rest. The WSJ previously reported that the price tag was in the $50M range.

I think Google needs to step in and take over RadioShack. Here’s why: Read more

Uber investor Google reportedly developing competitive ride-sharing app as Uber gets into driverless cars

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Update: When reached for comment, Google pointed us to its Twitter account’s response (below), which it said is accurate. While it doesn’t directly address the reports, it does seem to hint Google is working on a Lyft-style ride-sharing app and that it doesn’t view it as a direct competitor to Uber. Following the original reports, Uber made its announcement official on its website.

Update 2: Google has reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that the app in question is a carpooling app created by one of its engineers for Google employees. It is said to be unrelated to Google’s self-driving car.

Uber, the app-based car service in which Google is an investor, is about to announce a new investment into building its own fleet of driverless vehicles, according to a report from TechCrunch. Although the specific details are unclear at this point, the report comes just as news breaks that Google is developing its own ride-sharing app that could be a possible competitor to Uber. Read more