California close to issuing licenses to self-driving cars

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Google’s home state, California will start granting driver’s licenses to driverless cars in September. The DMV will charge $150 a pop for an autonomous car’s driving permit and will allow the self-driving vehicles to cruise public roads as long as the automobile meets the state agency’s strict requirements. California will issue licenses to autonomous vehicles if its test drivers are employed by its manufacturer and have the proper permits and documentation. The car’s driver/passenger must remain behind the wheel at all times and be ready to take over if needed. This doesn’t sound too bad, right? But here comes the boom.

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Google explains how Fiber supports both co-location and net neutrality

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There’s been a great deal of discussion recently about net neutrality: ensuring that all Internet traffic is treated equally, rather than big players paying for so-called fast lanes into our homes. Google was one of 100 tech companies to sign a letter to the FCC in support of net neutrality.

It may thus come as something of a surprise to find that Google Fiber offers what’s known as co-location or peering options to companies like Netflix and Akamai, allowing those companies to house content-delivery servers inside Google’s own facilities. Isn’t this exactly what the company claims to oppose … ?

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LG releases its customizable G3 Quick Circle case before the actual phone

Strangely, LG just released a preview video (above) and some information on the upcoming G3 case called the Quick Circle, which we’ve seen quite a bit of leaks around already. The case has a circle opening similar to the way the HTC M8 or Samsung Galaxy S4 and 5 have special cases that give quick looks to important information. The Quick Circle looks a little bit more robust however.

Users can check the time, place calls, send text messages, take photos, listen to music or get an update of their health directly from the circular window.

More stylish than traditional rectangular-windowed smartphone cases, LG’s QuickCircleTM Case comes in five eye-catching colors: Metallic Black, Silk White, Shine Gold, Aqua Mint, Indian Pink. The case is designed to protect the side edges of the G3 and provide the best “grip-ability” while maintaining the G3’s original sleek lines. To accentuate the beauty of its circular design language, Smart Lighting emits a soft, white, circular glow inside the window whenever the case is opened/closed or a call/text message is received.

“The smartphone ecosystem is constantly evolving ― no longer are cases just for protection from the elements and bumps and drops,” said Dr. Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of the LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. “They’re the perfect accessory to build in extra features that add more value to a mobile device. With QuickCircle Case, we’ve exceeded the baseline by making it customizable to better fit users’ needs.”

The interface looks a bit like a watch, which LG is also expected to launch soon, possibly at the same event. The G Watch will run Android Wear, Google’s wearable platform.

We’ll be on hand next week when LG announces the G3, though frankly, there appear to be few surprises left.

Press release follows: Read more

Motorola asks community to submit Moto 360 watch face designs ahead of launch

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Motorola has spent a lot of time since first introducing the Moto 360 talking about how its Android Wear smartwatch will be better than the other guys. That super streamlined watch face it’s been showing off in its promo videos might not be the only watch face users will have access to, however, as today the company asked the community to begin submitting watch face designs ahead of the device’s official launch. Motorola isn’t saying if these designs will ever be used or available to Moto 360 users, but it will be giving away the smartwatch to one submission selected as a winner: Read more

Google tells the SEC it could soon be serving ads on thermostats and other devices (Update: Google says no ad-based Nest)

 

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Those who expressed concern about Google’s acquisition of Nest may have have been right: the company has told the Securities and Exchange Commission that it may choose to serve ads on “refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities.”

The WSJ reports that Google made the statement in support of its contention that it shouldn’t have to break out ad revenue from mobile devices …  Read more

Google overtakes Apple as ‘most valuable brand’ of 2014 in new study

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Millward Brown’s annual BrandZ study, which was released today, points to Apple as the second most valuable brand just below Google. This is a reversal from the previous study, which found Apple ranked just above Google.

In the study, Google’s brand value was calculated at $158,843,000, while Apple came in at only $147,880,000.

Of course, this study doesn’t actually point to which company is the most valuable. Instead, Millward Brown uses a combination of financial information—including projected future sales—and customer surveys to determine how much a brand is worth—or how much of the company’s value comes from customers’ views of that company. The entire process of determing a brand’s value is explained in detail on the Millward Brown website.

Essentially, information from customer surveys is used to determine a “brand contribution” number for each company. This number refers to how likely customers are to remain loyal to a company and other similar factors. This “brand contribution” is then multiplied by certain financial figures and the resulting figure is “brand value.”

This “brand value” represents how much of the company’s overall value comes from its brand. If it sounds a non-scientific, that’s probably because it is. Still, it’s interesting to see how consumers and firms like Millward Brown rank these companies.

Google Glass software updated to better manage hardware in low-battery situations

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Google has issued an XE 17.2 software update for Google Glass. The update focuses exclusively on improvement how the hardware handles low battery life situations. The above animated photo shows the new feature in action:

Among various bug fixes, this release better handles instances when Glass is extremely low on power. One thing you might notice is a new screen with a red flashing low battery indicator when Glass doesn’t have enough power to turn on and needs to be plugged in.

Last week’s XE 17.1 updated focused on bug fixes, performance enhancements for the Camera application, and improvements to the hardware touchpad on the side of the wearable device.

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Google adding former Palm HQ in Sunnyvale to its office space

Palm HQ

Before smartphone marketshare was a race between Android and iOS, the smartphone market was dominated by players like BlackBerry and Palm. In the years since, the handset race has largely become between Samsung (and other Android-powered handset makers) and Apple as BlackBerry’s presence has shrunk and Palm has been sold to HP and consequently retired as a brand.

Nothing is more tangible an illustration of the change in landscape than the key players of today taking over the office space of the former leaders, and that’s exactly what Google is doing with Palm’s former headquarters, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reports.

The lease of the PalmPilot maker’s former two-building, 285,000-square-foot project in Sunnyvale brings Google’s holdings in the city to well over 1 million square feet.

Sources familiar with the transaction said Google leased the complex at 950 and 1000 W. Maude Ave. last week.

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FCC chairman praises Google Fiber, wants to model future rules after it

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Tom Wheeler — the Chairman of the FCC, the federal commission currently in the middle of a firestorm surrounding net neutrality — today praised Google for its checklist of requirements for cities to meet that are interested in working with Google to roll out fiber networking.

Google’s checklist includes various measures and decisions that help enable the company to quickly add their fiber services to a city or municipality. Wheeler specifically cites this as something that the FCC should look into, as it effectively cuts through red tape and speeds up deployment of faster service: Read more

Tom Coburn’s Let Me Google That For You Act of 2014 will help stop federal money from being wasted in the US

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There is a United States federal agency that specializes in collecting and cataloguing scientific research papers of all kinds. The NTIS — National Technical Information Service — will serve up files or paper copies of these records for $25 or $73, respectively. The issue, as pointed out by NPR, is that most of these records are available for free elsewhere, and are easier to find with Google than with the NTIS’ outdated website. And so, ever the enemy of a wasteful budget, Tom Coburn has introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act of 2014 to abolish the NTIS. Read more

Apple and Google agree to settle patent litigation, but will not cross license

Photo: USA Today

Photo: USA Today

According to a court filing discovered by Reuters, Apple and Google’s Motorola Mobility unit have agreed to settle their ongoing smartphone patent litigation battle against each other. In a statement, the two companies said that this agreement does not include the ability cross license each other’s patents, but rather the promise to “work together in some areas of patent reform.”

The two tech giants have been battling it out over various patents for several years now, both directly and indirectly. It’s important to note, however, that this agreement is solely between Apple, Google, and its Motorola Mobility unit. This does not apply to any lawsuits between Android device manufacturers, such as Samsung and HTC, and Apple. Although theoretically, it would apply to patents owned by Google that device manufacturers are licensing.

A verdict was reached in the latest Apple v Samsung battle just a few weeks ago, with Apple being ruled as the victor, albeit small. The court ruled that Samsung owed Apple $119 million, which is far less than the $2 billion it was seeking.

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