Google building its own brand of ‘robo taxi’ cars

google-driverless-car

Google Ventures’ $250M investment in Uber makes a lot more sense with some news reported by Jessica Lessin this morning. The site is reporting that Google is making its own driverless cars to be “robo taxis”:

Google Inc., which has been working on software to help major automakers build self-driving cars, also is quietly going around them by designing and developing a full-fledged self-driving car, according to people familiar with the matter.

While the Prius has been Google’s main guinea pig of the self-driving car efforts, it looks like Google would like to control the entire manufacturing experience for these cars. In addition, the company’s focus is geared towards driver-free taxi services rather than selling the cars direct to consumers.  Read more

Moto Maker goes live as Moto X lands on AT&T alongside Galaxy Mega & HTC One mini

Moto-Maker

We knew it was coming and today is finally the day that customers can get their hands on Motorola’s new Moto X flagship smartphone and the thousands of customization options offered through Moto Maker. While Moto X should be arriving on all major carriers in the US around the end of this month, the AT&T version of the device available starting today is the only one that will offer access to Moto Maker. The other carriers will be launching white and black versions of the device until Motorola’s puts an end to AT&T ‘s exclusive window sometime later this year.

Starting today, the customizable, assembled in the US version of the Moto X is available exclusively through the MotoMaker.com online tool for AT&T customers. Unfortunately online purchasing isn’t an option at this point, so you’ll have to first purchase the device through AT&T.  That includes the 16GB model for $199 and the 32GB model for $249 on contract.

The Moto Maker tool is the standout feature of the Moto X, allowing users to choose from over 2000 customization options for back, front and accent colors, unique wallpapers, and engraving. Unfortunately, we found out earlier this month that engraving won’t be available initially due to some manufacturing issues.

It’s not the only notable device launching on the carrier today, however. The company is also kicking off availability of the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Mega $149.99 on the usual two year agreement today, as well as the 4.3-inch HTC One Mini for $99.99 on contract.  Read more

Google Glass ramp-up continues apace with patents purchase from Foxconn

google-glass-modular

The WSJ reports that Google has bought a number of display patents from Foxconn, a company best-known for making iPhones and iPads for Apple.

The Apple and iPad assembler didn’t specify a value for the deal or expound on details, except to say the patents sold to Google included head-mounted technology that allows a virtual image to be superimposed on a “real-world view” …  Read more

Chrome OS updated with fullscreen apps, monitor scaling, wallpaper syncing and more

Photo: dpcdn.pl

Photo: dpcdn.pl

The stable version of Chrome OS has been updated to offer a new “immersive mode”, allowing apps to be used in fullscreen form with toolbar and shelf both hidden. A fullscreen button launches immersive mode, and hovering near the top reveals the toolbar.

The new version also monitor scaling, allowing users to scale the UI elements to suit their screen resolution, and a range of other user-interface improvements …  Read more

Google improves definitions in Search w/ sample sentences, synonyms, translations & spoken responses

fortuitous (1)

Google noted today on its Google+ page that it has updated search on both the desktop and mobile with new and improved definitions. Google search would previously let users ask for a definition by simply asking, for example, “What’s the definition of fortuitous?” The most recent update makes those definitions even more useful with the addition of sample sentences, synonyms, origin, translations and more:

Now you’ll also see sample sentences that highlight how the word is used, as well as synonyms…Give it a whirl the next time you’re reading an article online and you stumble across an unfamiliar word. In addition, try translating words to one of 60+ languages directly from the box. When you select a language, future definition searches will consistently provide a translation to that same language.

In addition to those features, Google will also offer spoken responses when tapping the microphone icon next to the definition: Read more

Americans watch 48 billion online videos a month, 17B of them on Google sites, claims comScore

comscore-vid

Figures released by comScore today make the surprising claim that 187 million Americans watched a total of 58 billion online videos between them last month, excluding ads. 17.7B of them were on Google sites, presumably mostly YouTube.

To clarify, comScore counts a video view as watching ‘at least three seconds’. So if you click on a link posted by a friend on Facebook, watch a few seconds, decide it’s boring and close the window, that gets counted. But it still seems like a very high number to us …  Read more

Google’s Street View fun continues with virtual visits to zoos & animal parks

panda

Google’s expanded Street View program today added coverage of a range of zoos and animal parks in North America, South America, Canada, Mexico, China, Germany, Spain, France, Belgium and the UK. This includes the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China, home to more than 30 percent of the world’s Giant Pandas, reports the Google Maps blog.

If you enjoy watching wildlife, but find yourself stuck in the urban jungle, never fear. You can now use Google Maps and Street View to preview the must-see spots at zoos around the world before heading there in person, or take a virtual trip to some of the most famous zoos and animal parks, right from your living room.

The development adds to a diverse range of fascinating Street View tours offered by Google in recent times …  Read more

Google ready to raise its TV profile by spending $1B+ on NFL streaming deal?

hdr__NFL_SUNDAY_TICKET_2013_video

AllThingsD reports that Google may be in discussions with NFL to buy the rights to the Sunday Ticket package when DirectTV’s contract runs out at the end of the 2014 season.

Today, according to sources, Google CEO Larry Page, along with YouTube content boss Robert Kyncl, met with a delegation from the NFL led by commissioner Roger Goodell. And the Sunday Ticket package was among the topics of discussion, according to people familiar with the meeting …  Read more

From Robocop to Roboshopper: the Google Glass apps keep coming

robocop

Google Glass is generating a lot of interesting ideas lately. A couple of new ones that caught my eye are an app from Mutualink designed to assist emergency services personnel, and a Glass version of Amazon’s Price Check app.

Mutualink’s app, spotted on TechCrunch, is designed to enable emergency responders to get access to key documents on-scene. Examples they give are a firefighter being able to see layout plans before entering a burning building, a police officer being able to tap into live CCTV feeds from the surrounding area and medical personnel being able to access medical records and transmit video footage back to a hospital for review by specialists …  Read more

Google developing parental controls for Chrome via ‘supervised user’ accounts

parental

BrowserFame spotted a feature in the Canary (development) version of Chrome that would allow parents and schools to created ‘supervised user’ accounts whose access to the web can be controlled by a master account.

The approach is an extension of the standard accounts available in Chrome, allowing different users to have different settings and to be automatically signed-in to Google services …  Read more

(In Soviet Russia) Beats to drop HTC

HTC Rezound Launch Event

According to the Wall St. Journal, Dr. Dre’s Beats may be considering buying back HTC’s share of the business.

The maker of the popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphones is looking to buy out its Asian partner and bring in a new investor that can provide it with fresh funds for growth, people familiar with the matter said.

The moves come as the founders of Beats Electronics LLC—music mogul Jimmy Iovine and American hip-hop producer and artist Andre Young, better known as Dr. Dre—are broadening the company’s business from headphones to include speakers, audio systems in cars and consumer electronics and a soon-to-be-launched online streaming music service.

It isn’t mentioned in the article but with the much larger Beats partner HP now making Android tablets and possibly phones, there might be some conflict in Beats branding land.  HTC is obviously having some issues financially so maybe the smaller guy is getting edged out and is more willing to take the money and run.

Having listened to a variety of Beats phones and headphones, I haven’t noticed an appreciable improvement in performance, especially for the price. The Beats Pill was one of the best portable bluetooth speakers I’ve listened to however.  Read more