Google Maps updated with new Street View imagery to celebrate Space Day

In celebration of “Space Day” in Japan, Google announced today that it is releasing new panoramic Street View imagery for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan).

The JAXA imagery allows you to walk through the Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC) down on the idyllic beach island of Tanegashima. TNSC is the site from which the Kounotori 3 rocket recently lifted off to send supplies (and the YouTube Space Lab winning experiments) to the International Space Station…In addition, today’s release also includes 360-degree views of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, known in Japan as the “Miraikan.” Now, you’re able to virtually walk inside the museum and see the famous “Geo Cosmos” hanging Earth model, as well as the other permanent exhibits like the model of the International Space Station.

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A look behind the scenes at Google’s NYC offices

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The images above are courtesy of Refinery29 who recently went behind the scenes to snap some photos at Google’s NYC offices. In the images, we see part of Google’s computer history museum, a Pac-Man arcade and Pac-Man themed kitchen, a replica B1 Battle Droid, and a lego version of the entire HQ sitting in another one of the building’s micro-kitchens. Head over to Refinery29 for another dozen photos of the offices. You might be somewhat familiar with the building already if you saw Eric Schmidt’s tour on CNN of the downtown Manhattan location. We also found out in May that Google will be lending a portion of the building to CornellNYC Tech for five years while it constructs its new engineering university campus.
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Afghanistan bans YouTube in response to US film insulting the Prophet Mohammad

Afghanistan just banned Google’s YouTube over an American film posted on the video-sharing platform that insults the Prophet Mohammad, subsequently spurred riots in North Africa, and led to the killing of Libya’s U.S. ambassador.

Aimal Marjan, Afghanistan’s general director of Information Technology at the Ministry of Communications, who rebuffed additional questions as to whether the country blocked YouTube to avert more violence or as a safeguard from further insults, told Reuters:

“We have been told to shut down YouTube to the Afghan public until the video is taken down.”

The controversial film apparently portrays Mohammad as a womanizer and a religious hoax, so Afghan President Hamid Karzai promptly condemned it and then claimed freedom of speech does not permit the disrespect of Islam.

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Review: Verizon’s Motorola RAZR M is my favorite little Droid

If I had any complaints about the original Droid RAZR last year, it was that the chrome, or bezel, around the display was a little much. The phone was extremely slim outside of its hump, but it was much wider and longer than it needed to be for a phone with a 4.3-inch display.

In presenting its new phones last week, Motorola did just as I hoped: It split the RAZR into two lines. The RAZR M has the same screen, but dramatically less chrome, while the HD took the same phone and increased the size of the screen to a 720p 4.7-inches. I briefly played with the HD, but I got to take a RAZR M home and it has been my go-to phone ever since. Here is the review:

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Andy Rubin announces 500M Android activations to date ahead of tomorrow’s iPhone 5 event

Are you ready for the latest breakdown of Android’s performance ahead of Apple’s iPhone 5 event tomorrow afternoon? Android boss Andy Rubin just announced this evening that 500 million Android devices have been activated to date, which follows Eric Schmidt’s announcement of 480,000 devices last week. Rubin reiterated Schmidt’s announcement, claiming 1.3 million Android devices are being activated daily (70,000 of which are tablets). Last week, we calculated Google could hit a whopping 1 billion devices activated in a year’s time at its current growth. Tonight’s announcement was definitely interesting timing.

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Sony explains Xperia V’s sensor-on-lens touchscreen tech

After announcing the new ICS-powered Xperia lineup last month, Sony shared some details today on the new sensor-on-lens touch screen tech being built into the Xperia V. Sony described the tech as providing the same benefits to smartphones as in-cell and on-cell touch technology, which Apple is rumored to be including in the next-generation iPhone. In a blog post on the Sony Mobile Developer blog, the company explained exactly how the sensor-on-lens technology works and some of the benefits it provides to the Xperia V. Some of those benefits include better image quality, less haze, 5 percent better display luminance, and a lighter and thinner device due to an extra layer of glass being removed:

Sensor-on-lens touch technology means that the number of physical layers in the touch panel (handset stackup) is reduced, as the sensor layer is actually part of the lens itself. This in turn means that you will get better image quality, as there is no interference from the touch sensor component.  There is one less layer of glass and one less layer of glue, compared to conventional touch panels… This technology also moves the image plane closer to you as a user, which makes it feel like you are actually touching the image itself. With this direct touch experience, you will get less parallax issues compared to a conventional touch panel, as the image and the point of touch are closer together in the sensor-on-lens touch screen technology.

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Google Apps passes Lotus and GroupWise in market penetration down under

As pointed out by Google’s Vice President of Enterprise, Amit Singh, Australian publication Delimiter reported on a study from analyst firm Telsyte that revealed Google Apps is now second to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange in the country. The news means Google officially passed both IBM’s Lotus Notes/Domino and the GroupWise platform from Novell, which battled for second and third place behind Microsoft up until now:

Yesterday, Telsyte revealed how far the pair have fallen, with new research from the analyst firm placing Google Apps — which only launched in 2006 — ahead of Lotus and Groupwise in terms of Australian market penetration… According to a statement released by the company, it conducted a survey of more than 330 local chief information officers and senior IT decision-markers on their enterprise software use and intentions…“The search engine giant’s Apps suite is now second only to Microsoft’s Exchange for enterprise market penetration in Australia and is ahead of more established products like Novell’s GroupWise and IBM’s Lotus Notes,

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy Note II [Gallery]

The Galaxy Note II unveiled at IFA 2012 last month, amid a bevy of other Samsung-related news that dominated the popular trade show, and immediate reactions placed it somewhere between the original Galaxy Note and the Galaxy S III.

Well, those summarizations were spot-on.

SPECS

I recently sat down with Samsung at a media event in New York City to get a closer look at the global version of its “phablet.” At first glance, it is easy to notice the new Note’s lighter and thinner design, redesigned S Pen stylus, larger 5.5-inch display, faster 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos processor, and a slew of fresh software features layered over Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

The 720p Super AMOLED display, which boasts a slight improvement over the original, carries a 1,280-by-720-pixel resolution, and Samsung U.S. Director of Product Marketing Ryan Bidan noted it is the company’s “brightest, sharpest, clearest screen.”

The Note II also features a shrunken bezel and a physical design akin to the Galaxy S III, including the same 8-megapixel camera, and even its user-interface mimics many of the S III’s core highlights. The phablet is notably different, however, due to its new S Pen-specific functions.

“The Galaxy Note II brings the design and software experience that we created for the Galaxy S III to the Note platform,” Bidan contended.

Additional specs include a “Magic Wand” homescreen, NFC, 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage options, and 2GB of RAM. It ships in both Mountain White or Titanium Gray flavors and further touts a massive 3100mAH battery, which is 25 percent larger than the original Note’s, for 10- to- 12 hours of normal use.

A gallery is below.

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Google Glass interface described in new report

The Wall Street Journal published a report with some new information on the interface for the Google Glasses:

In all, the glasses are like a wearable smartphone, allowing the user to take pictures, send messages and perform other functions via voice-activated commands. For instance, say “OK, Glass” into one of the glasses’ two microphones and a menu pops off to the side of your vision showing icons that will let you take a picture, record a video, use Google Maps or make a phone call.

After 10 minutes of playing with the glasses—which the company prefers to call Google Glass, since they don’t have lenses—I could see their long-term potential. The device fit well. It was easy to snap a picture or video without taking my smartphone out of my pocket. It was cool to see the information there in front of my right eye, though a little disorienting. I kept closing my left eye, which was uncomfortable.

Mr. Brin said his favorite feature is the time-lapse capability that lets him snap photos of his kids every 10 seconds when he is playing with them. “I never think about taking out my phone,” he said. “That would really be disruptive to my play time.”

“I have always disliked the feeling that with technology I am spending a lot of my time and attention managing it,” added Mr. Brin, dressed casually in a white T-shirt and jeans. “The notion of seamlessly having access to your digital world without disrupting the real world is very important.”

The reporter used the glasses at the DVF Fashion show in New York City this week (Gallery). It sounds like the interface options are progressing since I wore the headset briefly at Google I/O in June. However, we are still a long way from a usable product.

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Google Wallet says it will cut Google Prepaid Cards next month

Google Wallet launched nearly a year ago with free $10 prepaid cards for welcoming users to the mobile payments system, but Google just announced that it is discontinuing its complimentary gift next month.

In an email to existing Google Wallet users, Google revealed prepaid cards will permanently disappear from the app on Oct. 17. The Internet giant offers folks a chance to request a refund, however, but it might be easier to simply spend the cash now.

Moreover, as of Sept. 17, users will no longer be able to add funds to their prepaid cards. Go to Google Wallet online for more information, or just read the entire email announcement below.

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