Google Plus amps advertising with Muppets: New commercials spotlight Hangouts feature

Google accelerated advertising for its social network by showcasing Jim Henson’s The Muppets in a new commercial about the Google Plus Hangouts feature.

The Muppets performed an impromptu band session as they rocked out to a cover of  “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie through a Google Plus Hangout. Google explained that Hangouts are the “best way” for users to say: “I’m online and want to hangout!”

A Hangout lets users “chill with friends that are scrolling the web,” “use live video chat,” or “coordinate plans.” In other words, the feature is essentially a hyped-up video conferencing capability through Google Plus. The multi-person video chat tool allows up to 10 participants to hang out for free.

Google recently released a trio of new television commercials that promote its social network by featuring Hangouts with the Muppets, NBA announcers, Steve Kerr, Spero Dedes, Bill Walton, Kenny Smith, and Jon Barry. This is not the first time Google collaborated with the The Muppets to advertise one of its products. There was another Muppets Hangout Nov. 7, and the search engine giant celebrated the 75th birthday of Muppet creator Jim Henson by forming an interactive Muppets’ logo for Google.

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YouTube launches video discovery experiment called YouTube Slam

YouTube launched a neat video discovery experiment this afternoon called YouTube Slam. Slam is a little game that allows you to vote between videos in a wide-range of topics, including Comedy, Cute, Music, Bizarre and Dance. The video with the most Slams earns a spot on the leaderboard each week.

YouTube Slam also has a game aspect to it: users will earn more points as they predict crowd favorites. This is a cool time waster that you should check out.

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Airtight brings Airplay support to GoogleTV, minus mirroring, DRM, and music

A new application in the Android Market available for GoogleTVs running 3.0 and up will allow users to stream content from the iPad or iPhone using Airplay, Apple’s wireless streaming feature built into iOS.

After downloading the 99-cent app called “Airtight” to Google TV, users will be able to stream videos and pictures by selecting a device from within the Airplay UI on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (pictured above). Unfortunately, mirroring, DRM protected video, and music is not supported. Users will of course need the latest Google TV update to access the Android Market.

Apple has nothing to do with the app, and the developers said they are looking into methods of including music and the rest of Airplay’s functionality in a future update. We will keep you posted.

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Google and Mozilla Firefox deal is a ‘partnership': Chrome engineer sets the record straight with rant

Google renewed its search bar collaboration last week with Mozilla, effectively keeping Firefox in business, and the transaction has caused a Chrome engineer to come forth and defend the alliance.

According to The Mozilla Blog, Google paid just shy of $300 million per year to be the default choice in Mozilla’s Firefox browser. The total amount is almost $1 billion, a large leap from its previous arrangement, due to competing interest from both Microsoft and Yahoo.

Chrome engineer Peter Kasting spent Christmas Eve posting a Google Plus “rant” to discuss how misunderstood the transaction is amidst a firestorm of media reports that accuse the search engine giant of funding a web competitor.

Referencing MG Siegler’s Google Plus post on the matter, Kasting felt compelled to respond.

“People never seem to understand why Google builds Chrome no matter how many times I try to pound it into their heads,” wrote Kasting. ” It’s very simple: the primary goal of Chrome is to make the web advance as much and as quickly as possible. That’s it.”

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Amazon offers ‘Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots’ app for free, limited-time only

Halfbrick Studios’ “Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots” application is available today on Amazon as a free download for Android Devices. The temporarily discounted game is largely the same globally popular Fruit Ninja, but this version features the French furball from the last couple of “Shrek” movies.

The app initially debuted on Amazon Nov. 25 and normally costs 99-cents. The game currently has 70 customer reviews and a 4.5-star rating through the Amazon Appstore.

Users can “experience a new twist on classic Fruit Ninja gameplay” by choosing from Desperado or Bandito modes and getting encouragement from Puss in Boots. Gamers can also customize their blade (or claws), and post their high scores to become “the ultimate Puss in Fruits,” according to the app’s description.

The Amazon Appstore is only available to customers located in the United States.

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Ice Cream Sandwich ported to Kindle Fire in pre-alpha build

The fine folks over at the XDA-Developer Forums are at it again, with a pre-alpha release of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) to the Kindle Fire, that is based off CyanogenMod 9. The port is stated to be buggy, but as you can see in the video it really isn’t that bad. The process for flashing the pre-alpha software is pretty difficult. If you’re up for the task check it out after the break.

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USPTO rejects Oracle’s patent claim on Google Android

The United States Patent and Trademark office delivered a final rejection to Google at the expense of Oracle.

According to Groklaw, the USPTO issued the rejection Dec. 20 in the reexamination of Oracle’s U.S. Patent No. 6,192,476. Each claim of the patent was subject to reexamination, including Claim 14, which was the only claim asserted by Oracle in the litigation.

The USPTO rejected 17 of the 21 claims in the patent of discussion, including seven of the patent’s independent claims. Any response by Oracle seeking an appeal or reconsideration of this action is due Feb. 20.

Continue reading past the break for more background information on the Oracle vs. Google patent claims.

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MotoACTV rooted with Honeycomb, makes for Android Market on a wristwatch

The MotoACTV was announced in the fall and is flaunted as the ultimate sports watch for those who are active. It ships with Android 2.3 and a custom skin on top, and one would not think the wristwatch could ever be rooted. However, like every other Android device out on the market, the MotoACTV was rooted with Revolutionary’s zergRush exploit. The root enables full Android 2.3 on the wristwatch. As you can see above with the Angry Birds start screen, users can even access the Android Market with the help of CyanogenMod. (via The Verge)

While we do not know if this is exactly useful, it is cool -nonetheless- seeing a tablet user interface run on a 1.6-inch display. The MotoACTV 8GB version is available for $209 on Amazon, and the 16GB version is available for $299. Check it out in action after the break:

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Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket with LTE review: one of the best Android phones you can buy

I have been an iPhone user since 2007 and have used every iPhone since the original. My current phone is the 4S…until I had the chance to start reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket with LTE (currently 70 percent off at Amazon). I have used many Android phones in the past, and the Skyrocket (as I’ll call it for the rest of the review) is one amazing product. The iPhone 4S is currently widely regarded as the “phone to beat,” so parts of this review will focus on comparing the two devices. Since the Skyrocket is a phone with several features and components, we are going to break it down into categories: design and performance, display, battery life, LTE, hotspot, and cameras. Read past the break for the full review:

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Plex expected to launch on Nook Color and Nook Tablet soon

Plex, the very popular streaming media application, is on its way to the Nook Color and Nook Tablet’s Store, reports GigaOm. For those unfamiliar with Plex, it is a popular application available on iOS and Android that lets users manage their home’s media content through a custom server.

Plex’s wide variety of supported media formats, available plug-ins, and the Windows and Mac application make it arguably the best solution for controlling media across the household. The Barnes and Noble review team approved Plex, so it should see its way onto the Nook Store in the coming days.

The Nook’s Plex app will be very close to the Android app, but it will have an added layer of approval process for software titles, GigaOm reports.

The Nook Color and Nook Tablet’s popular competitor, the Kindle Fire, also has Plex. The addition of Plex to the Nook Store will give customers the ability to better manage their media — something that customers love to do with their cheaper tablets.

Meet Hug-chan, Samsung’s Android-driven humanoid robot that hugs people

If you happen to be in Tokyo this holiday season, you may want to drop by the Samsung Galaxy Café on the second floor of Hillside zone of Roppongi Hills for an opportunity to meet Samsung’s cool new bot in person. Heck, it may even give you a little holiday hug! They call it Hug-chan (“chan” is a term of endearment normally attached to the names of girls in Japan). It couples advanced robotics with Google’s Android software and Samsung’s Galaxy smartphone and tablet.

A Galaxy S smartphone issues commands to a Galaxy Tab 10.1 LTE tablet that provides computer vision through its front and back cameras. It also controls the robot’s arms, legs and other moving parts. It doubles as Hug-chan’s charming head with eyes and other facial expressions rendered on the tablet’s display. In addition to the tablet camera, Hug-chan has a few cameras to detect and interact with users. Samsung even set up a website that lets people watch a live video stream from Hug-chan’s cameras.

A little background and a behind-the-scenes video is right below the fold…

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Google’s Christmas Doodle leaks

Google’s holiday-themed Google Doodle is about to go live any moment on the homepage, and the above image is what it should look like, according to Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz. Funny thing is…we thought Schwartz only leaked gadgets these days. You can check out a full gallery representing 11 years of Google Doodles here. The website was recently revamped with the familiar Google+ look.

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