After self-driving cars, Google now working on flying ones?

1972io8foysn7png

Zee Aero, a low-profile company based in Mountain View very close to Google X, the company’s research lab, has registered a patent for what appears to be a flying car, reports SFGate (via Gizmodo). And from two photos uncovered by the paper, it looks like the company has already got as far as either a prototype or large mockup.

The patent illustrations look all but identical to an aircraft spotted from a helicopter at an abandoned Naval base on Alameda just under a year ago. If the photo looks a little odd it’s because Greg Espiritu used a camcorder to zoom in and then took this photo of the LCD display.

Here’s one of the patent illustrations:

ku-xlarge Read more

Jelly Bean now on 10 percent of all Android handsets worldwide, as Gingerbread’s share falls

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 5.20.40 PM

The latest numbers from Android’s Current Distribution page reveal somewhat exciting results for the folks in Mountain View. Android 4.1 – 4.2 Jelly Bean has now crossed the 10 percent threshold for all Android devices on the market. It now sits at 10.2-percent. Additionally, Gingerbread has dropped below the 50 percent mark for the first time in over a year, as Ice Cream Sandwich made gains to get close to 29.1-percent total share. Maybe this is how things should have always been. But, at any rate, sales from the Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X, and more seem to be paying off.

Read more

Google invests in state lobbying to make markets for driverless cars of the future (Video)

The Wall Street Journal just published a lengthy report detailing how Google convinced Nevada state assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, as well as other states’ transportation committees, to introduce legislation that would help legalize its driverless cars for streets.

“This will save taxpayers countless millions of dollars and revolutionize driving as we know it. No more being distracted, no more accidents, and not another DUI attorney again.”

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company persuaded lawmakers, according to The Wall Street Journal, with “demonstrations and rides in its exotic cars,” and it subsequently earned “legislative wins” in Nevada, California, and Florida. There are even bills pending before legislators in Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia:

In the process, the Mountain View, Calif., company is building its credentials as an astute political operator. Google has been “pretty savvy” at navigating state capitols, said Frank Douma, a transportation-policy author and associate director at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. With its self-driving cars, Google “knew what they were doing by moving forward in Nevada” before approaching bigger states, he said. “If you blow it in the first state, you’ve really got problems.”

Success at legalizing self-driving car technology has broader implications for Google. Skills learned from lobbying state lawmakers could aid other endeavors that will require local policy-making, including the potential expansion of its Google Fiber Internet and TV service into markets dominated by cable companies.

Google spent roughly $9 million during the first and second quarters of 2012 lobbying in Washington and coaxing lawmakers and U.S. Department of Transportation officials, but Google did not disclose how much went toward lobbying state officials.

Read more

YouTube Creator Space opens in London to spur premium content [Video]

Google just unveiled its “YouTube Creator Space” in London.

The high-tech studio will essentially allow YouTubers to create premium content for Google’s video-sharing platform. They will have access to technical equipment, and other YouTube content producers, which will undoubtedly encourage quality videos based on fresh, collaborative ideas.

“We’re delighted to announce that in the next few weeks we’ll be opening the doors to our new creator space, housed in the offices of Google London’s Soho office,” announced the company on its YouTube Creator Hub channel.

According to the above video’s description:

Our partners from all over Europe, Middle East and Africa will be able to book time in the space to create and collaborate with other creators, learn new techniques, as well as gaining access to state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, to help them generate great new content for their channels. The creator space is complete with the latest equipment such as DSLRs and cinema cameras, two studios including a green screen and fully staffed editing suites.

The YouTube Next Lab, which is a team “focused on accelerating the growth and development of channels and creators on YouTube,” will oversee the London studio.

Read more

Google wants YouTubers to ditch usernames, start using full names

As BetaBeat first noticed, Google is attempting to peel back the anonymity cloak that surrounds YouTube.

The search engine, which seems to dabble in all things Web, mobile, and tech, now displays a pop-up box to YouTubers who try to leave a video comment. The notice prompts users to start surfing the video-sharing platform with their full name instead of a username or pseudonym.

Google appears to crop names from Google+ profiles, which is likely a byproduct of the Google+ integration from last year that required all YouTubers to login with their Gmail account credentials.

Read more

Google improves Search by Image results with Knowledge Graph

Google launched Search by Image last year, and then updated algorithms for it almost every week since, but now the search engine will use its Knowledge Graph to power the popular feature.

Search by Image allows users input an image, and then Google offers images and search results related to that image. Users select an image through the ‘ole drag-and-drop, and then uploading, or even inputting a URL. Meanwhile, the Knowledge Graph is new technology that allows Google to provide search results for concepts linked between words, rather than showing results for just the query term.

Software Engineer Sean O’Malley explained the inclusion on Google’s Inside Search blog today:

With the recent launch of the Knowledge Graph, Google is starting to understand the world the way people do. Instead of treating webpages as strings of letters like “dog” or “kitten,” we can understand the concepts behind these words. Search by Image now uses the Knowledge Graph: if you search with an image that we’re able to recognize, you may see an extra panel of information along with your normal search results so you can learn more. This could be a biography of a famous person, information about a plant or animal, or much more.

Google wants to improve its image search. When a user uploads an image of a specific type of flower, for instance, Google would previously give general flower search results. Now, Google will try to guess the exact type of flower. Google will also show the most recent content in search results, which is helpful for news images.

Read more