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

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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CamUp sues Google, says Google+ and YouTube stole Hangouts feature

CamUp filed a lawsuit late last week that claimed Google ripped its video-chat feature for Google+ and YouTube.

The lawsuit filing revealed Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president, along with a few Mountain View engineers, approached the New York-based startup at the South by Southwest Festival in March 2011. They later met in London to negotiate adding a Hangout-like button, called “Watch with your friends on CamUp,” to Google’s popular video-sharing platform, YouTube. Despite receiving accolades on its product, CamUp did not hear from the Googlers after the meeting.

By May 2011, CamUp detected an alarming amount of visits from Google’s headquarters in California. The startup suggested that the traffic is evidence of Google beginning to examine its product for copying purposes. Google launched Hangouts with a “Watch your friends” button just one month later, which were allegedly indistinguishable from CamUp’s offerings.

CamUp is seeking damages, an injunction to remove Hangouts on YouTube and Google+, and it is suing Google UK’s Director of Business and Markets Richard Robinson.

The filing (via GigaOM) is embedded below.

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First-ever Google TV Hackathon Weekend starts April 20; Hangout with Google TV execs tomorrow

Google is presenting the first-ever Google TV Hackathon Weekend for television-loving Android geeks later this month.

The Internet giant announced today that it is collaborating with the Silicon Valley Android Developers Group and the London Android Group to host two simultaneous TV Hackathons with the goal of creating new experiences for Google TV.

The SVAndroid Hackathon is taking place at Google TV headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and tickets are $20, but purchasing options end April 17.

Team ideas will be announced April 20, and the following day is “devoted to building, with breaks for demo sessions, Q&As, and a hangout with Google TV developers,” according to the Official Google TV Blog. The teams will present ideas to judges April 22 for the chance to win tickets to Google I/O and other prizes.

The Londroid Hackathon is occurring at the Google Campus in London, United Kingdom. It will run concurrent with the Mountain View event to gather Android devs throughout Europe.

“We will kick things off bright and early on Saturday, April 21, with introductions and background information on developing for Google TV. Teams will power on through Saturday night so that we can do a round of presentations and prizes at lunchtime on Sunday,” explained Google TV Senior Developer Advocate Paul Carff on the Official Google TV Blog.

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Gmail now displays recent photos in the people widget

Gmail updated its people widget to include three photos from recent emails for a showcased person (example to the right).

“The next time you look at the people widget, you might see up to 3 photos from recent emails from that person. Not only does this remind you of photos they’ve sent to you, but it also gives you one click access to the emails with those photos,” announced Gmail on Google+.

The Gmail people widget is located on the right-hand side of messages and displays users’ contextual information about people their interacting with in the email service.

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Google offers premium 1-year GoMo subscription at no charge, hopes to lead mobile advertising

Google expanded its GoMo initiative to offer small businesses an opportunity to mobilize their websites for free.

According to Fortune, the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine teamed with startup Duda Mobile to offer the $9 per month service at no cost for an entire year starting today. Users will save $108 a year, and then they can purchase the premium service after the complimentary period ends—if desired.

In a blog post, Duda Mobile’s Dennis Mink explained the collaboration:

Our hope is that by offering both the education AND the service at no cost for one year, we can help businesses make the shift to mobile more quickly, benefiting both their business as well as us consumers who no longer want to pinch and zoom our way through their regular websites on our phones.

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