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Here’s a quick look at everything else Google related that’s caught my eye over the past week:

1.  Don’t Call It A Comeback

I thought that Google Glass was going to be the best thing ever.  Instead thanks to privacy concerns, poor design, a negative social stigma, and Glassholes it went the way of the Segway and became a punch line.  Google was not prepared to give up on their augmented reality dream though so even though Glass was down it was never really out.  Now it’s poised to make a comeback thanks to some behind the scenes maneuvering.

As Tech Radar reports, “Glass is being overseen by a new strategist at the company, Nest CEO Tony Fadell, ‘to make it ready for users,’ [Eric] Schmidt said.  He told The Wall Street Journal, ‘It is a big and very fundamental platform for Google. We ended the Explorer program and the press conflated this into us cancelling the whole project, which isn’t true.’  He also compared the project to another Google project claiming it’s ‘like saying the self-driving car is a disappointment because it’s not driving me around now. These things take time.'”

2.  The Future Of Search

Google Now, Google’s attempt at predictive search was a cool feature that could cross reference everything it knew about you to provide useful tidbits such as traffic alerts.  But it was limited by the fact that it could only cross reference Google centric sources (Gmail, maps, your calendar, etc.) in order to do so.  However, all that’s about to change.

As Wired reports, “Google has announced more than 70 new integrations for Now. You can find new music to listen to, control your smart home, and even track the whereabouts of your food delivery from the restaurant to your door, all within the confines of Google Now. When you say ‘OK Google’ into your watch or phone to activate Google Now, you’re not just searching for stuff—you’re doing stuff.”

The implications for this are huge.  As more and more services come into the fold Google Now becomes more and more powerful.  Eventually, it could even get to the point where it makes apps obsolete.

3. Trending Up

Have you ever wanted to know what people are searching for in real time?  Well, now you can find out thanks to a new project from Google.

As Wired writes, “Google Trends has long been a tool for journalists tracking what people wanted to know about in the recent past. The function hasn’t changed, but the tense has: Trends now tracks stories in real time, giving unfettered access to what the Internet wants to know in the moment.”

This is a great tool for writers, researchers, and even activists who want to know what’s really happening in a given area instead of just what the media is reporting on.  Just like the way Twitter has been used as a political tool so too may Google Trends.

4.  It’s In The Vault

Since we’re all computing more and more on our mobile devices Google wants to make them more secure.  Enter Project Vault, a security system for your phone disguised as a microsD card.

As CNET explains, “The Vault card is essentially a secure computer that protects the personal information of a phone’s owner. For example, it can encrypt, or scramble, chat messages from an app and provide extra levels of authentication, so your device knows that you are you.”

The best part about this is that not only does it make your phone more secure but it also takes advantage of existing functionality meaning that manufacturers won’t have to change the way that they make phones.

5.   Can You Hear Me Now?

We already have lots of way to share things but Google just came up with one more: bursts of sound.

As Engadget explains, “If Google has its way, the days of sharing web links through copying text (or bumping devices) will soon be over. The internet giant has released Google Tone, an ‘experimental’ Chrome extension that shares your browser’s current web address to other computers through specially crafted sound bursts. So long as the recipients are within microphone range and use Tone, they don’t have to lift a finger — their machines will pick up the audio cue and start surfing. There are a lot of variables that could sour your experience (don’t try this in a noisy room, folks), but this could still be ideal if you just have to send cat videos to everyone within earshot.”

Just be careful though that you don’t accidentally share something private with the entire office!

 

Are any of Google’s lesser known projects the Greatest Idea Ever?

All this week I’ve focused on Google’s current success stories but what about one of their failed projects that they’ve all but given up on: the humble space elevator, a simple yet extraordinary complex way to transport people and supplies into space for scientific and recreational endeavors.  Is there any hope at all that we’ll see this any time soon?

Sadly, probably not.  The Space Elevator concept has been a science fiction fantasy for several years now and still appears to be at least ten to twenty years away from coming to fruition after Google [X] recently put their plans on hold.

As Fast Company reported, “The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong— ‘at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have,’ by ­[Google X researcher Dan Piponi]’s calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators ‘were put in a deep freeze,’ as [Google X researcher Mitch Heinrich] says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.”

While it surely is disappointing that we’re not on the verge of having space elevators there is a silver lining in all this.  For having ten years to warm up to the idea of travelling all the way up to space in an elevator could be enough time to help me get over my fear of heights.  Then again maybe not…

Is a Space Elevator the Greatest Idea Ever?

I interrupt Google Week to give you my take on same sex marriage which the Supreme Court of the United States just ruled in favor of nationwide.  And my take is a simple one: this ruling should not be happening.  Not because marriage equality is a shameful, immoral activity that should be prevented.  But rather because it never should have come to this in the first place.  We always should have been allowed to marry whoever we wanted.

I could maybe understand these outdated laws in some other ass backward country where basic freedoms don’t exist.  But in America?  In the land of the free?  In the one place where you’re supposed to be able to practice any religion you want, the one place where you’re supposed to be able to write anything you want, say anything you want, do pretty much anything you want, within reason.  In that place, in that sacred place, in the 21st Century no less, you could not marry who you wanted to up until yesterday.  That’s a joke.  Freedom my ass.  Separation of church and state my ass.

Thankfully, SCOTUS finally came to its senses and issued a landmark ruling that changes all that.  A ruling that finally makes America the standard bearer of freedom that it was always supposed to be.  Obviously not everyone is going to agree with this decision but that won’t matter going forward.  Marriage equality is now a constitutional right.  As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his decision, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

And now too America becomes something greater than it once was.  A place that is now truly totally free.  It’s about time.  Now if only we could do something about ending racism.

Marriage equality is the Greatest Idea Ever.

 

Apparently Google has had so much fun dreaming up Moonshots over the last several years that they now want the rest of the world to get in on the action too.  That’s the premise, at least, behind Solve For X, their new global think tank initiative aimed at fostering a worldwide culture of innovation.  As the Solve For X website puts it, “We are a community of scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, thinkers, doers, the young, the wise, men and women from every background across every geography connected by a shared optimism that science and technology can cause radically positive things to happen in the world.”

So far this new community has proven to be very vibrant with 57 projects currently in the works covering every topic from higher education to sustainable energy sources.  In fact, the current list of Moonshots reads like the table of contents of an encyclopedia of the year 2150.  There’s Programmable Materials, Inflatable Robots, Brain-Machine Interfaces, 3D Nano Metamaterials, and even Endoscopic Drones to detect gut cancer.  And of course no list of moonshots would be complete without a plan to mine asteroids for natural resources.

The primary objective for this project is to ultimately come up with technologically feasible solutions to our biggest problems from climate change to food and water shortages.  The Moonshots that get dreamed up then shouldn’t just be pie in the sky long shots that sound like something out of a low budget science fiction movie.  Rather, they should be rooted in real science and submitted along with a clear roadmap for how to scale up the project.

If you want to get involved you can either help out with one of these moonshots, launch your own, connect people that could benefit from knowing one another, or just host a local event in your community to bring like-minded dreamers together.  Essentially, this makes Solve For X comparable to the popular TED Talks and TED x events.  But instead of just talking about the change you want to see in the world, Solve For X Moonshots would aim to bring that change about via a hands on approach.

Will it work?  That’s the million dollar question.  Moonshots are inherently by nature the longest of long shots.  Advances that move the ledger by leaps and bounds instead of small increments.  Almost all of the projects will fail with the majority never even getting off the ground.  A plan to communicate by automatically translating what’s in the mind’s eye?  Um, yea, good luck with that.  But if even just one of the Moonshots succeeds then the entire Solve For X initiative would have succeeded.  And with 57 projects in the works and more coming all the time those are some pretty good odds.

 

Is Solve for X the Greatest Idea Ever?

The number of projects that Google is working on is staggering.  There’s the not-so secretive moonshot initiatives undertaken by Google {X} including driverless cars, Wi-Fi delivering balloons, and life extension therapies as well as the even more secretive projects undertaken by the DARPA like ATAP including  touch screen clothing, ultra-sensitive motion sensors, and cardboard virtual reality.  Not to mention all of the innovations that the mother ship routinely works on during the ordinary course of business including search, predictive search (Google Now), maps, a redesigned email app, an analysis of real time search trends, and much, much more like Google Glass, a venture capital arm, various 10% projects, and digital payments.  There’s so much going on in and around Google and all of their various offshoots that, quite frankly, you need a super computer just to keep track of it all.  Thankfully, Google just so happens to have one of those too.

Known as DeepMind, Google’s latest pet project is an incredibly advanced self-learning algorithm that could lay the foundation for the future of artificial intelligence.  DeepMind is so advanced, in fact, that it’s capable of teaching itself how to beat video games, even devise the optimal strategy for winning in the process, and can do so even when given only basic facts to start with.

As Wired UK writes, “their artificial agent had learned to play 49 Atari 2600 video games when given only minimal background information. The deep Q-network had mastered everything from a martial-arts game to boxing and 3D car-racing games, often outscoring a professional (human) games tester. ‘This is just games, but it could be stockmarket data,’ [cofounder Demis] Hassabis says.  ‘DeepMind has been combining two promising areas of research — a deep neural network and a reinforcement-learning algorithm – in a really fundamental way…”

Machine learning is still in its infancy but the early results from DeepMind are very promising.  Considering how much data we’re creating on a daily basis having the ability to search through it is only half the battle.  You also have to make sense of it.  An artificial intelligence that’s capable of not only learning, but also teaching itself, could proof to be invaluable in the battle against information overload.  All we have to do is cross our fingers and hope that this artificial intelligence doesn’t eventually run amok and get us into trouble.

Is DeepMind the Greatest Idea Ever?

A few weeks ago Google announced their latest moonshot, a plan to improve city life, known as Sidewalk Labs.  At the time nobody really knew what Sidewalk Labs would entail.  Would they analyze traffic patterns to try and ease congestion in cities?  Would they work with local governments to help them make better sense of the data they were collecting from their constituents? Would they help food trucks find the best places to park?

Well now that the plan is starting to take shape we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of exactly what will be going on.  And first up on the agenda for Sidewalk Labs is free public wi-fi! And not just any old wi-fi.  But ultra-high speed wi-fi!

As Wired writes, “Earlier this month, when Larry Page announced that Google was launching a new startup called Sidewalk Labs to develop and incubate technology for cities, many wondered what the company wanted with an industry that is so much less sexy than any of its other so-called “moonshot” projects, like developing the self-driving car or, you know, curing death.  Now, that fuzzy logic is coming into focus. Today, Sidewalk Labs announced it would be leading the acquisition of two companies behind New York City’s LinkNYC initiative, an ongoing plan to convert old pay phones into free public Wi-Fi hubs. Through the acquisition, Sidewalk Labs is merging the two companies—Control Group, which provides the interface for the new hubs, and Titan, which is overseeing the advertising that will pay for the project. The new venture, aptly named Intersection, will seek to bring free public Wi-Fi to cities around the world using different pieces of urban infrastructure, from pay phones to bus stops.”

Of course the more connected our cities are, the more connected we figure to be.  Instead of standing on a street corner twirling our thumbs we’ll now be able to get online and put our thumbs to use.  Will this make Google richer?  Of course it will.  But it will also make us more productive which could in turn make city life better for everyone in the long run.  And who knows.  Maybe one day they’ll figure out a way to help out the food trucks as well.

 

Is Sidewalk Labs the Greatest Idea Ever?

You gotta love Google.  While other tech companies race one another to create copycat smart watches, fitness trackers, and wearables that all do similar things, Google instead sets the bar higher and creates a wearable wristband that does something truly unique and remarkable: detect cancer.

That’s right.  I said detect cancer!  Not monitor your heart rate or count your footsteps or send you text messages.  That’s mere child’s play and Google doesn’t have time for any of that.  They’re too busy saving the world.

So how does it work?  As Digital Trends explains, “The device is used in conjunction with a Google-created pill, which contains magnetic nanoparticles. In short, the wrist-worn device would have a magnetic field to gather up these nanoparticles, along with the targeted cells.  More specifically, the targeted cells are brought together through the nanoparticles in the blood. These nanoparticles will, in theory, have the ability to selectively bind to targets that harm the body. In this case, the targeted cells would be cancerous ones. The wristband would then generate energy, and send it to your blood vessels. The targets would either be modified or destroyed in the process.”

What’s great about this device is that it wouldn’t just work with cancer.  In theory, it could treat any disease that involves abnormal cell behavior including HIV and Parkinson’s. 

So, why is it that Google would want to make a cancer detecting and destroying wearable?  The answer is simple as it goes hand in hand with their recent moonshot initiative to try and reverse the aging process, known as Calico.  For the longer someone is alive the more searching they can do and in turn the more money Google can make.  It’s not exactly an altruistic endeavor but who cares.  If I can live for three hundred years and never get cancer I’ll give Google all the search business they can handle.

Is a cancer detecting and destroying wearable the Greatest Idea Ever?

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