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Why Is Google Buying So Many Robot Startups?

December 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Forget robotic product delivery. As usual for Google, I suspect it’s all about the data.

google_bot

 

Image : Google-bot – The M1 Mobile Manipulator from Meka, one of several robot companies acquired recently by Google.

Google has quietly bought seven robotics companies, and has given Andy Rubin, the man who originally led the Android project, the job of developing Google’s first robot army. And so, theNew York Times suggests it might only be a few years before a Google robot driving in a Google car is delivering products to your door.

I somehow doubt Google has anything quite so futuristic in mind. I think the effort is quite similar to both Google’s self-driving car endeavor and its Android project. In other words, it’s all about gaining a dominant position in markets where data is about to explode.

Take Google’s self-driving cars. Contrary to common perception, the company didn’t “invent” this technology; most carmakers were already working on autonomous system when Google got involved, and academic researchers had made dramatic recent progress—propelled in large part by several DARPA challenges (see “Driverless Cars are Further Away than You Think”). Google just saw that this was where the automotive industry was headed, and realized that the advent of automation, telematics, and communication would mean a tsunami of data that it could both supply and profit from. Given that many of us spend several hours a day in automobiles, this data could help Google learn more about users and tailor its products accordingly.

Similarly, I suspect Google has recognized that a new generation of smarter, safer, industrial robots is rapidly emerging (see “This Robot Could Transform Manufacturing” and “Why This Might be the Model-T of Workplace Robots”), and it’s realized that these bots could have a huge impact both at work and at home. Whoever provides the software that controls and manages these robots not only stands to make a fortune by selling that software; they will have access to a vast new repository of data about how we live and work.

In this sense, I think Google is being true to its stated mission: “to organize the world’s information”—although it’s worth noting that in an increasingly connected and data-rich world that could mean seeking to organize just about every aspect of our lives. Luckily for Google, it may soon have a robot army to help it keep everything in order.

 

written by: Will Knight

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Categories: Tech Tags: , ,

How Google Glass Works

April 18, 2013 Leave a comment

Google Glass is an attempt to free data from desktop computers and portable devices like phones and tablets, and place it right in front of your eyes.

Essentially, Google Glass is a camera, display, touchpad, battery and microphone built into spectacle frames so that you can perch a display in your field of vision, film, take pictures, search and translate on the go.

The principle is one that has been around for years in science fiction, and more recently it’s become a slightly clunky reality. In fact, the “heads-up display” putting data in your field of vision became a reality as early as 1900 when the reflector sight was invented.

Here is how it works:

Google glass infographic

Will you get a pair for yourself? Share your thoughts in comments.

Apple’s iPad Mini pricier than rival tablets

October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

ipad-mini

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple Inc.’s pencil-thin, smaller iPad will cost much more than its competitors, signaling that the company isn’t going to get into a mini-tablet price war.

The company unveiled the iPad Mini on Tuesday, with a screen about two-thirds the size of the full model, and half the weight. Customers can begin ordering the new model on Friday. In a surprise, Apple also revamped its flagship, full-sized iPad just six months after the launch of the latest model.

Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs once ridiculed a small tablet from a competitor as a “tweener” that was too big and too small to compete with either smartphones or tablets. Now Apple’s own Mini enters a growing small-tablet market dominated by Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire.

Apple is charging US$329 and up for the Mini — a price that fits into the Apple product lineup between the latest iPod Touch ($299) and the iPad 2 ($399). Company watchers had been expecting Apple to price the iPad Mini at $250 to $300 to compete with the Kindle Fire, which starts at $159. Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook HD and Google Inc.’s Nexus 7 both start at $199.

“Apple had an opportunity to step on the throat of Amazon and Google, yet decided to rely on its brand and focus on (profit) margin,” said Bill Kreher, an analyst with brokerage Edward Jones.

Apple shares fell $20.67, or 3.3 percent, to close at $613.36 after the price was announced. Shares of Barnes & Noble jumped 88 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $15.32. Shares of Amazon rose 53 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $234.31.

Apple has sold more than 100 million iPads since their debut in April 2010. Analysts expect Apple to sell 5 million to 10 million iPad Minis before the year is out.

Apple starts taking orders for the new model on Friday. The iPad Mini will be competing for the attention of gadget shoppers with the release that same day of computers and tablets running Windows 8, Microsoft’s new operating system.

Wi-Fi-only models will ship on Nov. 2. Later, the company will add models capable of accessing cellular, LTE data networks.

The screen of the iPad Mini is 7.9 inches on the diagonal, making it larger than the 7-inch screens of the competitors. It also sports two cameras, on the front and on the back, which the competitors don’t.

The iPad Mini is as thin as a pencil and weighs 0.68 pounds, half as much as the full-size iPad with its 9.7-inch screen.

The screen resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels, the same as the iPad 2 and a quarter of the resolution of the flagship iPad, which starts at $499.

The new model has better apps and is easier to use than competitors such as Google’s Nexus, said Avi Greengart, a consumer electronics analyst with Current Analysis.

“This really is not in the same category as some of the other 7-inch tablets,” he said. “And that’s before you consider that it has a premium design – it’s made of metal that’s extremely lightweight.”

Jobs attacked the whole idea of smaller tablets in his last appearance on a conference call with analysts in October 2010.

“The reason we wouldn’t make a 7-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a price point. It’s because we don’t think you can make a great tablet with a 7-inch screen,” Jobs said. “The 7-inch tablets are tweeners, too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with an iPad.”

Job’s chief objection was that a smaller screen would make it hard to hit buttons on the screen with the fingers – never mind that Apple’s iPhone, with an even smaller screen, was already a hit at the time.

Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue started working on changing Jobs’ mind. In an email sent to other Apple managers in January 2011, Cue said the CEO had started warming to the idea of a smaller tablet. The email surfaced as part of Apple’s patent trial against Samsung Electronics Co. this year. Jobs died last October.

Company watchers have been expecting the iPad Mini for a year and most of the details, except the price, had leaked out.

Apple also said it’s upgrading its full-size iPad, doubling the speed of the processor. Previously, the company has updated the iPad once a year.

The fourth-generation iPad will have a better camera and work on more LTE wireless data networks around the world. Apple is also replacing the 30-pin dock connector with the new, smaller Lightning connector introduced with the iPhone 5 a month ago.

The price of the new full-size model stays the same as the previous version, starting at $499 for a Wi-Fi-only version with 16 gigabytes of memory.

Apple also introduced a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop with a Retina display sporting four times the resolution of the older model.

The new model, which follows a 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display introduced in June, goes on sale Tuesday for $1,699.

The old MacBook Pro will still be sold, starting at $1,199.

The new model dispenses with an optical disc drive and a traditional hard drive. Instead, it uses solid-state flash memory. This makes it 20 percent thinner and at 3.75 pounds, nearly a pound lighter than the previous model.

Apple also eliminated the optical drive from its new iMac desktop computer, helping slim the edges down to 5 millimeters, one-fifth the thickness of the old model. That makes the edges thinner than most stand-alone computer monitors. It bulges in middle of the back, however.

An iMac model with a 21.5-inch screen will start shipping in November for $1,299 and up. A 27-inch version will start at $1,799.

Categories: Tech Tags: , , , , , ,

Galaxy Nexus sales frozen: Google promises imminent fix

Google has pulled the Galaxy Nexus from its official Play store, no longer offering the unlocked, HSPA+ version of the Samsung smartphone after Apple convinced a judge to preserve its preliminary injunction. As of this morning, the Galaxy Nexus listing shows the handset as “coming soon” with a sign-up box for notifications; exactly when it will go on sale is unclear, though some suggestions indicate a workaround might mean that happens sooner rather than later and Google has promised it will hit shelves again sometime next week.

According to earlier reports, Samsung and Google are cooking up a temporary fix to Google Now that the two companies believe will rescue it from Apple’s injunction. That, it’s believed, will include removing some of the local results from Google Now – a new part of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean announced at Google IO last week – and it will be pushed out “imminently” according to AllThingsD.

Nonetheless, if you want to buy a Galaxy Nexus any time soon, it looks like you’ll have a struggle finding one at Google’s $349 price. Expansys USA is listing that there is “no confirmed lead time” for stock to go on sale again, and while Amazon Marketplace sellers are still offering the phone, they’re generally doing so at a $100 premium.

Meanwhile Verizon’s CDMA/LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus is still apparently for sale via the carrier’s site, though it’s uncertain if orders will actually go through or if the company is merely yet to update its product pages.

Meanwhile, Google and Samsung are readying a challenge at the US Patent and Trademark office to have Apple’s patents struck down. Google will also support Samsung in its specific attempts to have the injunction overturned.

Source: http://www.slashgear.com/galaxy-nexus-sales-frozen-google-promises-imminent-fix-04236961/

Categories: Tech Tags: , , , ,

5 reasons everyone will be using Chrome OS in 3 years

Google’s first round of Chromebooks met with mixed reviews and far greater adoption in schools where their easy management and fast boot times made them more popular than with consumers. Google and Samsung announced yesterday that next-generation Chromebooks were rolling out, along with a major release of Chrome OS and new devices call Chromeboxes. All in all, it was a big day for Chrome OS, and yet, as Larry Dignan pointed out, the pricing on Chrome OS devices remains too high for serious consumer or enterprise adoption.

However, in computer-land, three years is forever, and in that period of time, I expect that Chrome OS will be all over the enterprise, consumer spaces, schools, and SMBs. In fact, I expect that it will be ubiquitous in the way that Linux and Java are: we don’t even know we’re using them on our phones, in our TVs, in our DVRs…everywhere. Here’s 5 reasons why.

1. It’s going to be cheap

Yes, Larry’s right. These devices are too expensive right now. But Moore’s Law tells us that this will change. Fast. And Chrome OS doesn’t need the latest hardware to run quite well, particularly now that it can take advantage of GPU acceleration. Sure, the original Atom-based Chromebooks were a bit pokey, but enhancements to the OS itself have taken big steps to address the issue. The latest generation of Chrome OS devices aren’t exactly using quad-core beasts. They’re leveraging commodity hardware, paving the way for serious price drops in the relatively near future.

Chrome OS is also being tested on ARM hardware and is unencumbered by much in the way of licensing since it’s based on the open source Chromium OS project.

2. It’s flexible

Have you used the Chrome Web Store? There’s a lot of really useful software just a click away that runs right within the browser. Whether you are using Chrome OS or the Chrome web browser, the experience is the same and the developer ecosystem is pushing hard on the boundaries of what we thought was possible in terms of web applications. The variety of applications already available in the Web Store is impressive, to say the least, just a year and half after its launch.

If Netflix, Facebook, Angry Birds, and Autodesk applications can all run happily in Chrome OS, there won’t be much to differentiate it from a full-blown desktop OS in the months and years to come. Or from an embedded OS. Or a mobile OS. It all depends on the applications OEMs choose to develop, surface, and install for users.

3. Because Chrome OS and Android will merge

As early as 2009, Sergey Brin predicted that Android and Chrome OS would likely draw closer to each other and then merge. The Chrome browser for Android is hinting that this is getting closer to reality, as are various bits of information emerging about Android 5, most of which point to at least the beginnings of unification.

Android is already dominant in mobile devices and runs on everything from televisions to refrigerators to tablets. Chrome has the largest browser marketshare now. When Chrome, Chrome OS, and Android all start looking very much like each other and all dominate their respective markets, it’s not a big stretch to start calling Chrome OS ubiquitous.

4. It’s Google

If Google has proved anything, it’s that they have enough money to keep hammering away at a market until they own it. They proved it with Android on mobile phones. They proved it with their Chrome browser. They proved it with search and related ads. They’ve had their share of missteps and projects like Google+ remain out with the jury. However, if the project is ultimately about growing their core business (namely advertising) and getting ads in front of more people, they’re absolutely dogged. And while their war chest isn’t quite up to Apple’s standards, they can win wars of attrition with just about anyone. Besides, what would you rather see on that connected television? A familiar web browser with snappy app interfaces and a cool Web Store or some kludgy Java interface that doesn’t look a thing like what you use on your desktop, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet to access content?

5. Because the web will be all you need

This is already true for most users. In developing countries, the only personal computing device that many people own is a simple mobile phone with basic web access. Elsewhere, cloud-based applications continue to displace desktop applications and increasing numbers of users spend their days staring at a web browser instead of any particular application. Microsoft’s Office 365 acknowledges the need for at least a hybrid approach to the cloud and most of the interesting software we read about now comes in the form of cloud-based web applications or mobile apps.

Even Adobe, the last reason I bother using a full-blown PC, started shipping Muse (a rich WYSIWYG web development platform) this month and, while not a web application itself, leverages the Air runtime environment to be small, light, and fast.

The next version of Bethesda Software’s massively popular and visually stunning Elder Scrolls series? An MMORPG. No, it won’t be 100% browser-based, but without the web, fans would just be sitting in front of their aging XBOXes. Goodbye game consoles, hello cloud.

This webification movement has taken off in the last 18 months. It isn’t hard to imagine what the next three years will do to the way we think about personal computing. So while Chrome OS got off to a slow start, it’s only a matter of time until Google can take advantage of this inflection point at which we find ourselves.

Source: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/google/5-reasons-everyone-will-be-using-chrome-os-in-3-years/3649?tag=content;siu-container

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