Showing posts with label Google. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Google. Show all posts

Friday, 17 October 2014

Android 5.0 Lollipop: All the details and features of Google’s sweetest treat yet

Lollipop Forest

Google revealed many details about the new version of Android a few months ago, but we didn’t get a name — it was simply “Android L.” Now there’s finally a name and a version number to go with it. Android 5.0 Lollipop is a seismic shift for Android in both design and features. With all the details of Android 5.0 now in the wild, it’s time to tell you all about the latest, largest, and greatest Android release yet. Buckle up and sit back: There’s a lot of awesome new features to run through.

Materially different

Google’s last design language was known as Holo, but that has been replaced by Material Design. This was thoroughly previewed when the developer preview was released, and Google went on to update the design guidelines for developers to start making Material apps. However, Google is stressing something new with the unveiling of Lollipop — consistency across devices.
From your phone, to your tablet, to your watch, to your car,  to your TV — it’s going to be Android Lollipop all the time. Well, as soon as your device maker gets around to pushing out an update. There will still be manufacturer skins, but Google is trying to create a vibrant new UI that OEMs will have a hard time covering up. The use of “hero” colors in apps is an example of this. The header color will carry over to the status bar (if the developer supports it), and that color is then shown in the header when you open the app switcher. OEMs loveto skin the app switcher, but doing so now will mean taking away useful new UI cues, so why bother?
Lollipop devices
The preview of Android L came along at a time when there were almost no Material apps to test, but that won’t be a problem when Android 5.0 starts rolling out. It wasn’t clear last spring just how important (and cool) animations were going to be in Android 5.0. Developers have been trying to come up with ways to fake all the subtle button morphing and panel layering of Lollipop on KitKat devices, and these do add something, but Android 5.0′s native support for Material Design is going to make even cookiecutter apps looks amazing. The updated UI samples and upcoming SDK are looking great.

Battery life fixes

Android phones have long suffered from battery life issues caused by the way apps and services can behave in the background. Any app can be granted the power to wake up a device and keep it awake (called a wakelock). This is an important feature of the platform, but sometimes apps are coded poorly or there’s a minor incompatibility that causes a device to stay awake too long. Android 5.0 is supposed to prevent that while also providing you more information about when you’ll have to charge up.
Battery Analysis
Google is also introducing a power saving mode, which has always been missing from stock Android. It’s not as extensive as what Samsung or HTC are doing with their low-power modes, but it’s a start. You’ll be able to restrict syncing, background data, and screen brightness when you need to eke out a little more battery life. This mode seems to have the same basic options as it did in the preview, but it’s probably tuned better.
The battery use menu has also been revamped with a better graph containing information about which apps and processes are causing drain, rather than just foreground tasks. You also get estimates of remaining battery life based on current and past usage patterns, and a time until charged reading when plugged in. That’s especially cool for devices with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 2.0 feature, like the Nexus 6 (which calls it Turbo Charger).


NotificationsOne of the headlining changes available in the preview of 5.0 was the updated Notification system. The entire look and feel of notifications on Android is changing with easy access on the lock screen, a revamped pull-down menu, and a new heads-up style floating notification that pops up at the top of the screen.
The changes to the layout and location of notifications were already known from the preview, but they are no less notable now. Lock screen widgets are gone in Android 5.0, but that’s probably a worthwhile tradeoff. Lock screen widgets never really took off and having easy access to notifications — even on secured devices — is a big deal. One tap on a notification and you can unlock the phone to the corresponding app.
The final announcement of Android Lollipop includes a few new features of notifications. For one, notifications will be intelligently ranked based on the contact they are from or the app that produced them. So a text message from a favorite contact is at the top and that nagging alert from a social game is down at the bottom (you should really turn those off).
Also new is Priority Mode, which sounds fantastic. Basically, the volume slider has a setting for limiting notifications to only important items. So the text message from above would get through, but the other stuff doesn’t bother you. This appears to be an expansion of the Do Not Disturb setting from the preview, but much more refined.


A recent development in Android land is the news that Android 5.0 will include encryption by default, something that has made the intelligence and law enforcement communities none too happy. You can encrypt an Android device right now, but it’s actually quite a pain. You need to plug the phone in and leave it to do its thing for at least 30 minutes. If something goes wrong, your data could be forever lost.
On Android 5.0 this will happen automatically from the start, so you don’t have to worry about anyone harvesting your data if the phone is lost or stolen. Even if you have a lock screen, unencrypted data can be accessed with a variety of workarounds, but there’s no good way to break the kind of strong cryptography utilized by Android.
If you do lose the phone, the new version of Android comes with factory reset protection or a “kill switch.” It’s an opt-in feature, so it won’t happen automatically like with iOS. You’ll be able to set the phone or tablet to require your Google ID and password to trigger a full wipe of the system. That means a stolen or lost Android Lollipop device is a useless brick to anyone but you.
Google is also confirming that Smart Lock will come to stock Android. This was discussed at I/O 2014, but didn’t show up in the preview. Smart Lock is a way to automatically disable your secure lock screen when a trusted Bluetooth device is paired. For example, you could set your Android Wear watch to automatically bypass the lock screen when it’s connected. Lose that connection and the phone will ask for a password again. You can do the same thing with a fitness tracker or even a Bluetooth headset.

Google’s Nexus Player: Fourth time lucky in the living room, or just YASTB?

Nexus Player

Along with the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9, Google has also released its umpteenth attempt at taking over your living room: the Nexus Player. The Nexus Player, made by Asus and Google, is technically the first device to run Android TV — a version of Android 5.0 Lollipop that has had its interface specially tailored for use on your TV. Outwardly, it would appear that the $100 Nexus Player is just YASTB (yet another set-top box) like Amazon’s Fire TV or Apple TV that’s months or years behind the competition — but who knows, maybe there’s a method in Google’s incessant living room madness?
Way back in 2010, there was Google TV — a cut-down version of Android that essentially just put the Chrome web browser on your TV. Google never really had a strong strategy in place for Google TV, and it was crippled by a lack of content (all of the major content providers except for Dish have blocked it). Unperturbed, Google, Logitech, and a handful of smart TV makers released a few versions of Google TV, but eventually retired the product in 2013. Next up unto the breach was Chromecast — a simple HDMI dongle that allows you to stream content to your TV from your PC or smartphone. Chromecast has certainly been well received among nerdy, power-user types, but it hasn’t exactly revolutionized the living room for mom-and-pop consumers. At some point, there was also the Nexus Q — but Google doesn’t like us to talk about that particular misstep.
Google is back yet again with Android TV and the Nexus Player. Android TV appears to be a full version of Android 5.0 Lollipop, meaning it can download and install apps from the Play Store, including streaming services like Netflix and Hulu — and you can buy or rent a movie, of course. Google Cast (the tech underpinning Chromecast) is integrated. Android TV can be controlled with a remote control, an app on your phone or tablet, or a gamepad (in the case of the Nexus Player, there’s a $40 gamepad sold separately). Like Google TV, a number of TV makers will integrate Android TV into their smart TVs (expect to see lots at CES 2015), and there’ll be third-party Android TV set-top boxes from OEMs as well.
Curiously, like Google TV, the Nexus Player is actually powered by an Intel Atom processor — a quad-core Valleyview Bay Trail part clocked at 1.8GHz. There’s 8GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi, and as far as I can tell no SD card slot. As I mentioned previously, there’s an optional gamepad that you can buy for $40 (pictured below). I’m sure Android gaming on the Android TV will be at least as good as on the Ouya.
Nexus Player gamepad
Nexus Q
Boy was the Nexus Q beautiful — but it was useless, too
So far, so good. Wait, did I say good? I meant bland. Bear in mind that the Nexus Player costs $100 — $15 more than the Amazon Fire TV, $5 more than the Roku 3, or a full $50 more than the Roku 3500R HDMI dongle/streaming stick. I’m really not sure what Android TV brings to the table, other than tighter integration into Google’s larger ecosystem — a feature that might be beneficial on your smartphone, but is probably detrimental in the living room where Amazon has better content deals in place. Android TV might become interesting at some point — perhaps when you have a full complement of other Nexus/Android Lollipop devices — but for now it feels like Google is just trying to keep a hairy toe past your living room doorjamb.
The Nexus Player will be available exclusively from the Play Store (and only in the US for now) for $100. The optional gamepad will cost $40. The Nexus Player was originally meant to go on sale at the start of November, but it seems Google has pushed the date back; as of right now, there’s no listed release date.

Google Chromecast 2 is on the way

Looks like there's a new version of Google's Chromecast on the horizon.
A revised Chromecast model was submitted by Google to the FCC in the US, along with a request for confidentiality. The consequences of that are that we don't actually know how the new Chromecast will differ from the original.
The diagram does confirm, though, that the design remains the same.
"The technology that is the subject of the certification application is subject to intense competition from other manufacturers and service providers that are developing competing services and technology" says Google's request for privacy in its filing.
"Were Google’s competitors to become aware of the facts set forth in the above-referenced exhibits to the application, it could have an adverse impact on Google’s competitive standing and deprive Google of the marketplace benefit it otherwise would achieve by virtue of having the product available before other providers."
Google asked the FCC to not make public any external photos of its new Chromecast, along with internal photos, test setup photos and the user manual.
Looks like there's no 802.11ac 5GHz wifi which is disappointing - the FCC filing only mentions the testing of 2.4GHz 802.11n.
In an AMA on Reddit, a member of the Chromecast team said: "No plans for big announcement on this one. Mostly because it will have the same features as the original and most users won't notice a difference. Sorry--I can't say more about this topic."
So why all the secrecy?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Sony's SmartEyeglass prototype makes Google Glass look chic

Sony SmartEyeWear
As Sony's smartphone division continues to struggle, the company is working out what it needs to return to profitability. Does it concentrate on the high-end market dominated by Apple and Samsung, or does it try to appeal to customers looking to get their very first smartphone? One thing you might not expect is for the company to push forward with the release its own smart eyewear, a Google Glass clone of sorts, that connects to its devices to superimpose images, videos and text into the wearers view. "SmartEyeglass," as it's known, looks like a bulky pair of 3D glasses that have been modified to include a 3-megapixel camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, brightness sensor, a microphone and a pretty large battery pack.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Here's how Google's Project Loon retrieves its internet balloons

Project Loon's balloons could not be more different than your typical party variety -- it's loaded with research equipment and LTE capability, providing high-speed internet connection wherever they go. Obviously, Google's X Lab researchers (the ones behind this crazy balloons-as-hotspot project) will want their data and expensive equipment back. So, they equipped their balloons with GPS and formed a special team to retrieve the floating hotspots when they land. Apparently, the researchers plan out when and where to land balloons for whatever reason (they mostly choose flat areas that are uninhabited but have decent road access), which the field personnel then seek out through their coordinates.

Tokyo's Shibuya gets a big-screen Google voice search terminal

Arguably, the whole convenience of Google's search and map skills (and by association, thevoice-guided version) is the fact it's on your smartphone -- which is right in your pocket. However, In a bid to explain to Tokyo-ites that there's more to the eminently tech-friendlyShibuya outside of That Starbucks and the scramble-crossing, Google's erected a temporary structure right outside the station. Not only can you make voice search requests for the nearest tech store or... french patisserie, it'll display a map and directions on a huge 138-inch screen -- which you can then take a photo of, presumably, with your smartphone.
As you can see, the interface looks almost identical to voice-based interactions on Android phones. There's a giant mic to pick up your commands over the throngs of people constantly ducking in and out of the nearby station. From our time with it, Google's robots still found it hard to pull out simple commands from the buzz of the crowds. When it does pick it up, it'll then parse what you're saying and offer up suggestions just like, well, Google voice search. The collaboration with Shibuya's tourist board and local businesses aims to offer visitors some navigational help when getting around. Given the area's reputation for tangled back-alleys and hidden shops, you might need all the assistance you can get

Thursday, 26 June 2014

From kickoff to the final goal, Google is your guide to the beautiful game

From the last minute U.S. goal against Algeria in ‘10 to the headbutt watched ‘round the world in ‘06, every four years the beautiful game captures the imagination of billions of people. This year, wherever you are, Google is bringing you closer to the action than ever before.

Don’t miss a minute
For the first time, a simple search for [world cup] or [world cup usa] will give you team lineups before the match, live scores, and even up to the minute information about goals and player stats. 

You can also stay updated on your favorite teams with Google Now—you don’t even have to search. Learn more on Inside Search.

What does the world want to know during the tournament?
Google Trends is your real-time guide to the players, teams and moments that are capturing the world’s attention. At you can explore these moments throughout the tournament, whether it’s insight on how a country is feeling ahead of a big match, or where fans stand on a controversial game-winning call. 

Take in the stadiums and streets with Street View
With Street View in Google Maps, you can explore the sights and culture of this year’s tournament, from the 12 stadiums to the iconic painted streets, one of Brazil’s tournament traditions.

As the world unites under a common love for a single sport, there's sure to be a lot of action. From dramatic tumbles to magisterial strikes, and from contested headers to flops and flags, we'll be there to help you discover and connect with the moments that matter most.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Through the Google lens: search trends May 23-29

This week we saw searches on everything from surprises on the court to retro reads.

Books in the news
On Wednesday, the beloved author Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. More than 2 million searches have taken place this week as people looked for information about her life and work. Popular queries related to the author this week include [maya angelou quotes], [maya angelou poems] and [still i rise].
Take a look, it’s in a book… on the web? More than 30 years after it first premiered, the beloved PBS show “Reading Rainbow” was in the news this week when former host LeVar Burton formed a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Reading Rainbow literacy program. In less than 24 hours, Burton had met his goal of a million dollars. 

Sporting surprises
The NBA and NHL playoffs continue to dominate sports fans' minds, but this week in addition to the more expected [rangers], [blackhawks], [heat], [spurs], etc. there were a few less common sporting searches. Rapper 50 Cent threw out a first pitch for the Mets on Tuesday, and it was a little, um, off the mark. People headed toGoogle to look for video and GIFs of the wild pitch. Some might say 50 Cent may want to stay in da club and off the mound.

Meanwhile in tennis, French Open number-one seed Serena Williams was defeated by a lower-ranked young player, Garbine Muguruza, who grew up idolizing Serena’s game. Finally, anticipation for summer soccer is heating up. Late last week we learned that player Landon Donovan would not be included in the United States’ World Cup roster this year. Searches for Donovan immediately spiked to reach a new high for the last year, with related terms [klinsmann] and [landon donovan twitter] rising as well.

Long weekend festivities 
This week marked Memorial Day in the U.S., and many Americans celebrated with [parades] and [fireworks] to honor service members, and also hit up the mall for weekend [sales]. Other celebrations took place this weekend too: amidst a host of college students walking across the dais this weekend, there was one grad who's more known for her prowess in a fictional school. Harry Potter star Emma Watson graduated from Brown University (the Hogwarts of Rhode Island) this weekend, and searches for the actress were even higher than when she presented at the Oscars (woo, education!). But no weekend wrapup would be complete without at least a mention of... yes, Kimye. The long-anticipated and not-so-secret nuptials of Kanye West and [kim kardashian] took place in Europeover the weekend, leading hordes of curious searchers to look for dirt on the dress, the rehearsal dinner and more.
Last but—in my book—certainly not least: comedian Bill Murray showed up unexpectedly at a bachelor party in Charleston, South Carolina, where he gave a toast with some life advice on finding “the one.” Because if anyone knows how hard it can be to find the one, it's Phil Connors.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Getting to work on diversity at Google

We’ve always been reluctant to publish numbers about the diversity of our workforce at Google. We now realize we were wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues. Put simply, Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity, and it’s hard to address these kinds of challenges if you’re not prepared to discuss them openly, and with the facts. So, here are our numbers:
There are lots of reasons why technology companies like Google struggle to recruit and retain women and minorities. For example, women earn roughly 18 percent of all computer science degrees in the United States. Blacks and Hispanics each make up under 10 percent of U.S. college grads and each collect fewer than 10 percent of degrees in CS majors. So we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in education.

Among other things, since 2010 we’ve given more than $40 million to organizations working to bring computer science education to women and girls. And we’ve been working with historically black colleges and universities to elevate coursework and attendance in computer science. For example, this year Google engineer Charles Pratt was in-residence at Howard University, where he revamped the school’s Intro to CS curriculum. 

But we’re the first to admit that Google is miles from where we want to be—and that being totally clear about the extent of the problem is a really important part of the solution. To learn more about our work on diversity—for our workforce, for the web and for the tech leaders of the future—visit

Transparency Report: Protecting emails as they travel across the web

When you mail a letter to your friend, you hope she’ll be the only person who reads it. But a lot could happen to that letter on its way from you to her, and prying eyes might try to take a look. That’s why we send important messages in sealed envelopes, rather than on postcards.

Email works in a similar way. Emails that are encrypted as they’re routed from sender to receiver are like sealed envelopes, and less vulnerable to snooping—whether by bad actors or through government surveillance—than postcards.

But some email is more secure than others. So to help you better understand whether your emails are protected by encryption, we’re launching a new section in the Transparency Report.
Gmail has always supported encryption in transit by using Transport Layer Security (TLS), and will automatically encrypt your incoming and outgoing emails if it can. The important thing is that both sides of an email exchange need to support encryption for it to work; Gmail can't do it alone.

Our data show that approximately 40 to 50 percent of emails sent between Gmail and other email providers aren’t encrypted. Many providers have turned on encryption, and others have said they’re going to, which is great news. As they do, more and more emails will be shielded from snooping.

For people looking for even stronger email security, end-to-end encryption is a good option—but it’s been hard to use. So today we’re making available the source code for End-to-End, a Chrome extension. It's currently in testing, and once it's ready for general use it will make this technology easier for those who choose to use it.

We encourage you to find tips about choosing strong passwords and adding another layer of protection to your account in our Safety Center. And check out Reset the Net, a broad coalition of organizations, companies and individuals coming together this week to promote stronger security practices on the web; we’re happy to be a participant in that effort

Meet the Bay Area Impact Challenge winners

Ten days ago, voting opened for Google’s first Bay Area Impact Challenge, and now the tally is in. On the ballot? Ten amazing nonprofit proposals to make a difference in our community.

Between May 22 and June 2, nearly 200,000 votes poured in (191,504 to be exact)—adjusted for population, that makes it the highest voter turnout we’ve had in a Challenge to date. Now we’re unveiling the winners. Each will receive $500,000 in funding and support from Google:
  • Hack the Hood will address digital equity by training low-income youth to build websites for local small businesses, actively supporting them to launch their own tech careers.
  • Center for Employment Opportunities will develop a tech platform to prepare formerly incarcerated people for employment in a digital world.
  • The Health Trust will create new distribution channels for people to get affordable produce, expanding options for street vendors, corner stores, and farmers' markets for underserved areas.
  • Bring me a book will give kids access to digital books, in multiple languages, while creating a supportive online community for parents and caregivers.
Hack the Hood celebrates their win with community advisor Reverend Cecil Williams

But everyone wins in this competition: The six remaining finalists will each receive $250,000, and we also gave an additional 15 nonprofits around the Bay Area $100,000 each.

Finally, all 25 Google Impact Challenge nonprofits will receive one year of accelerator support at our first-ever impact lab, a co-working space launched in partnership with Impact Hub SF, a shared workspace for entrepreneurs committed to positive social and environmental change.

Nonprofits will have access to networking events, meeting space, and development workshops in the Impact Hub SF, as well as membership to all U.S. Hub locations. We also plan to host community events for the Bay Area nonprofit community throughout the year—so check out our website or follow us on Google+ to stay in the loop. 

Now the work really begins, and we’re excited to continue to build on our ongoing efforts to give back to the community. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Google+ Stories and Movies: memories made easier

A suitcase full of dirty clothes. A sad-looking house plant. And 437 photos and videos on your phone, tablet and camera. This is the typically messy scene after a vacation. And although we can’t do your laundry (thanks but no thanks), or run your errands (well, maybe a few), we’d still like to help. Enter Google+ Stories, which can automatically weave your photos, videos and the places you visited into a beautiful travelogue.

No more sifting through photos for your best shots, racking your brain for the sights you saw, or letting your videos collect virtual dust. We’ll just gift you a story after you get home. This way you can relive your favorite moments, share them with others, and remember why you traveled in the first place.

Stories will be available this week on Android and the web, with iOS coming soon. In the meantime you can browse my story below (click to start), or explore a few others by paraglider Tom de Dorlodot, DJ Steve Aoki and Allrecipes photographer Angela Sackett.
When it’s less about travel, and more about today's events (like a birthday party, or baby’s first steps), Google+ Movies can produce a highlight reel of your photos and videos automatically—including effects, transitions and a soundtrack. Today we’re bringing Movies to Android, iOS and the web, so lots more people will receive these video vignettes.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Oracle Wins Appeal Against Google, APIs CAN Be Copyrighted

You may recall that in the middle of 2010, Google and Oracle began a bitter and somewhat protracted battle in court to decide whether Google infringed on Oracle’s patents during the creation of Android. Essentially, this all boiled down to the question of whether APIs can be copyrighted. But in the middle of 2012, Judge William Alsup ruled that these APIs were not copyrightable. And by doing so, the first chapter or Oracle vs Google came to a close.
Of course back then, we all expected that Oracle would appeal this ruling—and so they did. Now, a three-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals ruled to reinstate a jury’s finding of infringement on 37 Java API packages. But now, one crucial detail remains to be determined: whether Google’s use of the 37 Java APIs falls under “fair use.” As such, the Federal Circuit panel has ordered further proceedings under the Judge Alsup to determine whether this is the case.
Until we find out whether Google’s actions were protected under fair use, it remains to be seen what (if any) impact this will have on Android itself in the near term. However, this certainly has deep implications for future cases involving APIs and software interoperability.Oracle Wins Appeal Against Google, APIs CAN Be Copyrighted

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Google Project Ara will use new 3D printing method

Manufacturer 3D systems announced in a blog post the new techniques that are being implemented for the 3D-printing platform for Google’s Project Ara. 
The unconventional process will help bring to life Google’s vision of a smartphone that can be upgraded easily and cheaply by the consumer with complete control over the device's hardware design. 
3D Systems explained that the conventional 3D printing process suffers from frequent changes in speed, so the company is working on a continuous motion system that’s fast enough to handle mass production and generate “millions” of the parts. 
The company said it is also working on conductive inks for printing functional parts that are both hard and soft in a colour spectrum that includes cyan, magenta, yellow, black, white, and clear/transparency.
That means you’ll eventually be able to build your ideal smartphone, using only the parts you want to incorporate and leaving out the unnecessary extras. 
The new printing process should ensure Google’s Project Ara is up and running in time for its January 2015 launch date. 

Google Now cards are now available offline

Google now cards are a handy tool that provide personalised data such as meeting times, location information, the forecast, sports scores and much more – which is why it’s even more handy that it can now operate offline. 
Even if you’re on the train or just in the middle of no-where, Google Now cards will still let you view all of your informational cards when the internet is out. 
"Next time you’re on the subway and want to check on your day’s appointments with Google Now, you won’t have to worry about lack of cell service. Starting today your Google Now cards stay loaded, even when you lose service in the subway… or your favorite underground bar!" announced Google in a Google+ post. 
You will need to update the Google Search App for Android in order to get offline support.
The newly updated Android Search app also includes a new Now card that will show the approximate location of your vehicle to help you remember where you parked.
Google Now is a two-year-old personal assistant developed by Google that responds to voice and text queries and serves up relevant information based on your repeated user habits. 
You can access Google Now in Google's Search apps for Android and iOS and in the Google Chrome browser.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Google releases Project Ara development kit, modular phones closer than ever

Project AuraThere is no shortage of genuinely good smartphone options on the market. However, if you want to stay completely up-to-date, you’ll have to toss your old phone once a year in order to buy the new model. Unlike building a PC, you can’t switch out the parts to keep your rig fresh. Google aims to remedy that issue with its modular smartphone experiment, Project Ara, and now that project is closer than ever.
Tidbits of Project Ara and modular smartphones have been floating around for a while now. Google announced the modular smartphone venture back in October of 2013, and Phonebloks — the little modules that would attach to a modular phone — were shown off a month prior. Just last month we saw that that Project Ara might actually release as soon as next year, beginning with the small entry fee of just $50. Now, just a month after the potential price reveal, Google has released Project Ara’s module development kit.
The modules are, of course, what makes or breaks a modular phone — without them, the phone would just be a lightweight shell riddled with empty compartments. Each module is a component integral to a smartphone — the camera hardware, the SoC, one or multiple batteries, and so on — and consumers can pick which component they’d like to install. Basically, instead of the limited configurations of the iPhone 5S and Galaxy S5, you can purchase whatever kind of phone you want. Better yet, you wouldn’t have to upgrade your entire phone the following year when new models hit the market, because you can simply buy a couple new modules and slap them in.
The dev kit is a very early release, only making it to version 0.10. Though extremely early, it not only gives developers an idea of what they should start expecting in the future, but helps Google receive feedback from the very developers that will make or break Project Ara. The final development kit is projected to release at the end of this year.
Project Ara
The frame of the phone, which Google calls Endo, will come in three coffee-style sizes — mini, medium, and large. The larger the phone, the more modules it can fit. Google doesn’t appear to have a problem with modules not uniformly fitting the phone frame; the camera can be a raised bump coming off the flat plane of the back of the Endo, or a pulse reader can stick out of the top like a Square credit card reader. Sure, it’ll be ugly, but you could swap out modules on the go to get that uniform body back when it’s time for the phone to go back into your pocket.
For now, there aren’t too many more details available, but Google is hosting a Project Aradeveloper’s conference next week, so hopefully the company will drop some more exciting tidbits about build-your-own phones soon.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Wandering in the footsteps of the polar bear with Google Maps

This guest post is from Krista Wright, the executive director of Polar Bears International. We’ve partnered with PBI to share a fascinating look at polar bears in the wild using Google Maps. -Ed.

In Inuit poetry, the polar bear is known as Pihoqahiak, the ever-wandering one. Some of the most majestic and elusive creatures in the world, polar bears travel hundreds of miles every year, wandering the tundra and Arctic sea ice in search of food and mates. Today, with the help of Street View, we’re celebrating International Polar Bear Day by sharing an intimate look at polar bears in their natural habitat.
The Street View Trekker, mounted on a Tundra Buggy, captures images of Churchill’s polar bears

We’ve joined forces with Google Maps to collect Street View imagery from a remote corner of Canada’s tundra:Churchill, Manitoba, home to one of the largest polar bear populations on the planet. With the help of outfittersFrontiers North, the Google Maps team mounted the Street View Trekker onto a specially designed “Tundra Buggy,” allowing us to travel across this fragile landscape without interfering with the polar bears or other native species. Through October and November we collected Street View imagery from the shores of Hudson’s Bay as the polar bears waited for the sea ice to freeze over.

One of Churchill, Manitoba’s Polar Bears on Street View

Modern cartography and polar bear conservation 
There’s more to this effort than images of cuddly bears, though. PBI has been working in this region for more than 20 years, and we’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact of warmer temperatures and melting sea ice on the polar bear’s environment. Understanding global warming, and its impact on polar bear populations, requires both global and regional benchmarks. Bringing Street View to Canada's tundra establishes a baseline record of imagery associated with specific geospatial data—information that’s critical if we’re to understand and communicate the impact of climate change on their sensitive ecosystem. As we work to safeguard their habitat, PBI can add Street View imagery to the essential tools we use to assess and respond to the biggest threat facing polar bears today.
Polar Bear International’s Bear Tracker

We also use the Google Maps API to support our Bear Tracker, which illustrates the frozen odyssey these bears embark on every year. As winter approaches and the sea ice freezes over, polar bears head out onto Hudson Bay to hunt for seals. Bear Tracker uses of satellite monitors and an interactive Google Map to display their migration for a global audience.
Mapping the communities of Canada’s Arctic
Google’s trip north builds on work they’ve done in the Arctic communities of Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit. In the town of Churchill, the Google Maps team conducted a community MapUp, which let participants use Map Makerto edit and add to the Google Map. From the Town Centre Complex, which includes the local school, rink and movie theatre, to the bear holding facility used to keep polar bears who have wandered into town until their release can be planned, the citizens of the Churchill made sure Google Maps reflects the community that they know.

But building an accurate and comprehensive map of Canada’s north also means heading out of town to explore this country’s expansive tundra. And thanks to this collaboration with Google Maps, people around the world now have the opportunity to virtually experience Canada’s spectacular landscape—and maybe take a few moments to wander in the footsteps of the polar bear.

Get with the program: open source coding with Google Summer of Code

Tobi Mueller started coding when his grandfather, who works in IT, gave him access to a spare PC. It was a sweet286 machine which Tobi learned to program with the then-popular teaching language Pascal. He eventually became interested in free and open source software, but it was Google Summer of Code (GSoC) that helped transform Tobi into the free software contributor he is today.

Tobi was a GSoC student in 2007 for GNOME, a free software desktop environment. He’s been a regular contributor to the GNOME community ever since—and in 2012, Tobi was elected to the GNOME Foundation board of directors

Tobi is one of more than 7,500 students who have participated in Google Summer of Code program over the past nine years. Every summer, GSoC participants work with various organizations in the open source community, building important technical skills and gaining workplace experience. Students aren’t the only ones who benefit; their projects also give back to the open source community. Karen Sandler, GNOME’s executive director, told us how Google Summer of Code “encourages and empowers” new contributors and helps “invigorate projects.”
So if you’re a university student looking to earn real-world experience this summer, we hope you’ll consider coding for a cool open source project with Google Summer of Code. We’re celebrating the 10th year of the program in 2014, and we’d love to see more student applicants than ever before. In 2013 we accepted almost 1,200 students and we’re planning to accept 10 percent more this year.

You can submit proposals on our website starting now through Friday, March 21 at 12:00pm PDT. Get started by reviewing the ideas pages of the 190 open source projects in this year’s program, and decide which projects you’re interested in. There are a limited number of spots, and writing a great project proposal is essential to being selected to the program—so be sure to check out the Student Manual for advice. For ongoing information throughout the application period and beyond, see the Google Open Source blog.


comments powered by Disqus