Tag Archives: Google+

Mozilla Brings Competition to Google Chrome With New Firefox Quantum Browser

Mozilla launched Tuesday its new next-generation browser Firefox Quantum for Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, and Windows, in what the company calls the “biggest update” in 13 years.

Firefox Quantum, also called Firefox 57, has a new user interface that gives it a more modern look. More importantly, Firefox Quantum is built to be faster and easier to use, an effort that could help Mozilla scrape back users it lost to rivals Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari browser.

Firefox was one of the fastest growing Internet browsers in the late 2000s. But it lost momentum as Google Chrome, which is the leading U.S. browser on desktops, gained new users.

Mozilla released a test version of Firefox Quantum web browser in September in preparation for its upcoming official debut in November. Developers have been tinkering with the test version over the past several weeks to let Mozilla know if there are any bugs or security holes prior to Tuesday’s public release.


Speed is the big message that Mozilla is pushing with Firefox Quantum. The company says it brings massive performance improvements thanks to Project Quantum, the code name Mozilla used while building next-generation architecture for a new Firefox.

“Anyone who downloads this version, which is so advanced we call it “Firefox Quantum,” simply can’t help but notice the speed, performance improvements, and the responsively slick new UI,” wrote David Bryant in a Medium post Tuesday. Bryant is a fellow in Mozilla’s Emerging Technologies organization.

Firefox Quantum is capable of 66 runs per minute, that’s twice as fast as its previous version, according to Speedometer, a browser benchmark that measures the responsiveness of web applications. Mozilla says Firefox Quantum also uses 30% less memory than Google Chrome.


Here are a few details about Firefox Quantum that users might notice:

Google is the new default search provider in the United States and Canada.

The tab you’re on gets prioritized over all others

Private browsing mode

Performance improvements in the browser’s core

A new CSS engine called Stylo. Even if that’s getting too technical for you, this is what matters: Stylo is designed to take better advantage of hardware and for low power consumption.

Mozilla has also integrated the popular app Pocket, lets people save web content for later readings and viewings, into the new Firefox Quantum. Mozilla acquired Read It Later, the startup that made Pocket, back in February. Recommendations from Pocket are now part of the new tab experience in Firefox Quantum. When users open a new tab in Firefox, they’ll now see three recommended stories from Pocket.



Google reportedly wants to take on Amazon’s audiobook business

Amazon has long dominated the audiobook market online with Audible, which sells retail titles and also offers subscriptions to its service. Now, it looks like Google might be getting in on the game with the impending introduction of audiobooks in the Play Store.

Android Police noted in a teardown of the code of an upcoming version of the Google Play store app that there’s a new category called ‘audiobooks’. However, it remains to be seen whether Google will sell them in the Play store, or whether it will eventually build out a separate app to list and play these titles, as the code presently doesn’t include new screens for audiobook listings.


If it chooses to do so, Google will certainly have its work cut out for it battling Audible. The company, which Amazon acquired in 2008, has a massive library of more than 375,000 audiobooks and original spoken-word programs in its catalog, along with a robust app to play back these titles across Android and iOS devices, and Kindle ebook readers.

Audible recently added a new feature to let romance novel fans skip right to the sexy bits; it also expanded to include content in Chinese, and is slated to launch in India in the next few months. Meanwhile, Google Play is yet to roll out global support for Podcasts in its Play Music app (it’s only available on Android in the US and Canada at present), so it’s not nearly ready to support audiobooks in its current suite of services.

It’ll be interesting to see if the company can take on Amazon when it enters the audiobook arena, and if it spurs the growth of the spoken-word content market – podcasts have already seen steady growth in the past year, and audiobooks could follow suit.




Google Results Now Include Your Local Library’s Ebooks

Google just made free legal ebooks much easier to find. Search for a book, and in the info bar on the right, under the buying options, Google lists local public libraries that have the ebook. (On mobile, tap the “Get Book” tab.) If you’re a library member, you can borrow it right away, right on your device. It feels like magic. Here, try it with Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend.

This function has been a long time coming. People have been searching for free ebooks for years, enough that Google usually autosuggests “PDF” after any search for a book title. (Search for a TV show and it adds “streaming free.”) That’s probably one reason Google recently added this legal option.


Here are some differences: The library bought its ebook legally, so you’re supporting the author. That alone is a great reason to go legal. Now that stealing books is so easy, the publishing industry relies on readers to do the right thing.

That means putting up with some limitations, of course. You can only borrow the book for a couple of weeks at a time (though many systems let you renew).

And depending on your library’s collection, you might be able to load it on your Kindle or in iBooks, or you might need to use a proprietary app. These apps vary wildly in quality; Libby is sometimes even better than the Kindle app, while NYC’s SimplyE is awkward and buggy. Even within the same library system, different books might require different apps.



Google commits $1 billion in grants to train U.S. workers for high-tech jobs

The nature of work is changing on a global level at a rapid pace. Sure, it’s not the first time work has been dramatically impacted by technology, but the growth of automation, robotics, AI and the like have the potential to displace jobs at an unprecedented rate. And Google will almost certainly be one of the driving forces behind that transformation.

The search giant has regularly expressed a desire to help stem some of that negative impact, and now it’s putting its money where its mouth is to the tune of $1 billion. CEO Sundar Pichai announced Grow with Google at an event earlier today in Pittsburgh, PA. Over the next five years, the initiative will commit $1 billion to nonprofits aimed at training American workers and helping build business.

The location of the event will not be lost on anyone who has followed Pittsburgh’s growth over the last few decades. The Steel City has long served as an ideal example of an economy that’s rebounded from the brink of disaster. In Pittsburgh’s case, technology was a primary driver, thanks to Carnegie Mellon, which has helped transform it from post-Rust Belt depression to one of the country’s leading tech hubs. These days, the walls of Pittsburgh’s former factories house cutting-edge innovations in fields like robotics and autonomous driving.

Pichai noted in his address that the city also holds special meaning for him. “It was the first city I saw in America when I came here 24 years ago,” he explained. “I was here before the internet really took off, but the city was already changing. The number of high-tech jobs had doubled.”


The company is committing $10 million to Goodwill as part of the initiative — the largest Google.org has committed to one organization. That money will be used to help launch the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator, aimed at preparing the American workforce for high-tech jobs. Grow with Google also will take the form of a national tour hosted by libraries and community organizations aimed at bringing training and career advice directly to local towns and cities. That’s part of the company’s goal of committing one million hours to employee volunteering over the next five years.

“At Google, our mission is to make sure that information serves everyone, not just a few,” Pichai explained in the address. “A child in a school here in Pittsburgh can access the same information on Google as a professor at Carnegie Mellon. In the end, the internet is a powerful equalizer, capable of propelling new ideas and people forward.”


Google commits $1 billion in grants to train U.S. workers for high-tech jobs

Google signs agreement with HTC, continuing our big bet on hardware

Of the three most influential companies in smartphone design, Nokia fragmented into a million pieces after being bought out by Microsoft, Apple is still going strong, and Google just bought the third with its $1.1 billion deal with HTC. The reason why Google acquired what looks to be the majority of HTC’s phone design and engineering team is simple, and it’s been obvious for over a year: Google is serious about becoming a hardware company.

Early in 2016, Google created a new hardware division and re-hired Motorola chief Rick Osterloh to run that group. A brief few months after that, the company was plastering the streets of Europe and the US with billboards trumpeting the arrival of the first “Made by Google” Pixel devices. Why do we refuse to acknowledge what’s right in front of our eyes?

Google is going to war against the iPhone.

It sounds preposterous given the number and quality of apps that Google produces for Apple’s iOS ecosystem, but the iPhone is a direct threat and counter to Google’s overarching goal of being ubiquitous on every internet-connected device. Apple’s voice assistant Siri searches the web using Bing rather than Google, and Apple Maps was created explicitly to shake off Apple’s dependence on Google Maps.



Google will now show you what ebooks are available in your local library

Google has added a new feature to Search that will show you if your local library has the ebook you’re looking for in stock. If you’re old like me and didn’t know that you could borrow ebooks, well you can, and many libraries across the US have a digital collection that you can borrow from.

Now you don’t have to bother searching through what’s likely an archaic library website — Google will do all the legwork for you. The company says the feature is now available on both mobile and desktop to users in the US.



Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

After several weeks of speculation and leaked details, today Google officially unveiled its first big foray into mobile payments in Asia. The Android and search giant has launched Tez, a free mobile wallet in India that will let users link up their phones to their bank accounts to pay for goods securely in physical stores and online, and for person-to-person money transfers with a new twist: Audio QR, which uses ultrasonic sounds to let you exchange money, bypassing any need for NFC.

“Send money home to your family, split a dinner bill with friends, or pay the neighbourhood chaiwala. Make all payments big or small, directly from your bank account with Tez, Google’s new digital payment app for India,” Google notes in its information portal about the new app.

Tez is Google’s play to replace cash transactions and become a more central part of how people pay for things, using their mobile to do so. But it’s also a chance for the company to push out some new technologies — like audio QR (AQR), which lets users transfer money by letting their phones speak to each other with sounds — to see how it can make that process more frictionless, and therefore more attractive to use than cash itself. More on AQR below.

Tez is launching today on iOS and Android in the country and will see Google linking up with several major banks in the country by way of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) — a payment standard and system backed by the government in its push to bring more integrated banking services into a very fragmented market. There will also be phones coming to the market from Lava, Micromax, Nokia and Panasonic with Tez preloaded, the company said.


Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

Google launches a new certification program for mobile web developers

Google today launched a new certification program for mobile web developers. As the name implies, the Mobile Web Specialist Certification is meant to help developers show off their mobile web development skills, no matter how they learned them. The program joins Google’s existing certification programs for Android developers, cloud architects and data engineers.

Taking the open book test will cost $99 (or 6500 INR in India) and consist of a number of coding challenges and a 10-minute exit interview, which allows you to explain why you chose a given solution to solve your exam questions. You’ll have four hours to complete the coding challenges and you can take three stabs at the exam if you don’t pass in your first attempt. Some of the topics covered here include basic website layout and styling, progressive web apps, performance optimization and caching, as well as testing and debugging.

Google also offers a study guide to help you prepare for the exam.

Once you pass the exam, you will get “a digital badge to display on your resume and social media profiles” (for reasons I can’t explain, Google notes that you can even use this badge on your Google+ profile…). This isn’t about some digital badge, of course. The main idea here is obviously to give developers a way to highlight their skills to potential employees. Given that this is an untested program, though, it remains to be seen how these certifications will actually influence hiring and interviewing decisions.


Google launches a new certification program for mobile web developers

Google and Walmart Partner With Eye on Amazon

Google and Walmart are testing the notion that an enemy’s enemy is a friend.

The two companies said Google would start offering Walmart products to people who shop on Google Express, the company’s online shopping mall. It’s the first time the world’s biggest retailer has made its products available online in the United States outside of its own website.

The partnership, announced on Wednesday, is a testament to the mutual threat facing both companies from Amazon.com. Amazon’s dominance in online shopping is challenging brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart, while more people are starting web searches for products they might buy on Amazon instead of Google.

But working together does not ensure that they will be any more successful. For most consumers, Amazon remains the primary option for online shopping. No other retailer can match the size of Amazon’s inventory, the efficiency with which it moves shoppers from browsing to buying, or its many home delivery options.

The two companies said the partnership was less about how online shopping is done today, but where it is going in the future. They said that they foresaw Walmart customers reordering items they purchased in the past by speaking to Google Home, the company’s voice-controlled speakerand an answer to Amazon’s Echo. Walmart customers can also shop using the Google Assistant, the artificially intelligent software assistant found in smartphones running Google’s Android software.

Walmart customers can link their accounts to Google, allowing the technology giant to learn their past shopping behavior to better predict what they want in the future. Google said that because more than 20 percent of searches conducted on smartphones these days are done by voice, it expects voice-based shopping to be not far behind.

“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined,” said Marc Lore, who is leading Walmart’s efforts to bolster its e-commerce business. He came to Walmart last year after the retailer bought the company he founded, Jet.com.

Google is a laggard in e-commerce. Since starting a shopping service in 2013, it has struggled to gather significant momentum. Initially, it offered free same-day delivery before scrapping it. It also tried delivery of groceries before abandoning that, too.

If Amazon is a department store with just about everything inside, then Google Express is a shopping mall populated by different retailers. There are more than 50 retailers on Google Express, including Target and Costco. Inside Google Express, a search for “toothpaste” will bring back options from about a dozen different retailers.

Google said it planned to offer free delivery — as long as shoppers met store purchase minimums — on products purchased on Google Express. Google had charged customers a $95 a year membership for free delivery. Amazon runs a similar program called Amazon Prime, offering free delivery for members who pay $99 a year.

The partnership with Google represents one of several steps that Walmart has taken over the past year to strengthen its online business.


Google May Be Building Smart Headphones

Google’s next major hardware product may be designed to bring the company’s smart assistant closer to your ears. Code in one of the company’s Android apps indicates that it may be building, and getting ready to launch, smart headphones that offer direct access to the Google Assistant, according to a report from 9to5Google.

Traces of the new product, code-named Bisto, first surfaced in April in the Google app for Android. They were subsequently removed, but recently reappeared, and now give us a pretty good idea of what Bisto will be about. Among other things, the app now contains the following description:

“Your headphones have the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your own personal Google, always ready to help.”

Google didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Additional lines in the app suggest that Bisto may not just be a simple pair of earbuds or anything similar to Apple’s Airpods, but instead a pair of over-ear headphones with external buttons that offer access to a variety of functions. The device will be able to read notifications, and users will be able to access the Google Assistant and ask questions, similar to the way they can do with their phone, or a Google Home speaker.

It also appears that Google didn’t include an always-on microphone with the product, which means that users won’t be able to talk to the assistant with a wake phrase like “Okay Google.” Instead, input is being triggered by physically pressing a button on the left earcup. This may be due to privacy concerns, but foregoing the always-on mic should also help to conserve the device’s battery.

It’s likely that Google would introduce Bisto later this year when it also officially unveils the next version of its flagship phones. Last year, Google held a hardware event in October to officially unveil the Pixel phone as well as the Google Home and Google Wifi products.


Google May Be Building Smart Headphones (Report)

Google adds allergy forecast info to mobile search results

One antihistamine or two? Google is making sure hay fever sufferers can answer that question in double quick time, thanks to the new addition of pollen measurements in search results. Plug an allergy- or pollen-related query into your Android smartphone and search results will now include a simple breakdown of current and predicted pollen levels. The new type of rich card result is populated by data from The Weather Channel, and as always, you can get more detailed info by tapping on the card itself.

Search within the Google app and you’ll also be prompted to turn on notifications. Your phone will hit you with a reminder if the pollen count is creeping particularly high in your area so you can dash to the nearest store and grab a pocket-pack of tissues before you start streaming from every facial orifice.



There’s a place at Google for you,’ Google CEO tells girls at coding competition

After canceling a town hall meeting intended to address the fallout from an anti-diversity memo, Google (GOOGL, +1.24%) CEO Sundar Pichai emphasized the importance of women in tech jobs while speaking at a coding event for girls at the company’s campus.

“I want you to know there’s a place for you in this industry,” Pichai told a crowd of young women on Thursday, according to the Verge. “There’s a place for you at Google. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You belong here and we need you.”


Pichai was speaking at the Technovation awards that honored teams of young women coders from all over the world. The months-long competition involved teams of girls developing apps to solve issues in their communities.


“At Google, we are very committed to building products for everyone in the world, and I think to do that well we really need to have people internally who represent the world in totality,” he said. “So it’s really important that more women and girls have the opportunity to participate in technology, to learn how to code, create, and innovate.”

His comments follow an explosive week at Google after an employee circulated a memo slamming the company’s diversity efforts and saying that women may not be as good at tech jobs as men due to biological differences. The software engineer, James Damore, was fired by Pichai on Monday. The document sparked a heated debate inside and outside of the company on sexism and diversity in Silicon Valley.

Google canceled the scheduled town hall Thursday after concerns that employees were being harassed after their questions were leaked online, according to Recode. Pichai told employees he still plans to address their concerns about the company.



Google CEO Cancels Gender-Diversity Meeting After Employees Targeted Online

Shockwaves continue to rattle Google after the company fired an engineer who posted a lengthy screed suggesting that women are genetically less capable than men of working in high-tech.

On Thursday afternoon, Google CEO Sundar Pichai informed staffers in a companywide email that a town-hall meeting to discuss diversity issues was canceled after individual employees were singled out online — and several had expressed fears for their personal safety.

“We had hoped to have a frank open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai wrote in the memo, sent shortly before the meeting’s scheduled 4 p.m. PT start time. But questions submitted by staffers beforehand “appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” he wrote, and some employees were “concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”

Google’s firing of the engineer, James Damore, has rallied conservative agitators who are angry about what they perceive as the internet giant’s suppression of free speech and persecution of the male employee.

On Wednesday, right-wing firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos posted the Twitter bios of eight Google employees — who apparently had criticized Damore’s memo — on his Facebook page, with the comment, “Looking at who works for Google, it all makes sense now…”

Pichai in his memo Thursday wrote, “In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

Damore has spoken out since his firing, airing his grievances against Google. In an interview with Bloomberg TV on Wednesday, he accused Google execs of “trying to smear my image rather than just looking at the evidence” and said he felt “betrayed.”

Google on Monday released a memo from Pichai to employees, in which the chief executive said that while the company values critical discussion of its diversity programs, parts of Damore’s essay crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai wrote.


Google CEO Cancels Gender-Diversity Meeting After Employees Targeted Online

Fired author of controversial Google memo breaks his silence

The former Google engineer, whose controversial memo has triggered a nationwide debate on gender differences and diversity efforts in technology, defended his views in an interview on Wednesday with Bloomberg Television, saying company executives are smearing him in its wake. 

James Damore, who until Monday worked as an engineer on video and image search at Alphabet’s Mountain View, California, headquarters, said he initially shared the 3,300-word memo internally a month ago. But it was only after the memo went viral that company leaders banded together to make him an outcast, he said on Bloomberg TV. When he initially circulated the memo, “no one high up ever came to me and said, ‘No, don’t do this,’ even though there were many people who looked at it,” Damore said. “It was only after it got viral that upper management started shaming me and eventually firing me.”

The memo, which was leaked to the public over the weekend, argues that conservative viewpoints are suppressed at Google and that biological differences between men and women explain in part why so few women work in software engineering. Even if someone in Google management had agreed with some of the arguments put forth in his piece, they wouldn’t have felt safe speaking up, he said.

“There was a concerted effort among upper management to have a very clear signal that what I did was harmful and wrong and didn’t stand for Google,” Damore said. “It would be career suicide for any executives or directors to support me.”Damore also said that some Google employees who expressed support for him have been contacted by human resources.

“That’s absolutely untrue,“ a Google spokesman said about the claim. The company declined to comment further beyond a memo that Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote to employees on Monday, which said that “to suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”



Read Google CEO’s email to staff about anti-diversity memo

Google employee James Damore has been reportedly fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” The senior software engineer authored a 10-page “manifesto” condemning Google’s diversity efforts and claiming men are biologically more predisposed to working in the tech industry than women. In an internal memo to Google employees, CEO Sundar Pichai says he has cut his family vacation short to return to work and tackle the issues raised in the manifesto.

Arguing that “much of what was in that memo is fair to debate,” Pichai notes that part of the screed crossed the line “by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” Specifically, Pichai says “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Pichai will now face the difficult task of balancing what he calls strong support of “the right of Googlers to express themselves,” against those who violate the company’s code of conduct in the process. While a large majority of Google employees reportedly expressed disgust at Damore’s internal document, not all employees disagreed with it. “Clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group,” says Pichai, “including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.” You can read Sundar Pichai’s full memo, below:

This has been a very difficult time. I wanted to provide an update on the memo that was circulated over this past week.

First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace. Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

At the same time, there are co-workers who are questioning whether they can safely express their views in the workplace (especially those with a minority viewpoint). They too feel under threat, and that is also not OK. People must feel free to express dissent. So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.

The past few days have been very difficult for many at the company, and we need to find a way to debate issues on which we might disagree—while doing so in line with our Code of Conduct. I’d encourage each of you to make an effort over the coming days to reach out to those who might have different perspectives from your own. I will be doing the same.

I have been on work related travel in Africa and Europe the past couple of weeks and had just started my family vacation here this week. I have decided to return tomorrow as clearly there’s a lot more to discuss as a group—including how we create a more inclusive environment for all.



Google will allow real-money gambling apps on the Play Store in the UK, Ireland, and France

Last month, we heard rumors that Google was planning to relax its ban on real-money gambling apps in the Play Store, but after reaching out to Google we didn’t get a response either way. With an update to its developer policy page, Google has now confirmed that some of these apps are going to be allowed on the Play Store in the UK, Ireland, and France.

The gambling apps will be subject to a strict application process if they want to get in, meeting the requirements outlined on the content policy page. Most importantly, the company developing it will have to prove they have a valid gambling license in the country they wish to distribute the app. That includes complying with all local laws and industry standards. There must also be robust measures in place to restrict under-age gamblers and prevent use in other territories outside the country of issue.

Other stipulations prohibit the use of any Google payments services, so you won’t able to gamble with Play Store credit through IAPs. The apps must also be free to download in the first place. As a final precaution, all gambling apps will be required to display prominent information regarding responsible gambling practices.


At the same time, Google is also softening its stance on gambling related adverts in other Play Store apps. The ads will have to comply with local industry standards and meet licensing requirements. Perhaps the most restrictive rule is that which precludes the ads from being seen by anyone under the age of 18, which should out rule their use in any apps without an age restriction. The same rules on responsible gambling information apply here, too, and it’s also not permitted to advertise real-money gambling in a simulated gambling app. While Google may have loosened its policies substantially, it seems they should still be able to exert a considerable amount of control.



Google will stop showing search results as you type because it makes no sense on mobile

Google is getting rid of its landmark Instant Search feature, which automatically populates search results as you type in a query, according to Search Engine Land. Instant Search was first introduced back in 2010 under the guidance of Marissa Mayer, then the company’s vice president of search and user experience. It was a pivotal change in not just how users experienced Google, but also how they used the internet to seek out knowledge. Google estimated at the time that it would collectively shave off millions of seconds per hour by surfacing results as fast as possible and cutting down the time it takes to write out an entire query.

Now, however, more than half of Google searches happen on mobile, with the scales continually tipping away from desktop as time goes on. On mobile screens, Instant Search doesn’t make as much sense given we use our fingers and virtual buttons to interact with software, and trying to load a results page on top of the onscreen keyboard isn’t exactly good user experience design. In a statement given to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson explained the change:

We launched Google Instant back in 2010 with the goal to provide users with the information they need as quickly as possible, even as they typed their searches on desktop devices. Since then, many more of our searches happen on mobile, with very different input and interaction and screen constraints. With this in mind, we have decided to remove Google Instant, so we can focus on ways to make Search even faster and more fluid on all devices.

Now, recommended search results powered by auto-complete will show up in the standard drop-down menu, but the results page won’t render in real time. Users have always had the option to turn off Instant Search, but now it appears it will be gone for good to create a consistent experience across desktop and mobile.



Google promises 11 Daydream VR phones by the end of the year

Google CEO and freshly appointed Alphabet board member Sundar Pichai was typically guarded during yesterday’s Alphabet earnings call, but he did disclose a nice number for us to look forward to. By the end of 2017, said Pichai, there will be 11 Android smartphones on the market that support Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform.

Daydream turns compatible smartphones into standalone VR systems: you just need one of Google’s Daydream View headsets to hold the device, together with the accompanying touch controller, and you’re away. I’ve used Daydream with a Google Pixel, and its big distinction from the larger PC-tethered alternatives like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift is in just how light and comfortable it is. Obviously, a Daydream phone is also much more portable and versatile too, but for me the standout feature is that I can wear that headset without it feeling heavy and tiring after only a few minutes.

As things stand today, there are only four Daydream-compatible models to choose from: Google’s own Pixel handsets, Motorola’s Moto Z, Huawei’s Mate 9 Pro and Porsche Design Mate 9, and ZTE’s Axon 7. Samsung famously announced Daydream support will be coming to its flagship Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, and that’s just started rolling out as a software update. With Pichai’s disclosure this week, we can expect at least a couple of as-yet-unannounced Daydream devices beyond the predictable refresh of the Pixel lineup in the fall.



Google to radically change homepage for first time since 1996

Google’s famously simple homepage with its logo and single search box on a white background is set to undergo a radical change for the first time since its launch in 1996, with the addition of Google’s interest and news-based feed.

The feed of personalised information, which has been a mainstay of Google’s mobile apps for Android and iOS since 2012 along with a home-screen page on Google’s Nexus and Pixel smartphones and tablets, will become part of the main desktop experience in the near future, the Guardian understands.

On Wednesday Google announced it was deploying further customisation to the feed, which took over from its Google Now personalisation in December, using the company’s “advanced machine-learning algorithms”.

Shashi Thakur, vice president of engineering at Google said: “You’ll see cards with things like sports highlights, top news, engaging videos, new music, stories to read and more. And now, your feed will not only be based on your interactions with Google, but also factor in what’s trending in your area and around the world.”

Users will also be able to follow topics straight from search results for things such as sports, movies, music and celebrities, showing updates on those topics in the feed.

Google said the new additions to the feed would roll out to US users immediately and internationally in the next couple of weeks.

google feed
 The existing Google feed on an Android device. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

While most of the new features are iterative, with some form of them available in the Google search apps already, the addition of the Google feed to the main desktop sites will mark one of the biggest changes to Google’s approach to search.


Google once had a personalised homepage called iGoogle, which resembled other web portals of the day and was available from May 2005 and discontinued in November 2013. But iGoogle was only shown to those who were logged in and had selected to use iGoogle, rather than the default simple search box Google homepage.

How it will look and work on the desktop and whether it will include the search company’s voice assistant Google Assistant is not yet known. The feed is likely to require users to log into Google to see it, and will probably resemble the tablet experience of the Google feed, with multiple card-containing columns with news posts, event updates and more. The mobile feed also contains things such as boarding passes and calendar events based on things taken from Gmail and Google calendar.

Google already had a desktop experience for Google Now on its Chromebooks, which include the search box and the feed containing everything that’s currently displayed on mobile devices. Rolling out that experience to the main Google.com homepage would almost instantly turn it into the biggest web portal available, dwarfing stalwarts Yahoo and Microsoft’s MSN and Bing.



With Entry Into Interest Curation, Google Goes Head-To-Head With Facebook

There’s a good chance you’re hungry for information you didn’t even know you wanted, but Google knows — and the tech giant is going to spoon-feed it to you.

Google is following in Facebook’s footsteps, with plans to redesign its popular search page on mobile phones so that you’ll get something similar to the social media site’s News Feed. Only Google’s will just be called “feed.”

“Google search should be working for you in the background even when you’re not searching,” says Ben Gomes, vice president of engineering, who spoke at a news conference at Google’s San Francisco offices. “It should be looking for information on the Web to give you information that’s important and relevant to you to further the interest that you have.”

Starting Wednesday, if you use the Pixel smartphone or the Google app (for Android and iOS), you’ll see this personalized feed. It will continually draw from what Google has learned about you across its suite of products — such as Search, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, the Google home assistant and Chromecast.

Google and Facebook — which both make their money by selling advertising — are in a constant tug-of-war. Google has tried and failed to build a hit social network, but this new product could draw more eyeballs.

Engineering leader Shashi Thakur explained how it is fundamentally different from the competition: “It’s not really about what your friends are interested in, which is really what other feeds might be.”

Say you have a secret passion for woodworking: Relevant articles will show up in your feed. On the other hand, if you’ve been reading up on herpes that shouldn’t show up in the feed, because Google is using technology to filter out “potentially upsetting or sensitive content.”

When it comes to political interests — take health care overhaul efforts — what you get on Facebook or Twitter is heavily influenced by your social network, which could push you into groupthink. Thakur says the Google feed breaks you out of that, because it’s based on the same search algorithm that crawls and ranks the entire Internet, not just what your friends share.

“We are trying to provide a variety of perspectives on any given topic,” he said. Although in the near future, a spokesperson says Google does plan to add a like button to posts, so that users can actively indicate what they want to see.

Aside from Pixel phones and the Google app, the feed soon will appear in your smartphone browser when you go to Google’s search page. The company does not plan to include this feature on desktop browsers. Gomes and Thakur declined to say if Google would include advertisements in the feed.



Google plans to end world’s biggest killer which claims 1 MILLION lives per year

The bizarre move is actually a good thing according to scientists, with the infected sterile pests being used to fight diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya – a mosquito-borne viral disease transmitted to humans.

The mass pest release is part of the Debug Project – the biggest US study to set free mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a common reproductive parasite.

According to boffins, the idea is that the infected mosquitoes will try to mate with wild females, but the eggs laid will not hatch, leading to an overall decline in the mosquito population over time.

Researchers from Verily will team up with MosquitoMate – a private biotechnology company – and Fresno County’s mosquito control services, Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD), to compare the adult population density and number of eggs hatched to measure any changes.

The automated mass mosquito rearing has seen scientists at Verily sorting them by sex, before using algorithms to control on-the-ground devices that will release and distribute the male mosquitoes evenly over two neighborhoods, each measuring around 300 acres in size.


The plan is to release one million mosquitoes each week over a 20-week period.

A similar, but smaller scale, programme was trialled by CMAD and MosquitoMate in 2016.

The new experiment alongside Verily involves 25 times more mosquitoes than the previous study.


One million mosquitoes will be released each week over a 20-week period

Aedes aegypti – or yellow fever mosquitoes – were first spotted in central California in 2013.

An invasive species originating in Africa, it has since spread to other tropical and subtropical regions.

This specific mosquito is an effective vector for carrying diseases like dengue fever, Zika and chikungunya, with these blood-borne viruses reproduced in the mosquito’s stomach, spreading with bites.

These mosquitoes are likely to bite several times before they are full, increasing the chances of the disease spreading.

Females of this species lay a cluster of up to 200 eggs near water, up to five times during its lifetime, making it easy for the population to increase rapidly.



This former Google[X] exec is building a high-tech hat that she says will make telepathy possible in 8 years

Imagine if telepathy were real. If, for example, you could transmit your thoughts to a computer or to another person just by thinking them.

In just eight years it will be, says Openwater founder Mary Lou Jepsen, thanks to technology her company is working on.

Jepsen is a former engineering executive at Facebook, Oculus, Google[x] (now called X) and Intel. She’s also been a professor at MIT and is an inventor on over 100 patents. And that’s the abbreviated version of her resume.


Jepsen left Facebook to found Openwater in 2016. The San Francisco-based start-up is currently building technology to make medical imaging less expensive.

“I figured out how to put basically the functionality of an M.R.I. machine — a multimillion-dollar M.R.I. machine — into a wearable in the form of a ski hat,” Jepson tells CNBC, though she does not yet have a prototype completed.

So what does that hat have to do with telepathy?

Current M.R.I. technology can already see your thoughts: “If I threw [you] into an M.R.I. machine right now … I can tell you what words you’re about to say, what images are in your head. I can tell you what music you’re thinking of,” says Jepsen. “That’s today, and I’m talking about just shrinking that down.”

One day Jepsen’s tech hat could “literally be a thinking cap,” she says. Jepsen says the goal is for the technology to be able to both read and to output your own thoughts, as well as read the thoughts of others. In iconic Google vocabulary, “the really big moonshot idea here is communication with thought — with telepathy,” says Jepsen.


Traditional M.R.I., or magnetic resonance imaging, uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take images of internal organs. Openwater’s technology instead looks at the flow of oxygen in a person’s body illuminated with benign, infrared light, which will make it more compact and cheaper.

“Our bodies are translucent to that light. The light can get into your head,” says Jepsen, in an interview with Kara Swisher of Recode.

If Jepsen is right and one day ideas will be instantly shared or digitized, that would significantly speed up the process of creating, learning and communicating. Today, it takes time to share an idea, whether by talking about it or writing it down. But telepathy would make all of that instantaneous.

“Right now our output is basically moving our jaws and our tongues or typing [with] our fingers. We’re … limited to this very low output rate from our brains, and what if we could up that through telepathy?” asks Jepsen.

Mary Lou Jepsen, founder and CEO of Openwater

Photo by Bloomberg
Mary Lou Jepsen, founder and CEO of Openwater

Instant transfer of thoughts would also speed up the innovation process. Imagine being a filmmaker or a writer and being able to download the dream you had last night. Or, she suggests, what if all you had to do was think of an idea for a new product, download your thought and then send the digital version of your thought to a 3-D printer?

“That makes our iteration cycle so much faster,” says Jepsen.

Jepsen is not the only one dreaming of communication by thought. Earlier this year, Elon Musk launched Neuralink, a company aiming to merge our brains with computing power, though with a different approach.

“Elon Musk is talking about silicon nanoparticles pulsing through our veins to make us sort of semi-cyborg computers,” says Jepsen. But why not take a noninvasive approach? “I’ve been working and trying to think and invent a way to do this for a number of years and finally happened upon it and left Facebook to do it.”

Talk of telepathy cannot happen without imagining the ethical implications. If wearing a hat would make it possible to read thoughts, then: “Can the police make you wear such a hat? Can the military make you wear such a hat? Can your parents make you wear such a hat?” asks Jepsen.

What if your boss wanted you to wear a telepathy hat at the office?

“We have to answer these questions, so we’re trying to make the hat only work if the individual wants it to work, and then filtering out parts that the person wearing it doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to share.”



Google’s next EU fine could be even bigger for Android violations

Google was hit with a record-breaking $2.7 billion fine last month by the European Commission for breaking antitrust laws. The EU says Google demoted rivals and unfairly promoted its own services in search results related to shopping. While the fine is the largest antitrust judgement ever, an even bigger fine could be on the way for Google.


Reuters reports that EU regulators are considering another record-breaking fine for Google over its Android operating system. The European Commission has been investigating Android after rivals complained that Google has been abusing its market dominance. Google has been accused of limiting access to the Google Play Store unless phone makers also bundle Google search and Chrome apps. Google has also reportedly blocked phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android, as part of an anti-fragmentation agreement.

While Reuters suggests the potential Android fine could top the $2.7 billion penalty, a bigger concern for Google will be whether it’s forced to dramatically alter Android and unbundle key parts. Android has long been considered as open source software, but Google has slowly been adding key components into its Google Play Services software and associated agreements.

Microsoft’s browser ballot

Google’s predicament sounds similar to Microsoft’s own fight with the EU more than 10 years ago. Microsoft was accused of bundling its Windows Media Player with Windows, and the EU forced it to unbundle the app. Microsoft created a special version of Windows for Europe without the app. Microsoft was also accused of bundling its Internet Explorer browser with Windows, and the EU forced the company to include a browser ballot with non-Microsoft browsers in an effort to improve competition.


EU antitrust regulators have now appointed a peer review panel, according to Reuters. The review includes a panel of experts that will give a second opinion on the EU’s plans. A decision on Google’s Android case in the EU is expected by the end of the year.



Google Fined Record $2.7 Billion in E.U. Antitrust Ruling

Google suffered a major blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant a record $2.7 billion for unfairly favoring some of its own services over those of rivals.

The penalty, of 2.4 billion euros, highlights the aggressive stance that European officials have taken in regulating many of the world’s largest technology companies, going significantly further than their American counterparts.

By levying the fine against Google — more than double the previous largest penalty in this type of antitrust case — Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, also laid claim to being the Western world’s most active regulator of digital services, an industry still dominated by Silicon Valley.

“In Europe, companies must compete on the merits regardless if they are European or not,” she said on Tuesday. “What Google has done is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules.”

The apparent focus on Silicon Valley has prompted accusations from some in the United States that the European Union is unfairly targeting American companies. Officials in the bloc vigorously deny those claims.

Still, in recent years, Ms. Vestager has demanded that Apple repay $14.5 billion in back taxes in Ireland, opened an investigation into Amazon’s tax practices in Europe and raised concerns about Facebook’s gathering and handling of data. The companies deny any wrongdoing.

In targeting the activities of these digital giants, experts say, European authorities are laying down a marker for more hands-on control of how the digital world operates. And while the $2.7 billion fine announced on Tuesday is tiny compared with Google’s $90 billion in annual revenue, it highlights the region’s willingness to dole out sizable penalties.

While the fine will garner attention, the focus will most likely shift quickly to the changes that Google will have to make to comply with the antitrust decision, potentially leaving it vulnerable to regular monitoring of its closely guarded search algorithm.

Europe’s latest efforts to rein in technology companies stem from continuing unease that Silicon Valley has come to dominate how the continent’s 500 million citizens interact online.

“Europe is setting the agenda,” said Nicolas Petit, a professor of competition law and economics at the University of Liège in Belgium. “It’s always been like that.”

In her statement on Tuesday, Ms. Vestager said that Google held a dominant position in online search, requiring the company to take extra measures to ensure that its digital services did not crowd out those of rivals.

The antitrust decision related to Google’s online shopping service, which the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said had received preferential treatment compared with those of rivals in specialized search results.


Apple’s AR is closer to reality than Google’s

Apple has often been accused of acting like it invented things that others have been doing for years. That complaint is not without merit, however Apple can lay claim to transforming existing things into mainstream successes, which takes no small amount of invention in its own right. Fingerprint authentication and contactless payments are just two recent examples, having both existed in Japan and on niche devices for over a decade before Apple raised them to global prominence with the iPhone.


Next up on Apple’s agenda is augmented reality, the act of superimposing digital data and visuals atop a live video feed of your surroundings — something that Google, Microsoft, and many others have been experimenting with for a long time. Apple is far from being able to claim it invented AR, but its new ARKit in iOS 11 is already showing signs to suggest that Apple will help bring AR into the mainstream faster and better than anyone else.

The chronic problem with augmented reality has always been one of practicality. You could have the most basic forms of AR on your regular phone, as provided by apps like Layar, which has been around since 2009, but those have never been particularly compelling. Or you could have more sophisticated and appealing augmentations, as presented by Google’s Tango project, but you’d need a big fat phablet to lug around to make them happen. Apple’s difference is to combine the convenience of your daily phone with the appeal of advanced AR.

Looking at this distance-measuring app, it seems so simple and obvious. Of course your super-powered, multi-core phone should be smart enough to measure out basic distances, and there have indeed been many wonky apps trying to do that in the past. But measuring with AR, as already shown off by Google Tango phones, allows you a much more intuitive method for doing it. Having the phone actually aware of the three-dimensional space in its view allows for precise measurements, which can be represented with a neat hologram of a measuring tape. Apple’s advantage in the contest for doing this best is simple: while Google Tango demands special hardware, ARKit requires only that you have a recent iOS device. At WWDC earlier this month, Craig Federighi described ARKit as “the largest AR platform in the world,” and he was right.



Apple’s AR will immediately reach millions of people who already have the requisite hardware. And while it looks to be functionally as flexible and capable as Google’s Tango (check out some early examples of fanciful experiments with ARKit), its broader audience makes it much more enticing for serious developers to invest their time and money into. Google’s Tango is about the future whereas Apple’s ARKit is about the present.

Considering how little time it took to develop two convincingly accurate AR measuring apps with the iOS 11 beta, and reading the comments from their makers, Apple also appears to have an advantage in the ease of development with ARKit. It’s exciting to think that there are still three months before the release of the next iPhone and the accompanying finalization of iOS 11, by which time Apple’s big-budget app developer partners are likely to have a deluge of AR-enabled apps for people to play with. That’s how stuff goes mainstream: as a big wave of change that touches everyone from casual Pokémon Go players to serious home DIY geeks figuring out how to arrange their living room furniture.

For the people who don’t care about incremental changes in phone specs or design, the differentiator between devices has always been in the unique things that each one can do — or, failing that, the convenience and ease of use of common features. Apple’s iPhone is more convenient than Google’s Project Tango devices and with iOS 11 it’ll have much better AR capabilities than its nearest premium Android rivals. So if we’re looking for the AR innovator that will take the technology into the mainstream, Apple once again looks like the likeliest suspect.



Alibaba Would Accept Bitcoin Before Amazon, Google

Alibaba should be the next global giant to accept Bitcoin according to 4,500 participants in a survey this week.

52 percent of respondents to the survey by Digital Currency Group creator Barry Silbert believe the Chinese marketplace is next in line to embrace the virtual currency.

Other options included Amazon (31 percent) and Google (12 percent), while only five percent of those answering on Twitter believed Facebook would be the first of the group to get serious about Bitcoin.

A total of 4,571 votes were cast, with Silbert confirming the results on Thursday. 

Recent noises from the Alibaba ecosystem may well have informed the outcome, with a Japanese move set to make Bitcoin payments an indirect option for the site in the future.

Amazon, for its part, has also been increasingly active in the Blockchain space, working with Silbert’s Digital Currency Group on a startup initiative.

So far, however, it has stopped short of announcing any direct relationship with Bitcoin.

Meanwhile, a couple of months after announcing it would accept Bitcoin across its international platform, Czech retail giant Alza revealed this week customers could even use the virtual currency to buy a Tesla electric car.



Google begins removing personal medical records from search results

Google has removed private medical records from its search results, Bloomberg reports, after quietly changing its policy on content removal. On Thursday, the company’s search policy was amended to include “confidential, personal medical records of private people” under a list of content it may remove from search results.


Although Google has historically been reluctant to intervene with its search algorithms, it has banned some confidential material from appearing in results, such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and social security numbers. In 2015, the company began removing revenge porn from search results, as well.

The decision to remove medical records follows several high-profile data breaches around the world. Information on tens of millions of people was stolen following a 2015 hack targeting Anthem, the second-largest insurer in the US. Between 2010 and 2013, approximately 29 million medical records in the US were affected by data breaches, according to a study released in 2015.



The Fidget Spinner Is Google’s Latest Easter Egg Distraction

I wasn’t above squeezing an occasional round of Doom in between study sessions in college, and am certainly not shy about catching some Pokémon if any are lurking in my office (that’s a no).

But if I have a particularly busy workday and want to kill 30 seconds before entering a meeting, or want to keep my attention focused during a meeting, Google’s got my back with some sweet search engine Easter eggs. They just added a new one. It rhymes with “digit sinner.”

Fidget Spinner

The latest edition to Google’s list of Easter eggs is the iconic fidget spinner, now digitized for your perpetually spinning pleasure. Searching for “spinner” and clicking the toy makes it spin in your browser window; you can spin it with your finger on your smartphone, too. There’s also the option to change the fidget spinner to a numerical spinning wheel if you need a random number from one to twenty. You can’t modify any colors, but then again if it were any more interactive you’d probably waste even more time.


Enter “tic tac toe” for Google’s take on the two-person board game. You can futz with the three difficulty settings and, if you’re sitting next to an equally unproductive coworker, compete against them on the same machine in two-player mode.


Appearing as a Google doodle in 2010, searching for “Pac-man” will bring up a playable version of the game in your browser. Instead of the traditional layout of pac-man games past, the field of play spells out, of course, Google.


I’m not exactly sure how Microsoft doesn’t have a patent on every implementation of the classic card game solitaire, but Google’s version (search for “solitaire,” of course) offers two difficulty settings as well as a timer, score, and number of moves made.



Google’s new job search pulls in listings from all the top sites

Earlier this year at Google I/O, the search giant announced a new initiative named Google for Jobs. The goal is simple: leverage Google’s skills at organizing information to make finding jobs easier. Today, one of the first steps in this project goes live, with the launch of an improved job search feature rolling out on mobile and desktop.


The feature is pretty simple. For searches with “clear intent” (e.g. “head of catering jobs in nyc” or “entry level jobs in DC”) Google shows a preview of job listings scraped from various sources. These include job sites like LinkedIn, Monster, and Glassdoor, but also information hosted on company’s own websites — if they’ve updated their sitemap, that is. Users can then click on results to get more information, and filter listings by criteria like location, employer, and the date of the listing.

At I/O, Google said it would be using machine learning to help organize and sort this data, automatically clustering similar jobs for example. However, it’s not clear exactly how these tools are being deployed at this point in time. (Or if they’ll substantially improve the experience.) The main advantage seems to be simply that Google is promising to put all relevant job listings in one place, while removing any duplicates.

For more information on this feature you can check out Google’s blog post, while web developers wanting to index their job listings with Google can find a walk-through here.



Google outlines 4 steps to tackle terrorist-related content on YouTube

Google has outlined four steps it’s taking to fight the spread of extremist material on its YouTube video service.

Kent Walker, general counsel at Google, said Sunday the U.S. technology giant is “committed to being part of the solution” to tackling online extremist content.

“Terrorism is an attack on open societies, and addressing the threat posed by violence and hate is a critical challenge for us all,” Walker wrote in a blog post.


“There should be no place for terrorist content on our services.”

The four new steps are:

  • Putting more engineering resource into developing further artificial intelligence software that can be trained to identify and remove extremist content.
  • Expanding the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program. Google will add 50 expert non-government organizations to the 63 organizations that are already part of the program, and support them with additional grants. Google said Trusted Flagger reports are accurate over 90 percent of the time.
  • Taking a tougher stance against videos that do not clearly violate YouTube’s rules. For example, a video that has inflammatory religious or supremacist content will appear behind a warning, will not be monetized, recommended or even eligible for users to make comments on. The aim is to make these videos have less engagement so they are harder to find.
  • YouTube is working with Jigsaw – a company behind “The Redirect Method” – which uses ad targeting to send potential ISIS recruits to anti-terrorist videos, which could change their mind about joining extremist organizations. Google said that in previous trials of this system, potential recruits have clicked through on the ads at an “unusually high rate” and watched over half a million minutes of video content that “debunks terrorist recruiting messages.”

The latest measures build upon Google’s previous efforts to fight extremist content on its platform amid a broader criticism of internet companies from politicians.



Google brings ‘Daydream View’ to India

The VR headset, which competes with the likes of Samsung’s Gear VR and HTC’s premium offering Vive, will allow users experience sports and live events in full 360-degree panoramic view.

Google’s Daydream View headset and controller will go on sale on e-commerce platform, Flipkart. The device was launched in markets such as the US, the UK and Australia in November last year.

“Swim with a pod of dolphins, stand at the edge of a volcano and even visit Pluto with Daydream View. Users can teleport from virtually anywhere to pretty much everywhere. Our aim is to make the VR experience mobile so that customers can easily carry it anywhere with them,” Google Vice-President Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Clay Bavor said.

He added that Google is working with developers, smartphone companies, and content creators to make VR accessible to all.

Daydream View, however, works with Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL and Moto Z currently and will soon be available for Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+.

Daydream-ready phones are built with high-resolution displays, powerful mobile processors and high-fidelity sensors — all tuned to support great VR experiences, Google said.

Daydream’s controller is packed with sensors that respond precisely to a user’s movement and gestures, letting them interact with the virtual world the same way they would in the real world around them.

Some apps and games on Daydream include NYT VR, Guardian VR, The Turning Forest, Netflix VR, Google Play Movies, Within, Fantastic Beasts, The Arcslinger, Need for Speed No Limits VR and LEGO BrickHeadz Builder VR.



A Haiti reboot? Country welcomes Google, Facebook, Silicon Valley to tech summit

Social entrepreneurs, influencers and startup innovators kicked off a two-day technology summit in Haiti on Tuesday, hoping to help transform the poverty-stricken nation into a hub of innovation.

The brainchild of Christine Souffrant Ntim, a Dubai-based Haitian-American entrepreneur, the Haiti Tech Summit is expected to bring in about 100 speakers representing Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb, and covering topics including launching a startup, the importance of smart cities and branding.

Addressing the 450-plus participants at the sold-out event Tuesday were former Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis, who spoke about the importance of technology in education, and Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, who welcomed attendees to the Royal Decameron Indigo Beach Resort & Spa on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Horowitz gave the opening talk, citing advice from Haitian Revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture: To change a country, you have to start by changing the culture.

“Culture is deep in our DNA,” Horowitz said. “Changing culture is how we change Haiti.”


Ntim, who is the founder of a mobile network connecting global travelers to street vendors in developing countries, said the goal behind the summit is to “transform the narrative around Haiti’s brand as a nation.”

During the next 13 years, Ntim said, she wants to “catapult Haiti forward through innovation, tech and entrepreneurship.”

“We know Haiti can actually transform itself, be a new global case study for what happens when you actually get the right influences in the room to transform a nation,” she told the gathering.

That poses particular challenges in Haiti.

Despite Haitians’ embrace of the widely popular messaging app WhatsAPP, for example, a recent Hootsuite study of social media and digital trends around the world shows the country of 11 million people lagging behind many of its Caribbean counterparts. For example, Haiti’s internet penetration rate is only 15 percent compared to Cuba, which has a 32 percent internet penetration rate. Until recently, Cuba, which has a population size similar to Haiti, severely limited access to the internet for its population. In recent years, it has been adding public Wi-Fi hotspots around the island.

Over the years, efforts to introduce technology into Haiti’s pen-and-paper culture have failed. An effort to encourage mobile phone-based money transfers, which is popular in Kenya, failed to catch on. Haitian lawmakers have blocked efforts to adopt an electronic signature law despite robust lobbying by U.S. and other foreign officials seeking to boost Haiti’s ease-of-doing-business ranking.

But rather than see such skepticism and resistance as obstacles, Mildred Louis, a technology consultant who formerly worked for Haiti telecom giant Digicel and serves as communications director for the summit, sees opportunities.

“Sometimes what it takes is the disrupters in the market to force a movement,” Louis said. “In a market like Haiti, we need to force a movement. A lot of people didn’t think this summit was real, and today we have business leaders, members of the wealthy families asking, ‘how can we be involved?’

“There is a pool of potential here to build an incubation system, alliances, foster coding and a tech industry,” she said.

Google’s AI Vision May No Longer Include Giant Robots

Good news for the deeply paranoid among us: If the apocalypse arrives via giant anthropomorphic robots, they probably won’t be bankrolled by Google. On Thursday, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that it was selling Boston Dynamics, its premier robotics division, to the Japanese telco giant SoftBank for an undisclosed sum. The deal also includes a smaller robotics company called Schaft.

Boston Dynamics was less a moonshot than a sci-fi horror brought to life. Even before being acquired by Google in 2013, the 25-year-old company had already developed a Beast Wars–style squadron of robot predators with names like BigDog and WildCat, as well as a humanoid model called Atlas. The machines were often developed for the Pentagon under contracts with agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Google and the government both said the robots were being tested for disaster-relief scenarios, but that never stopped the stream of headlines describing them as “scary,” “nightmare-inducing,” or “evil.”

Whether Google’s ultimate plans were benign or nefarious, they never properly got off the ground. Both Boston Dynamics and Schaft were part of a months-long spending spree Google bankrolled to appease Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, who was looking to robots as his next frontier for innovation. But Rubin left Google in 2014, creating a leadership vacuum as the company struggled to get its various robotics acquisitions headquartered around the world to work in tandem. Under Rubin, Google reportedly had plans to launch a consumer robotics product by 2020, but that timeline seems in doubt now. (Alphabet still owns several smaller robotics startupsthat specialize in areas such as industrial manufacturing and film production.)

In the years since the Boston Dynamics acquisition, Google has shown that it doesn’t need to build a robot butler (or soldier) to create a future dominated by artificial intelligence. Machine-learning algorithms now guide most of the company’s products, whether recommending YouTube videos, identifying objects in users’ photo libraries, or whisking people around in driverless cars. The company is partnering with appliance manufacturers like General Electric so that people can control their ovens via voice commands to Google Home. And most ambitiously, at this year’s Google I/O, the company unveiled a suite of new products related to its machine-learning framework, TensorFlow. Developers will soon be able to make use of the same AI engines that power Google’s products to improve their own offerings via the company’s cloud-computing platform.

In the company’s ideal future, every human-machine interaction will be powered by Google, even if a specific app or appliance doesn’t have Google’s name on it. Terminator-style robots (OK, hopefully Jetsons-style) may one day be part of that vision, but the company can easily build an AI army with the products that fill our homes and garages today.



Why Is Google Digitising the World’s Fashion Archives?

For years, Google allowed its engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on personal projects they thought would ultimately benefit the company. The tech giant has since scaled back on the policy, replacing it with a more focused approach to innovation, but Google’s famous “20 percent time” gave rise to some of its most successful products, including Gmail and AdSense.

Back in 2010, a Bombay-born engineer named Amit Sood used his “20 percent time” to kickstart the Google Art Project, an effort to digitise the world’s museums, making cultural artefacts accessible in extraordinary detail to millions of internet users. It was a Google-sized ambition that fit the company’s mission to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The project has since grown into the Google Cultural Institute, a non-profit arm of the company, now housed in a grand hôtel particulier in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, that has partnered with over 1,300 museums and foundations to digitise everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Marc Chagall’s ceiling at the Opéra Garnier, making them accessible on a platform called Google Arts & Culture.


Now, Google is turning its attention to fashion.

Encouraged by the volume of fashion-related online search queries and the rising popularity of fashion exhibitions, Google’s Cultural Institute has partnered with over 180 cultural institutions — including The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Kyoto Costume Institute — “to bring 3,000 years of fashion to the Google Arts & Culture platform.”

Called “We Wear Culture,” the initiative, which launches today, is based on the premise that fashion is culture, not just clothes. Led by Kate Lauterbach — a Google program manager who began her career at Condé Nast in New York and later worked for J.Crew’s Madewell — it aims to digitise and display thousands of garments from around the world, stage curated online exhibitions, invite non-profit partners like museums and schools to script and share their own fashion stories, and leverage technologies like Google Street View to offer immersive experiences like virtual walkthroughs of museum collections.

For end users, it’s a cultural rabbit hole and research tool. For partners, it’s a way to reach a much wider audience online, furthering both their educational mandates and marketing objectives. But the benefit to Google is more complex.

After a day’s immersion at Google’s Cultural Institute and associated Lab in Paris, BoF caught up with Lauterbach at the company’s London King’s Cross campus to learn more about the thinking behind the initiative and how digitising the world’s fashion archives unlocks value for the tech giant.



BoF: Tell me about the genesis of the Culture Institute’s fashion project.

KL: Well, starting from art we expanded into culture. We did something around performance art, we did something around natural history; so very different, but the same idea: you take Google technologies, you apply them to this facet of culture and you produce something, you push the bounds, you do something different.

I worked in fashion pre-MBA and I just felt like it was a really interesting subject matter. We were starting to see fashion cropping up in different partners’ collections; it’s a personal passion of mine; and it’s also relevant and interesting and searched for online. It’s a conversation I thought we could bring some value to. We started thinking about it almost two years ago now and began having conversations with places like the V&A and the Costume Institute at the Met.

BoF: The project is named “We Wear Culture.” What does that mean?

KL: We wanted to show that fashion is much deeper than just what you wear; that there’s a story behind it, there’s people behind it, there’s influences that come from art, that come from music, that come from culture more broadly; and, in turn, what we wear influences culture. We really wanted to put fashion on a par with art and artists. You look at their influences, you look at their inspiration, you look at their process, you look at their materials. And we thought that if you can have this kind of singular resource online where all of this was starting to be discussed — and hear it from the  authority, I think that’s really critical — it would be valuable.



Apple’s advances in augmented reality highlight its real advantage over Google

For the multiple times Apple executives mentioned “machine learning” at the company’s developers conference Monday, they also emphasized an older theme that could be more important: Unified software.


Apple’s mobile operating system, or iOS, works the same and runs the same on every iPhone. That’s why app developers often prefer building for Apple before they build for Google’s Android, an operating system that’s splintered across different kinds of hardware. While the latest versions of Android consistently run on higher-end phones like the Google Pixel, cheaper and older phones often only run previous versions.

Apple’s control over both its operating system and the hardware on which that software runs came up throughout the keynote. That highlights what Google really needs to worry about when competing with Apple: The fragmentation of Android. This matters even when Google has a technical advantage.

Apple’s latest announcements in augmented reality are where the company’s advantage with a unified platform showed the most.


The ability to quickly deploy software to devices immediately differentiates Apple’s AR from Google AR computing platform Tango, which only runs on select newer-model phones.

 Keynote Address Opens Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

“When you bring the software together with these devices, we actually have hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads that are going to be capable of AR,” Apple’s head of software, Craig Federighi, said. “That’s going to make overnight the AR kit the largest AR platform in the world.”

In general, only a portion of Android phones tend to run the latest version of the mobile software at any given time. While Google builds its own hardware now — such as the Pixel phone — it still relies largely on third-party manufacturers and carriers to deliver Android updates to hardware that runs it.


Update: Google said it has made efforts to lessen the fragmentation of software across Android devices, including rolling out a program to make it easier for device makers to upgrade to newer versions of Android, and ensuring software in Google Play Services is updated frequently across devices. Google reports 93 percent of users ahave the latest version of Google Play Services.

Federighi brought up hardware and platform advantages again when he announced a new set of machine learning software tools for developers.

Developers that used Apple’s new machine learning tools would be able to execute their use with “tremendous performance on-device,” he said, and have access to “all the data privacy benefits and all of the carefully tuned compatibility with all of our platforms.”


What he didn’t seem to emphasize was what made the tools themselves interesting. That’s probably because Apple is known to lag behind Google, Microsoft and others in machine learning.

The iPhone didn’t publish its first artificial intelligence research paper until December. By comparison, Google had 44 papers accepted this year to the International Conference on Machine Learning while Microsoft had 33, according to a Medium post by a researcher at AI think tank OpenAI.

And Apple’s new machine learning offerings are also not all drawn from Apple technology. “Some of the pre-trained machine learning models that Apple offers are open-sourced Google code, primarily for image recognition,” noted Quartz reporter Dave Gershgorn. Google confirmed this.



Google to enable publishers to charge users with ad blockers

A new Google tool will let website publishers charge visitors using ad blockers for removing the ads, or force them to turn off their ad blockers and view the ads. The feature is said to be designed to help publishers who fear for their slumping ad revenue.

A new extension called “Funding Choices” provides the publisher with the tool to embed into their website. When a user with an ad blocker visits the site, he is prompted to either to make a payment to remove the ads on the site, or to disable the ad blocker and proceed. Choosing neither of the options means one cannot view the website.

The company is said to receive 10 percent of the fee, which will be set by a publisher individually.

The annoying ads like pop-up windows or auto-playing videos “can lead some people to block all ads—taking a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation,” Google’s senior vice president for ads and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, says.

He added that ad blockers have a negative impact on potential revenue across all of Google properties, particularly in Europe.

Publishers in North America, UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand can download the new tool, with the feature becoming available for other countries later this year.



Google developed a school curriculum to help kids fight trolls and hackers

Google is launching an educational program designed to teach kids about phishing, internet harassment, passwords, and other internet safety issues. Called “Be Internet Awesome,” it includes a classroom curriculum and a video game called Interland. It was developed with help from teachers, YouTube videographers, and internet safety and literacy organizations, and resources are available online for free.


Be Internet Awesome tackles topics that are relevant to all ages, though it’s seemingly aimed at younger children. It includes sections on how to limit sharing personal information with people online, avoid falling for scams or phishing attacks, creating strong passwords, and avoiding negative behavior online. (It includes a “Be Internet Awesome Pledge” that students can sign.) Google says the program is compliant with International Society for Technology in Education standards, awarded to programs that promote a range of tech-savvy skills.

In this case, that happens through a range of quizzes, role-playing activities, and other abstract exercises. For the “Share with Care” module, students look at a made-up social media profile and cross out information that a parent, employer, or future self might look poorly upon. In “Don’t Fall for Fake,” they decide whether a series of webpages and emails look real or fake. And “It’s Cool to be Kind” urges kids to avoid responding or reacting to hurtful messages, as well as block and report bullies.


Interland, the accompanying video game, seems less like a training tool and more like a sweetener that could get students interested in the material. “Mindful Mountain,” for example, turns the process of sharing specific posts with the right people into a spatial puzzle. (It also works as a grim commentary on how opaque social network privacy settings can be, although that’s never mentioned.) Players promote positivity in a platforming game by tossing out friendly emoticons and hitting the “block” button to trap trolls. The password security game is a Temple Run-style endless runner about collecting letters and symbols.


This is only the latest in Google’s string of educational programs, which range from promoting Chromebooks in the classroom to offering virtual reality field trips through Google Cardboard. (Interland also uses a low-poly aesthetic that will be familiar to Daydream VR users.)

As someone who’s not a trained educator, I can’t pass judgment on this curriculum. Everybody could stand to be a little more cautious about phishing, but anti-bullying programs, of which “Cool to be Kind” is a subset, vary in effectiveness. Even if this is effective for teaching students the basic principles of internet use, we don’t know how well it will translate into real-world social media use. But at the very least, it’s a non-alarmist take on internet safety — even if I might rather teach my kid about hacking with the Mr. Robot game.



Nest’s new camera uses the same facial recognition tech as Google Photos

Nest is releasing a new $299 indoor camera that can recognize faces using Google’s artificial intelligence software.


The Nest Cam IQ uses the same facial recognition technology as Google Photos to recognize faces and allow users to label who they are, so the user can know who was in a room when, according to Nest’s director of marketing, Maxime Veron.

Nest incorporated computer vision technology from its sister company for the first time last year when it released its outdoor camera, which is able to detect whether an entity in view of the camera is a person.

What’s being incorporated into the IQ is more advanced: It can distinguish between faces and remember faces that have been labeled by the user. It’s the same FaceNet technology used by Google photos to identify and organize faces found in images.


Computer vision is growing increasingly central to important Google products. In addition to its presence in Google Photos, which has gained half a billion users since its release two years ago, computer vision features are available in Google’s personalized artificial intelligence platform Assistant.


The software has also been updated to send fewer notifications that are more accurate.

“We think the way forward for security cameras is intelligence,” Veron said.



The IQ boasts other added features such as high definition video and costs $100 more than Nest’s other camera offerings, the Nest Cam Outdoor and Nest Cam Indoor, which will both stay on the market.

More new hardware is in the works after the IQ, according to a report in Bloomberg from March, including a new home-security alarm system, a digital doorbell and a cheaper version of Nest’s smart thermostat.

In addition to the new camera’s smart features, audio quality has improved. But what’s really interesting about the camera is how it handles facial recognition, something Nest’s other cameras don’t do.


When the camera sees a new face in a user’s home, it will notify the user through the mobile app associated with the camera and ask them if they recognize the person, giving them the option of labeling the face. When a labeled face reappears before the camera at a later time or date, a new photo may be taken by the camera and added to the file of images in the user’s app.

The facial identification feature is activated when a person enters a room, and may be reactivated by the subject walking across the room or making a dramatic movement. Faces that are not labeled are not stored.

Google said the feature is not being made available to consumers in Illinois, where laws governing collection of biometric data such as facial image data are stricter than in the rest of the country.

An Illinois resident sued Google last year over Google Photos allegedly violating state law by scanning her face without her consent when someone using the app photographed her.

Nest Cam IQ ships at the end of June.



Google wants AI to manage my relationships, and that might be a good thing

When Google said that not sharing photographs of your friends made you “kind of a terrible person” at this year’s I/O keynote, I bristled. The idea that its new Google Photos app would automatically suggest I share pictures with specific people sounded dystopian, especially because so much of the keynote seemed geared toward getting Google’s AI systems to help maintain relationships. Want to answer an email without even thinking about it? Inbox’s suggested responses are rolling out all over Gmail. Has a special moment with somebody slipped your mind? Google might organize photos from it into a book and suggest you have it printed.


Google is far from the first company to do this; Facebook suggests pictures to share and reminds you of friends’ birthdays all the time, for example. It’s easy to describe these features as creepy false intimacy, or say that they’re making us socially lazy, relieving us of the burden of paying attention to people. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve decided that I’m all right with an AI helping manage my connections with other people — because otherwise, a lot of those connections wouldn’t exist at all.

I don’t know if I’m a terrible person per se, but I may be the world’s worst relative. I have an extended network of aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends that I would probably like but don’t know very well, and almost never see face-to-face. They’re the kind of relationships that some people I know maintain with family newsletters, emailed photos, and holiday cards. But I have never figured out how to handle any of these things.




The 6 Biggest Things Google Just Announced

Google on Wednesday revealed several new updates for its most popular hardware and services as part of its annual I/O conference. While the developer-centric event has historically focused on Google products like Android and Chrome, this year’s announcements revolved mainly around the search giant’s advancements in artificial intelligence, or AI. That’s been a common theme among Silicon Valley’s top companies lately, setting up AI as the next big tech battleground.

The smart speaker battle is heating up: Just days after Amazon revealed a new Echo device with a screen, Google announced a slew of new capabilities for its own connected speaker, the Home.

The most significant upgrade is that Home users will be able to make hands-free phone calls through the device. Calls to the U.S. and Canada will be free, while Home owners can choose to link their phone number to the gadget. (Amazon recently announced a similar feature, but calling is limited to Echo-to-Echo communication for now).

Because Google Home can tell the difference between various users’ voices, it will know to call the right person depending on who’s placing the call. During a live demo, Google’s Rishi Chandra asked to call his mom, then said that if his wife had uttered the same phrase, the Home would have known to call Chandra’s mother-in-law instead.

Google is also launching a new Home feature called “proactive assistance,” which is basically a different term for notifications (another feature that arrived on the Echo this month.) When the Home’s microphone lights up, users will be able to ask the Home if it has any important updates to share, such as a change to an upcoming calendar appointment or a flight delay.

The Google Assistant can “see”

The Google Assistant digital aide is getting a big visual upgrade. In the coming months, users will be able to point their phone at a sign in a different language and watch as it’s translated before their very eyes. Or, if they aim their phone at a theater, it could show upcoming showtimes and an option to buy tickets. That’s all thanks to Google’s Lens app, which is similar to the Bixby Vision feature Samsung offers on its Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones.

Furthermore, the Google Assistant is coming to Apple iPhones as a standalone app. It won’t be baked in at the operating system level like Siri is, so it will be limited in how useful it is for iPhone owners. But it can still do things like the Lens features above.


Android O updates

Google offered new information about what to expect from its next major Android update, which for now is referred to as “Android O.”

One highlight: When downloading an app for the first time, Android may ask if you’d like it to fill in your username if you’ve already used that service in Google Chrome.

Google is also making it easier to copy-and-paste text in Android. If you tap an address, for example, it will automatically select the entire address instead of just a portion of it, and from there it will suggest pasting it into Google Maps.

Other core Android O updates will improve security and battery life and add a picture-in-picture mode, which will let users minimize a video so that it only occupies a portion of the screen.

New Android software for low-end phones

Google is working on a version of Android called Android Go that’s optimized to work on low-end phones with under 1GB of memory (most high-end phones have around 4GB.) Go is also built to help users budget their bandwidth: When using the Android Go version of YouTube, for instance, users will be able to preview videos and see exactly how much data they will eat up before deciding to stream a full clip.

Android Go is similar in spirit to Google’s Android One program, which offers low-cost Android devices to users in developing markets.

Virtual reality without a phone

Google is one of several tech companies pursuing the “holy grail” of virtual reality: Headsets that don’t need to be connected to a computer or smartphone to work. To that end, the search giant announced that standalone VR headsets will be available starting later this year.

HTC — maker of the Steam-compatible Vive headset — and PC maker Lenovo are among the first partners working on these headsets. The search giant collaborated with chipmaker Qualcomm to come up with a reference design.


Google Photos makes real-life albums now

Move over, Shutterfly. Google announced a new service that creates photo books based on the images in your phone’s gallery. If you’re using the Google Photos app, you’ll be able to search for images of a specific person. From there, Google Photos can choose the best photos and arrange them in an album that you can order.

Google also announced other sharing-centric features for Google Photos. You can, for instance, choose to share your entire photo library with your spouse or a family member. If you don’t want them seeing your entire collection, you can limit the sharing to only include photos of specific people, like your kids.



Google’s AI Invents Sounds Humans Have Never Heard Before

JESSE ENGEL IS playing an instrument that’s somewhere between a clavichord and a Hammond organ—18th-century classical crossed with 20th-century rhythm and blues. Then he drags a marker across his laptop screen. Suddenly, the instrument is somewhere else between a clavichord and a Hammond. Before, it was, say, 15 percent clavichord. Now it’s closer to 75 percent. Then he drags the marker back and forth as quickly as he can, careening though all the sounds between these two very different instruments.

“This is not like playing the two at the same time,” says one of Engel’s colleagues, Cinjon Resnick, from across the room. And that’s worth saying. The machine and its software aren’t layering the sounds of a clavichord atop those of a Hammond. They’re producing entirely new sounds using the mathematical characteristics of the notes that emerge from the two. And they can do this with about a thousand different instruments—from violins to balafons—creating countless new sounds from those we already have, thanks to artificial intelligence.

Engel and Resnick are part of Google Magenta—a small team of AI researchers inside the internet giant building computer systems that can make their own art—and this is their latest project. It’s called NSynth, and the team will publicly demonstrate the technology later this week at Moogfest, the annual art, music, and technology festival, held this year in Durham, North Carolina.

The idea is that NSynth, which Google first discussed in a blog post last month, will provide musicians with an entirely new range of tools for making music. Critic Marc Weidenbaum points out that the approach isn’t very far removed from what orchestral conductors have done for ages—“the blending of instruments is nothing new,” he says—but he also believes that Google’s technology could push this age-old practice into new places. “Artistically, it could yield some cool stuff, and because it’s Google, people will follow their lead,” he says.

The Boundaries of Sound

Magenta is part of Google Brain, the company’s central AI lab, where a small army of researchers are exploring the limits of neural networks and other forms of machine learning. Neural networks are complex mathematical systems that can learn tasks by analyzing large amounts of data, and in recent years they’ve proven to be an enormously effective way of recognizing objects and faces in photos, identifying commands spoken into smartphones, and translating from one language to another, among other tasks. Now the Magenta team is turning this idea on its head, using neural networks as a way of teaching machines to make new kinds of music and other art.




Netflix No Longer Available to Rooted, Unlocked Android Devices

The “unlocked” devices Netflix is refusing to support may refer to bootloader-unlocked devices rather than carrier-unlocked devices. Carrier unlocking refers to the practice of allowing a device purchased from one company to run on another company’s network, while bootloader unlocking allows a smartphone to run a completely different version of Android (or in some cases, an entirely different operating system).  Not all phone manufacturers lock their bootloader and some manufacturers that do lock their bootloaders don’t lock every single SKU they manufacture. It is unclear if the new Netflix app distinguishes between devices that were unlocked by the end user and devices that were purchased with an unlocked bootloader from their manufacturers. Thanks to reader Jeff Bowles for catching this possibility.

Original  Story Below:

For years, Android owners who wanted a greater range of freedom when using their devices have had the option to root them. The term refers to “root access,” which gives the end user control over options that the phone’s manufacturer had previously prevented them from accessing. Rooting can be used to update a device to a different or new OS, remove applications the OEM installed by default, or install special applications that require administrative access and cannot run on a non-rooted device.

The vast majority of Android users never bother with rooting their hardware. But it’s a useful way for power users to keep a device updated after the OEM has abandoned it, or to simply add features and capabilities that weren’t previously available. The majority of applications in the Google Play Store run on rooted or unrooted devices without any problems. Netflix, however, has decided to buck this trend with the latest version of its own app. The company has confirmed that devices that are not “Google-certified or have been altered” are no longer capable of accessing the mobile service. Disturbingly, this appears to apply to devices that are rooted or unlocked.

A Netflix spokesperson told Android Police the following:

With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store.

Now, in theory, this has been done to make certain that Google’s Wildvine DRM technology isn’t bypassed by a rooted device. But Android Police reports that it’s also blocking devices that have simply been unlocked. There’s a significant difference between the two states. An unlocked device has simply been modified to allow it to be used with multiple carriers, as opposed to rooting, which gives the user much more control over the phone and could theoretically be used to facilitate piracy. Most phone manufacturers sell unlocked devices on the open market (without any kind of subsidy or discount arrangement) and OEMs often will unlock a device on request, provided it’s fully paid off.

But the Netflix application itself hasn’t been prevented from running. It’s the download and store listing that are blocked. Android Police notes that whether you can download the Netflix app seems linked to a device’s SafetyNet status, not whether it supports Google’s Wildvine DRM. SafetyNet is an API that checks whether the bootloader on a device is locked; AndroidPay is disabled on devices with unlocked bootloaders regardless of whether those devices are rooted or not.

SafetyNet and Wildvine are two distinct technologies, which makes the whole issue rather strange. Netflix is claiming it implemented this change due to Wildvine, but it’s not checking Wildvine status to determine whether to allow installation of Netflix. To get around this problem, if you install Netflix via a website like APKMirror, it still works normally on an unlocked, rooted device — at least for now.




Lyft and Waymo to team up on self-driving cars

Lyft and Waymo are working together on self-driving car technology, with a new deal first reported by the New York Times on Sunday. The deal has been confirmed by both parties, and will see Google’s former self-driving car unit work together with the ride-hailing company on efforts to introduce self-driving to the general population via fleet services.

Waymo just launched a self-driving technology public pilot in Arizona, where its Chrysler Pacifica minivans equipped with in-house developed self-driving tech will be picking up families on-demand, with applications open to anyone working in the city. Waymo’s service is limited to begin with, but bringing a partner like Lyft into the mix will likely help it build out the side of the business that requires demand modeling, efficient routing and more.

It’s an interesting partnership because it’s another piece of the puzzle in addition to Waymo’s existing tie-ups with automakers, including Chrysler, and a pending an agreement with Honda. Waymo is positioning itself as the technology partner on the autonomy side, an essential service provider but not necessarily a player interested in owning the whole stack. Lyft offers another piece of the puzzle, which could ultimately benefit Waymo’s existing automaker partners, and help it attract more, too.


Uber is also making similar partnerships, with an open program for OEs, the first of which is Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler. Lyft is different, however, in that it has not expressed any interest in making its own self-driving tech in-house, but has instead formed a previously announced partnership with GM, which is likely to result in a pilot of autonomous tech fleet deployment with GM-owned Cruise.

This is the latest move that indicates Waymo might be closer to commercializing its technology than many may have thought. The Alphabet-owned company is arguably the player in the space with the most experience, with nearly a decade of development work and actual driving experience with autonomous car tech.



Lyft and Waymo to team up on self-driving cars amid Uber controversy

Google’s New AI Tool Turns Your Selfies Into Emoji

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have, for a couple years, been hailed as the death knell to almost everything you can imagine: The information we consume, the way we vote, the jobs we have, and even our very existence as a species. (Food for thought: The stuff about ML taking over Homo sapiens totally makes sense, even if you haven’t just taken a huge bong rip.) So maybe it’s welcome news that the newest application of ML from Google, worldwide leaders in machine learning, isn’t to build a new Mars rover or a chatbot that can replace your doctor. Rather, its a tool that anyone can use to generate custom emoji stickers of themselves.


It lives inside of Allo, Google’s ML-driven chat app. Starting today, when you pull up the list of stickers you can use to respond to someone, there’s a simple little option: “Turn a selfie into stickers.” Tap, and it prompts you to take a selfie. Then, Google’s image-recognition algorithms analyze your face, mapping each of your features to those in a kit illustrated by Lamar Abrams, a storyboard artist, writer, and designer for the critically acclaimed Cartoon Network series Steven Universe. There are, of course, literally hundreds of eyes and noses and face shapes and hairstyles and glasses available. All told, Google thinks there are 563 quadrillion faces that the tool could generate. Once that initial caricature is generated, you can then make tweaks: Maybe change your hair, or give yourself different glasses. Then, the machine automatically generates 22 custom stickers of you.

The tool originated with an internal research project to see if ML could be used to generate an instant cartoon of someone, using just a selfie. But as Jason Cornwell, who leads UX for Google’s communication projects, points out, making a cartoon of someone isn’t much of an end goal. “How do you make something that doesn’t just convey what you look like but how you want to project yourself?” asks Cornwell. “That’s an interesting problem. It gets to ML and computer vision but also human expression. That’s where Jennifer came in. To provide art direction about how you might convey yourself.”

Cornwell is referring to Jennifer Daniel, the vibrant, well-known art director who first made her name for the zany, hyper-detailed infographics she created for Bloomberg Businessweek in the Richard Turley era, and then did a stint doing visual op-eds for the New York Times. As Daniel points out, “Illustrations let you bring emotional states in a way that selfies can’t.” Selfies are, by definition, idealizations of yourself. Emoji, by contrast, are distillations and exaggerations of how you feel. To that end, the emoji themselves are often hilarious: You can pick one of yourself as a slice of pizza, or a drooling zombie. “The goal isn’t accuracy,” explains Cornwell. “It’s to let someone create something that feels like themselves, to themselves.” So the user testing involved asking people to generate their own emoji and then asking questions such as: “Do you see yourself in this image? Would your friends recognize you?”




Google just acquired one of the most successful VR game studios

Google announced today that it’s acquiring Owlchemy Labs, the VR-focused studio that created Job Simulator and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality. Owlchemy will keep releasing VR games for multiple platforms, but with backing from Google — similar to Tilt Brush studio Skillman & Hackett, which Google acquired in 2015. “We have a slate of original games that we have in [the] production and prototyping phase, and we’re going to continue to do that,” says Owlchemy co-founder Alex Schwartz. “We’re very excited to continue to do that with the support of Google behind us.”


Owlchemy is known for developing games that closely mimic using real hands, and a blog post assures readers that it’s “continuing to focus on hand interactions and high quality user experiences, like with Job Simulator.” Schwartz says that full-motion hand tracking is “kind of our key factor.” That stands in contrast to Google’s current VR platform, Daydream — which uses a remote with limited motion controls. “We have a pretty big vision” for virtual and augmented reality, says Google VR and AR engineering director Relja Markovic. “Daydream’s a great product — I love my Daydream. But there will be many, many things that come after that.”

It’s difficult to read too much into what this means, and Markovic points out that Google has released products purely for non-Google headsets, like Tilt Brush and Google Earth. But the acquisition does feel like it’s pointing toward something beyond the current version of Daydream. “If you think about where VR and AR are going, especially AR and Tango, and other ways of interacting with your environments, I don’t think we’re done exploring how you interact with controls in your hand. That’s not saying ‘Oh, and therefore we’re going to bring Job Sim to Daydream,’” he says. “But there’s a lot of learning to still be done in that space as well.”

Schwartz and Markovic say Owlchemy will keep engaging with the larger VR development community, sharing knowledge and best practices — as well as potentially contributing to Google’s experimental Daydream Labs program.


Owlchemy didn’t start as a VR studio — in 2011, it released the controversial satirical gameSmuggle Truck, followed by the fluffy-animal-themed update Snuggle Truck. But it was one of the first studios to work with the initial Oculus Rift development kit in 2013, and Job Simulator was a launch title for the PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, and Oculus Touch motion controllers. In the fairly small and new world of VR gaming, it’s one of the industry’s major success stories; Job Simulator passed $3 million in sales at the start of 2017.

Google will probably say more about virtual reality at its I/O developer conference next week, although there have been few rumors about what we might see, and Schwartz says Owlchemy isn’t imminently announcing any new projects. But the acquisition suggests that at the very least, Google is still working on its push to develop more VR content, and that in contrast to Facebook-owned company Oculus — which recently closed its VR film studio in order to fund external projects — it’s comfortable keeping talent in-house.



Warren Buffett: I was wrong on Google and ‘too dumb’ to appreciate Amazon

Warren Buffett admits he should’ve invested in Google or Amazon instead of IBM at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting  Sunday, 7 May 2017 | 12:57 PM ET | 01:05

Warren Buffett admitted to shareholders Saturday that he made a mistake by not buying Google shares years ago, when the company was getting $10 or $11 per advertising click from Berskhire Hathaway consumer insurance company subsidiary Geico.

The Oracle of Omaha also professed ignorance on other big technology stocks, whose rallies he missed because he didn’t quite appreciate their value proposition at first glance.

On CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday, Buffett said, “If I was forced to buy [Google-parent Alphabet] or short it, I’d buy it; same way with Amazon. But it’s as little hard when you look at something at ‘X’ and it sells at 10X to buy it.”


“That’s cost people a lot of money at Berkshire,” he said.

Buffett has often said he avoided tech stocks in the past because he didn’t really understand how they were making money and whether they would be able to do so over the long term. This week, Oracle copped to getting it wrong on another tech company: IBM.

For years, Buffett was a true believer in Big Blue, but told CNBC in an interview he had cut his holdings in the stock by a third. “I don’t value IBM the same way that I did six years ago when I started buying,” he said, adding that the company as “run into some pretty tough competitors.”

In the case of Google, however, Buffett said he could have figured out the company had a great advertising business because he was, in effect, contributing to its profits.

After profusely praising Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Buffett said he missed that opportunity as well.

“I was too dumb to realize. I did not think [Bezos] could succeed on the scale he has,” Buffett said, adding that he “really underestimated the brilliance of the execution.” The investor humbly admitted that he and partner Charlie Munger “miss a lot of things, and we’ll keep doing it.”




Email Attack Hits Google: What to Do if You Clicked

Google said it was investigating an email scam winding its way through inboxes across the country and had disabled the accounts responsible for the spam.

The scheme emerged Wednesday afternoon, when spammers dispatched malicious email, appearing to come from people the recipients knew, beckoning them to click on what appeared to be a shared Google document.

Recipients who clicked on the links were prompted to give the sender access to their Google contact lists and Google Drive. In the process, victims allowed spammers to raid their contact lists and send even more email.

“We are investigating a phishing email that appears as Google Docs,” Google said statement posted on Twitter. “We encourage you to not click through and report as phishing within Gmail.”

It is not clear who created the spam email or how many people it has affected.

In a second statement, on Wednesday evening, Google said that it had disabled the accounts responsible for the spam, updated its systems to block it and was working on ways to prevent such an attack from recurring.


If you receive suspicious email, here are some tips:

1. Do not click, even when the email is from your mother.

Even when you receive links from trusted contacts, be careful what you click. Spammers, cybercriminals and, increasingly, nation-state spies are resorting to basic email attacks, known as spear phishing, which bait victims into clicking on links that download malicious software, or lure them into turning over their user names and passwords.

A quarter of phishing attacks studied last year by Verizon were found to be nation-state spies trying to gain entry into their target’s inboxes, up from the 9 percent of attacks reported in 2016.

In this case, the malicious emails all appeared to come from a contact, but were actually from the address “hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh@mailinator.com” with recipients BCCed.

2. Turn on multifactor authentication.

Google and most other email, social media and banking services offer customers the ability to turn on multifactor authentication. Use it. When you log in from an unrecognized computer, the service will prompt you to enter a one-time code texted to your phone. It is the most basic way to prevent hackers from breaking into your accounts with a stolen password.

3. Shut it down.

If you accidentally clicked on the Google phishing attack and gave spammers third-party access to your Google account, you can revoke their access by following these steps:

Go to https://myaccount.google.com/permissions

Revoke access to “Google Docs” (the app will have access to contacts and drive).

4. Change your passwords … again.

If you’ve been phished, change your passwords to something you have never used before. Ideally, your passwords should be long and should not be words that could be found in a dictionary. The first things hackers do when breaking into a site is use computer programs that will try every word in the dictionary. Your email account is a ripe target for hackers because your inbox is the key to resetting the passwords of, and potentially breaking into, dozens of other accounts.

Make your password long and distinctive. Security specialists advise creating anagrams based on song lyrics, movie quotations or sayings. For example, “The Godfather” movie quotation “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli,” becomes LtG,tTcannol1.

5. Report it.

Report any phishing attacks to Google by clicking the downward arrow at the top right of your inbox and selecting “Report Phishing.” Companies count on those reports to investigate such scams and stop them.


Google is testing a job-search feature that could rival LinkedIn—and Facebook

Google is apparently testing a new job-search feature that includes its own job portal. The testing was caught in the wild by search engine optimization consultant Dan Shure on April 28.

Industry website Search Engine Land wrote about the sighting then got a response from Google that wasn’t an outright confirmation, but suggested the search giant was indeed testing the feature. Google’s statement read: “While we don’t have any news to announce at this time, we’re always looking for new ways to improve the Search experience for our users, whether they’re looking for movies to see, recipes to make, or job opportunities.”

Dan Shure apparently triggered the feature by entering “jobs online” in the Google search box. This returns a specially formatted box containing a list of jobs above the main search results. Clicking these jobs leads to a portal where users can select tabs to display jobs by title, city, employer, and more. The page also shows jobs by industry, including health care, advertising and marketing, and retail. The jobs listed are attributed to third-party job sites, such as Internships.com and Catholic Jobs Online.

Google is also quietly working on a service called Google Hire, which bills itself as a tool to manage companies’ recruitment processes. Google hasn’t commented on the service, nor has it responded to a request for comment from Quartz on the job-search feature.

The broad base of jobs available on the search feature suggests Google is going after the same general jobs market as Facebook is, with its own jobs function. LinkedIn is better known for its white-collar listings, but it, too, has been trying to cater to workers of all types, including blue-collar workers (paywall), in recent years.


Google is testing a job-search feature that could rival LinkedIn—and Facebook

Google Wifi now available in Canada

Google Wifi, the mesh router that Google unveiled first last October, is now on sale in Canada. The router sells either individually for $179 CDN, or in a 3-pack for $439 CDN, which is pretty close to U.S. pricing given current exchange rates. The Wifi solution’s mesh networking approach means it can seamlessly pair with other units to extend coverage throughout a house, without sacrificing signal strength, and while also handing off connections from one device to the next with such smooth transitions that you won’t notice the change even if you’re on a VOIP call when it happens.

The Wifi router does indeed provide strong coverage, based on my short tests, but the most interesting thing for users who might not necessarily need improved coverage is that it also comes with a companion mobile app, which makes it incredibly easy to manage tasks that typically aren’t all that user-friendly when it comes to home networking solutions. The app lets you do things like prioritize certain devices for when there isn’t enough bandwidth to go around, see exactly what devices are connected, toggle and schedule access for specific devices and groups of devices, designate others as network managers and more.

Google’s industrial design means these puck-like little cylinders won’t ruin your home decor if you place them around your house, rather than hidden away, which is basically the worst thing you can do if you’re hoping for good, consistent and far-ranging Wi-Fi coverage.

Unlike with other home networking devices you may have used that offer dual-band, Google Wifi won’t make you pick one band (either 2.4GHz or 5GHz) among two separate networks. The idea is you never think about what you’re connecting to what, but the result is just that your devices are always getting the best possible speeds available given network conditions. Google sorts this out using its own machine learning algorithms, which are actually also predictive – meaning they can anticipate upcoming busy times on certain bands and adjust connections in anticipation so you don’t encounter any problems.



If UX and network quality aren’t reason enough (and the fact that competitor Eero doesn’t currently sell to Canada directly), then there’s another reason Canadians should take note of Wifi’s launch: Canadians helped build it in a big way. Every aspect of the tech, from hardware, to software, to the companion app, was worked on to a “significant” degree by Google’s engineering team in Waterloo.

Wifi goes on sale today at the Google Store online, as well as at Best Buy Canada, Staples Canada and Walmart Canada, and Google says more retailers will follow.


Google Wifi now available in Canada

Google becomes first foreign internet company to go live in Cuba

After former President Obama reopened America’s diplomatic relations with Cuba, businesses started looking for opportunities to make inroads to the island nation. Google was one of these, with Obama himself announcing it would come to help set up WiFi and broadband access there. Cuba’s national telecom ETECSA officially inked a deal with Google back in December, and today, they finally switched on the service, making the search giant the first foreign internet live on the island.


To be fair, Google already had a headstart when it made Chrome availablein Cuba back in 2014. The servers Google switched on today are part of a the Google Global Cache (GGC), a global network that locally stores popular content, like viral videos, for quick access. Material stored in-country will load much quicker than Cuba’s existing setup: Piping internet in through a submarine cable connected to Venezuela. Many Cubans can only access the web through 240 public access WiFi spots scattered through the country, according to Buzzfeed. While this won’t bring Cuban internet near as fast as American access, it’s still a huge step forward.



Bringing down the language barriers – making the internet more inclusive

There are currently over 400* million Internet users in India, but with only 20% of the population fluent in English, most Internet users have significant language barriers to getting the full value of the Internet. A speaker of Indian languages like Hindi or Tamil still has trouble finding content to read and or use services that they can use in their own languages.

To build rich and empowering experiences for everyone means first and foremost making things work in the languages people speak. Today, we’re taking a huge step forward by launching new set of products and features that will empower the Internet ecosystem to create more language content and better serve the needs of a billion Indians who’re coming online rapidly.

Neural Machine Translation: The world’s content, in your language
Starting today, when you use Google Translate, you might notice that the translation is more accurate and easier to understand, especially when translating full sentences. That’s because we’ve brought our new Neural Machine Translation technology to translations between English and nine widely used Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Malayalam and Kannada.

Neural translation is a lot better than our old phrase-based system, translating full sentences at a time, instead of pieces of a sentence. It uses this broader context to help it figure out the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar. This new technique improves the quality of translation more in a single jump than we’ve seen in the last ten years combined.

Just like it’s easier to learn a language when you already know a related language, we’ve discovered that our neural technology speaks each language better when it learns several at a time. For example, we have a whole lot more sample data for Hindi than its relatives Marathi and Bengali, but when we train them all together, the translations for all improve more than if we’d trained each individually.

But how does this make the whole web better for everyone — Chrome has it covered!

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That’s where Chrome’s built-in Translate functionality comes into play. Every day, more than 150 million web pages are translated by Chrome users through the magic of machine translations with one click or tap. The Chrome team and the Google Translate team have worked together to bring the power of Neural Machine Translation to web content, making full-page translations more accurate and easier to read.

Today, we’re extending Neural Machine Translation built into Chrome to and from English for the same nine Indian languages (Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil Telugu and Hindi). This means higher quality translations of everything from song lyrics to news articles to cricket discussions.

Being able to type in your language of choice is as important as understanding content on the web. Today, we are ramping up support to include 11 new languages to the list of 11 existing Indian languages —with transliteration support—including Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, and Gujarati.

Gboard has all the things you love about your Google Keyboard — speed and accuracy, Glide Typing and voice typing — plus Google Search built in. It also allows you to search and use Google Translate right in your keyboard (just tap the “G” button to get started). And—as a reminder—Gboard already has a Hinglish language option for those of you who often switch back and forth between Hindi and English.

With today’s update, we’ve also dropped in a new text editing tool that makes it easier to select, copy and paste, plus new options for resizing and repositioning the keyboard so it fits to your hand and texting style. And to top it all off, this Gboard update comes with some under-the-hood improvements including better accuracy and predictions while you type

Like Google Indic Keyboard, Gboard has auto-correction and prediction in these new languages, plus two layouts for each—one in the native language script and one with the QWERTY layout for transliteration, which lets you spell words phonetically using the QWERTY alphabet and get text output in your native language script. For example, type “aapko holi ki hardik shubhkamnay” and get “आपको होली की हार्दिक शुभकामनायें ”.

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Google’s three Pixel 2 devices will be as powerful as the Galaxy S8

Google is expected to launch at least two Pixel 2 phones this fall, although some say it has three devices in the making. A new leak indicates that all these three Android gadgets will be as powerful as the Samsung’s hot Galaxy S8, as they’re all going to be based on the same flagship mobile platform, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835.

Just like with recent Pixel 2 leaks, this detail comes from Google’s AOSP code, and was first discovered by WinFuture.

Walleye and Muskie are the known code names for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, respectively. Taimen, meanwhile, is also a codename for a third new Google device that might be launched this year.

At this time, it looks like all three devices will make use of the Qualcomm MSM8998 chip, which just so happens to be Qualcomm’s best system-on-chip platform for Android devices. The Snapdragon 835 is one of the most powerful mobile processors out there, at least when it comes to Android devices, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see Google eyeing Qualcomm’s silicon for its high-end Pixel phones.

Google already confirmed earlier this year that the Pixel 2 phones will arrive in the fall, just as anticipated. The company also said they’ll be competing in the high-end sector, just like their predecessors. That means the Pixel 2 devices will have to offer high-end design and top-shelf specs to go against the Galaxy S8 or the iPhone 8.

Other details about Google’s upcoming Pixel 2 devices have not been leaked, aside from the processor that should power them.


Google’s three Pixel 2 devices will be as powerful as the Galaxy S8


Google to reportedly unveil an ad-blocking feature for its Chrome browser

Google plans to introduce a new ad-blocking feature to its Chrome browser, according to reports from the Wall Street Journal which cite sources familiar with the company.

The ad-blocker, which would be available as a default setting for both mobile and desktop, could spell the end of certain online adverts which many users claim disrupt their browsing experience, the paper said, citing sources familiar with the company.

Targeted adverts are likely to be those featured in a report released last month by the Coalition for Better Ads, a U.S. and European industry group, the Journal suggests. These include six desktop and twelve mobile web ad experiences which it said fell below the threshold of “consumer acceptability,” such as pop-ups and auto-playing video ads.


Under one potential iteration of Google’s plans, the ban could extend to all advertising that appears on sites with offending ads, rather than just the offending ads specifically.

The reports claimed that the plans could be announced and rolled out in weeks – or withdrawn entirely.

Google refused to confirm the claims, saying “we do not comment on rumor or speculation.”

However, the technology company, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., said it had been working to explore new ways of improving the browsing experience for users.

“We’ve been working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads and industry trades to explore a multitude of ways Google and other members of the Coalition could support the Better Ads Standards,” a Google spokesperson told CNBC Thursday.

To read the original article from the Wall Street Journal, click here.

Google launches Areo, a food delivery & home services app for India

Google seems to have silently launched a new food delivery and home services aggregator called Areo for the India market. The app is available as a free download on the Google Play store and is currently operational in Bengaluru and Mumbai.

Areo aggregates food dishes and home services across various local service providers, allowing users to order food or schedule appointments with a local beautician, electrician, painter, cleaner and plumber among others. The app was first spotted by The Android Soul.

At the time of the writing this article, Areo has signed up partners like UrbanClap and Zimmber for home services and Freshmenu, Box8 & Faasos for food ordering.

Notably missing from the list however are prominent players like Zomato and Swiggy in food delivery and Amazon-backed Housejoy in home services.

One can either search for any specific dish or choose any specific partner to browse through dishes and schedule deliveries by paying online or use cash on delivery. Strangely, we noticed that Google has partnered with TimesofMoney’s DirecPay for online payments on Areo rather than using its own payment solution.

“We are constantly experimenting with ways to better serve our users in India. In this case, Areo makes everyday chores and ordering food easier by bringing together useful local services like ordering food or hiring a cleaner in one place.” a Google spokesperson told in a statement to ETtech.

A Google spokesperson said they are currently not charging partners for this service but they are yet to respond to our queries on how these partners were selected or do they plan to charge these partners in the future.




Authorities say they have found the killer of Google’s Vanessa Marcotte

Authorities have arrested a man suspected of killing Vanessa Marcotte, a 27-year-old Google employee who went out for a jog one afternoon and never came back.

Angelo Colon-Ortiz, 31, has been charged with aggravated assault and battery and assault with attempt to rape, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. announced Saturday. Early told reporters during a news conference that a murder charge is expected to be filed.

“We got him,” Early told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “We’re very comfortable that we’ve got Vanessa Marcotte’s killer.”

The arrest comes eight months after Marcotte’s body was found about half a mile from her mother’s house in Princeton, Mass., where she was visiting for the weekend. The health-care account manager for Google was last seen about 1 p.m. Aug. 7. Massachusetts State Police K-9 teams discovered her body in a wooded area later that night, the Boston Globe reported.

Investigators have received more than 1,300 tips from the public, but a break in the case happened after a state police trooper spotted a dark sport-utility vehicle driven by a man who matched the suspect’s description, according to the district attorney’s office.

The trooper wrote the license plate number on his hand and later tracked down the man’s address. The trooper went to the man’s home in Worcester, Mass., not far from Princeton. There, Colon-Ortiz provided the officer with a DNA sample, the district attorney’s office said.

The DNA matched a sample taken from Marcotte’s hands. Police believe that Marcotte fought her attacker, scratching his face, neck and arms, the AP reported.

“It’s through her determined fight and her efforts that we obtained the DNA of her killer,” Early told reporters.

Colon-Ortiz is being held on a $10 million bail and will have his first court hearing on Tuesday.



Google to fix diversity problem with outpost for black colleges

Four years ago, Google began sending engineers to historically black colleges such as Howard University for its Google in Residence program, an attempt to improve its recruiting from these campuses, prepare students for Google’s peculiar hiring practices and inject their computer science courses with more of the up-to-date skills that Silicon Valley needs.

Now, it is trying the reverse, starting an on-campus outpost known as “Howard West” that brings students from Washington to Mountain View, Calif., for three months of computer science classes, one-on-one mentorships with black Google tech employees, and even the Googleplex’s famous free food and shuttles. Faculty will come with them, spending an “externship” teaching and learning alongside Google engineers.

The new program, announced Thursday, is the search giant’s latest effort to try to boost its stubbornly low numbers of black employees, which account for just 1 percent of its technology employees — the same number as in 2014 — and only 2 percent of its employees overall, according to the company’s most recent diversity report. Besides its Google in Residence program, the company has expanded its recruiting to a broader range of schools, trains its workers on “implicit biases” and re-examines resumes to make sure recruiters don’t overlook diverse talent.

“We’d been focused on narrowing or, really, eliminating the digital divide,” said Bonita Stewart, vice president of partnerships for Google, in an interview. “Now we’re seeing there’s an opportunity to look at the geographical divide. By having this immersive program, we will have the opportunity to focus on the hard technical skills, but more important are some of the softer skills, in terms of working and understanding the Valley culture.”

As part of the new program, rising juniors and seniors will spend three months in classes at a dedicated space on Google’s campus. Tuition will be paid for by Howard and private donors; funding will also cover their housing and a summer stipend. The program is likely to include events such as networking sessions with Howard alumni throughout the Valley, opportunities to shadow Google employees, and formal and informal conversations about their experiences. It launches this summer with 25 students from Howard University, but the aim is to expand it next year to other historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.

Howard University President Wayne Frederick said he hopes the program will help retain students in computer science programs who might not have the financial means to remain. “A large number of our students are Pell Grant-eligible, and support is a real concern,” Frederick said. “This also helps address their ability to matriculate more quickly.”

Exposure, experience

The idea began after Frederick made some visits to Silicon Valley companies in 2014 and recognized the gulf between the two cultures. “Until you actually walk around and see it in action, I don’t think you really get it,” he said. A medical doctor, he recognized the value of more clinical experience earlier in medical students’ education, something that could be applied to computer science majors, too. At an event, he met Stewart, a Howard alumna who herself had seen the opportunity for HBCUs to get an outpost at the Googleplex after her office in New York provided space for the Cornell Tech program and the nonprofit Black Girls Code.

“We thought by moving it out west and creating this more immersive environment, we could perhaps accelerate our diversity effort in a new and interesting way,” Stewart said.

The new program could also help fix some concerns about the company’s Google in Residence program. In a Bloomberg Businessweek cover story early last year, a former Google engineer cited the difficulty of luring Google employees to Howard’s campus in Washington, which took them out of the regular promotion and evaluation cycles back on campus. The new program would allow engineers to remain local as they got involved in the program.

It could also help expose students earlier to the culture shock that awaits some of them when they come to Silicon Valley. One black student said she was startled by how homogeneous the area was on a visit and noted the playground-style perks at tech campuses armed with ping-pong tables didn’t interest her. “Slides are not really appealing,” she told Bloomberg. “There are not a lot of people of color in the Valley — and that, by itself, makes it kind of unwelcoming.”

Diversity experts briefed on general details about the program said that while the concept is intriguing, there are also important questions to consider about how to prepare students for the experience. “I don’t know how many of the cultural nuances everybody has thought through,” said Freada Kapor Klein, who co-chairs the Kapor Center for Social Impact and founded a summer math and science program for low-income, underrepresented high school students of color. “Students are coming from … a predominantly people-of-color campus and being parachuted into a an overwhelmingly white, Asian and male environment.”

Others agreed that the program’s success will lie in its details — as well as in how well it translates to hires. Data shows there are proportionally more students of color graduating from computer science programs than are being hired by big firms, making the real problem not the pipeline, but a lack of hiring, said Ellie Tumbuan, a principal at Vaya Consulting, which assists clients with diversity issues in the Bay Area. “Everyone is understanding that it’s more important to build long-term relationships,” she said. “The real commitment comes with what are you actually going to do about hiring.”



I Had to Leave Google to Succeed As an Entrepreneur

The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What advice would you give your 22-year-old self today?” is written by Pete Johnston, CEO of Lystable.

I always knew that I was not going to spend my life working for someone else, but it took a while for me to get to the point where I could actually build my own company. Throughout this process, I received two key pieces of advice—one personal, one professional—that I would give to my 22-year-old self.

My background is in graphic design, and after graduating from university I took a couple of freelance and agency gigs before landing at Google. It was a great job, but I knew that it was going to hard for me to settle there. I had just never found my groove in a company, and so was always looking for what my next thing would be. I felt that I just needed the right idea. In all my jobs, I’d experienced the pain points involved in managing freelancers, and this experience, combined with exposure to all the entrepreneurs succeeding through programs like Google Campus and Google Ventures, inspired me to found Lystable.

Armed with this inspiration, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was on my own, without many connections or much experience, but I managed to wrangle a meeting with the managing director of Techstars London, an organization that helps entrepreneurs build their startups. He was upfront with me, saying that I would never get into Techstars as a solo founder with no product, no team, and no business plan. My cozy job at Google, where I got three free meals a day and stayed squarely in my comfort zone, was beginning to look pretty nice. But after a number of weeks and grueling interviews, Techstars decided that they liked my idea. I was told during my final interview that if I wanted to pursue it, I needed to hand in my notice to Google the following day.

I made the decision to leave the Google mothership and venture into the unknown for the first time. Everyone around me thought I was crazy. My mother couldn’t believe I left a job that paid well and enabled me to support myself. I knew that founding a startup would be risky and involve a different pace of life, but I still wasn’t totally prepared for the intense, draining experience of going through an accelerator program as a solo founder, with no one to share the burden of brutal feedback.

At Techstars, I was introduced to a veteran in the startup space who generously met with me on a regular basis. He said to me, “Look, it’s going to be scary. This is normal. All passionate startup founders go through this, and you can’t give up. Keep going.”

This was what my younger self needed to hear. There are countless moments of doubt and fear as an entrepreneur. I know it sounds simple, but “don’t give up” was a piece of advice that got me through the intense ups and downs and reminded me that I could start a company. The unknown used to be something I feared. But now I welcome it, since I know I have a great team and network behind me.

The second important piece of advice was about how to approach my product. In the early days of Lystable, the Techstars London managing director told me to throw out the rulebook. I was accustomed to a somewhat rigid corporate environment, and he wanted to make sure that I didn’t limit myself.

That advice still rings true for me today, more than I ever thought possible. For example, Lystable is currently tackling payments from our companies to freelancers this quarter, and originally I thought something as transactional as this was going to be simple. I was totally wrong—we ended up needing to find more creative solutions to the problem.

These two pieces of advice—don’t give up and completely ignore the rulebook and conventions already in place—have had a profound influence on who I am as an entrepreneur. If I hadn’t listened to these lessons, I’d most likely be back at a nice comfy corporate job, wondering about what could have been.



Internet Saathi: How Google is connecting women of rural India to the Web

The Internet in India is not just a commodity now, it has become a part of our lives so much so that it transcends from a tool to an emotion. Right from the days of dial-up connections to Reliance Jio, the Internet is something that the country has adapted to in a much aggressive way. India is among the top five countries of the world with an active Internet user base of more than 367 million and post-Reliance Jio, it has only risen.

While all these numbers hold to be true, they do not give us the whole picture. Most people in India actually don’t know the power of the Internet neither they have the means to harness it. Rural India holds an estimated population of more than 906 million but only has 17 percent active Internet users. In comparison, the urban populace has been clocked at 444 million with 60 percent active Internet penetration. Sadly, for every 10 male internet users in rural India, there’s just one woman who gets to use it. This is where Google’s Internet Saathi comes into play, which was originally announced back in 2015 by its CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google invited PCMag India to a trip down to Sewa Ka Pura village in Dholpur district of Rajasthan where it is running its Internet Saathi programme. Here we managed to capture a snapshot on how this programme is connecting the women of rural India to the world wide web.

What is Internet Saathi?

As the saying goes by, when you teach a man, you’re only teaching a single individual, but if you educate a woman, you’re empowering a family, a nation. Under Google India’s Helping Women Get Online initiative, the Internet Saathi programme was launched in July 2015 and is backed by Tata Trusts. The programme is aimed at connecting women of rural India to the Internet while bridging the digital gender divide in the country. Google provides resources such as the devices and training while Tata Trusts ensures that the programme reaches the right village and oversees its implementation.

Through Internet Saathi initiative, women ambassadors also known as ‘Saathi’, train and educate women across Indian villages on the benefits of the internet in their day-to-day life. Google says that the programme has already helped over 2 million women covering ten states and 60,000 villages where its active, get online. From teaching them about how to use a smartphone to helping them search online, Internet Saathi opens up a new window for the women in rural parts of the country.

How does the Internet Saathi programme work?

The whole process begins with the identification of potential villages where the programme can be introduced. Next, Google along with Tata Trusts identifies women who have basic reading and writing capabilities along with a curiosity to know more. After narrowing down to the potential Saathis, Google begins their training which lasts for two to three days. After the training, these Saathis begin to train other women, first across their own village and afterwards moving to the villages in the neighbourhood.

During the course of their training, the Saathis are introduced to the world of Internet and smartphones. They’re trained to hold the smartphone correctly, to power it on and off, to lock and unlock it, go about the interface, to use the camera, to use the calculator, to search for anything using Google Chrome and even text through WhatsApp.

“I saw a smartphone for the very first time during Internet Saathi training. At first, I thought, I might get an electric shock, that the phone would get damaged. I was scared and held the smartphone the wrong way, first time I picked it up,” remembers Parvati Khushwa, an Internet Saathi from Sewa Ka Pura village in Dholpur district of Rajasthan.

“Previously, my husband had a phone with buttons,” she says, referring to feature phones, “ but he did not let me touch that phone because it might get broken and said what could I do with the phone anyway?”

Google, in their training, encourages the women to learn more and more about the benefits of the Internet and smartphone in general and lets the Saathis adapt to it.

In what way do the Internet Saathis use Google’s services?

Rural areas in India are mostly focused on two things — cattle farming and agriculture with women managing the household chores as well. With Internet, there’s a whole new world out there waiting for these people. Parvati saw a paper plates making machine on the Internet and thought that as Ram Niwas (her husband) who was now recovering from his illness, couldn’t work out in the fields, maybe buying the machine would help them make some money. She sourced the plates making machine from Agra in Uttar Pradesh and bought it. Both of them learned how to make plates from the machine by watching videos from the Internet.

Parvati also taught a couple to use the internet which led them to discover about various different food recipes. The couple has now setup a food stall at their village where they sell different varieties of snacks which more than makes up for their survival.



Google and Levi’s smart jacket shows what’s coming next for wearables

Google and Levi’s showed off this week a new joint project: a $350 smart jean jacket. While this jacket literally puts tech on your sleeve, it does it in a subtle way that doesn’t require putting another screen on your body. In doing so, it offers a glimpse of what smart fabrics can do and of the evolution of the wearables market — one in which consumers won’t have to wear a clunky accessory that screams high tech.

The smart Commuter jacket, which was introduced over the weekend at SXSW in Austin, is aimed at those who bike to work. It has technology woven into its fibers, and allows users to take phone calls, get directions and check the time, by tapping and swiping their sleeves. That delivers information to them through their headphones so that they can keep their eyes on the road without having to fiddle with a screen. The jacket should hit stores this fall.

Its smart fibers are washable; they’re powered by a sort of smart cufflink that you’ll have to remove when you wash the jacket. The cufflink has a two-day battery life.

While the idea of a smart jean jacket may not appeal to everyone (especially on a hot summer day), the existence of such a jacket is telling about where the market may be going.

“I think that the commuter jacket from Levi’s is really perfect because it’s focused on a single consumer audience. It has the cyclist in mind and is targeting what their needs are,” said Sidney Morgan-Petro, retail editor at trend forcasting firm WGSN.

She said that what makes the Commuter jacket different from other wearables — and even other smart clothing — is that it’s not necessarily marketing the tech as its main feature, but rather using it to solve problems that everyday people have. Many smartwatches and even other smart clothing can feel like solutions in search of a problem to solve. The Commuter jacket, she said, stands out as a type of wearable for a more everyday consumer who may not be that interested in the tech, but likes the practical features that come with a stylish jacket.

Wearables are expected to be a $19 billion industry by 2018, according to Juniper Research. Products including Fitbit fitness trackers, Android Wear watches and the Apple Watch have helped fuel a rise in mainstream awareness of wearables for the past several years, even leading Fitbit to go public in 2015. But the market for wearables has taken a bit of a tumble in the past few quarters. Fitbit in January announced it had missed earnings expectations and starting cutting jobs because sales were lower than expected.

It’s hard to say exactly what has caused the cool-down in wearables, but one possibility is that the market for uber-techy wearables that try to put a smartwatch on your wrist is pretty saturated. Analysts have pointed to a shift in the market away from the super-functional smartwatch toward gadgets that are a little more focused and better looking to boot.



Why Former Tech Execs Are Leaving Google And Twitter To Start Health Care Companies

When Stephanie Tilenius, a former senior executive at eBay and Google, decided to start a health-coaching app, many in her network were incredulous. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” she recalls. “Some people loved that I wanted to do something to help others, but a lot socially ostracized me.”


For many entrepreneurs, the health sector offers an enticing opportunity–with strings attached. It’s an estimated $3 trillion market and is still dominated by a cadre of traditional players. But many in the technology sector have shied away from the industry after witnessing many high-profile failures and realizing that change doesn’t happen quickly. “Silicon Valley operators and investors see that health care needs better technology,” explains veteran health IT consultant Ben Rooks. “But they learn quickly that health care isn’t about radical disruption; it’s about slow evolution.”

Despite the challenges, a small but growing group of former technologists from companies like Google and Twitter are in it for the long haul. In many cases, their motivations are deeply personal: A family member lost to chronic disease, or a brush with the broken health care system. I spoke to four former tech executives about their reasons for moving into health care, the cultural differences between the two sectors, and the challenges they’ve faced along the way.

“Because patients deserve better than a seven-minute visit.”–Stephanie Tilenius, former VP of commerce and payments at Google and former GM and VP at eBay and PayPal

Stephanie Tilenius started her career at e-commerce companies like eBay and PayPal, and eventually ascended the ranks to become a senior vice president at Google. But prior to joining eBay in 2001, she spent a few years at an online drugstore called PlanetRx. That early experience in health care had a lasting impact on Tilenius. When her father got sick, she felt an even stronger pull to quit her steady tech job to make an impact in the sector. “My father had multiple chronic conditions and went from doctor to doctor,” she recalls.

These days, she is the CEO of a startup called Vida, which provides virtual care for patients with chronic ailments. Before starting the company, Tilenius reflected on her father’s need for “continuous care,” which would involve all of his care providers communicating with him and each other between office visits. Tilenius believes his heart attack could have been avoided, or at least delayed, if he had received better care than a “seven-minute visit, in which all his doctors would all just tell him to change his diet.”

Unlike many of her peers in health tech, she made a point of working closely with medical centers that were already developing clinically validated programs for treating patients with chronic disease like diabetes, depression, and hypertension. She started Vida to make these programs more accessible by shifting some of the components online, and connecting patients with virtual health coaches to inspire long-term behavioral changes.

At first, many friends and acquaintances in her network couldn’t understand why she’d leave a successful career in tech to start a health company that would likely grow and monetize at a slow pace. “People didn’t understand why I would leave a senior role and money on the table,” she says. “In Silicon Valley, it’s about hypergrowth, and if you’re not doing that, then there’s something wrong.” Likewise, many in health care were skeptical about technologists moving into their own complex sector. Tilenius believes that she’ll ultimately show her detractors on both sides that new platforms will emerge in health care, starting with mobile and cloud, and that companies like Vida will be at the forefront. Ultimately, she asks, “Don’t you want us crazy Googlers to help people by building companies and taking risks?”


“It’s a quest for purpose.”–Katie Jacobs Stanton, former VP of global media for Twitter, and Othman Laraki, former VP of product management at Twitter and former product manager at Google

For Othman Laraki, the CEO of Color Genomics, the migration of technologists to health care is inevitable as the so-called “internet generation” ages and their priorities change. Laraki’s company offers a $249 test to screen people for gene mutations associated with various cancers. Laraki says he left a job in product management, in part because he learned that he is a carrier of one of these mutations. He also found through his research that those with an early awareness of their disease risks can take proactive and preventative steps. “Color started with a simple question,” he recalls. “Is this test something that could benefit my family as well as other families out there?”



Google’s DeepMind plans bitcoin-style health record tracking for hospitals

Google’s AI-powered health tech subsidiary, DeepMind Health, is planning to use a new technology loosely based on bitcoin to let hospitals, the NHS and eventually even patients track what happens to personal data in real-time.

Dubbed “Verifiable Data Audit”, the plan is to create a special digital ledger that automatically records every interaction with patient data in a cryptographically verifiable manner. This means any changes to, or access of, the data would be visible.

DeepMind has been working in partnership with London’s Royal Free Hospital to develop kidney monitoring software called Streams and has faced criticism from patient groups for what they claim are overly broad data sharing agreements. Critics fear that the data sharing has the potential to give DeepMind, and thus Google, too much power over the NHS.

In a blogpost, DeepMind co-founder, Mustafa Suleyman, and head of security and transparency, Ben Laurie, use an example relating to the Royal Free Hospital partnership to explain how the system will work. “[An] entry will record the fact that a particular piece of data has been used, and also the reason why, for example, that blood test data was checked against the NHS national algorithm to detect possible acute kidney injury,” they write.

Suleyman says that development on the data audit proposal began long before the launch of Streams, when Laurie, the co-creator of the widely-used Apache server software, was hired by DeepMind. “This project has been brewing since before we started DeepMind Health,” he told the Guardian, “but it does add another layer of transparency.

“Our mission is absolutely central, and a core part of that is figuring out how we can do a better job of building trust. Transparency and better control of data is what will build trust in the long term.” Suleyman pointed to a number of efforts DeepMind has already undertaken in an attempt to build that trust, from its founding membership of the industry group Partnership on AI to its creation of a board of independent reviewers for DeepMind Health, but argued the technical methods being proposed by the firm provide the “other half” of the equation.


Nicola Perrin, the head of the Wellcome Trust’s “Understanding Patient Data” taskforce, welcomed the verifiable data audit concept. “There are a lot of calls for a robust audit trail to be able to track exactly what happens to personal data, and particularly to be able to check how data is used once it leaves a hospital or NHS Digital. DeepMind are suggesting using technology to help deliver that audit trail, in a way that should be much more secure than anything we have seen before.”

Perrin said the approach could help address DeepMind’s challenge of winning over the public. “One of the main criticisms about DeepMind’s collaboration with the Royal Free was the difficulty of distinguishing between uses of data for care and for research. This type of approach could help address that challenge, and suggests they are trying to respond to the concerns.

“Technological solutions won’t be the only answer, but I think will form an important part of developing trustworthy systems that give people more confidence about how data is used.”

The systems at work are loosely related to the cryptocurrency bitcoin, and the blockchain technology that underpins it. DeepMind says: “Like blockchain, the ledger will be append-only, so once a record of data use is added, it can’t later be erased. And like blockchain, the ledger will make it possible for third parties to verify that nobody has tampered with any of the entries.”

Laurie downplays the similarities. “I can’t stop people from calling it blockchain related,” he said, but he described blockchains in general as “incredibly wasteful” in the way they go about ensuring data integrity: the technology involves blockchain participants burning astronomical amounts of energy – by some estimates as much as the nation of Cyprus – in an effort to ensure that a decentralised ledger can’t be monopolised by any one group.

DeepMind argues that health data, unlike a cryptocurrency, doesn’t need to be decentralised – Laurie says at most it needs to be “federated” between a small group of healthcare providers and data processors – so the wasteful elements of blockchain technology need not be imported over. Instead, the data audit system uses a mathematical function called a Merkle tree, which allows the entire history of the data to be represented by a relatively small record, yet one which instantly shows any attempt to rewrite history.



Google’s new reCAPTCHA automatically tells you’re not a bot

Over the years, Google has utilised a number of methods to distinguish between human and bots on the web. Its take on the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) test, known as reCAPTCHA, has required you to transcribe distorted words, confirm Street View addresses or simply just tick a box. Soon, you won’t need to do the hard work, because Google’s making the system invisible.

Using a combination of machine learning and advanced risk analysis, Google has updated its system to detect user habits without dedicated interaction. When you arrive on a web page, the controls should disappear and serve the relevant content. However, if you do trip Google’s risk analysis algorithms, you may need to quickly solve one of the search giant’s puzzles.

While the new system is invisible, it will still consider variables like your IP address and the movements of your mouse. Google says its technology will “actively consider a user’s engagement with the CAPTCHA — before, during, and after — to determine whether that user is a human.” That means no more transcription, which offered a human balance to Google’s optical character recognition, but you may now find what you were looking for a lot quicker.




Google helps libraries encourage kids to code

Google has added a new project to its list of library programs, which include WiFi hotspot lending. The tech titan has teamed up with the American Library Association (ALA) to launch “Libraries Ready to Code,” an initiative that aims to help equip librarians with the right skills and tools to encourage kids to code. It won’t turn every librarian into a coding expect, but it will train them to be able to provide an introduction to computer science.

The program will give them the knowledge necessary to be able to conjure up and implement the right (fun!) CS programs for their communities. It will also help Library and Information Science schools redesign their tech and media courses for fledgling librarians by adding various CS activities.

Google and ALA are hoping the project can turn libraries into a place where kids from all backgrounds can start exploring the world of computer sciences. As Crystle Martin, Secretary of the Young Adult Library Services Association, said:

“Libraries and library staff can create opportunities for youth to gain basic exposure and a basic interest in coding. From there, with support and mentorship from librarians and staff, they can develop long term engagement and possibly computer science as an envisioned future.”



Google uses AI to help diagnose breast cancer

Google, which not along ago was using artificial intelligence to identify cat pictures, has moved onto something bigger — breast cancer.

Google announced Friday that it has achieved state-of-the-art results in using artificial intelligence to identify breast cancer. The findings are a reminder of the rapid advances in artificial intelligence, and its potential to improve global health.

Google used a flavor of artificial intelligence called deep learning to analyze thousands of slides of cancer cells provided by a Dutch university. Deep learning is where computers are taught to recognize patterns in huge data sets. It’s very useful for visual tasks, such as looking at a breast cancer biopsy.

With 230,000 new cases of breast cancer every year in the United States, Google hopes its technology will help pathologists better treat patients. The technology isn’t designed to, or capable of, replacing human doctors.

“What we’ve trained is just a little sliver of software that helps with one part of a very complex series of tasks,” said Lily Peng, the project manager behind Google’s work. “There will hopefully be more and more of these tools that help doctors [who] have to go through an enormous amount of information all the time.”

Peng described to CNNTech how the human and the computer could work together to create better outcomes. Google’s artificial intelligence system excels at being very sensitive to potential cancer. It will flag things a human will miss. But it sometimes will falsely identify something as cancer, whereas a human pathologist is better at saying, “no, this isn’t cancer.”

“Imagine combining these two types of super powers,” Peng said. “The algorithm helps you localize and find these tumors. And the doctor is really good at saying, ‘This is not cancer.’”

For now, Google’s progress is still research mode and remains in the lab. Google isn’t going to become your pathologist’s assistant tomorrow. But Google and many other players are striving toward a future where that becomes a reality.

Jeroen van der Laak, who leads the pathology department at Radboud University Medical Center, believes the first algorithms for cancer will be available within a couple years, and large-scale routine use will occur in about five years. His university provided the slides for Google’s research.

The technology will be especially useful in parts of the world where there’s a shortage of physicians. For patients who don’t have access to a pathologist, an algorithm — even if imperfect — would be a meaningful improvement. Van der Laak highlighted India and China as two underserved areas.


Google uses AI to help diagnose breast cancer

Google will release a new Pixel phone this year

The Pixel represents Google’s first proper foray into the smartphone market, allowing the search giant to directly compete with Apple and cement Android’s reputation as a premium platform. While sales have been steady, it’s been particularly hard to get a hold of one due to component shortages. That hasn’t dampened the company’s plans to continue investing in its own smartphones, though: according to Rick Osterloh, VP of Hardware at Google, there will be a successor to the Pixel this year and will continue to carry a high price tag.


“There is an annual rhythm in the industry. So, you can count on us to follow it,” Osterloh told Android Pit in a briefing at Mobile World Congress. “You can count on a successor this year, even if you don’t hear a date from me now.” In response to questions regarding a low cost Pixel, the Google executive simply told reporters: “the Pixel stays premium.”

Although Google is keeping information to a premium, its typical development cycle suggests a Pixel 2 will go on sale in the fourth quarter. The current Pixel launched in October 2016 and Google has held launch events at around the same time for Nexus phones in the past.

Earlier this week, Osterloh indicated that while the Pixel brand remained reserved for its handsets, it may not make any more of high-end Pixel Chromebooks. Google’s hardware chief quickly moved to reassure consumers that “Google’s own Chromebooks aren’t ‘dead” but the statement still leaves things in the air. Google may still continue to make its own Chromebooks, but they might be released under a new name.

Audiobooks.com becomes the first premium audiobook service to offer full Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatch compatibility

TORONTO, Feb. 16, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Audiobooks.com is pleased to announce their full compatibility with both Apple and Android wearable technologies, making them the only premium audiobook service to provide that option to their customers.

“We recognize how important innovation and convenience are to our customers, so offering them the option to listen with Apple and Android watches was important to us,” says Ian Small, Audiobooks.com CEO.

This expansion into wearable technology is in addition to Audiobooks.com’s availability on tvOS, Sonos, CarPlay, Android Auto, and select infotainment systems in GM, Land Rover and Jaguar vehicles.

“Connective technology – in homes, in cars, and now in style – is the way of the future, and Audiobooks.com is committed to being on the leading edge of that movement.”

Apple Watch and Android Wear smartwatch users can now:

  • Launch the Audiobooks.com app from their smartwatch
  • Browse and listen to any audiobook in their My Books library
  • Access controls for play, pause, forward, rewind and volume

This announcement follows the recent Wear 2.0 version update for Android, with which Audiobooks.com is fully compatible when coupled with the mobile app.

About Audiobooks.com
Founded in 2011, Audiobooks.com is an app-based streaming and download service for audiobooks, delivering fast and easy access to over 100,000 titles to booklovers around the world. Subscribers can listen to their audiobook of choice on any Internet-enabled device via the free Audiobooks.com app. The company’s proprietary technology synchronizes users’ last listened-to position across all devices, creating a seamless user experience. Find out more at www.Audiobooks.com.



Google Takes on Cable With ‘YouTube TV’—40 Channels for $35

GOOGLE JUST JOINED the “skinny bundle” TV war with YouTube TV, a paid subscription service that streams a slew of premium broadcast and cable networks to your mobile device, tablet, computer, and anything with Chromecast.

Just $35 a month gets you six accounts and access to live TV from more than 40 providers including the big broadcast networks, ESPN, regional sports networks and dozens of popular cable networks. Subscriptions include cloud DVR with unlimited storage, AI-powered search and personalization, and access to YouTube Red programming. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki calls it the evolution of television, and a bid to “give the younger generation the content that they love with the flexibility they expect.”

So-called skinny bundles include only those channels you really want, at a price that is cheaper than traditional cable. They also bring the world one step closer to the day when you can watch what you want, when you want, when you want, on the device you want. YouTube TV joins a growing wave of services, including Dish’s Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s new DirectTV Now, with a similar web TV offering from Hulu expected soon. And like these other options, unfortunately, YouTube still has some holes with its offering.

YouTube says it spent two years working on this, and reportedly landed its first partner in October when CBS signed on for the skinny bundle. Other big networks like ABC, NBC, Fox, are on board, but several premium channels, like MTV and CNN, aren’t. You can add content like Showtime and soccer for an added fee, but some content comes with restrictions. If you’re a pro football fan, for example, you’ll have to watch games on your TV or computer because the NFL’s deal with Verizon made it off-limits to your mobile device. And no matter what you watch or what you watch it on, you may see ads—Google, being Google, and its network partners can sell ads on YouTube TV to bring in additional revenue.

The company won’t say when the service launches, but says you can expect it in the US in the “coming weeks and months.”

Still, YouTube TV shows how far the company has come since its founding in 2005, when it was little more than a place for people to share homemade video clips. Today YouTube is the biggest online destination for video, with people watching more than 1 billion hours of video each day. And if there’s one thing the internet’s biggest video company getting into this space proves, it’s that such a la carte viewing is the inevitable future of television.



Google reveals the latest plans for its futuristic campus

Google’s plans for its futuristic Mountain View campus changed yet again when it swapped lands with LinkedIn last year. The tech titan has recently submitted its updated proposal to City of Mountain View, and its computer renders show us what Google’s new vision looks like. The canopy you see in the center of the image above will be located outside the existing Googleplex and will have the capability to regulate climate, air quality and sound indoors.


As 9to5Google said, the company also wants its campus to become a “destination for the local community,” so it envisions a place with lots of green spaces open not just to employees, but also to the public. It’s planning to build small parks throughout and a plaza with food stalls and the like. To make sure all the activity doesn’t distract Googlers, employee offices will be located on the second floor of the new building.

You can see the entirety of the big G’s plans in the documents (PDF) it submitted. Mountain View’s authorities will have to approve the proposal before construction begins. If and when it does, the company expects the new campus to be completed within 30 months.



A series of U.S. state laws could prevent Uber or Google from operating self-driving cars

A series of bills introduced in at least four U.S. states — Georgia, Maryland, Illinois and Tennessee — would restrict the deployment of autonomous car technology on public roads to automakers — that is, companies that make cars.

As written, the bills — modeled after the SAVE Act, Michigan’s pioneering self-driving car regulations— would only allow a network of self-driving cars to operate on public roads if the cars are owned by an automaker.

The draft bill being considered in Tennessee, for instance, says: “Only motor vehicle manufacturers are eligible to participate in a SAVE project, and each motor vehicle manufacturer is responsible for the safe operation of its participating fleet.”


This suggests companies like Uber or Alphabet — which owns Waymo, previously known as the Google car project — may not be able to roll out their own self-driving cars in these states. Both companies are developing self-driving car technology, but neither manufactures vehicles.

These bills mirror what was originally proposed in Michigan — home to the U.S. auto industry — where there are now comprehensive laws on the testing and deployment of self-driving cars. But when later passed, the Michigan law included new language that allows companies like Uber and Google to launch ride-hail networks of autonomous cars, as long as they either work with an automaker or get their prototype approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So far, the bills being proposed in these four states don’t include that language.



Cameroon Teen Is 1st African to Win Google Coding Challenge

A teenager in northwestern Cameroon has become the first African to win Google’s global youth coding challenge, despite an ongoing internet blackout in his hometown.

Nji Patrick Gbah’s tailor shop in Bamenda is buzzing with business and pride. His son, Collins, was recently named one of 34 grand-prize winners in this year’s Google Code-In, a global challenge for young programmers.

He used to punish his son for “joking” with the computer.

“I was feeling that he is just spending his time without doing house chores. At times I used to seize my computer and lock it in the house and I tell him not to use it anymore because I was believing that he is just spending time on that computer for nothing,” said the teen’s father.

Nji Collins Gbah has won a trip to Google headquarters in California this June with the other top finishers.

The competition was open to students between the ages of 13 and 17. More than 1,300 young people from 62 countries participated this year.

“The only thing I want to say is focus on studies,” Collins said. “Get to know more about the opportunities that are around you and go to sites which have real information about opportunities like this.”

But that may be hard at the moment for his fellow students in Bamenda. In mid-January, the internet was cut to English-speaking parts of Cameroon, amid ongoing unrest.

Collins had to plead with his uncle for travel money so he could go to to Mbouda, a French-speaking town 30 kilometers away, to get online and compete. He had just a few days to complete 842 programming tasks.

Many believe the government ordered the internet blackout, though there has been no official confirmation.

Teachers and lawyers have been on strike in the English-speaking regions since November. They have been joined by activists calling for secession. Some demonstrations have turned violent and dozens of people have been arrested.

Officials say activists have been using social media to spread anti-government messages.

Cameroon’s minister of post and telecommunication, Libom Li Likeng, told VOA there has to be a responsible use of technology. She says although social networks provide lots of opportunities, they have noticed that many people use them for unhealthy purposes.

African countries have been increasingly responding to unrest by cutting internet access. Uganda, Congo and Mali are just a few other examples.

Last week, a U.N. rights expert called the internet blackout in parts of Cameroon “an appalling violation” of freedom of expression.

Residents in affected areas say it is impacting the economy as money transfer services and ATM’s are not working.



Now Anyone Can Deploy Google’s Troll-Fighting AI

LAST SEPTEMBER, A Google offshoot called Jigsaw declared war on trolls, launching a project to defeat online harassment using machine learning. Now, the team is opening up that troll-fighting system to the world.

On Thursday, Jigsaw and its partners on Google’s Counter Abuse Technology Team released a new piece of code called Perspective, an API that gives any developer access to the anti-harassment tools that Jigsaw has worked on for over a year. Part of the team’s broader Conversation AI initiative, Perspective uses machine learning to automatically detect insults, harassment, and abusive speech online. Enter a sentence into its interface, and Jigsaw says its AI can immediately spit out an assessment of the phrase’s “toxicity” more accurately than any keyword blacklist, and faster than any human moderator.

The Perspective release brings Conversation AI a step closer to its goal of helping to foster troll-free discussion online, and filtering out the abusive comments that silence vulnerable voices—or, as the project’s critics have less generously put it, to sanitize public discussions based on algorithmic decisions.

An Internet Antitoxin

Conversation AI has always been an open source project. But by opening up that system further with an API, Jigsaw and Google can offer developers the ability to tap into that machine-learning-trained speech toxicity detector running on Google’s servers, whether for identifying harassment and abuse on social media or more efficiently filtering invective from the comments on a news website.

“We hope this is a moment where Conversation AI goes from being ‘this is interesting’ to a place where everyone can start engaging and leveraging these models to improve discussion,” says Conversation AI product manager CJ Adams. For anyone trying to rein in the comments on a news site or social media, Adams says, “the options have been upvotes, downvotes, turning off comments altogether or manually moderating. This gives them a new option: Take a bunch of collective intelligence—that will keep getting better over time—about what toxic comments people have said would make them leave, and use that information to help your community’s discussions.”

On a demonstration website launched today, Conversation AI will now let anyone type a phrase into Perspective’s interface to instantaneously see how it rates on the “toxicity” scale. Google and Jigsaw developed that measurement tool by taking millions of comments from Wikipedia editorial discussions, the New York Times and other unnamed partners—five times as much data, Jigsaw says, as when it debuted Conversation AI in September—and then showing every one of those comments to panels of ten people Jigsaw recruited online to state whether they found the comment “toxic.”

The resulting judgements gave Jigsaw and Google a massive set of training examples with which to teach their machine learning model, just as human children are largely taught by example what constitutes abusive language or harassment in the offline world. Type “you are not a nice person” into its text field, and Perspective will tell you it has an 8 percent similarity to phrases people consider “toxic.” Write “you are a nasty woman,” by contrast, and Perspective will rate it 92 percent toxic, and “you are a bad hombre” gets a 78 percent rating. If one of its ratings seems wrong, the interface offers an option to report a correction, too, which will eventually be used to retrain the machine learning model.

The Perspective API will allow developers to access that test with automated code, providing answers quickly enough that publishers can integrate it into their website to show toxicity ratings to commenters even as they’re typing. And Jigsaw has already partnered with online communities and publishers to implement that toxicity measurement system. Wikipedia used it to perform a study of its editorial discussion pages. The New York Times is planning to use it as a first pass of all its comments, automatically flagging abusive ones for its team of human moderators. And the Guardian and the Economist are now both experimenting with the system to see how they might use it to improve their comment sections, too. “Ultimately we want the AI to surface the toxic stuff to us faster,” says Denise Law, the Economist’s community editor. “If we can remove that, what we’d have left is all the really nice comments. We’d create a safe space where everyone can have intelligent debates.”



Google and Microsoft agree crackdown on piracy sites in search results

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines.

In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft’s Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. Under the “code of practice”, Bing and Google have agreed to remove links to infringing content from the first page of results.

The voluntary agreement was brokered by the U.K. Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the government department that deals with patents and copyright issues, who called it a “landmark” deal.

Search engines, in particular Google, have clashed in recent times with organizations that represent rights holders about how best to tackle pirated content. Even Google’s YouTube has come under fire from the music industry over copyright in the past.

“Consumers are increasingly heading online for music, films, e-books, and a wide variety of other content. It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites,” Jo Johnson, U.K. minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, said in a press release on Monday.

The BPI (British Phonographic Industry), which represents the U.K.’s recorded music industry, and the Motion Picture Association are also part of the agreement.

Both Bing and Google currently allow copyright owners across the globe to make a request for the removal of a link. In the past 12 months, Google has taken down 915 million links following requests from copyright holders. Bing took down over 91 million links between January and June 2016, according to a Microsoft transparency report.

The code was agreed on February 9 and will come into force immediately. It sets targets for reducing the visibility of infringing content in search results by June 1, 2017.



7-year-old girl asks Google for a job, gets response from CEO

A 7-year-old girl has already made it onto Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s radar by mailing a handwritten “job application” to the executive a few years early.

Chloe Bridgewater from Hereford, England, was talking with her dad about his job one day after school when he mentioned the internet giant.

“She asked what I would love to do, I said, “Well, it’d be cool to work at Google,’” Andy Bridgewater, Chloe’s dad, told CBS News. “She asked why and then I showed her their offices.”

After looking at photos of beanbag chairs, slides and other “cool” things, Chloe decided she, too, would like to work there one day.

“So, I asked if she wanted to apply,” Bridgewater joked. 

Chloe unexpectedly agreed, and pulled out a sheet of notebook paper to jot down her ideas.

“Dear Google boss,” Chloe’s letter began. “When I am bigger I would like a job with Google.”

The ambitious 7-year-old also mentioned that she’d like to work in a chocolate factory and swim in the Olympics, but that didn’t deter Pichai from taking her letter seriously.

Read the full letter Chloe wrote below:


Four days after Chloe mailed the one-page letter to Google headquarters in late January, Pichai responded with a letter of his own, shocking both the little girl and her dad.

“I am glad you like computers and robots, and hope that you will continue to learn about technology,” Pichai wrote. “I think if you keep working hard and following your dreams, you can accomplish everything you set your mind to — from working at Google to swimming in the Olympics.”

Pichai’s letter to Chloe went viral when her father posted it on LinkedIn Tuesday. Google confirmed the authenticity of the letter to CBS News.



You can now explore seven countries in Africa thanks to Google Street

Globetrotting can be hard, but Google is here to make it easier — not when it comes to flight and hotel accommodations, but rather with an ever-expanding repository of the most incredible sights from around the world. Google has added some of the highlights from the majestic continent of Africa to its Google Street View knowledge base and starting today, you’ll be able to take virtual tours of “some of the most iconic landmarks and monuments in Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda.”

You can now explore a total of 81 countries without ever leaving your home by way of Google Street View, seven of which are located in Africa. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage-classified village of Nzulezo in Ghana, built over Lake Tadane, whose stilt-supported structures are integrated with the water-centric landscape of the area.


You can also pay a virtual visit to the National Theatre of Ghana, which houses the National Dance Company, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the National Theatre Players. For a different kind of art, you can head over to Senegal’s African Renaissance monument, a bronze statue that rises 49 meters into the air. Or you can look at natural landmarks like the pink-watered Lake Retba.

Google partnered with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to virtually bring you to seven of that country’s most famous National Parks, home to various primate species and more than 600 species of birds.

“We are excited that what began with a few South African cities in 2009, has now expanded to many other cities in 7 countries across the continent,” Google concluded, “From Cape Town to Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and now Ghana, Uganda and Senegal, we are glad that more people from around the world are turning to Street View to to get a glimpse of this beautiful continent. We wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll be tempted to pack your own cameras to explore in person as well!”

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/google-street-view-africa/#ixzz4YlLoLSfi
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Google may soon ban torrent sites

Google’s war against piracy is going to be more fierce now. Reportedly, the company is soon going to ban all the torrent sites. According to the new report by TorrentFreak , Google has been criticized by the Hollywood representatives for promoting piracy. Incidentally, Google is not the only web company that is working on measures to counter the torrent sites. Other search engines like Bing are also part of the plan.

“The search engines involved in this work have been very co-operative, making changes to their algorithms and processes, but also working bilaterally with creative industry representatives to explore the options for new interventions, and how existing processes might be streamlined,” Baroness Buscombe from UK told Torrent Freak.

According to the new report, a discussion took place recently and was chaired by UK’s Intellectual Property Office. Companies like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Hollywood representatives joined the meeting. Though these changes for now is expected only in UK, internet is a interconnected world and may see a global effect of  the ban.

While not much details of the meeting have yet been revealed, it is expected that the new bill will come in effect from June 1, 2017.

Google last year also was dragged into similar controversy after it was asked to remove links which violated the copyright act.  In the same year, India also banned Kickass Torrents and search engine Torrentz. Also downloading any illegal content is now seen as a punishable offense in the country and may land you up in jail.



Google Play Books is Promoting Bite Sized eBooks in India

Google Play Books has been experimenting with a number of new initiatives in the past two months. They have been ironing out promotional contracts with major publishers for an e-book rental system in the US and they have just unveiled a new bite sized e-book platform in India.

The new Google Play Books system in India is the equivalent of Kindle Singles, they comprise of e-books that are too short to be a novel and too long to be a featured magazine article. Google is hoping that the 5-20 page e-books, written by A list authors, will catch on in India and are only charging a few cents for each title. Right now the only way to pay is via credit card or netbanking, although Google is working with local Telcos to introduce carrier billing.



Google officially brings WebVR to Chrome

Using VR on your phone has always been a pretty deliberate decision, you slot your phone into a headset, navigate the internal menus and home screens and launch apps and experiences from within the headset. Now, Google is making it easier to discover VR content spontaneously by bringing WebVR to Chrome.


Previously Chrome lacked mobile browser support for WebVR, meaning that the browser couldn’t gather any data regarding the phone’s position and orientation or input controller. With this data, Chrome has the ability to offer pretty rich experiences. Users can navigate to a particular webpage, tap on a WebVR experience and have the option of navigating it with their finger (or mouse on desktop) or tossing the phone into their Daydream View to embrace a more immersive experience.

In December, Google rolled out support for the WebVR API to a beta of Chrome, but now that update is going wide.

WebVR allows companies and content creators to delve into the world of creating VR experiences without having to host those experiences in a native VR app. This update to Chrome not only allows websites to host 360-degree videos that users can view, but it also supports enabling full experiences with the Daydream headset and controller.

In Google’s blog post, the company highlighted some early partners including SketchFab, Matterport, and PlayCanvas.

Right now, this expansion is limited to users of Google’s Daydream headsets as well as people viewing the VR content on their phone or desktop without a headset. Google says they plan to add support for other headsets soon, including their own Cardboard platform. Given that this only works for Daydream, iPhone users are obviously not included here, but iOS may see some love once Google rolls out full Cardboard support.



Google officially brings WebVR to Chrome

Google in talks to help public healthcare projects in India

The company is in talks with the state government to streamline public health programs. It plans to develop apps that will reduce the time taken in data collection by making it tech-enabled as opposed to tedious paperwork. It will also create a standardized platform under which all health data across programs can be tracked, maintained and easily shared. 

It is not clear at the moment whether Google will also retain the health data that is collected by its proposed platform or not.

“It is an early stage discussion and we do not have anything to comment or add at this stage,” a Google spokesperson told Mashable India.

Google reportedly came up with this proposal after conducting a study of accredited social health activists (ASHA) — also known as community health workers — in north Karnataka and some mid-level clinics in New Delhi. They realized that workers were losing a lot of time and resources in the collection and reporting. And every program ran a different software due to which cross-sharing of data was not possible. 

Google will be piloting the project in Karnataka’s Yadgir district which has a population of about 1.2 million. The state, meanwhile, has a population of 64 million with 2,310 primary health centers and 180 community health centers, according to the National Health Mission. 

The state government runs a variety of public health programs from health protection to families living below poverty line to health assurance schemes for those above poverty line and cashless treatment for all government employees. 

Google could even provide free Wi-Fi to the primary health centers on lines of what they are doing at railway stations across the country, the report suggests.

The Silicon Valley firm has shown keen interest in India in the last few years, with a slew of initiatives and programs targeted at startups and SMBs. 



Google Books will now make better suggestions on what to read next

Google today is launching a new feature for Google Books which aims to offer a better challenge to Amazon’s Kindle app when it comes to helping you find new things to read. Called “Discover,” this new section in the Google Books application will help point users to new content, including both personalized suggestions as well as other recommendations based on what’s currently popular with the wider community.

Amazon, of course, has historically offered personalized recommendations in Kindle’s software as well as across its website. In its Kindle app, Amazon highlights books you may want to read based on your prior shopping history.

Google Books’ recommendations will work much in the same way. The company says it will offer up new stories based on what you read on Google Books. However, it will also automatically suggest books that are mentioned in an article or mentioned in a video you watch, elsewhere in the app – like in the new “Weekly Highlights” section.

This section within Discover will round up the most important news, reviews and videos of the week, says Google, while another new section called “Google Play Editorial” will point readers to other original content beyond books, including interviews with authorsessays from writers, other book selections from book reviewers and critics.

For comparison’s sake, Amazon’s “Book Browser” is the primary way Kindle mobile app users would find new content, but it’s more of a categorical listing of books. For example, beyond the suggestions powered by your shopping history, the app may showcase things like “Books with Narration,” or “Trending Now” selections, but not much more. Other book categories are found at the bottom of the screen, but only as standard navigation.

Meanwhile, Amazon has largely failed to capitalize on its Goodreads acquisition as a means of adding a more social experience when it comes to discovery and recommendations. In fact, the Kindle app’s latest update just oddly crammed a tiny “Goodreads” button on top of the “All Items” screen, so you can tap to see updates from that network.


Google Books will now make better suggestions on what to read next

Google hands over $3m in bug bounties as payouts soar for new Android flaws

Google paid researchers over $3m last year for their contributions to its vulnerability rewards programs.

Payouts in 2016 take Google’s total payments under its bug bounty schemes to $9m since it started rewarding researchers in 2010. In 2015 it paid researchers $2m, which brought its total then to $6m.

It’s not uncommon for tech companies to run bug bounties these days, but while many rely on third-party platforms, Google has been responsible for verifying bugs for over six years now.

Occasionally, Google expands its program to cover new products, such as Android, and new devices such as OnHub and Nest. Facebook, Microsoft, and most recently Apple are also running their own bug bounties.

Last year was the first full year Android was covered by Google’s bug bounty, which earned researchers nearly $1m for finding and reporting issues to the Android security team. That figure is significantly more than the $200,000 it paid in 2015 after launching the Android rewards program that June.

Google’s acknowledgements to individuals who’ve helped improved Android security have grown in recent years as it has expanded efforts to secure the operating system.

The Android bug bounty launched just ahead of Google’s monthly Android security bulletins, which encourages handset makers to deliver patches regularly to devices and allows end-users to see what date their phones are patched to.

Google also paid nearly $1m to researchers who reported bugs in the longer-running Chrome vulnerability rewards program.


The company says its three rewards programs attracted over 350 researchers from 59 countries, while it issued over 1,000 individual rewards with the biggest single reward being $100,000. Additionally, $130,000 was donated to charities.

Google doesn’t say what its $100,000 payment went on, but last year it created a $100,000 standing offer for remotely hacking a Chromebook while it’s in guest mode.

“The amounts we award vary, but our message to researchers does not; each one represents a sincere ‘thank you’,” said Eduardo Vela Nava, technical lead for the vulnerability rewards program.



Google creates $4 million crisis fund following Trump’s immigration ban

Google has created a $4 million crisis fund for those affected by President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, according to a report from USA Today. The $2 million fund can be matched by up to $2 million from employees, with all donations going toward four organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee and UNHCR, the UN agency responsible for protecting refugees. According to USA Today, the humanitarian campaign is Google’s largest ever.

The fund was announced in a memo from CEO Sundar Pichai, and confirmed to USA Today by a Google spokesperson. Pichai criticized Trump’s ban in an internal memo over the weekend, saying that it is “painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.” The executive order, which temporarily bars immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, affects at least 187 Google employees, according to Pichai’s memo.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin also joined protests against the executive order at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, though he told The Verge that he was doing so “in a personal capacity.” Brin’s family fled the Soviet Union in 1979 to avoid persecution; Pichai is also an immigrant from India.

Several tech executives have spoken out against Trump’s executive order — some more forcefully than others. Over the weekend, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said that “Trumps actions… are so un-American it pains us all.” On the more mealy-mouthed end of the spectrum, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said simply that he was “concerned” about the order.


Other companies have offered more concrete support. Lyft said it will donate $1 million over the next four years to the ACLU, while Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky saidin a tweet that the company will provide “free housing to refugees and anyone not allowed in the US.”

In a statement to USA Today, Google said: “We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the US. We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.”



Google, Facebook purge fake news sites

Under increased scrutiny for supporting the spread of false and misleading news, Google and Facebook are taking steps to purge networks of several hundred fake news sites.

On Wednesday, Google announced it had reviewed some 550 sites since its policy changes, permanently banning nearly 200 published sites and temporarily cutting off another 140 sites from the company ad dollar source, according to Variety.

Among the typical culprits was a conspiracy blog that appeared as the first item found for the search “who won the popular vote,” which suggested Donald Trump had won the popular vote. Another was a made-up story about President Barack Obama supposedly seeking a third term.

Google regularly weeds out advertisers for false and misleading claims, but the search giant has now booted publishers off its ad network for fake news.

The company responded to criticism that it supported fake news by changing its Adsense policy, prohibiting sites that “misrepresent, misstate, on conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose” of the site from using Google ads for monetization.

An annual report of ad violations shows that Google took down 1.7 billion ads for various policy violations in 2016, including 17 million ads for illegal gambling, 5 million payday loans and 80 million misleading or shocking ads.

The company declined to release a list of the banned sites.

Facebook also announced it is overhauling its “trending topics” box, as part of its effort to curb fake news.

Beginning on Wednesday, its software will track only topics that have been covered by a significant number of credible publishers.

“If just one story or post went viral, it wouldn’t make it into the trending as it might previously,” Will Cathcart, a Facebook vice president of product management told the Wall Street Journal. “It really takes a mass of publishers writing about the same topic to make the cut.”

Facebook will take into account how long a publisher has maintained a presence on the social network.

The trending feature appears in a box on the right side of the Facebook page.

The change, however, will do little to affect what is reflected in users’ newsfeeds. In December, Facebook had fact-checking groups flag stories if they were false, which would then be demoted in the news feed.

Another popular social media company, Snapchat, is embracing the fake news challenge. In a redesign rolled out Wednesday, the company will restrict publishers from using images or headlines in Discover that lack editorial value. The Discover channels, which were introduced last summer, are a grid of tiles that are scrollable by users.