MONEY Google

4 Crazy Google Ambitions

Vehicle prototype photo of Google's self-driving car.
Prototype of Google's self-driving car. Google

Google has already changed the world by altering the way we interact with technology. As it enters its second decade as a public company, Google wants to repeat the trick.

Google’s thriving search business and Android mobile operating system are throwing off tons of cash. And with $60 billion to play with, the company is looking for the next new technologies to champion.

And it’s thinking big.

Co-founder Larry Page has frequently talked about putting new technologies to the “toothbrush test.” In other words, will we use it once or twice a day like our toothbrush…or for that matter, like Google?

He makes it sounds so easy. Perhaps too easy. Maybe it’s the inevitable overconfidence of someone whose youthful work turned out so spectacularly successful. (It doesn’t help to see this picture of him with a goofy oversized toothbrush.)

Can Google really create a third (or fourth) product that becomes so deeply enmeshed in our lives that it literally changes the way we live? If it fails, it won’t be for lack of ambition.

Here are four of the company’s biggest dreams.

1) Fuse man and machine.

You probably already carry a smartphone (maybe even one that runs on Google’s Android operating system.) Google wants to bring that convenience even closer to you, with projects like Google Glass, its new eyewear; Android Wear, a version of its mobile operating system that pairs with a watch; and a contact lens designed to help diabetics measure their blood sugar.

“Someday we’ll all be amazed that computing involved fishing around in pockets and purses,” Page said, discussing Google Glass on a recent conference call.

Unlike some of Google’s most outlandish schemes, “smart” eyewear and watches are already here, at least for the early adopters. The glasses are for sale for $1,500. At least two companies, Samsung and LG, make watches to pair with Android Wear, although reviewers have warned most consumers may want to wait for the technology to improve.

Of course, not everyone is excited about these new products. In July, the New York Post reported on what it called “The revolt against Glassholes.

“I don’t see why anyone feels the need to wear them,” the Post quoted one 30-year-old, who found it disconcerting to encounter a subway rider sporting a pair. “Was he reading his emails, watching an old episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ or recording everyone?” the man asked. “Just reach into your pocket and get your phone!”

2) Drive Your Cars.

Driverless cars have been a dream of techies for a long time. In fact, at the 1939 World’s fair, the famous “Futurama” exhibit predicted their arrival by 1960.

Things haven’t evolved quite so quickly. But Google’s efforts seem to be on the cusp. Modified Toyotas and Lexuses have already logged hundreds of thousands of miles, including on public highways. The company has said it plans to build a prototype that will operate without steering wheel or brakes next year.

It’s not just a matter of convenience. While most of us will certainly be nervous when we take our first ride, the cars could actually make roads safer by eliminating the all-too-human habits – from texting to falling asleep at the wheel – of today’s drivers.

Then again, solving old problems could create some new ones too…like the driverless car chase.

3) Bring the Internet to everyone, everywhere.

Google puts information at your fingertips. But that’s only if you have access to the Internet in the first place. That’s not something everyone can take for granted.

“Many of us think of the Internet as a global community. But two-thirds of the world’s population does not yet have Internet access,” says the Web site of Project Loon, “a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to connect people in rural and remote areas, help fill coverage gaps, and bring people back online after disasters.”

Come again? While most of us hook into the Web through our cable or phone lines, there are many people and places those still don’t reach. The idea, as described by Wired, is for a network of high-altitude balloons, each able to beam high-speed Internet to one another, as well as a serve as a hub for access for an area of about 25 miles below.

Last year, Google floated 30 test balloons over New Zealand, allowing “a small group of pilot testers” to connect online. The company hopes to expand the pilot program, soon circling the Earth along the 40th Southern Parallel, which rings Australia and parts of South America.

Apart from technical and political hurdles, some have questioned whether connecting the world to the Internet is really a top priority.

Said Microsoft founder Bill Gates in a recent BusinessWeek interview:

“When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you. When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that. Certainly I’m a huge believer in the digital revolution. And connecting up primary-health-care centers, connecting up schools, those are good things. But no, those are not, for the really low-income countries, unless you directly say we’re going to do something about malaria.”

4) “Solve Death.”

“Can Google Solve Death?” asked TIME last year. The occasion was an interview with Page about a new Google-founded company, Calico LLC.

Page explained the job of the new venture would be to use data and statistics to look at age-related health problems in new ways because current goals, like trying to cure cancer, weren’t ambitious enough.

“One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy,” he told Time. “We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”

How exactly does Google plan to pull this off? Apart from announcing some high profile hires, Google hasn’t shared much about its vision. CNN was reduced to speculating about cryogenics.

Can Google really find the Fountain of Youth? Maybe. But they also may end up looking as if spectacular and unexpected success made them arrogant and gullible, not unlike those Conquistadors we learned about in grammar school.

Related:
10 Ways Google Has Changed the World
The 8 Wrongest Things Ever Said About Google

TIME Internet

A 13-Year-Old Built His Own Google Glass and It’s Pretty Impressive

Take that, glassholes.

Who needs to shell out $1500 for a pair of Google Glass when you can just make your own? Clay Haight, 13, created his own (quasi-functional) pair as a part of a DIY project.

According to Make:

Clay’s DIY “Google Glass” uses the sensors on the Arduino Esplora along with the Arduino LCD screen and a 3D printed frame. He can use voice commands to bring up a calendar with his schedule, local maps, and temperature and weather info. A headband on the back keeps it from tilting to one side.

(h/t: Daily Dot)

TIME Gadgets

Now You Can Control Google Glass With Your Mind

This Place

New app not yet approved by Google

A new app is taking the Google Glass hands-free model one step further by letting users control the device with their thoughts.

The program, called MindRDR, uses Glass and another head-mounted sensor to analyze the user’s brainwaves and gauge the user’s level of focus. When the level crosses a certain threshold, visualized by a horizontal line on the Glass interface, MindRDR tells Glass to snap a picture. If the user keeps concentrating, the app tells Glass to post the photo to social media.

“Google Glass cannot read your mind,” a Google spokesperson said in an email to TIME. “This particular application seems to work through a separate piece of kit which you attach to Glass. We have not reviewed, nor approved the app so it won’t be available in the Glass app store. Of course, we are always interested in hearing about new applications of Glass.”

The app is free and open source, so anyone can tinker with it to develop new functions. This Place, the London-based developer behind the software, says MindRDR could be used in the future to allow people with locked-in-syndrome, severe multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia to communicate through Google Glass. The company says Stephen Hawking has expressed interest in the software.

TIME Google

Google Glass Is Getting Faster Before It’s on Store Shelves

Google Glass
A visitor of the "NEXT Berlin" conference tries out the Google Glass on April 24, 2013 in Berlin. DPA—AFP/Getty Images

Google is boosting the specs of Google Glass in the run-up to the product’s proper consumer release.

The company announced Tuesday via a Google+ post that it is releasing an upgrade of Glass that will double the device’s internal RAM to 2 GB. A Google manager told The Verge that the additional memory would let Glass run more apps simultaneously and improve the overall speed of the device’s software.

Some current Glass owners are requesting that Google send them the upgraded version of the hardware, but Google has said it doesn’t plan to swap out devices for early adopters.

On the software side, Google said it is adding a viewfinder display to make it easier to frame photos and videos. The company also announced a bevy of new apps (formally called “Glassware”) from The Guardian, Duolingo, Shazam and others.

Though technically still in beta, Google Glass is available for purchase on Google’s website for $1,500 in the U.S. and £1000 pounds in the UK. The device is expected to be featured heavily at Google’s I/O developer conference Wednesday and Thursday.

TIME

Watch The Daily Show Rip Apart Google Glass Enthusiasts

No, Google Glass discrimination isn't a "hate crime"

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive

Thursday night’s episode of The Daily Show perfectly ripped apart Google Glassholes—referred to by correspondent Jason Jones as iDouches—who claim discrimination in the streets because passersby think that they’re being recorded… “which sometimes they were.”

“Yes, it seems even in this day and age you can still be treated differently just because of how you look — wearing a $1,500 face computer,” Jones said, before declaring to Glass hater and tech expert Larry Rosen, “I bet you don’t think they should be able to get married either.”

On the one hand, Glass owners are sometimes getting assaulted in the streets of The Mission in San Francisco (not ok) or verbally accosted in bars (“it was a hate crime!”) On the other hand… Google Glass.

Watch how the Daily Show trolled Glass wearers to perfection in the clip above.

TIME health

Now Doctors Can Use Google Glass to Record Your Visits

Google Glass Prescriptions
John Minchillo—AP

Google's face-computer may be coming soon to a doctor's office near you

Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals are about to get a new tool in the medicine bags: Google Glass.

Drchrono, a digital health startup, claims to have created the first “wearable heath record” that can be accessed through Google’s futuristic face-computer. Doctors can use the app to store patients’ records as well as record medical visits and even procedures via Glass’ camera for consulting later on.

While some patients may be hesitant to let doctors record their visits, Drchrono says its Glass application complies with HIPPA standards which protect patient privacy — and patients will have to give permission to have doctors record their visits via Google Glass.

The application is currently in its beta phase, though Reuters reports about 300 physicians have signed up to use it. Drchrono, just one of a plethora of startups tapping into the healthcare app market, has also developed digital health records apps for iPads and smartphones.

 

TIME movies

Alamo Drafthouse Bans Google Glass During Films

Google Developers Event Held In San Francisco
A man wearing Google Glass during the opening keynote at the Google I/O developers conference on May 15, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Keep your eyes on the screen. No, the other screen.

The movie theater chain known for its tongue-in-cheek attitude and serious anti-texting policy has added another bullet point to its totally understandable list of “don’t”s: according to Deadline, the Alamo Drafthouse has banned the use of Google Glass in its movie theaters.

Tim League, the company’s CEO, said that he had personally tried Glass but was waiting to make a decision until customers began to bring the wearable device into theaters. And this time, he said, the reason for the policy wasn’t just a matter of keeping theaters dark and quiet. Though cell phones can distract over moviegoers from what’s going on on the screen, Glass can put a little too much focus there. The main concern at hand is that Glass enables recording, which means that any user could tape and pirate a movie.

Alamo Drafthouse isn’t the first theater chain to announce a Glass ban, but such prohibitions aren’t always as clear-cut as they may seem.

For one thing, the ban — which will apply to the use of the device “once lights dim for trailers” — will have to be case by case, League told Twitter followers who inquired about what would happen if a Glass user needed the prescription lenses in the device to see the screen:

And then there’s the matter of what such a ban can actually accomplish. As Forbes pointed out last year when Glass bans were first making news, the problematic functions in question are all things that can already be done by devices that many of us carry all the time. Glass does add a layer of deniability — you might be wearing it to see, you might be recording, nobody knows — but anyone concerned about others recording things in public, from embarrassing moments to Hollywood movies, has more to worry about than just Glass. And once Google has put the camera in on users’ heads, other tech companies are sure to follow, meaning that banning one specific device will get even more futile.

But, in the mean time, maybe movie theaters will find a way around those semantic concerns. Just last week, WIRED reported on the existence of a new solution to the problem: a device that detects the presence of Glass and remotely shuts off its access to wi-fi networks.

TIME Gadgets

‘Glasshole’ Detector Blocks Google Glass Users’ Wi-Fi

Google

As a form of protest against Google Glass, a Berlin-based artist has come up with a way to boot users from local Wi-Fi networks.

The program, appropriately called Glasshole.sh, allows Wi-Fi hotspot owners to sniff out Glass users and kick them from the network. It involves connecting a USB network antenna to a Raspberry Pi or Beaglebone mini-computer, which then runs the script. The program can also emit a beep when it detects a Glass wearer (not that the hardware is easy to miss).

Artist Julian Oliver came up with the program after reading an NYU student’s negative reaction to Glass wearers at a school exhibition. “[I]t was not possible to know whether they were recording, or even streaming what they were recording to a remote service over WiFi,” Oliver wrote.

Glasshole.sh isn’t a foolproof solution, given that Glass users can still connect to their phones via Bluetooth or personal Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s really just a way for owners of bars, restaurants, theaters and art galleries to make a statement.

Oliver did tell Wired that he’s working on a version of Glasshole.sh that could sever Glass’ phone connection or disconnect it from any network, but doing so would be legally questionable. Oliver said he’ll warn users that this solution should only be used in “extreme circumstances.”

[Wired]

TIME Gadgets

Google Glass’ Next Killer App Lets You Shoot Guns Around Corners

TrackingPoint turns Glass into a remote sight for aiming around corners.

Google Glass has lots of potential in professional fields, and for better or worse, that includes military applications.

TrackingPoint, an Austin-based company that adds aim assistance technology to firearms, is showing off how Google Glass could be used as a remote rifle sight. In a video on YouTube, a shooter uses Glass to effortlessly aim from behind cover, with a view of the target appearing on the screen in front of his right eye.

TrackingPoint hasn’t actually made Glass integration available yet, though the company can already stream its scope views to a tablet directly over Wi-Fi. Glass integration is currently in the testing phase, and it seems like the next logical step now that anyone can buy a Glass prototype.

TIME google glass

Prince Charles Tries Out Google Glass

Prince Charles Google Glass
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales tries on 'Google Glass' spectacles as he visits 'Innovation Alley' on May 21, 2014 in Winnipeg, Canada. Chris Jackson—Getty Images

Introducing, the Royal Cyborg

Everyone else is doing it, so why not the Prince? Charles donned the $1500 spectacle while on a tour of Canada this week.

We think it suits him.

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