2016 Predictions

After wrapping up 2015 it’s time to look ahead with a  few predictions for 2016.

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will become the highest grossing movie of the modern era (so not the inflation-adjusted overall champ). This is still a 2015 leftover really, but the franchise has ascended to new heights and together with Marvel could represent an amazing run of large film franchises over the next decade.
  2. The Red Sox will win 100 games. The 2015 season may not have been successful but then offense was at the top of MLB – with very little from Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Rusney Castillo – and the rotation and bullpen have been rebuilt.
  3. Google I/O 2016 features a formal announcement of the ChromeOS/Android hybrid plans. What it ends up being as a first step: Chrome extensions for the Android version of the browser.
  4. I’ll let this next one extend to CED 2017: smart anklets. Like a FitBit for your foot. Free up the wrist and offer an alternative to the “watches and wearables” model we’re in.
  5. Disney announces a fifth movie in the Indiana Jones franchise with J.J. Abrams at the helm. After doing a alternative history with Star Trek, and a continuation/handoff with Star Wars, this will be a recasting but still exist within the Indiana Jones continuity. Maybe even before Temple of Doom, which was actually a prequel. It won’t, however, be an origin story – Dr. Jones will already be Dr. Jones.
  6. Neither the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate will choose a running mate from among his or her primary rivals.

Driverless Dreams

Google is back at it: driverless cars. In the age of Uber and ZipCar providing (nearly) pushbutton access to transportation for a fairly reasonable fee depending on your need, the driverless car sits atop the pyramid of transportation evolution.

One device combines the evolution of technology that began with the invention of the wheel. The driverless car is also the most impressive computer technology using sensors, maps, internet-connected computing – and that’s just to drive the car, not including creature comforts.

Like the idea of the horseless carriage that preceded the automobile, the driverless car has been much hyped and anticipated despite the early stage in the development process.

A who’s who of car companies is working on the technology as well, but the search engine giant has grabbed most of the press while boasting about the progress the technology has made over the years, the miles the cars have driven, and more.

But this is the first time we have seen a Google Car. While the press release indicates the parts are off-the-shelf and the company is working with partners, seeing a stand-alone vehicle, rather than a modified Toyota feels like an exciting step forward. Eventually Google, and the automakers, will need a car built to be driverless in order to really take the technology to the next level. Sensor placement and designs that work for a traditional vehicle, which places the main sensor package in the driver’s seat, do not need to be hard and fast rules for car design.

I’ve thought and written about driverless cars and their potential impact on society before, and as the technology gets closer the more I think about what it would be like to just summon a car – either my own or a taxi-type service – whenever I need a ride.

One issue with ZipCar, and rental services in general, is that the vehicles need to be returned to certain places to make them available once more and prevent the accumulation of cars in places they are unlikely to be checked out. Of course from time to time you can make an arrangement to pick up at the airport and drop off at another location, but normally the car is docked at a single location and you need to return it from whence it came. This problem goes away when the car can drive itself.

One crazy possibility with driverless cars could actually help bring the Amazon drones to reality: a drone carrier van. The idea that drones will be flying many miles carrying the types of products that are often ordered online, which can be large and/or heavy, has a few holes. But imagine if Amazon had a system of driverless vans roaming across cities and towns, carrying the items most of the way by truck, and then launching the drones for the “last mile” delivery. This could let larger packages be delivered by drone without needing to carry a fifty pound box thirty miles through the sky. Once the package is dropped off, the drone just returns to the van.

The number of tasks that can be managed by a driverless car, which can in turn reduce traffic, limit the need to large parking lots, can be a big step towards the sci-fi vision of the future that so many of us have in our heads.

Reading The Road Ahead 19 Years Later – Chapter One: A Revolution Begins

When Bill Gates wrote The Road Ahead he looked back on the previous twenty years of his life, Microsoft, and the history of computing, while considering where that path would take society.

Windows 95 was a new revolution in computing, the Internet was still in its infancy, and the original Pentium processor was king of the machines. I remember filling in as a paperboy that summer delivering an issue of the afternoon paper to an elderly customer who thought I must know all about this “Windows” (and he was right). It was the first operating system I installed from a CD, so much easier than floppy disks.

What struck me about Gates’ view of the tech world at the time was not just Microsoft’s motto of “A computer on every desk and in every home” but how he thought we would interact with devices in just a few short years.

“We’ll communicate with it [the network] through a variety of devices, including some that look like television sets, some like today’s PCs; some will look like telephones, and some will be the size and something like the shape of a wallet. And at the heart of each will be a powerful computer, invisibly connected to millions of others.”1

Spot on.

Maybe it’s because I wasn’t even in high school at the time, but I didn’t think that the computing power shown on Star Trek would be in our hands just over a decade from that point, when the iPhone would make Gates’ predictions available to the masses. Combine the idea of the telephone with the wallet-sized device and you’ve just created the smartphone.

Echoing the words of French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (“Little by little, the machine will become a part of humanity”2), Gates described and predicted the relationship that would develop between humanity and this new type of connected computer:

“Over time, these machines find a place in our everyday lives because they not only offer convenience and save labor, they can also inspire us to new creative heights. We warm to them. They assume a trusted place beside our other tools.”

Indeed, who does not consider their phone a vital accessory today? Communication, photography, entertainment, navigation – the networked computer, in all form factors, is the robot butler from science fiction. It is Rosie The Jetsons, the computer book from Inspector Gadget, the PADD from Star Trek, and the tool Sean Connery’s James Bond could only dream of.

Three years before Google was founded, and search engines were still a concept biting off more than they could chew, Bill Gates posed fifteen questions that the computers of tomorrow would handle but that in 1995 would be difficult to answer at a moment’s notice.

1. “Is your bus running on time?”

2. “Are there any accidents right now on the route you usually take to the office?”

3. “Does anyone want to trade his or her Thursday theater tickets for your Wednesday tickets?”

4. “What is your child’s school-attendance record?”

5. “What’s a good recipe for halibut?”

6. “Which store, anywhere, can deliver by tomorrow morning for the lowest price a wristwatch that takes your pulse?”

7. “What would someone pay for my old Mustang convertible?”

8. “How is the hole in a needle manufactured?”

9. “Are your shirts ready yet at the laundry?”

10. “What’s the cheapest way to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal?”

11. “What are the symptoms of a heart attack?”

12. “Was there any interesting testimony at the county courthouse today?”

13. “Do fish see in color?”

14. “What does the Champs-Elysées look like right now?”

15. “Where were you at 9:02 P.M. last Thursday?”

One and two can be handled by Google Now displaying cards automatically showing this information. Alternatively, Google Maps or Waze apps could show the accidents, traffic delays, and more.

Three and seven can be solved with Craigslist.

Five, eight, eleven, and thirteen are Google searches. Even speaking them to my phone in question form brought up the answers.

Where was I at 9:02 last Thursday? That one still takes some work, but querying Google on an Android phone (What did I do last week?)  brought up my calendar events for the last week, which was a start. Timehop, which creates a chronology of your social media events, check-ins, tweets, and photos could do a better job, but at pointing you in the right direction.

Instagram and twitter had several pictures of the Champs-Elysées that were at least in the area, if not exactly what the search is looking for, although that in itself is somewhat vague. This query will probably only improve in how easily and accurately the answer is readily available.

The Wall Street Journal…well, a quick Google search yielded an 80% discount and, surprisingly, an eBay auction. Checking Slickdeals probably wouldn’t hurt either.

A text notification from a laundromat takes care of number nine.

Amazon can sell you the watch, but maybe not by tomorrow or at the cheapest price…this one is still in development. But with Google, eBay, Amazon, and more working on same-day delivery solutions, that will be something that can be searched quickly in the near future.

That just leaves school attendance. This one is tricky, but not impossible to solve. Before long all schools will likely have a portal for parents to log in and find out any information about their child. Some no doubt already have a version of this, like Follet’s Aspen SIS, and others will follow. It’s not hard to imagine parents having direct access to attendance, grades, homework assignments and more to keep their kids on track.

Thinking about how much work many of these questions, such as the one regarding fish vision, would take to find twenty years ago, the average person today sits atop a vast storehouse of data and needs to speak or type a few words to glean answers from previously insurmountable chaos.

When Gates first used a computer, access was metered in hours. When he wrote this book, Internet access was measured in the same way, purchased in minutes per month. Today, in an unmetered, networked world, many of his goals in the 1990s are the world we live in.

1. William, G. (1995). The road ahead. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

2. de Saint-Exupéry, A. (1939). Wind,sand, and stars. New York, NY: Reynal and Hitchcock.

A Night With The Chromecast

When Google announced the Chromecast during their breakfast, the star of the show was not Android 4.3 or the new Nexus 7 but the small, seemingly trivial piece of technology no bigger than a USB thumb drive. One year after the Nexus Q was announced, put on hold, and ultimately retired before officially launching, Google is back in our living rooms with another device. Friendlier than Google TV, far cheaper than the $299 Nexus Q, the $35 Chromecast widget may be their Apple TV: easy and cheap enough for anyone to add to their living room. For under $40, including tax, seeing that units were in stock at the local BestBuy, I figured it was worth checking out in person.

 

The Chromecast takes a lot of the usability ideas behind the Nexus Q and applies them better to an improved product. Like the Q, media isn’t streamed from your phone or computer, that device acts as a remote control, and the Chromecast does the job from there. So if you open Netflix on your phone and select a show, there is a small TV icon to “cast” the content onto your big screen. While watching a show on your TV, the Netflix app is now a remote control, handling the play and pause functions and the ability to scroll through the timeline. YouTube works the same way, and you can add to your queue from the app, building a playlist that will keep running, uninterrupted. As you would expect, Google’s Play Movies & TV and Play Music apps take advantage of this control scheme as well.

On the Nexus Q, all of this sharing and selecting was entirely done though the phone interface. All you saw on the screen was the result: the music or movie you were playing (and there was no Netflix capability, only Google and YouTube media properties). Adding on-screen controls and information makes the user experience a hundred times better. This is how the Nexus Q should have worked. The idea of our phones and tablets taking over the television as a remote control is a good one, but it needs to be done in a way that makes sense in the television world, and that means on-screen messages and interactions.

With the Chromecast plugged into my TV, this is the first time I have ever considered buying media from a company other than Apple. Even though I’ve been an Android user since joining the smartphone world, I’ve had Macs for a decade. While music files have evolved from being tied to iTunes, movies and shows purchased from the iTunes store are still firmly in the Apple universe. Apple TV is $99 dollars and worst case scenario, I can watch on my Mac and make my own video output solution. In this copyright-burdened world we live in, iTunes, backed by a company very likely to stay in the content delivery business and continue to support accessing that content on a plethora of  (their own) devices has seemed like the safest choice. Maybe “owning” digital content is a fad, but if something isn’t available on Netflix and the rental fee is $3.99 or $4.99, “buying” a digital movie for $9.99, if you may ever watch it again, is still a tempting offer. And this is where Google pulls their final rabbit out of the hat: tab casting.

By installing the Google Cast extension on your computer’s Chrome browser, any tab you have open on your computer can be shared to the TV. I’m writing this on the TV right now. Amazon Prime video? Sure, just cast the tab and you’re watching that video on your television. The quirk with tab casting is that tabs are not Chromecast apps. You can share a tab playing Amazon content, but the video continues to play on your computer, albeit without sound. Going to fullscreen means that you can’t do anything else on the computer. If Amazon adds Chromecast functionality to their smartphone and tablet apps, this won’t be an issue. You may not want to have a movie night watching content on the TV inside a browser window, but it’s still on a big screen with more real estate than a laptop, so if you just want to make use of a second screen, it’ll do.

Unfortunately, one of the benefits announced at launch, three free months of Netflix, for current and new users alike, has already been discontinued. That savings effectively reduced the price of the Chromecast to $11. It’s puzzling that Google was prepared to sell so many devices but limit the Netflix perk to only the earliest of early adopters. At least without more clear messaging from the start that it was a very limited time offer.

On day one though, the Chromecast is a home run. We’re starting to see the differentiation between Android (Google TV) and Chrome, which, as Gina Trapani put it on This Week in Google boils down to “Android in an operating system” and “Chrome is a platform.” This definition doesn’t quite cover the Chromebooks, especially the higher-end Pixel, but it does work well to define the interaction between users and devices.

With all apologies to Xfinity, it’s Chromecastic.

 

Sundar Pichai Solves Microsoft’s PR Problem

With Google I/O coming up later this week, Google OS chief Sundar Pichai sat down for a short interview with Wired’s Steven Levy. For the most part, it’s what you would expect, no huge storylines before the company’s biggest conference of the year. The head of Chrome and Android lowers expectations a bit by saying I/O is “not a time when we have much in the way of launches or new products or a new operating system” but he does provide some clarity to Google’s two-operating system initiative.

Users care about applications and services they use, not operating systems. Very few people will ask you, “Hey, how come MacBooks are on Mac OS-X and iPhone and iPad are on iOS? Why is this?”

This really struck me. It was the first time I recall Google going right to a comparison with iOS and OS X to explain the existence of both Android and ChromeOS. In the past, the theory was that Android was for touch interfaces and Chrome was meant for traditional mouse/keyboard/trackpad users. While it’s a bit of a dodge, the message is clear: the operating systems have different purposes, although the touchscreen-equipped Chromebook Pixel blurs that line a tad. Many words have been typed by others about what those purposes are and how they might be better served, but the point stands: different tools for different uses.

ChromeOS is a hands-off operating system that is maintained from afar. Chromebooks store everything in the cloud and can be wiped and replaced at will. Android devices behave like traditional computers: you install software written for the device, it gets backed up in a more traditional manner rather than syncing the entire phone online (although that does occur to a lesser extent). iOS is Apple’s mobile operating system, powering iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. Like ChromeOS it can be synced to the cloud and restored onto a new device without a hitch. iOS is touch based but built on the same underpinnings as big brother OS X.

Why didn’t Microsoft learn from these two examples when rolling out Windows 8 and Windows RT? RT, like Windows Phone could be the touch-first operating system out of Redmond. It could lack legacy support for older Windows programs. It could skip the traditional desktop for the ModernUI interface. Windows 8, on desktop PCs would look a lot like Windows 7. No ModernUI or using that as an alternative application interface only, similar to the widget screen on OS X. Something that is sitting out of the way until you need it. The Surface tablets could still exist. RT wouldn’t have the traditional desktop at all. Windows 8 on the Surface Pro could even be set to boot to ModernUI instead of the desktop because that’s the hybrid device, like the Chromebook Pixel, pointing the way towards Microsoft’s version of the future of computing.

Why two interfaces? All Microsoft would have to say is “Users care about applications and services they use, not operations systems.” One is for touch interface, the other for the traditional desktop experience.

Chone and Tell

Google Now is an excellent tool, but sometimes a tricky word or name just won’t be interpreted correctly. For example, the search engine couldn’t understand a voice of “When is Trot Nixon’s birthday?” Nixon, of course, has an unusual family name, Trotman, truncated into a nickname, Trot, so it’s somewhat understandable that Google hasn’t mastered his name quite yet. His full name, Christopher Trotman Nixon, failed too as Google insisted on changing his name to Truckman.

But what about someone with a common name that wasn’t spelled anything like it sounds? Well, saying Chone Figgins results in “Sean Fagan” and “Shawn Higgins” but not the baseball player. Speak more clearly? Didn’t help. Pronouncing his name like it’s spelled (Shown) well that’s a horse of a different color!

Until he retires, and for a few years afterwards, Figgins can pronounce Chone as Shawn, but sooner or later, baseball historians will only know him as Shown. (to be fair his full name is Desmond DeChone “Chone” Figgins)

Search Plus Your World

It’s no secret that Google has come a long way since Larry Page and Sergey Brin built their first server in a  Lego case . The company has evolved from search and ads to email, mobile phones, and a stable of product offerings and research initiatives in its continuing mission to organize the world’s information. While software could take the company very far, hardware efforts, in addition to those solely for internal use, like servers, have recently gained more focus. The physical world is the next domain for Google to explore: Nexus phones and tablets,  Chromebooks , set-top boxes running GoogleTV (encouraged though not built by Google), Glass, fiber optic cable, and of course, self-driving cars.

It is possible to imagine a life fully contained with the Googleverse. Or at the very least, constantly connected to the Mountain View company via an array of intelligent devices. But what if Google decided to take their grand experiments one step further. What if Google built a city?

Anyone who grew up playing Sim City fondly remembers the  arcologies – stand-alone “cities within a city” – but this isn’t what I have in mind. Not a closed off Googleverse, but a town built from the ground (or fiber) up. A testbed for Google operations and a home for those who want to live on the cutting edge. My model is  Celebration, Florida , a town originally developed by Disney.

  Celebration is a planned city. Rather than growing organically as people move to an area, a planned city is designed and built and then the city exists, fully formed. While Disney did not continue to run the entire project, divesting itself of most operations after Celebration “opened” it had a hand in the design and creation which has lasted past the period of formal operating authority.

Network Effect

A Google city would start with the newest publicly available Google product:  Google Fiber . Fiber is one of Google’s most ambitious products yet, and, given the company’s history, that’s saying something. At its heart, Fiber is nothing more than Google acting as an ISP, but when an ISP can offer speeds of  700 Mbps  for just $70 dollars a month, it’s an ISP making history. The first cities to be blessed with the assault on the cable companies were Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, with neighboring cities in the area on the  shortlist  for coverage. And Eric Schmidt says there will be  more to come.

Unsurprisingly, this has made some entrepreneurs think “Why not Kansas City?” as they look for places to found and grow businesses, particularly internet startups that can take advantage of a resource not available in many other places in North America. Kansas City (either) may not be Silicon Valley, but getting in on the ground floor for Google Fiber could give the region a  boost  while we wait to see just how interested Google really is in laying cable. At the very least Google Fiber is an interesting hook: a hacker house wired up with Fiber is on  airbnb.

More than just providing internet access and television channels, Google is changing the way their customers  interact  with the living room by including a Nexus 7 as the remote control, the ability to record up to eight shows at a time, and a combined three terabytes of storage – two locally for your content, one in the cloud for Google Drive and the services (formerly Google Docs) contained in that.

And who wouldn’t want to jump ship to a Google-run  wireless carrierConsumer Reports  just ranked AT&T the worst of the big boys, but first place Verizon is not without it’s faults: blocking  Google Wallet  and pushing out software updates  slowly . Working with Dish could provide over the air access to match Google’s terrestrial infrastructure. Though a complete rollout of cellular services would likely be several years in the making, just as with the Kansas City fiber project, even a small scale cellular service would be a shot across the bow at both AT&T and Verizon.

Transportation

In a Google city, you may not need a car. At least, not as you currently do. Moving to Google, USA could mean subscribing to the Google Car service, built on Google’s  self-driving car  project. Think of this as ZipCar on steroids. As part of local taxes/fees etc. residents would pay into a car sharing service. Getting a car to drive to your location would be as simple as opening an app similar to Uber or Hailo. These vehicles might resemble pods more than sedans (think the pods on the villain’s island in The Incredibles) because the purpose would be transportation more than “driving.” Just use your trusty mobile phone or tablet to summon a pod and one will arrive to pick you up, drop you off at your destination, and pick you up later on. Maybe it could swing by the laundromat, your Amazon (or Google) locker, or a pizza place on the way and do some of your errands too.

Maybe everyone would bring their own car (or just purchase a private pod) that could be outfitted with self-drive, but there is opportunity for a unique public transit system powered by the self-driving car technology. Anyone who owns a self-driving car would have much the same experience as the transit method and those who own a “traditional” car would still be able to take advantage of the transit system.

Eye on Life

The gadget that really ties this futuristic city together may not be the cars, bandwidth, or omnipresent internet connectivity, but  Google Glass . Ideally, Glass will be drawing on the voice recognition and suggestion capabilities of Google Now, location information from Google Maps, object (and facial?) recognition to identify places and things within your field of vision, and a host of other Google services. Right now, much of what Glass will be capable of if it finds its way into the hands of consumers in the not-too-distant-future (2014? 2015?) is a mystery. If it can provide a quarter of the functionality of the  concept video , there’s no telling what kind of impact smart glasses could have on society.

City on the Edge of Forever

With a reputation for undertaking projects well outside the box, Google City may not be as improbable as it sounds, but give the Googlers a few more years and every city may end up  looking like Google City anyway. Unlike the Segway, cities may actually be redesigned: roads can be altered for self-driving cars, and billboards can be physically removed to be displayed virtually to those wearing smart glasses. 

A Piece of Glass

In the original Google Glass video the protagonist takes a picture of some wall art and shares it with his circles on Google+ with a simple voice command.

Cool, right? Too bad Google Glass isn’t available right now (Ingress players would probably be over the moon) so everyone could do that sort of thing. But wait: Google updated the Search app for Android. It’s not quite the same, but from the Google Now screen, you can just say “Post to Google+” and a voice prompt appears to take your words and send them along. If you think Google Now is looking more and more like the Glass concept without the headwear, you may not be wrong.

Thoughts from Google I/O or a Three Day Tour

Last month I set out on a trip to California to visit with family, investigate working on the Left Coast, and attend Google I/O. I/O (Input/Output) is Google’s annual developer conference and their stage to announce products, strategy, and outlook for the year to come. I/O has been home to the unveiling of several big efforts by Google over the years: Google Wave, Google Music, Google TV, and less known but nonetheless interesting developments like Android @ Home,a home automation project using Android OS and Arduino processors. 

This year was no different. From a product standpoint the Google Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and the continued evolution and integration of Google+ into their overall family of services, the conference gave developers and consumers a good look at what Google will emphasize over the next twelve months. 

Plus skydiving with Google Glass.

Aside from the whimsy and excitement, there were a lot of telling moves and advancements coming out of the conference. Android will continue to play an ever larger role in the way people interact with Google. One of the potentially most transformational announcements though, while not directly Android related, is the continuing Google+ strategy coming into focus.

Timeline

For the last year or so, Facebook’s biggest feature rollout has been the move from the traditional profile to the Timeline, both for personal and brand accounts. Like many of Facebook’s advancements, Timeline caused a panic. For some, Timeline is a whimsical look through the past, chronicling a user’s Facebook history along, what else, a time line. Facebook users and visiters to their pofile alike can scroll through a running chronology of status updates, photos, and more. But what really makes Timeline compelling, for those who don’t mind the stalker aspect, is the ability of a user to fill their in their profile for events that didn’t happen on Facebook or happened before Facebook existed. My Timeline begins in the fall of 2004, but if I chose to do so, could be expanded back to the day I was born.

On this last part, as people/investors worry about Facebook’s ability to generate profits, making the Timeline a pathway to baby books or photo albums, physical or electronic – it doesn’t matter – just in a format that can survive should Facebook shutdown or decide to end Timeline for “the next big thing.” Facebook is in the position to make a really compelling real-life version of the dream advertised in Google’s Dear Sophie video.

One of the announcements about the future of Google+ was, in my opinion, the foundation for Timeline done right: history. History is a private collection of “moments” which can be written to your account by third party apps through an API. Google+ users are already familiar with this feature in its initial form, Instant Upload. Instant Upload sends pictures taken on your smartphone to a private photo gallery connected to your Google+ account, automatically. 

Moments restores sharing power to the user and does away with the concept of frictionless sharing. What’s nice is that someone can use the latest social apps all the time, but only share certain pieces of information. This can be for privacy or simplicity. I am a big fan of Instant Upload because I don’t have to go through all my photos and select which ones to upload, which to keep on the phone, which to post etc. Like a Dropbox folder, my photo gallery is the same on my phone and in the cloud. I can share from either device, but I don’t need to make anything public. 

Someone could create a personal implementation of Path using the Google+ history API and an artful presentation of moments. Even if Google were to shut down Google+, the data is in your Google account, it isn’t something that will cease to exist. If Path gets acquired, the creators get bored, or whatever scenario you can imagine occurs, will user be able to export their journeys? Unlikely. at least, not in a human usable format. This isn’t a shot at Path, but the social network built around chronicling your day is a good comparison to the sort of experience that Google+ moments could allow.

Glass

Project Glass aka Google Glass, the smart headware being developed by Google made as big a non-release debut as possible during I/O. 

There were Google employees with (inactive) units on their heads and the previously mentioned skydiving stunt. 

A large section of wall, and several display counters were devoted to taking developer pre-orders (and a few basic, questions), a commitment to pay $1500 dollars at some time in 2013 for a developer version of the futuristic eyewear. While the sight of Glass upon the heads of Googlers, and the skydiving, and a few heart-tugging videos of babies smiling at their mother, rather than a camera, make Glass appear on the horizon, this is a device that can’t quite be called a product yet. It rises above the level of vaporware solely because Google has the muscle and vision to make the dream a reality.

While Googlers could reveal bits and pieces of their experience, for instance, Glass can be worn with a baseball hat, little is known about the interface, operation, hardware, software…etc. Episode 153 of TWiG (This Week in Google) boils down what Google is willing to share about Glass into an episode title “Did I Mention it Takes Pictures?” 

The technology displayed in the initial concept video is still a ways off, but this is the technology to watch over the next few years. For the curious, the song is “lover’s carvings” by Biblio. Ironically, it is not available in the Play Store. But licensing and copyright issues are a matter for another time.

Google Now is the first step in a radical shift for the search engine: giving people what they want before they know they want it based on their search and travel history, and probably lies at the core of Glass. Google Now is a Siri competitor as well as a look into the future of search, powered by intelligence and location awareness. 

Nexus 7

This is the most practical, most ambitious, and potentially most profitable consumer product Google has launched in a while (disclaimer: as a Google I/O attendee, I received a Nexus 7). 

The Nexus 7 is a seven inch tablet running the latest version of the Android OS, 4.1 Jelly Bean. It’s loaded with processing power, unlike many previous Android devices, is light in the hand, easy to read, and fully integrated into the Google Play Store. Essentially, the device is a Google-centric version of the Kindle Fire. Ideally, all the content downloaded to the Nexus 7 – apps, movies and TV, books and magazines, and music will be purchased from the Play Store, with Google getting a cut of each sale. 

Over the next year Google will try to change our perception of the company. Not just a search engine, but a smart guide. The Play Store, Google Now, and Nexus devices form a continuum of information, media, and suggested knowledge. In another year, the next Nexus device may be a Google version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy capable of directing, informing, and entertaining.

Arizona Man Sues Google Over Trademark

Since the days of Napster there have been stories about copyright infringement on the internet. Reports of piracy, torrents, using images and photographs without permission are commonplace. Trademark news is less so, but an Arizona man has decided to battle Google over the rights to their name.

Jeff John Roberts over at paidContent reports that David Elliot is looking for a court to decide that “google” has become a generic word for “search on the internet.” Elliot isn’t fighting the good fight against a large corporation for the right to use an invented word for the greater good, but to overturn a court decision he lost concerning a number of domain names including “googlegaycruises.com” and “googledonaldtrump.com.” The full complaint is available here.

Trademarks, unlike copyrights and patents, do not have an expiration date. A number of trademarks have become generic words over time: escalator, thermos, and aspirin are popular examples of products whose names were once tied to their originating companies. A trademark that is distinctive can become generic if it does not solely relate to the products produced by the trademark owner. Once other moving staircases were created, customers referred to all of them as escalators rather than only those made by Otis Elevator Company. The power of a trademark is in the minds of customers.

Once other moving staircases were created customers referred to all of them as escalators rather than only those made by Otis Elevator Company.

To win his case, Elliot would need to show that when people say the word “google” they mean to look something up in a search engine, whether that is Google, Bing, Blekko, or DuckDuckGo. If people “google” at the website known for a white background and unique celebrations in the images above its search box, Elliot will have a tough time proving that Google is a generic term.