Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boot up: Google and Skybox, Android's Quantum Paper, Apple TV games?

Skybox Imaging photograph of Kiev, Ukraine An aerial photograph taken by Skybox Imaging of Kiev, Ukraine, during the anti-government protests in February this year. Photograph: AP

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Robinson Meyer:

Skybox's success doesn't depend on it developing a perfect image-evaluation algorithm. It merely depends on another developer using its cloud to develop an algorithm. 

Now it joins Google. The advertising giant might use the small satellites in its quest for more and faster data for its Maps and Earth services. The company, however, gets its truly high-resolution imagery from DigitalGlobe, and it negotiated its last "multiyear agreement" with the satellite behemoth in February. Owning satellites of its own might help Google when it negotiates its next contract with DigitalGlobe, but that's now a few years off. (Whatever happens in the world of small satellites, by the way, the military will still pay for access to DigitalGlobe's enormous WorldView craft. That doesn't mean its stock hasn't responded to the news.)

No, it seems possible Google bought Skybox for two reasons.

Our new information surrounding Quantum is refreshing. There has been a lot of confusion over the past months about interface leaks and updates, with many questioning why Google isn't remaining consistent and resolute in its design guidelines for Android.

Having seen Quantum Paper, however, it is clear that not only is Google looking to be more consistent in Android design, but they are planning to provide all the pieces necessary to third party developers, and make this new interface approach consistent not just on its mobile operating system but across its web properties and perhaps more interestingly, iOS as well.

The potential here is large. You wouldn't be mistaken to think of Quantum as a sort of broad-sweep replacement for Holo, but it's even more powerful than that. The framework will include interface, motion, and interaction (as stated before) on all platforms, making for not just clearer and more consistent UI but also a more consistent user experience.

Sean Heber points out that iOS 8 brings lots of changes. Apple TV wasn't mentioned in the WWDC keynote. But it has gained lots of little extras - building blocks?

Due to AirPlay now supporting peer-to-peer connections, this means that if you bring your iPhone or iPad with you to a friend's house (or anywhere with an AppleTV such as a hotel room, school, etc), and you have all of your games in your pocket but can play them on the nearby screen if you want. You can play without needing to purchase the game on that particular AppleTV, without needing to sign in with your iCloud account to access your purchases, without needing to get their wifi password, or indeed without there even needing to *be* a wifi network to join in the first place. All without any hassle. When you go home, you take the game and any earned progress along with you in your pocket.

Marc Andreessen:

Progressive and smart economist Jared Bernstein has explored the productivity puzzle of robots eating all the jobs (or not). He points out that productivity growth was up 1% last year, and has averaged 0.8% since 2011. But what he really focuses on is the smooth trend that tracks through the numbers.

The trend suggests that the pace of productivity growth has decelerated since the first half of the 2000s. That begs an important question that the robots-are-coming advocates need to answer: Why a phenomenon that should be associated with accelerating productivity is allegedly occurring over a fairly protracted period where the [productivity] trend in output per hour is going the other way?

My own take. We're still coming out of a severe macroeconomic down cycle, the credit crisis, deleveraging, and the liquidity trap. The prevailing pessimistic economic theories — the death of innovation, the crisis of inequality and yes, robots eating all the jobs — will fade with recovery.

Brad Greenberg, intellectual property fellow. Columbia Law School:

assuming Tesla offers nothing more than a public promise not to sue "good faith" users, this announcement may be of little social benefit. Worse, it seems to me that such public promises could provide a new vehicle for trolling.

Sure, Tesla may be estopped from enforcing its patents—though estoppel requires reasonable reliance and this announcement is so vague that it's difficult to imagine the reliance that would be reasonable—and Tesla isn't in the patent trolling business anyway… But what if Tesla sold its patents or went bankrupt. Could a third party not enforce the patents? If it could, patents promised to be open source would seem a rich market for PAEs.

Tesla is not to first to pledge its patents as open source. In fact, as Clark Asay pointed out, IBM has already been accused of reneging the promise. (See: IBM now appears to be claiming the right to nullify the 2005 pledge at its sole discretion, rendering it a meaningless confidence trick.") The questions raised by the Tesla announcement are, thus, not new. And, given enough time, courts will have to answer them.

Logically, Tesla is making this promise about its patents because its business doesn't depend on its patents.

Carolina Milanesi:

The big source of buzz about the iPhone 6 is its larger screen size-the lack of which, many experts speculate, has caused Apple to lose appeal and customers over the past year.

Kantar Worldpanel ComTech data, however, tells a different story when it comes to the US market. When looking at the US consumers who upgraded their devices over the past year, only 14% of iPhone users moved from Apple to Android, and of those, only 2.1% opted for a screen of 5.5 inches or larger.

Chinese consumers have turned to larger screen sizes over the past year, so it is no surprise that these numbers are higher: Among consumers who upgraded their devices over the past year, 39% left iOS for Android. Of those, 12.3% opted for a screen of 5.5 inches or larger.

The potential upside of moving to a larger screen is certainly considerable for Apple in China, with customers to be retained and won over, but the impact will not be lost in the US, either.

The gap between expert - or "expert" - speculation and consumer behaviour is often telling. The article has some fascinating statistics too about ownership movement between Samsung and Apple.

Next time someone demands your digits and you want to get out of the situation, you can give them this number: (669) 221-6251.

when the person calls or texts, an automatically-generated quotation from feminist writer bell hooks will respond for you.

protect your privacy while dropping some feminist knowledge when your unwanted "suitor" calls or texts.

Awesome idea. Donate if you use it. Or set one up for UK numbers.

|Pitted a black cab (via Hailo), Addison Lee and Uber, from the WSJ Europe offices in Fleet Street to the Shard.

Uber's driver wasn't familiar with The Shard, a towering glass structure that is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. The driver took a different route from the other two, which ended up taking twice as much time. The fare was 60% more than the other trips because of a premium Uber charges for busy times.

Slower and more expensive? What's not to love?

As a biomedical computing student at Queen's University seven years ago, Justin Lee knew he wanted to build his own "internet of things" device — but he didn't want it to be any old "smart" lamp, toaster, or light switch. "I wanted to put a computer into one of the most ubiquitous objects in the history of the human race," he says. He chose the cup. Then, he enlisted Yves BĂ©har, the esteemed designer behind Jawbone and the OLPC, to build it.

The result is Vessyl, a 13-ounce cup that recognizes any beverage you pour into it, displays its nutritional content, and syncs all your drinking habits to your smartphone. Let's cut to the chase: while I only had an hour with a Vessyl prototype, I tried nearly a dozen beverages in it — and it successfully identified all of them. Within 10 seconds, the device, which currently resembles more of a Thermos than a finished product, recognized Crush orange soda, Vitamin Water XXX, Tropicana orange juice, Gatorade Cool Blue, plain-old water, and a few other beverages, all by name. Yes, this cup knows the difference between Gatorade Cool Blue and Glacier Freeze.

The internet of drinks! Now if it could identify contaminants - or whether someone had spiked your drink - that would make it a lot more interesting.

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