SciTechBlog
May 26, 2010

Third-grader wins Google doodle contest

Posted: 04:44 PM ET

Thanks to a box of colored pencils and a whole lot of creativity, Makenzie Melton now has a $15,000 college scholarship, a netbook computer and a $25,000 technology grant for a new computer lab at her school.

How did a third-grader from El Dorado Springs, Missouri, score the prizes? By winning Google’s 2010 Doodle 4 Google contest.

Melton’s doodle, titled “Rainforest Habitat," will appear on the Google homepage Thursday.

The doodle, which expresses Melton’s “concern that the rainforest is in danger,” was chosen over more than 33,000 submissions by students - ranging from kindergarten to twelfth grade, according to a post on the Official Google Blog.

Melton and the rest of the applicants were asked to develop a doodle for the site’s home page based on the theme, “If I could do anything, I would…” A panel of “well-known illustrators, cartoonists and animators” helped choose the winning doodle, according to the blog.

The regional and state finalists’ doodles can be found on the official Google Blog.

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Filed under: Google


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May 25, 2010

Google Pac-Man eats 4.8 million hours

Posted: 03:04 PM ET
Championship Pac-Man
Championship Pac-Man

A productivity blog figured out that we wasted (some would say, enjoyed) over 4.8 million hours of time on Friday playing the Pac-Man game on Google.

The game was the search site's featured logo over the weekend to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the popular arcade game. The logo was actually playable and would continue for 256 levels of chomping.

The RescueTime blog did the math to figure out how much extra time people spent on Google on Friday, and how much did that time cost.

Typically, users spend an average of 11 seconds per each Google page view. RescueTime found the average user spent 36 second more on Pac-Man Friday. With 504.7 million unique visitors on May 23, that totals up to an additional 4,819,352 hours spent on Google.

Armed with that number, the blog then wanted to figure out how much productivity was lost. Assuming the average Google user has a salary of $25 per hour, the total bill comes to $120,483,800.

The game would start if the user hit the "Insert Coin" button or if the site sat idle on the Google home page for about 10 seconds. Google left it up on their homepage throughout the weekend, but gave it a permanent home to be enjoyed whenever you like.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Google • pop culture • video games


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May 20, 2010

Google rolls out 'the future of television'

Posted: 12:48 PM ET

Saying it will "change the future of television," Google on Thursday rolled out Google TV - the internet giant's venture into web-TV integration.

The application, run by Google's Android operating system, lets users search for content from their television, DVR and the web.

Even as sites like Google-owned YouTube have increasingly emerged as viable entertainment options, the move is a nod to a basic truth of leisure time.

"There's still not a better medium to reach a wider and broader audience than television," said Google project director Rishi Chandra.

The platform will let users search for content, from the name of a TV show to the name of a network, in much the same way a Google search works. They'll get results from TV and the web and be able to watch either on their TV screen.

"Videos should be consumed on the biggest, best, brightest screen in your house," Chandra said. "That's your TV."

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Filed under: Google • television • YouTube


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May 5, 2010

Google shows off a new spring look

Posted: 01:48 PM ET

If you search for information on Google today, you may notice the results have a slightly new look.

The world's dominant search engine on Wednesday announced some changes that it refers to as its "spring metamorphosis."

"Today’s metamorphosis responds to the increasing richness of the web and the increasing power of search — revealing search tools on the left and updating the visual look and feel throughout," Google says in a blog post.

"While we are constantly rolling out small changes and updates, today’s changes showcase the latest evolutions in our search technology, making it easier than ever to find exactly what you're looking for."

Some changes are largely cosmetic: Navigation that was at the top of the page is now in a redesigned column on the left, for example. That column also lets searchers filter their results by category, potentially making it easier to shuffle from news stories to images and blog posts in the same search.

MercuryNews.com also says the Google logo changed slightly, and that the search box is now larger.

Here's some detailed analysis from the site Search Engine Land.

Google still dominates the search world, with 70 percent of the market share, according to a March report from Hitwise, which monitors internet traffic.

But it has come under threat lately from Facebook, which recently unveiled a plan to stretch into the rest of the internet, making it more social, and potentially taking away some of the power of Google's links; and from the growth of Bing, a rival search engine from Microsoft, which bills itself as more visual than Google. Bing has about 10 percent of the search market, Hitwise says.

Check out Google's changes and let us know what you think. Is Google just trying to get attention for some cosmetic shifts? Or are these changes significant?

Also note that even look-and-feel changes to search engines can be a big deal.

When Bing, for example, darkened the shade of its blue links, the company reportedly earned an extra $80 million in annual revenue.

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Filed under: Bing • Google • search engines


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April 30, 2010

WSJ: Google TV to be announced in May

Posted: 10:41 AM ET

Google is trying to bring the Web to your living room.

The search engine giant plans next month to unveil a new software package to help developers better display the internet on TV sets, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quotes unnamed sources familiar with the announcement.

Google TV, an android-based software platform, has drawn interest from TV makers, the Journal says.

Google is expected to break the news at the Google's I/O conference, which will be held May 19 and 20 in San Francisco, California, the newspaper reports.

At the conference, Sony also will announce a TV that runs an Intel chip and Google's software, Bloomberg reports.

In an e-mail to CNN, a Google spokesman declined to comment, saying, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."

This comes as the idea of "connected TV," or television sets that let people browse the Web for video, news stories, video conferencing and to stream music, continues to get a push from electronics and internet companies.

A number of companies are developing apps, or software programs, that format the Web for optimal viewing on TV sets. Some are creating hardware to help with the transition, too.

[via Mashable]

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Filed under: Google • television


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April 14, 2010

Google unveils 'replay' search feature

Posted: 03:08 PM ET

It's already easy to find relevant Twitter updates in Google real-time search results. Now, thanks to a new Google feature, you can see what people were tweeting about a topic last week or last month.

Google on Wednesday introduced a “replay” feature that allows users to search tweets posted at any given point in time - down to the minute.

Let’s say you're curious to see what people were tweeting about Kathryn Bigelow the night of the Academy Awards on March 7. After you type her name into Google's search field, select “Show Options” on the results page and then click “Updates.”

A timeline will appear above the results, allowing you to zero in on tweets by the hour or minute. They spiked late in the Oscars telecast, when excited viewers began tweeting about Bigelow becoming the first woman to win Best Director.

Here's a preview of what the new feature looks like.

“By replaying tweets, you can explore any topic that people have discussed on Twitter,” wrote Dylan Casey, Google product manager for real-time search, in a post on Google's blog.

For now, users can explore tweets going back about two months - to February 11 - although Google promises that you’ll soon be able to search as far back as the very first tweet on March 21, 2006.

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Filed under: Google • Twitter


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April 8, 2010

Using satellites to find skeletons

Posted: 12:14 PM ET

Sometimes when you're looking for something, and you really want to find it, the best thing you can do is step back from the situation a bit.

That's kind of what happened recently for scientists in South Africa, who announced Thursday that they found a new and important link in the human family tree. The University of the Witwatersrand archeologists didn't find the skeletal remains of a new hominid species, Australopithecus sediba, just by trudging around on foot.

They used satellite images from Google Earth.

[Read CNN's story about the find]

In 2008, when they started their search in Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in South Africa, there were 130 known caves, which tend to yield archeological finds.

After the team surveyed the area with high-res satellite images, they discovered 500 caves, "even though the area is one of the most explored in Africa," writes Google's Michael Jones in a blog post. So, in effect, the satellites helped up the odds for a discovery - or at least gave researchers more places to look.

Google put together a cool list of other times satellite imagery has been used to make discoveries. I'll paste some highlights below, and let me know if you've heard of other instances. I'm sure NASA or others have used GPS to advance research, too.

Reef in Australia

A villa in Rome

Lizard in Mozambique

The fact that cows are magnetic (kind of)

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Filed under: Google • Google Earth • science • Scientists


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April 7, 2010

Visual artists sue Google over copyright issues

Posted: 02:19 PM ET

Photographers and illustrators filed a lawsuit against Google on Wednesday, claiming that the search engine displays copyrighted images in books it scans, without fairly compensating the people who created the images.

The American Society of Media Photographers is leading the class-action lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New York, according to a news release.

Visual artists were not allowed to join a previous lawsuit filed against Google by book authors and publishers, who charged that Google was not fairly compensating them for books and excerpts posted online as part of its Google Books project. That project aims to digitize the world's books, creating a huge online library.

The Google Books legal action, initially filed in 2005, is expected to be settled soon; however, Wednesday's lawsuit over visual art on Google could keep the search engine in court on copyright issues for longer.

“We are seeking justice and fair compensation for visual artists whose work appears in the 12 million books and other publications Google has illegally scanned to date," Victor Perlman, general counsel for the photographers' organization, said in a written statement. "In doing so, we are giving voice to thousands of disenfranchised creators of visual artworks whose rights we hope to enforce through this class action.”

James McGuire, who represents the ASMP in the lawsuit against Google, told the Financial Times that the visual artists "are not trying to crash the party or influence what is happening with the other class action. We are just trying to get the best possible result for this class of plaintiffs."

Google says its trying to make information more universally available.

"We are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with U.S. and international copyright law," Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesman, wrote in an e-mail message to CNN.

"Google Books is an historic effort to make all of the knowledge contained within the world's books searchable online. It exposes readers to information they might not otherwise see, and it provides authors and publishers with a new way to be found."

The ASMP is joined by the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America and others in its filing against Google.

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Filed under: Google • Google Books


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April 5, 2010

Google: People need info to save energy

Posted: 06:00 PM ET

A coalition of tech companies, telecoms and environmental groups on Monday sent a letter to President Obama (PDF) on the subject of home energy efficiency.

The groups, which include Google, AT&T and 45 others, essentially make two points:

  • In order for people to save energy, they need to know more about how much energy they're currently using.
  • The U.S. government should, in some way, require that "timely, useful and actionable" data about energy use and pricing be made available to consumers over the Internet or mobile phone.

As for the info consumers should have access to, the groups say that to make smart decisions about how much energy to use and when to use it, people need to know the following:

  • How much energy their individual appliances use, in near-real-time
  • How much electricity costs at any given time
  • How the electricity is being generated (ie, by turning wind turbines or burning coal)

With all of this information, people could save an average of $360 per person per year on energy bills, the group says.

Google and The Climate Group will co-host a talk on this subject on Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Washington. A Google blog post says the White House energy adviser, Carol Browner, will give a keynote address.

For people to be able to get data about how much energy they're using at any given time, what appliances are sucking it in, and how much the electricity costs at the moment, the U.S. will have to deploy a "smart" electricity grid, capable of tracking and transmitting all of this information.

The White House has promised a $4 billion investment in the smart grid, but it has faced delays.

And a number of roadblocks remain.

Some say smart grid technology is too expensive, as the Wall Street Journal reports. The blog earth2tech says some electricity companies may not make energy data available fast enough to really be that useful for consumers.

What do you think? Would knowing more about your electricity consumption - in real-time - help you slash your power bill?

[via ReadWriteWeb]

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Filed under: Energy • environment • Google • greenhouse gas


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March 29, 2010

1,100 communities beg for Google broadband

Posted: 10:29 AM ET

The mayor of Sarasota, Florida, swam with sharks. Topeka, Kansas, temporarily changed its name to Google, Kansas. And in Duluth, Minnesota, the head of city government jumped into a frigid lake with ice chunks floating on the surface.

Why? To beg Google for better broadband.

More than 1,100 cities and towns have asked Google to speed up their Internet connections as part of the company's "Google Fiber" project. The search-engine giant says it will build the infrastructure for affordable, ultra-high-speed Internet connections in one or more communities, with the hopes of serving 50,000 to 500,000 people. Google plans to choose the winning community or communities by the end of the year.

The Mountain View, California-based company thanked mayors across the country for submitting "tremendous and creative" requests that the experimental network be build in their cities.

"We're thrilled to see this kind of excitement, and we want to humbly thank each and every community and individual for taking the time to participate," project manager James Kelly wrote on Google's blog.

"This enthusiasm is much bigger than Google and our experimental network. If one message has come through loud and clear, it's this: people across the country are hungry for better and faster Internet access."

Google says its connection will be hundreds of times faster than average Internet speeds in the U.S. today - with data transfer rates of 1 gigabit per second. Google hopes to accomplish that speed by bringing fiber optic cables straight to peoples' homes.

The country's average broadband speed ranked 18th in the world in a recent report from Internet monitor Akamai. South Korea was the world leader. Iceland, Latvia and Slovakia both had connection speeds faster than those in the U.S.

In addition to the 1,100 official requests from communities, more than 194,000 individuals wrote Google asking the company to install faster connections in their areas.

This all comes as the U.S. federal government debates a plan to speed up Internet connections across the country, and to make the Web more accessible to Americans.

What do you think makes Google's fiber-to-the-home project so popular with mayors? Would you jump in a near-frozen lake for better broadband? Let us know with a comment on this post.

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Filed under: broadband • Google • Internet


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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