The Google self driving car

Google revealed a few hours ago about their secret project, a self driving car. What’s really incredible is that they’ve already let it loose into the wild, so experimental as it may be, the system pretty much works.

According to the Google Blog, they gathered some of the best engineers from the DARPA challenges and made a team to build this awesome car, which amazingly looks quite normal (except for the velodyne LIDAR on top… at least that’s what I think it is).

The vehicles (more than one apparently) drove by themselves a total over 140,000 miles (about 225,300 km) with a trained driver and software operator on board monitoring the car and ready to jump in at any time. As far as I know, Google has not released any videos of the cars, but they have been spotted on the road and the guys at Tech Crunch have updated a couple of videos of them.Judging by the fact that the car was actually out on the road, I’d say it shouldn’t be to long until they are available to the public at exaggerated prices, but would they actually be useful? would they actually save lives? I mean yeah, if you take out crazed speeding human behavior out of the equation you should avoid accidents, but these cars should have to be deployed on a HUGELY MASSIVE scale and I doubt people being willing to pay for them or even wanting to use them, because I suppose they would abide to legal speed limits, an attribute I can hardly acknowledge it in ANY driver I know.


Phone Calls From Gmail

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase

NEW YORK: Google Inc said users of Gmail will now be able to call telephones directly from their email, putting it in direct competition with Web calling service Skype and more traditional operators such as AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications.

While Google had already offered computer-to-computer voice and video chat services, it said that starting on Wednesday it will now allow calls to home phones and mobile phones directly from Gmail for the first time.

Google promised free calls to U.S. and Canadian phones from Gmail for the rest of this year and said it would charge low rates for calls made to other countries.

For example it said calls to Britain, France, Germany, China and Japan would be as low as 2 cents per minute.

Analysts said the service would likely be a bigger competitive threat to services like Skype’s than to traditional phone companies, which have already been cutting their call prices in recent years in response to stiff competition.

“This is a risk to Skype. It’s a competitor with a pretty good brand name,” said Hudson Square analyst Todd Rethemeier.

Skype, which owned by private equity firms and eBay Inc and planning a $100 million initial public offering, has long allowed consumers to make calls from computers to phones. Skype became popular by first offering free computer-to-computer voice and video services.

Like Skype, Rethemeier said the Google service will likely be much more popular among U.S. consumers making international calls, than among people calling friends inside the country.

“Calling is so cheap already that I don’t think it will attract a huge amount of domestic calling. It could take some of the international market,” he said.

Another analyst, Steve Clement from Pacific Crest, said that anybody who is tempted by Internet calling services has likely already disconnected their home phone.

“The type of person who would use a service like that isn’t the type of customer who still has a landline,” Clement said.

Google said making a call through its service works like a normal phone in that a user could click on the “call phone” option in their chat buddy list in Gmail and type in the number or enter a contact’s name.

Calls that cost money will be charged from an online account that users can top up with a credit card, Google said. The service will not be available for making outgoing calls on cell phones because other Google apps already cater to that market, the company added.

Google shares closed up $3.23, or 0.72 percent, at $454.62 on the Nasdaq, while the shares of eBay rose 29 cents, or 1.27 percent, to $23.16, also on the Nasdaq.

The $35 Indian tablet

Given India’s chequered history of non-deliverable low-cost devices, it’s easy to believe the sceptics of India’s $35 tablet.

But this device might just turn the tables.

While the media disses and dismisses the ultra low-cost tablet, Microsoft and Google are apparently fighting a pitched battle to place their operating systems on the device aimed at school children of the world. Microsoft has come forth and offered its Windows CE OS to run on the device which currently runs Google’s open source Android OS.

Striking a confident pose during a TV interview on Wednesday, India’s incumbent Human Resource Development minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, said that he was all set to deliver 1 million tablets to students in India’s colleges and universities in 2011 at the promised $35. He also reiterated his aim to bring down the price of the tablet to $10 a piece, riding on falling hardware prices.

Interestingly, the minister claimed that education content for the device had already been developed in India’s premier technology institute, the IIT, and was open source just like the Android OS the device runs on.

Both the presenters, who have reviewed tablets of all shapes and sizes (and cost) before, and were aware of India’s earlier failed attempts to make handheld computers, like the Sakshat and the Simputer, were impressed by the device’s built quality, and acknowledged that their efforts to “crash” the device were unsuccessful.

Tablet features

The device has Wi-Fi, and 3G connectivity, and a slew of add-ons as well. You can slot in a miniSD card to complement the 2GB memory, add in a SIM card, and plug in USB devices via the mini and full USB ports, with a video-out, and headphone jack for multimedia.

Ignoring the rock-bottom costs, compared with other tablets, the only negative the reviewers could find with the device was its resistive touchscreen, as opposed to the capacitative touchscreen which would surely add to its price. But then just to get a touchscreen at this price point is a major achievement in itself.

Although I still awaits a point-by-point reaction to the OLPC project’s open letter, Mr Sibal reflected Nicolas Negroponte’s belief that the device is a vehicle for knowledge and that it can’t be limited to a particular region.

But get this before you reach for your wallet. Of the $35, which equates to INR 1500, INR 750 is government subsidy. Without going into details, the minister said that if the tablet was in the retail market, something for which he has no plans for at the moment, there’ll be added cost to the device which will jack up the price.

The minister, a decorated lawyer, also offered advice to the world media: “Never be sceptical of the government. There are times when the government really delivers.”

2011 isn’t all that far away, and although it may be a while before we get this device in the open market, its mere existence has the potential to lower the prices of tablets globally.

The World’s Most Valuable Brands

I bet you use multiple products from some of these companies every day:

No. 1: Apple

Brand value: $57.4 billion

No. 2: Microsoft

Brand value: $56.6 billion

No. 3: Coca-Cola

Brand value: $55.4 billion

No. 4: IBM

Brand value: $43 billion

No. 5: Google

Brand value: $39.7 billion

No. 6: McDonald’s

Brand value: $35.9 billion

No. 7: General Electric

Brand value: $33.7 billion

No. 8: Marlboro

Brand value: $29.1 billion

No. 9: Intel

Brand value: $28.6 billion

No. 10: Nokia

Brand value: $27.4 billion

Get the details from Top Brands

New Gmail Design Leaked

A version of Gmail used by Google employees has been revealed in a screenshot included with a Chromium OS bug report, and the image reveals more than a half dozen changes to the Gmail most of us are using today.

Savvy Gmail users immediately picked apart the screenshot looking for new features and interesting changes. Most notably, Mail, Contacts and Tasks have all been featured in the top left as the three pillars of the user experience. Right below those, you can see that “Compose Mail” is now an actual button, not just a text link. That’s simply an aesthetic change, but it’s an interesting choice regardless.

Following that theme, there are no longer text links to actions such as “Select All” or “Select None” — those appear to now exist under a textless drop-down box above the Inbox. Drop-down boxes are ubiquitous in general, actually. Note that the e-mail address at the top menu is accompanied by a drop-down box — could that be the Gmail account switcher that Google promised?

Look in the chat window and you’ll see a new “Call Phone” button. That might be Google Voice  integration. You’ll also see two little buttons in the top-right corner of the Google Talk window; one of those could be a rejiggered settings menu, but it’s hard to tell for sure.

Google Earth Now Displays Real-Time Rain and Snow

The latest version of Google’sGoogle 3D map application, Google EarthGoogle Earth, now has the ability to display real-time rain and snow in certain parts of the world.

To see it, you must first enable the clouds layer, and then zoom in to a location where it’s raining or snowing. Google Earth displays rain and snow only in certain parts of North America and Europe; to see where exactly the new feature is available, enable the radar layer.

The weather simulation adds another layer of coolness to the already mesmerizing Google Earth application. Since it displays rain and snow in real time, the feature can actually be useful as a precise visualization of what weather is like in a certain place. It may, however, render all of those weather-related chats you have with friends and relatives over the phone even more meaningless.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on when this feature might be enabled in other parts of the world.