Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘google’ Category

Google’s Getting AMPed

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How about that gold medal for America’s own Chloe Kim in the halfpipe snowboarding competition in Pyeonchang.  She was flyin’ like an eagle, in spire of the harsh winter winds.

Keep on truckin’, US of A.

Meanwhile, over at the Alphabet, Google has unveiled some new capabilities that seemed to be aimed squarely at Snapchat and Instagram in some friendly competition of their own.

The new capabilities, as reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, let publishes create visual-oriented stories in a mobile-friendly format not dissimilar from Snapchat and Instagram. 

Starting today, publishers can try out the developer preview of AMP stories, which include swipeable slides of text, photos, graphics and videos.

The Journal writes that “AMP stories are reminiscent of the immersive, vertical stories pioneered by Snapchat,” but that AMP stores don’t yet allow advertising to be incorporated, suggesting that Google is in the process of “building support for ads but didn’t disclose a time frame.”

It’s only a matter of time.

Written by turbotodd

February 13, 2018 at 9:31 am

Smarter Chips

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Couldn’t help but notice these two in-the-same-orbit headlines from Amazon and Google re: their own AI chips.

First, in The Information, it’s being reported that Amazon is developing a chip designed for AI to work on the Echo and other hardware powered by Alexa. 

They report that the chip should allow Alexa-powered devices to respond more quickly to commands, by allowing more data processing to be handled on the device than in the cloud. 

It seems the cloud’s edge is moving back towards the center.

And at Google, according to a post in the Google Cloud Platform blog, the company’s cloud Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) are available in beta to help machine learning experts train and run their ML models more quickly.

Some speeds and feeds deets:

Cloud TPUs are a family of Google-designed hardware accelerators that are optimized to speed up and scale up specific ML workloads programmed with TensorFlow. Built with four custom ASICs, each Cloud TPU packs up to 180 teraflops of floating-point performance and 64 GB of high-bandwidth memory onto a single board. These boards can be used alone or connected together via an ultra-fast, dedicated network to form multi-petaflop ML supercomputers that we call “TPU pods.” We will offer these larger supercomputers on GCP later this year.

Written by turbotodd

February 12, 2018 at 4:28 pm

A Pixel at a Time

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You know that whole Yahoo! data breach thing, the one where the company late last year revealed that a 2013 hack exposed the private information of over 1 billion users…yeah, well, Verizon (which bought Yahoo!, has revised the impact of the breach, suggesting that it impacted all 3 billion of its users.

While you get your head around that, a friendly reminder that former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified on Capitol Hill yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On September 7, Equifax announced it had suffered a massive cyber breach in which the Social Security numbers, names, birthdates, and addresses of 145.5 million Americans were stolen.

How did Smith explain the hack? Equifax had learned of a weak spot in the Apache Struts software in a key computer system back in March, but never patched it. Smith then laid blame on a faulty scanner and a single Equifax staffer responsible for mishandling patches.

In a company of 9,900 employes, a single individual person was in charge of its patching process.

According to a C|NET report of the testimony, several House committee members suggested federal laws to regulate credit monitoring companies like Equifax.

Don’t hold your breath.

But if you do, let it go starting around 12 EST today, especially if you’re an Android, because Google is hosting an announcement event with news on the Android, smartphone, Chromebook, and related fronts.

Gizomodo’s sneak peak suggests that new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones will be on offer. Also rumoured, a new Google Home Mini (think Google’s version of the Echo Dot) as well as a pricey Google “Pixelbook” that is expected to have a $99 optional Pixelbook Pen and a 360-degree hinge that allows the device to morph instantly into a tablet.

There’s also talk of a new Daydream VR headset, and possibly even more support for the increasingly popular Google Assistant.

The clock is ticking…you can follow the action starting at 9 AM PDT on The Verge.

Written by turbotodd

October 4, 2017 at 10:10 am

Supercharge Me

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Google and HTC have announced a $1.1 billion cooperation agreement, one under which HTC employees will join Google and HTC will continue to work with Google on smartphones, including its Pixel line of phones released last year.

As The New York Times reported, “Bringing on the team from HTC is a sign that Google is doubling down on plans to produce its own hardware.” But the two sides did not reveal how many engineers and other key employees would move over to Google.

HTC would still be free to continue making its own smartphones under the deal, but it seems evident that Google would take on the creme de la creme of HTC design and engineering staff, but not be required to take on its manufacturing facilities.

It would be easy to forget Google has traveled down this road before, having acquired Motorola Mobility in 2011 for $12.5 billion before selling the company to Lenova in 2014 for $2.9 billion.

This is from the press release back when the Google/Motorola deal was going down:

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.
– via TechCrunch

And this is from HTC’s press release overnight: 

For Google, this agreement further reinforces its commitment to smartphones and overall investment in its emerging hardware business. In addition to the talented and experienced team of professionals, Google will continue to have access to HTC’s IP to support the Pixel smartphone family. Additionally, this agreement also represents a significant investment by Google in Taiwan as a key innovation and technology hub.
– via HTC

So one would surmise from all this that what this is really all about is supercharging smartphone hardware…and Taiwan?

If I do the math, Google spent $12.2B on Motorola Mobility, sold it for $2.9B, which resulted in a loss of $9.6B. Now, they’ve bought part of HTC for $1.1B, which means they’ve invested $10.7B in smartphone hardware over the past six years.

That amounts to their spending about $148,611,111.11 per month on smartphones since August 2011.

I think I’ll stick with my iPhone plan on Verizon.

Written by turbotodd

September 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

Posted in 2017, android, google, htc, pixel

Google To Scrub Out Private Medical Records

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Happy Friday.

Bloomberg is reporting that Google has “quietly decided to scrub an entire category of online content — personal medical records — from its search results.

On Thursday, the company added the line: “confidential, personal medical records of private people” to its policy page.

As Bloomberg observes, prior to that Google had only removed webpages with identifying financial information (credit card numbers) and content that violated copyright laws. Revenge porn was later added in 2015.

What led to the change?

According to Engadget, last December an Indian pathology lab mistakenly uploaded 43,000 patients’ blood tests, including their names and corresponding HIV test results.

Google indexed them all because, well, that’s what Google’s algorithm does.

Written by turbotodd

June 23, 2017 at 9:34 am

Google Chrome’s Ad Blocker…Really

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File this one in the “Cutting Your Own Throat” folder.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google is planning to introduce an ad-blocking feature in the mobile and desktop versions of its Chrome web browser.

No, I’m serious. And it gets better.

The feature could be switched on by default within Chrome. So the default could be that users get no ads.

The upside for users: No ads, of course. And the ability to “filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web.”

The Journal explained that “Google could announce the feature within weeks, but it is still ironing out specific details and still could decide not to move ahead with the plan.”

A browser that blocks ads.

From a company that makes most of its money from ads.

Have they talked to any of their advertisers about this?

Am I missing something?

Written by turbotodd

April 20, 2017 at 9:37 am

Home of the Whopper Fail?

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“Okay Google, what is the Whopper Burger?”

And that is how the gauntlet was thrown down on the new battlefield yesterday for garnering advertising eyes…errr, ears… in the home assistant device age.

The very same company that encouraged Facebookers to delete their Facebook friends just to get a free burger, and whose mascot who strangly appeared in the corridor with Justin Bieber just before the Manny Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather fight, has taken guerrilla marketing into the AI age.

First, a little on how Google Home works. Like it’s progenitor, Google Home has a trigger phrase whereby it starts to listen to its owner. In Google’s case, it’s “Okay Google…” followed by the person’s request.

So Burger King figured it would get some free digital media by building some TV ads that made a call out to the Google Home device, whereby it said “Okay Google, what is the Whopper burger?”

To which one would logically ask, from whence came the answer?

In Burger King’s case, reports The Verge, they decided to use the Wikipedia entry, which Burger King apparently edited to read as follows:

“The Whopper is a burger, consisting of a flame-grilled patty made with 100 percent beef with no preservatives or fillers, topped with sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame-seed bun.”
– via The Verge

Never mind the fact, The Verge observes, that it sounds an awful lot like ad copy, or that just about anybody (Ronald McDonald, anyone?) could go and edit it on a whim.

To make this even more “meta,” the “Whopper Burger” Wikipedia entry now has a reference to this whole escapade:

On April 12, 2017, Burger King released a new commercial, in which an employee states that he had to find a different way to explain a Whopper because they only had 15 seconds, after which he states “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?”. The dialogue was designed to trigger voice searches on Android devices and Google Home smart speakers configured to automatically respond to the phrase “OK Google”.[81] The specific query causes the device to read out a snippet sourced from Wikipedia’s article on the Whopper. However, prior to the ad’s premiere, the article had been edited by a user who was believed to have ties to the company, so that Google’s automatically-generated response to the query would be a detailed description of the Whopper burger that utilized promotional language. The edits were reverted for violating Wikipedia’s policies discouraging “shameless self-promotion”.[82][83] Furthermore, the snippet became the target of vandalism; at one point, the relevant section listed the sandwich’s ingredients as including “rat meat” and “toenail clippings”, and some users reported that Google Home had relayed information from vandalized revisions.[84][85][81] A few hours later, Google disabled the ability for the ad to trigger automatic voice detection on these devices, preventing the promotional query from being read. Wikipedia also semi-protected the Whopper article to prevent the promotional descriptions or vandalism from being re-inserted.[84]
– via en.wikipedia.org

I kind of gave away the denouement there at the end — Google caught on to the cunning King of the Burger and, before it could spend all that money from all those hard-earned Whoppers on its TV media buy, whose spots would set Google Home assistants a burgerin’ across the country, Google disabled the ability for the ad to trigger the automatic voice detection.

“Okay Burger King, what do you do now???”

I guess they can just bask in the glory of their short-lived PR stunt, which brought far more attention to the Whopper than any Google Home assistant was ever likely to land.

Then again, the ultimate joke may just be on Google. The good Burger King PR for being so clever could very well rub off negatively on the broader home assistant market.

Burger King, I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a Google Home assistant today.

And for the record, all this craziness is precisely why I bought the Amazon Tap, the device that we humans have to hit a button to actually turn the thing on.

You know, that old-fashioned idea of the man actually controlling the machine?

Written by turbotodd

April 13, 2017 at 9:07 am

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