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Showing posts from March 28, 2011

GroupMe Brings Group Messaging Boom to Brands

Fresh off a successful feature release and marketing binge at SXSW, group messaging startup GroupMe is revealing part of its plan for working with brands, and with it, some hints as to how the well-funded company might make money in the future.
GroupMe Featured Groups, which debut Monday, give brands an opportunity to both create and engage in group messaging conversations about them. Through the “Featured” tab within GroupMe’s app, users will now be able to create and join groups relating to the TV shows, artists and events of select launch partners, which include MTV (which previously employed Fast Society in a group texting campaign for Skins) and the Coachella Music Festival.
The idea, says co-founder Jared Hecht, was born out of looking at how users were already interacting on the service. “We found these use cases that were pre-existing on GroupMe … [so we] amplified them and added value,” he told me in a conversation last week.
GroupMe users at SXSW may have alrea…

About WWDC

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) showcases the latest innovations and the newest technologies in iOS and Mac OS X. Over 1,000 Apple engineers guide you through five exciting days of in-depth technical sessions and hands-on labs that demonstrate how to harness the incredible power of the world’s most advanced operating systems into your apps. Don’t miss out.
Seating is limited. Buy now $1,599 Redefine what you think is possibleThe new technologies in iOS and Mac OS X redefine the possibilities for your app development. The sessions at WWDC cover the latest technologies and development best practices on iOS and Mac OS X and will show you how to create great apps.
Read more about this year’s tracks
Bring your ideas to lifeThe hands-on labs at WWDC provide an unparalleled opportunity for you to meet and work with the Apple engineers responsible for creating the technologies that power iOS and Mac OS X. Take advantage of this collaborative working environment to appl…

Google Working on Wave-to-Pay Mobile System for Android [REPORT]

Google has teamed up with Mastercard and Citigroup to create a near-field communication mobile payment system on Android phones, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing several people familiar with the companies’ plans. On the customer end, the technology would allow payments simply by waving an Android device in front of a NFC reader. To do that, owners of Citigroup-issued debit and credit cards would have to activate a special Android app (in development for one current and many upcoming Android devices, the WSJ claims). This is where Google comes in: It would offer retailers data about their customers and help them deliver targeted ads and discounted offers to Android users near their stores. Instead of getting a cut of the transaction fees, Google would make money by selling these ads. VeriFone is also involved in the deal. Its role would be to deliver NFC readers that enable these kinds of payments to retailers around the country. The new mobile payment system is expecte…

Is Twitter the new celebrity PR?

Is the Twitter flirtation of Liz Hurley and Shane Warne just a social buzz? Or are we witnessing an age of celebrities writing their own PR?

It all seemed so innocent: just two friends united by a mutual love of theme parks, and a total disdain for standard punctuation. “About to go on worlds fastest roller coaster,” tweeted cricketer Shane Warne back in December. “Oooooh,” replied Liz Hurley, “I love scary rides-remember to scream if u want to go faster!” And scream he did: “I screamed so loud,” Warne later reported, “I’m surprised you din not hear me back in the uk !!!” Back in the UK, as Warne correctly deduced, we did not hear him -- and neither did many suspect anything more untoward was up. And why should we have? After all, Warney -- cricketer; commentator; poker player par excellence -- was on holiday in Abu Dhabi. For her part, Hurley -- actress; model; purveyor of fine beachwear -- was snuggling by the fire in her Gloucestershire farm. What, you might wonder, …

Virtual addiction

You forget to eat and sleep. You even forget family and friends. Yes, video game addiction is real and a growing problem

It has not been labelled a “diagnosable disorder” yet, but moms of pre-teens/teens, and girl-friends/wives of young men will tell you how the mega-killer World of Warcraft (WoW) can keep web-fingered geeks unwashed, unslept and uncommunicating for days. Core gamers have gone on “bender” sessions lasting 12 hours. Online Gamers Anonymous, a support group, has numerous postings seeking help. “I stop only when my hands ache,” said Akilesh (9), furiously thumbing his DS. “Road-Rash is relaxing.” Video game addiction is real.

Escape from the routine

Sure, all gamers are not addicts. Gokul (9), Govind (9) and Akshay (14) play for hours, but manage school, grades and sports well. But there's no going away from the games' can't-stay-away-from appeal. “For me, it's a mental escape from a mundane everyday existence,” says Anirudh Ganapathy, a co…

Weekly Window

Look who's on Facebook now

Wael Ghonim, the Google employee, who moonlit as the Facebook freedom fighter and whose wall posts helped coordinate the massive protests at Tahrir Square that eventually toppled President Hosni Mubarak, seems to have inspired the most unlikeliest candidate to take to social networking.

The country's Army, now in-charge in the country which is on its rugged path to democracy, has now launched its own Facebook page, according to international news agency Al Jazeera. The idea is to reach out to some of the protesters and calm them down over the future of the country. And what better place to attempt that than on their home turf: the uber-powerful Facebook Wall. Now Egypt's online revolutionaries are conversing with the country's Supreme Council on the way forward.

The upcoming iPhone: smaller or cheaper?

Android may have garnered a lot of attention in the past few weeks but the buzz is now loudest on Apple's new generation of …

Soon, robots may help teach children in classrooms

  Robots may one day help teach children in classrooms, suggests a new study involving droids and toddlers.

A robot, developed by researchers at the University of California (UC), San Diego, has already shown that it can improve significantly how well kids learn words.

The researchers are now developing a new version of the droid which they say could also be able to wheel around the classroom, the LiveScience reported.

The idea to develop the robot, called RUBI, came to Javier Movellan, director of the Machine Perception Laboratory at UC, when he was in Japan for research involving robots and his kids were in a child care centre.

Movellan and his colleagues started working on RUBI in 2004. It is about 2.5 feet high, “about the same size as the kids, to be less intimidating and improve interactions”, Movellan said.

RUBI’s chest holds a video screen, and its head is equipped with cameras, microphones, audio speakers, large plastic eyes and a cheery tuft of plastic that stic…

Scientists Steer Car With the Power of Thought

You need to keep your thoughts from wandering, if you drive using the new technology from the AutoNOMOS innovation labs of Freie Universität Berlin. The computer scientists have developed a system making it possible to steer a car with your thoughts. Using new commercially available sensors to measure brain waves -- sensors for recording electroencephalograms (EEG) -- the scientists were able to distinguish the bioelectrical wave patterns for control commands such as "left," "right," "accelerate" or "brake" in a test subject.They then succeeded in developing an interface to connect the sensors to their otherwise purely computer-controlled vehicle, so that it can now be "controlled" via thoughts. Driving by thought control was tested on the site of the former Tempelhof Airport.

The scientists from Freie Universität first used the sensors for measuring brain waves in such a way that a person can move a virtual cube in diffe…

Advanced NASA Instrument Gets Close-Up on Mars Rocks

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, will carry a next generation, onboard "chemical element reader" to measure the chemical ingredients in Martian rocks and soil. The instrument is one of 10 that will help the rover in its upcoming mission to determine the past and present habitability of a specific area on the Red Planet. Launch is scheduled between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18, 2011, with landing in August 2012.The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument, designed by physics professor Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, uses the power of alpha particles, or helium nuclei, and X-rays to bombard a target, causing the target to give off its own characteristic alpha particles and X-ray radiation. This radiation is "read by" an X-ray detector inside the sensor head, which reveals which elements and how much of each are in the rock or soil.

Identifying the elemental composition of lighter elements such as sodi…

Apple to unveil new iPad

Washington: Tech giant Apple is set to unveil a new version of its hugely successful iPad in March. The iPad 2 will be thinner than its predecessor and feature an improved display.
Analysts expect the new version will have a front-facing camera and Facetime video chat support, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. It will be powered by one of Qualcomm's multimode chips and will run on both GSM and CDMA-based networks around the world.
Apple said it had sold nearly 15 million iPads, since it went on sale last spring.
This is a very big deal, although Apple will be facing increased competition with the launch of a passel of tablets coming from numerous manufacturers, most of which are using the Honeycomb version of Google's Android mobile operating system, the Journal said.
The launch will take place March 2 in San Francisco, the scene of many such Apple events, it said citing sources..

Periodic Table of Shapes' to Give a New Dimension to Math

Mathematicians are creating their own version of the periodic table that will provide a vast directory of all the possible shapes in the universe across three, four and five dimensions, linking shapes together in the same way as the periodic table links groups of chemical elements.The three-year project should provide a resource that mathematicians, physicists and other scientists can use for calculations and research in a range of areas, including computer vision, number theory, and theoretical physics.

The researchers, from Imperial College London and institutions in Australia, Japan and Russia, are aiming to identify all the shapes across three, four and five dimensions that cannot be divided into other shapes.

As these building block shapes are revealed, the mathematicians will work out the equations that describe each shape and through this, they expect to develop a better understanding of the shapes' geometric properties and how different shapes are related to…

Toward Computers That Fit on a Pen Tip: New Technologies Usher in the Millimeter-Scale Computing Era

  A prototype implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients is believed to contain the first complete millimeter-scale computing system.And a compact radio that needs no tuning to find the right frequency could be a key enabler to organizing millimeter-scale systems into wireless sensor networks. These networks could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable.

Both developments at the University of Michigan are significant milestones in the march toward millimeter-scale computing, believed to be the next electronics frontier.

Researchers are presenting papers on each at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. The work is being led by three faculty members in the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw, and assistant professor David Wentzloff.

Bell's Law and the promise of pe…

World's Smallest Magnetic Field Sensor: Researchers Explore Using Organic Molecules as Electronic Components

Further development of modern information technology requires computer capacities of increased efficiency at reasonable costs. In the past, integration density of the relevant electronic components was increased constantly. In continuation of this strategy, future components will have to reach the size of individual molecules. Researchers from the KIT Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) and IPCMS have now come closer to reaching this target.For the first time, a team of scientists from KIT and the Institut de Physique et Chimie des Matériaux de Strasbourg (IPCMS) have now succeeded in combining the concepts of spin electronics and molecular electronics in a single component consisting of a single molecule. Components based on this principle have a special potential, as they allow for the production of very small and highly efficient magnetic field sensors for read heads in hard disks or for non-volatile memories in order to further increase reading speed and data…

R.I.P. Microsoft Zune, 2006-2011

Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft has finally decided to put an official end to its Zune media player line. “A person familiar with the decision” has informed them that Microsoft will not be putting out any new hardware in the line, and will be henceforward focusing on integrating Zune functionality with the Windows Phone 7 platform.
Not exactly unexpected; the Zune hardware hasn’t changed since mid-2009′s release of the Zune HD, although it has received several significant software upgrades. The writing has been on the wall for a long time, but whether Microsoft would double down (again) or cut their losses was far from clear.
Let’s just have a quick trip down memory lane. CrunchGear was one of the first in the world to see the Zune after a Microsoft employee unwisely (or perhaps wisely) left one on the table at a Seattle dive bar with bloggers around. We covered it feverishly, as it seemed to be a dark horse competitor to the iPod that might actually stand a chance. …

Top 10 Most Admired Companies

Every year, Fortune magazine (where I started out as a reporter) comes out with its list of the Most Admired Companies in the world. In truth, it doesn’t really change much from year to year. Apple, once again for the fourth year in a row, is No. 1, as it should be. The company single-handedly created an entirely new class of touch computing with the iPad last year, and is on it’s way to becoming the most valuable company in the world. Google is No. 2 (although, confusingly, it’s overall score of 8.22 is higher than Apple’s 8.16—it turns out that those are their industry scores not their separate Top 50 scores, a spokesperson explains, even though they are labeled “overall scores”). And Amazon comes in at No. 7. Microsoft hangs on at No. 9. So four of the top 10 companies are from the technology industry. And IBM is No. 12. After that, the list becomes a mixed bag, and even a little questionable. Cisco, Intel, Netflix, eBay, Sony, and Oracle also made the list. Net…

Google’s Algorithmic Cat And Mouse Game

Click for a larger version. The search wars have officially arrived! That’s right folks, Google’s ongoing quest to make its search results more impervious to spammers has become an infographic, which basically is a badge of honor for any tech bitchmeme. Closet and not so closet SEO nerds can follow the above flowchart tracing Google’s storied path, from getting rejected by Excite@Home in favor of current Demand Media honcho’s iMail through the chutes and ladders of its algorithmic spam chase to the company’s most recent attempts to quell the rising influence of content farms like um, Demand Media. “People trade links off topic in large reciprocal link farms.” –> “Google filters out sites that have a high ratio of reciprocal links.” And so on and so forth … Most ominous part? “Every change is a new opportunity! Some webmasters are already building business models around the exploiting of opportunities created by the latest algorithm change.”Shudder.

Take A Deep Breath Google, Facebook Isn’t Doing Search Just Yet

I can imagine this post, titled “Facebook Testing Web Search Box At Top Of Site” was flying around Google’s cubicles today. Probably with a few expletives attached as commentary. This certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. They targeted Microsoft years ago with their online Office competitor, and Microsoft fired back with Bing and seems to be quite willing to invest billions of dollars for as long as it takes to grab search share from Google. Now Google is targeting Facebook with their social efforts. There’s no reason at all why Facebook wouldn’t go into search. For us users, it’s all good. Competition brings better products to the market at lower prices. And Google needs more competition in search. But…phew! The screenshot that All Facebook got is a fake, or the result of third party software messing with a user’s browser (my guess is photoshop is the culprit). So take it down to DEFCON 2, Google, Facebook isn’t launching search just yet. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t comi…

Google TV PM Brittany Bohnet Leaves Google To Found A Startup

Google TV Product Lead Brittany Bohnet has just announced that she’s leaving Google after four years to try her luck as an entrepreneur, presumably as a co-founder of an as of yet un-named startup. At Google Bohnet was a Product Marketing Manager who worked on products like Maps, Earth and iGoogle, but most recently Google TV. Before Google Bohnet worked in PR at Apple as well as Marketing at Tiny Pictures. Bohnet has also been a founder before, being the CEO of Median Media which was a PR consulting company for Silicon Valley startups. We’ve contacted Bohnet for more details and await her blog post about the matter. Bohnet most recently made TechCrunch in a post about her engagement to PATH co-founder Dave Morin. Update: Bohnet tells me her company is still in “stealthish-mode,” which means that you’ll probably be hearing about it first here. Says Bohnet on taking the risk and becoming an entrepreneur, “I’ve long been inspired by female entrepreneurs and it’s a great feeling to …

Meet ‘Disco’, The Group Texting App Built Secretly Inside Google

It seems like Google has made a foray into the group messaging space today with Disco, a new iPhone app and website. Well, they sort of have. The service utilizes the Disco.com domain that Google bought at Domainfest last year for $255K. The Disco.com site went up today and the beta app hit the App Store yesterday, but no one noticed it — until now. And here’s the thing: it was made by Slide. We’ve been testing the app here at TC HQ and thus far its pretty fast, perhaps because it’s initial build is more bare-bones than fellow group messaging contenders like Fast Society, Beluga and GroupMe. It’s actually pretty similar to the initial build of GroupMe before it added push notifications. Again, the app is made by Slide, the storied social apps property which Google acquired in August for $182 million. Slide has made iPhone apps before, but the last one was Super Poke, an app created pre-Google acquisition. But Slide is being run as an autonomous business unit within Google, so t…

Recharge Your Phone With Solar Power

The SolarPort 4.4 looks like some kind of odd laptop, with its polycrystalline panels resembling symbols from an alien language and a form factor somewhere between the Apple MacBook and those fantastic Picturebook ultraportables that Sony doesn’t sell anymore. It is, however, a solar panel charging device for cellphones. Crack it open, lay it under the sun, and voila: up to 265mA at 12V or 530mA at 6V, Apollo willing, enough for plenty of small form-factor devices, if not laptops, hairdryers or toasters. Measuring 9.3″x6″ and weighing 19oz, the device offers reverse flow protection, ports for three units and a 5V 500mA setting to charge USB devices. Product Page [Brunton.com via Red Ferret]

Solar Screens May Make Phone Chargers Obsolete

How would you like to have a cellphone that never needed to be charged? That’s the promise of French company Wysips, which wants to turn your phone’s screen into a solar charger. It works like this: a transparent photovoltaic film covers the screen of your device, and provides 250mW of power to trickle-charge the battery. The film is thin — just 100 microns or 0.1mm — and won’t dim the screen when incorporated into the LCD panel. Wysips says the film will typically add just a dollar to the cost of a phone, and hopes to have shipping units within a year. The beauty of the design is that it scales. The bigger the screen of a device, the bigger the solar panel. A typical phone will be fully charged in six hours, and the second-gen version will give you a half-hour’s worth of power with just one hour of charging. The real winner here will be ebooks. These typically sip power anyway, and have pretty big screens. While you may still have to plug in an iPad to charge it at night, a …