Google sold Motorola to Lenovo at the end of 2014, but now it's getting a small piece of it back—the CEO. Lenovo recently announced a reorganization of its mobile business. This included the departure of Moto's CEO Rick Osterloh, and now we know why. Osterloh has come back to Google where he will lead a new hardware team that's responsible for Nexus, Chromecast, Glass, and more.
Combining metallic alloys with natural or synthetic threads, Google's ATAP and its industrial partners have created Jacquard yarn. Named for Joseph Marie Jacquard's inventions, the yarn is the basis for ATAP's Project Jacquard, an effort to make it easy for textile makers to weave interactive surfaces into everyday textiles like clothes and furniture. These surfaces would ultimately control things like mobile devices, and perhaps evolve into experiences and functions of their own. Jacquard yarn allows these new surfaces to either be plainly visible or completely hidden from the user so, just like regular yarn, designers can decide exactly how a surface will appear - or not appear, as the case may be.
Owners of Motorola's newer Android devices are probably familiar with Spotlight Stories. Those are the immersive animated shorts that are available via the built-in Spotlight Player app. Now Google has released a new Spotlight Stories app that has all three shorts from the Motorola experience, but adds a new live-action film called Help.
Project Tango, also known as "that Google thing that isn't Project Ara," is growing up. The 3D motion and mapping hardware has been moved out of the Advanced Technology And Products Group (basically Google's version of Lockheed Skunkworks) after two years of development and the not-quite-release of a developer's kit. Now, like all recent graduates in this economy, it's moving back in with its parents at Google. So... right down the hall in Mountain View, I suppose?
Tango is a software and hardware package that uses various sensitive motion trackers and camera systems to record incredible amounts of motion detail while simultaneously mapping out the surrounding environment.
Google Maps is one of those apps that will always have an enormous number of potential new features, so it's interesting to see the things Google is focusing on with each new release. We just saw an update to v9.2 with new navigation settings and auto-correct for searches, but there are plenty of other really interesting additions in the works. Let's take a look at some of the features we might have to look forward to. It's time for a teardown.
Disclaimer: Teardowns are, by their nature, speculative and based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong.
The third installment of Motorola's Spotlight stories has arrived in the Spotlight Player, and it's called Duet. Like the last two videos, this is an interactive story that you experience by moving your device around to follow the characters. While the last stories (Windy Day and Buggy Night) were quirky and whimsical, Duet is one of those heartstring-tugging, Disney-esque shorts. If you don't want to see too much, go watch the story now before checking out the screenshots.
Project Ara is still going strong, and Google demonstrated it at I/O at the ATAP presentation. Project Ara Technical Lead Paul Eremenko talks up the modular phone platform in the video below (starting at around 23:30), bringing the concept beyond simple phone component upgrades. "What if a phone could see in the dark? What if a phone could test if water is clean?" The collaborative Ara team wants the hardware to be just as flexible as the larger Android ecosystem.
They showed off a working, self-contained Ara "Spiral" prototype phone for the first time, with all the hot-swappable modules installed and a build of Android running.
Google's ATAP team is doing cool stuff with Project Tango – like sending it into space to help astronauts do stuff. Of course, those of us on earth also want to get our hands on this upcoming tech to see what it's all about, as well (though probably not for the $1k asking price of the dev unit). According to ATAP team member Regina Dugan in a talk today at I/O 2014, there should be a retail version made by LG hitting the streets next year.
Unfortunately, that's all the info we have right now – no specs, size, pricing info, or the like.
So we all know that Project Tango is cool – programing a mobile device to be aware of its own surroundings just as people are can be potentially beneficial in many ways. NASA has clearly seen something in the in Tango as well, as the company has been working with Google since last year to utilize the project with its own robotic platform called SPHERES. In a nutshell, it wants to incorporate Tango into autonomous, space-aware robots that will take some of the load off of astronauts on the International Space Station by doing some of the work for them.
Google's Project Ara might be the very definition of a geek pipe dream: an idea that makes a lot of sense, but isn't quite possible with current technology, being made real with applied engineering and creativity. Even with Motorola being sold to Lenovo, the Ara modular phone project is still full speed ahead at the Googleplex under the new ATAP team. Dave Hakkens of Phonebloks, who presented a very similar concept back in September, was recently given a tour of ATAP's progress. He was kind enough to bring a video camera along.
From an engineering standpoint, the coolest thing in the early Ara prototypes is the system that keeps the modular hardware components in place.