Yesterday, NASA announced that it (along with international partners) had discovered seven Earth-size planets orbiting a single star. Even more importantly, three of them are located in the star's habitable zone, the range around a star where liquid water is possible. The solar system (named TRAPPIST-1) is unfortunately located 40 light-years away from Earth, so sending a probe or a person there isn't really possible for now.
Still, it's a very important discovery, and Google is commemorating the event with a Google Doodle.
In addition to revised hardware for Chromecast and the new Chromcast Audio, Google also announced a new version of the Chromecast app at its San Francisco event. This updated app is more than just a connection tool, it's a content discovery portal, automatically detecting Chromecast and Chromecast Audio-compatible apps on your phone or tablet. It will show popular and personalized content suggestions to users, and recommend new Chromecast apps from the Play Store.
The new default screen is What's On, a sort of pick-and-mix of the Chromecast-compatible content on your phone right now. It's presented in a scrolling list of categories, not unlike the home page of the Play Store app.
Google is certainly no stranger to testing new features slowly. Most recently, it released an update to YouTube's UI that's been in testing for at least four months. And for Google, this is a good thing. Testing new features with limited samples of users helps get data not only on their usefulness, but also on how they augment user experience and engagement.
That brings us to the Play Store, an app where nothing is more important than engagement. Google appears to be testing a new feature called "Related Interests," which lists off various categories with round chips similar to the chips used for artists on Google Play Music's web interface.
Recently, we posted about a new feature Google was testing to help users better "explore" their surroundings, offering more fine-tuned exploration options for a user's immediate vicinity or their destination, with suggestions of what to do in the area based on time of day or conditions. The interface would apparently get its own button in Google Maps' primary view, but the button only appeared for a few users at the time. Today, Google officially announced the feature, which is continuing to roll out to more users.
In an entry to the official Google Maps blog, Google explains that the app's suggestions will indeed change based on time of day or weather conditions, and of course allows users to plan ahead by exploring "nearby" in other areas or neighborhoods.
A new "People" section has popped up inside the Android Play Store app, and it doesn't require an update to hop into (we're still using 4.6.17). This corner of the market will point you towards other Android users, particularly those in your circles, and offer a look at what apps and content they're using. The area is accessible right from the app's sidebar, and it's significantly glossier than the similar "From familiar faces" section of the Play Store's home page.
The feature integrates with Google+, pushing you to follow users or view their full profiles. Within the Play Store app, the focus is entirely on content.
It was just six weeks ago that we featured Rockmelt, an Android app with a bit of an identity crisis. It didn't know whether it wanted to be an RSS reader or a browser (but it did know it wanted to look like Pinterest). Well, the eponymous company that makes Rockmelt is the latest in a series of acquisitions by Yahoo. And they've killed the Android app deader than a dove at an NRA convention.
Rockmelt announced via its company blog that the Internet discovery service would be shutting down on August 31st as Yahoo integrates it into the larger corporation.
Following up on the success of its Current Caller ID app, WhitePages has released version 2.0 of the WhitePages app, bringing a slick new Android-oriented UI and new social/discovery features along for the ride.
Besides its newly holo-fied interface design, the WhitePages app adds the ability to connect with friends and neighbors with a Nearby People functionality that can be used, as seen in the video, to "find a friend" and plan a lunch. Likewise, you can search for nearby businesses and restaurants, even taking a sneak peek at restaurant menus.
Once you get tired of finding new friends and businesses, you can share where you're going (or where you've been) with friends via various social media outlets, and invite them to come along.
Hi. Welcome to the future. Mountain View, California, 2012. I'm telling you it's great here. You've got a location-aware, always-connected supercomputer in your pocket. What good is it, though, if you're only ever using it to check what's going on in Facebook land? Enter Field Trip, the latest app to be released by Google (via the obscure Niantic Labs), which offers you information about all the things around you, including trivia, facts about local monuments, restaurant reviews, and more.
The coolest thing about this app is that you don't need to pull it up to use it. Very similar to Google Now's notifications, Field Trip won't wait to tell you about something it thinks you might want to read up on in the area.
Mapsaurus, released today by a developer team of the same name, is perhaps the new app to end all new apps. By pairing an interactive map of Google's Play Store with an intuitive UX, Mapsaurus takes app discovery to a new level – not just of ease, but also of convenience.
The app, which promises to help users "discover apps you never would have known to search for," can branch out an interactive web of apps and games based on apps you already have installed, curated subcategories, or general categories and function sets.
What's great about Mapsaurus is that it not only helps you find new apps and games, but that the selections it displays are curated to ensure that no "mediocre" or sub-par entries are suggested.
In the world of the future, where music is as easily accessible as air, the new bread and butter of the music industry is discovery. While services like Turntable.fm center around small social gatherings, and Pandora uses fancy algorithms to predict your tastes, 8tracks asks "Um, hey, what was wrong with how radio worked? Also, do you guys like tablets?" The answers, of course, are "You know, that's a good point," and "Um, YEAH."
8tracks was already a great service centered around user-created playlists. The idea being that people know better than machines do what good music is. Unlike Turntable.fm, though, 8tracks allows all you virtual DJs to create custom playlists that others can then listen to.