Recently, Google's ambitious and public-spirited ventures are sounding less like the careful expansions of an international megacorp and more like the pet projects of Dr. Benton Quest. Self-driving cars, medical contact lenses, industrial robots - seriously, we're just waiting on a Walking Eye and Steve Ballmer in a villain costume at this point. The latest report from the Wall Street Journal (which tends to be spot-on when it comes to Google's plans) says the company is preparing a fleet of low-orbit satellites that will deliver Internet access.
A while ago, we posted about information we'd received indicating that sometime soon, Google's search functionality (and other actions) would be expanding beyond the Search app, moving into other apps for device-wide search interaction and - eventually - app-specific functionality.
It appears that isn't the only Search trick Google is working on, though. According to the information available to us, Google is working on functionality for now known as KITT (get it?) or "Android Eyes Free" internally.
That new Google Maps update is pretty cool, but there's more going on than the return of terrain mode. In fact, there are two small, but crazy-useful features in the new Maps that you ought to know about.
Left: Old, Right: New
Google's reinvention of the Chrome bookmark system, called Google Stars, was first spotted by Florian Kiersch nearly a month ago. Today, it looks like the Chrome extension and web interface are already live for the public, preceding any official word from Google about the burgeoning bookmarking service. For now, it looks like Stars is still in a dogfooding or testing phase.
Users who install the Chrome extension (linked at the bottom of the post) will be able to access the service's web interface, which will automatically "add the Google magic to your data," collecting a history of topics you're interested in or things you've bookmarked, arranged automatically by date.
The current Nexus 7 goes for $269.99, and while we regularly come across deals on used or refurbished models, it's still pretty exciting when new models are available at discounted prices. This time we've come across the 7-inch tablet selling on eBay for $60 off. This brings the price down to a slightly more tempting $209.99. To make things even better, the shipping is free.
It's not everyday that people can pick up a new 2013 Nexus 7 at less than the regular price.
In addition to substantial updates to the Android Device Manager and Chrome Beta yesterday, Google Maps is getting an adjustment as well. The new version (8.1) revives the Terrain Mode view, which lets you easily see the various elevation changes in surrounding hills, mountains, and valleys. (Terrain Mode was removed in Maps 7, for some reason.) There are also a few user interface changes to the various navigation screens. It's a small update compared with the the full 8.0 bump from earlier this month, but there are still some useful additions.
Wow, it's been over three years since we wrote about the official app for Digitally Imported Radio, or as it's known in your URL bar, DI.FM. (Fare thee well, "Android Market.") This app lets you access 65 finely-tuned streaming music stations focusing on electronic music and similar genres. The update to version 1.5 lets you sign in with either Google+ or Facebook. You can still log in with an existing DI account, or create a new one sans social network.
Android Device Manager is already a great way to ensure you can locate, lock, or wipe your phone if you lose it. You can remotely access it from your tablet or any full computer, but what if you're out and about and don't have any spare technology handy, and no way to connect it? Google has delivered a solution in the form of the latest Android Device Manager update. Now any Android device with ADM can allow guests to log in, with full access to remote location, ringing, locking, and wiping.
Several days ago, it was brought to our attention that Google's Search app finally allowed completely touchless reminders, whereby a user could set a reminder from start to finish without touching the device. Previously, reminders required a touch confirmation at the end of the process. Now, the "voice of Google" simply asks if the user would like the reminder to be set. Saying "yes" will complete the interaction.
It seems this isn't the only server-side switch Google is pulling, though.