SiliconFilter

HoloLens is the most exciting project to come out of Microsoft in years

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I’m a jaded tech blogger, but Microsoft’s HoloLens project is without doubt the most exciting project to come out of Redmond in years. After years of talk about augmented reality, this may be the first project that actually lives up to the hype.

The first hands-on posts from those we were in Redmond talk about it as an almost magical experience (but then they only got to test it in a very controlled environment). It’s a bit of Google Glass and Occulus Rift — yet at the same time it’s nothing like it because they don’t do anything like what Microsoft showed today.

This being Microsoft, things could still go horribly wrong. We won’t know until the first units hit the market. But it’s nice to see some real innovation from Microsoft again.



4:59 pm


The new Yandex browser sure looks interesting

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The Yandex team launched an alpha version of its new browser today and there are plenty of interesting design ideas here. Overall, it feels like a bit of a hybrid between Safari and Opera Coast. I rather like the tabs at the bottom of the screen, but I’m not sure I could use a browser without a bookmark bar as my default choice.

Still, it’s not every day you see a new browser design launch and now that Firefox and Chrome almost look the same, it’s a nice change of pace to see somebody try something different.

More on TechCrunch.



12:32 pm


Camera+ 3: The Best iOS Camera App Just Got Better – And You Can Now Use it in Other Apps, Too

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Camera_plus_logoCamera+ is probably the most popular iOS camera app around. Today, taptaptap, the developers of Camera+, launched the latest version of their app ($0.99) and it’s a major step forward for what was arguably already the best camera app for the iPhone. Among other things, Camera+ users can now share their photos quickly to multiple services, create workflows and set focus and exposure independently. In addition, the developers also redesigned the app’s lightbox interface for managing your images and tweaked the app’s filters.

The most important update, however, is that Camera+ now offers third-party developers APIs for integrating the camera into their own iOS and Camera+ images that are stored on the web into their web and mobile apps. WordPress, Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Foodspotting and Twittelator Neue are already using these new features. Once you install the update, for example, you can now choose to take pictures with Camera+ in Tweetbot, edit them in the app and then use them in your tweet.

Here is a full list of the updates in version 3:

★ App icon

The very first thing you’ll notice in Camera+ 3 is its shiny, new icon. It’s essentially the same Camera+ icon that you’ve grown to know and love… but better and much more polished.

★ Dramatically improved sharing

There are two main improvements here… The first is that you can now share to multiple services, or even multiple accounts on the same service, all at the same time. The second big thing that you’ll notice with sharing is the increase in speed. It’s now faster than ever to share your photos online.

★ Multiple photo library import

We’re introducing a great new feature where you can import multiple photos from your photo library all at once.

And we added several fine touches to the import panel. Large thumbnails, zooming to view your photo large, and photo info will help ensure that you’re choosing exactly the photos you want.

★ Workflows

Sometimes you want to shoot a bunch of pics in a row without having to think about things like editing and sharing. And sometimes you want to do just the opposite and edit and share each pic you take, right after you take it. Workflows easily provide you with the flexibility to do it either way

★ Focus & exposure locks

Now you can lock the focus and exposure of the camera, independently of each other. Photographers looking for the utmost flexibility in shooting will love this new feature because it enables all kinds of creative ways of taking awesome shots.

“Bokeh?! I hardly know her!”

★ APIs

We’ve created a few comprehensive APIs for Camera+. These APIs enable people to integrate Camera+ into other apps and to create web services that make use of the many, many photos that have been shared by Camera+ users.

Several prominent developers have already integrated Camera+ into their apps via these new APIs. Check-out the WordPress, Tweetbot, Twitterrific, Foodspotting, and Twittelator Neue apps in the App Store to see these APIs in action.

And to get all the details on how the APIs work, visit http://api.camerapl.us

★ Improved Lightbox UI

We’re a bit obsessive when it comes to user interface and user experience. With Camera+ 3, we’ve reworked several details of the Lightbox to make it even more usable. It’ll take a couple of seconds to get used to the changes but we’re completely confident that you’ll love these improvements almost immediately.

★ Create web link

Many of you used to use the SMS sharing feature (now renamed to Message) for passing web links along to others. Now we’ve got a much better, easier, and dedicated way of doing it.

★ Tuned Clarity

Often imitated but never duplicated, Clarity is one of the things that makes Camera+ what it is. And now it’s even better, especially if you’re using an iPhone 4S.

★ VolumeSnap setting in menu

VolumeSnap is our birthright. That is all.

★ Status bar in Lightbox

In previous versions of Camera+, we didn’t display the status bar (you know… that thingy with the clock, battery level, etc at the top of your screen) when you were in the Lightbox. Well, that’s all changed with this version! Never again miss picking your kids up at soccer practice because you were editing photos and had no clue what time it was.

★ Improved performance

We’ve gone through painstaking steps to improve performance in several parts of the app. It all feels a lot more fluid now. But don’t just take our word on it… try it yourself and see how much nicer it is now.

★ Notifications

Find-out about Camera+ updates, news, and contests. We’ve implemented notifications so they’re not intrusive and they’re opt-in only.

★ Lotsa bug fixes

We’ve identified and fixed several bugs in Camera+. Thanks to all of you who’ve reported any issues you’ve experienced.

★ Various other subtle, but significant enhancements



9:14 am


Lessons Worth Sharing: TED Launches New Video Series for High School Students and Teachers

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TED, the organization behind the popular conference series with the same name, just launched a new initiative that aims to bring TED-like video content to high school students. The idea here is to repackage existing TED talks as well as videotaped lessons from teachers around the world with additional graphics and effects to make them more palatable to a younger audience. As TED’s curator Chris Anderson notes, the organization doesn’t claim that TED-Ed, as this new program is called, will “transform education.” Instead, he says, the organization wants to help teachers by making these videos available, but also by providing a platform for the best teachers to showcase their skills.

TED has also hired a team of animators to help teachers turn their best lessons into “memorable videos.” The organization plans to release about 300 videos within the next year. Anybody can suggest teachers or already existing video lessons that should be included in this program.

Not Trying to Reproduce the Khan Academy

Anderson specifically points out that his mission is not to “recreate what Salman Khan of the Khan Academy and many others are doing so brilliantly, namely to meticulously build up entire curricula on video.” Instead, he wants these short videos to “spark curiosity” and allow teachers to build on top of this.

Here is an example of one of the new TED-ed lessons:



8:24 am


Apple Announces New iPad with Retina Display, Quad-Core Graphics and 4G LTE Support, Available March 16th

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Apple’s CEO Tim Cook took the stage in San Francisco this morning to announce the next version of the iPad, as well as iOS 5.1 and a new AppleTV. The new iPad features a retina display and a faster processor. The wireless version will now support 4G LTE networks for significantly faster download speeds while on the go. The design of the new iPad looks virtually identical to the iPad 2 and the name, it seems, is "the new iPad."

The new AppleTV now supports 1080p playback and also comes with an updated user interface.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more updates.

iPad: Retina Display, Faster Processor, Better Camera

The central focus of today’s event, of course, was the next version of the iPad. Apple, in Cook’s words, wants to “redefine the category that Apple created with the original iPad.”

As expected, the highlight of the new iPad is a high-resolution display – the kind Apple likes to call a Retina Display. It features a 2048×1536 resolution (that’s 3.1 million pixels at 264ppi) and is, according to Apple, the “most ever in a mobile device.” Apple also notes that the new display also offers significantly better color saturation.

Inside the iPad, a new A5X processors now offers quad-core graphics performance that is, according to Apple, four times as fast as a comparable NVIDIA Tegra 3. It's worth noting that this is still a dual-core processor, though. Just the graphics chip is now quad-core.

The new iPad will also features a significantly better camera (5 megapixel, IR filter, face detection, etc.). The new camera will allow you to shoot video in 1080p. Maybe even more importantly, the camera software now uses stabilization to ensure your movies aren’t too shaky.

The new iPad will be 9.4 mm thin and ways 1.4 pounds. It will retail starting at $499 for the 16GB version. It will be available on March 16th in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and Japan. It will go on sale world-wide on March 23rd.

The iPad 2 will remain available for the time being, starting at $399 for the 16GB WiFi version.

4G for the iPad

Surprisingly, the new iPad will also offer support for 4G LTE wireless networks. These next-generation networks offer faster download speeds, though until now, Apple had been somewhat conservative about moving to these faster networks as there has generally been a trade-off between battery life and speed. Apple, however, says that this new version will offer the same battery life as the previous 3G iPad (10 hours of battery life, 9 hours on 4G).

The 4G version is coming to Verizon, AT&T in the U.S. and Telus, Rogers and Bell in Canada. Prices for the 4G iPad will start at $629.

The 4G version of the iPad will, it is worth noting, also support regular 3G networks.

Users will also be able to turn the 4G iPad into a personal hotspot – if the carrier supports it.

Apps: Updated iApps – Including a New iPhoto for iPad

In addition to the new hardware, Apple also talked about the app ecosystem for its tablet. Cook, of course, couldn’t help himself and had to take a stab at Android. Specifically, he noted how Twitter on a Galaxy Tab “looks like a blown-up smartphone app” while the iPad version was clearly designed for a tablet.

In addition to talking about third-party apps, Apple also announced new versions of its own productivity apps (Pages, Keynote and Numbers) for the iPad and the next version of Garageband, the company's music-creation app. iMovie, too, is getting and update with advanced planning and editing tools. It's not clear if any of these updates will also be available for first-generation iPads.

New in Apple's line-up is iPhoto for iPad, which completes Apple's lineup of iApps that are currently available for OS X. 

New AppleTV & iTunes in the Cloud

iTunes in the cloud, which was mostly focused on music until now, now offer support for movies as well. Users will be able to re-download any of the movies they have purchased on any device. These movies will be encoded in 1080p.

The reason for this is that Apple’s latest version of the AppleTV, which the company also announced today, finally supports 1080p as well. The new AppleTV also features an updated interface that makes use of the extra pixels. Just like the old AppleTV, this new version will cost $99. It will be available next week and you can pre-order starting today.

Siri Comes to Japan

In addition to all of this, Apple also today announced that Siri, it’s voice-enable personal assistant, is coming to Japan as part of the company’s iOS 5.1 update (which is also rolling out today).

The Post-PC World

Cook also used his presentation to talk about Apple’s vision of the post-PC world. In his view, it seems, the iPod started this trend, followed by the iPhone and, of course, the iPad. “Apple,” he said,”has its feet firmly planted in the post-PC future.” These devices, according to Apple, made up 76% of its revenue last year and the company sold a total of 172 Million of them. Just in the last quarter alone, Apple sold 62 million iPads.

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10:42 am


Google Comes Out to Play: Launches a Central Storefront for its Music, Movie, eBook and App Markets

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Google just announced a massive update to how it will market and sell content and app. The Android Market, Google Music and Google Books are now a thing of the past and have been integrated into a new service called Google Play. Google calls the service "a digital entertainment destination where you can find, enjoy and share your favorite music, movies, books and apps on the web and on your Android phone or tablet." The combined entertainment store will give users access to 20,000 songs you can upload to your free music locker and "millions of new tracks" for purchase, as well as access to the 450,000 Android apps that are currently available in the Android Market. In addition, Play will also let users buy content from Google's eBook and movie catalog.

Goodbye Android Market

Neither Google's eBook nor movie offers have been major hits, so this new combined market, which will be available online and on Android (where it replaces the Android Market), could help to raise the profile of these services.

The idea here, besides offering a central store, of course, is also to make it easier for users to seamlessly switch between devices as they read a book or watch a movie. All your data will be stored in the cloud, after all, and should be available from anywhere.

There are some geographic restrictions to what Google will offer where. In the U.S., users will be able to get access to the full selection of movies, apps, eBooks and music. In Canada and the U.K., Play will only offer movies, books and apps, while Australian users will only get apps and book and Japanese users will get access to movies and apps. In the rest of the world, Play will basically just be an app store for the time being. Google, of course, hopes to roll more services out to more countries in the long run.



10:28 am


Bottlenose: Fighting Information Overload With a Smarter Social Media Dashboard

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The first time I looked at Bottlenose, a web app that bills itself as “the smartest social media dashboard,” it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. It just looked like a slightly overcomplicated Twitter client at the time, but things have really changed now that the team has released its second beta version. It’s now my go-to client for checking up on what’s happening in my network on Twitter and Facebook. Support for RSS feeds is also planned in a later version.

I'm not really sure what changed (that's how little of an impression the first version left on me), but this new version feels miles ahead of the first beta. Maybe it’s the new three-pane layout that providesmore information at a glance, maybe it’s the fact that media and even web previews are now embedded in your stream, or maybe it’s just that nagging feeling that Twitter itself has simplified its own tools like TweetDeck to the point where they aren’t very useful for power-users anymore and where it feels the company is taking more steps backwards than forwards.

At its core, Bottlenose is a social networking client and its multi-column layout is quite reminiscent of TweetDeck and Seesmic. Its core mission, however, is a bit different. The service wants to help you cope with the massive amount of information that comes at you from your social media sources. Instead of just presenting you with long lists of unfiltered tweets (though Bottlenose will also do that for you if you ask it nicely), the service is more about letting you find the most important stuff. A lot of other apps obviously also promise to do this, but somehow Bottlenose makes it all feel rather natural.

bottlenose_large_multi-column

Your Friendly Bottlenose Assistants

Here is how this works in practice. Bottlenose features a tab called “Assistants,” for example, where you can easily create filtered lists of tweets. If you just want to see tweets about news that were posted by users who have more than 10,000 followers, building that list takes just a few clicks. Bottlenose’s algorithms will decide when a tweet is about news for you. In the same way, you can create a column that just shows gossip stories that also include videos and that were retweeted at least twice.

Maybe the most interesting feature of the service, though, is its “Sonar” tool. Here, you get a tree-diagram view of what the people in your network are talking about. The view changes, depending on which one of your columns you are looking at. This, more than any other Twitter tools I have recently seen, makes it easy to get a quick glance at what the most important topics of the moment are. You can, of course, click on any keyword in the sonar view and see who talked about it and what exactly is being said about it.

bottlenose_sonar_large

Invite Codes

Bottlenose is still in private beta, but you can use the code “getsonar” to get in right now. If you have a Klout score over 30, you can also get access right away.



11:20 am


OpenXC: Ford Launches an Open-Source Platform for In-Car Connectivity and Apps

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Cars and the Internet are slowly getting closer, but it's still hard for developers to get their apps into cars without being invited by the automobile industry. Given the security and especially safety concerns involved here, things will likely remain this way for a while, but a new project from Ford aims to accelerate in-car app development. The company today announced that it is now shipping a beta version of its OpenXC hardware and software platform to a group of handpicked universities, including the University of Michigan, MIT and Stanford, as well as app developers like the Weather Underground in the U.S. and HCL Technologies in India.

OpenXC was developed in corporation with Bug Labs.

The Modular and Upgradable Car

Here is the general philosophy behind OpenXC:

What if the user-facing hardware and software was independent from any one vehicle, and could be purchased and installed by consumers as an aftermarket add-on? What if the infotainment hardware was more modular and user-upgradable, and perhaps most importantly, transferable from one vehicle to another?

If it becomes widely adopted, every car would feature an OpenXC connection that is linked to the dashboard interface and audio system. Then, you could just buy extra hardware modules or software for your cars and plug it into the OpenXC connections just like you plug a USB device into your computer. Your wireless provider, for example, could offer a 3G module and if you want to switch to LTE, you just swap the modules out.

The average car now has a lifespan of 13 years, says Ford. That means the technology your car uses today will be outdated quickly if you can't upgrade it. OpenXC would make it possible to keep up to date for far longer.

For Developers: OpenXC Brings Android and Arduino to Your Car

This new platform is currently based on Android and gives developers real-time access to a large number of a car's sensors, the GPS receiver and other data from the car's systems. Ford notes, however, that there is no reason why somebody couldn't port the libraries it uses to other operating systems as well. The reference hardware, which uses the popular Arduino platform, should cost under $150 (plus the cost of an Android tablet).

It's worth noting that this is currently only a limited release and that the actual source code is not yet available. Ford, however, promises that it will happily add more developers every day (you can sign up here) and that the source code will be available soon.

To ensure these new apps don't interfere with the basic functions of the car itself, the apps remain isolated from the vehicle control systems (think steering, brakes, ABS etc.).

When Ford and Bug Labs first announced their plans for OpenXC, the companies noted that they hope that this platform will allow developers to "quickly prototype ideas and test out affordable new connectivity concepts that could enhance Ford’s future products."

One of the apps Ford is demoing today was built by HCL and interfaces with the car's GPS to provide regular location updates selected personal contacts.

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11:16 am


Dartium: Google’s New Dart Programming Language Comes to Chromium

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It's only been a few months since Google announced its new Dart programming language. While the language is still going through some major revisions, though, Chromium, the open-source project behind Google's Chrome browser, is now starting to integrate Dart into its platform with the release of "Dartium" version of the browser for Mac and Linux.  It will likely take a while before Dart finds its way into mainstream Chrome releases, but the team also today announced that the long-term plan is to include the Dart virtual machine in Chrome.

While Google also offers the ability to compile Dart programs to JavaScript, which is supported in every modern browser, a native virtual machine makes executing applications written in Dart faster.

Google designed Dart to be a flexible programming language for the web that would be fast, easy to learn for programmers and work across all major modern browsers. There has been quite some interest for Dart in the developer community, though the language is obviously still too immature to be used in a production environment. Other browser developers, who are worried about fragmentation and adding support for yet another language to their software, haven't shown a lot of interest in adding support for Dart.

 

 



9:55 am


Coming to Firefox in 2012: New Look, New Home Tab, Focus Mode and a Windows Metro Version

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If the popularity of Google's Chrome browser has shown anything, it's that competition in the browser market is a very good thing for consumers. To counter Chrome's seemingly unstoppable march towards dominance in the browser market, Mozilla has set itself an ambitious roadmap for Firefox in 2012. As part of this roadmap, Firefox will introduce a new look, a Chrome-like new tab page and a dedicated Windows 8 Metro version.

A "Web-Wide People-Centric Identity System" and "A Complete Web Apps Ecosystem"

In a statement attached to the roadmap, the Firefox team lays out some of its overall strategies for approaching the future of Firefox. Most importantly, Mozilla acknowledges that "the Web is more than just the desktop browser." Because of this, the group plans to introduce a "web-wide people-centric identity system, a complete web apps ecosystem, and a no-compromises mobile browser" in 2012. Mozilla, of course, has long been working on prototypes for its identity system and announced plans for an app store-like experience for web apps (again, something Chrome already offers) more than a year ago now. Until now, though, none of these have actually arrived as full-grown products and we've only seen prototypes so far.

New Features for Firefox in 2012

Overall, 2012 promises to be an interesting year for Firefox and one that promises to introduce a number of highly anticipated and useful features.

Among these are an updated look, an updated and speedier JavaScript engine called IonMonkey, and support for a distraction-free reading mode similar to the "Reader" feature in Safari.

Here are some of the highlights from the roadmap:[list]

  • Add-ons Sync: Firefox Sync makes it easy to move between computers and devices. In addition to syncing passwords, bookmarks, and history between Firefox installs, users are going to be able to sync add-ons.
  • Firefox Hotfix: There are small issues that can occasionally affect Firefox users after a release. Correcting those small issues should not require a full Firefox update. With a new hotfix system, Mozilla can patch minor issues in Firefox without requiring a browser restart.
  • Proof of concept for Firefox in Windows 8 Metro: In order to deliver a compelling Firefox for Windows 8 Metro experience, we need to understand what's possible. A technology proof of concept is the first step. This is not a Alpha or a Beta, but should demonstrate the feasibility of Firefox in Windows 8 Metro. (Timing here is dependent on when Microsoft releases their Windows 8 consumer preview and developer documentation.)
  • Firefox Home Tab additions: Firefox's start page, AKA Firefox Home Tab, is where users start their browsing session and where they land when they've closed their last tab. In addition to easy search, Firefox Home will become a launch point for managing all of your Firefox data
  • Silent Update: The Firefox update process will be moved to the background and Windows admin passwords and/or UAC prompts will be removed. Also, users with the rare incompatible extension will have a gentler upgrade process.
  • Web Apps Marketplace integration: Firefox Home will offer a launcher for the Web Apps Marketplace and promotion for personalized app recommendations.
  • Firefox Focus/Reader Mode: Despite the rise of multi-media on the Web, reading is still the most common web activity. We will make reading long-form content a wonderful experience with a user-activated re-formatting and re-styling of the page that puts focus on the content rather than ads and navigation.
  • IonMonkey: The next generation of the Firefox JavaScript engine, code-named IonMonkey, will bring dramatic improvements to JavaScript performance making Web applications even faster.[/list]

 



9:47 am


German Government: Use Chrome if You Want to Stay Safe Online

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Google's Chrome browser had its worst month on record in January, thanks to being demoted in Google's own search results for breaking Google's own online marketing rules. Today, the Chrome team has something to celebrate, though: Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik, or BSI) just announced that it is recommending Chrome as the safest browser on the market right now, especially thanks to its sandboxing and auto-update features.

The BSI is making this recommendation ahead of Europe's "Safer Internet Day" on February 7th.

Other Recommendations:

In addition to Chrome, which is the only browser the agency recommends, the BSI also recommends a number of other security products, including Microsoft's own anti-virus software Microsoft Security Essentials, Avira Free Antivirus and avast! Free Antivirus. The BSI also recommends the use of OpenDNS Family Shield to keeps kids safe online and TrueCrypt for encrypting your data.

The agency also recommends Gmail, as it offers encrypted access to your email, even in the free version.



8:26 am


Do You Love Startups Enough to Subscribe to a Swag-of the-Month Club?

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You can’t really call your startup a startup until you’ve ordered a few t-shirts and stickers with your logo on them. Startup Threads is one of a number of merchandising services for startup and specializes in t-shirts and stickers, though the company can also organize custom orders. But what if you don't go to a lot of conference and don't run a startup or work for one and you still want to get some startup swag? Here’s Startup Threads genius solution: the company just launched a monthly swag-by-mail club. For $15 per month (plus shipping), they will send you a package with a t-shirt, sticker and one surprise (trinkets, discounts, etc.) with a startup’s logo every month – and you don’t even have to attend any parties or conferences to get your monthly dose of swag.

This month, the featured company is travel startup Hipmunk. Other companies that have worked with Startup Threads include Reddit, Boxee, twilio and Breadpig. Startup Threads will send your bag anywhere in the world, though international shipping is a bit more expensive than shipping package inside the U.S.

Back in the early days of the last Web bubble, a company called Valleyschwag offered a similar service. There, too, $15 per month would get you a monthly bag of swag from Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. While the service was popular for a while, its founders quickly moved on to other projects. StartUp Schwag filled the hole left by Valleyschwag for a while, but they, too, ended their $15/month subscription service after a successful 32-month run in 2010.

startup_threads_how_to



9:13 am


YouTube Users Now Upload 1 Hour of Video Per Second

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Google measures the popularity of YouTube by how many hours of video its users upload per minute. In 2007, that number was six hours per minute. By 2010, it was closer to 24 hours and that number had doubled to 48 hours by May 2011. Today, Google announced that the amount of video uploaded to YouTube increased by 30 % over the last eight months. Its users now upload a total a staggering 60 hours of video per minute.

Google also announced that the number of total YouTube views now exceeds 4 billion views per day from across the globe – an increase of 25% over the last 8 months. As Google proudly notes, this is "the equivalent of more than half the world’s population watching a video every day, the same number as there are US $1 bills in circulation, the same as number of years since there was water on Mars."

YouTube  One Hour Per Second

To celebrate this milestone, Google also launched the rather goofy onehourpersecond.com to highlight just how amazing this number is by connecting it to random facts and trivia ("In 24 seconds of upload to YouTube, one full day elapses, and the Nyan Cat says "Nyan" over 345,600 times.").



9:12 am


Stanford AI Class Professor Thrun Now Wants to Teach 500k Students How to Build a Search Engine

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Remember the Stanford Artificial Intelligence class that made quite a few waves on the Internet last year when the professor decided to let virtually anyone who was interested participate online? Sebastian Thrun, who specializes in robotics and machine learning, taught that class to close to 160,000 students. Now, however, he has decided to leave Stanford and start Udacity, a new online university that aims to take what Thrun learned through teaching his online classes at Stanford and expand his efforts to a wider range of topics. The first course the new venture plans to offer is an introduction to computer science that he hopes will teach about 500,000 students how to build a search engine.

Thrun made this announcement at the DLD conference in Germany today.

Reuters' Felix Salmon reports that Thrun stressed that out of the 248 students who got a perfect score in his AI class, "not one was enrolled at Stanford."

It's not clear whether there was some internal conflict at Stanford about Thrun's efforts, but he clearly thought that in order to reach enough students and teach the classes he wanted to teach, he had to leave the university and start his own venture.

Udacity is being backed by Charles River Ventures. The project's first class will start on February 20th.

It's not clear if Google has any additional connection with this project, but Thrun managed to get a rather sleepy looking Google CEO Sergey Brin provide an endorsement for the class.

It's worth noting that his former Stanford colleagues Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller also build a somewhat similar platform for running online classes at the scale of the original AI class. Those efforts, and the continuously expanding number of courses running on this platform, continue to be affiliated with Stanford University, however.



8:46 am


Does “Search Plus Your World” Actually Improve Your Search Results? Nope

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There's been a lot of talk in the last 24 hours about how Google may be favoring its own social network Google+ with yesterday's "Search plus Your World" update. Getting lost in this heated discussion is the simple question of whether this update is actually improving the search experience on Google. Google, in its announcement yesterday, said that it is "transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships." After testing the update, though, it feels like Google doesn't quite understand the "people and relationships" part well enough yet to make it such an important part of its flagship product.

To test the update, I decided that instead of just doing artificial searches for the sake of it, I would just go back to my search history and retry a day's worth of searches from last week and compare the personalized and regular results side-by-side.

Too Much Clutter, Too Many Irrelevant Results

Here is my general impression: for the majority of my searches, the personalization didn't really matter, as my online friends never said anything relevant about those queries. Switching between those results and the non-personalized ones yielded virtually the same links.

When the personalization kicked in, though, the search results were now too cluttered with often irrelevant status updates and other digital flotsam. Indeed, as I went through my list, I often found myself wishing that my Google+ friends had nothing to say about that topic.

The Google+ posts that appear in the results are often not really relevant to the search query. They also often include comments (and all those little avatars that go with them), which generally add very little to your search experience.

The Google+ follow suggestions in the sidebar often include people you already follow and this feature just feels like Google is trying to push Google+ a little bit too hard.

Every Google Search is Now an Ego Search

When I search on Google, I want to see new information, not what I did last weekend. The new algorithm puts too much of emphasis on content you created yourself – and especially posts on Google+, of course. When I search on Google, I'm not usually looking for my own stuff and I don't need to see my own photos, blog post or status updates clutter up my search results. Maybe Google could move this into the sidebar, but that wouldn't help its clutter problem either, of course.

Coffee  Google Search  personal

Be Careful Who You Friend

Unless you are very careful about who you friend on Google+, the relevance of Google's new "personal results" can also quickly go down the drain. When we friend people online, we don't do so to improve our search results.

Here is what it comes down to: The fact that we are somebody's "friend" online doesn't necessarily mean that we have common tastes. While there is a high chance that we have something in common that made us connect online in the first place, chances are that this only represents a very small part of our interests and we may only share very little else in common with these people. Until Google – and all the other search engines for that matter, too – are able to understand more of the nuances of our online relationships, social search efforts like personal search will inevitably remain limited and frustrating.

If you want to opt out of the new "personal results," just look for the opt-out toggle here.

 


11:00 am