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Google is using Speak To Go in new way, obvious yet still pretty cool

(TECH NEWS) Google is using an old trick with their new VR and has the potential to create something super cool.

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Virtual reality’s real life popularity

As many of you may or may not know, virtual reality (VR) headsets and software are the current flavors of the month (read: year).

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The Oculus, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, and Samsung Gear seem to be the most popular. However, the Google Cardboard conveniently stands out in the list due to its much more inexpensive nature. Overall, though, it is safe to say customers definitely have options when it comes to VR headsets.

New VR uses

Seeing as there’s apparent consumer interest in the technology, it should come as no surprise that a wealth of technology companies are jumping on the bandwagon. The technology has its doubters, of course.

The primary argument being that it will become just another gimmick used to drive up the cost of otherwise mediocre materials, akin to 3-D.

Regardless, companies are certainly coming up with some pretty neat applications for the technology.

Case in point

Google just unveiled a slew of VR web applications on its WebVR Experiments page- one of the most interesting of the bunch being the “Speak to Go” app.

Using the pre-existing Google Earth program, “Speak to Go” allows users to explore the world using voice commands.

In case you were wondering, this is the point where you, dear reader, go: “Oooohhh” and/or “Ahhhh”.

Speak to go

Having used the desktop application, I personally felt it to be somewhat entertaining, but overall unnecessary.

It is more of a fun feature than a useful tool.

Conversely, however, I can easily imagine that the immersiveness of a VR headset creating an altogether different experience. Both the ability to explore the app without a mouse, as well as the 360 degree views could easily have customers spending large chunks of time with the services.

How it works

The name is self-explanatory when it comes to controlling the app. Just in case anyone is unsure, however:

1.) If users wish to view a specific place or address, all they need do is speak it to the app and it will bring up a fairly accurate street view of said location.
2.) If they choose, they can also speak the name of a city or country, and it will choose a spot at random in whatever location was said.
3.) Lastly, one can visit a spot at random on the map using the “I’m feeling lucky” command.

Remember that trip to Maldives you can’t afford yet?

Well, now you can visit it virtually! Of course, your virtual visit will be constituted of a 3-D panoramic made up of still images. But, you know, put on some ocean sounds and sit out in the sun for a bit and you’ll at least get a small portion of that island experience you’ve been craving.

While it would certainly be a neat experience in virtual reality, the technology has a way to go before it becomes something truly monumental.

However, it certainly does not seem to be too far in the future before one will be able to experience video feeds on a VR headset of many areas on the map. Combine that with the “I’m feeling lucky function,” and users will be able to virtually visit some pretty far out places.

VR’s next direction?

Though it is a fairly obvious step, the introduction of “Speak to Go” certainly seems to be a very strong step in the right direction for the VR industry. Traveling is something that many wish to do, but because of economic and/or personal reasons, are unable to.

As such, travel is a prime example of an industry that should, and could make use of VR technology.

Businesses wishing to make VR software need take note of this, as the success of the technology will likely be in creating experiences for customers that they may otherwise be unable to have in real life.

As evidenced by 3-D technology, kitschy gimmicks will only last so long before consumers begin to tire of them.

Virtual reality has the potential to be a truly influential medium- why not, then, create things for it that showcase that?

Then again, we could already be a part of the Matrix and be completely unaware. I mean, I guess that is a distinct possibility too. (If that were the case though, would it then be a virtual reality within a pre-existing virtual reality? Like a digital Inception? Weird.)

#SpeakToVR

Andrew Clausen is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and when he's not deep diving into technology and business news for you, he is a poet, enjoys rock climbing, monster movies, and spending time with his notoriously naughty cat.

Tech News

Tinder creators launch Ripple, a professional networking app void of pros

(TECH NEWS) Ex-Tinder employees have come together, backed by Match.com, to create a swipe-based professional network, but we don’t plan on giving it a second date.

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In 2015, we discussed briefly the possibilities of taking the dating app’s and repurposing them for professional networking. What if finding professional connections was as easy as finding a date on Tinder? Tinder (executives) literally heard us because they have introduced a solution in their new mobile app called Ripple.

Not to be confused with Ripple the cryptocurrency, Ripple the app is a professional networking tool that literally feels like Tinder.

As it should, the former CTO, Director of Engineering, and Lead Designer of Tinder all make up the founders, along with Mike Presz from Match.com. People who make good dating platforms came together for a professional networking solution that they hope makes networking easier, more natural, and more modern. I took the liberty of signing up for a few days and experimented with the app and I have a few things to say about it…

The good?

Design. Design. Design. The app has a luxuriously simple UI, and is fabulously easy to use. If you even tried Tinder for six minutes, you’ll be able to use this app. The use of symbols, big images, and easy UI is great. The application navigates simply.

It’s fantastic. It’s minimal, it’s content oriented, the interest categories are so good (but they could be better – no interest in process improvements? Go learn about Six Sigma) LinkedIn should look it. The profile set up takes no time at all, about five minutes and you’re ready to go.

But that’s about it.

Everything that’s not good? Everything else.

This is probably because the app is new, but there is nothing going on for the US market. I saw a lot of European professionals and professional groups, but zero people in my area, a major US metropolitan area also called Dallas-Fort Worth. The lack of content and the lack of professionals means the app has nothing.

I can’t rate group experience or say I met the mentor of my professional dreams because no one is on it. Which leads me to ask: What’s next?

The branding, marketing, and advertising for this app are going to have to take off. This is a beautiful product, but the lack of content makes it a pretty dull use. I had to actively remind myself to use it, and I’m in a serial relationship with LinkedIn.

Basically, no second date for me with Ripple until they get… something to happen.

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Tech News

The cutest part of CES was Sony’s AI robot doggo, Aibo

(TECH NEWS) The Consumer Electronics Show revealed the technologies that are dominating and will dominate the market, with Sony’s AI puppers stealing the show.

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One of the most endearing items to emerge from CES this year was Sony’s revamped robot dog, Aibo.

Aibo’s first unveiling in 1999 featured a blend of emergent Sony technology, such as their Memory Stick and companion operating system. By the time of its demise in 2006, the Aibo was equipped with a large vocabulary (it could speak 1,000 words) and could interact with an owner’s commands and motion. The computerized canine wasn’t limited to just the realm of their traditional counterparts, however – the 2006 model of the Aibo could take pictures from the eye-embedded camera system, play music, and write blogs.

Equipped with more personality and a better interactive capability with its environment, the 2018 Aibo looks more like a real dog as well.

Composed of 4,000 parts and OLED-screen eyes to more authentically mimic movements, Sony says it relies on sensor systems and embedded cameras akin to those in self-driving cars to provide as close to an authentic experience as they can. The cameras, located in nose and tail, allow the robot to learn its way around the house and to deliver it back to its charging station once the two-hour charge runs out.

Reviewers at CES noted that the updated version of the Aibo was very “puppy-likem” barking and scampering with unlimited energy.

The current model is also touch responsive on its head, back and under its chin, allowing the user to give “puppy love” in a way that mimics that of what real dogs like.

Perhaps proving that Aibo is capable of acting more and more like a real dog, the robot canine was unresponsive to commands from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai on stage at its unveiling, prompting Hirai to return Aibo to Sony staff quickly.

Slated to go on sale in Japan later this year, the dog isn’t cheap, priced at nearly $1,800, but does find itself selling into a dedicated Aibo fanbase from its earlier issue and a consumer market which is hungrier and more accepting for interactive experiences of this type of poo-free pet ownership.

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Tech News

Lyft offers test rides in their autonomous cars – how’d it go?

(TECH NEWS) Lyft let passengers roll around Vegas in their self-driving cars, and surprisingly, no shocking viral videos resulted.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to the progress of self-driving cars, you’re in for a shock – they’re closer to a daily reality than you might think. As part of this year’s CES conference, Lyft offered test rides in a handful of their autonomous cars, and the results were reportedly decent.

Unlike other companies’ public tests in the past, Lyft’s demonstrations consisted of normal passengers taking normal routes in Las Vegas; there was little in the way of preemptive route control, meaning that the tests were as authentic as possible. Passengers were able to board autonomous Lyfts from the Las Vegas convention center, with some testers traveling well over three miles with minimal operator interference.

The cars themselves are designed by Aptiv, which is a technology company heretofore unaffiliated with Lyft.

While both companies are aware of the potential for flaws and the need to iron them out before production begins en masse, test riders reported that the cars were able to anticipate and respond to a myriad of traffic conditions (for example, slowing down to allow a faster vehicle to merge); this bodes well for the 2020 goal that many autonomous car companies have set.

Naturally, there were a few kinks in the cars’ respective operations, including yellow light confusion and some other finessing issues, wherein the cars’ human operators had to intervene.

The technology behind self-driving cars is only part of the equation, however. As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, cities will have to adapt to accommodate them.

This process will most likely include things like redefining road architecture, legislation regarding car use (at the moment, autonomous cars must always have a driver in them), and implementation of smart technology.

There’s also the matter of public perception. While most of the reports from the Lyft demo in Las Vegas were positive, the fact remains that plenty of people will be skeptical of new technology – as well they should be, since any emerging technology is bound to make a few bad headlines before it evens out.

How Lyft counters this perception will be key in determining the future of its autonomous fleet, and perhaps even the future of autonomous cars as a whole.

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