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The International Space Station is on Google Maps and it is mega rad

(TECH NEWS) That’s one small step for man, one giant step for Google Maps. You can now explore the International Space Station’s slice of space on Google Maps!

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space station astronaut firefly

The final frontier

Would be astronauts and children of all ages be prepared to entertain yourself for hours in googles “street view” of the international space station.

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Wander around the modules, click on informative links about extra vehicular mobility movements, galley tables and hatches. Inspect the mutiny of tubes and seatbelt like straps and imagine how they could all possibly be necessary. All without actually having to be in space!

Smile for the camera

While this isn’t the first time the space station has been captured in this manner, (The European Space agency published its own interactive tour in 2015 and NASA had some images re-purposed for virtual reality headsets) Google’s attempt is by far the most accessible and user friendly so far.

Users can really explore the space station in their own time without restrictions and without pushing any buttons or tugging on any important straps.

The Google maps team in charge of the project had to be more creative in how they documented this particular street view. While they have accomplished other unique street views in the past, from documenting the great barrier reef, to panoramically photographing the citadel at Machu Pichu, photographing the ISS posed a unique challenge.

In other, earth-bound, locations the team was able to transport highly specialized equipment up mountains and into the sea to get the photographs they needed. At the ISS the proprietary equipment and professionals were not only impossible to transport but ultimately proved to be unnecessary.

Streetview sans streets

Streetview pictures are basically 360 degree panoramas stitched together to create the perception of three dimensional space. Usually this process requires a specialty camera and a tripod so all the images are taken from the same place. In the ISS in zero gravity they had to come up with a different solution.

A DSLR camera hung in the center of hallways and modules via two crisscrossing bungee cords while an astronaut floated around the camera snapping 24 consecutive pictures of the space.

Back on earth, Google engineers stitched these images together to create the incredibly detailed interactive experience that we get to see today.

Not an easy task

It was hard work for the astronauts who had to fit all of this work in between their normal duties, and it took four months to photograph all fifteen modules of the giant space station.
Google maps may not be the first company to bring the ISS to the public, but the project is certainly adding value to their role as lead documenters of the world.

What fantastic location will we get to explore next from our comfy desk chairs? Everest? The Mariana Trench? The Moon? Or even Mars? It seems no place is too difficult to document for the brilliant minds at google, and I for one am waiting in anticipation for my next street view adventure.

#AdventureOrBust

C. L. Brenton is a staff writer at The American Genius. She loves writing about all things, she’s even won some contests doing it! For everything C. L. check out her website

Tech News

This Zoom alternative offers a branded video meeting experience

(TECH NEWS) AirConnect is a conferencing portal that allows for company customization and automated onboarding so you can focus on other priorities.

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The concepts of company culture and branding are now more important than they’ve ever been. When we were first hearing these terms, they felt like buzzwords and ways to attract new talent and business without any actual execution.

Now that we have an understanding of what they are and how to use them, they are so much more practical and necessary – from big businesses to a one-person Etsy shop.

It’s been a little different in the last few months trying to figure out how to make company culture exude in the virtual world. For places that are hiring, it is also tricky to show how they differ from the rest over a video conference call.

The creators of AirConnect have taken this into account and have unleashed the virtual conference concept with an element of customization. As they say, “nothing beats a personal touch”.

Through use of this video conferencing tool, you can meet virtually with customers and clients in a brand video meeting portal. Customization options include headers, logo placement, and colors.

Additionally, the tool allows for customers to access their data via a customer portal, which allows for some automation when onboarding clients, assisting customers, or meeting with partners. AirConnect urges users to “say goodbye to Zoom links”.

“Let’s face it, nobody likes the where’s-the-link, what’s-the-password, can-you-hear-me-yet: and that includes your customers. Say hello to a single place where they can meet with you, as well as seeing all their account information, resources and anything else you like. Ah, that’s better, isn’t it?” explains the website.

The fully featured customer portal allows users to go beyond the simple zone of a place to talk. The ability to connect to sheets is where customers can access the aforementioned data.

The video call feature in the branded portal offers as many video touchpoints as the user would like; whether it’s used for on-boarding or standard consultations. The fact that customers can access their own data anytime allows users to put their time towards the high-value touchpoints.

On-boarding processes can also be automated by capturing customers’ information and documents in a single portal, making activation simple.

This certainly differentiates from Zoom or Skype as it has the customization option. What do you think – is it useful or flashy for the sake of flash?

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Tech News

Google Messages adds features to catch up to iMessage

(TECH NEWS) Google Messages just added a bunch of features (including a web version) to make the chat service feel a lot more like iMessage. Better late than never!

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From the way people talk about iMessage, you’d think Apple has the market cornered on instant messaging–and, if you have an Android, you’re pretty much out of luck. With some new additions to Google Chat in the last week, this may no longer be the case.

According to CNET, Google added a slew of features to the RCS Messaging–typically referred to as Google Chat–app, all of which should now be available directly within your Android’s Messages app (technological limitations for older devices notwithstanding). Among these features are reactions to messages and the ability to text from your computer.

CNET notes that you’ll have to use the Google Messages app–not your phone’s built-in chat app if it’s different–in order to access these features, though they also point out that Samsung is in the process of adding the RCS Messaging suite to their proprietary messaging app as well.

You do have to jump through a couple of hoops to ensure that you’re able to use these features in Google Messages, starting with making sure you’ve updated your phone to the latest operating system version. That’s just good life advice anyway, so double-check your phone’s settings for updates before you proceed.

Obviously, you’ll also need Google Messages installed on your phone as well. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store, and it should be compatible with most devices.

Once your phone is updated and Google Messages is installed, you can set Messages as your default texting app from within settings. This process will differ slightly depending on the Android model you have, but the easiest way to do this is by opening Google Messages after installing it, and then following the on-screen prompts to set it as your default texting app.

If you’ve ignored these prompts in the past and you don’t want to redownload the app, you can search your Android’s settings for “chat” or “text” to narrow down the possibilities for where the default texting app setting is hiding.

There is one last step you’ll need to accomplish before you can actually use Google Messages’ chat features, and that’s enabling the features themselves. Google Messages will usually prompt you to upgrade to these features once you start a conversation (this typically takes the form of a message asking if you want to see when your friends are typing), but you can also navigate to Google Message settings, elect to “turn Chat on”, and follow the ensuing prompts.

From here, you’re free to use Messages, much like you would iMessage; you can react to messages by long-pressing them, check and respond to messages from Google Messages on your computer, organize and view message history, and so on. If you’re someone who feels like you missed out on the iMessage craze–or you’ve recently switched from an iPhone to an Android–Google Messages should feel right at home on your phone.

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Tech News

“Mine” helps you find your digital footprint and DELETE it

(TECH NEWS) Most people value their online security, but don’t know to manage their data without abandoning the apps and websites that they love. Mine is trying to change that.

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I’m pretty concerned with keeping my personal data safe these days: I recently got a VPN and I try to use a privacy browser for everything I do on the internet. But it’s impossible to completely avoid sharing my personal information, especially if I want to watch, buy, say, or do anything at all online.

So when I first heard about Mine, a new machine-learning tool which claims to be “the future of data ownership”, it really piqued my interest. 

Using your email history, Mine identifies companies that are most likely to be storing your information based on the headers of the messages in your inbox. Its AI then independently locates the privacy policies for these companies to determine what kinds of information they’re storing, rather than looking through the actual contents of your emails.

Mine seems very mindful of the fact that they must be trustworthy in order to be successful. It’s free right now while they’re still new; Mine only got started in January. But they have plans to introduce a subscription service in the future.

To quote their FAQ: “Tech companies that are not interested in your money are interested in your data, your online behavior, or other personal assets they can monetize. In other words, if an app is free, they’re probably getting their money from somewhere else 🙂 Our goal is the opposite – we want to make data ownership accessible for all without monetizing our users’ data.”

Of course, when I saw the smiley face, I figured I’d give it a shot. Hey, if they help me get my information out of the hands of a less smiley entity, everything evens out, right?

After sifting through my emails, Mine spat out a list of the places that were allegedly storing my information. I was pretty shocked to see around 100 different companies pop up. Some of them were there for obvious reasons. Google, for example, was self-explanatory… but there were also names that I could swear I’ve never heard of.

I ended up submitting over 50 data deletion requests. The tool made it really easy to see who had my information, and streamlined the process of sending requests to these companies. With two taps, it was bombs away.

My inbox was suddenly buried in automated messages, mostly about how “support” would get back to me “as soon as possible.” I spent the next few days virtually waist deep in what was, for all intents and purposes, spam mail.

The select few that promptly, and properly, addressed my request produced mixed results: only three companies immediately confirmed that they had erased the data they were storing about me. The rest were going to make me do a bit more legwork, with each having their own rabbit holes for me to jump through before they would delete a dang thing. I won’t lie, this frustrated me, but the reasons for these extra steps are not necessarily sinister.

When I spoke to Gal Ringel, co-founder and CEO of Mine, he shared that often, companies do this because they need to be provided with more information than an email address in order to fully complete the request. He says that Mine will soon be incorporating “enriched” data erasure requests that should cut back on the need to inconvenience users with these outside processes.

In the meantime, he and his team have been working with businesses to develop policies that facilitate the process of data erasure. The majority of businesses, he says, consider it a good investment in building trust with the public. It’s also a prudent move to prevent identity theft, should others gain access to their records.

So, what’s my verdict on Mine? It really simplified the process of asking companies to delete my personal information. It is an important step on a long journey towards redefining the relationships that we have with our data, since the majority of people simply don’t have an accessible way to exercise control over it.

Mine is still in development, and I really look forward to seeing what it becomes in the future. (Hopefully, something that involves fewer emails!)

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