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I remember when virtual reality tried to go mainstream in the mid-80s, big, heavy headsets and poor computer graphics let you walk around a world that looked like a big pixel. It was interesting but even the teenage me was unimpressed. Jump forward to now and virtual reality has become cheap and nimble.
Enter Google Cardboard. For about $15 you can have a virtual reality headset sent to you. Slide your smartphone in, put your headphones on and you’re off.
Sure there are more expensive headsets from Samsung or Facebook, but why bother? The experience on Google Cardboard is excellent enough to make you lose your balance or walk into chairs.
The New York Times sent its subscribers a free headset a while back and has been putting excellent content on its VR app: NYT VR. For now it’s just a cool toy, but I can see how the marriage of cheap headsets, smartphones, and apps, will lead to new ways to communicate, learn, get the news, etc.
It might not be the flying cars we’ve been promised since forever, but Google is working on augmented reality. What’s that you ask? Watch the video below and you’ll see. It’s takes the functionality of your mobile phone and puts it into a seamless heads up display you use while walking around town. Philip K Dick might recognize this future…
More and more often developers are skipping the PC when designing consumer applications. The latest example is Google’s new Flipboard competitor: Google Currents. Like Flipboard, the application is designed to make a tablet or mobile magazine reading experience better and more interactive. The one interesting wrinkle is that it’s also set up to import your Google reader feeds, taking that content and making it beautiful. It’s good enough that it makes me want to read the content on my phone instead of on my laptop.
Also this week, Twitter released a new version this week. The trick to get the new look and functionality? You had to download it to your Android or iPhone first.
Two travel brands are essentially telling you to leave your laptop home this summer. If you use any of the Google services like Gmail you won’t need it. Why? They’re offering free Chromebooks for their passenger and customer use. Starting July 1, Virgin America and the Ace Hotel will provide the devices to their customers. The idea is that all your information is in the cloud so the device will let you go out and grab it. The Ace has even created an app for the device that provides a field guide to New York.
Google has recently unveiled a new form of email communication entitled Gmail Motion that may just sweep you off of your feet, literally. This new method of maneuvering through your inbox, writing emails, and updating settings enables you to stand up from your desk and “speak” to your Gmail account using your whole body as a keyboard.
Gmail Motion is still in its beta phase, and I, for one, am curious about the learning curve involved in becoming proficient in this new language. Even if the new system works for some and not all applications, anything that encourages workers to move more during the day is just fine in my book.
Google has released its Zeitgeist 2010, highlighting the search trends for the past year. What’s up, what’s down, what do we care about? There’s a lot of information to look at here, but in a year that the United States saw mid-term elections and a host of other contentious issues the fastest rising queries included:
- World Cup
- Justin Bieber
You can find additional trends for rising and falling terms across news, image, maps, etc. here.
Last week Google added phone calling to Gmail, a nifty service that let’s you call phone numbers from Gmail. Today they announced they’re rolling out priority e-mail. For those overwhelmed with the amount of e-mail, the service will sort incoming messages based on priority. The good stuff goes to the top for immediate attention, the rest sinks to the bottom. Instead of reading and reading and reading, you’re able to sift through the junk.
While I’m sure the system won’t be perfect at first, it’s another attempt to curate the massive amount of information thrown at us via the internet.
Google has a lot of stuff going on out there and this week they’re rolling out a new feature: phone calls from Gmail. There’s some nice integration with Google Voice which allows you to send your Google Voice number out to caller IDs OR receive phone calls in your Gmail inbox. While it’s not a killer app, it does signal more convergence between your inbox and your phone which may eventually reduce costs for some of the services we all currently use.
The service was just turned on in my inbox this afternoon so I plan to play with it and even try receiving a call using it. Pretty cool stuff.