If I were to tell you that a creative and reasonably priced item with a unique, yet practical, solution to a common modern day need was coming out, you wouldn’t be blamed for looking for the obligatory Kickstarter link, and start wondering how much the minimum contribution is.
That’s because while that site is heavily flawed (for instance, some developers exceed their requested amount by almost a $100,000 and still blow all the money, not release the product, and fail to have any reasonable plans for a refund in sight), it’s a consistently entertaining source of devices that make you go “Hmmm, interesting” possibly while smoking a pipe.
But this particular device actually comes not from Kickstarter, but from our friends at Google.
Called the Chromecast, it’s capable of broadcasting content from popular devices (be it iOS, Android, or computer) straight to your TV. Admittedly that’s a feature only impressive if you’ve never heard of HDMI, DVI, or VGA cables, but the Chromecast gains a leg up in that it’s not a cable at all, but rather an HDMI plug-in that can transmit the feed wirelessly from your selected device. All you have to do is find a compatible program, select a cast button, and you can view the feed from that program on your TV.
Of those programs, only the presence of Netflix seems to be superfluous, considering that anyone with an HDMI port on their TV likely has Netflix compatibility for it in one way or another. The other compatible programs like Youtube, Google Play, and Google Chrome are much more encouraging, with that last one really driving home the point that the Chromecast is aiming to turn almost any TV into something more resembling a “smart” TV for the mere cost of $35.
Even though I think the adding of the word smart before a device and calling it a day is a trend that needs to die a thousand deaths, the Chromecast is far and away the most exciting device of its kind I’ve ever seen, and with more program support (fingers crossed for Steam) can become an essential home device, though its base loadout justifies its meager $35 asking price already.
Plus, unlike Kickstarter campaigns, this one is actually supported by a legitimate company (rather than “some guys”) and is not only likely to properly function as advertised, but will also probably include a definitive release date, which are things that are becoming significantly more foreign in the world of intriguing and affordable devices than I tend to like.
I’m sure by now we’ve all seen the mock ups, diagrams, videos shot from, parodies, specs, put downs, hype ups, and general impressions of Google Glass that have been floating around the internet for quite some time.
However, through it all there are still very few people who know exactly what Glass looks like to the user which, when it comes to understanding a product without any real historical equivalent, is kind of a big deal.
While it’s unlikely anyone will get a truly great idea of what it’s like to wear Glass until they are able to do so, there is one blog called phandroid, that’s posted a video showing a pretty good demonstration of the device in action, from the perspective of the user.
The actual quality of the HUD image is…not so great, though that is likely a result of the awkward task of trying to record the device, combined with the impossible hype surrounding it.
However functionality wise, this is a pretty impressive demo. The commands exhibited are extremely responsive, the phone and video chat features are particular highlights, and in general everything looks to work more or less as advertised, at least in the current “out of the box” capacity.
Google Glass has a long way to go before the final chapter on it is written, but from this demo it looks like underneath the high asking price, and still somewhat stupid looks, there might just be an actually useful device.
Usually reliable Google centric blog 9to5 Google broke the news, saying their sources claim the web giant will be expanding past their occasional Best Buy and special event pop up Chrome stores, and will be looking at a nationwide retail store model similar to that of competitor Apple. The stores would also be used in much of the same fashion as Apple stores, as Google would use them to show off their latest and greatest gadgets, and also offer technical support.
While a reasonable, even sane, argument can be made that Google looking to get into a dying industry late is a costly business failure waiting to happen, the truth is that Apple still does very well at their retail locations, and Google is consistently cited as being at least as popular, if not more so, than Apple is. The real reason this could work though is Project Glass, as Google is set to launch what could potentially be the next great invention, and a physical retail store that lets people practically try it, could be a big draw.
We’ll know more as the rumored holiday 2013 US openings of these stores draws closer, but the one thing we know for sure is that if Google has as much fun designing the stores as they did their offices, we’re all in for a treat.
Yeah, well remember that episode of “South Park” where Cartman buys a failing amusement park with his inheritance so he can have it all to himself? Eventually the operating costs force him to re-open it, and as a result, the time spent telling people they couldn’t come in made them want it even more, and the place became a huge success.
That’s not to say that the app isn’t impressive. It is. But it’s also the exact same Google Maps we’ve known and loved for some time now, with a few little niceties thrown in for Apple users. But, oh my does it feel special this time. It’s like how you can take breathing for granted even if it is vital, but when it’s that first breath after being submerged underwater, it’s an incomparable joy.
It’s also pretty embarrassing for Apple. The question is, what do they do now? Had Apple Maps been a success right out of the gate, they could have really converted their users to the native feature and stole some serious momentum from a big rival. Instead, they now just have to watch as a stunning amount of users immediately abandon it, while Apple must continue to work hard to not only catch up with Google Maps, but somehow surpass it, lest they end up with a monumentally embarrassing failure on their resume.
The early success of Google Maps on iOS isn’t an immediate monumental victory for Google, or a resounding defeat for Apple. It is, however, for Apple, the first touchdown surrendered in a football game. While it doesn’t necessarily determine the outcome, they must still watch as another team celebrates in their territory.
Well, I’ll give Microsoft and Bing this. They’re clearly not going down without a fight. In fact, thanks to their latest marketing ploy, that is exactly what they are seeking.
If you go to the website Bing It On, you can take part in a challenge that pits the search engines Google and Bing against each other in a side by side comparison. You enter a search term, and the results generated by both pages are given to you, along with the option to choose which results were better, or to declare it a draw. At the end of five searches, your score is tallied to reveal which search engine was your overall preference. Of course, to make sure that you have an open mind about the subject, this is a blind test and doesn’t make an indication as to which search engine is which when the results are displayed, Pepsi Challenge style.
Although, my guess is the average internet user is probably aware when they are looking at Google search results.
And that’s what makes this competition so bizarre. Even though the end of the test shows that overall results favor Bing at a 2-1 ratio, after taking the test three times, 15 total searches, my personal results came up with a draw once and Google coming ahead twice. While I freely admit that some of this may have been me subliminally recognizing Google and choosing it, even my Bing preferences were little more than the result of a mental “coin flip” of sorts that resulted from me not wanting to choose the draw option and cop out.
In fact the biggest conclusion I drew from this contest is that Bing is on par with Google. Congrats to them for that, but I don’t think that was ever really the question was it? Proving you’re as good as Google doesn’t make you Google, and if Bing really wants to close the gap in the search engine market share, it should probably spend more time working on what makes it different from the search giant, and not proving that if you type donuts into Bing, you get equal or slightly more appealing results for donuts than Google.
In a bit of irony about this challenge that kind of highlights that predicament, using Bing as one of the search subjects produced better results through Google, and I heard about the challenge initially using…Google.
But hey, it’s a fun little use of five minutes if you can spare it.