Google turns your clothes into touchscreens

Google plans on turning your clothes into touchscreens

Google plans on turning your clothes into touchscreens

Last week Google unveiled a wealth of new innovations and initiatives at its annual I/O developer conference, and one of the big reveals was Project Jacquard. It’s part of the Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) division and it’s the company’s plan for the future of clothing: touch-sensitive materials that you can interact with in the same way as your smartphone display.

Project Jacquard uses touch-sensitive, metallic yarns that are weaved in with normal material – cotton, silk or polyester – to give it the kind of capabilities that you don’t usually find outside of science fiction movies. The yarn is connected to a small receiver and controller the size of a button, with the idea that one day you might be able to tap your lapel to switch on the washing machine, or flick your cuff to change the volume on your smart television set.

One of the demos that Google showed off at I/O 2015 was a touch-enabled outfit controlling a set of Philips Hue lights. A quick tap on the clothing turned the lights on and off, while swiping left and right changed the colour, and swiping up and down adjusted the brightness. You wouldn’t have to take your phone out of your jeans pocket to do all this – the pocket itself would act as the controller.

Monitoring capabilities can be included too, so your pillow could track your breathing or your t-shirt could monitor your heart rate without the need for any other equipment. Google is expecting to work with a number of different partners on the technology in the future, and already has an agreement in place with denim manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co in the US.

What makes the technology so exciting is its invisibility. There’s no need to wear a clunky headset or a smart wristwatch to get connected – it’s essentially the ultimate in wearables. Project Jacquard is still at the early stages, but a lot of progress has been made in a short space of time, and Google thinks the interactive yarn will have an important role to play in our sartorial future.

“The complementary components are engineered to be as discreet as possible,” explains the official Project Jacquard page. “We developed innovative techniques to attach the conductive yarns to connectors and tiny circuits, no larger than the button on a jacket. These miniaturised electronics capture touch interactions, and various gestures can be inferred using machine-learning algorithms.”

The smart clothing is stretchable and washable, and Google says it’s up to the designer whether the special yarn is highlighted on the material or kept completely invisible. It can be restricted to a certain patch of clothing or spread over the whole garment.

Jacquard, by the way, is a type of loom used in the 19th century. Google says that the new touch-enabled clothing can be made at scale using equipment that already exists, so when it’s ready for the mass market it can be cheaply and easily produced.

Ultimately, we could see all kinds of smart clothing, furnishings and textiles that look identical to the ‘dumb’ versions that came before them. Google doesn’t have a timescale for launching Project Jacquard out into the world just yet, but you can sign up for updates at the project page.

 

Source:  sciencedaily.com

Google closer to developing human-like intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

Computers will have developed “common sense” within a decade and we could be counting them among our friends not long afterwards, one of the world’s leading AI scientists has predicted.

Professor Geoff Hinton, who was hired by Google two years ago to help develop intelligent operating systems, said that the company is on the brink of developing algorithms with the capacity for logic, natural conversation and even flirtation.

The researcher told the Guardian said that Google is working on a new type of algorithm designed to encode thoughts as sequences of numbers – something he described as “thought vectors”.

Although the work is at an early stage, he said there is a plausible path from the current software to a more sophisticated version that would have something approaching human-like capacity for reasoning and logic. “Basically, they’ll have common sense.”

The idea that thoughts can be captured and distilled down to cold sequences of digits is controversial, Hinton said. “There’ll be a lot of people who argue against it, who say you can’t capture a thought like that,” he added. “But there’s no reason why not. I think you can capture a thought by a vector.”

Hinton, who is due to give a talk at the Royal Society in London on Friday, believes that the “thought vector” approach will help crack two of the central challenges in artificial intelligence: mastering natural, conversational language, and the ability to make leaps of logic.

He painted a picture of the near-future in which people will chat with their computers, not only to extract information, but for fun – reminiscent of the film, Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his intelligent operating system.

“It’s not that far-fetched,” Hinton said. “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be like a friend. I don’t see why you shouldn’t grow quite attached to them.”

In the past two years, scientists have already made significant progress in overcoming this challenge.

Richard Socher, an artificial intelligence scientist at Stanford University, recently developed a program called NaSent that he taught to recognise human sentiment by training it on 12,000 sentences taken from the film review website Rotten Tomatoes.

Part of the initial motivation for developing “thought vectors” was to improve translation software, such as Google Translate, which currently uses dictionaries to translate individual words and searches through previously translated documents to find typical translations for phrases. Although these methods often provide the rough meaning, they are also prone to delivering nonsense and dubious grammar.

Thought vectors, Hinton explained, work at a higher level by extracting something closer to actual meaning.

The technique works by ascribing each word a set of numbers (or vector) that define its position in a theoretical “meaning space” or cloud. A sentence can be looked at as a path between these words, which can in turn be distilled down to its own set of numbers, or thought vector.

The “thought” serves as a the bridge between the two languages because it can be transferred into the French version of the meaning space and decoded back into a new path between words.

The key is working out which numbers to assign each word in a language – this is where deep learning comes in. Initially the positions of words within each cloud are ordered at random and the translation algorithm begins training on a dataset of translated sentences.

At first the translations it produces are nonsense, but a feedback loop provides an error signal that allows the position of each word to be refined until eventually the positions of words in the cloud captures the way humans use them – effectively a map of their meanings.

Hinton said that the idea that language can be deconstructed with almost mathematical precision is surprising, but true. “If you take the vector for Paris and subtract the vector for France and add Italy, you get Rome,” he said. “It’s quite remarkable.”

Dr Hermann Hauser, a Cambridge computer scientist and entrepreneur, said that Hinton and others could be on the way to solving what programmers call the “genie problem”.

“With machines at the moment, you get exactly what you wished for,” Hauser said. “The problem is we’re not very good at wishing for the right thing. When you look at humans, the recognition of individual words isn’t particularly impressive, the important bit is figuring out what the guy wants.”

“Hinton is our number one guru in the world on this at the moment,” he added.

Some aspects of communication are likely to prove more challenging, Hinton predicted. “Irony is going to be hard to get,” he said. “You have to be master of the literal first. But then, Americans don’t get irony either. Computers are going to reach the level of Americans before Brits.”

A flirtatious program would “probably be quite simple” to create, however. “It probably wouldn’t be subtly flirtatious to begin with, but it would be capable of saying borderline politically incorrect phrases,” he said.

Many of the recent advances in AI have sprung from the field of deep learning, which Hinton has been working on since the 1980s. At its core is the idea that computer programs learn how to carry out tasks by training on huge datasets, rather than being taught a set of inflexible rules.

With the advent of huge datasets and powerful processors, the approach pioneered by Hinton decades ago has come into the ascendency and underpins the work of Google’s artificial intelligence arm, DeepMind, and similar programs of research at Facebook and Microsoft.

Hinton played down concerns about the dangers of AI raised by those such as the American entrepreneur Elon Musk, who has described the technologies under development as humanity’s greatest existential threat. “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. Ten years at most,” Musk warned last year.

“I’m more scared about the things that have already happened,” said Hinton in response. “The NSA is already bugging everything that everybody does. Each time there’s a new revelation from Snowden, you realise the extent of it.”

“I am scared that if you make the technology work better, you help the NSA misuse it more,” he added. “I’d be more worried about that than about autonomous killer robots.

 

Source:  theguardian.com

The Next GooglePlex

googleplex

googleplex

“The next Googleplex goes way beyond free snacks and massages; it’s a future-proof microclimate,” writes Brad Stone for Bloomberg:

The most ambitious project unveiled by Google this year isn’t a smartphone, website, or autonomous, suborbital balloon from the Google X lab. You can’t hold it, or download it, or share it instantly with friends. In fact, the first part of it probably won’t exist for at least three years. But you can read all about it in hundreds of pages of soaring descriptions and conceptual drawings, which the company submitted in February to the local planning office of Mountain View, Calif.

The vision outlined in these documents, an application for a major expansion of the Googleplex, its campus, is mind-boggling. The proposed design, developed by the European architectural firms of Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio, does away with doors. It abandons thousands of years of conventional thinking about walls. And stairs. And roofs. Google and its imaginative co-founder and chief executive, Larry Page, essentially want to take 60 acres of land adjacent to the headquarters near the San Francisco Bay, in an area called North Bayshore, and turn it into a titanic human terrarium.

The proposal’s most distinctive feature is an artificial sky: four enormous glass canopies, each stretched over a series of steel pillars of different heights. The glass skin is uneven, angling up and down like a jagged, see-through mountain. The canopies will allow the company to regulate its air and climate. Underneath, giant floor plates slope gently upward, providing generous space for open-air offices and doubling as ramps so the 10,000 employees who will work there can get from one floor to the next without the use of stairs. For additional office and meeting space, modular rooms can be added, stacked, and removed as needed. To accomplish this, Google says it will invent a kind of portable crane-robot, which it calls crabots, that will reconfigure these boxes and roam the premises like the droids in Star Wars

Source:  Disinfo.com

Androids for Google

Android co-creator to develop real androids for Google:

Android co-creator to develop real androids for Google

Android co-creator to develop real androids for Google

It’s a good thing we have SpaceX, or Google’s “moonshots” would almost certainly be more literal than those we see today. The company, which has recently set itself to fixing such problems as the global energy crisis and death, could never turn away from such a placid, mocking challenge as the moon, were a suitably trendy genius not already concerned with it. Google’s upper management seems obsessed with proving that the company’s unique sort of privatized populism can act in those areas we assume are too difficult or advanced for human improvement. The latest arena for such corporate chest-beating surpasses space, energy, and even life extension in terms of sheer sci-fi appeal: robots.

Yes, Google has set itself on a very broad and nonspecific road to developing robots for general use, hinting at a future seen in The Jetsons and I, Robot. The as-yet-unnamed new company is helmed by Andy Rubin, a legendary Google elder most famous for leading the Android division to its place as the (arguably) dominant mobile OS. (Unbelievably, there are as yet no plans to work the Android name into this venture.) Rubin has a background in robot engineering that predates his time with both Google and Apple, which together with his track record as a rabid achiever, makes one thing very clear: Google is tired of waiting for robots.

Google’s spiders could be about to get a lot more literal.

That seems to be the impetus behind a lot of Google’s most strident moves, actually; it’s not so much that Google believes that it is the best possible company to do robots, or affordable fiber optic connections, or a balloon-driven global internet, but rather that it has ideas about how to make money off of such systems and can no longer wait around for others to bring them into being. Google quietly acknowledges the fact that its robo-innovations will first find traction on the industrial side, rather than the consumer, replacing those few remaining human manufacturing jobs with robots of unprecedented quality. Outside of this very proximate (and out of character) application, the company have said precious little about its plans for robot tech.

Operating in secret for the past several months, this robot offshoot purchased several companies specializing in things like robot vision and pathfinding, accurate arms and manipulators, and omni-directional powered wheels. Combine those ideas with existing techs like drone pathfinding and Google’s own speech and image analysis software, and you’ve got the potential for some extremely effective intelligence gathering agents.

That’s what makes the idea of a G-Bot so compelling. History implies that  Google will shy away from the traditional view of the robot as an object and toward a new conception of the robot as a service. Google has made itself a world power by selling what ultimately amounts to highly curated browsing histories; just imagine what they could achieve with an autonomous camera in your home.

Amazon Prime Air, quadcopter delivery service

Amazon is also getting into the autonomy game, trying to outsource its most troublesome human elements.

A robot represents the ultimate physical incarnation of Google’s until-now-digital mandate: find, retrieve, predict, assist. Doing these jobs in your browser necessarily brings Google into contact with rich and detailed information about how you live your life — which is of course Google’s only incentive to offer those services in the first place. Right now, Google can see what breakfast cereal you search for online or mention on social media; a Google robot could simply observe which box you grab off the shelf, or remember which it bought for you on its last trip to the grocery store. An in-home listener could correlate your online statements with your private actions or word choices — do open Democrats mention war more or less often than open Republicans, and in which contexts? More importantly: which campaign would pay more for the privilege of knowing, or to block their competitors from knowing the same data?

These might seem like conspiracy theories or doomsday scenarios, but this is simply Google’s business; from rolling out new super-phones to laying down new lines of fiber optic cable, it has always seen hardware as the tiresome but necessary vehicle for its true service: data. The long-term value of having every American on a fiber optic connection was enough to justify the short-term costs of Fiber. Even Calico smacks of this trademark self-interested altruism; while there’s no doubt Google wants to extend and improve the human life-span, the most glaring and lucrative hole in Google’s knowledge about us is our medical history. Pure data services like Google Health couldn’t convince us to hand over that information, so Google was again forced to reverse engineer an infrastructure through which we might happily serve it its product: us.

Some call Google’s moonshots a sign of vision, others a mark of desperation. In reality, they simply show that Google has an abstract-enough understanding of its place in the data ecosystem to be able to imagine its model playing out on a wide variety of different stages. Head-mounted cameras can provide a window into what you see, while self-driving cars can know where you’ve gone, and when. Robots, cable, and life extension might all seem like odd choices for a company built on ad sales, but implemented properly they could be the ultimate realization of what Google’s been trying for all this time.

Google Pulling Videos From YouTube

Admits To Pulling Videos From YouTube

Admits To Pulling Videos From YouTube

 

We know Google operates internationally, allowing people from all over the world to have access to some form of a wealth of information. But how do these countries and governments feel about their citizens having this kind of access? For the past two years, Google has been issuing a “Transparency Report” detailing which governments have asked to have content removed. Some of these requests are granted, such as the removal of videos which contained threatening content towards US law enforcement, while some of these requests are reviewed and later denied. While it may be shocking to see how many countries have been asking to have political content removed, the team at Google says this is just the continuation of a troubling trend. For instance, Google has admitted to taking down 149 videos in Thailand which allegedly insulted the local monarchy, a crime in their country. Google said they removed these videos in accordance with local law. The search giant also said they had been asked to remove a blog which allegedly personally defamed a US law official. While Google denied this request, they did comply with a request to take down 4 out of 5 YouTube accounts which allegedly contained “threatening and/or harassing content,” to the tune of nearly 300 videos. The UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers had requested Google remove 5 YouTube accounts, claiming they promoted terrorism. Saying the videos violated community guidelines, Google terminated these accounts, resulting in the removal of 640 videos. Google also points out, however, that while some requests are removed to comply with local law, other requests to block aspects of free speech — particularly about local government — have been denied. In their Official Google Blog, Senior Policy Analyst Dorothy Chou writes, “We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.” “It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect—Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.” According to Google’s Transparency Report, Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 search results in the last half of 2011. Each of these results linked to articles and blogs which referenced “public figures,” such as mayors and public prosecutors. For instance, Poland asked Google to remove a website which criticized a public institution, a request Google denied. Canada also issued a request, asking Google to remove a video of a man urinating on his Canadian passport and flushing it down the toilet. Google said they did not comply with this request. All told, Google said it had received 461 court orders between June and December 2011. Combined, these court orders covered 4,925 items. Google complied with 68% of them, in addition to complying with 47% of more “informal requests.” “We realize that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what’s happening on the Web at large,” Chou said. “But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviors are shaping our Web.”

Google’s chief detained by federal police

 

Google’s Brazil chief detained by federal police over YouTube video:

Google's Brazil chief detained by federal police over YouTube video

Google’s Brazil chief detained by federal police over YouTube video

Fábio José Silva Coelho, the President of Google in Brazil, was detained for questioning and then released today, one day after a regional judge ordered the arrest of Coelho for refusing to remove a user-uploaded video attacking and “slandering” a mayoral candidate in the country. Google has long affirmed that it is not responsible for the content of the videos on its site. Brazilian police questioned Coelho, but released him saying that he had a “low potential to offend” and had signed a statement agreeing to appear in front of the authorities when summoned, according to the BBC. Officially, Coelho was charged with violating an electoral code that prohibits offending the dignity of a candidate. While Google may yet prove that it is not responsible for the content, failure to remove content ordered illegal by a judge in Brazil could bring a sentence of up to a year in jail. “Google is appealing the decision that ordered the removal of the video on YouTube because, as a platform, Google is not responsible for the content posted to its site,” a spokesperson told Reuters. YouTube’s responsibility or lack thereof for content posted to its site has been scrutinized quite closely in the last few weeks, with an incendiary video shot in the US portraying Mohammed in an unflattering light sparking riots in the Middle East. A state court in São Paulo, Brazil yesterday gave Google 10 days to remove that video as well, as it has in Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia, Lybia, Egypt, Indonesia, and India. In the US, one of the actors in the offending video recently asked a court to have the video removed, but that motion was denied.

 

 

Online Privacy is Non-Fiction

Your privacy is a sci-fi fantasy:

No Privacy

No Privacy

 

One bright sunny morning in the Land Before the Internet, you go on a job interview. You’re smart, skilled, motivated, and clearly destined to be an asset to any company that hires you. During the interview process, however, just as the HR manager begins to discuss the benefits package and salary, basically communicating that you have the job, he pauses.  “Oh, and we have a few procedural things to take care of,” he says. “We’ll need to assign a goon to follow you around with a parabolic microphone to listen to all of your conversations with friends, and we’ll have a few more follow your friends and family around to see what they’re saying.”  He continues: “Also, we’ll need full access to your diary, your personal records, and your photo albums. In fact, we’ll need the keys to your house, so we can rifle through your stuff to see what you have tucked away in the attic and whatnot. We will also need to do the same to all your friends. I assume that won’t be a problem?”   Just across town in the Land Before the Internet, a few officers in the local police station are bored, so they assign a few cruisers to shadow people at random, for an indefinite period of time. They pick names out of the phone book — selecting citizens who’ve otherwise raised no cause for suspicion — and follow them, simply because they can.  The cops meticulously document the citizens’ comings and goings, creating a very detailed report on their daily lives, complete with where they go, how long they stay, and when they return to their homes. They note when they go to the doctor, where they pick up their kids, everything. They maintain the trail for months or longer, then keep these reports forever.   It turns out that the police in the Land Before the Internet aren’t half as busy as the employees at the post office, who’ve been opening and reading every single letter you’ve sent and received — or the people at the phone company, who are assigned to listen to every phone call you make and transcribe the contents for easy search and recall at a later date. You could avoid their prying ears by speaking in code, but this would be documented as an attempt to evade eavesdropping, which is clearly an indicator that you’re engaging in some sort of nefarious activity. For instance, you might infringe on a copyright down the line, perhaps by singing a few bars of “In the Year 2525” to a friend over the phone.  Welcome to the twilight zone.  Of course, these upside-down horrors are unimaginable in real life. The idea that the post office or phone company would snoop is just crazy — except it’s pretty much what the major ISPs are now volunteering to do. Police stalking innocent citizens could never happen in the United States, at least not without a judge’s approval — unless it means sticking GPS devices on their cars. And under no circumstances would we allow the prospect of gainful employment to be contingent on the abrogation of someone’s personal privacy — but we might need to examine your Facebook page.  These invasions of personal privacy are occurring now because they’re suddenly very easy to accomplish. The rapid advancements in processing power and storage have opened the door to the wholesale collection and storage of vast amounts of data that can be indexed and tied (however loosely) to individuals. There’s no way that any of these entities would have the means or personnel to do this Big Brother nonsense physically, but once those communications occur over the network, they think they’re fair game.  There are many instances where digital surveillance is a good idea and essentially required because of the medium: people working on highly secure defense projects, those working with sensitive information for corporations that could be a target of corporate espionage, and obviously those in positions that require interaction with information on private individuals that should not be disseminated. The use of digital monitoring and data collection is very important in these places. Further, if you’re employed by a company, using corporate resources, you relinquish some right to privacy in order to protect the company from internal sabotage or damages that might ensue from vital internal planning, innovations, or intellectual property falling into the hands of the competition. In short, if you’re at the office running your mouth on Facebook and IM about sensitive internal information and get fired for it, it’s your fault. You’re unlikely to get fired for bitching about your ex-husband to a friend in an IM from your work PC, but don’t be surprised to know that your conversations are being monitored and recorded in an effort to crack down on the former. However, that should not extend beyond the office or into your personal time and space. Invasive digital eavesdropping and coerced access to private social networking applications is an absurd example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In an effort to find the needle, we’re burning down the haystack.

Featured: 9/11

Official Story

The September 11 attacks were a so-called series of four coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C. area on September 11, 2001. On that Tuesday morning, 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets. The hijackers intentionally crashed two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City; both towers collapsed within two hours. Hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth jet, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers attempted to take control before it could reach the hijacker’s intended target in Washington, D.C. Nearly 3,000 died in the attacks. Suspicion quickly fell on al-Qaeda, and in 2004, the group’s leader Osama bin Laden, who had initially denied involvement, claimed responsibility for the attacks.  Al-Qaeda and bin Laden cited U.S. support of Israel, the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and sanctions against Iraq as motives for the attacks. The United States responded to the attacks by launching the War on Terror, invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban, which had harbored al-Qaeda members. Many countries strengthened their anti-terrorism legislation and expanded law enforcement powers. In May 2011, after years at large, bin Laden was found and killed. This is the official Story!  Internal review Conducted.  The Inspector General of the CIA conducted an internal review of the CIA’s pre-9/11 performance and was harshly critical of senior CIA officials for not doing everything possible to confront terrorism. He criticized their failure to stop two of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, as they entered the United States and their failure to share information on the two men with the FBI. In May 2007, senators from both major U.S. political parties drafted legislation to make the review public. One of the backers, Senator Ron Wyden said, “The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11

Featured!

In Memory

Loose change

9/11 Hoax

NSA partners with Google

 

DOJ Asks Court To Keep Secret Any PARTNERSHIP Between GOOGLE And NSA:

NSA

NSA

The Justice Department refuses to divulge whatever sort of agreement there may be between Google and the National Security Agency. Not that there is one, of course.

Mike Scarcella in The Legal Times writes about The Justice Department defending the government’s refusal to discuss, or acknowledge the existence of, “any cooperative research and development agreement between Google and the National Security Agency.”

 The Washington based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued in federal district court here to obtain documents about any such agreement between the Internet search giant and the security agency.

The NSA responded to the suit with a so-called “Glomar” response in which the agency said it could neither confirm nor deny whether any responsive records exist. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington sided with the government last July.

 

Google’s Semantic Search Technology

Google plans major overhaul to search engine:

Search-Google

Search-Google

Google is giving its tried-and-true web-search formula a makeover as it tries to fix the shortcomings of today’s technology and maintain its dominant market share.  Over the next few months, Google’s search engine will begin spitting out more than a list of blue web links. It will also present more facts and direct answers to queries at the top of the search-results page.  The changes to search are among the biggest in the company’s history and could affect millions of websites that rely on Google’s current page-ranking results. At the same time, they could give Google more ways to serve up advertisements.  Google isn’t replacing its current keyword-search system, which determines the importance of a website based on the words it contains, how often other sites link to it, and dozens of other measures. Rather, the company is aiming to provide more relevant results by incorporating technology called “semantic search,” which refers to the process of understanding the actual meaning of words.  Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive, said in a recent interview that the search engine will better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of “entities” — people, places and things — which the company has quietly amassed in the past two years. Semantic search can help associate different words with one another, such as a company (Google) with its founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin).  Google search will look more like “how humans understand the world,” Singhal said, noting that for many searches today, “we cross our fingers and hope there’s a web page out there with the answer.” Some major changes will show up in the coming months, people familiar with the initiative said, but Singhal said Google is undergoing a years-long process to enter the “next generation of search.”  Under the shift, people who search for “Lake Tahoe” will see key “attributes” that the search engine knows about the lake, such as its location, altitude, average temperature or salt content. In contrast, those who search for “Lake Tahoe” today would get only links to the lake’s visitor bureau website, its dedicated page on Wikipedia.com, and a link to a relevant map.  For a more complex question such as, “What are the 10 largest lakes in California?” Google might provide the answer instead of just links to other sites.  The coming shift has major implications for Google, which dominates the Internet search market with around 66 percent market share and more than 75 percent of all search-ad revenue. The Mountain View, Calif., companies has succeeded because of the strength and ease of its keyword-search technology, which in turn fueled Google’s search ads, which appear next to search results. That business now generates the majority of Google’s $37 billion in annual revenue.  Now Google is taking action to maintain that lead. The Internet giant is trying to stay ahead of Microsoft‘s Bing in web search, catch up to Apple‘s Siri voice-activated mobile search, and beat back rivals in niches such as product search.

 

Google servers in complete darkness

 

Just how far will Google go to hide its custom-built data center hardware from the rest of the world?

Google Servers

Google Servers

In one Silicon Valley data center, the company is apparently so paranoid about competitors catching a glimpse of its gear, it’s been known to keep its server cages in complete darkness, outfitting its technical staff like miners and sending them spelunking into the cages with lights on their heads.  “Many [companies] try to keep things covered up. There’s a lot of valuable intellectual property in here,” says Chris Sharp, general manager of content and cloud at Equinix, as he walks through the company’s data center. “But we were always amazed by Google and the helmets.”  Google is one of many big-name Web outfits that lease data center space from Equinix—a company whose massive computing facilities serve as hubs for the world’s biggest Internet providers. All the big Web names set up shop in these data centers, so that they too can plug into the hub. The irony is that they must also share space with their biggest rivals, and this may cause some unease with companies that see their hardware as a competitive advantage best hidden from others.  About two years ago, Chris Sharp says, Google unscrewed all the light bulbs inside the hardware cages it occupied at that Equinix data center. “They had us turn off all overhead lights too, and their guys put on those helmets with lights you see miners wear,” he tells Wired. “Presumably, they were bringing up custom-built gear they didn’t want anyone else to see.”  Google declined to comment on Sharp’s little anecdote. But the tale is not surprising. Google designs its own servers and its own networking gear, and though it still leases space in third-party data centers such as the Equinix facility, it’s now designing and building its own data centers as well. These designs are meant to improve the performance of the company’s Web services but also save power and money. More so than any other outfit, Google views its data center work as an important advantage over competitors.  That said, Google has actually loosened up in recent years. In 2009, the company opened a window into the first custom-built data center it had built five years before, and it has discussed parts of its new facilities. But many of its operations remain a mystery.  Some believe this should change. Facebook now designs its own data centers and servers, and as a direct response to Google’s approach, the social-networking outfit has “open sourced” its designs, hoping to encourage collaboration on designs across the industry. This, Facebook says, will allow the rest of the world to save power in much the same way Google has done and ultimately, well, save the planet.  Several companies have already embraced this effort, including Netflix, the Texas-based cloud provider Rackspace and Japanese tech giant NTT Data. But others still prefer to keep their secret hardware secret.  Amazon, for instance, takes a Google-like approach. The company says very little about the facilities it runs or the hardware in those facilities. Apparently, the company is working with server sellers such as ZT Technologies to customize its servers, and it has followed Google’s lead in constructing its data centers with modular shipping containers. But it’s unclear just how far the company has gone towards designing and building its own hardware.  This week, the Internet is rife with speculation about just how many machines back the company’s Elastic Compute Cloud service.  At Google, employees sign strict non-disclosure agreements that bar them from discussing what goes on inside the company’s data centers—and apparently, this agreement is open-ended. That alone puts a lid on Google’s deepest secrets. We’ve seen the NDA in action—many times. But for Google, and others, there’s an added problem when they set up shop in a “co-location” facility like the data centers run by Equinix.  The nature of the beast is that you’re sharing space with competitors. Equinix trumpets its data centers as places where the giants of the Web can improve performance by plugging their gear straight into the world’s biggest Internet carriers—and into each other. The company began life offering a service—the Internet Core Exchange—that connected all the major Internet service providers, and now it lets other outfits plug into this carrier hub.  According to Sharp, over 70 carriers used the company’s main data center in San Jose, California. “We were a place for network operators to efficiently hand off traffic, and that’s the legacy that created Equinix,” Sharp says. “Not only are networks leveraging that to talk to each other, but [websites] are too.”  Security is high in the company’s facilities. Hand geometry readers—i. e. Fingerprint readers that extend beyond fingerprints—guard access to the data center floor. There’s a security camera looking at you every time you turn around. And each company can contain their gear in their own cages, protected by still more hand readers. But if you’re on the floor, you can peer into the cages. For cooling purposes, they’re not walled off. While some companies proudly display their logo on the side of their machines, the Googles of the world do their best to hide themselves. To keep competitors from eying their gear, Sharp says, many companies keep the lights off inside their cages when no one’s working on them. But others go even further.

Google hires Darpa’s Military Director

 

DARPA director exits agency for Google, assumes mysterious role:

darpa

DARPA

 

Not even the federal government’s factory of sci-fi dreams can hold off the likes of Google’s recruiters. According to Wired, Regina Dugan, DARPA’s current director, will be moving on from the Department of Defense’s fantastical research arm for an unspecified “senior executive position” with the folks from Mountain View. Dugan’s served in her role for the past three years, winning over the likes of the Pentagon by shifting her agency’s focus from out-there R&D experiments to more practical military applications, while also ruffling a few feathers with her brazen statements. No word was given on when exactly she’ll officially join the search giant’s ranks other than a vague mention of “sometime in the next few weeks.