Today Google sat with a number of its Glass employees to answer a few formal questions, and a number from the audience that packed Room 7 of the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The session was a brief 40 minutes, as have been other moots at the I/O event, excepting that mammoth 215 minute keynote that kicked the event off.
The following text is a rebuilt rendition of the questions asked, and the answers tendered during the session. Do note that responses from Google staff are paraphrased from their answers, while the final section is a summary of the responses given to audience questions.
Directed at Isabelle Olsson, lead industrial designer of Glass: You have been on glass “since the prototype was still a phone attached to a scuba mask,” how did we get form there to here? And what is next?
It was very clear from the start that this was not incremental improve on what already existed. Instead, Glass is something new. It’s a new kind of wearable technology.
Building something like Glass is very messy at points. I never forget my first day on the team. I walked into a room full of people with crazy things on their head. How do you go from something like that to what we have today? We have taken a reductionist principle, removing everything that isn’t required.
We focus on three key areas:
By lightness what we mean is pretty straight forward: we are obsessed with weight. Not like the fashion industry, but we do care about every single gram. If Glass isn’t light, we won’t want to wear it for more than 10 minutes. This implicates balance as well, meaning how heavy is Glass on your nose?
But lightness is also visual, which is part of the reason that we hid components behind the frame of the device itself. Regarding simplicity, we initially thought that it would require dozens of adjustment points. The current version sports just one.
Glass is built to be scalable. In this stage what that means is that you can remove the frame from the main board. The two are separable by a screw. Other companies can therefore create hardware for the guts of Glass to help prop it up on your face.
So, Glass is a hardware project as well as a software project.
Directed at Charles Mendis, an engineer working on Glass: The idea that Glass is both a device and a platform, could you expand on that?
We want Glass to have a big footprint. A core principle of Glass is that we build on the same APIs that you do. All Google products that run on Glass are built on top of the same APIs that are open to others. So, Google Now is built on the same API as the Facebook application.
A similar concept will be in effect for the Glass Development Kit, or GDK. However, we are looking for feedback in terms of what to build. We need to know what people are doing with Glass, what the Explorers are up to. We will build an API that suits what is needed. The GDK, however, is not right around the corner in terms of release. Instead, Google wants to incorporate feedback from the community.
Directed at Steve Lee, Glass product director: The Explorer has been an almost unprecedented way to introduce products. Why did Google pick that path?
Why are we here? Because we believe that Glass can transform the way that people use technology. The Explorer program is an important part of how Glass is being taken to the world. Who are the first people to get Glass? Developers!
To fully realize the potential of Glass we needed developers to work on on the platform. I’m happy to say that by earlier this week we had invited all 2,000 Explorers to pick up their device. The next group will be those who signed up using the hashtag #IfIHadGlass.
We picked 8,000 people from more than 100,000 applications. Invites will be rolling out soon to this non-developer group. It’s comprised of educators, dentists, and the like. We’re excited to see what they will do with Glass.
We’re going to update Glass every month. This will include both new features and bug fixes.
Directed at each in turn: If you could ask the developers to build on thing on glass what would it be?
Steve: I am an exercise fanatic, and would love to have a fitness app on Glass, and to have it integrate with my heart rate monitor. With that app, I could have information relevant to my workout fed to me, without breaking my stride. This would also make cycling a much safer activity.
Charles: I would love to be able to pay with Glass. To just say, ok, pay, and then move on.
Isabella: I’m really in to karaoke. If there was a way to sing and have the lyrics located in Glass, so that you could face your drunk friends as you scream, that would be awesome.
Question: I’m curious what you think about the privacy questions that Glass raises, and if it is different from a smartphone in terms of etiquette, and how much data will be tapped [stored] by Google?
The social implications and etiquette have been at the top of Google’s mind since the beginning. And not just for people who buy Glass, but for the people around them as well. Google is proud of how seriously the team is taking it.
There are examples of how the technology has been designed with social implications in mind: The display is above the eye, for example. Google learned early on the importance of eye contact among humans. I know if you are paying attention to me, as we have eye contact. And I know if you are looking up and not paying attention to me, but instead to Glass.
Many privacy questions relate specifically to the camera. Google, knowing that it mattered, decided that you had to either push a button, or speak to it, to activate it. This provides a social cue as to what you are doing, akin to holding up a smartphone when you want to take a picture.
A third example: When Glass is active, its display is lit. Observers can see that. The display will be active when Glass is active, period. That will be part of the GDK, and is part of Google policy. Apps will not be allowed to fail this requirement.
Finally, you have to stare at someone to record them. If you stare at someone in the bathroom, they are going to notice.
Follow up question: Facial recognition?
Facial recognition is something that Google has worked on. They can imagine it existing through a third party. The company appeared to decline stating that they would build it themselves, likely to avoid painfully ignorant headlines.
The company is “not scared” of it, but wants to ensure that it has clear user benefit.
Question: Is the side of Glass multitouch?
It is! And Google claims that it intends to improve it. Right now, for example, a two-finger swipe down motion causes a different action than a one-finger swipe down action.
Question: Are you planning on making Glass less noticeable?
Google built five different colors of Glass in order to satisfy different personalities. After wearing them around for almost a year, Google “started seeing how important colors are. In the company’s view, they are “more important than you would ever imagine.” The company intends to release new colors in the future.
Question: How does the display work? Is it a small projector? An LCD display? And, do you see people using it for short-term interaction, or for longer-term interactions?
Google had no comment on the details of how its technology worked. It did note, however, that the screen is ‘projected’ out around six or seven feet, or that is at least how it feels.
Regarding the duration of interaction with Glass, the company does not intend it to be used to be used watch a full length movie or book. That, Google said, would be uncomfortable. The company instead imagines that interactions with Glass will be on the “micro” level.
Question: How did you pick the first five colors for Glass, and how did you test them?
Google built monthly prototypes of Glass, which gave them the benefit of being able to product a number of color options. They then watched to see which colors were fought over. This, Google said, was a good way to see what was “resonating” with people.
The company wanted “poppy” colors for folks that wanted to be spoken to, and “bland” colors for those who did not
Question: How do you reach the mainstream with the promise of Glass?
Google claims to be surprised at the reaction to Glass, not only on Silicon Valley, but also among normal people. Regular folks, like the rest of us, are still trying to figure out what Glass is, and what it might become.
The company, however, does in fact think that Glass will become part of the mainstream. That was a surprisingly bold statement.
Question: What does Google need in terms of better components for Glass?
Given that Glass shares much with the smartphone industry, its needs are similar: it needs better, higher-capacity batteries. That technology, unlike processors is not “doubling ever year.”
Question: Bluetooth headsets enjoyed a time in the sun, but later became reviled as a negative cultural marker. Does Glass risk the same fate?
This is something that Google has specifically thought about. People, Google stated, never say that they enjoy being around folks wearing a Bluetooth headset. By contrast, they want people who spend time with people who have Glass to have their lives enriched.
Read other stories from Google I/O 2013 here.
Read more from the original source: Google’s Glass fireside chat: Ugly prototypes, privacy and its potential to go mainstream
Barnes & Noble has updated its NOOK for iOS app today with over 8,000 comics and graphic novels, available through the NOOK store, as well as a new ‘Zoom View’ feature to help readers hone in on specific the panels and follow creative page layouts.
Users can download a copy of the DC Comics 2013 Superman Sampler, which include excerpts from Superman: Last Son of Krypton, Superman: For Tomorrow, Superman: Earth One, and Justice League Volume 1: Origin, for free as part of the app update.
All of the top comic and graphic novel publishers will be available through the new iOS app, including superhero giants DC Entertainment and Marvel, as well as IDW and Dark Horse.
Barnes & Noble says it will be updating the store on a monthly basis with new titles, which can also be downloaded through its NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ tablets, as well as on Android and Windows 8 through the respective apps.
The iPad is a popular device for buying and reading digital copies of popular comics and graphic novels. The difference in size means that app developers have had to be creative with how they display individual panels on a tablet; readers want to be able to zoom-in on some of the detail, but also see the entire page with a single glance when needed. For artists that pull artwork across a double-page spread, this is particularly important.
The new Nook for iOS app also includes animated page turns, which should add to the experience and immersion associated with reading a good book. The ‘Zoom View’ feature has also been adapted for other book types that feature illustrations, such as textbooks and children’s novels, so that readers can enlarge specific drawing at anytime.
Barnes & Noble has also given its Nook Newsstand section, which organizes periodicals in customers’ libraries, a bit of a spring clean so that particular titles are easier to find.
The NOOK Store is yet to really take off on mobile platforms outside of its own dedicated tablets. Part of the problem is that Apple’s iBooks and Newsstand apps are already pretty robust on iOS, and come pre-installed with every iPhone and iPad.
Likewise, Google has made great strides to improve the storefront experience in the Play Store, giving users fewer reasons to check out third-party alternatives such as the Amazon Appstore or NOOK for Android app.
Comics is a small, but welcome addition to the NOOK Store on iOS. It’s unlikely to be enough to sway users from dedicated comic apps such as Comixology, but at this point every little helps.
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Read the original here: Barnes & Noble adds Zoom View tool and over 8,000 graphic novels to its NOOK for iOS app
Shakil Khan, an angel investor and advisor to Spotify, just launched Coindesk, a Bitcoin resource and news site, amid a boatload of hype and VC interest in the crypto-currency.
Khan says Coindesk was a project he conceived of about four weeks ago, around when Bitcoin was surging to an all-time high. It’s now trading at around $124.38, or about half as much as it was trading at a few weeks ago.
“I was just sitting there and I literally had five e-mails that day from very seasoned entrepreneurs, asking me — what do you know about Bitcoin?” said Khan, who has invested in the space. He was part of a roughly half-million dollar round in Bitpay, which is trying to make it dead simple for merchants to incorporate Bitcoin as a payments method.
“There’s a lack of transparent information. Where do you go to read what’s right or wrong?” said Khan, who has been a head of special projects for Spotify for five years. He was also briefly a head of special projects for Path too.
No, Khan’s not starting a Bitcoin media business. (That would be a head-scratcher.)
“I have absolutely no desire to be publisher,” he said. “That is not my goal. I am just fascinated by the digital currency space.”
Khan says that existing resources out there like Bitcoin Magazine and other message boards are too technical for a more mainstream audience. While helping put together the deal to sell Summly to Yahoo over the last couple weeks, he got together a team of people and part-time writers to publish news about the Bitcoin ecosystem.
But he adds that building a news site is not just a side project either. “CoinDesk, Bitcoins and digital currencies are way, way more than a hobby for me,” he said.
Khan has personally vetted about 15 deals in the Bitcoin space, and moved forward with just one.
“The early guys who are having the ideas have not necessarily run businesses before. They’re looking at it more from an idealist perspective or vision,” he said, explaining why he didn’t go in on other deals.
Peer-to-peer lending platform Lending Club is announcing a huge new investor today: Google. Google and existing investor Foundation Capital have put $125 million in Lending Club, which was valued at $1.55 billion in the round. As part of this investment Google will take an observer seat on the Lending Club Board alongside existing Board members including Kleiner Perkins’ Mary Meeker, ex-chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley John Mack and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
The investment by Google came as part of a secondary transaction whereby new and existing investors acquired shares from existing investors. Last year, Lending Club raised $17.5 million from Kleiner Perkins, bringing its total outside investment to just under $100 million. Because this is a secondary round, there is no new money being raised, as Google and Foundation are buying out existing early investors.
Lending Club, which brings together lenders and borrowers who want to cut out banks in the process of investing among peers, has facilitated a total of $1.65 billion in loans. In the last quarter, Lending Club saw $350 million in loans made through the platform, and has generated 22 consecutive quarters of positive returns. Lending Club expects to issue $2 billion in loans this year alone.
The company’s wholly-owned subsidiary LC Advisors, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor, has launched several funds in the last 2 years and now has more than $450 million in assets under management.
To put Lending Club’s growth in context, when peer-to-peer lending began to establish itself about five years ago, there was a lot of excitement. By taking banks out of the equation altogether to connect investors directly with those in need of a loan, p2p lending almost immediately had tons of appeal (for both consumers and investors). However, thanks to heavy scrutiny from the SEC, companies like Lending Club and its main competitor Prosper faced a few challenges. However, the SEC finally greenlit the model, and Lending Club has been growing ever since.
The company announced last year that it is cash-flow positive for the first time. Last year, the company added 50 employees, including the former Visa head of global development and Morgan Stanley CTO John McIlwaine and E-Trade general counsel Russel Elmer. Lending Club is also reportedly gearing up for a potential IPO in the next year or so.
“Lending Club is using the Internet to reshape the financial system and profoundly transform the way people think of credit and investment” said Google’s VP of corporate development, David Lawee. “We are excited to be a part of it.”
Having Google (not Google Ventures) as an investor is a huge deal. It’s not that often that Google makes a corporate and strategic investment in a company. In fact it’s pretty rare. The investment was made through Google’s new last-stage investment arm, headed by Lawee. Most recently, Google participated in Survey Monkey’s recent funding.
“The Google team is excited that Lending Club could transform the banking space,” says CEO Renaud Laplanche. “The company believes that our technology brings better value for consumers.
“By promoting the transparency and democratization of data, Lending Club is opening up tremendous opportunities for disintermediation, which is disrupting the traditional banking model,” said Charles Moldow, general partner at Foundation Capital, which has invested $more than $50 million in the company. He adds that the investment was the one of the few largest in the firm;s 18-year history, which is “a testament to the magnitude of the opportunity” for the company.
Laplanche explains to us that this year will be spent continuing to raise awareness for company and grow fast, specifically focusing on helping borrowers with good credit pay off credit card balances, and access lower interest rates from borrowers.
As for the rumors of an IPO, Laplanche confirms that Lending Club is preparing for a potential IPO and hopes to be ready sometime in 2014 for a public offering.